Report from aboard Fleetwood – From Kiel to Cherbourg
Before departure - In a roller coaster of emotions
Mid-April 2023, still a few days to go until the start of my five-month sabbatical. It starts May 1th. Five years of planning, equipping the boat in small steps, developing ideas, making a cruise plan, promoting participation to my Wednesday fellow sailors and then it all feels so strange. My wife Birte is sad, my mother argues with my brother, my father says goodbye into dementia in sometimes small sometimes big spurts. Can I really go for five months? In addition, the very different reactions of the sailing or non-sailing friends and colleagues, .... "aren't you afraid of the large tidal range in France?", "Biscay, there is always a lot of wind", "...when I was there in 19xy with the minesweeper....".
Actually, I don't want to hear all that. Have planned this trip for so long and worked towards it with euphoria. I invite neighbors and friends for Friday before departure to a farewell party at home. At the beginning also that with doubts, but it becomes a great party full of optimism, good wishes and thoughts.
And then the time has come. On Saturday, April 30th, at noon my study friend Uwe comes from Münster, we pick him up at the train station and my wife Birte takes us to the boat in Mönkeberg. And then it goes very fast, lines off, over to Holtenau, wait 20 min in front of the canal and then into the lock. Gate closed at the back, open at the front after a few minutes and the journey begins. It is afternoon, pleasure vessels are allowed to cruise Kiel Canal only at daytime. So we drive to Büdelsdorf, the first 15 miles. Here it goes into the Greek restaurant Syrtaki for dinner. I was here before in October 1996, after my brother Jens and Uwe had picked up Fleetwood in Bremerhaven. Uwe had to get off in Brunsbüttel, today I am with him at the same place as with Jens in 1996. At first there is no place for us, but after I tell the story of 1996 the waitress becomes relaxed. At the end the landlady has donated 4 Ouzo for each of us and we are satisfied. The landlady is still the same as 27 years ago, but can't remember me. Nevertheless, great food as I remember.
The next day brings us to Brunsbüttel and we go after an afternoon nap at 23:30 with draining water on the Elbe. The wind comes from North-East and it is painfully cold at night with 3 degrees centigrade. Norderney becomes our first stage destination. (87sm) Uwe meets his old friend Günther and we spend a few good hours together. A port day on 02.May, too much wind from north, but on Wednesday we continue to Scheveningen in Holland. Again over night. Departure at 12:30, arrival at 12:35: 172 nm in 27 hours. Tide and current well used. But also this night is very cold and another day in port is necessary. Fish and chips are very tasty! For sightseeing we go to Den Haag, on the Haags market is the baked fish then even better than In Scheveningen.
This is a good principle: a long beat and then rest for a day. It fits the tide and saves us the long way left to the harbors behind the islands. We take turns in a two-hour rhythm, it is too cold for more. We leave Belgium on the left with and it goes forward under engine to Dunkerque in France (97sm). The sea is moderate, now and then a seal looks out of the water and also a few other spring sailors are motoring.
Bologne Sur-Mer is the next port (60sm). The sea is partly nerve-racking, after initially rushing ride with the tide we have to start at Cap Griz Nez, quite a long time against almost 4 kn current, conclusion: we left the harbor three hours too late, ….can happen.
We get to know in Bologne Sur-Mer Trans-Ocean sailor Jochen, he helps to moor and demands his support beer! Jochen is also on his way to Galicia alone for the time being. We will sail together for a few days. In view of our good progress we refrain for the time being from further night strokes and sail to Dieppe (53sm). I am very impressed by this French town with best harbor feeling. I feel reminded of St. Tropez. Even the sun supports the feeling. A long walk leads first to the Chapelle Notre-Dame -de-Bon-Secours on the north side of the harbor and then to the Chateau-Musée on the south side. The walk back through the lively streets of the old town is then crowned by a cappuccino and petit gateau.
In Dieppe we meet Eva and Carsten, who have been stopping here for a few days on their way to the Mediterranean. For the next few days we form a fun boat trio.
In Dieppe it´s time for a fresh water shower to the boat, with the hand driven over the cockpit coaming one could cook potatoes directly with the wiped off salt...that infects by the way. After a few minutes three boat crews showering there boats.
On May 12th we sail a small beat to Fécamp (32sm). The tide pushes neatly, everything done right and just before a rainy afternoon we have lines tight.
Saturday brings us first with uncomfortable NNE 5-6 Bft in a challenging sea of up to 2m. We set sail in the harbor and then the roaring ride gets underway. Fleetwood does splendidly, no water in the cockpit despite breaking crests again and again. With 7.5-9 kn on the log we are initially with up to 10.5 kn over ground. The receipt comes of course a few hours later after the tide is tilted. With strongly decreasing wind it is with 5 kn through the water suddenly only 3 kn over ground. Good that only Nipptide is with half moon, with Springtide one has here up to 3.8 kn current. At 09:39 we cross the zero meridian! "Don't forget the meridian baptism" says Jochen over the radio. Hhm, meridian baptism? Never heard of it. Anyway, we get a cup of salt water from the sea and wet our foreheads respectfully. Afterwards we take a minimal sip of rum from the cup without sacrificing anything beforehand, of course. Baptism successful.
At 00:00 o'clock we reach after 82,4 nm Cherbourg, where with Wolfgang our third man for the blow over the Biscay will join us.
First we anchor behind the outer breakwater to avoid having to look for a berth in the huge marina in the dark. We do this at noon, after a long sleep, an adequate breakfast and especially after the morning fog has cleared. Here we meet our friends again and now Peter from the “Tagedieb” and Jürgen join us.
We spend a wonderful evening on the jetty, a "bring along buffet", in addition first red wine, then later mulled wine make the evening a round thing.