In 2021, following on from our transit through the Dutch canals the previous year, we continued our voyage northwards, heading for the Baltic Sea. We had left Ruby Tuesday for the 2020/21 winter at Hoorn, the centre of the old Dutch East India Company just north of Amsterdam, so when we were able to get back to her in mid-June after COVID travel restrictions were relaxed, we headed out into the North Sea to take the so-called ‘Outer Route’ around the Frisian Islands.
We had a very pleasant few weeks exploring some of these islands – Terschelling, Borkum and Norderney, the first belonging to Holland, and the other two to Germany. It made for interesting sailing, as the Wadden See between the mainland and the islands is tidal, with many parts of it drying at low tide, so the challenge was to work the tides and stay in the few channels that remained deep enough for our draft of 2 m. The islands themselves are beautiful, mostly composed of sand dunes covered with scrubby vegetation and tree plantations, with beautiful beaches and lots of cycle rides and walks through nature reserves where abundant birdlife can be seen.
From there, we aimed for Brunsbüttal at the entrance to the Kiel Canal (or Nord-OstSee Kanal in German), and spent a few days traversing it, managing to avoid the huge cargo ships also using it. We stayed a few nights in the city of Rendsburg en route before eventually reaching Kiel and the Baltic. We quickly learnt that the Baltic has no lunar tides to speak of, but does have ‘wind-tides’, where a strong wind from the same direction for a few days can push water from one side to the other, resulting in low water on the side where the wind is coming from and high water on the other!
Heading northwards from Kiel, and still in Germany, we visited the town of Kappeln on the Schlei fjord, and the city of Flensburg near the German border with Denmark. From there, it was to Denmark, where we spent the rest of the season exploring the Danish archipelago’s numerous islands, shallow waters, and picturesque towns and harbours. Much of this part of Denmark has alternated between Danish and German sovereignty over the centuries, but the present boundaries were established following the First World War and seem to be accepted by both sides. Nevertheless, the Danes have a strong sense of nationhood and pride in their country, and there are numerous reminders that parts of it were lost for periods of time.
Once again, it was nice to have our folding bikes with us, and use them to cycle away from the harbours and explore some of the surrounding areas, as well as carrying the shopping back to the boat! It was great to visit old friends we had known for years, and to meet new people too, who often gave us advice about sailing areas and conditions that we might not have known about otherwise. The weather was mixed – lots of sunshine, but we also had periods in harbours of waiting out storms and strong winds. Nevertheless, the winds were generally favourable, and we had a higher proportion of sailing than motoring this year than in previous years.
The following links lead to our blog posts of the various stages of the voyage, where you can read in more detail of our experiences, sights, thoughts, musings and conversations along the way:
- Tests, tests and more tests!
- Visiting family, and setting off at last
- A storm, lost keys, and a bygone era
- An un-forecast wind, meeting friends, and a decision
- A sea battle, a sandy island, and washing the clothes
- Exploring two islands and meeting some Frisians
- A Scottish king, lost soap, and visiting relatives
- Through the Kiel Canal – we reach the Baltic at last!
- A thunderstorm, an English homeland, and a Big Shop
- A defeat, a quiet anchorage, and some ecowarriors
- Islands of the imagination, a Scottish dolphin, and a royal slot
- Running aground, meeting friends, and a Viking ship burial
- Fellow mariners, a picturesque trade town, and a reflection
- A navy patrol boat, the Middle Way, and we get lost
- A stunning sunrise, an island walk, and an international bird reserve
- Rebel farmers, portals to the cosmos, and a prisoner king
- A fairy-tale town, a 12th century fortress, and ships galore
- Crossing the border, lifting out, and a lost jacket