First sail in the North Sea

Chip-Chip had spent a week in Rendsburg, after Esben and I sailed there from Maasholm. The little harbour in Rendsburg was really well protected and the berths small enough to fit our boat. Also, it’s right next to the train station, so no more crazy maneuvers to get there like we had to to get to Maasholm.

We all took the train to Rendsburg on a Friday afternoon, and after stops in Bremen and Hamburg the kids were glued to the train window to have a look at the bridge crossing the Kieler Kanal. And then we were there. It was dark already, and we quickly got the kids to bed – and then we got a cold beer from the marinas restaurant. Really, really nice and quiet evening.

We can see the bridge across the channel

We wanted to get to Brunsbüttel early the next afternoon so we had a change to see the town. So we were up bright and early, leaving at the same time as our neighbors who we had first met in Holtenau before entering the channel, and who were now on their way back to Hamburg. It was a beautiful morning, and as we made our way out to the main channel, Esben and Runa baked our breakfast bread in the Omnia stove top oven.


Sailing in the channel is pretty relaxed, especially on a sunny day like we had, and the kids spent the whole day playing below. Esben and I took turn steering, reading and relaxing, and at some point I went down to bake a cake with the kids.
We had 70 kilometers to go before reaching Brunsbüttel, and we sailed in to the small harbour at around three in the afternoon. There were not too many boats, and we got a nice spot, laying along the dock, with a direct view to the locks and the big cargo ships going through. Unfortunately that meant that we also got to feel the swell from the big ships as they passed us.

It was really warm in Brunsbüttel, so we went for a walk to get ice cream. The locks in Brunsbüttel are much more accessible than in Holtenau, with viewpoints and information for visitors, and even a museum, which we didn’t see.


We spent the evening in the cockpit waving to the sailors on the cargo ships that passed right by us. And I couldn’t help but think what would happen if one of them lost control and crashed right into us…

Planning the sail with the tides is new for us, and the Elbe, which we would enter the next day has tidal currents up to around 4 knots. We can sail 5 knots when motoring, so it’s definitely worth taking the direction of the currents into account when leaving. We had the right charts and new that we should be leaving so that we would sail towards Cuxhaven with the outgoing tide and get there around slack tide, when the currents were no longer so strong. But we figured that this plan would get us to Cuxhaven too late, and decided to leave at high tide.

The next morning, we turned the vhf on on the lock channel to follow the communication, and when we heard a sailboat asking when they would be let through, we were quick to get out to join them in the lock. We only just made it as the they started closing the doors of the locks as we sailed in – but at least we didn’t have to wait three hours this time!


This time we could really see the difference in water levels during the locking, but soon the ports opened, and we were let out in the Elbe. We made sure to stay out of the main sailing channel, many big cargo ships were coming through. It was a grey day with the winds against us, so we motored again. It took a while for the currents to really pick up, and as we new we would, we reached the entrance to the harbour of Cuxhaven when the currents were strongest. And of course both a tourist boat and a sailing boat exited the harbour when we wanted to enter. But in the end all was fine and we could hail the bridge that needed to open for us to enter the City Marina.

Once docked inside, we called the harbour master who had already left, and who told us that we could just pay when we came back for the boat. So that was nice. Also, the marina was really protected, so we had a good feeling when we headed for the train station. And it was so nice to have the boat so close to home, just a 45 train ride away – or as it turned out, a taxi ride. The train was cancelled, as it always seems to be when we need it…

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One thought on “First sail in the North Sea

  1. Welcome to the North Sea and Elbe River. Nice pictures and report.
    It is indeed a big difference to navigate in areas with strong tidal influence. But with proper planning things are going smooth as well. We have also recently moved our Libert’e back to Glückstadt at the Elbe River. We went the same way through the canal, but had a pilot on board. My twin brother and also owner of the boat happens to be a Kiel Canal Pilot :-). Even though sailing in the North Sea is more challenging and requires more planning, I believe you will find it really relaxing to have the boat close to Bremerhaven. Most of the Islands and Helgoland are really beautiful, but especially in the Wattenmeer you need to take care about draught and currents. A boat with variable keel has definitely advantages in these sailing grounds. Good luck for the coming experiences and fair winds+currents.

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