As we make our way slowly around the globe, each harbour, city, and country gives us new and varied experiences – on the land and on the water. Flensburg is no different; from the highs and lows of the Flensburg Fjörd to the festivities of the Weihnachmarkt, in Flensburg we have five months to experience life in northern Germany.
After Lübeck and Kiel, Flensburg is the third largest town in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein and to the north. The Flensburg Fjörd, or Firth, is the westernmost inlet to the Baltic Sea and defines the border between Germany and Denmark. The Danish Straits to the north, which we sailed through a few weeks ago, lead through the Kattegat and Skagerrak to the North Sea.
The water level in the Flensburg Fjörd fluctuates from a mean low water (MLW) of 3.8m to a mean high water (MHW) of 6.3m, with a mean height of around 5m. The docks at Flensburg are fixed, not floating, with pylons at the stern. As the water level increases or decreases, the docks stay fixed, and Blue Heeler rides up or down accordingly.
With little if any tidal activity in the region, this fluctuation is caused by wind and barometric pressure alone. When a strong easterly wind blows, the Baltic Sea is pushed into the narrow and finite fjörds and ‘belts’ of the Danish straits, consequently raising water levels. Conversely, a strong southerly or westerly, the water level drops. We can monitor the water levels through Pegel Online. We were told of this natural occurrence before we arrived, but the penny didn’t drop on the frequency of this phenomenon.
With a fixed dock, the bow and stern lines must be slack enough to cater for boat movement (up or down) but not too slack that the boat is not secure. There’s plenty of depth under our keel, but forward of the keel the rocky bottom rises steeply. For that reason we couldn’t back into the berth as the rudder would’ve hit the bottom at low water. Blue Heeler is bow-to, so we have to climb over the bow to jump on the dock.
Over the past few weeks we’ve seen the water level range between 4.2m to 5.9m. At the highest level it was a bit tricky climbing over the bow onto the slippery dock with jerries of water. Back in January 2017 Storm Axel caused the water level to rise so high that it flooded the docks, roads and shops. Hopefully we won’t experience that!
So with the outside temperature around 0-5degC, Blue Heeler floats high or low in water slightly warmer than ambient, as a nearby manufacturing plant spews warm water into the fjord which prevents this side of the fjord from freezing over winter. Or so we’re told. Behind us a single Christmas tree floats nearby.
For heating we run a Webasto Airtop 32 diesel heater, ducted throughout the bilge with outlets into each cabin. With the dehumidifier and heater running throughout the day and night, plus a few other appliances, we use less than 7kW per day. The heater and dehumidifier don’t run all the time – now that the boat is warm and dry, they come on as needed. The temperature is no more than 20degC during the day and no less than 15degC at night, which is quite comfortable. The cost of diesel is around 1.30 Euros per litre and the Webasto uses less than one litre for every five hours of operation (which is probably a day’s operation). As backup (in case the Webasto fails) we have a small 800W oil heater plus a small electric 2000W heater.
It would be great if we can get away from the boat to explore Germany for a few days, although the days are getting colder and daylight hours are reduced as the sun is low in the sky. But as usual, we have jobs to do – I’ve been busy varnishing, sewing, writing and monitoring the condensation and comfort levels, while Wayne has taken apart the alternator and ordered replacement bearings and brushes plus a new regulator. I’ve ordered new sails from UK Sails just up the road, while my DSLR camera is in for repair and service in Hamburg. Each day I’ll go out for some exercise and pick up some groceries despite the cold and rain. Actually, the cold weather is a nice change from steamy humidity of the tropics (I say that now, but ask me again in five months!).
Meanwhile in Flensburg, looking up high along the Norderstraße are dozens of shoes strung high above the road (once voted one of the “World’s Strangest Streets”). In the town, the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) has commenced and runs each day until Christmas Eve. The Große Strauss is lined with huts selling all sorts of Christmas treats, Quarkbällchen (German doughnuts), gingerbreads and spicy Glühwein or ‘glowing-wine’ (a mulled wine and mixed with sweet Amaretto or Rum).
Last week we ducked out into the rain to enjoy a Bratwurst in a baguette, a Flensburg beer followed by a lakrits (licorice) liquor, after which we walked through the drizzle and returned to Blue Heeler. As the days get colder and daylight diminishes we’re thankful that we are warm and safe here in Germany for winter.
At this time of year my family and friends in Australia are on my mind more often than usual. This year had its challenges for members of my family; especially for my brave nephews Matthew and Tim and their relentless struggle against Niemann-Pick Type C.
This Christmas please consider donating to the Australian NPCD Foundation here.
Some of our good friends have also dealt with sadness and heartache this year and we end our positive thoughts to them and their loved ones.
And for everyone we wish good health, happiness and kindness.
Merry Christmas to you all!