We’ve continued to make good progress as we move south and west. Wednesday 26 August took us from Sønderborg in Denmark across the border and into German waters.
We had a good sail out of Sønderborg. The wind was 20-25 knots from the SSW, but it was at a perfect angle for us to put a couple of reefs in the sails and beat our way toward Kiel. Twenty knots on the front quarter usually makes for an uncomfortable ride, but we took advantage of being in the lee of the Danish and then German coasts, and so the seas were moderate.
But the strong winds did announce themselves in another way. A small tear formed in the leach of our main sail. It was not that the wind was overpowering (we were well-reefed), but rather that our main sail is getting old. We have a spare that is in fair shape, just in case our current main were to suffer substantial failure. But this a reminder that Leander could do with a shiny new main. It is not a critical need just now, and so we’ll patch it up again. We called ahead to Cuxhaven, Germany, several stops down the path, and made arrangements to have a sailmaker, Gunnar Wittmaak, do a repair.
The end of the day trip from Sønderborg took us to the city of Kiel, and we spent the night and most of the next day at the British Kiel Yacht Club. Some British officers established the club for use a recreational sailing base after WWII, and it still serves as such. It had been recommended as an ideal stop for UK sailors, military or not, and we thought that we’d be welcome too. We were right. Not being military ourselves, we felt a little out-of-place, but many of the military personnel with whom we met went out of their way to make us feel comfortable. We were offered rides to the supermarket and use of a phone; the bar was declared open to us; the enlisted men in the lounged encouraged Alexander’s “roller-ball” efforts on the old pool table; and one fellow took time to explain the logistics of the upcoming Kiel canal transit.
We were told the British are relinquishing ownership and that the club is shutting down after seventy years in service. That seems like a shame, as the club appeared to be a good means of British/German fellowship.
One more thing about the club. We tied up next to a beautiful old double-ended sailing yacht named “Flamingo.” We were told that the Germans had built the boat for the 1936 Olympics that they hosted, and that the British had taken it as spoils after the war. Prominently displayed in the club’s lounge is a photo of Hermann Göring, sitting in the yacht’s cockpit some eighty years earlier. “That was his boat,” more than one person told us, although the Internet doesn’t support that. Regardless, it’s interesting, no, that although we can all agree that Göring was a first-class villain, we think of the boat as being more appealing and valuable because there is a photo showing that, one day, he sat in it. “Hermann Göring slept here.”
We also had a chance to meet up with Dick and Ginger Stevenson from s/v Alchemy. We became good friends when we stayed in London three winters ago. They have also been sailing in these waters this season, and were able to get a car and drive down the coast to see us. We spent the afternoon with them, and it was wonderful to catch up.
We entered into the Kiel Canal through its single lock the next day. The lock dropped us a whopping half meter, and we were belled out while Paul was still in the kiosk paying for the trip. After the monster locks in France, the drop was somewhat of a let down.
The Kiel Canal is not scenic. It was billed as “tree-lined” and “fjord-like,” but so are long stretches of Route 93 from MA to NH — you get miles and miles of a forested concourse, with nary a village or structure to break up the monotony.
Thursday through Sunday, through to 30 August, were spent at Rendsburg, Germany, at the intersections of the Eider River and the Kiel Canal. Rendsburg has been a real find. We had the good fortune to arrive at the start of the town’s annual “Herbst Stadtfest,” or Fall Festival. On Saturday, the waterfront was alive with a beating drum as twenty-person crewing shells competed in 400 meter races. Make no mistake –this was no happy-happy, let’s-go-have-a-laugh-at-the-river fun-day-out. When we first pulled into the town in the fading light, the quiet twilight was broken with repeated shouts of “EINS, ZWEI, DREI, VIER, FUNF, SECHS, SIEBEN!!! MACH SCHNELL!” in a voice loud enough to scatter the seagulls. That gusto was repeated on Saturday, the complaining seagulls replaced with hundreds of cheering fans.
The town streets were filled with food stalls, carnival-like rides, and exhibitions. There was a huge “kinder area” as well, where one of the main attractions was a sort of “water park.” Maybe a “mud park” would be more appropriate, as Alexander and Aylin stripped down to their undies and played for hours among bales of hay, spraying water, and muddy grass.
We have also made note of a drastic change in cuisine as we move south. Germans love their wurst and bier. Sure, there were sausage shops in Sweden, and you can purchase beer there too, but 70% of the vendors at the festival sell one of those two products. Another 20% sold sweets or heavy pastries.
We could show another several dozen such photos, but you get the picture.
We finally DID find something that LOOKED healthy. Sima and I purchased the above “Nummer Funf,” Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil leaves and “garlic cream” on bread. But the bread turned out to be an enormous hunk of deep-fried dough, which was then layered with gobs of sour cream on which our lonely tomatoes and mozzarella sat. Though we ate this concoction at about two in the afternoon, and spent the entire day walking around, neither of us needed to eat any dinner hours later.
It was not surprising, then, to also notice that a good number of Germans have a weight issue, at least in this part of the country.
But maybe the stalls of the festival created a false impression of German cuisine. We eventually nosed into a bread shop, Drews Backerei on the Schiffbruckenplatz in Rendburg. We went in to purchase a loaf of bread, but were instead treated to a thirty-minute discourse on the fine art of German baking. Our host was a fifth-generation baker who introduced to a variety of breads that we might like. We should have written his name down, but thought that we heard it as “Klintons.”
He sliced into loaf after loaf. “Try this!” He’d explain the grains, the baking process, and the use of the bread. “Now this!” We watched as he filled the bag with a smörgåsbord of choices, and explained which ones we could preserve and which ones would go quickly. Finally, he cinched the sack, and we pulled out our wallet to settle up. “No, no!!” he insisted. “This is my treat! Please.” Incredible. We’ll eat like kings for weeks.
We left Rendsburg yesterday, 30 August, and are now at Cuxhaven, Germany. The Kiel Canal is behind us and the north sea in front of us. Our new chartplotter has arrived, and our sail has gone off to Gunnar. The winds are not favorable for the next step just now, and so we’ll take a few days and go and see nearby Hamburg.
393 miles traveled, 330 miles to Dunkerque, 4296 to the Caribbean.