During the two months that we spent in Kiel we became very well acquainted with the town and its surroundings. We liked it there, and by this time it already felt almost like home. But now it was nearly the end of September – time to finally move on!
For the first time during the whole summer our boat looked clean and spiffy enough to actually qualify for a photo! Then we backed out of our slip and were on our way towards the Kiel canal!
We arrived at the Holtenau locks waiting area bright and early in the morning – quite unnecessarily, as we had to wait for almost two hours. There were a lot of ships going in, and the old locks were under renovation. Perhaps they will be open for pleasure craft next summer, which will certainly make things a lot smoother.
Eventually we got in with about ten other boats, and it was relatively easy to tie off alongside a low pontoon running the length of the lock. Then the gates closed behind us, and we had officially left the Baltic Sea.
The Kiel canal is not particularly scenic, but the day was sunny and warm, so we had no complaints. We saw a lot of ships, bridges, ferries, and lush green countryside with small villages and manor houses. A walking and cycling path runs parallel with the canal, and most people we saw there would wave cheerfully at us.
Because of the late start we weren’t able to transit the whole canal in one day – pleasure boats are not allowed to travel after sunset. We decided to stop at Rendsburg, about one third of the way from Kiel towards Brunsbüttel. We ended up staying in Rendsburg for two nights, because the town seemed worth a day’s visit.
It was a pleasant small town with an old church and half timbered houses, many of them dating from the 16th century. Also, it just happened to be the market day, and we found fresh fish at a market stall – a surprisingly rare treat even in maritime Germany!
Click the thumbnails to see bigger pictures of Rendsburg town!
The second day of our canal transit started grey and drizzly, with beautiful foggy vistas all along the way. And suddenly we were in Brunsbüttel. Approaching the locks, we enquired about the next opening over the vhf radio, and were told to motor straight in. There were no other boats in sight. The locks closed behind us, and just like that, all by ourselves, we popped out into the North Sea!
Officially, of course, it was the river Elbe, but these were tidal waters – the first we had ever sailed our boat in! It was only afternoon, so we could easily make it as far as Cuxhaven, particularly as we had the current with us. Despite the somewhat narrow entrance to the Cuxhaven marina, we made it in just fine in a sideways current.
And now, finally, to the North Sea! For Baltic sailors, who have never had to take into account the tides or currents, passage planning in the North Sea is certainly a lot more challenging. We studied the tides carefully and caught a nice early morning downhill current from Cuxhaven into the open sea. There we were met with a not so nice opposing wind, soon to be joined with an opposing current, and topped off with very unpleasant, choppy waves. For many hours the combined effect of these meant we weren’t really moving anywhere.
On our starboard side we could see a small island looming in the distance. It was Helgoland, and it seemed to stay in the same place all day. After hours of struggling with unfavourable weather we finally decided to give up and make a turn towards the island. Maybe it was telling us not to take too big a bite of the North Sea on our very first day there!
As soon as we had the wind on our beam, our boat practically flew all the way to Helgoland. The entrance is very easy, and the marina is well protected. We tied up to the side pontoon and were ready to explore this unusual place that was not part of our original plan. But, as we know now – plans are never to be taken too seriously! More about our visit on our next post!