Trip on Freyja starting 2011-08-24 in BSASep11
This trip involved 5 members of the Civil Service Sailing Association including myself as mate and navigator. I will focus mainly on the details of potential interest to BSA members.
We travelled from Luton to Hamburg with EasyJet – a fantastic price of £63 return all-in including a proper 20 kg hold baggage allowance. If anyone wants details of the best parking option at Luton I can thoroughly recommend a long-established small family firm there who get outstanding ratings on the internet and beat everyone else on price and service. We had booked a hotel in central Hamburg – again an excellent choice at very reasonable cost, very close to the main railway station as we had booked an early train next morning to travel to Stralsund, our handover port. We spent the evening exploring Hamburg and enjoyed an excellent meal close to the hotel. Next morning we boarded the train after an early breakfast for a 2.5 hour journey direct to Stralsund. En route we had picked up a text message from the previous skipper handing over to us, advising that they had experienced engine problems and had to be towed in by a SAR craft to Sassnitz. Investigation by engineers there had showed diesel fuel tank contamination with a fungus growth gumming up lines and filters. The tank was drained and cleaned, as were the filters and feed pipes etc. The tank was then re-filled with 300 litres (!), a fungus inhibitor additive was put in to the tank, the engine was run and everything now seemed satisfactory. This however meant we had to extend our rail journey by another 1.5 hours to Sassnitz, which is a major ferry port in the Baltic although the ferries have recently moved to a new purpose dock 3 miles south leaving the harbour for fishing and a few box berths for yachts. We took over the boat at noon, the previous crew had already left, and after victualling had a short shake-down cruise to satisfy ourselves that the engine was behaving as it should. Note – I had not heard of fungal contamination of diesel tanks before but it seems likely that the previous crew had allowed the tank level to fall quite low, the fungus apparently grows in free water (not dissolved) in the tank and if the fuel level is low there is more room for condensation to form inside the tank. Something to think about.
Next day we set off for Peenemunde, and berthed temporarily in the small harbour there (box moorings as nearly everywhere in the Baltic). We spent several hours exploring the fascinating museum there with many exhibits from the development and testing of V1 and V2 weapons – this is known as the birthplace of space travel as it is where Werner von Braun developed his expertise with rockets. Our plan afterwards was to traverse the intricate ‘inland’ route via lakes into Poland before emerging back into the Baltic. This route involves passing through two separate lifting bridges, each of which only opens 4 times a day. After checking the opening times locally we concluded we needed to travel on to Wolgast, site of the first bridge, to ensure we made it through on an early opening, otherwise we could not get through the second bridge and make it into Poland in one day as it is about 40 nm. Pleasant mooring in small town of Wolgast, delightful and inexpensive restaurant.
Up early next day we made it through the bridges and successfully negotiated the shallowest portion of the channel, Freyja’s draft is 1.72 m and we expected to have less than 0.2 m clearance and this proved to be the case but careful navigation is essential as the channel is extremely narrow at times. The channel opens out into a very large lake or inland sea where the border crossing is marked by a row of yellow buoys. Up until 2008 there was a patrol boat at his point and you had to report in there but Poland is now part of Schengen so no internal border checks. We discovered to our dismay after thorough searches that the boat did not have a Polish courtesy flag – we think we are the only crew ever to have gone into Poland – so hauled down the German flag and trusted to luck. The E wind was on the nose so had to motor most of the day to get to our destination. We made it into the stadthafen marina close to the centre of Swinoujscie, at the mouth of the river leading to the inland port of Stettin. Swinoujscie is an extremely busy Baltic ferry port with ferries going to many ports and countries. The stadthafen used to be a commercial dock basin but is in process of redevelopment as a leisure marina. Poland seems to be going through the process of investment and rejuvenation that East Germany did, but of course it is way behind at present. We found it quite easy to use euros everywhere and carefully avoided picking up zlotys though the exchange rate is whatever the shop or restaurant feels like but really not exorbitant. Poland is really quite different from Germany, particularly in language and food. You get served dumplings for every course, savoury, main and sweet dessert. The dumplings are quite small rather stodgy balls and a helping consists of 30 or 40 of these and pretty impossible to finish even if you like these dumplings – few of us did. However the spicy borsch soup was a truly admirable dish and a meal by itself served with a large filled croquette.
We spent the next day exploring the historic sites around Swinoujscie and our plan was to depart for an overnight passage to Bornholm, a trip of over 80 nm, which is Danish but much closer to Sweden. Unfortunately the weather forecast was SW F7-8 with rough seas and set to stay like this for next 3 days. The prospect of sailing back to Germany from Bornholm right into this was considered unacceptable so we had to abandon getting to Bornholm. This was a pity but the Baltic weather was being most unseasonal – the summer is usually clear blue skies with an anticyclone sitting over Scandinavia or Russia but not this year. When the wind had abated a bit SW F6-7, we set out to return to Germany, a 45 nm leg, the boat sailing at 7 to 8 knots under genoa, stopping off to explore the tiny island of Ruden - this was the site of early rocket post experiments and was the tracking station for test flights from Peenemunde. We sailed on to Lauterbach on the island of Rugen, a famous holiday resort and yachting centre. Another pleasant town with really excellent restaurant nearby, and we walked to a famous historic resort at Putbus, with impressive buildings and parks, including an opera house theatre, modelled it seems on an English spa but with Germanic overtones to the architecture – well worth visiting. Left in afternoon to sail about 15 nm again under genoa to Greifswald Weick on the mainland, tying up at a box mooring on the bank of the river. Box moorings are normally easy in the non-tidal Baltic but here the strong river current straight across the boxes made for a few headaches before we got in safely. Another interesting little town with delightful thatched cottages and flower-filled narrow lanes. The entire roof of the large church was covered in solar panels, 324 of them, generating in excess of 70kW by my calculation. Interesting to see the proliferation of solar panels on houses in the German countryside despite their northerly latitude.null
Our last day’s sail took us to Stralsund, an historic Hanseatic League town with impressive buildings and a large marina with finger pontoons. This was our planned handover port and after cleaning the boat we explored the town, had a final excellent German dinner and returned to the boat for nightcaps. Left the boat next morning at 0900 to catch train back to Hamburg for flight to Luton. This was a slower stopping train with connection at Rostock, and interestingly this cost less than one quarter of the outbound fare booked on an inter-city express. We found to our surprise that Germany was much less expensive than France, eating and drinking costing a bit less than in UK, despite the higher German standard of living and healthier economy. Poland was even cheaper but not so unexpected. Overall, we achieved most of our objectives for this trip and enjoyed this new (for all of us) area of the Baltic which has superb and uncrowded sailing, plus berthing fees of the order of €12. Bornholm will have to wait for another opportunity. Interesting that we never found it worthwhile to hoist the main on this trip as the genoa did the whole job very easily and we were invariably making 7 knots with winds abeam or on the quarter. Sailing into wind would have been a different story but we never had to. The Baltic remains a favourite cruising ground and thoroughly recommended.