Baltic summer trip 2021 Part 2

We continue our journey from the Lauwersmeer to sea at Lauwersoog via Norderney to Helgoland.

Out to sea to Helgoland

Departure Tuesday 8 June Out of Schiermonnikoog and the German Wadden Islands.

At 09.00 hours I cast off from Senneroog, my regular spot on the Lauwersmeer. First destination Norderney with 5 knots, about 10 hours sailing over the North Sea. Just after 10:00, I leave the lock at Lauwersoog, it is high tide. There is a moderate wind (3Bft) from the north east, unfavourable for setting sails. Despite the calm sea, there is a nasty swell. It is a long way out and then around the island. Around 15.00 I was lying at the height of the Eemsmonding. After having watched this for a while I decide to make a turn into the sea and then tack again to be able to sail with a sharp wind. I set the mainsail and the Genoa and that just works. With a wind angle of 20 degrees, the Asmara is calmer. In the meantime, the current has started to run against us. Speed through the water was 4.8 Kts and over the ground barely 3.

Around 20:30 I arrive at the Schluchter, a shallow passage, but which saves 1 1/2 hours of time. By then I have been underway for 11 hours. The Schluchter is a narrow mudflat passage where at low tide there is 50 cm. It is therefore important to sail through it from 3 hours before high tide. There is 1 1/2 metres more water then, so 2 metres. The Asmara sticks out 1.25 metres. I have sailed over it several times now but never with full sail and on the autopilot. The sail is a handicap if you get stuck unexpectedly. Everything goes as planned and there turns out to be more water than I had calculated. Immediately after that passage of about 50 metres long a right angle bend, so also exciting with the sails. See also my recent Youtube film

Territorial drift
Across the Schluchter at Norderney
Traffic lane crossing Elbe approach

I don’t want to go into the harbour, on the one hand to save on costs, I’m going straight to bed and on the other hand it’s easier to leave. Anchoring on a heavily flowing tidal flats. I look for and find a place where I can drop anchor at 21:35, at low tide 4.50 metres and high 7.50 metres. I lay out 20 metres of chain, set the anchor watch and leave the plotter on so that I can immediately see what is going on if there is any danger or if the anchor crawls. There is a considerable current around the boat, but she stays put and will continue to do so all night. The direction of the boat does change when the tide changes and the boat turns 180 degrees.

I watch a bit of TV and, apart from many German channels, I also get the Netherlands. On Netflix I follow a part of my series. Around 01:00, when I have checked everything, I go to sleep and set the alarm for 07:00. When I wake up it is leaf quiet but the current is still strong, after a Yoghurt/Fruit breakfast I remove my anchor ball and lights, raise the anchor and continue to Helgoland. Another long stretch. The sea is like a mirror and sways a little. I change my route a bit and am busy looking at the screen. When I look up for a moment, I sail straight towards a buoy, 1 second before impact, a bang, the buoy waves to me and leaves me bewildered. GGRRR! That must be paint damage again, although at first I cannot find anything. Fortunately, it was not a monster buoy. That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention and your track crosses a buoy, or perhaps the buoy has been moved. The Asmara continued on its way as if nothing had happened. I continue to work on my report at the table in the kitchen. With the IPAD linked to the plotter on the table, I can see exactly what is happening outside.

These stretches are also annoyingly long; yesterday I spent at least two hours dozing off in the wheelchair. Expected arrival around 18.30, so another 12 hours of sailing. I am now crossing the Alte Weser Radar traffic lane, I have just called Cuxhaven to signal this crossing. I can already see Helgoland in the distance. Arrival Helgoland on Wednesday 9 June 18:00 hrs. On 10 June, I have an appointment at 09:00 to collect diesel. I fill up 850 litres at 0.93 ct. The rest of the day I spend shopping for fruit and vegetables and visit the liquor store for a 6 litre box of Malt Whiskey. My neighbour is a Dutchman with his motorboat from Scheveningen. We drink a beer together. If you want to know more about Helgoland, check out my earlier blog or Youtube film, both of which you can see on my site.
I had booked 3 nights on Helgoland. With the intention to leave on Saturday for Tonning at the German/Danish coast. But looking at the weather there are just two days coming up with increasing wind and ergo waves, which makes me decide whether to extend the stay by 2 nights or leave now (Friday 10 June). I hesitate for a long time, the Scheveninger chooses eggs for his money and leaves for Cuxhaven at 10 o’clock. When I finally decide to sail to Brunsbuttel, I am already late because of the tide, I also have to return my shopping cart. When I am back on board I cast off at 11:45. Outside the port I set the Genoa and call the harbour master Helgoland. I tell him that I left one day earlier than I paid for because of the weather and ask him to keep the credit because I will be back around the end of August. No problem, he says, and wishes me good luck.


On the way, I looked at the tide tables again and saw that in the Elbe estuary, in particular, the current was going to be very much against me. I should have left at least three hours earlier. When the moment comes that the current starts running against me, I know I won’t make it. I am still in plenty of water without shelter, but the weather is calm and so is the sea. So I decide to drop anchor outside the channel, in 10 metres of water, and wait for four hours for the current to return. When I am lying still behind my anchor with 30 metres of chain, the speedometer indicates 2.8 knots, which is the outgoing current. If you then sail through the water at 5 kts, with 2.8 against, your actual speed is only 2.2 knots. By waiting four hours, the current begins to change and I get it again. So around 20:00 I weighed the anchor. First I can have a drink and then I can prepare dinner. Simba also likes it better, but I have to keep the door closed, because if that hat falls into the water, she will be lost within a minute, that’s how hard the current is. Anchor at 20:00, where I am lying there seems to be almost no current, but that is an illusion, once we start sailing again still 2kts against. Only at 22:00 the current turned and with 5.5 through the water, I was chasing 8 over the ground. Night had fallen and a single freighter was still coming.

Afgemeerd Helgoland
Nacht op de Elbe

Fortunately, the waterway buoys are illuminated, and in the pitch dark with the instruments dimmed, I peered in the darkness for any obstacles that might want to harm me. Around 23:30, the large lock opened and like a flock of wild geese, 15 freighters approached me. When the whole lot had passed me, it was midnight and I went to find an anchorage on the marked road in front of “Sportsschiffsfart”. 10-15 metres of water and 3 knots of current. The position is at least 3x but safer 5x the water depth on chain and I have only 40 metres. I put out 35 metres, as I don’t want to run the risk of the link of the last link rusting through and then hear the last piece disappear into the sea with a splash. Now I have to set the anchor alarm and wait for another hour or so, but the Asmara stays put.

At 02:00 I crawl into my bed, but it takes a while before I fall asleep. At 05:00 I was cruelly woken by the anchor alarm, the current had already turned, but was now becoming heavier. Wind against current. The Asmara is now slowly turning her butt into the wind, but it remains an unstable situation. I quickly make an egg, a sandwich and coffee, after which I go outside and remove the anchor ball, hang up the fenders on both sides, put the lines on the bollards etc. When all this is done, I call the lock operator and ask when I can enter. 20 minutes, they say, when the light flashes white, you can enter. First a cargo boat comes out and then I follow the only sailing boat into the lock. There are two of them and they are moored when I arrive; they immediately come over to help. At 07:00 the lock opens and I sail into the Nord-Ostsee Canal (Kiel Canal) to km 40 at Gieselau, where I will catch up on my sleep.

To be continued in part 3

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Peter Mantel

Retired from aviation. Adventures with the Asmara. I sail with my two-masted cutter from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea.

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