From where we live there’s only 50 km to Cuxhaven where we had left Chip-Chip. But the sail to Bremerhaven is about 60 nm because of the shallows that extend far out along the coast between Cuxhaven and Bremerhaven. Our average speed is around 4.5 knots, so 60 nm is pretty far in one day. And then there are the tides. We would have to take the last leg of the trip on a day when high water in Cuxhaven took place early in the morning so we could go out of the Elbe with the current – and also in through the Weser with the current.
We had talked to people from the local sailing club and found that we would have to do the trip two weeks after leaving Chip-Chip in Cuxhaven. As fall was approaching, the days were also getting shorter and colder, and we didn’t really fancy arriving in the dark.
So off we went in the train. For some reason we had brought our cooling box home when we left Chip-Chip the last time – and forgot to bring it again. So once we had taken a walk in Cuxhaven and eaten lots of ice cream, Esben went out to find some ice for the ice box that some previous owners have luckily installed. In morning we were ready to go out of the harbour through the bridge at 8.00. But at 7.40, a tour boat asked on the vhf to get the bridge opened early, so we were suddenly in a hurry; turned on the motor, threw off the moorings and quickly called the bridge to let them know that we were coming through too.
As we sped across the harbour I mentioned to Esben that the motor sounded different. But we off course needed to pass the bridge, so we continued. As we came out in the front basin, we had to wait for a freighter to leave, and the motor still sounded funny. Then Esben checked the cooling water – and yelled that we hadn’t opened the seacock for the raw water. Our motor can be a bit difficult to turn off, but this time I managed to do it in record time. We waited a bit while drifting around in the harbour, and then turned on the motor again. And everything was fine. But I don’t think we’ll make that mistake again.
We entered the Elbe at slack tide and sailed westwards along the northern side of the marked channel, where the bottom is sloping more gently and there is a bit of room outside of the path of the freighters. The wind was directly from behind, so we had a nice sail for a couple of hours with just the jib out. Actually, I think the jib didn’t do much, the current probably pushed us along. Runa tends to get a bit sea sick, so we went to sit in front of the mast and chat. That pushes the seasickness aside, and is really nice.
But soon we had reached the part of the Elbe where the channel becomes broader, and as we were going south, we had to cross over. We do have AIS in our vhf, but it doesn’t tell us when we’re on collision course, so we just had to try our best not to be in the way. Some of the freighters of course sail much faster than you think, and we ended up speeding as fast as we could to not be run down by the one that was the farthest away when we started crossing. Good thing the motor still worked… But in the end we made it to safety, only to realize that the water was a lot more choppy on this side of the channel. So we were hit by seasickness once again. Esben threw up while reefing the main, Mattis while lying on his back in bed and Runa threw up so many times that I finally had to order her down below to lie down – she knows she needs to look at the horizon when she’s seasick, so she wants do stay on deck.
As we left the Elbe and started the leg towards the entrance to the Weser, we couldn’t hold our course under sail and started the engine. That gave a bit of rest, and everybody fell asleep while I steered us southwards. The tricky thing about the sail was that we needed to time our progress so that we had the current in our favor both in the Elbe, and then again on the way in towards Bremerhaven in the Weser. Sailing in the Baltic, we are not used to tide tables, and I find that I definitely need to concentrate when doing tide calculations, but at the same time I find it quiet cool. I guess working with oceanography on a daily basis helps a bit. And somehow we managed to reach the Weser at exactly the right time, and soon we were flying along with a speed of 8 knots inwards toward Bremerhaven. I was starting to get a bit anxious about our arrival time as we weren’t too keen on arriving after sunset. But as we were going in the same direction as the tidal wave, we kept the speed of 8 knots for a few hours, and soon the outer harbour terminals of Bremerhaven became visible. Esben and the kids went up in front of the mast to sit and watch the big ships being loaded with cargo. Here we really realized how big some of the freighters were – Mattis insisted that we should go and pick up the toy boats that zoomed in and out between them, and neither he nor Runa believed us when we said that those were pilot boats, much bigger than Chip-Chip.
As we approached the city centre, the sun was beginning to set, so we turned on the navigation lights and turned into the harbour at 19.30, exactly as it became dark. We had to pass a lock, the Doppelschleuse, to get to the sailing club. But as it was Sunday night and the kids had to go to bed, we decided to leave Chip-Chip at the guest dock at the entrance to the Geeste, and do the rest of the sail the next morning.
In the Geeste river
Esben had coffee ready as I arrived back at Chip-Chip the next morning after getting the kids to school and kindergarten, and we were ready to enter the Fischereihafen lock at 8.30. Unfortunately, the lock keepers didn’t seem to care much about opening hours, so we drifted around in the outer basin for almost an hour before being allowed to enter. Good thing we had coffee and sunshine.
The sail from the lock to the harbour took almost an hour as we went slowly in the beautiful morning. But finally we arrived and were greeted by a Swedish speaking gentleman who also had his boat in the harbour. It was great to finally be there – now we just needed to become official members of the sailing club!