Detour on the Ejder

When Runa, Mattis and I returned to Chip-Chip after visiting the Stralsund Aquarium, Esben was nowhere to be seen. He had stayed behind to change filters on our motor and to take a walk in the old city and do some grocery shopping. We began preparing the boat for leaving, and went up to get our deposit back for the shower card. Of course it turned out that the deposit was lost, as the harbor office only opened for one hour at lunch, and naturally there was no other way of returning the card. This is Germany after all. We wanted to cut up the card and leave it in their mail box with an angry note, but ended up giving it to our neighbors instead.

When Esben was back, we were ready to go to the diesel dock. The wind was still predicted to be against us, so we wanted to be prepared to motor some of the way to Kiel. The sail out from Rügen goes through some narrow dug out channels, which are well marked, but it was still nice to keep an eye on the other sailboats, as we sailed just a few meters from birds standing on the bottom. It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon, and we all agree that we should come back to Rügen sometime when we have more time. But for now we set sails and continued westwards in the light breeze towards Kiel, while cooking dinner and getting ready for bed. The wind had died completely, so we chose to take down the sails and continue motoring. And since we had forgotten part of our self steerer at home, that meant hand steering for most of the night. In the early morning I took over, and found that Esben had found a way to use the wind vane to do the steering. Very practical. I continued under the bridge to Fehmern and then actually managed to set the sails again. The water was choppy, the wind had picked up – and was against us, so it wasn’t the most comfortable sailing, but at least we had a break from the motor.

We reached Holtenau, where the lock to the Kiel Kanal is located, in the late afternoon. It’s not exactly our favorite place in the world, and we had thought out a plan to get through – we would not go into the cosy little harbor outside of the lock, assuming that it will be easy to go through in the morning. We had learned our lesson, as we waited for three hours outside last year. Rather, we would line up outside, and hoped to squeeze in as the only sailboat right next to the big cargo ships. And the plan worked. Once all the big ships were in they actually signaled for us to enter. Once again it was a bit too exiting for our taste, as we ended up right at the stern of a large ship with its propeller still running, and with our forestay up against its moorings. Luckily, the water difference between the fjord and the Kiel Kanal is minimal, and soon we were allowed to leave the lock again. In the Kanal, sailboats are only allowed to make stops in designated areas, and since it was getting late, we continued to the nearest anchoring spot and spent the night there.

To shake things up a bit we had decided to leave the Kiel Kanal at the Giselau lock, and do the last part of the trip on the Ejder, a small river that used to mark the Danish-German border until 1864. It was a very calm sail compared to the Kiel Kanal, but we ended up having an unanticipated problem; our boat was too large for the berths in the harbors. That does not happen a lot to us. So we ended up sailing a fair bit longer than planned, and still had to spend the night anchored along the bank. But that was fine, just not what we had expected.

On the second day on the Ejder river we would enter the part of the river that is affected by tides, so we had to get up early in order to hit the tides at the right time. To pass through the Ejder, we had to go through a number of locks and bridges. In the beginning we would call them up when approaching, but we soon realized that they were keeping an eye on the little traffic that there was on the river, and automatically opened for us when we were getting close.

It was our plan to spend the day in Tönning, the town located closest to the North Sea, and then continue towards Helgoland with the outgoing tide in the evening. We knew that the harbor of Tönning fell dry at low tide, and had planned our trip so we would be able to sail in. But despite of that I could see the depth sensor go uncomfortably low as we entered the harbor. Later when the water had disappeared, it became clear that sailing in the middle of the entrance to the harbor is not the way to go; you have to keep right as there is absolutely on water on the left side. The very friendly harbor master came by with a leaflet about the town in Danish, and told us that we ought to visit the Information centre about the Wadden Sea, which is located close to the harbor. The Wadden Sea is a national park as well as designated UNESCO world heritage, and we figured it would be a good way to spend the afternoon. It turned out that the centre was really cool, full of kids exploring how nature works and Mattis and Runa threw themselves right into it. We ended up on the big play ground with coffee and ice cream and found that we had had a great afternoon.

After having the best tuna steaks ever from the local fish shop, we prepared to leave with the outgoing tide. Despite of being in a tidal harbor, we had one more lock to go through before entering the North Sea, and honestly, I don’t really get how that makes sense. It was a beautiful calm evening, and we had a lovely sail out. The whole way we had to keep a good eye on the markers of the channel, and having our position on the iPad helped a lot. As we went through the last lock in the Ejder, the Ejder Sperrwerk, the sun was beginning to set, and soon we had be very aware where we were sailing. The problem is that the dug out channel moves a lot, so the charts do not necessarily show reality. We found our way combining the charts with the lights on the buoys, but we were happy as we passed the last buoy marking the entrance to the Ejder.

Again, Esben took the first watch. But halfway through I went up to him and asked if he would mind going directly home instead of to Helgoland. I was realizing that it would be a good idea to have a day at home before I went to the Fram Strait for a month. So Esben changed course, and when he approached the Elbe, I joined him so we could cross together. The mouth of the Elbe has a lot of traffic, so it was nice for one person to steer and one to keep an eye on the AIS.

Of course, our course change meant that we hit the tide into the Weser at a pretty bad time, so I spent most of the day sailing against the current. And of course also against the wind. We were actually surprised that we never sailed less than 2 knots, our usual speed is around 5. The nice thing about approaching Bremerhaven against the tide was that for once we could see the seals resting on the sand banks as we sailed in. But we were really happy as we entered the Fischereihafen lock that leads to our harbor, and that evening we all fell a sleep early.

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