Our Impromptu

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July 28 to August 7, 2005: Cuxhaven

By 1500 we rounded into the yacht harbor of Cuxhaven. After a few uneasy moments because the harbormaster did not respond to our phone call, he came running pointing to a very nice and comfortable slip (a box as they call it in Europe, it seems). Guenter, Juergen's brother, and Waltraut, his wife, were standing on the dock waiting for us. Of course, Guenter played a welcoming song on his accordion (or whatever one calls this instrument), then there were hugs, some tears (not mine though) and then we shared a bottle of champagne. Not much later, Susanne, Hannes and Johanna arrived with lots of champagne, cheese, bread, and a wonderful cake (Butterkuchen, translated into "butter cake". I cannot describe it but have never seen it in the US. It is a yeast-based dough, very light and airy, with lots of butter and topped with a blend of butter, sugar and almond slices. In one word, it is out of this world). Then Marion and Frank came all the way from Hamburg to greet us AND to leave a car for us so we are flexible (we had intended to rent one but never discussed it. Now that was no longer necessary). They brought a few very nice gifts including our website, fully printed out. Now Juergen can finally read what I have written over the past almost two months... - he is still at it though they left about an hour ago. I guess, I am too verbose.

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from left: Juergen, Marion, Hannes, Frank, Waltraut, Johanna, Susanne, Guenter

July 28, 2005 (Thursday)

The morning was used for food and non-alcoholic beverage shopping. The problem was that shopping was quite a way from our dock and we bought more than we should have... So we schlepped and schlepped and schlepped in heat and high humidity. We made it to the boat (it is a long way even within the Yacht Harbor), stowed everything away when Ulli called. They had just arrived at the hotel and were wondering where we were. With a little bit of coaxing, Philipp detected me standing on deck, waving like crazy. After a big hello we had some champagne, then lunch aboard Impromptu. They all saw her for the first time and were so excited, particularly the boys and Ulli.

In the afternoon, we all left for Isensee where Juergen's family had invited for a barbecue, horseback riding, some other fun. Julian and Philipp had a great time, and I believe Ulli and Gabriele as well. The only negative is that it takes almost an hour of driving on country roads to get to Isensee. And drinking and driving is still stricter in Germany than it is in the US, so the enjoyment of a nice glass of wine is truly restricted to one glass of wine for an entire evening....

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The Boys enjoying Isensee with all its Toys
Feast Outdoors

July 29, 2005 (Friday)

We spent the entire day in Cuxhaven with Ulli's family. We even went sailing for a couple of hours, just to give Philipp and Julian (of course also Ulli and Gabriele) the feeling of how sailing on Impromptu is.

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Julian and Philipp at the Bow
Ulli worried to be run over by the Containership in the Background…

We asked Guenter and the entire Isensee clan to join us in Cuxhaven for a nice fish dinner. We all enjoyed the food and the company.

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Johanna, Susanne
Gabriele and Hannes

After they went back to Isensee, back at the hotel in Cuxhaven, Ulli, Gabriele, Juergen and I shared a bottle of very nice Sancerre (Ulli's treat) and chatted for a while. Birgitt happened to walk through the restaurant. She joined us for a little bit. Unfortunately, Carsten drove back home with their dog Finnie who was suffering from the aftermath of an operation. We were saddened both about Finnie as well as Carsten's absence.

July 30, 2005 (Saturday)

It was pouring and miserable this morning, not a nice introduction for our party later on. We did not have breakfast with Ulli and family this morning. Instead, I joined Ulli just for a cup of coffee. It was nice to have a few minutes just between brother and sister. The morning passed quickly before we had to get over to the hotel to place our nametags and small gifts on a table before our guests arrived. The dining room was decorated very nicely, the management very friendly and the service equally nice. Our guests arrived over time with the last ones coming around 1800 only due to ferry traffic and for other reasons. We enjoyed the wonderful northern German food, the wine, the company, the speeches. Though Waltraut prepared and Guenter delivered a very nice speech, of course five year-old Johanna topped it all. She stood on the window sill, big smile on her beautiful face, and gave a speech, all in her own words and with her own ideas. The moment we watch our video, I will type her speech and upload it onto the website (unfortunately, I was too far away with our camera so that none of her speech is audible - sorry).

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Waltraut, Marion, Hannes
Tina, Chris, Svenja
Gabriele, Ruediger, Biene

All those guests who had never seen our Impromptu went, together with Juergen, to see her while I remained at the hotel with those who knew Impromptu already or could not manage to climb up as it is quite high to get onto her without steps or a ladder or so.

Most people remained till almost 1900. A small group of about 14 or so remained till almost 2300. Our party was topped then by enormous fireworks (really a dune fest, but we considered it part of our party).

Ulli and family stayed up to watch the Queen Mary 2 pass Cuxhaven around 0015 on her way to Hamburg.

July 31, 2005 (Sunday)

Sunday was miserable. It began raining as we were walking along the harbor to visit a flea market and, it seems, it never stopped. On the contrary, it got worse and worse. We, together with Ulli's family, had been invited by the Isensee clan for an amazing venison dinner. The deer had been hunted by Hannes himself. Susanne cooked, with Marion's and Waltraut help. We had the most amazing meat, wonderful gravy, dumplings, spaetzle, beans, topped with a very delicious ice cream/"rote Gruetze" desert. "Rote Gruetze" is a fruit desert, mostly berries of the summer season, sometimes lightly thickened with a clear thickener, served with whipped cream.

The trip back to Cuxhaven was difficult just because it poured so hard that one could barely see.

August 1, 2005 (Monday)

After breakfast with Ulli and family we said good-bye. They were eager to get back home after they extended their stay by a day because the highway A1 was to be closed for two days due to the detonation of a bridge. Traffic was to be horrendous... We hope they made it ok. We have not heard yet but hope to very soon.
I tried to gain access to the Internet with OUR computer - no such luck. Cuxhaven is a sleepy place where one cannot find wifi Internet access. So many of our friends have complained already that they do not know about our whereabouts because our website has not been updated since July 20th, the day we left Dover. Well, dear friends and family, I am doing my best and keep typing and including photos. However, if I cannot get into the Internet with our own computer, not even at the Cuxhaven Internet cafe, what can I do??? Please be patient. I am not slackening off....

August 2, 2005 (Tuesday)

We had a very leisurely breakfast and played some rounds of Backgammon before we took a walk into town. We stopped by a bunch of rather cute stores, the bank, the post office and accomplished a few errants we had not managed to get done since we arrived. The town of Cuxhaven has a very nice pedestrian shopping zone with a few boutiques. It is much more picturesque than we had thought to date. We also found a very nice bookstore, which we had been sent to for buying charts. It turned out that the sales clerk was a writer who took this job more for diversion and a few Euros rather than as his career. He informed us of a culture club which he had organized where talk and music were the focus. Beer, wine, or some other beverages seemed commonplace. He invited us for this particular evening (the club meets every Tuesday night).

As it was not far from the Yacht Haven, we agreed to come by. But first we had dinner at the Yacht Club. We had a great surprise as what they called "Kniepers" really turned out to be stone crabs. The two differences were in the way they were prepared AND the price. Well, the preparation was not as much to our liking as that of stone crabs - warm, served with home fries (rather than hash browns) and a strange mayonnaise-based sauce, very different from the mustard sauce we are familiar with for stone crabs. The price - an unbelievable Euro 15 for a huge pile of the "Kniepers" (pronounced k-neepers, i.e., the "k" is pronounced, the "ie" like "ee"). See for yourself:

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At the culture club we met a couple who spends its winters in Florida and its summers (what they call summer here in Germany) in Cuxhaven. We also spoke to the singer as we thought of him as interesting for some party in Germany, ....

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Concert at the Culture Club in Cuxhaven

We stayed till past 2300 but were glad to be back on Impromptu thereafter.

August 3, 2005 (Wednesday)

We left for Hamburg around 0900 as it is quite a trip to get there. We had a few errands in mind, including visiting with Frank and Marion in their company (I had never seen it other than from the outside. In addition, they were going to grant me Internet access so I could finally update the website - the first time since July 20th), having lunch with Guenter and Waltraut who go to Hamburg every Wednesday to buy the food products they then sell to restaurants and a large insurance company for its cafeteria. We also wanted to visit a very large boating supplier who used to be Juergen's favorite (no longer is because of the lack of product availability - none of the items we had been looking for was available). We had a delicious lunch at "Rive" a restaurant one of my clients had taken Caryn and I to almost a year ago when we were in Hamburg in connection with the Mexican rail project but also visited with this particular client. Guenter, Waltraut and Juergen had a good time and enjoyed the food tremendously. We even could sit outside on the deck right above the harbor. It was great fun watching large container ships, smaller coastal ships, sailboats and the many boats for harbor tours, small and large, as well as a large number of ferries pass by.

We spent a good two hours at Frank's and Marion's before we went on with our chores. It was Ulli's birthday. Of course we had called him before lunch.

August 4, 2005 (Thursday)

We agreed to meet up with Guenter and Waltraut for lunch at "Zwei Linden" a restaurant we do not recommend. It had looked very attractive the evening before when we drove by, lots of cars parked in front - we thought that to be an indication of food quality. Maybe, it was more an indication of quantity and price. The afternoon, mixed with rain and sunshine (it seemed that we had more rain than anything else since we made it to Cuxhaven, a big letdown after the perfect weather in England), was spent driving to various small harbors, which had been taken, into consideration for our stay in Germany and the party. In the end, we all agreed that Cuxhaven with the hotel right near the Yacht Haven was the perfect spot and most easily reachable for everyone.

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Dyke near Krautsand on the River Elbe

We also visited the family's "private beach" quasi-an island formed by the river Elbe and a smaller tributary. The spot is called Krautsand. Why "Kraut" we don't know but it sure deserves the addition "sand" as it is a gorgeous beach on the river Elbe that permits the watching of huge ships passing by, phenomenal.

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The Thieme Clan's "Private Beach" of Krautsand
Juergen conversing with the "Deichgraf"
(there is no translation, sorry)

The rest of the evening was spent at their house, just talking...

August 5, 2005 (Friday)

Another day spent with the Isensee clan after we did some last minute food and beverage shopping. I also did laundry again, this time at their house, leaving some time for further chats and some brief visit to the town of Stade, another small northern German town with lots of old buildings in perfect shape and the typical architecture of red brick houses with reed roofs and white trim, streets with cobblestone and lots of flower pots everywhere.

In the evening we all went to an Italian restaurant for one last joint meal before our departure for the Kiel Canal and Denmark and whatever else thereafter. We had returned the car Frank and Marion had lent us during our stay in Cuxhaven. So they all accompanied us back to Cuxhaven for a last time. The good-bye was not too emotional since we will be back mid to late September when we take Impromptu to Glueckstadt, another small northern German town across the river Elbe, not far from where they live.

August 6, 2005 (Saturday)

It was a blustery and windy morning when we finally took off for Brunsbuettel, the entry to the Kiel Canal.

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German Sailors having tied up to Impromptu without even asking - something we have never gotten used to -

It took about two hours of motoring (insufficient wind from aft) before we reached Brunsbuettel, another 20 minutes of waiting until we, together with the other "sports boats" as they call pleasure craft here were permitted entry into the lock. The lock has floating docks, just barely ten inches above the water. So one has to jump rather far down to tie up. We spent the approximately 30 minutes before we could exit the lock talking with neighbors who had tied up to our boat (meanwhile an almost normal event). The group of about twenty boats or so dispersed rather quickly once the lock opened. The canal is approximately 56 nm long.

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Ship Greeting Station to Juergen's Right

When we passed the Ship Greeting Station, "Star Spangled Banner" (US National Anthem) was played over loud speakers. We were very moved...

The speed limit is 8 knots and pleasure craft are permitted to go through the canal during daylight only, defined as until 2100 during the summer months and, as of September until 2000 only. Since we exited the lock around 1400 only we decided to take it easy and to stop overnight in Rendsburg, yet another small town with some buildings from medieval times.

We took a stroll through the town, unfortunately, it was quite deserted like so many small towns are after hours and on weekends.

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Rendsburg where we berthed overnight before continuing through the Kiel Canal

August 7, 2005 (Sunday)

It was raining in the morning, of course, what else could we expect. We filled our Diesel tank (another 310 liters) and went on our way. We had agreed with Sigi who lives near the other end of the canal to call once we had exited the Kiel lock which we did around 1430 or so. Not even an hour later, we were tied up, bow to dock, stern tied to two posts (a maneuver we are not used to and which will require further practice) in the harbor of Schilksee, about five minutes by car from Sigi's and Biene's house. We spent a very nice afternoon and evening with delicious food and wine and a cake baked by Hannah. We could barely believe that it was midnight by the time we finally departed. Before, we still had watched a terrific fireworks which was displayed as the finale of a harbor festival - of course, this was the second such event "all for us..."

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Leo, Sigi's and Biene's Dog
Sigi's and Biene's new House in Strande