Busy Kiel

Container ships, cargo ships, pilot boats, lifeboats, ferries and of course yachts were all trying to get through the same narrow gap as we approached Kiel, it was mental!!  I tried to get a photograph but unfortunately was slightly too late at the narrows.

We arrived in Kiel early on Saturday afternoon knowing that it would be more difficult to find an alongside berth for Velvet Lady as all the marinas use bows to moorings with posts..  We meandered in and out of potentials, and eventually found ourselves a lovely little place up the River Schwentine, 3 miles or a 10 minute bus ride from city centre Kiel.  We are moored at the PTSK sailing club, a small club with very friendly members who are in awe as we are definitely the biggest boat that has ever visited. We are moored alongside to the short hammerhead on the end of their jetty with lines out fore and aft to posts.  The little town of Westendorf is 5 minutes walk away with all the facilities that we need.

We arrived here following another great 10 night trip as we made our way from Arhus to Kiel.  Linda described the scenery as very Hans Christian Anderson and expected the little matchstick girl to appear at any moment.  Richard said he knew we had arrived in Germany because there was a hill on the way to the supermarket!!

We sailed 240 miles in the 9 days, even after spending one day storm bound.  As well as good sailing we found that there were some unplanned treats in store for us ashore.    Our second night in Denmark we arrived in Kerteminde not knowing that they were having their own special August weekend celebration.  We could hear the marching bands as we approached the harbour, and the evening of live music was rounded off with a fantastic firework display.  We were so close to the fireworks that the following morning we found lots of debris on Velvet Lady’s deck.

Later on in the week we arrived in Svendborg, again in Denmark to find it was their classic wooden boat regatta and there were plenty of interesting boats to look at in the harbour.  We spent 8 nights in Denmark and the last 2 nights in Germany.  When we arrived in Strande, our first port in Germany, the harbour was having an open day, with live bands, beer tents, fairground rides and even candy floss.  There was a real carnival atmosphere and we were happy to join in.

We managed to keep up with the Olympics using the Blackberry, good on team GB for their tally of medals, especially the sailing ones.

Summer seems to have passed quickly this year, and we leave on Friday to head through the Kiel canal back to UK to be in Ipswich by August bank holiday weekend.  Then, the big gap in our Schedule in September is for us to fit a new engine and generator before we are back in operation on the 3 October for our annual crossing of the Bay of Biscay.

10 nights sailing in the Danish Archipelago

Arhus is the second largest city in Denmark and another place new to us in our summer of exploring the Danish Archipelago.  We arrived here on Monday afternoon at the end of our first 10 night adventure to give the guests time to explore ashore before early flights on Tuesday morning.

We have had great sailing in mainly flat seas amongst the islands.  The landscape is very pretty, lush green with colourful houses.  We have had a real variety of different mooring places.  Tiny fishing harbours, historic old ports and idyllic bays. There are, as we expected, plenty of cultural and historic places to visit ashore or simply old towns to walk around.  The weather has been warmer than we expected, we still need a fleece whilst sailing but most days we wonder ashore in shorts and t shirts.

The water is very shallow although well buoyed and we have been gently weaving and nosing our way into the harbours.  There is not much tide, but the charts are all in mean sea level so the depth of water goes down as well as up!  Sea level is also affected by the barometer and wind direction so there are plenty of sums to do at the beginning of each day!

We like it and are looking forward to seeing even more over the next few weeks.  If you want to join us there are still 4 spaces left on the Arhus to Kiel trip and 3 places on the milebuilding from Kiel to UK but that is all!

We started this 10 day trip in the centre of Copenhagen on Mid-Summers day.  Tradition in Denmark is to light a bonfire in your garden, and the local sailors took this a bit further and lit a bonfire on a barge in the centre of the canal.  Although we did not understand it, there was some form of formal service and hymns before the lighting of the bonfire at dusk.

After studying the weather forecast we decided to sail north to Helsingor, a great afternoons sail and again we moored by Hamlets Castle – see last weeks blog for a great photo!!

Although the Baltic does not get many gales, this week was to be the exception and it was a good choice to be gale bound in Helsingor as there was plenty to do ashore.  The cold front came and went as predicted leaving us with bright sunny skies and a westerly wind for our next sail.

We continued anticlockwise around the island of Zealand stopping in Nykobing, Holbaek and Odden before sailing across to Ebeltoft on the Jutland coast.  Ebeltoft is home to the Frigate Jylland, a historic old warship that was later used as a Royal Yacht, and we spent an interesting morning looking around this old boat and waiting for the cannon to fire at 1200 before we left.  Langor on the island of Samso was our next stop, right in the middle of a bird sanctuary and nature reserve.  There were lots of bicycles to rent to go off exploring if we wanted, but for us walking and identifying the birds was enough.

In all of the harbours we have visited, most of the boats are moored bows to the quay and between posts.  We have mostly been the largest boat and have always managed to find a chunky quay that we can go alongside – mainly because with nearly 5 metres in the beam Velvet Lady is too wide for the gaps between the posts.

For our penultimate night we anchored in the tiny bay called Knebel Vig, very lush and green but with a very narrow approach which needed great care.  We thought about swimming but were amazed at the sea of jelly fish surrounding us.  Cocktails and nibbles in the cockpit seemed like a far better idea.

Here in Arhus we are moored on the jetties belonging to Arhus sailing club and are lucky in being able to use the sailing club facilities.  We are not very far from the city ,either a short walk to the train station and 2 stops on the local train or a 30 minute walk. Yesterday Richard and I took the train into town, and then walked back along the dockside after visiting the cathedral and modern art museum.

We have been here 5 nights now and it has been really lovely every evening sitting in the cockpit and watching people ‘using’ their boats.  Most of the sailing club moorings are filled with smaller day sailors or match racing style boats, and every evening there is a steady stream of boats setting out at about 5pm and returning about 9.  Its still daylight until 10, and most of these boats sail right into the harbour before getting ready to go between their posts.

We will be back here in Arhus at the end of July getting ready for our last trip from Arhus to Kiel. If you wish to join us you will find that travel to Arhus is easy.  Either take a direct flight from Stansted, or fly to Copenhagen and take the very popular intercity train.  Hope to see you onboard.

Sailing from Oslofjord to Copenhagen

Over the past 10 days we have yet again had some fantastic sailing and ended each day either moored or anchored in some amazing spots, all of which were new to Velvet Lady.  We never knew what we were going to find until we got there!  We started in Tonsberg and spent our first day sailing across Oslo Fjord to Hanko, where Danish royalty keep their yachts.  We were made most welcome in the tiny marina, and the harbour master helped make a space for us moving other boats out of the way.  We continued south from Norway along the Swedish coast visiting harbours and anchorages and watched the scenery and landscape change from bare and rocky to green and lush with many sandy beaches.

This was a milebuilding trip and we sailed 385 miles in our 9 days including one night sail.  I say night sail; it was only dark for 2 hours and light enough to see as we dropped our anchor at 3am.  As on any sailing trip the one thing we have no control over is the wind, and this week it was quite often on our nose, making us all very proficient at tacking.

After 2 nights in Norway and 6 nights in Sweden we came to my favourite stop of the trip in Helsingor, Denmark.  Here the harbour master told us to choose where we pleased and we moored almost in the grounds of ‘Hamlets Castle’.  Kronborg castle, as it is properly known has been here for almost 600 years and was originally used to control who sailed through the sound between Denmark and Sweden and ensure they paid their dues.  Our mooring spot made a fantastic picture, and we also had time to visit the castle before our last day sailing to Copenhagen.

There are many marina options in and around Copenhagen, but as part of our adventure we were really hoping that we would be able to find a space near to the city centre and so decided to go looking!  Luck was definitely on our side and I was very pleased there was no wind as we reversed Velvet Lady down the narrow Christians Havn Canal and finally found a space long enough for us.  The canal is very narrow and on the sightseeing boats route so we had to make sure that we had left enough room for these wide barges to pass by.

We really are right in the city centre, very atmospheric, and it made a great end to the trip. We have everything we need, water, electricity, laundry and we are ideally situated to explore Copenhagen for a couple of days before our next trip starts.  Richard and I are planning on going on a bike ride tomorrow, using the amazing ‘City Bike’ scheme.  There are over 2000 free bikes scattered about the city, especially at train stations and busy places, and for a 20krone deposit you can borrow one for the day.  We have found the nearest bike rack is at the end of our dock so we don’t even have far to walk!

After Copenhagen we are looking forward to the opportunity to visit many more old and historic places as we set off amongst the islands to Arhus.  There is still time and a few places left for you to book and join us exploring in Denmark.  Why not take a look at our website

Sunny Sailing in Scandinavia

Many thanks, as on my previous trip, for 10 great days. I’ve come back really refreshed and, as I said when I left, I feel I’ve had a real adventure. Everyone was such good company. It was a very happy ship. I can’t imagine signing up for that sort of holiday with any other boat. You set such high standards in all departments. (By e mail today)

We are now in Tonsberg at the south end of Oslofjord and the starting point for our summer sailing programme in Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea.  The sun is shining and Velvet Lady is ready for yet another summer of adventure sailing amongst islands.  Tonsberg is a charming old town, in fact the oldest in Norway, and with good connections to Oslo airports and ideal place to start our next trip to Copenhagen.

We like to offer our guests ‘the best in cruising’ and so the sail here from Ijmuiden was in two parts.  First the north sea crossing, predicted to be a 3 or 4 night passage with watches, and then after arrival and a nights rest, day sailing and a chance  to explore along the spectacular coastline.  As always, our trips are subject to weather, and after a first trial day sail in Ijmuiden we spent a disappointing second day sitting in port fog bound in visibility of less than 100m.

Finally the sun shone for our departure from Ijmuiden and we weaved our way through wind farms as we headed northwest to cross the shipping lanes at right angles.  The first night we were extremely busy looking out for ships, fishing boats, oil rigs and navigation buoys.  The visibility had now cleared and we could see for miles under a moonlit starry sky.  What a difference a day makes.

It took us 36 hours to be clear of all of the rigs and shipping lanes, and allow us to concentrate on sailing to Norway.  The wind was a steady force 4 from the northwest allowing us to close reach at 7 knots towards the Skaggerak.  The wind continued to build and even after reefing Velvet Lady refused to slow down racing along at 8 knots towards her summer holiday.

Many of our guests come on these long passages in the hope that they might experience some stronger winds and bigger seas than they would usually go out in, and this trip they were not disappointed.  As we entered the Skaggerak, the sea between Denmark and Norway, the wind increased to a Force 7 gusting 8 with 4 metre waves.  We reefed well down and rocketed along the last 100 miles, with dolphins playing in the crest of the waves.

We chose Lillesand as our port of arrival and entry into Norway and what an idyllic friendly place this turned out to be. Our first glimpse was the town appearing above and behind the islands which lined the narrow approach channel. The whole summer schedule is new for Velvet Lady and we are pleased that this new coastline is as spectacular as we had expected it to be.  We followed our night in Lillesand with a night in a quiet anchorage amongst the skerries with a couple of summer houses on the shore.  The owner of one, came out in his speedboat to offer us the use of it, not sure where he was expecting us to go, and he was surprised that we were happy just enjoying the sunshine on the deck!

From our guest book

‘The high point was steering into the waves in F 7 gusting 8, seeing dolphins in the cresting waves and all of us coming out safely.  To venture out into the wilderness that is the sea is a serious step and I feel privileged and grateful to have been introduced to the open ocean with such experienced and professional sailors who are also fun!

Our long passages with watches are over now until the middle of August when you can join us in Kiel for the trip down the Kiel Canal, out the Elbe towards Helgoland, across the shipping channels and oil rigs to Ipswich.

We will concentrate on day sailing from now and an exploring what this beautiful coastline has to offer. We are full from Oslo to Copenhagen, but there are still some places to join us in Copenhagen as we explore amongst the islands of the Baltic Sea. For more details see the individual itineraries as follows

Copenhagen – Arhus: 23rd June to 3rd July 2012m –  £995.00
Arhus – Copenhagen: 7th – 14th July 2012 – £695.00
Arhus – Kiel: 2nd – 12th August 2012 –  £995.00
Kiel – Ipswich:16th – 26th August 2012 –  £1,050.00

All the above prices are fully inclusive on board, but do not include travel to or from Velvet Lady.  If you need help with travel please ask

We look forward to seeing you on board

Velvet Lady is now in Ijmuiden

This is our route for Summer 2012.  We have just completed the first leg (purple line) from Plymouth to Ijmuiden.  We had an interesting thrash, as we beat to windward in a Force 6 with lots of ships and not much visibility!

Lucky for us, once we arrived in Holland, the sun came out and Richard and I have spent the past few days living in shorts and t shirts, doing jobs and even managing a day off in Amsterdam.  We are ready now for the next two milebuilding  legs, yellow to Oslo and then blue to Copenhagen.  We take a bit of a breather in Copenhagen, and instead on focusing on mileage, we will spent July cruising amongst the islands in the Danish Archipelago.(Green area)  Steeped in history there are many stunning castles and viking museums to visit as well as pretty anchorages to relax in.  Apologies for the brief blog, the internet connection is at best dodgy! and we are hoping it will be better in Oslo.
The weather in Denmark looks to be great in the coming weeks and we are looking forward to our summer – why not join us for some fantastic sailing in this Viking land!