June 30, 2005

Norderney - Vlieland

At 0721 Martin Weigeler sent me a text message (SMS) with a weather forecast. It seemed OK. Easterly forces 3-4 mentioned. Not bad. Later turning SE-S. Not so great. Rainy gusts. Mmmmm. Isolated thunderstorms! Getting more hazy. Sea 0.5 to 1m waves. We can handle that no problem. A little bit about what lay ahead towards England then at the end: EXPECT A STORM IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL WITHIN THE NEXT 12 HOURS. Good luck Steve! :-)

Hard a starboard! Leaving Norderney Yacht Haven

Viv took a rare photo or two of me at the helm at 0900 as we left Norderney in an E-SE force 2, which was of no assistance at all. By10.30 we’d cleared the NW tip of the adjacent island of Juist and swapped our fuel tank for the first of several times. At this point we could probably have seen Memmert but again I did not realise the significance of this. We’d been making 8 knots with the tide. At around midday, in drizzle, we passed by the final German island of Borkum, which stands at the mouth of the river Ems. Then we were onto Dutch islands. Our target was Texel, the last island, where an old rowing friend of mine, from my University days, lives and works.

At 12.49 I sent him a text message. "Making slow progress. 80 miles to go. Only doing 6.7 knots with engine. Virtually no wind and what there is is against us....Passing Simonsand." It turned out, later, that he was on the other side of the island we were passing at this moment! However, in the next couple of hours we were down to just 5 knots and by 15.00 we were still only 6 miles north of the lighthouse on Schiermonnikoog, the first significant island. More slow progress past Ameland and by 8pm we were only ¼ of our way along the coast of Terschelling.

A front had passed through and with a light wind motor-sailing with the main and genoa we managed a little better, 7 knots. The days average was 6 knots with the wind on the nose all day. To be fair we had been ambitious to attempt to get along all the Dutch islands in one go. As it was we had covered 88 miles by midnight when we arrived at the penultimate island of Vlieland. The channel was well marked with lit buoys but we had a close call with a dredger that suddenly changed direction, started dredging and put its proper navigation lights on, all at the same time! Then there was the narrow entrance to the harbour in the pitch darkness! All in a day’s work.

Sent a text to Sue at 23.56 local time: "Arrived VLIELAND. Texel will have to wait till tomorrow. Cold and wet. Miserable day. X."

Meanwhile back in Blighty, Manchester University (whom I had been coaching for the previous 3 years) was, rather appropriately, beating the Dutch Student crew from Amsterdam, Nereus, by 1 1/2 lengths in the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. This news sent from Graeme Smethurst to me, also by text, was somewhat more uplifting than the message from Martin this morning.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:14 PM

June 29, 2005

Cuxhaven - Norderney

Trawler passing the training wall with, in the background, the Cuxhaven we never saw, a seaside resort.

We had checked the chart and found it would be impossible to sail inside the first of the Fresian islands because of a long training wall at Cuxhaven. This meant that we had to go right out past Sharhorn before turning southwest.

From the air on our trip back to England from Copenhagen, Stanley and I had thought that it might be best to sail between the islands and the mainlands of Germany and Holland, where there might be shelter from the North Sea gales. But the charts showed a maze of shallow, shifting channels, many of which dried out at low tides and would have been a nightmare to navigate under any circumstances but especially at speed and without an echo sounder, even with GPS. More about this later.

Despite appearances this foam is not caused by pollution but by bacteria or algae or something.

The wind was on the nose as we passed Kugelbake, a seamark looking like a gigantic man in a skirt with his legs akimbo and his hands on his hips, which marks the entrance to the North Sea. Then we crossed lots of foam on the water, which we thought was probably due to pollution but were later informed is a natural phenomenon. We motor-sailed with the tide at 10 knots until we were able to bear away and maintain this speed without the engine.

There were the same big, floating, buoys that had lined the channel in the inner Elbe numbered 29, 27, 25, 23 etc. You can see one here over Cris’s shoulder. But now there were also huge pillars planted in the sea bed marked with gigantic letters, G, F, E down to A the last one. If we had not already known that this was a very important shipping lane this would have made it clear. These big marks would have been clearly visible on radar.

Steve reclining at the helm of CATRI 24 trimaran, TARDIS.

We touched 13.2 knots before the wind came behind us and by lunch we were down to 5 knots so we started the engine again at 13.45. It was a lovely day spoiled only by the buzz of the engine. Helming is not a chore in a CATRI 24. This photo of me reclining in the German Bight will make a good Christmas card methinks.

Motor-sailing in the German Bight with gennaker.

It would have been nice to pay a visit to the little island of Helgoland, where the Germans had had a U-boat base during WWII but it would have wasted a day and as we’d just lost a day we continued in the sunshine motor-sailing along the coast with the main and gennaker on a starboard tack.

Cris Trace writes up his epic diary down below in the Catri 24 saloon

Cris wrote up his diary. His offspring have been trying to persuade him for years to publish it because he has had such an interesting life. But I guess he is still too busy living it.

We passed the Alte Weser lighthouse at the entrance to the rivers Alte and Jade, serving Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven and next we picked up the German, Fresian Islands of Wangerooge then Spiekerooge, Langeoog, Baltrum and finally Nordeney. Each of these islands was separated by a narrow channel leading, in most cases, to some form of anchorage or harbour that could have provided shelter if the weather had turned nasty. But the threatened front and force 5 never arrived. We spotted a few puffy clouds in the west at around teatime when we still had 14 miles to go to the western end of Nordeney, where we intended to rest for the night.

Bowsprit offset parallel to boom. The Catri goes faster in light winds if one or two crew members lounge in the pulpit.

We experimented with the bowsprit but without a pace boat we could not detect any difference in speed but it did reduce the risk of chafing the gennaker against the mast shrouds. We did confirm, however, that a CATRI trimaran goes faster in light airs if one or two crew members lounge in the pulpit!

GPS shows our max speed today was 13.2kn. The black arrowhead in the centre of the screen is us. The thick red line is the course I had set for us to take. Norderney beam trawler over Viv's shoulder. Norderney approaches

Approaching Norderney we passed a beam trawler similar to the one we'd passed at the start of our day at Cuxhaven. We could also sea that Norderney is a fine seaside resort too.

Norderney Sailing Club

We arrived at the very plush Nordeney Sailing Club at 20.30 and were greeted by an enthusiastic harbourmaster, who asked where we had come from. He was very impressed when we said, “Latvia” and by the time we had made fast and ambled to the lovely restaurant with its blue tablecloths we were already celebrities! Everybody already knew about our small, space age craft and our long passage. We all had a fish platter and an excellent Riesling summer wine.

In fact Norderney offered a suitably space age marina facility with a swipe card system for the showers!

Outside the bird life was very squeaky; oystercatchers, I think. And there was a veritable multitude of rabbits, a source of wonderment to Cris. Obviously there were no predators here. We walked around the harbour to get petrol and on our return we moved TARDIS a little and folded the bowsprit to make room for another boat that never came.

I wish I had known then what I learned later about Norderney and these German islands as I would have taken much more notice of my surroundings and better appreciated their significance.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:10 PM

June 28, 2005

The Rivers Elbe and Oste

Taking into account the northerly wind (German Bight forecast now force 6-7) and the fetch across the whole of the North Sea we decided that discretion is the better part of valour and opted to seek out the Mast route from the Elbe avoiding the rough seas along the Fresian Islands.

Viv & Cris

We headed back up the Elbe to where we thought it started at the confluence of the Rivers Oste and Elbe, which had been clearly marked. On our way, with the gennaker out and double-reefed main Cris again proved his worth as a sail trimmer and Viv as helm by coaxing 17.3 knots (against the ebbing tide) out of our very special hydrofoil stabilised trimaran, the CATRI 24.

This gave me all the less time to find in the Almanac the reference to the Mast route that I had undoubtedly seen on a previous thumbing through. No matter. We arrived at the junction, took down all the sail and turned right from the Elbe into the Ost motoring at first then motor-sailing with just the gennaker to give ourselves less to do each time we gybed as we sailed up this winding river.

The first bridge opened for us without us having to do anything. Later we discovered from the skipper of a moored boat what we should have known already, had I had the time to read the almanac properly, that we ought to sound two blasts on our horn to seek the bridge operator’s attention.

Soon we were running with the gennaker only and building the efficiency of our teamwork with every gybe.

Quite far up the river we came across a small rowing club who were using a VirusBoats Turbo II Classic, the very boat that had got me started in the boat business back in 1998 when I discovered it on a holiday in Britanny.

Then at Warstade we reached a bridge too far. It would have required us to dismast to get beneath it. Whilst we considered this we tied up and an investigation revealed that the river became unnavigable a further 18km upstream and was not connected to Wilhelmshaven, as I had presumptuously assumed, after all. We had all but wasted a day.

Still we did see some seals on the way back. Note the upside down broomsticks (withies) marking the channel. Returning to the Elbe the traffic was apparently steaming up river on dry land.

Seals Mirage on return to the Elbe

It was hard work beating back to Cuxhaven against the flood so we used the engine, yet again. We’d used 20 litres of petrol on this day trip. I let Viv steer us into the harbour this time. No problem, of course. He’s a whiz at the helm.

We walked to the fish restaurant for supper then I phoned Sue, my fiancée.

Forecast good for the next few days.

Martin Weigeler, the German customer, who had got me started on this CATRI adventure by introducing the boat to me, and who had been corresponding with me by SMS informed me that we had gone for the wrong canal!

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:35 PM

June 27, 2005

Brunsbüttel to Cuxhaven on the River Elbe

Now there is a change in the weather. There is a cool greyness and wind-bearing clouds abound. Time to don our foul weather gear while the level changes in the Brunsbüttel lock prior to entering the River Elbe.

Cris casts his experienced eye at the sky beyond the lock. Time to put on foul weather gear, just in case. Steve takes the opportunity to tension the gennaker halyard.

Now also we have to take account of tides. One of the first sights to greet us upon entering the busiest shipping lane in the world is that of a yacht aground on the far bank.

Bigger ships than ever!

We cross the shipping channel where, plying their trade to and from Hamburg, are even bigger ships than we have encountered thus far in the Baltic and in the Nord-Ostsee canal. Quickly we pick up the first buoy, which seems enormous. Yet the next one seems small in the distance, until we get to it only to find it is as big as the last one was. This pattern continues down the Elbe estuary until, just three hours after setting off we reach the yacht haven of the city at its mouth, Cuxhaven. It is still only 10.30am.


Here we are greeted by a dour harbourmaster who informs us we can stay where we are for an 18€ mooring fee or move to a remote part of the marina where there is a long walk to the facilities for 9€. We negotiate 13€ and elect to stay where we are.

Cuxhaven is blessed by two excellent chandlers side by side ensuring that whatever one is unable to acquire in one of them will undoubtedly be available in the other. So we walk into the dock area of town to have a fish lunch and do some shopping for bits and pieces that we feel we need to improve TARDIS; a shackle here, a block there, a slightly longer rope here and there, nothing serious, just tweaking.

Cris tries unsuccessfully to use an Internet café so, as he is unfamiliar with predictive text, I use my phone to text his wife for him in South Africa whilst we are in a supermarket getting supplies. She responds quickly. Cris replies through me and I then get a message complimenting him on the speed of his SMS messaging! He laughs. We catch a taxi back and set to work. Andreas Wolfe from a local salvage company comes down to talk with us about our exciting looking boat and we express the hope that we will not need his services in the North Sea!

The day finishes with goulash soup and catfish in the Marina restaurant. We turn in at 10.30 intending to rise early at 7.30 and sail into the North Sea. The forecast is the same as today’s was.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:30 PM

June 26, 2005

Motor Sailing through Nord-Ostsee (Kiel) Canal

We are still drying our clothes from the previous day’s exploits as we sidle past these sleeping, Dutch barges about to return home from Kiel Woche.

Sleeping Dutch barges at ntrance to Kiel Canal

There is already a ship in the lock.

Ship in Holtenau lock at entrance to Nord-Ostsee Canal

While we wait a dismasted racing monohull arrives and when the gates open it sneaks in ahead of us.

Dismasted racing yacht

After I have paid our unbelievably low fee for the passage (8.70€) I interview one of the crew.

Interview with one of the crew

Apparently it is going to cost an unbelievably large amount of money to replace the yacht’s mast and sails (250,000€). The mast was only 6 years old and broke in only 18 knots of wind and 0.5m waves so there is going to have to be an enquiry.

The gates open and we start our daylong adventure by motoring under an impressive road bridge and then passing the restaurant where we ate last night.

The restaurant we ate in last night is just beyond the bridge

Pretty soon the first ship heaves into view.

First ship we meet on the canal It looks much bigger close up

It looks a lot bigger and more threatening when it is alongside! Cris has never seen so much shipping in all his life. By 10am we’ve only 83km to go.

Cyclists populate the towpath and every now and then there is a small car ferry crossing our path connecting roads that were cut through when the Germans built the canal before the First World War to give access for their warships steaming between the Baltic and North Seas. At the treaty of Versailles, after the war, the canal was made an international waterway.

Car ferries criss-cross the Kiel canal

The density of the shipping increases as the day progresses.

TARDIS had to squeeze through this lot!

We pass by a beach without stopping. We have our own sun lounge area after all. A train passes overhead.

We have our own sun lounger, Cris

trains and boats and ...

Much to our consternation we spend a lot of time in the company of this vessel carrying a dangerous cargo.

Dangerous Cargo!

Now and then it has to stop mid-channel whilst the traffic lights control the passage of other deep draught vessels wishing to occupy the middle of the canal.

We have enough fuel to get us all the way to the end and when we get to Brunsbüttel we are fortunate indeed to encounter a friendly taxi driver who kindly deprives us of our Jerry Cans, fills them and delivers them back to us at the Turkish restaurant that he had recommended we eat at.

refuelling TARDIS in Brunsbüttel marina

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:03 PM

June 25, 2005

Exciting passage to Kiel

Its amazing how easy it is to get up early when it is bright and sunny. Viv took this atmosphere shot of the marina at Gedser at the southern tip of Falster, Denmark and you can see how calm it was. At 0700 the barometer read 1009, quite a bit lower than yesterday's 1016 but the air was so still that the reflections were perfect.

So it was warm and dry when we set off at 0745 in our trimaran, TARDIS, and motored in the general direction of Lolland; wind force zero. I'd not made the connection beforehand with Holland; clearly meaning highland, whereas Lolland clearly means low land. If Holland is high, how low must Lolland be?

We passed part of a nature reserve (Redsand) with hides on stilts on it for watching birds. Then we had to negotiate the biggest windfarm I'd ever come across. Its 8 rows of 9 turbines standing perfectly still in the humid air.

The scale of the turbines only became apparent when we saw a small service vessel at the foot of one of them. They were massive. Apparently they have to be designed so that the tips do not reach the speed of sound. There seemed no chance that they would ever reach that sort of speed today.

Another range of obstacles that I'm glad we encountered in daytime under power were these stakes in the foreground, albeit topped with quietly awakening cormorants and gulls. We came across several fields of these and in the poor visibilty it was quite difficult to plan which way around them to go. These ones we left to port. As we passed the last one we noticed that the sky ahead was grey instead of blue.

We passed the last wind turbine and a few ripples appeared on the water. Cris suggested that we might get the gennaker out shortly. Then SUDDENLY we were sailing fast just on the main and genoa. We turned off the engine and tilted it out of the water. A glance at the GPS revealed that we were already doing 16.1knots, with no effort at all. So we came up into wind and put the port daggerboard all the way down and lifted the starboard one all the way up.

When we bore away we were doing 20 knots within seconds. The water was flat but only ruffled, as the wind was coming from another Redsand bank to the NW. Ideal conditions. This was the first time that I had noticed that the attitude of the CATRI 24 altered when she was really powerd up. The stern foil on the rudder had lifted the stern (and us) bodily up and the bow of the port float was slicing through the water with a fine spray coming off the bowsprit wire occasionally. This was a very different feeling and one which alarmed me at first. Later I became used to it as I realised that this was how TARDIS liked to be sailed.

Cris came alive and jumped about the boat in the most animated way looking at tell-tails, adjusting barber haulers and winches, trimming the sails. I nipped below to put on a jacket. When I came up we had hit 23 knots and it was pelting with rain but Viv, at the helm, had a broad smile on his face. We were quickly approaching the shipping lanes with white horses all around us. I though it was force 6. Cris thought it was 20 kn of wind and that we could go faster. Viv was still in summer clothing and wet through. I was near the limit of my own self confidence. We took a reef to be safe.

Catching up with shipping now and the sky looks even blacker ahead so we roll in a little of the genoa and take the 2nd reef in the main. The boat is well under control at 8-10 knots.

After a while when we had gathered our breath, we all, and especially Viv, had got dry and changed into proper clothing and we had taken stock of our cirumstances we were persuaded by Cris that TARDIS was lolloping up and down the waves and that she was not happy to be sailed like this. What was needed was more power. So we gradually increased sail. Of course Cris was right and soon TARDIS was leaping along from wave to wave at 12-15kn with just the one reef in the main, slicing through the bigger waves instead of climbing laboriously up and down them. We had left the main shipping route and we were making rapid progress towards the German island of Fehmarn!

We went pretty close to Markelsdorferhuk and its associated foul ground but made it out into the open sea again after the Westmarkelsdorfer lighthouse. Next was a series of yellow buoys marking firing practice areas that prevented our making our way directly towards Kiel. Not wishing to start WW III we sailed around them. After these we found ourselves heading slightly more south and Cris suggested that we leave the main with a single reef in it and get out the gennaker that was, as usual, furled on the end of the bowsprit.

To create a sail shape that Cris was happy with he attached a spare rope again to the clew of this big sail and tried attaching the other end to various points. Eventually as we approached the Kieler Fjord we were averaging 15-16 knots in not very much wind; force 3. At least there were no white horses to be seen anywhere anymore. I take my hat off to Cris! What an expert sail trimmer.

video clip

As we flew past a series of red and white fairway buoys we realised that this was the first time that we had really used the gennaker to its full potential.

Viv had been trying to make out something peculiar in the distance which I thought might be a square rigger. A quick squint through the binoculars confirmed this. We gained on this vessel all the while and as we entered the Fjord (not much of a Fjord by Norwegian standards) we could see hundreds of sailing boats of all shapes and sizes participating in regattas. And there were square riggers and Dutch barges a plenty. We had stumbled upon Kiel Week!

One of the boats we passed looked like a replica of Christopher Columbus's boat except that I dare say Columbus would not have been able to make this much way without any sails up, if at all. I thought it was appropriate, therefore, to take a picture of it with Cris (actually short fpr Crispin) in the foreground.

The approach to the Nord Ostsee Canal was straight downwind. Cris wanted to start the engine as we had dropped below the speed at which we could propel TARDIS with the motor. But we had plenty of time. We were not allowed through the canal at night and it was only mid afternoon. Besides I quite wanted to see how we did downwind against other boats. Although most people had much more sail up than we did we goose-winged past everybody. At least no vessel that was under sail passed us. So this proves that this little trimaran is a very slippery shape and its lightweight enables even a puff of wind to blow it along quickly.

There was plenty going on to keep us occupied and interested.

We too were an object of curiosity. No ordinary white fibreglass boat this.

Eventually we arrived at Holtenau where the entrance to the Nord Ostsee Canal is situated and stepped onto German soil (metaphorically speaking) for the first time on this trip.

It was warm and sunny by now and probably nobody round about would have experienced the weather that we had this morning. It's not as though the CATRI 24 trimaran is a particularly wet boat. In fact it's drier than most with its high cockpit. But it was pelting with rain and we were not wearing the right clothes. We should have taken note of that grey sky and dressed appropriately. But it was so warm and calm at 0930 that we were lulled into a false sense of security. Who would have a expected a black line cold front at 0945 with forecast winds of only 5-8 m/s?

All that remained was to shower and take a stroll with a couple of small fuel cans (as we'd not used much today but tomorrow we had to motor the whole length of the canal). Of course we also found a nice restaurant overlooking the canal to eat dinner. I had lamb; very lean lamb; in fact it had no fat on it at all.

When we returned to the Holtenau yacht harbour we discovered the entrance almost blocked by rafted-up dutch barges getting ready for their passage home to the Netherlands via the canal. Also we got an impression of the size of vessels with which we would be sharing our journey tomorrow.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:45 AM

June 24, 2005

CATRI trimaran arrives in Denmark

It is Friday, the day before Swedes go mad celebrating midsummer. But we had to leave there early this morning and head south to Denmark and thence to Germany. The pressure was high 1016 mb at 0630 as we squeezed out the tiny harbour of Skåre and the wind only Force 1 from the SSE; not much help as were heading SSW. So we used the engine and buzzed along at 5 knots all day. The four bladed sailing propeller that I had fitted to the Tohatsu 8HP 2stroke engine clearly has not enough pitch and with such a light boat we could cope with a coarser pitch. I will change this when I get home.

At 0930 we spotted a seal but it had dived before I could get my camera out.

This was the first we saw of Denmark. Could have been Dover! It got more interesting as we got nearer.

A Danish motor sailer chugged by showing great interest in us.

Notice the stakes in the water. Seeing these made me feel glad we were not sailing at night.

Later in the afternoon we had the good fortune to spot a fender floating in the water and Viv was detailed to clean it up to the appropriate standard for this beautiful, brand new boat.

A couple of times during the afternoon we set the gennaker.

This is a big sail, 40 sqm, and although the barber system enables one to move the clew about quite substantially this was not adequate for Cris, who is an expert sail trimmer. But this did not phase him at all. With a short extra length of spare sheet he took all the belly out of the sail by pulling the clew down to the stern cleat on the starboard float, outside instead of inside the mast shrouds.

Eventually we caught sight of the headland around which we were to go in order to reach the yacht harbour at Gedser. In the distance was the biggest wind farm that any of us had ever seen. There were 72 turbines!

The way into the marina was marked by buoys which seemed to be the wrong way round until we took account of the main direction of buoyage. We were glad of the GPS telling us we were doing the correct thing. It was very warm and sunny when we arrived.

We went straight to the restaurant and then walked into town to get some petrol.

In the berth next to ours was a British yacht and a crew member, Sue, donated a book for the boat's library entitled "The Dogs of Riga" by a Swede called Henning Mankell. The first page mentioned Ystad, where we had come from and there were references to Ventspils in Latvia where Tardis was built. So it was very appropriate and a damn good read. Thanks to Sue.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:04 PM

June 23, 2005

From Ystad to Skåre hamn in CATRI 24 trimaran

We waited till midday for the post to arrive as North Sails had posted me a batten for the genoa that was delivered to Latvia with the sail but was missing by the time I collected the boat. However, it did not arrive today so we departed after bagging an early lunch.

It has been a lovely day, with light winds, about Force 2 from the SW. A good day for the new crew members to familiarise themselves with the workings of the CATRI 24. Viv, ever resourceful, managed to turn light work into no work at all by lightly lashing the tiller.

We made 6 knots in this gentle breeze.

We passed Trelleborg the main ferry terminal for Germany from Sweden.

Trelleborg Robin Hood

And we saw this ferry, Robin Hood, more than once.

It was easy to cook in these conditions and we enjoyed our first day together at sea, establishing a routine.

We had chosen our destination, Skåre hamn, because it was the furthest we could get along the Swedish coast without going further from Denmark. This means that tomorrow we will have a short passage out of sight of land.

Hamn means harbour and what a harbour. It is tiny. Just two arcs of breakwater providing a small outer harbour and an even smaller inner harbour. The main entrance is narrow but the inner entrance is only just wider than TARDIS. And I mean only just. Maybe 25cm on either side. Of course my crew were encouraging me by saying this like, "Plenty of room this side." But I doubt if a bigger CATRI could have made it in without folding in the outer harbour first. As it happened we didn't have to fold.

We berthed without realising how dangerously close to a crane the mast was!

Then some locals came down and launched a motor boat from the slipway right next to TARDIS. Their battery was flat and so their engine wouldn't start and they had to paddle it across the harbour.

Then it was supper time and we realised we had no corkscrew for the wine that I had bought in Riga and had not opened yet. Viv, although virtually teetotal took this opportunity to prove how resourceful he can be. Once he had established that we had some pliers on board he went off in search of a something that could be made into a cork screw. Not five minutes later he returned with a nail. A quick twist with the pliers and bingo.

(Later in 2010 we discovered there is an easier way to open a bottle of wine.)

This was all very timely as the harbourmaster arrived and we invited him aboard for a drink. He was reluctant at first, as he'd already had something, it being mid summer, but he gingerly lowered himself onto our boat for a chat and we persuaded him to imbibe some whisky.

He had never been to England but he had been to Australia. He told us that Skåre was a village of only 80 households and that half of these were holiday homes. He kindly declined to charge us for our stay (it seems that midsummer is the season of goodwill in Scandinavia) and left us with some tourist brochures of the area.

There was no shop that we could discover. Across the fields we could see the bridge to Copenhagen. We watched the sun set and noticed how light refraction enabled us to see beyond the horizon as the air cooled. Through binoculars ships seemed to grow inordinately tall.

Finally a local delegation arrived, fascinated by TARDIS and wondering where we had come from and where we were going to. The CATRI 24 gets this sort of attention wherever she goes.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:21 PM

June 22, 2005

New CATRI crew - Ystad

Dr Crispian Trace, fresh from South Africa in his safari suit, was at Copenhagen Airport to meet me this morning. With him was a German living in Denmark who is interested in buying a CATRI for his daughter and son-in-law, and therefore wished to see one. Lucky them! So this time we drove through the tunnel under the shipping channel and over the impressive bridge joining Denmark to Sweden whilst the trains swished imperceptably underneath us.

On arrival at Ystad we left our German friend looking over the boat and quickly went shopping in the quaint mediaeval old town, once the home of the King of Sweden.

When we returned to the harbour Viv Thompson, an experienced, single handed Magnum 21 sailor, had arrived from England.

He set about taking photographs of this fascinating boat that was to be our home for the next couple of weeks, whilst Cris studied it without a camera.

Cris studies TARDIS with an experienced eye.

Our English harbourmaster, Bradley, and his Swedish wife Anika would have us stay until the weekend when all the celebrations for midsummer take place. This is a big event this far north but we can't hang around and tomorrow we intend to sail further along the Swedish coast before turning south for Denmark.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:09 PM

June 17, 2005


Our final destination together as a crew was determined by the accessibility of the airports of Malmő and Copenhagen. Sian was already booked on a Ryan Air flight from Malmő at 22.10 so we aimed to get to Ystad by lunch time.

It was an uneventful start with a grey sky. We hugged the coastline, whose character had changed somewhat. Now we could see cliffs and people on top of them to wave to who even waved back.

Then it turned drizzly & damp and fog enclosed us. Visibility was down to 200 metres and we were all on deck watching as yacht after yacht appeared out of the gloom. The GPS was a great comfort as we always knew where we were and which way we were heading.

The water was deep enough that we could have sailed right up to the harbour entrance and turned sharply to starboard to go in but this was a ferry port so I chose to stand off some way. Good job. As we were approaching a motor boat flew out of the entrance at full speed. Then just as we were crossing the channel a huge fast catamaran ferry came out of the dock heading straight for us! We could see each other clearly and there was no danger but I'm glad I didn't just cross the harbour entrance.

Once inside the yacht harbour we found a berth and tied up. I went to reception to see if I could get anybody to help me charge up my phone again. And lo, wasn't the harbourmaster an Englishman from Essex. Bradley was ever so helpful. His Swedish wife, Annika whisked my phone home to where her daughter had a compatible charger, whilst Bradley made heroic efforts to help Stanley and me get flights home to Blighty.

Meantime Sian packed her bags, bade her farewells and headed off to the conveniently situated railway station. We were sad to see her go.

Bradley invited us to move TARDIS to a more convenient berth right outside the office/restaurant. This was not only a more secure place for the boat but also it was a place where a great many people would see it. Great advertising.

We made her fast and discovered that the sail cover fitted extremely well dispite Aldis's initial misgivings.

A quick walk around this lovely little town, a visit to the travel agent to book our flights, an evening meal to remember with a first class guitarist who entertained us and two hen parties royally and then it was our final night aboard this now trusty little trimaran.

The next part of the saga of our voyage to England will start on 22nd June. But the our start may be delayed a little because of the midsummer celebrations on Friday. Too bad.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 07:15 PM

June 16, 2005

Gennaker day (1/2 hour)

Hanő had one more surprise in store for us. At 4am when it got light I woke up to discover that a three masted schooner had appeared in the night and was berthed alongside all those white tyres that you can see in the background. That'll make a fine picture when I get up later, I thought.

But at 6 o'clock it was on its way and this was the best I could do before the batteries on my camera gave up.

Our plan today was to sail as far a Skillinge on the mainland. We had been island hopping thus far. We got a chance to play with the gennaker for half an hour but the wind was so light we were down to under 3 knots so we gave it up for the engine again. This time the gennaker furled beautifully.

We motored in a straight line the whole day, in the company of another yacht. A sip overtook us quite slowly. We saw the occasional other motor boat and fishing boat and we watched yacht some distance ahead sailing with its spinnaker and getting steadily nearer.

When we got into Skillinge harbour we found a two masted schooner, next to which we berthed, bowsprit to bowsprit. The most memorable thing about Skillinge was the excellent plaice and chips that we ate. I guess that after Hanő anything was going to be a let down.

I forgot to take a photo of this harbour. Sorry.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:41 PM

June 15, 2005

Our finest day

In Őland yacht harbour two Germans, Birtle and Werner, offered their assistance. I was able to recharge my phone and the VHF radio battery, the power outlets in the CATRI having gone on the blink. Turned out later only to be a fuse had blown because some salt water had got into the VHF radio charger during the rough spell.

They asked us if we had got caught in the gale that had passed through here the day before and was recorded at force 8! We said we had been in it but that it seemed to be only a 6-7 when we encountered it. Apparently it had come out of the NW where nobody was looking for it. It certainly wasn't on any of the forecasts we had been offered by Aldis, with whom we were in daily contact.

So our friendly german neighbours offered us a weather forecast and we made our plans accordingly. Today we were expecting maximum 3-4 during the morning and 5-6, possibly 7 in the afternoon.

When we set off it was calm and fine. After an hour or so it was deemed worthwhile getting the sails up.

We had decided to stick to the coast of mainland Sweden where there were quite a few refuges in amongst the archipelago. The E wind gradually rose from 0 to 1, then 2 then it just made 3 by midday. As we were tacking downwind this was the first time that it had been warm enough for shorts and bare feet. But it was still a bit fresh for T shirts.

On we sailed waiting for the gale that never came. To be fair to the weather forecasters, the forecast did cover a vast area, the whole of the southern Baltic Sea! The wind gradually dropped, 2, 1 then 0 again. We had decided if conditions alowed it then we would make for the little island of Hanő. We could see it through binoculars from about 30 miles away but this shot is from much closer.

What a delightful place. We were excited as soon as we could make out the lighthouse. Then the approach to the tiny harbour was simple and welcoming. A very Nordic looking place. Inside the tiny harbour we quickly tied up and cracked open the bottle of RIGA bubbly that Stanley had bought for just such an occasion. The white painted tyres gives you some insight into the special quality of this place.

Our little hydrofoil stabilised trimaran looked very futuristic in this place.

We were elated. We certainly felt we had landed on our feet here at Hanő. So we went for a walk.

Sian points to the northern tip of the Island around which we had just sailed. But closer inspection of the Hanő map reveals an English war cemetry dating back to the Napoleonic wars.

Also Grillplatts, which later turn out to be large open air barbequeue sites. Visitors party here big style. And the best party of all is on the Friday after Midsummer. Shame we can't stay.

This was typical housing. There turn out to be only 35 permanent residents on the island, mostly elderly. We met the only young couple who live on Hanő and their dog. It was they who told us of the English cemetry. Then we came across a grillplatts.

On our return to the harbour we discovered that it had the most fantasic restaurant of the highest standard, overlooking both the harbour and the sea. The charming waitress told us of the 300 wild, yet quite tame, deer on the island and how as a northerner she was better able to understand the English of her colleagues than their Swedish. The sun took ages to set. What a delightful setting.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:54 PM

June 14, 2005

Rest day in Őland

We quickly made some soup and then all went straight to sleep last night.

This morning it was a bright sunny day and we decided to stay in Őland to recover. There was virtually no wind anyway. A couple of yachts motored out of the harbour. The pressure had been rising steadily since we set off from Ventspils.

First impressions of Őland were good. Note the grass roofed building in the background. South Őland is a world heritage site or something like that. The central plain is apparently very special. There were plenty of wind farms about.

We needed 2 stroke outboard motor oil, which we found at the local supermarket and we needed petrol. To get this we needed a taxi. Our taxi driver (centre of the picture below left) was very friendly and helpful. He helped us locate an adjustable spanner as well. He told us that when he was a teenager he had been as far as Aberystwyth, which is where Sian was born. The green jerricans which we had obtained in Ventspils had a capacity of 20 litres each. We had two. We emptied the fuel into the small 5 litre plastic cans of which we also had two. These were then easy to handle when refilling the two 10 litre fuel tanks on the CATRI 24 trimaran. So altogether we had 70l of fuel and with this we could go for a couple of days provided we were frugal. At 4.5 knots we were able to motor for 6 hours on 10l one day.

I also took the trouble to investigate our jib furling problem a little further. It turned out that it was not the bottom of the long vertical batten in the jib that had slipped out. It was the top half that had become separated from the bottom half and had slipped down beside it. The batten is like a tent pole except that, instead of having shock cord down the middle of it, it is held together with a few grub screws. I put it back together using an Allen key set we'd just bought and pushed it back up.

Then I examined the furler and decided that we had too many turns on it. So I removed a couple of turns and will keep an eye on it to see if it is worth while removing any more. One has to be mindful that when it is very windy a sail can furl very tight and require more turns of the furler. So it is possible to remove too many turns.

Now it was time to take stock and replenish ourselves at the local restaurant.

We had travelled some 250 miles in two days, most of it with the engine on. Two of us had been sea sick. Although we quickly felt better afterwards it was difficult to eat properly and we knew that it would not be possibble to keep our energy levels up unless we stopped each day at a harbour or marina. Now after a rest day we had only covered 250 miles in three days. If we only sailed in the daytime in future we could only expect to cover 60 miles or so as long as the high pressure persisted and we were forced to use the outboard motor. OK we could do almost 8 knots with the engine if two of us stood on the bow but the engine sounded a bit stressed and the fuel consumption was poor at this speed. It was now the end of Tuesday. The Round the Island Race is to be on Saturday. Had we pressed on without our rest day here in Őland we might have made it to Cowes in time but we would have been much more likely to have a terrible accident or a mutiny. So we abandoned all hope of participating in the race and set about enjoying the rest of our trip.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:58 PM

June 13, 2005

Too much excitement

Up early this morning to find there was brilliant sunshine and a fresh breeze blowing from the SE. The wind speed was ideal but the direction meant that the waves would build up in size as the day wore on.

Although it was sunny it was pretty cool but it was great to be sailing at last. Pretty soon we were doing 10 knots in our CATRI 24 trimaran and we got our first chance to trim sails and inspect them in daylight.

We cleared the southern tip of Gotland and set our course for the southern tip of Őland. Wind was now up to about force 3 and rising.

When the wind had reached force 4 and we could see white caps in moderate numbers we found that we were doing about 15 knots and it was great fun surfing the waves. We sent Sian below to get some rest, as we would need her later and gradually eased the main sheet as the wind increased. We closed the companionway hatch and thereafter were unable to see the GPS but we were content to steer by the compass.

We noticed that we were keeping up with two ships some distance away to our left. We were going fast. The wave piercing hulls of the outriggers sliced into the waves and the considerable reserve of buoyancy in the front of them lifted the bows up each time they became immersed. The foil on the rudder was lifting the stern up so we could see the antifouling and the propeller of the outboard motor was no longer dragging occasionally in our wake. When the bows of the main hull went under the water the sound was not the boommf followed by spray scattering everywhere that one gets with traditional hull shapes. The CATRI makes more of a swoosh noise as it slices into the bottom of a big wave like a knife through butter. Quite often water came over the coach roof but its rising curved shape dispersed the water sideways so very little would have gone down the hatch had it been ajar.

I looked up and saw that the sky ahead was no longer blue but a grey mass. "I don't like the look of that", I remarked to Stanley. The waves were now 2m high and white horses were everywhere. Stanley asked me what I thought and I responded that I thought it was time to take a reef. He agreed and we set about it. After we'd done it we looked across to see the ships had gone.

Sian came up top and I went below for my rest. It was quite lively below. Not very restful. After about 3/4 hour I heard some flapping and came up to discover Sian and Stanley were having a little difficulty with the roller reefing jib. One glance at the furler and I realised I was going to have to clip on up front and deal with it personally. No time to waste. The jib was flogging and the furler was jammed. I could see that the very long vertical batten (more like a modern fibreglass tent pole) that runs the length of the luff to hold up the roach in the jib had slipped out of its pocket at the bottom and was preventing the furler from turning. I lay down on the deck and gave orders to release the furling line whilst I pushed the batten back into place.

With that fixed Sian attempted to reef in the jib but the furling line had slipped outside the furler so again I had to go up front and lie prostrate on the bow to fix it. The flogging of the head sail was really distracting and had a tendency to instil panic so I ordered Stanley to sail with it and Sian then pulled the jib sheet taught on the winch to provide us all with a little peace and quiet. However, we were now surfing down waves at speeds approaching 20 knots and I went under a couple of times before I had the problem fixed. One expects to have teething problems with a new boat but it would be nicer to have to resolve them close in shore near one's home port. Still the boat was behaving well. Stanley had no problem controlling the rudder and pointing her exactly where he wanted. Nothing broke and if anything were going to break this is when it would have broken.

Waves were now 3m high and the job was not finished. I was reluctant to unclip myself so I lay across the coach roof and winched in the second reef with Sian easing out the main halyard. Success! We were now depowered and unable to keep up with the waves in the steadying wind.

A short while later we sailed out of this squall into blue sky and light ineffective winds. But we still had the big waves. We started the motor again. Whilst we could see Őland for a long time it was dark by the time we rounded the lighthouse at its southern tip and turned north into sheltered water. That was a relief. We could see two flashing red lights guiding us into Grőnhagen and with the GPS confirming our position we eventually tied up at 3am, conveniently adjacent to a public convenience, with hot running water! Bliss.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 11:49 PM

June 12, 2005


After about 4 hours sailing the wind changed direction and then died away so we started the 8hp Tohatsu engine again. We had left the main shipping lane behind but still there were ships around. One came past extremely quickly, probably doing about 25 knots.

Eventually we came out of the slopping waves and into the shelter of some islands. A long way ahead we could see what looked like a ship coming towards us head-on, but which turned out to be a grain silo at our destination.

After 23 hours at sea we eventually turned onto the heading that would take us into the tiny fishing harbour of Trygg-Hansa. At least that is what I thought it was, as this was the name on the life belts. But this turned out to be the name of the Swedish insurance company which has sponsored all of the life belts in all of the harbours.

Once alongside an old fishing boat we took out all the wet gear (we'd not discovered the lock on the forehatch until everything in the forpeak was soaked) and then we all fell asleep in the warm sunshine.

Stanley in the saloon, Sian on one trampoline and I on the other.

After an hour or so I took a walk around and discovered the yacht harbour where we should have been.

I also discovered a camp site nearby with a toilet!
We were all exhausted so we turned in early after eating.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 10:35 PM

June 11, 2005

Maiden voyage

In the national paper there is a photo of TARDIS with a headline about us setting sail for England today. However, this morning we discovered that the power outlets for charging phones, VHF radio, camera batteries etc. was not working satisfactorily. Ivars, turned up pronto, screwdriver in hand, and set to work. It was a fiddly job and so we got out of his way. Aldis took Stanley to see the weather forecast and I negotiated our release from the port with an attractive border guard in a smart green uniform.

Off we set into the Baltic.

Lunch in the Ventspils Sailing Club and then at about 3pm it really was time to go. It was overcast and there was hardly any wind but after motoring out of the river Venta we gamely set our sails and waved goodbye to Ivars and Inga who were videoing this momentous event from the lighthouse. Inga shed a tear or two.

Aldis had recommended that we stay on the Latvian coast and head south towards Russia. After some considerable time watching the forest and beaches relentlessly slipping by we came to a white lighthouse. We had inspected the charts and GPS and discovered that it was going to be difficult to refuel going the way Aldis had proposed. We calculated that we had plenty of fuel to get across the Baltic to the Swedish side, where marinas and harbours were plentiful, so we altered course and headed west towards Gotland about 90 miles away.

We started our watch keeping system of two hours on and one hour off. When I came up from my rest we were sailing (at last) at about 7.5 knots (almost twice what we'd been doing under power) in the company of a number of ships and it was dark. This was exciting. Our little trimaran was doing what she was designed for and it felt really good.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:50 PM

June 10, 2005

CATRI 24 on the water

Hooray! The boat is actually on the water. I thought I'd never see the day. But instead of finding people polishing a completed boat we find Aldis, the designer, near the top of the mast.

Fortunately, Oskars, who has virtually built the boat single handed has hold of him.

Meanwhile, Uno, is reclining in the pulpit, utilising his great mass to prevent the 40 sqm gennaker from blowing away.

We decided to stay out of their way and go shopping for fuel, oil, bits and bobs.

The end of TARDIS's maiden voyage. Well hardly a voyage.  Let's say a Christening.

Then finally at the end of the day, when sadly the fresh wind had all but died away, we got to sail her with Aldis at the helm, Oskars feeling deservedly proud of his efforts, Stanley, Sian and I observing closely and with Inga and Ivars on the breakwater by the lighthouse taking photos.

The gennaker proved a trifle difficult to furl but, being familiar with this sort of problem with the Magnum 21's early gennaker furlers, I was able to propose a quick fix, which worked extremely well.

Then it was time to store ship now that everybody had finished with her and to go for a lovely meal at the hotel in Ventspils where I had stayed on two previous visits. Time now for our first night aboard and the prospect of an early start.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 09:01 PM

June 09, 2005

Off to Riga

"Are you Stephen Walker?" asked Stanley Booth Russell, the most experienced multihull sailor I was able to recruit for the job of sailing the CATRI 24 trimaran from Ventspils in Latvia to England for the Round the Isalnd Race. "The dinghy oars were a bit of a give away", he said.

I was already at the front of the Ryan Air check-in queue so I was relieved that he had turned up on time. Sian Glanrid-Jones, yachtmaster and trusted old friend was only two paces behind him, complete with the heavy box full of essential items that I had had couriered to her mother in Caerwent, South Wales, to save me carrying it on the train to Stanstead.

The queue was considerably longer by the time we had finished checking in our excess baggage.

So far, so good.

On arrival at Riga, the lovely Inga, whose company has been building TARDIS for me, was there to greet us and took us straight to a supermarket to stock up on food and other essentials for the voyage.

By the time we got to Ventspils, 190km away to the NW, she was nearly asleep at the wheel and there was only one restauraunt open still in the whole town. Her husband, Ivars, joined us for supper and then they took us to the camp site, where we had a luxurious log cabin booked. The Latvians certainly know how to camp.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 08:44 PM

June 08, 2005

Annual day sail to Houat

We visited Quiberon last weekend to pick up a new boat for a customer and participate in the annual gathering of VirusBoats trimaran owners when we all sail to Houat, just outside Quiberon Bay.

We had a bit of trouble with a tangled anchor warp before we set off and then I launched the spinnaker upside down and we had to take it down again but we were not the last to arrive.

On this next photo you can see the relative sizes of the sails and masts on the classic Magnum 21 and the new sportier Magnum 21.S.

The traditional Pastis (tastes like Pernod). The three girls on the left were my crew. The couple on the right are the German agents for VirusBoats

A rare photograph of me. I usually have the camera in my hand.

This little character stole the show. He was very good at begging.

On the return trip from Houat to Port Haliguen we managed to get back first! Britannia rules the waves!

En-route to Roskoff with a new boat we stopped of at Chateaulin, which is where my relationship with VirusBoats started in 1998. Full circle.

Now I'm off to Latvia to collect a CATRI 24 by sea. The start of a new adventure.

Posted by © Stephen Walker at 06:57 AM