Sailing trip: 5 days around Langeland in Denmark | September 2009 | Yacht: X-Yacht 48 “Albatros” | Provider: DHH Hanseatische Yachtschule Glücksburg
Monday, 21st September
The other six crewmembers and me are already waiting on board expectantly for the start of the training trip that is organised by the DHH sailing school. Groceries and drinks are stored. Diesel and water are refilled. At about 09:00 a.m. the skipper arrives with the logbook and begins with detailed safety instructions of all relevant parts of the yacht. How do we put on the life jacket? How does the life raft work and how the seacocks? How do you have to send a distress signal? Where are the fire extinguishers and the bilge pumps? Where are the tools, the torches, and so on…
I was an instructor at the sailing school last week and now I have the honour to be the co-skipper on this wonderful ship. After everything is clear on board and everybody is organised into the contingency plan we leave the dock. In front of the harbour exit every crewmember drives a rescue manoeuvre. That way we also get a good feeling for the boat. Finally we head to Cape Holnis with hoisted sails. We have to turn around it before we reach the outer Flensburg Fjord that opens up into the Baltic Sea.
The yacht jumps into gear immediately and heels slightly. The intense feeling of happiness that overcomes everybody can now be read on the crew’s faces. Finally sailing on a big yacht. The bow cuts through the water. This sound sends a cold shiver down my spine. We pass Holnis lighthouse and a short time later the so called “mother in law”. The infamous sea mark will soon be exchanged by a post. It is already standing unpainted and unlit in the water next to the old buoy. I am on deck and teach the crew while the skipper does the navigation below the hatches. Certainly everybody wants to be the helmsman. I have to coordinate the manoeuvres, the sail trim has to be reviewed and the depth finder has to be observed. We get our instructions from the “skipper of the day”. That is the crewmember that takes care for the navigation under the supervision of the real skipper. All tasks are assigned clearly so that everybody knows what to do. And it does not get boring at all! We pass the wonderful coast of the outer Flensburg Fjord. All the time course and sail trim has to be adapted. To stay in the waterway we have to do one or the other manoeuvre. There is an abnormally large number of yachts underway for a Monday in September. So the knowledge of the rules of the road of the crew gets tested. Who has the wind on port side and who on starboard? Who is windward and who is leeward? And who is the overtaker?
This way a wonderful sailing day passes by. The crew gets used to the boat and I get settled in as the co-skipper. And even the yacht seems to be enjoying the trip. We now sail on the open Baltic Sea and head to Bagenkop on the southern tip of Langeland, which we reach in the early evening. We go alongside so that the wind is pushing us away from the pier. Shortly after berthing it already gets dark at about 20:30 p.m. It is the end of September after all.
The sailing school equipped us with groceries for the first two days. So we could leave the dock early this morning by saving time for shopping. The cook of the sailing school is very experienced with the needs of hungry sailors. Now we only have to warm up the meal he prepared for us. Soon we sit down for dinner in a pleasant round. We talk about the experiences of the day and compare them to former sailing adventures that get glorified. Some already make friends.
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The mess plan clearly says who has to wash the dishes tonight. It is everybody’s turn at some point. After a short digestive walk through the harbour it is time to get into our bunks. We want to get up early tomorrow to sail as long as possible.
Tuesday, 22nd September
In the morning the sky is overcast and a strong westerly wind blows. After a rich breakfast we leave the dock by engine. Outside we encounter an awkward ground swell because the water suddenly shallows here. The west wind blows the big dark-grey waves into the harbour entrance. And of course we have just to steer directly into them to hoist the sails. Our yacht has no furling mechanism for the foresail. The size of the jib has to be selected according to the wind force. Then it has to be put on the forestay, ready to be hoisted. And who has to go to the bow in these conditions? The co-skipper.
The vessel dances on the waves. The helmsman has problems to keep the bow in the wind. I and two other members of the crew fix our lifebelts on the lifeline and crawl to the front. All the time the bow dives into the waves. Best one does not look over the railing. When the bow climbs onto the crest the height of the wave adds to the freeboard of the yacht. The view down is comparable to the view from the three-meter board in a swimming pool. Just when we want to hoist the jib my first companion announces that he has to vomit soon. Normally I also get seasick immediately. But because I was a sailing instructor the whole of last week on a folkboat I can deal with the hectic movements of the yacht surprisingly well. And for seasickness there is absolutely no time now. We have hard work to do. The sail is heavy and the wind tears at it. Finally the jib is hoisted. My companion still has time to go back to the cockpit and use the bucket that is placed there for cases like this.
Under sails the boat immediately lies calmer on the sea. Our experienced skipper guides the yacht along the east side of Langeland. There we are leeward of the island and protected from the short and steep waves that are typical for the Baltic Sea. Everyone who had a green face recovers quickly. And there is a lot to do now. The skipper of the day is busy at the chart table. We have to reef and the baby stay has to be moved when tacking. The sails’ trim has to be adjusted to the course and certainly everybody wants to be the helmsman at the same time. I regret to myself that I cannot hold this wonderful large steering wheel for longer to get the power over this beautiful boat. But from time to time I can mingle in without being noticed when the helmsman has to be changed or if I have to show something. If the sails are trimmed well the helmsman sits on the windward edge – the steering wheel between the legs – and the boat runs without the need to do much more. Meanwhile the log shows more than 8 knots speed.
The wind increases more and more and soon we need a second reef in the mainsail. Langeland passes by and at some point the bride over the Storebælt appears in front of us. It seems almost near enough to touch but it still takes a long time till we are there.
Shortly before we reach it we change the course and beat towards Nyborg. When the night falls we enter the harbour and moor the boat. We have a well-deserved beer and some of us cook dinner while the others clear the deck. A successful sailing day comes to an end and we already look forward to continuing the trip the next morning.
Wednesday, 23rd September
We leave the harbour quite early in the morning. The crew works well together by now and the hoisting of the sails works without any problems. Today we need the second reef right from the beginning and later we even have to secure the main completely and sail only with the jib. We move down the easterly coast of the Danish island Funen leewards. Unfortunately the wind turns more and more to the south. So we have to bear away in the direction of Langeland. Suddenly the boat slows down. First is goes down to 5 knots, then 3 knots and finally 2 knots. The boat is actually standing still. The skipper comes on deck. The echosounder shows that the water is 11 meters deep at this point so we are not grounded. I assume that we drove into a fishnet. Or it could be that the wind presses the water through the narrow sound between the islands and the stream has hit us now on the windward side of the strait. Obviously we cannot go against it. So we tack to try it towards the coast of Funen and behold: the ship runs again. Shortly before we enter the Thurø Sound we meet the “Seagull”, another yacht from our sailing school. Only now we realise that we have not seen any other sailing vessel today. Too much wind!
We sail up the narrow waterway in the strait till we secure the sails in front of the city harbour of Svendborg. Unfortunately there is only a berth for us windward of the floating jetty and we will be pushed onto it the whole night. We try to fender the boat well. Another sailing day full of new experiences reaches an end. After dinner we have a little walk through the abandoned town and later fall in our bunks exhausted.
Thursday, 24th September
At about 09:00 a.m. we are ready to start and leave Svendborg in a south westerly direction through the Svendborgsound. At the „Sundbrovej“-bridge the lateral seamarks switch and suddenly the green buoys are not on starboard side anymore but on port side. This change and the course of the former waterway are very confusing. Even though the skipper told us that it would happen. We have to be very careful not to get on the wrong side of the buoys. Finally we reach open waters and hoist the sails.
A wonderful wind is pushing us over the water under full sails. The boat seems to run on tracks. It is marvellous to watch the spray that we raise and the straight wake line that forms behind us. The sun comes out and finally we can take off our hoods and enjoy this nice day in September. We pass many small islands called the Danish south sea. Back in German waters we observe how a naval-speedboat comes to the aid to a big old Dutch sailing vessel. Somebody gets evacuated and we hope that nothing serious has happened. You can see the incident shortly in the following video:
In the late afternoon the mouth of the river Schlei lies in front of us. We pass the lighthouse and the famous restaurant “Giftbude” which translates as “Poison shack”. The air glimmers. The tower and the trees on the cape seem to be a Fata Morgana. In Maasholm we go alongside and register our boat with the harbour master. Before dinner we take a little walk through the small village. This evening is a late one on board. We have so much to tell about the adventures of the last week to each other. Everybody has to contribute a detail or to formulate his version of the story.
Friday, 25th September
Today is already our last sailing day. Only when one does things different to the daily routine one realises how fast time goes by. A long chain of big old sailing vessels and yachts pass Massholm. They probably met each other in front of the drawbridge of Kappeln that opens every hour. We line up and let our jib pull us out of the mouth of the river Schlei.
Outside on the open water we hoist the mainsail too. A wonderful sailing day lies in front of us. But we almost go too fast. So the skipper decides to test our skills a little bit. Suddenly he throws a buoy overboard. Relaxation gives way to concentration. Now everybody gets in motion. The buoy dances on the waves and is hardly visible. But we get it back with the first try using the classical quick-turn.
The skipper is satisfied but he also shows us other variations of the manoeuvre. Everybody is allowed to try out. We are amazed what our yacht is able to resist and how agile she is despite her weight and size. During our exercises we are left behind by the other yachts of our sailing school that sail home now. That bothers our skipper and so we start a little race. At cape Holins we just have to reef because the dark clouds that pass over us send down some squalls. At the end of our trip we follow the waterway back to our homeport Glücksburg.
Now it is time for a well-earned beer. We are proud have grown together as crew and mastered this trip as team. After clearing the deck we go for a barbeque on the terrace of the sailing school. A lot ends up on our plates. After dinner the skipper gets his accordion out of his car. Because of the humidity he sadly could not take it on board. But now we sing some shanties and other maritime songs. The crews of the other boats and the members of the land based sailing courses join us and sing with us. As it gets dark the skipper wears a headlight to read the music notes. So a fantastic sailing week fades away with the music of real sea dogs.
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