Our Northern Europe visit in 2018 can be described as somewhat extraordinary. Back in March, our expectation was for a short summer sailing season of a couple of months, a quick whiz around the Baltic then up to Norway before crossing to Scotland and down to England for the winter. Seemed straightforward enough – perhaps a little ambitious?
As it turned out, this year we sailed to nine countries visiting many notable historical cities plus had the wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends in their home countries.
In short, we left the UK to arrive at the shallow beaches of France; paid our respects to the fallen at Flanders Fields in Belgium; motored along the Standing Mast Route of the Netherlands, passing tulip fields as we made our way to Haarlem and Amsterdam, through the Markermeer and IJsselmeer; steered along Germany’s Kiel Canal entering the fresh water of the Baltic Sea; short sailing days to the islands of Fehman, Bornholm, Häno; sailing with Karl and Elisabet to Götland; crossing to historic Latvia and Estonia; up to Finland to see Salme, Tom and Thomas; through the archipelago to Åland; Swimming and barbequeing along the Stockholms skärgård before passing along the Göta Canal through to Sweden’s largest lake, Lake Vänern then along the Trollhatte Canal to Göteborg; navigating through the intricate islets of Sweden’s west through the Skagerrak to Oslo, Norway then south again only to be hit by a cable ferry (ugh!!); six weeks laid up to repair then continuing our trip south as the first snow fell; dropping into the homeport of S.Y. Comedie then down to Varberg; a long, dark, cold overnighter crossing the Kattegat from Sweden to Denmark and finally to Flensburg, Germany – our home for the next few months.
At 54.5 degrees north, winter this year will be our coldest live-aboard experience. Over the past week we’ve been busy preparing the boat for a harsh winter – plastic film across the windows to keep condensation at bay; foam cushions positioned in the hatches and sealed with bubble wrap to insulate; dehumidifier running to keep humidity at a comfortable level (Our Webasto diesel heater is a winner as the ducted heat keeps the bilge warm as well as the inside of the boat quite comfortable); the dinghy was scrubbed clean and cover washed, restitched and stowed; the outboards prepared for winter by removing all fuel; sails removed and restitched where necessary before stowing away; applied a coat of Boracol to the teak deck to keep the algae and mildew away.
The facilities here at Flensburg IM Jaich are good – the harbour master(s) are friendly and helpful; 50m from us the ablutions are warm and commodious and the nearby Gosch Sylt sells yummy fish and chips as well as famous Flensburg brews. Electricity at the dock is .50 Euro cents per kWh (not cheap compared to Haslar in Gosport at .19c); and we have to lug water by jerry can as the water is turned off the docks over winter, but we don’t use much aboard anyway. Along the Große Straße (Great Street) in the centre of town I can get pretty much anything I need from a good variety of shops and supermarkets; the Flensburg Yacht Service chandlery is a 15 minute walk away for any boaty things; and there’s a lovely forest walk to get some exercise in the chilly mornings.
There are still a few jobs we need to do – learning German is high on that list, as is organising new sails – but next week we celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary aboard Blue Heeler and will probably go out for a local brew.
So if you are in northern Germany or southern Denmark over winter, do drop in and say hello!