Sunday, 18 December 2016

Winter work

Bonita is now snug in her mud berth in Faversham creek, under her winter covers with the mast lifted out and stored ashore.

There is always a bit of work to be done after the wear and tear of a season's sailing. This year most of the wear and tear seems to have happened more or less all at once - during the morning of 10 June when the engine fuel pump failed as we were in heavy surf on the bar at Lauwersoog in the Dutch Frisian islands. We anchored while waiting for the lifeboat and there was a lot of snatching on the chain as Bonita rolled boisterously in the waves. At one point the load on the chain twisted the fitting holding the bow roller, jumped out of the roller, effortlessly removed a length of the teak capping rail and broke the starboard whisker, the stay which holds the bowsprit. Other damage sustained at this time included a lot of cracking of paint around the counter where the planking was disturbed. We will have her lifted out later in the winter to check on her planking below the water line.

The picture shows the bow roller as it appeared after its ill treatment. The roller is mounted on a stainless steel bolt running through the stem: this bolt  had become bent so the roller was jammed and would no longer rotate as the chain ran over it. The bolt could not be removed as it had bent in the wood. We calculated that it must have taken a load of several tons to bend this bolt. 
Bonita's bow with bent roller assembly

There were helpful suggestions from the crew that it could easily be straightened out by
a gentle wallop with a sledgehammer, but I thought this might be a bit unkind to the old boat. So eventually I removed the bolt by cutting it into three pieces. 

New and old bolts with the bronze bow roller

We had a new bolt made up by T. Norris, the excellent marine engineers. Their works is many miles from the sea, an unexpected island of nautical expertise among the London suburbs. It is also a conveniently short stroll from where I work. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Bonita usually stays out on her mooring until late October  or early November although with the shorter days and pressures of jobs that need doing ashore and afloat we dont get very much sailing at the end of the season. The picture shows Bonita and Pretty Penny moored on the Swale just after a rain squall. The sky is darker outside the inner rainbow (the Alexander band) as some of the light goes into the colour spectrum.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Swale Match

On Saturday Bonita took part in this year's Swale Match - the 44th year it has been held. We always enjoy the Match as it is the only event where gaffers, Thames barges and assorted other old boats race over the same course. This combination adds interest and excitement, especially when tacking alongside the bigger boats in a confined channel. Bonita rarely does very well in this race unless we have strong winds. 

Today we had a fine bright day with a force 3-4 SW, and Allan, Alice and Sarah as crew. Alice steered for the downwind leg when she overtook several boats, though some of these later passed us on the windward stretches. There was some uncertainty aboard about the exact course and we might have gone the wrong side of one of the buoys as a result. However this would not have significantly affected the outcome and sadly we won no prizes. We did however have a good sail and a fine day so many thanks to the Kentish Sail Association for their excellent organisation of the event.

The prize-giving as usual was a convivial affair at the Shipwrights Arms in Hollowshore. We met up with some old friends including Simon and Sharon who have just returned from sailing round  the west coast of Ireland in Cygnet, a lovely 1906 yawl.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Return home

We had planned to cross over from Dunkerque last night, but were discouraged by a forecast of patchy fog. We both have unpleasant experiences of crossing shipping lanes in fog, and patchy fog can seem pretty bad if you are in the middle of a patch. So we left this morning at 7am instead. We had a SW wind force 5 gusting to 7 which seemed quite enough. For the first few miles we were in the Dunkerque approach channel tacking straight to windward. After that we had a fast but rather wet reach across the Channel. The day ended with a very slow journey along the north Kent coast heading into a stiff wind and a spring tide. We picked up our buoy on the Swale at about midnight.

So this brings Bonita's Baltic cruise to an end. It was a great experience despite many setbacks and we had more than our share of bad weather and head winds. There were lots of benefits of cruising in company and we enjoyed being with Calismarde and her crew.

Many thanks to all my long suffering work colleagues, family and friends who have made this adventure possible.

In this year of Brexit when we crossed many international borders visiting 7 countries people may be interested to know that no-one during the whole trip asked to see a passport, and no-one asked to see our ship's papers.

The star of the show of course is Bonita who like a proper lady is always elegant, glamorous and well behaved despite sometimes being rather roughly treated.

And the hero of the piece is surely William Crossfield (1847 - 1921), who designed and built Bonita. He described himself as a joiner, yacht and boatbuilder. He was a prolific builder and one of the most talented of his time. I like to think that having got a commission for a racing yacht from paper mill owner Edwin Grundy Wrigley, he put all his skill and effort into ensuring that she was a strong boat and that everything was of the highest standard. It is testament to his skill that 128 years later she still has all of her original planks and frames. 

Crossfields at Arnside, from L-R Fred, William snr., William jnr. and Frank
The photo on the right was taken circa 1910, it shows William Crossfield with his sons Fred, William jnr. and his nephew Frank in their boatyard at Arnside where Bonita was built.

Saturday, 6 August 2016


We left Ostend at 8am; the beginning of the west going tide. We were helped in this process by a gentle shove from the harbourmaster's inflatable dinghy to assist Bonita in turning to port under motor. It was bright and sunny but with a wind slightly North of west. However by the time the tide was finished we were in Dunkerque. This makes France the sixth country of Bonita's 2016 North European tour.

We were fascinated to find the Shtandart in port. She was built in Russia and is a reproduction of a 1703 frigate built for Peter the Great. Peter was keen to establish the Russian navy and came to Deptford to learn about shipbuilding.
The Shtandart seems to be a good reproduction, as faithful as is compatible with safety for a seagoing boat. 
She has an active programme, sailing many thousands of miles every year. She was attracting lots of attention today. There was a group of enthusiasts singing sea shanties - sometimes familiar tunes but with the words in French.
Bonita's 1938 Customs clearance certificate
The rather florid certificate above proves Bonita's customs clearance on her first visit to Dunkerque in June 1938. They don't make official documents like they used to. There have been many changes both to the port of Dunkerque and to La République Française since this certificate was issued.


There were still moderate WNW winds today but there was a clear sky so we left Flushing early to get the tide down the coast. Before we left however the last Dutch lock of our trip left its mark. As we were entering the lock at Flushing to go out into the river Scheldt the lock gate started closing on us just as we were going into the lock. It was too late for me to avoid it and although it could have been much worse there does not seem to be any damage apart from some loss of paint on the port topsides.

The Scheldt tide is quite strong so it's important to get the timing right. And after a few hours we were off Oostende (Ostend) in Belgium. Bonita's first trip to Ostend was in 1947 when she represented Britain at a sporting event. She was the only British boat in the harbour at the time and got entered into a race. Sadly she was hardly in racing trim and came comfortably last.

Today the harbour is busy with boats of many nationalities, though the ferry traffic to the UK has gone. The harbour is much safer to enter now than it was a few years ago. 

The breakwater used to be an open lattice structure though which the tide used to flow so the entrance could be difficult for low power boats. There is now a much better outer breakwater in the background of the picture below.
Ostend in August is packed with Belgian holidaymakers (above) and there are all sorts of entertainments including free live performances on the seafront - see below.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


We left Middelburg early this morning and came down the canal to Flushing (Vlissingen). However it is still blowing hard from the SW with waves and spray coming over the harbour breakwater, so we have stayed in port. It's supposed to be getting better tomorrow. I keep telling the crew that prolonged strong winds in August are very rare - usually when sailing at this time of year there is not enough wind. However regardless of the statistics prolonged strong head winds are what we have.

We walked round Flushing which has mostly been rebuilt in the post war reconstruction style of architecture. Occasional interesting art pieces add variety to what is otherwise a fairly utilitarian style:
Flushing town centre
We looked at a couple of museums; the picture shows William admiring one of the exhibits in the pram museum (free entry, donations welcome). 
William tests some prams
The Zeeland maritime museum was also excellent and provided a wider historical context of the importance of Flushing in Dutch maritime history.

Above the beach at Flushing near the harbour are a series of memorials marking the liberation from Nazi occupation in October 1944. The beach (codenamed 'Uncle') was sucessfully assaulted by a mixed Canadian, British and Polish amphibious force and the occupying Germans were driven back. There are lots of memorials like this celebrating the liberation in Normandy but this is the first of this sort I've seen in Holland where maybe relations with today's Germany are slightly more nuanced than they are in rural France. 
The Dutch civilian population suffered greatly in the war as a result of the Nazi occupation.
German miniature submarine
The third picture shows one of the exhibits on display as part of the liberation memorial. In this container is a German miniature submarine which contained a small supply of fuel and two torpedoes. These submarines were used to disrupt shipping in the river Schelde off Flushing in the final stages of the war. These miniature submarines were towed into the vicinity of the river by tugs and were not expected to return from their mission.


Today was just as windy - indeed the forecast has been upgraded to force 8 from the southwest. However the good news is that the rain has stopped. Clearly this was a day for sailing in sheltered water. We had a quick sail for the few miles from Wemeldinge to the lock into Veerse Meer. Veerse Meer is a very pretty piece of water. We used to come here quite often in Bonita, though this was our first visit in more than 20 years.There are more boats than there were then, and beside the Meer the trees have grown more and there are more caravans. On the water  there were boats of all sorts out in the brisk wind.
Maybe we should have stopped at Veere which is historic and very quaint, but we wanted to push on so we locked into the canal to Middelburg. The first two pictures are of the lock: Martha is standing on Bonita's fore-deck.
Waiting for the lock to Mddelburg
In the lock on the Middelburg canal
It is only a few miles down the canal to Middelburg. Here we filled up with fuel and eventually manoeuvred the boats into a very crowded canal in the middle of the town.
Typical Middelburg street
Middelburg Church
The centre of Middelburg has lots of the sort of interesting old buildings that distinguish so many Dutch towns. They demonstrate the wealth, civic pride and cultivated good taste of their period, as of course they were intended to do.
My father used to like bringing Bonita to this area as he had been based in Middelburg at the end of the war. As the Allies were advancing through northern Europe the Germans had fortified this island - Walcheren - which controlled the approaches to Antwerp. The RAF removed this threat by bombing the sea walls thereby flooding the island. Subsequently my father was sent by the War Office to assist with the operation of closing the gaps in the sea wall.

Press cutting from 3 October 1945
Closing a gap is easy at first by filling it with stones and other rubble, but as it narrows the force of the water rushing through the gap is such that anything will be swept away. One possibility is to completely close off the gap in exactly the few minutes at the top of the tide when no water is flowing. Dad did this by getting some of the large floating Phoenix caissons, designed for use in Mulberry harbour which he arranged to be towed to site and sunk in the breach. The Dutch engineers, who were experts at this sort of thing, were at first sceptical that this method would work but nevertheless the operation was completely successful and the Phoenix caissons are still there. They are no longer part of the sea wall, which has been extended around them, they have now been turned into a museum.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016


This morning we had a nice SE wind which might well have tempted us out to sea. We resisted this partly because the forecast was SW force 5-7, and partly because it was misty with visibility less than half a mile.  So instead we have been working through the inland waterways of Zeeland in South Holland. These are not canals, but enclosed waterways that in places are several miles wide between low lying sandy islands.

At about midday we did indeed get a brisk SW wind with rain. We mostly motored and this evening tied up in the harbour at Wemeldinge. We were last here two years ago as guests of the Dutch Old Gaffers who were celebrating their tenth anniversary with a cruise through Holland. This was organised with the usual Dutch efficiency and everyone had a marvellous time.

The Bom Dia
After many hours of persistent fine horizontal rain there are few dry places left on a small boat,  so we felt we had to resort to supper in a restaurant ashore (see picture). We returned to the boats more philosophical and slightly dryer. The wind is still howling in the rigging tonight and we are thinking it may be a while before we get to home waters.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


It wasn't chaos when we left Scheveningen but there was quite a lot of congestion as several boats left at once and there isn't much manoevering space. We didn't leave until nearly lunchtime as the wind was SW at first.
We would prefer to go straight back to the Thames but the winds have been persistently SW or Westerly with the possibility of strong winds - force 6 to 7 - forecast. That sort of thing is best avoided in an elderly boat on a prolonged passage in open water.

So today we sailed a few miles down the coast. The first picture shows us off the Hook of Holland where the immense Europoort has been built on a huge expanse of reclaimed land jutting out from the old coastline.
In the evening we came to the lock at the Haringvliet. This is a deep inlet that is 800 years old - it is recorded that it was formed as a result of flooding in 1216. Since then this area has been prone to flooding - as has much of Holland. There was a disastrous storm surge here in 1953 when there were floods on the east coast of England as well. As a result of this, the Dutch devised the Delta scheme, consisting of large barriers and sea walls to permanently remove the risk of flooding that had beem such a feature of Dutch life throughout history. The second picture shows the huge barrier across the Haringvliet. There are gates in the barrier to allow tidal flow but this is now completely under control.

The Dutch are not afraid to think big when it comes to engineering schemes and the scale of  some of projects we have seen is most impressive.

This evening we are in Stellendam, just inside the Haringvliet barrier. We can carry on south through the inland waterways if that seems the better option tomorrow.

Monday, 1 August 2016


Megan left Calismarde this morning; but her crew has been reinforced by the arrival of William and Lucy. On Bonita I still have Dave, plus Martha on loan from Calismarde.

We left Amsterdam this morning with hopes of crossing to England. However when we got down the canal to Ijmuiden on the North Sea coast we found the wind was a moderate Westerly, so we reverted to plan B. We had a good sail due south with sunshine much of the way. The picture is of a dutch schooner, the Stortemelk which we passed heading north.
The Stortemelk

After about 20 miles we came to rest in Scheveningen harbour. This is really packed out in July and August; yachts are rafted up right across the harbour. We asked one of the locals what happens when someone on the inside wants to leave - he simply said 'it's chaos'. We shall see in the morning.

It seems that no one who isn't Dutch can pronounce 'Scheveningen' properly. The first syllable is produced far back in the throat. Apparently in the second world war the Dutch resistance fighters used to get people to say 'Scheveningen' as a test; only true Dutchmen could do this and so it would unmask imposters and foreign spies.

Battle of Scheveningen by Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraten
By chance we are here on the anniversary of the Battle of Scheveningen on 31 July 1653, a
naval engagement off the coast. This was the last battle of the first Anglo-Dutch war and was won by the English. The Dutch and the English had a bit of a love-hate relationship in the 17th century. There were three wars in which the Dutch had some major victories, although the English were ultimately more successful. Yet on two occasions the Dutch promoted regime change in England. In 1660 they backed the return of Charles II who had been in exile in Holland; then in 1688 they supported the invasion which displaced the legitimate monarch, James II - in favour of Mary and her Dutch husband William.

As we go to bed with the boats firmly wedged in the harbour the wind remains in the West. Still, we are hopeful for tomorrow.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Markermeer and Amsterdam

This morning bought a light northerly wind so we left Enkhuizen and went through the lock into the southern part of the Ijsselmeer, known as the Markermeer.  When we first visited Holland the Ijsselmeer was one huge inland lake, an enclosed arm of the sea.  However it seems they had trouble when there were strong northerly or southerly winds in that the water was driven to one one end, leaving hardly any at the other end. Now the lake is divided by a dyke across the middle with locks through it.

Sadly after a few hours our favourable wind petered out so we ended up motoring.
Marken lighthouse

The first picture shows the picturesque lighthouse at Marken, a few miles from Amsterdam.

Bonita's elderly engine has been given plenty of use on this trip and can usually get us along at about 4 knots in smooth water. As we were approaching the lock into the canal that runs to Amsterdam however we noticed a serious reduction in power. We launched the dinghy to investigate this, and with the engine turned off it is possible to reach over the side from the dinghy and feel the propeller. We found that the prop was completely choked with a huge mass of long stringy Markermeer weed. The photo shows a small part of the weed  that I removed.  After this the engine worked fine and normal service was restored.

Lesson from this no 1 : a great advantage of a propeller mounted to one side of the boat ( quarter mounted) is that it is easy to reach if anything gets tangled up in it. I have previously cleared a length of rope caught on the propeller by reaching down from the dinghy.
Markermeer weed
Lesson no 2: a great disadvantage of a quarter mounted propeller is that it is less well protected by the keel and is more likely to get tangled like this on weed or other floating rubbish.

This excitement over, we locked into the North Sea canal and moored up in a marina in Amsterdam. Here Calismarde's crew was strengthened by the arrival of William and Lucy, but sadly Ellen had to go home. She is going home by bus which will take hours and sounds hardly preferable to crossing the North Sea in a small boat.

There is much discussion of the weather forecasts and the prospects for heading westwards in the next day or two.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Ijsselmeer and Enkhuizen

There was only about 5 feet of water at our island last night -enough for Bonita but Calismarde needs 6 feet. Fortunately the bottom is soft mud. However the day started with Bonita towing Calismarde off the mud and into deeper water. We then locked out of the canal system at Lemmer and into the Ijsselmere. We all felt relieved to have a rest from innumerable locks and bridges

We had a brisk and at times wet sail into a squally SW wind, and by mid afternoon we entered the harbour at Enkhuizen. We didn't have time to look round Enkhuizen when we last came and today we were sorry that we got here too late to see the museum, which had been recommended to us.
Enkhuizen church spire

This is an ancient trading port and in the 17th century was important in the Dutch  East Indies trade. There are many fine buildings from this time. Its importance subsequently declined as ocean going ships got bigger and the harbour silted up, and it lost its trade to Amsterdam.

Church interior
Most of the Dutch coastline is flat and featureless and many coastal towns had churches with large and distinctive spires as an aid to navigation to guide sailors at sea. Sometimes the height and grandeur of the spire seems to be out of all proportion to the size of the church below. The photo shows the very fine spire on the 16th century church at Enkhuizen. The bells in the spire seem to be in constant activity. The second photo shows the inside of the church with the ceiling of the nave planked like the hull of a boat.

Traditional Dutch boats at Enkhuizen
We saw many traditional Dutch boats out sailing today, some of them very large boats. Many are about the size of a Thames sailing barge or larger, and many are over 100 years old. There are far more dutch barges under sail than there are active  Thames barges in the UK and its encouraging that the skills involved in maintaining and sailing these old boats are being handed down.

Friday, 29 July 2016


We had another day spent in the canals today but plenty of incidents. In the late morning we passed through the canals around the ancient town of Leeuwarden. These seemed to be even more challenging than the canals round Groningen. There are lots of bridges in quick succession, which means that a group of assorted boats of all shapes and sizes gets confined into a short stretch of the canal while waiting for the next bridge to open. Even those with quite manoeverable boats can find this difficult, especially if there is any crosswind. My tactic on Bonita is to tie up temporally to any moored boat alongside the canal untill the the other boats have stopped jostling for position. We have met some quite interesting people who live on  houseboats  like this, and they are mostly very understanding.
Poor Bonita is begining to look a bit travelworn after her long cruise, and several people have asked me if she is made of iron. I think this must be due to the rust stains on the topsides.

During our journey along the north Holland canals we have seen many lifting bridges sometimes of unusual design. There are obviously many opportunities for creative engineers in this country. The Dutch are renowned for their marine engineering skills. The attached photo shows an example of a lifting bridge where the section of roadway is raised obliquely by a lifting mechanism installed to one side of the road.

This evening we are moored at a small island in a lake a couple of miles north of Lemmer. The island is a desert island (in the traditional meaning of having no-one living on it, rather than the cartoonist's interpretation consisting of sand and a few palm trees). The girls made supper on Calismarde. At Lemmer we rejoin the open waters of the IJsselmeer.
Canals are OK and give an interesting insight into how some people live, but they are hard work. Sailing boats do much better in more open water.

Thursday, 28 July 2016


My crew today were Dave and Martha, who is on loan from Calismarde.

We spent the whole day motoring through North Holland on the 'fixed mast' route. There are only a relatively few canal routes where all the bridges open and so are suitable for boats with masts that cannot be lowered.  Our course today included negotiating the complex of multiple bridges in Groningen that caused D and myself so much trouble a few weeks ago. Fortunately today this was achieved without loss of paint. This was probably because the canal was less crowded today rather than any improvement in our skills.
Apart from Groningen which is a large city, much of our route was through peaceful farmland.

For a lot of today we had a brisk SW headwind with heavy rain showers. This made us feel much better about the decision we made yesterday to take the canal route rather than going in the open sea outside the Dutch Frisian islands. If we had spent the night in Borkum we would probably have stayed in port today.

We got as far as Dokkum before we came to a bridge which had closed for the night. I had never heard of Dokkum before but it is like many Dutch canal-side towns. Much of it is ornate, tidy, well laid out and well preserved. We spoke to a couple of local residents who were keen to point out its points of special interest. It has some fine old buildings: the town hall (Stadthuis) dates from 1610.

The Stadthuis
We had supper in a restaurant by one of the residential canals. Motoring old boats down canals is surprisingly tiring and we have today negotiated many locks and opening bridges. We do however get a later start tomorrow as the bridge in front of us doesn't open until 9am.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

In the Eemskanaal

We woke in Norderney at first light - about 4.30am - to catch the tide. The tides in the seegatts between the islands are quite strong and getting them right for both the departure and arrival is a major factor in planning any trip, almost regardless of the wind. As it turned out we had fairly light winds today.

Our initial plan was to stop at Borkum, the most westerly of the German Frisian islands, and a journey of about 40 miles. However the forecast for the next few days is for persistent light to moderate unfavourable winds.

We have several weather forecasts available on the Internet that we routinely look at, and as they don't necessarily agree the natural temptation is to believe the one that tells you what you want to hear. Perhaps it would be wiser to pay most attention to the one that tells you what you don't want to hear. However today they all agreed that the winds out at sea were not going to be good for heading westwards. We therefore decided it would be better to go inland by canal. So we sailed past Borkum, took the fair tide up the river Ems and entered the canal system of North Holland at Delfzijl.

Was this the right decision? With a reasonable breeze it's easier and more satisfactory to make progress by keeping out in the open sea. Canals can be slow and the bridges and locks are demanding for the crew, but you can be sure to be able keep moving regardless of the weather.

So tonight finds us back in Holland, peacefully moored up for the night in the Eemskanaal, which runs from Delfzijl to Groningen.

Nordeney Past & Present

We spent the day in Norderney and we're expecting Dave on the last ferry this evening to rejoin the crew. The harbour was so full we had to move the boats several times to make space for other yachts coming and going.

Walking around Norderney there is the feeling that somehow the events of twentieth century Germany have almost passed it by. You are encouraged to see the old seaside resort beneath the surface of the modern tourist centre.
There are streets named after the Kaiser and Bismarck for example. We saw two preserved bathing machines: these used to be wheeled down the beach so that their occupants could undress and enter the sea with a degree of privacy. Old photos show rows of these lined up at the water's edge. Lots of resorts used to have these in Victorian times but I don't recall seeing an example on display before.
In many places throughout the town there are posters showing what the view looked like from the same spot around a hundred years ago. Often there hasn't been a lot of change.
The second photo shows the impressive Conversationshaus. I imagined at first that this was some kind of local parliament building, but it turns out to contain the tourist information office and a coffee shop. The third photo shows that the building has changed little since 1900, even if the fashion in holidaymakers clothes has.

We now have crew and have stocked up on water, food and fuel so are ready to go tomorrow if we get a suitable wind.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Rest day in Nordeney

Today was spent in Norderney. The thick fog persisted all night and lasted till early afternoon, when it was replaced by bright sunshine so we looked round the town. Norderney was a fashionable German seaside resort around the 1900s and still retains the flavour of that era with many elegant hotels, public buildings and open spaces. The town was busy today with lots of holidaymakers. This should be just about peak season and it must be much quieter for much of the year.
The buoyed channel where we came in last night runs close to the sea front and can be clearly seen from the promenade. The beaches here must be fairly wild during the winter gales and there is a raised sea wall to protect the town from flooding. The picture shows D on the sea wall. This has been neatly constructed in stepped form on several levels and faced with different materials so that it gives a much gentler and less obtrusive appearance than is sometimes seen with sea defences. A major concrete structure would be would be quite out of keeping with the character of the town.

Today sadly D had to go home as she is back at work tomorrow. She left on the ferry after lunch and got a train to Hamburg airport so she should be back home tonight.
Getting Bonita back may take some time longer. However we are expecting Dave to come back tomorrow to help us get going.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Nordeney in the fog

We got up at 5am to leave Cuxhaven shortly after high water. Leaving the harbour was considerably easier than entering it last night across the full spring ebb tide. The first picture shows D and Ellen with the famous Kugelbake (Ball Beacon) seamark off Cuxhaven.
D, Ellen and Kugelbake before the fog descended

Shortly after this photo was taken a thick fog came down which reduced visibility to a few hundred yards. The fog lasted all day. There was very little wind so the whole day was spent motoring in fog, a trip of around 60 miles.  Fortunately the only shapes that came looming up in the fog were the ones we were expecting to see, but keeping a constant lookout and a high level of vigilance gets tiring.

We saw no land until we were very close to Norderney, and we crossed the shallow water over the bar about an hour before low water. This is not generally recommended as things can go badly wrong if there is any kind of swell over the bar or if you stray from the marked channel. Luckily today the sea was quite calm and everything worked out OK.

Off Norderney harbour we saw some people waving at us from a German yacht. The waving seemed to be more enthusiastic than the usual greeting so we went over to investigate. It turned out that they had anchored as their engine had broken down. Geoff got a line aboard and towed them into harbour with Calismarde.
Calismarde to the rescue

This evening there continues to be thick fog in the harbour so we are glad not to be still at sea. The harbour is much more crowded than we were here a few weeks ago although there may be a mass exodus of weekend visitors tomorrow.

Norderney has a special significance for D since she was last here as an 18 year old on a camping trip.It was while she was here that she got a telegram telling her that she had got a place at medical school.
Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin & Nordeney in the same picture...


We spent much of today motoring through the Kiel canal. It is 66 km from Rendsburg where we spent last night to the locks at Brunsbüttel on the river Elbe.  For much of the time the canal runs through flat countryside but this is difficult to see as the canal is lined with mature trees that are probably as old as the canal.
The bridges over the canal all have a clearance of 40m so can allow quite large ships to pass. The two bridges pictured are obviously old but are in regular use. The plates are riveted together rather than being welded: perhaps they are part of the engineering masterpiece that so impressed people when the canal was opened in 1895.
We didn't stay in Brunsbüttel, but locked straight out into the Elbe at about 6pm. There was a fair tide running down to Cuxhaven. Elbe tides are fairly formidable and can sweep past the narrow entrance to the yacht harbour at 4 knots or more. Getting into the harbour with this sort of cross-current provides a great deal of excitement and a profound sense of relief once in port.
So Bonita is once again floating in tidal salty waters. No doubt this has provided an unpleasant shock to any fresh water marine life that may have taken up residence during our time in the Baltic. We also have to unearth the tide tables and plan our sailing around times of high and low water again.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Nord-Ostsee-Kanal

We have had a mixed day with some good progress. We woke up in Heiligenhafen to find the wind was still Easterly so we left at 7am. At first we had thunderstorms with heavy rain but then it cleared up to a hot sunny day. We were making a steady 5 - 6 knots with a good fair wind. We got into Kiel fjord about 2pm but then had to wait about an hour for the lock to open. 
D in front of one of the 19th century lighthouses at the entrance to the Kiel canal.

Eventually they filled the large lock with two huge ships and a gaggle of yachts. This is always a bit worrying as any backwash from the propellers or bow thrusters can be dangerous to small craft. Even with the engines ticking over in neutral there seems to be turbulence in the water astern. However it all seemed to be carefully managed and the yachts left first without trouble. 

The canal is maintained at roughly the same level as the Baltic so there hardly seems to be any change in water level going through the lock at the Kiel end.

Yachts cannot transit the canal after dark, so we got to Rendsburg about 30km along the canal and stopped there for the night and recuperation.

So the boats have now left the Baltic. We have stowed away our fat folders of Baltic charts and should soon be back in tidal waters.