Flensburg: Fireworks and flood

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a lovely festive season with family and friends.

31st December 2018. A heavy mist over the town of Flensburg.

Once again we spent the festive season in a new country as spectators to local end of year traditions. In Flensburg, we had the opportunity to learn a little about a German New Year’s Eve. Known as ‘Silvester’ in Germany, New Year’s Eve was definitely the wildest end of year spectacle I’ve ever witnessed.

In Germany, folks can purchase fireworks* from the 28th December for three days only (*There are various categories of fireworks and only those “that pose little danger” are for sale to those over 18 years of age. By comparison, fireworks in Victoria Australia were banned in 1974). It’s been many years since I’ve seen rockets and sparklers in unqualified hands.

Although we were invited to join other boaters we decided to stay aboard Blue Heeler as we’d been cautioned to expect fireworks above the boats. To avoid any chance of spot fires, we’d made sure anything flammable was stowed away from the deck and hoped that boats around us had also taken similar precautions. As the daylight waned, and after a yummy smoked salmon meal from the Cobb BBQ, from the confines of our cosy cockpit and with a bottle or two of bubbles, we settled in for an entertaining night of fireworks.

Fireworks frenzy in Flensburg

During the day, fireworks exploded around the town with puffs of white smoke and loud bangs. As the evening progressed, more and more fireworks ignited around Flensburg filling the already misty air with particulate. Crowds dressed in warm jackets, hats and scarves braved the cold evening as they congregated around the harbour – each with their own cache of fireworks – rockets, chrysanthemum, peony, Roman candles, and so on.

With a strong breeze from the west, rockets were often fired horizontally catching the wind to land near the Gosch Sylt restaurant on the eastern bank. Opposing rockets fired from the east bank against the wind quickly blew backwards to land in the crowd or fly up into the spreaders of nearby boats or the branches of trees.

Rockets shot above the mast

The smell of cordite filled the air but the breeze kept the pollution to a satisfactory level blowing it somewhere over the Baltic Sea. Nearby, fireworks exploded above our mast dropping debris over the deck. Red marine flares blasted from boats across the water and hovered high above, while some chose to hold burning flares in their hands. A parachute flare landed on a boat two rows up from us; luckily it didn’t start a fire. (Apparently two boats burned out a couple of years ago under similar conditions though). As the clock approached midnight, the chaotic fireworks display reached its climax. The town erupted into a fireworks frenzy until it resembled what could only be described as a war zone.

Here’s a link to my ten minute video of the event. 

Transfixed by the spectacle, we stayed up for a couple more hours until the bulk of the crowd dispersed and the likelihood of Blue Heeler igniting diminished. In the news the next morning: The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) reckoned around 4,500 tonnes of particulate matter would’ve exploded into the sky nationwide that night – 4,500 tonnes! One guy alone was charged with having over 850kg of fireworks at his Hamburg house!

So that was the first of January!

On the 2nd January we had an unusual interruption to our sleep in the wee hours.

The westerly breeze veered into a stronger north-westerly resulting in a rise to the water level. Predicated to rise from a low of 3.9m to a high of 6.5m in twelve hours, the waters began to flow through the belts of Denmark and Germany to fill up the fjords. Water runs over the quay walls at 6.23m so this was likely to flood the town.

Shows the predicated water level compared to mean level. Source: www2.bsh.de

But that wasn’t the immediate dilemma.

At 5.30am a loud pounding on our rigging had me jumping into my trackies, boots and fleece to see what the hell was going on. In the cold 2degC darkness, our starboard neighbour woke us up to tell us that our port neighbour’s bow had wedged under the dock, pushed under by the strong wind and rising water. No-one was on the boat. The bow of the 10m steel hulled boat was trapped under the dock, while the boat’s propeller and rudder were out of the water pointed skywards. The water level was 5.5m at that time, and another metre would fill the harbour within a few hours. Remember, there are no floating docks here.

The fire brigade turned up, stared and pointed for a while, then decided Blue Heeler should exit its berth so they could get another boat in to drag the wedged boat free. There was a slight chance our rigging would collide and possibly cause damage, so reluctantly we agreed.

It was too early, too dark, too cold, too windy and we hadn’t had a coffee! It took a little while to prepare Blue Heeler as the boat was prepared for winter – tarp on deck, stuff in the cockpit, etc. – but within 20 minutes Wayne had the engine on and backed out, managing to clear the piles while I removed the stern lines and tried not to fall in the water. Blue Heeler waited near the floating Christmas tree for around 15 minutes until we were waved back in. Fortunately we were helped with our lines and had the kettle on in no time. We still had a couple of hours before sunrise at 8.45am.

Throughout the morning we watched as water flooded into the harbour – by 2pm the water peaked at 6.68m flooding over the docks and roads. Electricity to the wharf was turned off as the flood water inched higher and higher. Here’s a recent clip from the local news team SHZ.de. The last time the water peaked to over 6.7m was in 2017 and 2006. 

Electricity turned off!

The flood subsided the following day to its average height of 5m, but the temperature also dropped to minus 4degC leaving the deck and the dock icy and slippery.

Inside the boat is warm but living in such a confined space during a Northern European winter can be tedious. My attempt to varnish our companionway steps is proving difficult as the weather isn’t on my side. Wayne is still waiting on parts from the USA to arrive so he can repair our alternator, but the festive season has put the brakes on speedy delivery.

6.7m in Flensburg

With only twelve more weeks until Blue Heeler is moving again – and with the coldest weeks still ahead of us – we are doing our best to keep the boat running and keep ourselves busy so we don’t go batty. With so much happening in the news (Brexit, Trump, etc) at least we’re keeping ourselves informed and entertained!

Until next time…



About blueheelerhr39

Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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2 Responses to Flensburg: Fireworks and flood

  1. Jenny says:

    Hi Ally and Wayne – and a belated Happy New Year!
    As ever, your blog makes good reading, and we’re glad to know all is well on Blue Heeler.
    We’re in the French Alps for a few weeks, in the motorhome, and enjoying some great skiing. The snow is, thankfully, at normal depths around here,
    Maybe we’ll catch up one day, but till then, keep writing!
    All best
    Jenny & Simon


    • Happy New Year to you both too! Skiing sounds like a good idea. Not a lot of snow here and too flat to ski. I’m sure we’ll catch up with you somewhere soon. All the best x


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