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Graham's unexpected trip from the Solent to Gedser in the Baltic

by Graham Fairhead

June 2014, a Friday evening and a quiet weekend ahead. In from the garden, a quick look at my emails and up popped “Baltic Sailing Opportunity - Immediate Start – emergency crew replacement – Southampton to Gedser”. I rang Paul the skipper there and then and introduced myself. I drove down to Southampton on Saturday evening, met Paul and Richard and joined the boat (a Hanse 370). We departed first thing Sunday morning.

We had a glorious fast sail along the South Coast. We were off Dungeness before nightfall but then made much slower progress crossing the shipping lanes and then fighting the tide. The next day took us on past Dunkerque before making an overnight stop in Zeebrugge.

We made good progress for much of Day 3 but put into Ijmuiden in the early evening, as gales were forecast in the southern German Bight for at least a couple of days. We stayed two nights but as the forecast improved on Day 5, we took the opportunity to leave mid-afternoon to make the most of the north going tide to get us past Den Helder (we made 8-9 knots over the ground on a beam reach). When we shaped up around the first of the Dutch Frisian Islands, the seas became progressively more lumpy, as was to be expected, although the strong winds had moderated. Overall we had made reasonably progress on our long haul to the Elbe and were off Tercschelling by midnight.

Day 6 saw us past the last of Dutch Frisian Islands and all the German ones and into the approaches to the Elbe.

We reached the locks at Brunsbuttel at the western end of the Kiel Canal at 0200 on Day 7. We expected a long wait at this unpopular hour but within ten minutes we were directed into a cavernous empty lock chamber, followed by one other yacht. An hour later were tucked up in our beds rafted up to a workboat just off the canal itself. We departed at 0630 and motored along the canal to the historic town of Rendsburg, which we explored in the afternoon and made this an overnight stop.

Day 8 took us through the locks at Holtenau and on to Kiel, which we reached by early afternoon; here Richard departed for home as planned. This left just the two of us and we explored the waterfront, including a visit to a very fine maritime museum before an evening meal in the equally fine Hotel Kieler Yacht Club opposite our marina.

Day 9 was very warm with light winds and after 12 hours or so of motor-sailing, we reached Gedser, our crew changeover port on the Danish island of Falster. We had a celebratory meal ashore and a good night’s sleep and I flew home the next day from Copenhagen.

All in all a pretty good trip which really came out of nowhere.

Graham Fairhead