Starting the long trip home

Since we bought Chip-Chip we have been wondering if it would be better to leave her in Denmark, right by the great sailing grounds of the Baltic Sea, go whether we would prefer having our boat near our home in Bremerhaven by the North Sea. Several of my colleagues have argued that the North Sea isn’t great at all for sailing, but we weren’t convinced.

This summer, Chip-Chip stayed in Årøsund where my parents live because it was the most practical. But living 400 km from the boat, definitely wasn’t great. Weekend trips became a big task and any little piece of work that needed to be done was made so much more difficult but the distance.  So we decided that we wanted to take Chip-Chip to Bremerhaven, at least for the winter.

It’s, however, quiet a trip. We couldn’t do it in one go, so we decided that we would do it one weekend at a time, that way slowly moving southwards. So a couple of weeks after our summer holidays had ended we drove north again to start the sail. We arrived late at night, and the kids were of course too excited to sleep, but finally we got everything and everyone tugged in and spent the night in Årøsund before departing early in the morning. We felt rather professional as the sails went up just outside the harbour and started southwards on a close haul. As we came free of Årø, we put in a reef because we knew that the wind was increasing, and then continued southwards. We were not too happy with the course, the wind came exactly from the direction we wanted to go, but we found another advantage of the wind vane; it doesn’t complain about the course it’s able to steer, it just continues happily along.

Runa and I went up to sit on the bow. She tends to get seasick, but up there all is good. And additionally it’s really nice to have a quiet moment to sit and talk to her. She likes it when we get sprayed with water – but then it started to rain, so we went back down again. We were also getting close enough to Als that we wanted to tack and go towards the shore again. We soon remembered, however, that Chip-Chip’s ability to tack is awful, so we decided to start the motor and go against the wind a bit so we could get around the northernmost point of Als. The winds and waves had increased, so it wasn’t the most pleasant sailing, but we finally made it into Als Sound where we rolled out the jib again.

We had though about going into Dyvig, probably Denmark’s most beautiful and well protected anchorage in the northern part of Als. But we decided against it, thinking that we wanted to get a bit further that day. The sail down the eastern side of Als is beautiful, but soon we reached the bridge at Sønderborg, which needed to open for us to get through. And for the first time we hoisted our N-flag, and 15 minutes later the bridge opened.

We had actually planned to spend the night in Sønderborg’s city harbour just south of the bridge, but the only free space was right by the bridge, a bit noisy for our liking. So we continued out towards the marina. But as soon as we exited Als Sound, the weather became much worse, and there was no way we wanted to spent the night in a marina with strong winds blowing directly in it. So we decided to continue to the town of Høruphav. As we arrived the wind was still strong, but we found a great spot directly against the wind, and then the sun came out.

We called my dad, who was on his way to visit, had dinner in the cockpit, and went for a walk in the town. Runa found the start of a hiking route called “Gendarmerstien“. It follows the 74 km long route where the border patrols used to walk from 1920 to 1958. And now Runa somehow is keen to do the hike, so I guess we better do that some time soon.


When she knows we’re almost there, she somehow doesn’t get seasick anymore

On Sunday we decided to continue to the German village of Maasholm, mainly because it was in the right direction relative to the wind. And because my mom had agreed to come and get Esben so he could get the car, which was of course still parked in Årøsund. We left early in the morning and reached the harbour at noon, exactly as the wind picked up and it started to rain. It wasn’t easy to turn Chip-Chip in the direction I wanted, but we finally made it into the slip. We had lunch in a small restaurant, packed everything up, and waited for Esben to return. In the end we made the last ferry across the Elbe and arrived at home around midnight. A bit late for our taste!

Mattis woke up long enough to come up and try the kid’s harness


Testing the old life raft

Chip-Chip has previously sailed as least as far as the Azores, and came with a lot of stuff when we bought her, including a life raft. Only problem was that the last service was carried out in 2000… We decided to put it to good use by inflating it so both we and the kids had a feel for how it works if we ever have to enter the life raft while at sea. Ideally we would have liked to do it while anchored so we could have tested climbing into the raft, but that just wasn’t practically possible, so we did it in the garden instead.

Once it was out we were very happy that we have chosen to not have it serviced anymore, one of the valves were leaking air, and it was just generally unpleasant to be close to. But Esben was brave and went inside, just to try.


Doesn’t seem very large for four people

The survival pack contained pretty much the things it is supposed to, like flares, a torch, a knife etc. But the flares were way out of date, the knife was in three pieces and we never got the torch to work – even though it came with extra batteries.


The items in the survival pack

It was cool to see the raft inflating, and good for both us and the kids to experience. But after a couple of days we deflated it and sent it away with the trash. We are now planning to invest in a Viking Rescue Pro life raft. It’s really expensive, but since we have kids and sail with just two adults on board, we feel that the self-righting capacity is important. I guess I will get back to that in a later post.

Even more sailing

After finishing our three-week trip onboard Chip-Chip sailing south of Fyn, Sjælland and in the Kattegat, Esben had to go back to work. But the Kindergarten and school was closed for another week, so I had signed the kids and me up for a one week sailing trip on Jensine, going with my mom and dad and a bunch of other people.

Jensine is Denmark’s oldest sailing wooden vessel, and my dad was part of the group that restored it in the 1970’ies, so I have been sailing on Jensine all through my childhood. Jensine is driven and sailed by an association which everybody can join for a modest fee. Usually around 12 people are onboard when we go sailing, and this is part of what is nice about this type of holiday.


Hoisting the sails is team work

We met up in Nyborg, everybody got a bunk and a couple of people went grocery shopping for the first couple of days. And then we were off in wonderful sunshine and no wind whatsoever. We motored across the Great Belt and sailed in through the narrow fjord to Skælskør where we spent the night.  On the way to Fejø we stopped for everybody to go swimming. I didn’t want to go, but Runa insisted, so in I went. And then she of course decided that she didn’t want to go swimming anyways! It was probably a good decision because there was quiet some current in the water, but I was a bit annoyed anyways. We spend the night on the little island of Fejø where we had to ask some boats if they would be willing to move so we could fit in. Jensine needs about 25 meters of room on the dock to fit – Chip-Chip may be small, but at least we usually fit even in the smallest harbors.

From Fejø we continued back across the Great Belt and anchored in Thurøbund, one of my favorite anchorages. Here, some of the others got the dinghy in the water and went rowing with the kids. We needed some diesel, so we made a brief stop in Svendborg, and then we continued towards Marstal. Having come through the sound by Svendborg in Chip-Chip a couple of weeks earlier, the contrast of how other boats reacted as we approached was start; in Chip-Chip other boats do not seem bothered about giving way, whereas when you come in Jensine, the waters seem to open up in front of us.


Evening in Thurøbund

Marstal is famous for its’ maritime history, many wooden ships were build here and sailed throughout the world. We visited the maritime museum, where the Danish maritime history is chronichled. I have been there before, and I quiet like it, but this time I noticed a small replica of a schooner named Amigo, which was build in Marstal 1918, and as I read its’ history I realized that it was the wreck that I had been diving many times when I worked as a dive master and instructor while studying in Odense. Strange to suddenly learn more about its’ history. Now it lies in 23 meters of water in the Great Belt.

From Marstal we continued onwards to Kappeln in Germany. My great grandfather lived here as a kid, and somehow we have found ourselves visiting this lovely town a number of times in recent years. We managed to time our arrival with the opening of the bridge of the Schlei river and moored in the museum harbor just behind the bridge. We had a lovely walk in the town and made sure to get some ice cream.


The bridge across the Schlei river

From Kappeln it was time to make our way back to Årøsund, and after meeting the Danish royal yacht in Sønderborg, we spent the last night in the small harbor at Årø. Here, my sister and her kids came to visit and we had time to go to the nature playground on the island where some of us also bought some wine at the local vineyard. All in all it was a lovely week even though the kids and I were a bit tired after the three weeks on Chip-Chip. A map of our trip can be seen below the picture.


Sunset from Årø

 The Kattegat

In the two first weeks of our summer trip had been south of Fyn and Sjælland, and we were now ready to continue northwards. The trip from Helsingborg in Sweden to the island Anholt in the Kattegat was about 60 nm, so we opted for a fairly early start – it did, however, become around 9 before all last minute preparations were over, the kids were dressed and we were out of the harbour.

Mattis’ favorite place while sailing

We passed a lot of commercial traffic, and had to slow down a couple of times to not be in the way, but as we moved away from the Sound, the Kattegat opened up and we had lots of room to spare. The weather forecast had promised winds from south west – but in reality it came from north west, exactly the direction in which we were headed. So we were close-hauled for hours. After a while we thought that the wind was a bit strong to have both the jib and the full main sail up, so we reefed, and thereby learned that Chip-Chip needs both sails to do any effective close-hauled sailing.

After about 40 nm we decided to start the motor and go in the right direction so we wouldn’t arrive after sunset. Slowly the wind died and the waves disappeared, and as we entered Anholt’s harbour in the sunset, it was completely calm and we had dolphins playing around the boat! I’ve seen porpoises many times in Danish waters, but never a dolphin, so that was pretty cool. Anholt seems to be a favorite for a lot of sailors, and the harbour has a reputation for being overcrowded, so we were prepared to go out again and spend a night anchoring. But I guess the not so great July weather meant that some people have not gone sailing this year, because we got a spot fairly easy. And it was a good thing that the wind had died down, because otherwise we might not have seemed convincing docking, as I had to maneuver the boat close to the stern mooring buoy, which Esben caught, got a rope through, and then handed to me to secure in the back. We have never tried this type of docking before, but it went fine. Anholt seemed like a little holiday heaven, all ships in the harbour had people on board, which made the harbour come much more alive. There’s a big beach, where swimmers and surfers meet, and small cafes which seem to cater to the hipster tourists.

We went for a hike towards the desert the next day. The island is about 10 km long – to long for us to reach the light house at the far tip. But we hiked up Nordbjerget (or the North Mountain), following little footpaths until we had a magnificent view over the sea and the desert. Afterwards it was time for an ice-cream and a trip to the beach.


The “desert”

During the day the wind had gotten stronger, and newcomers found it difficult to dock in the harbor. And while Esben and the kids were at the beach, I observed one sailboat loose control, slide over the buoy that we were moored to, ending up with our docking lines between the keel and the rudder. It was then stuck there, slamming into us every time a gust came through. With the help from people in dinghies, I got new dock lines out to the buoy, so I could loosen the old ones. It turned out that our lines were stuck between the rudder and the hull of the other boat, and I had to let go of them completely – brand new lines bought a few days earlier. When the boat was finally docked next to us, the skipper dove down to check on his rudder, but as soon as he saw the everything was fine he lost interest and did not look for our lines. It seemed so stupid that he preferred paying – or probably rather in the end not paying – for new lines, when the old ones were just below the boat. The next morning Esben decided to defy the rain and cold, and dive in to get the docking lines. And he found both. And looked great in Runas pink girl-sized dive mask.


It was much more grey, cold and rainy than it looks!

After the drama, we went to one of the local restaurants for the great sea-food that the island is known for. The food was really delicious and the sun had come out a bit again. The restaurant even had life jackets and crab nets for the kids to use and it was a lovely evening.

After two nights on Anholt we wanted to move on to Grenå, but the weather was really bad, so we decided to wait to leave until late afternoon when the wind was supposed to die down a little for some hours. It was a grey and rainy day, and the kids stayed inside, while I  thought the extra day would be a good time to get started installing the lifeline netting we had bought before leaving. That, however, was a much larger project than anticipated, and in the end we left the harbour an hour later than planned because I hadn’t finished yet. So now we have one side with netting, and one without. It looks a bit funny, but it’s in the starboard side where we normally walk up and down the deck, so it’s alright, it gives a bit more peace of mind when Mattis is running around there.

The trip to Grenå was very rolly, with winds coming from the front and waves from two different angles. We tried motorsailing a bit to make the boat a bit more stable, but the course was way off, and in the end we motored the whole way. We arrived in Grenå just before midnight, just early enough to realize that the sounds we heard came from a pop concert at the water front. Luckily they closed it down at midnight! As we docked, Esben slipped and almost fell in the water in the dark. But luckily he didn’t.

In Grenå, Esben and the kids visited the Kattegat Aquarium while I stayed back and did some work. I actually did my dive instructor course in one of the large aquariums in the centre back in 2005, and haven’t been back since, so it was kinda funny to be in Grenå again. But we didn’t find Grenå itself very interesting, so we were soon off again, making our way southwards.
We tend to like the little islands, and for this night we would have a look in Tunø harbour. Tunø is, however, within comfortable sailing distance from Århus, one of the larger cities in Denmark, so it’s often over crowded in the summer – and this was also the case on this day. Instead of lying in third row, we went out and anchored right outside the harbour. We figured we would stay the next day, so we could just go in when people started to leave. But after a quiet night we changed our minds and sailed the 10 nm to the small village of Hou, where I new there was a nice playground and probably a lot less people. Summer had actually started now and we spent a sunny day on the playground and the beach. In Hou, two sailing schools are located, HMI, a boarding school for 9th and 10th grade, which I attended for a year a long time ago, and the Egmont school, a folk high school, where some students are disabled and therefore need special boats to go sailing. We watched on the harbor as students in wheel chairs got into the little boats and sailed off. Pretty cool. And because the day had been so busy (no, not really!), we decided that cooking was too much of an effort and went to the local cafe for dinner.

In the morning the sun was out and the ocean completely blank. We motored southwards all day in the sun and reached Årøsund in the evening. Here, my parents and nieces greeted us, and we walked up to their house to let Runa and Mattis play with their cousins. They spent the night at the house and we sailed to Årø where we anchored for the night. The next day we picked up the kids in the morning and we then spent the last day of this summer trip on Årø, bathing, catching crabs and eating ice cream. Finally summer had come for real.

Not that warm after all…