Fast Trip South West – Weather Avoidance

We left Visby early on the Monday morning and had great wind that took us right to the Danish island of Bornholm. We resisted temptation to revisit and carried on towards Keil – hugging the southern coast of Sweden before the winds changed direction completely and we set off south west towards the German coast. Eventually, and as predicted, the winds finally died but during our second night at sea we were able to motor sail quite effectively.

The shipping lanes were quite interesting – at one point on Laurie’s watch she was faced with two large ships bearing down on us – one overtaking the other and both coming within just 100’s of feet of us. We talked with them on the radio, and they were very amenable to making changes to get out of the way, but in the end it was prudent to just slow Toodle-oo! down and let them pass half a mile off.

As we motor sailed west, we started seeing tall ships heading towards us – their AIS signals indicating a destination of Rostock. Turns out there was to be a big regatta there. As we approached Keil one tall ship came very close to us, with full sail up in the early afternoon sunshine – except it had just one sail furled – the upper rear Mizzen. This was particularly curious so we called them up to find out why bother to raise 14 sails but not the remaining 15th sail. The answer came back from her captain that her guests complained that the sail was blocking their sun as they enjoyed their drinks on the rear deck! Best excuse I’d ever heard!

Missin' Mizzen

Missin’ Mizzen

We arrived in Holtenau at the eastern entrance to the Kiel Canal on Wednesday afternoon and tied up – exhausted after the 2 ½ day passage.

The following morning we took things easy as we were planning to head to a marina at Rendsburg, just a few hours into the canal. We set off at about 11:00 and lined up with about 15 other sailboats waiting to lock through. As we were waiting, we suddenly recognized ‘Believe’ a US flagged boat that was part of the OCC cruise with Rick and Julia aboard. We locked through with them and then followed them all the way to Rendsburg where we enjoyed an evening drink together aboard their beautiful Hylas 49.

Weather was beginning to play a big part in our planning now, with the remnants of Tropical Storm Bertha approaching, bringing strong south westerly winds to the North Sea. If we don’t make fast progress west, we’ll be stuck in the Keil for probably 5 days.

Believe left early the following morning but we had to wait to fuel up – we’d been on minimal fuel for a while now and with the expected motoring coming up to get through the canal and then head west into light winds (before the heavy winds) we were in desperate need of a top-up. We therefore found ourselves in familiar territory – altering plans at the last minute again – and set a target of the Dutch Canal system – which was never even on our radar!

We managed to leave Rendsburg before 10:00am having brought 525 liters of diesel aboard and headed west. It was a painful passage – managing to exit the canal in the early afternoon and then motoring and motor sailing all the way down to Lauwersoog, one of the entry ports to the “Standing Mast Route” within the canal system.

This was another painful overnight passage – dodging shipping the entire way. At one point in the early hours of the morning, an approaching Indian freighter decided to turn right across ourpath in order to enter an anchorage area, forcing me to slow down – and then we got hailed by a ship coming out of that same area (at 15 knots) – indicating that they would turn to avoid Toodle-oo! At least we didn’t hit or get hit by anything…

The guide book we have is pretty explicit in saying that we should follow the buoyage rather than follow the charted information – since the sands shift quite significantly. No kidding! We reached the entry point for the channel into Lauwersoog mid-morning – to find that not one of the expected buoys was there! This was a pretty major channel… We scoured the horizon and saw a bunch of buoys off to the east and motored towards them. Sure enough, it was the new channel – which had been moved no less that 1 1/2 miles due to the sand movements.

The remaining trip amounted to a 2+ hour motor sail against a 2 ½ knot current into Lauwersoog – but we got our first glimpse of some Dutch Sailing barges – which are just spectacular.

Dutch Sailing Barge

Dutch Sailing Barge

There’s a lock one has to navigate through to get into the canal system – or there’s a marina on the outside where one can take refuge. We arrived at low tide and the charts indicated that we were too deep to get into the lock – forced therefore into the outside marina. Tight! Very tight! We called up the harbormaster and he came out to help – but it was clearly going to be very difficult to find a berth for Toodle-oo! Laurie persisted with the harbormaster (read that as regaled him!) and found out that actually there was enough depth for us to lock through and get to a calmer and hopefully more spacious spot within the canal system.

We extricated ourselves from the marina and then followed a large barge and a small barge into the lock – whose keeper apparently spoke no English. Tight squeeze indeed! We were behind the big barge, next to the small one and a motor boat tucked in behind. Laurie was tied lines to everything in sight and fending off from other boats, expecting the torrents of water as we’d experienced in the Caledonian. She was asking the lock master for assistance in taking yet another line when he said “It’s all over – the doors are open!”

We motored out into the calm and found a nice little marina with a spot just right for Toodle-oo!

Later in the afternoon we were visited by Peter Patternote – the Regional Rear Commodore for the OCC! HE was very helpful in explaining the canals foibles and found out that yes, we should be able to navigate down the ‘Standing Mast Route’ – which has a depth of 1.95M but will be plenty deep enough tomorrow – when it will be at a level of 2.01M – Great we’ll be able to do 7 knots with out keel at just 2.0M!!!!

The adventure continues!


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