After the Ryanair jet had bounced into the runway at Gdansk the captain warned the cabin crew to exercise great caution whilst opening the doors due to “extreme winds”. An inauspicious start to a sailing holiday!
A strong north easterly had been blowing in the Baltic for several days and it was to continue for the duration of our trip from Gdansk to Denmark. Following winds to 40 knots meant that we had very fast passage times and a substantial rip in the mainsail.
Gdansk Marina had taken excellent care of Shimshal during our absence and all we had to do was hose off the soot that had accumulated from the surrounding heavy industry. We motored out of the dock into the river and were very soon amongst the busy ship yards which were alive with the clatter of grinders, drills, hammers and cranes. Quite litereally a hive of industry.
Fortunately when we got to the open sea the winds were quite light so the 10 mile motor north east to the Hel Peninsula wasn’t as bad as anticipated although the seas did start to pile up as we rounded the point. As we did the wind came around onto our starboard quarter and increased to 30 knots. We sped westwards at around 9 knots despite being conservatively canvassed.
Very early the next morning we rounded the southern tip of Bornholm and came into flat water. We anchored close into the shore and had a leisurely breakfast. By evening the wind had eased a little and we entered Ronne Harbour and docked on the south side. This large ferry port was quite industrial and a lot emptier than we had expected. In the evening we walked into the town centre for supper in one of the many cafes.
Thursday was very sunny and we left early in light winds. With poled out genoa we romped westwards at 8 to 9 knots in gentle winds. As always these winds built steadily through the day and when they hit 35 knots and we were going at 12 knots we decided, too late, to reef. Heading up to roll away the main meant that we had the full main thrashing rather too vigorously! The result was a large rip in the leach.
We could keep the main up but had to roll away the ripped portion leaving a very conservative amount of canvass for the next 130 miles. Never the less we plodded on with the intention of finding a dredged channel leading to the north of Falster. However as we neared this lea shore and the depth shallowed, the seas started to build and break.
With a mile or two to go we steered south having decided that it was too dangerous to close on a shallow lea shore. This left us beam onto some very steep seas and, on a couple of occasions we slid down the side and buried the starboard cabin windows in the trough. There was a lot of crashing and banging and it was a relief, after 18 miles to steer west once again and pick up the shelter from the island.
As dusk fell we passed a huge windfarm. There was a lot of traffic in the narrow channel between Denmark and Germany so we stayed north to have flatter seas and less congestion. However there was a large number of ships at anchor and some were unlit so we had to thread them with great care guided by radar.
In the early hours of the morning we were on a collision course with the German / Danish ferry. Under sail we had right of way but common sense prevailed and we took last minute avoiding action to pass a 100 metres behind him.
By now the seas were completely flat and the wind moderating and yet we were unable to set much sail. Despite this we plodded on at 6 knots entering the mouth of the Flensburg Fjord at about 8am. The morning sun brought out more and more yachts as we drifted up the Fjord towards the excellent Marina Minde near Egersund.
We anchored short of the Marina in order to drop the damaged mainsail. Joe took a brief swim and professed that the water was “fine” though at 14 degrees I wasn’t convinced. He blamed the jellyfish and not the temperature for his rapid retreat.
That evening we negotiated the box mooring and secured the boat ready for her 7 week stay here. The rest of the weekend we spent cycling to and from Sonderborg where we got mixed up in a professional cycle race and explored the Dybol memorial to the German invasion of 1864. A relaxing and enjoyable day amongst the waterfront cafes and the poppy fields of Denmark.
On Monday we took 3 connecting buses to Billund Airport which is better known for Legoland. Ryanair deposited us 2 hours later in a sweltering Birmingham.