North Sea '13

Suwena's Cruising Plan of 2013

  • Posted on: 21 April 2013
  • By: Eve

We are looking forward to next summer and upcoming sailing voyage. The winter has passed by making preparations and sailing plans. The start of this year's cruise will be a little different than usually because Suwena has been wintering for the first time out of Finland. Now that we take a plane to Germany, we are only allowed to have two bags checked in. To manage everything we have made countless lists of to-dos, like for example a shopping list both for Finland and Germany and list of chores for preparing spring maintenance on the boat. The eagerness to get back on board is growing every day as the spring launch day is getting closer.

The plan for next summer consists of cruising on a shores of the North Sea and the English Channel. We are looking to get a new perspective from the angle of sailor to our familiar central and western European countries: Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France and UK. After spending a lot of time during the winter on google we believe that the summer will be great and we'll see a lot of magnificent places where we have not been before.

The season will begin in the town of Kappeln in Germany by making a spring maintenance to Suwena. Kappeln has been an excellent choice for wintering a boat because the marina of Ancker Yachting is located in the middle of yachting centre (Yachtzentrum Kappeln). From there we could find everything from engine maintenance to sailmaker and of course the chandleries. We think she will be ready for the summer cruise in no time as everything we might need is within the walking distance.

During the upcoming summer we will leave the Baltic Sea behind us as we'll pass through the Kiel Canal to the North Sea. We will face new challenges as we will enter the tidal waters. The Reed's Nautical Almanac will be put to good use for making sure that there would always be enough water under the Suwena's keel. The Baltic Sea is quite unusual sea area because there is no tide at all. Also the North Sea will throw up another challenge in a form of sand banks which are constantly moving by sea currents. For example on the Frisian Islands the depth marks on charts cannot completely be trusted and the buoys marking fairways are moved constantly.

The planned route of next summer will pass trough both big European metropolises and small villages as well as islands. It will be interesting to see what kind of faces for example Amsterdam and London will show to sailors. Of course every sailor needs to visit two of the biggest harbour cities in Europe: Rotterdam and Hamburg and so must we, too.

The island adventures will take us to Helgoland and to the Frisian Islands both in Germany and in the Netherlands. We would also like to make a trip on the Dutch canals. Stopping in the towns of Edam and Gouda will give us a first hands experience on cheeses named by these places. We will also see some canals in Belgium as our plans include visiting the city of Brugge (Bruges) which some call it a northern Venice.

We are also planning to explore both coasts of the English Channel. The plans are still rather open. We'll let the winds decide the places we'll visit on Normandy coast. A stopover somewhere on the Opal Coast (Côte d’Opale) in France would be great before turning our bow towards the UK.

In late March we got a confirmation from Ipswitch Haven Marina and thus she will spend the next winter in Ipswitch. The Ipswitch is located on the east coast of England by the river Orwell just north from the Thames estuary.

We will again write stories about our cruise along the summer. Please come and check back every now and then on what the crew of Suwena is doing. Maybe you can even enter a comment as we are always delighted to get feedback from our readers.

Sailing Season Starts in Schrader Marina 9.5. - 10.5.

  • Posted on: 13 May 2013
  • By: Eve

This year we started a sailing season on Ascension Day when we flew from Finland to Germany. In Hamburg a long distance taxis can be reserved online. This time we reserved a shared taxi and the price for two of us was only 78 euros for 100 km trip. Around noon time the taxi arrived at Schrader marina and dropped us to Suwena.
Schrader Marina in Borgwedel of Germany
Schrader Marina has a few apartments for rent. We spent a first night in one of the apartments waiting for Friday morning and launching of Suwena into water. These apartments are an excellent idea for accommodation while visiting the shipyard during the winter or early spring for maintenance. Schrader is located in a small village of Borgwedel and living close to the boat without a car is very convenient.

We arrived to Germany in the middle of bank holiday and all shops were closed. Also the closest restaurant located 1.5 km from marina was closed. It was nothing to do, we walked back to apartment still being hungry. We had some dried fruits from our luggage and waited for the restaurant to open in the evening.

The highlight of the day was while we talked with harbourmaster and he showed in which hall Suwena is located. Her keel was clean and all the work we had ordered was done very professionally. The gelcoat was shining brightly after polishing. We were very satisfied with Schrader services. One more night and we'll be aboard Suwena.

There is a yacht club harbor next to Schrader. It was very busy. Almost a hundred people, both adults and children were sailing with dingies on Schlei. We heard that there was a week long joint training camp of sailing clubs from Hamburg and Amstel. The water temperature was 15 degrees but that did not stop sailors to enjoy the practise circuit.
Sailing camp in Borgwedel
In the evening we took a second chance and this time the restaurant Epinard was open. The ceiling of the restaurant was decorated funnily with all kinds of musical instruments. In the collection there was even the world's oldest wind instrument, didgeridoo from Australian aboriginals.

The food was worth the long walk. The day's speciality was something that we will try to prepare ourselves in boat's galley as well. In the bottom of the oven dish was two lightly fried fresh cod fillets. On the top of the fillets were fresh spinach, cream cheese, tomato slices and cheese topping. This was then gratined in the oven. The fish tasted excellent.

On Friday morning we rushed to the shore and Suwena was already waiting hanging in the travelift. For the last her propeller received a coat of lanolin. The lanolin or wool grease should protect propeller from barnacles.
Suwena's propeller covered with lanolin
A moment later she was in water. Andrus checked that there were no leaks in through-hulls and that the engine worked. We put some water into water tank together with water purifying agent. Let it slosh around until we will reach Kappeln where we'll change the water and start using it.
Launching Suwena in Schrader Marina
Schrader Marina in Borgwedel of Germany
Already during winter Andrus found from Google Earth a nice restaurant on a shore of Schlei. Our idea was to stop for lunch. Of course this did not happen. As we passed the restaurant we noticed it was closed for refurbishing, so we continued towards Kappeln by eating some dried fruits again.
Scenery of Schlei
On the way to Kappeln there are two bascule bridges and both open 15 minutes before an hour. About ten boats were circling and waiting at the first bridge. The harbourmaster at Schrader recommended to drive at least 8 knots for reaching the second bridge in Kappeln on time for opening or take leisurely sail and wait for the following opening. We had our rig in Kappeln and no sails so we took the fast lane.
Sailing boats on Schlei
Paddle wheeler Princess on Schlei
When we moored her alongside at Ancker Yachting marina it felt like being back home again. What a joy to be onboard even thou we will have several days of work while preparing her for the summer cruise. Next bigger task is to put the rig back on. It is now time to enjoy ourselves as the summer has arrived with Suwena.

Suwena's Spring Maintenance in Kappeln 10.5. - 19.5.

  • Posted on: 19 May 2013
  • By: Eve

The week passed quickly as we made a spring maintenance for Suwena and prepared her for the summer cruise. Now the muscles are feeling sore of lactic acid but the task list has been checked item-by-item. Andrus pondered yesterday evening that “The maintenance list has now done and next service chores are a full month away.” Last winter he developed a service book for Suwena from where annual and monthly items are easy to follow.

A week ago we arrived in Kappeln into the middle of 4-day long herring festival: Kappelner Heringstage. After passing the Kappeln bridge, the aroma of fresh waffles and bratwurst floated across the deck. The whole waterfront and market were full of small stands. Attractions ranged from a ferris wheel to live music. Several bands were entertaining herring festival visitors on three live stages for all day long into the night. It was nice to take a break and have a walk for stretching a back among the celebration. Otherwise Andrus was in the engine room and I spent time cleaning the boat and her cabinets.
Herring festival of Kappeln
Herring festival of Kappeln
The first big task for Andrus was to change the defective bilge switches. Already three Quick EBSN20 switches have been broken during the two summers. Looks like they are not completely watertight and the salt water quickly breaks the electronics inside. The guys at Quick have really not succeeded with the design here. Now the bilge of Suwena is guarded by Whale BE9006 switches for both the shower sump and bilge.

The change of switches were quite a project because our engine room is very full of equipment and she has a traditional deep bilge. From the top of the engine it must be about 1.5 metres to the bottom of the bilge. Andrus had to dismantle some parts and at the same time he moved them to different locations to make the bilge easier accessible. Amongst other things he moved the pressure sensor of gearbox, the manual bilge pump hose and the generator exhaust water hose to new locations. The engine room is so tight because of our rather huge Perkins engine and bigger than usual generator. So Andrus spent down below quite a time before the smiling head appeared from the hatch.

The problems found last fall in the rig were fixed during the winter. We also made a couple of upgrades to the rig. First we added to both the main mast and the mizzen mast a mast steps. To our surprise the Selden's steps were in real life much more slender than we expected from the pictures. During the winter we were thinking a lot about the step interval and the final interval of little less than 50 cm works perfectly. Only at the spreaders there are a little longer gap where need to be more careful when climbing over there.

At the same time we added a gas spring to the kicking strap. The bottom toggle of the genoa foil was changed to another type capable of withstanding forces from electric furlex. The broken wire from electric furlex was fixed as well. The length of cap shrouds and intermediate shrouds were fixed. Also the neck stay was changed to a thicker wire. Previously the top of mizzen mast was shaking in the strong wind. The outhaul of the mizzen sail was swollen by salty water and it was changed from 10 mm to 8 mm line.

When the rig was tuned we raised the Finnish flag to the top of the mizzen. Also it was time to fly the courtesy flag of Germany but the flag lines were nicely coiled to the spreaders. Now that she has brand new mast steps I took a courage and climbed myself to bring down the lines. Even thou I only went up until the first spreaders my respect increased a lot to sailors handling sails of sailing ships by climbing spars.
Eve testing the brand new mast steps
A week has passed rapidly but now Suwena is ready for summer. It feels a little wistful to leave Kappeln. It is a cosy small town and a good place for Suwena to spend the winter. People here are extremely friendly and open. Already from the first moment when we heard people saying “moin moin” to each other it felt like being at home. We wondered if the Finnish hello “moi moi” has some roots here in northern Germany?
Suwena in the Ancker Yachting marina
Tomorrow is the day when Suwena's summer cruise of the North Sea begins!

The Kiel Canal, NOK 20.5. - 23.5.

  • Posted on: 25 May 2013
  • By: Eve

The eagerly awaited journey towards the North Sea finally began on Monday the 20th when we cast off the lines in Kappeln. First thing was to stop for refuelling in Kappeln town marina. A guy in charge of selling the diesel praised that “the tanks have just been cleaned”. We were a little ashamed to run 200 litres of diesel through Mr Funnel filter because it passes fuel like a 10 litres per minute. Fortunately there was no queue and we were determinedly using the filter. To our surprise there was about half a litre water at the bottom of the filter and it is quite a much in 200 litres of fuel – we were not embarrassed anymore.

The day was almost windless and rather foggy. Only in the end of the trip for the moment wind went up to 6 knots and we immediately raised the sails. We were sailing for one mile when the wind died again. It was back to the trustworthy iron genny for pushing us to Kiel.

Our original thought was to stop for one night in Düsternbrook marina near the centre of Kiel. However on Saturday a regatta of 16 boats arrived to Ancker marina from Schilksee harbour in Kiel. While barbecuing together with them we got good advice and recommendation to stop at Schliksee Olympiahafen instead. And so we switched our destination. Schilksee is a vast marina with 900 berths. Harbour master even had his own control tower to oversee the marina like from air traffic control tower. When we went to pay the harbour fee we found a small market on a shore. We bought some German sausages. A little snack was spot on while waiting our full dinner cooking in the oven.

On Tuesday morning it was foggy and drizzling. From Schilksee marina it is four nautical miles to the entrance of the Kiel canal. We had to wait almost for an hour before the lights invited us into the lock. At a distance it looks like there is only one white occulting light. Closer inspection however reveals that there are two lights side by side and only one of them is lit. The lit light is pointing to the boats on which side of the lock to make fast. Thanks for this tip to our sailing friend Manfred from Hamburg.

The canal dues are payable at the eastern end of the canal. There is the payment machine on the island between two locks that can be reached by climbing a ladder on the wall of the lock. Andrus inserted some bank notes for paying a 35 € fee, received a receipt and climbed a slippery ladder back to Suwena.
Andrus climbing up to pay the Kiel canal dues
Kiel-Holtenau lock
The boats are made fast alongside a floating pontoon and at least during our lockage there was almost no current, also the water level changed only a little. After a moment began our canal journey to Rendsburg.

The official name of the canal is the NOK or Nord-Ostsee Kanal. AIS message “Oulu via NOK” set as a ship’s destination got a new meaning for us as we travelled together with the ships through the canal. Let’s see do we pass by on our way a ship carrying a container to our company in Oulu. The container is booked on a ship arriving from Hamburg to Oulu on 28.5. That would be something!

Two times on a way from Holtenau to Rendsburg a three occulting red lights were lit and the traffic was stopped. Bigger ships need more room and other vessels are held back until the big ones pass the narrow places. We felt being very small on the edge of the canal when at the distance of 30 metres passed by a cruise ship Albatros. She is 673 feet long, 82 feet wide and her draft is 7.5 metres.
Suwena and container ship on the Kiel canal
Ships on the Kiel canal
The lockage and control lights work just like presented in canal instructions. The instruction booklet presents all light combinations for pleasure boats. In addition it seems there are many more light combinations for ships. For example during a lit green light the ships can enter to a lock but
pleasure boats can’t.

There are several marinas in Rendsburg area. We arrived at RVR yacht club marina near the centre of Rendsburg. Meanwhile the morning drizzle had turned into a decent shower. Also the wind picked up. As the weather was cold, rainy and windy we decided to have an extra day in Rendsburg.
RVR yacht club of Rendsburg
When the rain stopped on Wednesday afternoon and only the wind kept blowing we decided to have a walk in a town. Walking in the old town was nice. Imagine that this town has been on this place since 1150.
Pedestrian street of Rendsburg
The most interesting acquaintance was a ferry hanging by four cables below the railway bridge or Schwebefähre as locals call it. This year the hanging ferry has been shuttling over the Kiel canal now already for 100 years. Four electric motors drive the ferry across the canal in 1.5 minutes. The carriage size is 14m by 6m and its capacity is four cars with some pedestrians and cyclists. We went for a test run and can report that the ride was smooth despite of the high wind. The ferry travels 6000 km each year so I guess the ferry driver knows the route quite well :)
Rendsburg's hanging ferry
Rendsburg's special ferry Schwebefähre
There are also many traditional ferries shuttling cars across the Kiel canal. It is a peculiar that the ferries have absolutely no right of way. They kindly waited for both the ships and pleasure boats to pass by before starting their 150 metre journey across the canal.
The ferry on the Kiel canal
On the chilly but sunny weather we turned Suwena's bow again to the canal and towards the harbour of Brunsbüttel. Some of ships we met earlier on Tuesday were now on their return trip as we continued west.

The canal is by no means a scenic route. The shores are mostly filled with brushwood and Andrus noted that “The Kiel canal just cannot be compared to the idyllic Göta canal”. Why should we, because the 98 kilometres long canal joining the North Sea with the Baltic Sea is just like a motorway for ships. It is one of the busiest shipping canals in the world.

Now Suwena has travelled through the Kiel canal and we are in the Brunsbüttel marina waiting for Friday morning and the first contact with the North Sea tide. The marina is just next to the Brunsbüttel lock and the big ships pass us at the distance of seven metres. We'll see if during the next night the ships engines or upcoming tidal waters keep us awake.
Suwena in Brunsbüttel

City Sporthafen in Hamburg 24.5.

  • Posted on: 30 May 2013
  • By: Eve

Just like we thought on Thursday evening the night became a little restless. Every few hours ships passed the Kiel canal locks and their huge propellers were not exactly quiet. However, the marina is well protected and there is no swell from the ships. Only the propeller blades woke us up every now and then.
Brunsbüttel marina
On Friday morning we were going to leave Brunsbüttel towards Hamburg at low tide and thus we were ready in front of the lock gates about an hour before the low water. However finally we had to wait an hour outside the lock and another hour inside the lock gates. Maybe there were some technical problems with the gates. We were sharing the lock together with a Dutch sailboat and a dredger.
Entering the lock of Brunsbüttel
The distance to Hamburg on the Elbe river is about 40 nautical miles. We had a flood tide all the way up to Hamburg and that saved 9 miles as our log showed only 31 miles. Most of the time there was a current of 3 knots.

It is interesting that the harbour located inland and 140 km from the North Sea has grown into the second biggest port in Europe. Only while travelling by ourselves on the Elbe river we understood its greatness. On the map the 2 kilometre wide river feels so different compared to sailing on it. And it was not about being alone, the continuous stream of vessels from big container ships to small pleasure boats were going both the up- and the downstream.

While passing the pier of Wedel on the way to Hamburg centre on Friday we must say that either our Suwena is too small ship or they did not have a Finnish anthem prepared. We later visited with Manfred the pier of Wedel or Welcome Point as they call it. Every ship coming to Hamburg is given a vocal welcome together with the national anthem of the vessel's flag state. Andrus proposed that we should tweak our AIS settings and maybe we will get a goodbye song then :-)
Wedel's Welcome Point of the ships arriving in Hamburg
When we were approaching the City Sporthafen a huge container ship in front of us turned towards the container port. First a pilot boarded and then two tugs arrived to help turning the ship in a river current towards the container port; one of the tugs was acting as a brake and another steered the bow – impressive to see this action at close range!
Tug assisting container ship in Hamburg port
We however entered the City Sporthafen marina and moored her alongside. The marina is just at the heart of Hamburg and all the sights are easily accessible. The marina itself looks very small, there are only 80 berths for boats. On that time there were only a few visiting boats from Switzerland and Holland in addition to us. Of course there were some German visitors as well. The downside of the marina is the swell from passing ships. Tourist sightseeing tour ships leave from the marina or pass close by and the waves together with a two knot current create standing waves. The waves reflect from vertical flood barriers and make being a little uncomfortable.
Suwena arriving in Hamburg
Suwena in City Sporthafen of Hamburg
We liked Hamburg a lot. It feels like a very relaxed metropolis with vast amount of parks and Hamburger people seemed to be very laid-back and friendly. Visiting Hamburg by own boat was definitely worth it even thou we had to make an additional detour to traditional sailing route from Brunsbüttel to Cuxhaven. Our days there were so busy there that we'll make a separate blog entry about Hamburg.

Suwena in Hamburg 24.5. – 28.5.

  • Posted on: 2 June 2013
  • By: Eve

What a surprising city of canals and bridges we found from the shores of the Elbe river. To us Hamburg is the historical seaman city that we wanted to visit by our own boat. We expected an interesting weekend but Hamburg beat our expectations by great margin. Here we must return again, even if for a long weekend by flying.
The Elbe river in Hamburg
The best in the weekend was meeting friends. Last summer we got friends with two German sailing couples. Norbert and Hildegard from Weeki Wachee cruised together with us on the Göta canal. In Poland we pushed against the waves together with Manfred and Gigi when both Suwena and Alva dived noses into the waves on our trip towards Świnoujście harbour.

Manfred and Gigi presented to us their home city. Thus we could see Hamburg also from the eyes of locals. Most of all was fun to be together and talk about everything. The first stakehouse ever in Germany has been founded in Hamburg. Nowadays Block House is the international restaurant chain that operated in several countries. We enjoyed juicy stakes together with Manfred and Gigi in one of the popular Block Houses.

We spent together an unforgettable Sunday morning in the famous Hamburg Fischmarkt, the fish market. The market opens already at 5AM so our arrival at 7AM was quite late. The market was busy despite of rainy weather. The merchants told jokes and made quite a show trying to get attention and customers to their’s fish and fruit stalls. The laughter was in the air as merchants grabbed the attention of the crowd.

Manfred warned that “Do not eat breakfast, many hamburgers come to the Fischmarkt for breakfast”. When we entered the old fish auction hall, Fischauktionshalle, we were immediately surrounded by breakfast party. The band was playing German schlagers and classic rock songs. Those who continued straight from Reeperbahn of St. Pauli to fish market were dancing and partying with full swing. Others were sitting in long tables like at Oktoberfest and eating sausages, filled rolls or even fried potatoes with bacon and eggs. These provisions are more than enough to keep the party going. If the simple breakfast on the floor level do not feel adequate then in the upstairs a full brunch buffet is available at around twenty euros. When the bell rings at 9:30 the market is announced to be closed for this Sunday. This has been ongoing since the year 1703 even if the fish market has changed for sure its appearance over the years.
Fruit merchant at Fischmarkt of Hamburg
Fish merchant at Fischmarkt of Hamburg
Eve and Andrus on breakfast at Fischmarkt of Hamburg

Manfred took us to sightseeing tour during which we could see different parts of Hamburg like e.g. idyllic Altona-Altstadt, mansion filled Blankenese, modern HafenCity and new gothic Speicherstadt. We even made a ride over Hamburg's western border to Wedel. On the Wedel's Welcome Point pier we heard twice the British national anthem when two UK flagged ships passed towards the port of Hamburg. At one time the anthems were played back from a cassette tape. It has been quite a job to rewind the right song for each ship.

Warm regards and huge thanks to both Manfred and Gigi for our great experience of Hamburg. Hopefully one day you can visit Oulu to see our nightless night.

On Sunday evening Norbert and Hildegard from Bremen visited us. Norbert inquired “When will Suwena visit Bremen?” Both Hamburg and Bremen are located upriver from the sea. It is almost a full day's sailing trip one way and thus unfortunately we have to pass the Weser river this time. We spent a relaxed evening in the Portuguese Quarters, Portugiesenviertel, accompanied by a good food and even better companionship. Finding new friends is definitely the best part of the boating.

On Saturday evening or should I say at night we just fell into bed after walking 14 hours around Hamburg, but it was worth it. We walked on the city centre streets and of course tested the best grill in Hamburg. Mö-Grill on Mönckebergstraße had a queue as we heard they always have. The currywurst was excellent. It would just take too long to taste all 13 different kind of sausages that Mö-Grill has already served for last 35 years.
Eve having a currywurst at Mö-Grill in Hamburg
There is Speicherstadt close to the marina which consists of canals and bridges between high red brick houses. All the houses have their own winches that merchants used to lift the goods for storage because Speicherstadt was for a long time a customs free area. Nowadays there are many museums like for example the spice museum Spicy’s Gewürzmuseum which we visited. There we could taste different spices and see the history of the spices.
Speicherstadt canals in Hamburg
There is maybe the hottest sight of Hamburg in the next block, the modeller's wonderland Miniatur Wunderland. 13000 metres of the model train tracks with 930 small trains must be a dream of many men and boys. Computer controlled trains, planes, space shuttle, cars, ships and even knights are moving around in different parts of the world. As an engineer Andrus was most fascinated with the computer control system where in tens of screens the trains move from one tunnel to another. I liked most the Nord-Ostsee sea area where the container ship was propelled by small electric propellers from one dock to another. The model sea even featured a 4 cm tide.
Model trains at Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg
Control center of the trains in Miniatur Wunderland
The model world even has day-night cycle. When the night arrives, the lights lit in the houses and trains slowly. As the dawn changes into a day the lights turn off gradually. No wonder that this place is vastly popular. It is better to reserve a ticket beforehand on the web. One hour tours are mostly sold out for the next few hours. Also we got a ticket only to the tour starting three hours later.

Of course we had to check out the Hamburg's most famous and a sinful mile. Nowadays Reeperbahn has changed more into a full party zone when the pubs, nightclubs, restaurants, erotic shops and theatres are all competing for space. But still the nightlife is more wild compared for example to Barcelona's Port Olimpic.

On the street there were many kind of people, to our surprise we even saw a family with children. Between the pubs and restaurants erotic stores sold their toys. It was humorous when the erotic shop’s salesman made marketing speeches similar to Sunday morning Fischmarkt's eel merchants. We also went to the Große Freiheit street that crosses with Reeperbahn. On this street the Beatles started their world conquering. Unfortunately the Indra Club does not exist anymore. However, the Kaiserkeller, one of the clubs of the Beatles, is still alive at th eGroße Freiheit 36.

Finally from Hamburg I must mention Landungsbrücken and lake Alster. In the middle of Hamburg there are two artificial lakes, Binnenalster and Außenalster. On these lakes youngsters are taught about sailing and it is possible to rent a dinghy for having fun on the water. From the Landungsbrücken that is located on a shore of the Elbe it is possible to take a river ship for a tour to the city and the container port. We left the cruise tours for our next Hamburg visit. Then Suwena will be somewhere else and we will be without our own boat in Hamburg.
Container port of Hamburg
Town Hall of Hamburg and the lock from the Elbe river to lake Alster

Cuxhaven 29.5. - 30.5.

  • Posted on: 4 June 2013
  • By: Eve

After studying the tide tables for some time we concluded that it does not matter what time we'll leave from Hamburg to Cuxhaven. We'll anyhow have one full tidal wave against us. Thus we cast off Suwena's lines during the high water in Hamburg on Wednesday morning at 8 o'clock. For four hours we were taking advantage of the ebb tide on the Elbe river before the tide turned. The next five hours we made a slow progress towards Cuxhaven with the flood tide of maximum three knots against us. When we arrived at marina the log was showing 53 miles on a 57 mile journey, thus we managed to gain a four miles from downstream part.

When we were approaching Cuxhaven we saw again the biggest ship in our records as the huge 1201 feet long container ship passed us. Even if she was moving slowly, she still made quite a deep wave swinging us for some time.
1201 feet long container ship on the Elbe river
Cuxhaven is a big and clean marina. Its atmosphere is similar to Hanko in Finland. This was despite of many local boats because almost all the yachts going or coming from the North Sea make a one night stop here. The services are all priced like in transit marina, everything costs separate. Like for example the water costs one euro per hundred litres and electricity 50 cents per kWh.
Suwena in Cuxhaven marina
Cuxhaven marina
Now that we have really arrived at the coast of the North Sea the city ambience changed further from Scandinavian style. Also there was a strong focus on local North Sea fish varieties in restaurants. Unfortunately Cuxhaven's beaches stayed totally empty because the weather was exceptionally cold for the end of May.
Flood barrier on the waterfront of Cuxhaven
On Friday we'll have our first North Sea leg as we continue towards the only offshore island of Germany, the island of Helgoland.

Helgoland 31.5. - 3.6.

  • Posted on: 7 June 2013
  • By: Eve

The Reeds almanac defined our wakeup time on Friday morning. So we cast off the lines already before 7 in the morning and left during the high tide towards the island of Helgoland. Andrus planned our route in a way that we should arrive in Helgoland by only making two tacks. North wind was blowing the whole way with 22 to 25 knot speed and the waves were starting to build up.

On the deck and in salon the waves feel less uncomfortable than in other, lower parts of the boat. For example during the cooking time it swings a lot more in the pentry. Especially if we are on the left tack I need to be very careful because our kitchen is located on the port side of the boat. Otherwise I'll soon end up sliding to the starboard side. On this leg I used for the first time the pentry's safety line. It was so much easier to lean on the line while chopping vegetables with the knife in hand. The galley safety line and I became friends right away.

Helgoland consists of two islands: the main island (Hauptinsel) and Dune (Düne). Pleasure boats are not allowed to go to Düne and the guest harbour is on the southern side of the Helgoland's main island. The harbour is rather small and during the high season boats are rafted up. The pontoons even have marks with green and red arrows on where to build the rafts. This way there will be sufficient space between the rafts for the mooring lines of all boats. So early on this season only a few boats were in a second row. However at best there can be almost a ten boats rafted up.
The island of Düne next to Helgoland
Rafting markings on the pontoons of Helgoland
It was a pleasure to step into the harbour office when harbourmaster welcomed Suwena from Finland by name. He had AIS receiver and huge binoculars to follow the boats in the harbour.
South harbour of Helgoland
Suwena in Helgoland
Helgoland is the only offshore island of Germany. Its speciality is that it does not belong to the EU VAT area. Thus the tourism is based quite a lot on tax-free sales. Most clearly it can be seen in the price of alcohol and diesel. More stronger the booze is, the cheaper it seemed to be. Unusual was also that the diesel price per litre was lower the more you bought. We were smiling happily after filling 770 litres of white diesel with the price of 1.02 €/l. Compare that to the 1.80 €/l in Kappeln on the Baltic Sea. After that I must to ask from Andrus what shall we do with all that extra savings? The fuel dock is in the another harbour called Binnenhafen. The web page of the fuel station recommended refuelling while arriving. Because of the tide everybody tends to leave at the same time.

On the other hand the fresh water is a different story. It is worthwhile to top up the water tanks before coming to Helgoland. The water on the island is desalinated from sea water and supply is limited. It is understandable that there are no water taps on the pontoons. Otherwise every boat that has sailed on salty North Sea would be rinsed with fresh water. Our Suwena was so covered with salt that wherever you touched on the deck the fingers became salty immediately. There is a water point in the harbour but that means moving the boat. We do not have any idea, does the water cost separately.

The tourism in Helgoland is based on ship cruises. Every day ships are carrying from Germany and Denmark tourists to Helgoland. They stay for one night and return on the ship next day. Every afternoon the streets are full of people pulling their luggage when some arrive and others leave the island.
Ship passengers going from the ship to Helgoland
Tax-free shopping street in Helgoland
At the beginning the island feels like a typical tourist trap. However after staying there for several days and exploring it more deeply, the island became more attractive. The town is built in two layers. The height difference between the highland (Oberland) and the lowland (Unterland) is 50 metres. Unfortunately in a south-west corner there is also a mid-land (Mittelland) because the British made practice bombings after the second world war and as a consequence to this the part of the highland collapsed.
Houses on the island of Helgoland
From the lowland it is a decent exercise of stair climbing to the highland, a total of 184 steps. Alternatively there is also an elevator. There is a 3.5 kilometre long walking path around the island. As we approached the north-west corner of the island we started to hear a huge chorus of birds. On the sandstone shore of Helgoland nests for example the Northern Gannet (basstölpel) whose gurgling sound was really amazing. For bird watchers there are a plenty to explore as there live over 400 different bird species on the island. Especially as we could follow the birds from a range of only a couple of metres while the birds glided almost stationarily in fresh north breeze. The birds are nesting on almost vertical walls and on a 47m tall Lange Anna sandstone stack.
Lange Anna bird stack in Helgoland
Birds nesting in Helgoland
Northern gannet gliding in Helgoland
Helgoland advertises itself about a clean air. Both the cars and the bicycles are forbidden on the island. Only the ambulance and a few working machines have a special permits. Also only the police alone can use a bicycle on the island of Helgoland.

We increased the effect of fresh air by going swimming into the Helgoland Spa. The spa has a outside pool with salty North Sea water. The experience was staggering as the cold wind was still blowing over 20 knots from the north. The water heated to 28 degrees was cosy until you lifted head or toe just a little. There was a quick reflex to immerse back into the warm water. In German style there were quite a many people and they were more about floating than swimming, but definitely it was fun. Finally the wind drove us inside before the head froze completely.

There was also Rumbalotte, flying a Finnish flag in the same pontoon with Suwena. Ulla and Mike were on their way back to home harbour of Espoo from a six year long cruise around the Europe. Their route choice was very interesting and there was a plenty to talk about it. It is interesting how a common hobby brings strangers together and people get to know each other in a moment. Mike and Ulla also write a blog about their boat cruise mainly in German and a little in Finnish.

Norderney 4.6. - 6.6.

  • Posted on: 10 June 2013
  • By: Eve

On Tuesday the wind which had been blowing all the weekend for 25 knots dropped and on our sail from Helgoland to Norderney it was 12 - 15 knots anymore. Even if in the north wind we had to wear the beanies, the sailing was quite a perfect. We left Helgoland with the following wind and used gennaker all the way until to Dovetief on the Northern side of Norderney. The gennaker is definitely our favourite sail because Suwena goes so proudly and silently that it is so relaxing.

We have in Suwena a Nord Sails G3 gennaker that is a downwind sail. However, we have noticed that it also works upwind until the wind angle of 60 degrees. Correspondingly it is not as good as spinnaker on the dead run downwind because with the wind directly behind of us it has a tendency to collapse. We were sailing with the speed of 7.5 knots towards Norderney at 60 degrees apparent wind angle. In addition we could add another knot from current and the journey was soon behind us.

Mike from Rumbalotte had a tip that the police can give on the spot fines if the traffic separation schemes on the North Sea coast are crossed in prohibited places. He told that some sailors have got a 1000 € ticket. The traffic separation schemes (TSS) are always marked into the charts and pleasure boats can usually cross them with a bow at perpendicular to the lanes. However, at Terschelling-German Bight TSS between the rivers of Ems and Jade all the crossings by boats are prohibited. The ban is marked to Imray chart as a text notice so the charts should be carefully studied before going to the sea.

The depth of eastern Dovetief channel is only 3.1 metres during the low water. Respectively on the western approach called Schluchter the depth is even less, 2.6 metres. Currently there is a recommendation to keep close to the red buoys. Unbelievable how close to shore are the red buoys. In the boat we were busy with following the buoys. Later while walking on a shore we were amazed about that the buoys were located really close to the beach.

As the sea gets shallower near the coast, for example from 20 to three metres in front of Norderney, the waves will come to the surface. Thus it is not recommended to approach Norderney in any northerly winds with a strength over the force 5.

The depth of all channels between the German Frisian islands are sounded regularly and the location of the buoys can be moving to different place compared to the charts. Latest results can be found from a Wattenschipper page.

When we were entering to the Norderney marina, the friendly harbourmaster came out to show us a berth. Many arriving yachts tried to use berths which would be too shallow at the low water. Harbourmaster seemed to take good care of all the visiting yachts by directing them to suitable places.
Harbourmaster of Norderney
Norderney is a holiday resort and it is especially popular among the seniors. This was clearly seen in the lively vacation life scene in the town centre. Tourism was present also in the prices of the restaurants. Until now, even in both Hamburg and Helgoland, there were a plenty of dishes between 10 and 15 euros. Here we had to look at the next ten euros. We however found a really cozy restaurant in a opposite direction from marina to centre which was offering delicious Greek food. The prices were reasonable and even included a shot of Ouzo for an aperitif.
Norderney, Germany
The centre of Norderney
Typical German beach benches in Norderney
Waterfront of Norderney
As we have grown up by the Baltic Sea we are still amazed by a tide. How the same harbour can look so different compared to low and high water. During the low tide we really need to descend steeply to the pontoon pier. Few hours later the same bridge is at a much shallower angle. The non-tidal Baltic Sea must be similarly strange to sailors from tidal waters as the water level does not change at all.
Norderneyn harbour at high water
Norderneyn harbour at low water

Borkum, Burkana Hafen 7.6.

  • Posted on: 10 June 2013
  • By: Eve

We were sailing the 35 nautical mile leg from Norderney to Borkum with already so familiar north wind. In Borkum we initially tried to enter the first marina on the left side. When the depth was two metres we quickly reversed out and continued towards the next harbour.

There are piers for both the pleasure crafts and the commercial vessels in the harbour of Burkana. At first it looked that all the boat berths are occupied and we were circling around. Then we noticed the harbourmaster who showed us a berth at a floating ship pontoon where we moored her alongside. This pier did not have electricity or water and the car tires which surely will make black streaks on our fenders but the place was well protected. The lack of services was not any problem to us because we were going to continue next day unless the wind is getting stronger.
Suwena in Burkana marina of Borkum
The evening in Borkum became fun. When we went to pay the harbour fee the harbourmaster Heiko was invitating us to join a barbecue evening. After the windy day at sea it was so nice to sit down in a sheltered back yard together with the German and the Dutch sailors. Delicious grilled stakes and potato salad was quickly washed down with a dose of good German beer. At the same time we were chatting with other sailors and were following the Borkum – Helgoland regatta from the Marinetraffic web site. Latter was possible because all the participants had AIS tranceivers.

Thanks a lot to you, Jackie and Heiko, for a cozy evening at the Hafencafe Burkana. Such a joint barbecue evening was a nice surprise. We were really happy that only a day before we made a change to our route and decided to stop in Borkum on our way to Vlieland.
Eve and Andrus with Jackie and Heiko in Borkum's Hafencafe Burkana