During the long, dark winter evenings we planned our great journey south. We would cast off on the 1st of June, make a quick stop at Gdansk, and by July we would be through the Kiel Canal and well on our way down the English Channel – in time to cross the Bay of Biscay before the summer was over.
We did cast off on the 1st of June. Our stop at Gdansk didn’t turn out to be a very quick one, but eventually we were on our way again, in the direction of Kiel, Germany. And in Kiel we arrived. Now, almost two months later, we are still in Kiel. What happened?
This is a blog about sailing, about leaving our ordinary lives behind, casting the lines and heading into the unknown. While I have written about some very personal experiences involved in such a big life change, you may have noticed I haven’t actually included that much personal detail about us. Perhaps I may do that in the future, but to me it feels quite insignificant. We’re just an ordinary middle-aged couple, who wanted a change, and made it happen. Those of our readers who don’t know us personally, are probably here for the sailing and for the journey, and those who do know us, will likely acquire their knowledge of our personal matters through other sources. But maybe some kind of an explanation of the delay is in order.
So – what happened? We stopped in the wonderful Marina Baltic Bay in Laboe, a small town at the mouth of the Kiel Bay, for some boat projects. We had a clever electronics wizard onboard who found out why our autopilot and navigation instruments had died – and could breathe life back into them. We had new batteries installed that doubled our energy storage capacity. We had a new battery monitor installed. We changed the whole running rigging. We fixed the creaking floors before they would collapse. And more, and then some more.
But it wasn’t just the boat’s batteries, vents, pumps, wires, and central units that were being diagnosed and treated – some of our human parts needed fixing too. And that’s why we stayed. July was over, August came and went. After the initial shock and worry, there was the festering uncertainty of whether we would be able to resume our journey – and to which direction? How late in the year would it still be possible to cross the Biscay? How long would it still be safe to sail down the Atlantic Spain and Portugal? What would happen to all our plans about reaching the Mediterranean at a certain time? Of seeing a number of islands before settling down for the winter?
It felt aimless and frustrating to be stuck like this. We were the front seat spectators to all the other boats heading through the Kiel Canal and beyond – they would stop at the marina for a night or two, and then be on their way. We would stay.
One of the boats doing a very quick pit stop in Kiel was Ocean Lady, heading towards the Canaries for the ARC Atlantic Rally, with the first Finnish lady crew to participate in the race. A mysterious Finnish couple in a rubber dinghy helped the Ocean Ladies find a berth in the Laboe Marina, but the next morning, before we had a chance to introduce ourselves properly, they were already in the Kiel Canal…
But then, one fine day, it dawned on me. It – the Journey. We were on our journey, we are on our journey. Why should we care if we can’t exactly follow a line that’s been drawn on a chart, or reach a certain town or anchorage or some other spectacular place marked with a dot? We have left our home far behind, we have sailed the first 800 nautical miles quite convincingly. We can stop and stay for a while, and we don’t have to call it a delay. Delay from what? We didn’t miss a flight. We weren’t late for work. There is no deadline for our journey, except – well, the deadline…
So, instead of moping and waiting impatiently for some indeterminable departure date and a permission to leave, we decided to enjoy all the wonderful things around us. After all, not everyone is just passing through Kiel. Many come here to race their boats in the numerous regattas (more about this on our next post!), many more enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches and clear waters. The small towns around the Bay are full of life, summer festivals, excellent food and interesting things to do and see. Buses and ferries run frequently to the city and other villages, and we have a great little dinghy for exploring the surroundings at our own leisure.
The Kiel Bay is full of interesting boats to see! Click the thumbnails to see captions and bigger pictures.
The people are friendly and helpful. We particularly like their cheerful ”Moin, moin!” greeting that reminds us of home – perhaps it was the Hansa tradesmen from around here, who introduced this greeting to the Finnish language. Everything works with the well known German punctuality, be it a boat servicing appointment, a boat parts delivery, or a doctor’s examination. We are in safe and professional hands, as one would expect, but it’s the genuine kindness and warmth we have come across, that has quite taken us by surprise!
So, we are on our journey, and our journey will continue. Soon, but not necessarily on a set, fixed date. We will go south, just like we have planned all along. But we have learned a thing or two about plans lately. It will be hard, particularly for me, as I do so like to make plans – but we have to be ready to chuck them whenever something more interesting or fascinating comes along.
We won’t make it to the Mediterranean this year, but it no longer matters. Instead of long passages of several days and nights we will make short daily hops and take our time in the places we will stop. No worries, no hurries, no must-do’s or see’s. Just think how many wonderful places we would have sailed past without as much as a passing notion, if we had kept to our original plan?