Closing the Baltic Loop at Laboe

Denmark to Germany & The Kiel Canal.

Laboe Kiel
Denmark to Germany (Aero, Laboe, Brunsbuttel, Cuxhaven)

It never fails to amaze me how close and easy it is to sail between countries over here (well I guess many of them are joined by land unlike Australia so really you can walk to your neighbouring country).  Our next leg was sailing from Denmark to Germany (Marstal to Laboe) a mere 31 nautical miles or 6 hours.

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A dredger in operation off Ærø

We had a great sail, only using the engine to get off the dock and out of the channel in Marstal and then again as we entered the marina at Laboe.   That my friends is how sailing should be!

We had winds of around 19 knots and made way under a full main sail and a double reefed head sail.  We were making a very easy 6.5 or more knots speed over ground for most of the journey.

The seas we are little messier than expected but Red Roo cut through them easily and she was pleased to be under sail.  An uneventful trip (just how we like them), lots of large ship traffic as we are at the feed in area to the Kiel Canal the major shipping route for the Baltic Sea but we didn’t need to adjust course at all which was nice.

It also closes the loop for our sailing of the Baltic Sea.  This brings mixed emotions, some relief as it is definitely one big enjoyable tick for our time in the Baltic but also quite despondent that from now on we will be back tracking along routes already sailed through Germany, the Kiel Canal then back through the Netherlands (well that’s the current plan anyway).

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Above is a very rough map of where we spent the majority of the year sailing.  We entered the Baltic Sea on the 2nd May and closed the loop on 20th October (172 days), we travelled approximately 2,130 nautical miles (thats 3,945 km), covering 8 countries and stopping at 74 locations.   Note: This doesn’t include all the years sailing from when we left the UK and through the Netherlands and other parts of Germany – it is purely our Baltic Sea statistics.

Germany

  • Laboe (Kiel)
  • Travemunde & Lübeck
  • Wismar
  • Kuhlungsborn
  • Stralsund

 Poland

  • Swinoujscie
  • Kolobrzeg
  • Darlowo
  • Leba
  • Hel
  • Gdansk

Lithuania

  • Klaipeda

Latvia

  • Liepaja
  • Pavilosta
  • Ventspils

Estoina

  • Kuressaare
  • Kuivastu
  • Sviby
  • Haapsalu
  • Tallinn

Finland

  • Helsinki
  • Finland Archipelago
  • Gåsgrund Island
  • Stora Svartö
  • Elisaari / Älgsjö
  • Alglo Island
  • Älgö Rödjan
  • Hanko
  • Örö
  • Hummelholmen
  • Björkö
  • Jurmo
  • Aspö
  • Österskär
  • Jungfruskär
  • Åland Islands
  • Sandö
  • Kobba Klintar
  • Mariehamn

Sweden

  • Idofladen
  • Störfladen
  • Galtholmen
  • Storö-Bockö
  • Ostholmen
  • Kärrtorpsviken
  • Stockholm
  • Aġno (Trättfatet)
  • Ornö
  • Utö
  • Ränö – Skutriken
  • Landsort
  • Nykoping
  • Riso
  • Harstena
  • Visby – Gotland
  • Klintehamn – Gotland
  • Byxelkrok – Öland
  • Borgholm – Öland
  • Kalmar
  • Kristianopel
  • Utklippan
  • Kåseberga
  • Ystad
  • Höllviken Beach (Falsterbo Canal)

Denmark

  • Christiansø
  • Svaneke (Bornholm)
  • Allinge (Bornholm)
  • Copenhagen
  • Helsingør
  • Gilleleje
  • Odden Havn
  • Ballen
  • Middelfart
  • Lyø
  • Ærøskøbing
  • Marstal

To see individual detailed maps for each country refer to “Our Journey” page on the web site which I have recently updated.  We also now have a page for our current location “where are we now” which I try to keep up to date in real time.

It also brings a bit of stress to make plans for winter.  Neither of us want to stop but reality calls and as much as we would like to get to Normandy or southern France for winter (which is quite achievable) it doesn’t really work with my visa, so stopping further north in UK is most likely what will happen, which is actually a good fall back as we will be happy to see family and friends in that region again (Trimilia you better save us a spot on J Pontoon!).  Anyway time will tell.

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The Big Boys Toys

We tied up in Laboe as we did back on the 2nd May earlier in the year and was immediately hit by boat envy again.  This is where the rich of the rich Germans have their weekend toys, boats that are ridiculously HUGE with outside lounges on yachts bigger than any indoor lounge I have ever owned, glamorous looking yachts that we would not fit in on, motor boats bigger than our old Roxby Downs unit.  Walking along the pontoons the bows of most of the boats are well above my head!  Despite the down feeling it gave me, I walked around with my head held high as if I fitted right in…. yeah right . . . with holes in my jeans and a jumper I have been wearing for two weeks without a wash!

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Note outdoor cushioned seating on both sides, and TWO steering wheels – such excess waste!

Phil was happy as his immediate job after arrival was to head to the supermarket to restock the wine supply with cheap wine boxes.  However this was done with some caution as we did get caught here before buying two of the same boxes only to have one taste nice and the other taste not so nice. (Rob & Jo you will be pleased to know the new one has been tested and tastes fine, mind you he did buy the most expensive box they had at €8).

The following day saw us depart for the Kiel Canal, a skip hop and jump across the other side of the inlet (3 nautical miles) and a very different experience to what we had in May when we came out of the calm canal waters into a washing machine and beat our way into the wind and waves to cross to the marina.  This trip was very mild hardly any wind (so done under motor no sails) but still very grey and a lingering fog that was slowly lifting.

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Approaching the Kiel Canal lock entrance, the Ship is going in then all the yachts follow (us included)

We scored a double win with the canal, firstly there were other yachts waiting (meaning we didn’t have to try and communicate with the German lock keeper, we could just tag along and follow them as they would understand the instructions, they were all German yachts) and secondly and more excitingly as we were approaching the waiting zone the lights turned green for the ships our side to enter and a mere 15 minutes later we got the white oscillating light for yachts (small pleasure craft) to enter.  This was much better than the 3.5 hour wait we had to pass this lock when coming the other way.

What normally is a “massively huge jump” off the boat onto ridiculously slippery lock pontoons the last two times we locked into the Kiel Canal (west and east locks), this time was made a little less frightening and risky by the Captain as he rigged up a fender sideways (horizontal) over the side for me to use as a bit of a step – thanks Phil, sometimes you do good things!  Don’t underestimate this jump it’s massive the pontoon’s are at water level and slippery as a soaped up waterslide.

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The East Lock – water came up about a meter

It was an easy passage on day one in the canal, firstly it is prohibited to sail, so it’s a motor journey (less work all round).  This is due to it being a shipping channel, so not overly wide and priority to the shipping traffic.  You are allowed to motor sail (use the sails to assist the engine) but must have the engine running and stick to starboard edge of the channel, meaning you can’t tack and use the wind.  We did put up some head sail for about 2 kilometres late in the day as we were on a straight stretch with about 8 knots of wind off the bow, but it didn’t last long as the tree’s on the edge sheltered the wind but it gave us an extra 1/2 a knot speed for 10 minutes or so!

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Kiel Canal, boats, bridges, houses and evidence that the big boats bump the poles!

This is in total contrast to our passage East earlier in the year where it was howling over 30 knots of wind directly on the nose against us for the two days it took us to slug our way through the canal.  I remember it being very taxing, we had to hand steer as the wind was right on the nose and so strong the auto pilot wasn’t practical and we were taking turns of 30 minutes each on the helm as it was hard work and very, very, very cold.

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Zero wind on the canal – you beauty!
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Phil hinting that it’s raining on his watch – Don’t worry he had his time off also, caught up on his book

We stopped for the night at Gieselau Lock (58 km into the 98.5 km transit).  Yachts are only allowed to transit the canal during daylight hours and we pulled up half hour before the cut off time for this time of year (06:00 – 18:30) but it was already getting fairly dark.

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Sunset Kiel Canal
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Our overnight stop on the Kiel Canal, at the side river at the Gieselau Lock

Day two remained windless and calm and we only had 40.5 km left to Brunsbüttel at the Western end.  You may have noticed I have changed from nautical miles to km for this passage and that is due to the canal being signposted every 1/2 kilometre with distance signs and these are measured in km.

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A yacht getting passed by a container ship, then it passes us.

We were the first boat to pull into the empty Brunsbüttel marina at the western end of the canal just before you lock out into the Elbe river, but by dark there were 10 others.  We treated ourselves and went out for a schnitzel for dinner (when in Germany!).

The following morning 9 of the 10 other boats left around 9am to get out of the lock (which they waited well over an hour for) and were heading south towards Hamburg, with the other boat leaving a little later and heading into the canal towards Kiel.  That left us!

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Germany where you can buy cigarettes at street vending machines!

We (when I say we I mean Phil) was studying and studying and studying the weather, wind and tide.  Once we lock out into the River Elbe we re-enter tidal waters (for the first time since May) and the next leg out into the North Sea around to the Netherlands can be (and most often is) an unpleasant passage.  We have met more than a couple of other boats who get stuck either here or in the Netherlands for over a week or more waiting for the right conditions to go out and around.

Phil found us a potential weather window leaving the next afternoon, then came the decision about weather to leave from where we were Brunsbüttel (cheap and fun watching the ships coming in and out of the lock, but can potentially get stuck waiting for the lock for hours and not being able to leave exactly when you want) or head out to Cuxhaven 17 miles up towards the mouth of the Elbe, which although costs more to stay at shortens the journey (which will be an overnight sail around 24 hours anyway).  However obviously a fairly easy decision it wasn’t exactly easy getting to Cuxhaven as the tide runs strong in the Elbe (up to 7 knots) and it meant either going that day on the outgoing tide after 4pm and arriving in the dark to a strange port (which we NEVER do) and this port is also a heavy commercial traffic zone, or leaving Brunsbüttel very early in the dark the following morning and praying the lock lets us out quickly or we will be pushing the tide lengthen the journey and then stopping in Cuxhaven for half a day before setting out on the trip to the Netherlands (meaning early start and then an overnight sail later that day).  AND of course all this is banking on the wind forecast being accurate and not changing – that is a lot in itself.

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Fishing in Brunsbuttel, the rods/poles went to the other side of the river, I am unsure why they didn’t just fish from the other side using a normal rod??

We bit the bullet and decided to make the trip to Cuxhaven that afternoon and maybe push the tide a little and hope to arrive before dark.  As soon as that decision was made we looked outside and they were opening the yacht lock to depart, well that certainly made us get our skates on.  We dropped the lines immediately, and I was seriously rushing to get fenders out and lines on before we got to the lock and Phil was powering on the boat to get us there before they shut the gate.  It wasn’t until we were secured in the lock that we turned our navigation and instruments on, packed away the shore power cables and closed all the hatches!

It was a good trip to Cuxhaven (17 nautical miles) and were able to motor sail for a while with a good angle allowing us to put up the head sail and the tide at slack so not pushing it.  Not a lot of commercial shipping early that of course waiting until it got dark before it got thick and even more so as we approached the city where boat lights, channel markers and shore lights all blend into one – nasty.

By the time the wind angle came off and we had to drop the headsail the tide had turned and the current was pushing us nicely (quite quickly) to our destination.  In fact by the time we got to the harbour entrance it was pushing 7 knots making it impossible to turn into the harbour coming from our direction (we would have been swept into the harbour wall or the big ship on moored right there).  So we went past turned back against the current and powered up Red Roo’s nanny diesel engine big time to fight our way back a couple of hundred meters into the harbour but much more comfortable at the slow speed and picking our course rather than being swept where the current desired.

So here we are Cuxhaven – hoping not to get the Cuxhaven curse and get stuck here waiting for the weather.  We hope to leave here in the next 24 hours for our passage to the Netherlands, and further more that we have a good run, with consistent winds and minimal swell, and that the north sea is kind to us – most likely I am asking a little too much, but fingers crossed.

Related Past Blogs (from when we were here travelling in the opposite direction earlier in the year):

# 94 Laboe – Germany 05/05/2017

# 93 Kiel Canal – Germany 01/05/2017

# 92 Brunsbuttel – Germany 30/04/2017

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