This is where we get to see how our long-held ambition to base a boat abroad plays out in reality…….
We decided to start our fitting-out work at the beginning of May. Two weeks before departure we could see snow mentioned on the Fehmarn weather forecast, but thankfully when we got there, spring had sprung. Note for next year…. early May is early enough!
Our first logistical task was getting all our tools, food from home, clothes, equipment and spares to Germany. Driving seems like the most flexible option, so we loaded up the trusty Berlingo van and set off. Until recently, there was a DFDS ferry from Harwich to Denmark which would have meant only a short drive back into Northern Germany. Unfortunately, this service no longer runs, so the options from the UK south coast are really Dover Calais or Harwich Hook-of-Holland. We chose the latter to minimise the driving distance and spent a pleasant night-crossing sleeping in one of Stena Line’s lovely comfy cabins. We had an overnight driving stop in Wilhelmshaven and arrived in Burgstakken the following day to find the boat waiting for us in the yard.
We were a little nervous to see how she had fared during winter storage, but everything seemed to be fine. Before we left the previous year we had carefully winterised everything as per advice from the Cruising Association Baltic Section and other Baltic yachties. Engines and domestic water systems being the main concerns during the cold winter months. We spent a week with the boat ashore getting her ready to launch. This included preparing the mast, all the usual below the waterline stuff, a new cutless bearing on the prop shaft, and an alignment check.
Once she was back in the water we spent another week alongside in Burgstaaken setting up the rig, getting the sails bent on, and stowing everything so we could actually live on-board. Until the boat was habitable we lived in a rented holiday apartment. It’s nice to come back to a warm apartment and a shower after working in the boatyard all day. This is one of the advantages of Fehmarn, there is plenty of reasonably priced accommodation at the beginning and end of the holiday season.
One side-effect of wintering the boat abroad is that we didn’t spend last winter at home working in a freezing boatyard. In fact we were effectively boat-free and able to do lots of other things instead. However, you pay for this by doing all your maintenance work in one hit in the spring. 8 hour days on the boat can seem a bit like being back at work, so we took a few breaks and tried to see a bit more of the island than just the harbour and boatyard!
Thanks are due to Jurgen the owner of Baltic Koln the storage service and big local chandlery business. Nothing is too much trouble, and without his help all this would be a lot more difficult for a couple of foreigners like us. Also, thanks to Stefan of SE Yacht Services who took my booking from the UK, and changed our cutless bearing very quickly and efficiently. Both these gentlemen speak perfect English, which makes life much easier and puts our efforts at German to shame.
Of course, all the time we worked on the boat the weather was great. Light winds and sun. But inevitably, as soon as we were ready to go the weather deteriorated…. But after a few days waiting we were able to set off at last for our first Danish port, Gedser, about 30 Miles away.
Hopefully the next update will be from Denmark.