Our Impromptu

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August 17 - September 15, 2006: Laboe to Guernsey

August 17, 2006, Thursday

We are back on Impromptu. The flight was uneventful. We even were lucky enough to find a bus that took us straight from the Hamburg airport to the train station in Kiel. From there, it was a short taxi ride to Laboe.

We found tools and other utensils on the boat, clearly indicating that the repairs had not been completed. Of course, we were not very happy about this and straightened things out by learning that the alternator had to be sent in for repair and was expected back the next day or so (it finally came Friday afternoon and was installed then), the 12V battery had been replaced as it was "shot". The yard could not find the 110V heating unit for our hot water heater. We suggested to call HR - which the yard (and we) did. It is to be delivered on Tuesday.

The Prautzschs had left an SMS asking where we were. Well, we called them immediately and agreed to meet on Carola's birthday (August 18) at their place in Heikendorf.

August 18, 2006, Friday

We had slept late as we were totally tired from all the traveling around and the jet lag and took the 1345 ferry to meet with the Prautzschs. It was a very long and wonderful day. We celebrated with champagne, then coffee and cake in a cute little cafe right in the "town" of Heikendorf and, as of 1800, spent almost six hours over dinner, with lots of wonderful drinks and wine and excellent food and, most importantly, terrific conversation. We totally forgot how jetlagged we still were....

Carola and Albrecht wanted to come visit us on the boat the next day. However, Albrecht called to cancel the arrangement. Lupus, their dog, got sick (from getting spicy fish at the restaurant) and so they had not slept much (as Albrecht had to take him out two or three times that night) and they expected to have to stop a number of times on their way home. Of course, we thanked them very much for such a wonderful day and promised to call again soon.

August 19, 2006, Saturday

After Albrecht called, we had breakfast in the cockpit through it was a little chilly, but the sun had come out and the rain had stopped some time during the night. Juergen got the bicycles out so that we would be a little more mobile. We also needed to do some food shopping, another reason for the bikes. Mike, the mechanic came by to check on the alternator. The generator had been running smoothly this morning and started without a hitch. We turned the generator off while Mike was working. After his departure, we tried to turn it back on - it would not start. I ran after Mike to check on the generator again. He could not fix it either and has notified the electrician to look into this on Monday. Right now, it is working, but only after we started the main engine first (though the 12V battery shows a charge of 13.8V and should be sufficiently strong to start the generator without the help of the main engine). We are at a loss...

August 22, 2006, Tuesday

The past few days have been rainy and gotten a lot cooler. So we are back to warmer T-shirts, sometimes even jackets / sweaters and jeans - how awful, after such a terrific summer... we expected the weather to remain as wonderful as it had been. Mike, a mechanic who had worked on our boat, mostly the generator, last week and who had visited with us for a glass of wine on Saturday, came by to install the hot water heating unit and check on the generator again. With a few little kinks, it all seems to be working - finally. Uwe had come by to help Mike and ensure that all went well. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers, talked a little more about our trip from here to LaRochelle and said good-bye. Uwe will be flying to Mallorca tomorrow to pick up a boat which he and a crew of two others will sail to Marseille from where it is supposed to be trucked up North. He used to be a transfer captain for a bunch of years and does this now and then on his vacation, just like this time. He expects to be back on Saturday.

We sure would like to see him again and hope that there will be a chance either in the Caribbean or later on in New York. We will see.

Juergen filled the water tank and asked the yard to prepare our bill so we can depart early tomorrow morning. We will have to go through the Kiel Canal and will most likely stay in Brunsbuettel overnight just as we did last year in September and also this May when we began this year's journey. We expect to be in Cuxhaven in the very early afternoon. Juergen has already spoken with the harbor master there who promised to accommodate us though there is a big regatta with lots of boat traffic in Cuxhaven this coming weekend.

Juergen's family is eagerly awaiting us though they know that we will be there for just a few days only as we need to reprovision and then get on our way as soon as possible. We do have quite some respect for the North Sea and also the Bay of Biscay - I know you got the picture already quite some time ago.

This morning, the phone rang. Sigi. He was already in Laboe, looking for us. We were very happy to see him and had a nice chat for an hour or so before we left to go back to work. It is always very nice to see him and Biene (this time, she was not with him). We talked about his family, largely his brothers, plans for the winter in terms of preparation for Biene's exhibit of her paintings in the Spring - I think I spoke about that after she had told us about this terrific opportunity a few weeks ago. I also then spoke about their terrific hospitality and friendship, and I wanted to show some pictures, except for some reason I don't find them on my computer. I hope they are backed up at home so I can eventually insert them into our website when we are back home in October/November.

On Sunday, August 20, 2006, Juergen's family called. They wanted to visit with us - all six adults and two kids. We had made plans with our newly made friends from Cologne, the couple that keep their boat in Baltic Bay Marina, Laboe, right next to where Impromptu has been docked for all this time, to have dinner together. We tried to discourage the family as the trip to here is rather long (over 200 km each way), particularly since we would see them towards the end of the week anyway - to no avail.

They arrived around 1400 and after a big hello, we all had a glass of wine or whatever they wanted on the boat. Johanna was hungry and restless (it seems to be quite boring to be on a boat, at least for kids that are not used to being on boats). We all went to the nice restaurant, part of the Marina, for coffee and cake. We had a nice chat for a number of hours and, around 1700, they all left to take the lengthy trip back home.

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Marie-Josefine and Marion
Johanna who will start school on 9-04-06
Johanna with Susanne
Johanna skating

We had promised Wulf and Monika from "next door" to show them the movie "Around Cape Horn". Uwe, a friend of the couple and a mechanic here at the boatyard, was there also. He had been invited for dinner as well. While we watched the movie, a thunderstorm came up that drenched our friends' boat as they had not closed anything while watching the movie. I had quickly put the boards into our companionway to prevent the down below from being drenched. It all did not deter Wulf or Monika, and we were promptly on our way to Pankert, a beautiful property owned by the Hesse count, now operated as a hotel and restaurant and housing a few galleries and small shops. Unfortunately, they were all closed as we only arrived around 1900.

The property is gorgeous, and I wished I had taken my camera along, but I thought there was no need given our plans for dinner there. The food was delicious, the wine superb, and the conversation lively and fun.

On Monday, August 21, 2006, Monika and Wulf needed to fly back to Cologne. So we agreed to share lunch at the marina restaurant "for a last time" at least for a long time, though they promised to let us know if and when they are in New York. Monika wants to take a trip to New York for Christmas shopping, most likely next year. We will see whether Wulf comes along at the time. Again, it was a terrific two hours of conversation and laughter and then we all said good-bye. Uwe had stopped by, shared a glass of beer with us and promised to come to our boat to check out the generator and to install the hot water element which had been ordered at Hallberg-Rassy as the yard could not find a 110V unit in all of Germany.

August 22, 2006, Tuesday

It was a rainy and ugly day, but towards the end of the day the sun came out. We took our bikes and bicycled to Heikendorf and back, enjoyed an icecream in Laboe before returning to the boat.

August 23, 2006, Wednesday

We got up early as we wanted to pay our bills, get some 350 liters of Diesel and get on our way through the Kiel Canal. It all took longer than expected. The bill came to over Euro 2,200 - vow! But it seemed that the generator was working - finally. At the gas station, they only accepted cash. Juergen was offered the attendant's bike to go to the cash machine and came back unsuccessful. The bank refused the cash withdrawal as he had used that same bank card for the payment of the bill at Baltic Bay Marina. So I hopped on the bike and got the cash necessary to pay for the Diesel. At 0830 we were finally on our way. The sky looked threatening dark and it began to rain very soon after our departure. A few other boats were ahead of us and behind, all moving towards the locks of the Kiel Canal. We were really lucky. The lock was open as we arrived, over 10-15 boats tied up already. We tied up to another boat as there was little room left at the dock. We paid our dues (Euro 35) for the canal transfer and the lock gates closed shortly thereafter. You should have seen the mess of boats all rushing out of the lock, and a huge container ship also came out of its lock at the same time. We all wrangled for first position, of course the container ship won. We were next. We tried to go about 8 knots, the prescribed speed limit but soon noticed that there was some current against us - we think because of the prevailing Westerly winds.

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In the lock at Kiel-Holtenau around 0900...
We never saw the Kiel Canal locks this crowded

We reached Brunsbuettel around 1700, called canal 2 and were advised that they would open the lock for "sports boats" in about half an hour - and he mumbled something else that we did not quite catch. Once the signals were such that we were ready to enter, he called and informed us of the arrival of a tanker (small, mostly coastal) which was to enter first. After "Time is Money" was all tied up, another sailboat which we had passed quite a while ago and we entered the lock. It took about 20 minutes to half an hour before the lock opened on the other side and we were instructed to exit first, the Time is Money. We were elated at the current down the Elbe as we made up to 12 knots, going around 7.5 to 8 based on our engine speed. We arrived in Cuxhaven at 1830 or so after checking the current which was enormous right in front of the harbor entrance and picking the right moment to rev up and enter. Juergen did an excellent job. I was very proud of him. It sure was not easy.

The harbor master had already warned us that the harbor was overcrowded and that we would have to tie up to another boat as there was no room at all at any of the docks. We approached a Dutch boat but were informed that they planned on leaving at 0400 the next morning. Considering this highly unattractive, we approached the next boat, British, who informed us of their time of departure, e.g., 0400. We tied up to them, chatted for a while, then enjoyed a glass of wine in the cockpit and even supper later on. Before all of this, as we were in the process of tying up to someone, I lost a fender and could not retrieve it as there was no loop to hook into with our boat hook. I pushed it towards a boat docked on the other side who offered to retrieve it for us. After we were tied up, I walked over five!!! boats - actually we were the fifth boat outermost, apologizing for walking over other people's boats. They were all very nice and told me that it did not matter, or, did I want to fly instead...

A Dutch couple two boats into our "package of boats" joined us for a glass of wine after our supper. They, too, left at 0400 the next morning.

August 24, 2006, Thursday

We were awakened by our neighbors at 0400 and quickly jumped into our clothes so we could take our lines and move out of their way. You should have seen the number of boats leaving at this ungodly hour. I would say it was at least ten if not more. So many left that we even could tie up to the dock before going to sleep again. At 0500 someone knocked on our boat. I had forgotten to turn off the running lights, they informed us... o well.

After breakfast, we went to the harbor master and were assigned a normal "slip" as we call it in the US, i.e., a dock to ourselves. They were expecting lots of boats for a race nearby, and he wanted us to be protected from the traffic and other people, particularly since he knew we were going to stay for a few days - at least till Monday, maybe even till Tuesday, weather permitting.

We then went into town and purchased / ordered charts, books, etc. We went shopping and found a nice sweater for Juergen, and a beautiful cashmere "shirt", all on sale. We had a very late lunch - actually coffee and cake. Guenter and Waltraut came around 1600 - we had invited them for dinner. We sat on the boat for a while then went to the hotel where we had our party last year. Well, it was no longer a hotel but just a restaurant, the ownership had changed, the menu, the service, all was different. We did not know that until we sat down to order wine etc. Our experience was anything but great. The wine list they initially gave us was very small and not interesting. We asked whether they did not have a more expansive one. They did, but we were forewarned that they may not have all the wines on that list as this list was a remnant of the former owners from who they had taken over the wine cellar as well - or whatever was left of it. We ordered a certain wine, they did not have it. We ordered another, the cork broke and this was the last bottle of this kind. They brought two others for our selection. Juergen did not know either and just picked one of them - not great but ok.

The fish soup Guenter had ordered contained of fish with lots of bones and muscles that comprised of sand. He complained, got another fish soup without any muscles but still a lot of fish bones. He returned that as well. Waltraut, Juergen and I had ordered a North Sea shrimp soup (those tiny shrimp that do not exist anywhere else in the world - to our knowledge - but in the North Sea. They taste wonderful). This soup had barely one spoon full of these shrimp in it, the rest was all filler - awful. The flounder we all ordered was fresh but tasteless. We were very disappointed. The worst happened when the check was presented by the waiter who said that they had cut the bill for the Euro 56 wine (we had initially ordered a bottle for Euro 27 and were never informed that the other was as expensive as he now claimed) to Euro 42 because of our disappointment with the food. I told him off by not paying a tip (tips in Europe are always included in the bill and tipping is entirely voluntary as wait staff receive fixed salaries with the tips being "add-ons" only) and telling him that I thought it outrageous to present us with an alternative wine more than twice the wine we had ordered. We left immediately.

August 25, 2006, Friday

Guenter and Waltraut had brought Marion's BMW for us so we could do some shopping in the morning and then drive to Isensee to be with the family. We purchased water and all the heavy stuff (coffee, olive oil, crackers, cans of oil sardines and tuna, jams, laundry detergent and so on) that was not "fresh" and could easily be stored away before our departure. Then we purchased a new propane bottle, packed some clothes and the gift for Johanna and left around 1600 to drive to Isensee. The welcome was warm and friendly as always. We had freshly baked plum cake and coffee. In the evening, Frank, Marion, Marie - the gorgeous little baby born on January 19 this year - see above, Susanne, Hannes, and Johanna of course came to have dinner with us. Waltraut had grilled two turkey breasts and served a bunch of different vegetables and a very nice salad. The evening was long. We finally made it to bed around midnight.

August 26, 2006, Saturday

Saturday, after breakfast, Susanne, Johanna, Guenter, Waltraut, Juergen and I drove to Buxtehude, a small town about half an hour drive away from Isensee. It is a historic town. The sun came out for a while, we walked around, enjoyed the rehearsal of a concert "A Royal Night" that was to be performed that evening on the market square, right near a beautiful 13th century church. Later, Marion and Frank and Marie joined us. They had done some shopping for the Sunday dinner they wanted to host. We had icecream. Johanna bought icecream from her own money for Juergen and I. She was very proud and we happy that she was so generous.

Our Outing to Buxtehude

Susanne had prepared dinner for Saturday night, a wonderful dish, lots of work, that included boiled beef, served with "Roesti" (fried potatoes Swiss style), freshly grated radish in apple sauce, creme fraiche and chives) and the terrific broth. Dessert was a poppy seed souffle, perfectly done and delicious, with fruit and a little bit of mascarpone cheese. And we are supposed to lose weight... it was VERY!!! delicious, and I cannot wait to try to make the souffle myself some time soon.

August 27, 2006 Sunday

It has been raining pretty much all day, with very few short breaks in between. Still, Hannes, Frank, Juergen and Guenter moved one of Hannes' carriages (he purchases them with the intent to fix them up and sell them. However, this one he had already fixed up and used a few times for family outings. It was stored in a shed that had a leaky roof, and the mice etc. had easy access.) into Guenter and Waltraut's garage. Then Juergen and Guenter worked a little bit outside. Guenter has DSL internet access, much faster than his dial up he had before. We were supposed to be able to access the internet wireless. This did not work. Frank and Guenter tried to fix the problem but could not find it. So we just checked our e-mails instead of also uploading our website - which I had hoped to be able to do. Guenter and Juergen also cleaned our US propane bottles which we had stored at Guenter and Waltraut's house. We needed to take them back to the boat the next day as we will need them in the Caribbean or, at the latest, back at home in Milford.

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Bringing into the new House another Carriage
Beautiful Dinner at Frank's and Marion's

1830 arrived sooner than anticipated. We were supposed to be at Frank's and Marion's, quickly got ready and were there just a few minutes later for a super delicious meal. They had grilled pieces of entrecote, purchased terrific sauces, had a wonderful salad, fresh bread and, as dessert, tiramisu. It seems all three families are trying to outdo each other in terms of quality of cooking, variety, etc. We felt very spoiled.

Again, it was a late night as we sat with Waltraut and Guenter at their house till about 0100.

August 28, 2006, Monday

We had a relatively early breakfast. Susanne and Johanna came before Susanne had to start work, to say good-bye. Johanna stayed with us. Then Hannes came and a little later Marion and Marie. Frank had left quite a while ago to go to work in Hamburg, a good 90 minute drive in heavy traffic. They hope to fix up their apartment in the building where their company is located so that they can stay in Hamburg for a few days during the week once Marion goes back to work to the office rather than working from home which she has been doing since Marie was born. We chatted for a while, made a few phone calls (to Dockwise, to Hans Nordmann's office, etc.). Guenter and Waltraut drove us to Cuxhaven, an about 30 - 45 minute drive. We dropped off all the things we had packed. Then we ran some other chores before food shopping. We had lunch at the Cuxhaven yacht club, overlooking the harbor. The food was simple but fresh and good, the wine tasted delicious. Guenter and Juergen enjoyed their beer. We said good-bye to Guenter and Waltraut after our food shopping, loaded everything into a cart and from there onto the boat. It began to rain again.

We started to do navigation, read up on some things and were mentally getting ready for the beginning of our "return trip" to LaRochelle with our first stop on the island of Norderney, the island, where Sigi and Antonia had met up with us as a surprise last year when we arrived after our transatlantic voyage.

Around 1800 Juergen tried to turn on our instruments. Nothing worked. He checked all the fuses, nothing. I quickly ran over to the harbor master to ask for a recommendation of an electrician. Someone promised to come either tonight still (though he wanted to finish whatever he was working on) or first thing in the morning. By 2100 we knew he was not to come that evening any more. Juergen checked the wiring diagram and saw the switch for the 12V system. He checked. It had been switched off accidentally when moving something around. Everything was fine!!! We were so glad though he felt embarrassed.

August 29, 2006, Tuesday

We left at 0700 in windy conditions, gray, rainy skies. The seas were short and steep, but the tide was with us down the river Elbe. While we had left about one hour after a few other boats had departed, we soon overtook them. Thank God for a strong engine. The wind was on the nose... the story of our life.

The 70 nm were highly uncomfortable though the rain subsided and the sun even came out, but the seas became very steep and unpredictable. I was feeling rather queezy, but there was nothing we could do as the wind remained on our nose and blew at about 28-32 knots (apparent). The channel into Norderney is well marked, but it still was a huge challenge to steer over the shallow sand bar that crosses the channel. Juergen was glad for every tenth of a mile he made headway. We were glad when we finally made it into the harbor and were tied up to a dock - with the help of another boater it was an almost smooth experience. I say almost smooth as the boat touched on of the pilings - I could not push the boat off, and our horseshoe ring scraped by. What I did not even notice immediately was the fact that our light that had been connected to the horseshoe ring had torn loose and was floating away. The neighbors came to the rescue again and returned it to us while we were still tying up to the dock to the right of the piling which initially had been to our left. It was too high to go over the bow, and the dock was easily accessible.

Juergen fixed whatever had torn loose while I went to pay the harbor master for our night's stay.

August 30, 2006, Wednesday

We initially wanted to leave for Vlieland, but the weather was anything but cooperative. People indicated that, at Beaufort 6, boats should really not travel the North Sea if at all avoidable. The seas are just too awful. So we decided to stay, particularly since the trip would have been 100 nm, way too long for this kind of weather. We had made this distance last year, but with Westerly winds (i.e., with us) and a very strong Easterly current. Now, we had Westerly winds (against us) with the Westerly current bearing only about 1-1.5 knots, meaning, we had little push and, therefore, were limited in the distance we could travel during daylight hours. We for sure do not want to have to enter any of these harbors in the dark. We decided to stay, played Backgammon, talked with people and invited a German couple for a glass of wine.

Manfred and Ilse have a beautiful aluminum boat which he built himself (except the hull which he had purchased). They had lived in the Caribbean for about three years, lived in Katonah for a while, near Chicago, etc. He is a horse rider (competitively) and trainer and had been working for wealthy individuals both in Germany and the US, purchasing and training their horses but also competing at the same time. She, a Viennese, was also into riding - this is how they had met many years ago.

We had a terrific time together, talking about our sailing adventures, about horses, their life in the US and the Caribbean, etc. Before we knew it, it was 2100 (they had come at 1700), and they said good night. We had all intention of leaving the next day but of course were waiting for an improvement in the weather for our final decision.

August 31, 2006, Thursday

We again decided to stay. It was raining and ugly out and blowing quite hard. Friday was supposed to be a little better... We had checked the wind and wave predictions through a system Manfred had recommended, called windfinder.de. This system will give you these statistics and three day predictions for any place in the world. Just type in the location, and the chart will show up as well as a table with the details by the half day, i.e., from midnight to 12 noon and from 1200 to 0000 again.

Manfred came to invite us to their boat for 1600. We gladly accepted and read, played Backgammon. I did the navigation from Norderney to the island of Borkum, a roughly 40 nm trip that would have us about 22 nm toward Vlieland the following day. Unfortunately, the harbor is far around Borkum relative to the North Sea, therefore the many miles for relatively little gain. However, 76 or so miles to Vlieland from Borkum compared to roughly 100 nm from Norderney sound a lot more palatable...

We paid our dues at the harbor master's office when he suggested for us not to go to Borkum but, instead, to go to Lauwersoog, on the Dutch coast of Friesland. The trip from Norderney to there is supposed to be 50 nm "only" and, the added benefit is a canal that we could take further South towards the island of Texel or the harbor of Den Helder, or even further into the Ijsselmeer, avoiding the nasty North Sea. When discussing this possibility with Manfred and Ilse, they seemed enthusiastic about it as they themselves had taken that trip in reverse in some prior year. The idea of going 50 nm vs the roughly 40 we would have to go to Borkum seemed ok to both of us. We just still needed to do the navigation to Lauwersoog and also check into the canal system a little more. For now, we decided to enjoy our time with Ilse and Manfred, to get a good night's rest and to determine the next morning whether or not we would depart.

September 1, 2006, Friday

It has been blowing all night and it seems to have rained as well though we did not hear it. In the morning, the wind sounded a little less threatening. Still, we were not yet convinced that we should leave. We checked into a book about Holland which we had purchased last year but had not found useful for our travels then. It gave us a little more detail for our intended alternate route now. While we were reading, the wind picked up again, the sound disappeared, and it began to be rather foggy, not exactly great conditions for a voyage into unknown territory. So we decided not to leave but instead do the more detailed navigation, update the website in the hope that we can upload it in the internet cafe in town (Manfred and Ilse promised to check for us whether it is possible to work there with one's own computer. I am still hopeful....).

We had agreed with them to have dinner in the restaurant we had found last year when we were here with Sigi and Antonia, should we decide not to depart in the morning. As they told us of their intent to walk into town, we confirmed our dinner plans with Ilse and Manfred. Will we be able to leave tomorrow???? We are getting a little antsy. I even more so, as the Bay of Biscay has a terrible reputation already for the month of September... and we are nowhere near the Bay of Biscay yet... This part of the trip is not what I am relishing. I guess, Juergen is not either. Yes, it is great to meet nice people and to sit well protected in a harbor while it is blowing, but the idea of having to cover another roughly 1000 nm before we can consider ourselves "having arrived" is anything but fun. So, for all of you who read this log, please keep your fingers crossed that the weather will improve, we can made great headway and, despite the winds against us and the current being weaker in the Westerly direction, that we arrive in LaRochelle very soon without any terrible seas.

September 2, 2006, Saturday

We decided to depart as the weather seemed to have improved significantly. We left at 0645 and made good speed until about 1400. By that time, we were just about at the height of the entrance to Lauwersoog, the better alternative to Borkum to cut the distance to Vlieland in half. We had hoped to go all the way to Vlieland - until then. But the weather turned bad, the wind strengthened, right on our nose, the tide had already changed against us, and the seas started mounting. Our speed dropped to about 4.4. knots, which would have caused our arrival near Vlieland around 2100 at best. With the strong cross currents there and the darkness of night, we decided to turn towards Lauwersoog.

It was a long way as the channel took us safely through all the shallows. We finally arrived in front of a lock and a bridge which did not seem to open and no one in sight... however, eventually, a boat came from the other side, and we were permitted to enter. The lock was not difficult to manoeuvre and before we knew it, we were in even more protected waters. But it was around 1700 by then, the wind had strengthened further, and it started to rain. We also thought that we needed to check in with Dutch immigration as we had entered the Netherlands on our way from Norderney. The harbor master later on just stamped a form for us and indicated that this was sufficient. We decided to stay overnight as we were nicely tied up to a dock with nothing to fear.

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Impromptu in Lauwersoog

The harbor celebrated its 40th birthday that evening, in pouring rain, driving winds and miserable cold. People played Neptune from what we could understand, rescued a maiden and whatever else happened that our non-existing knowledge of Dutch could or could not decipher. It all seemed dramatic and people were noisily cheering the actors and actresses. We had been invited to the event but the lack of linguistic ability and the cold and wet deterred us. Instead, we had clam chowder on the boat, played Backgammon and called it a night early. We wanted to depart the next morning.

September 3, 2006, Sunday

It had been a very noisy night but we slept anyway. In the morning, it was very foggy and rainy. We still decided to move on. Navigation through the initial channel was not difficult. It became a little more complicated as we moved down towards Dokkum Diep, Princess Margriet Canal, etc. We covered 12 bridges that day and one lock-bridge combination and arrived in Leeuwarden around 1600 or so. It was a most picturesque trip through Dutch farmland, country side and some small towns, all nicely maintained and pretty to look at. We have not seen as many horses as we did on this trip in a very long time. We tied up right in the middle of town after we had tied up to two trees to wait for a bridge opening and were "rained on" by branches our rigging had torn off. We took a little walk through town but were warned of theft and vandalism as we were right next to a park. We still enjoyed a gorgeous dinner and a wonderful bottle of wine in a restaurant right above our boat. By the time we returned to Impromptu, daylight had not entirely subsided and we were safely back on an untouched Impromptu. Earlier, before we took our walk, an elderly Dutchman came by to invite us to his house for coffee the next morning. We decided against that as we needed to continue moving, however, it was quite moving to hear him speak of all the good America had done for his country.

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"Docking" in the Town of Leeuwarden" where Impromptu was called the "Freedom Ship"

September 4, 2006, Monday

We took the 0815 bridge from our "anchorage" and began moving through twelve more bridges before the lock in Harlingen. We had befriended a Dutch couple who took the same route as we did and followed them through two more bridges into the Harlingen Yacht Harbor. See for yourself whether we are exaggerating when we say how gorgeous this little town and harbor was. We shared a bottle of wine with them, then went to pay the harbor master and to take a walk through town, of course taking a few pictures. In the evening, we had dinner with them in a restaurant right across from our waterway. Noud and Margret invited us for a drink to their boat before we said good-bye.

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Harlingen, our last Port in the "Waddenzee"

September 5, 2006, Tuesday

Again, we left to take the 0815 bridge and quickly moved out of the pretty harbor and into the channel, following the many well-marked buoys all the way to the island of Texel where we stopped as the tide had changed against us and the way to Ijmuiden would have been miserable in a meanwhile foggy and rainy afternoon. The Waddenzee Harbor is newly built and has comfortable docks for boats our size - how lucky we are. After lunch, Juergen tightened our fan belt of our engine and fixed our VHF radio which had made awful sounds all morning, no matter which channel we dialed. Now that all is fixed, we are again trying to upload our website and hope to be more successful this time around.

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Harlingen, behind us
Harbor Master's Office in Texel, a gorgeous Dutch Island 

September 6, 2006, Wednesday

We left Texel after spending a good three plus hours on the internet the day before - what luxury to sit in this attractive office and to have internet access with the strongest signal possible, all that for free!!!, yes, on this small Dutch island, people are more progressive than in many large cities in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, ... I was in seventh heaven as I not only could upload our website for the first time in weeks but I also could finally connect to many of you who have been waiting for news on us. Those I did not specifically contact that day - I apologize, but family came first - and that is a growing entity... it seems more and more new partners are joining "the clan" and more and more babies are born.... very nice indeed.

Well, we left Texel around 0815, after having refueled just enough to get us to Zeebrugge where the Diesel is enormously cheap for European prices. The weather was reasonably ok, not great but ok, and we made it all the way to Scheveningen, an about 70 nm trip, by about 1730. We were assigned a dock in the vicinity of where we had docked last year. The difference, the weather was nicer, the sun had even come out this time, it was warm, and we casually strolled to the harbor master's office to pay our dues for the night and to check whether the chandlery in town was still open. Unfortunately, they close at 1800, too soon for us to make it. We nevertheless walked over, just in case. We needed lots of charts of the French coast and wanted to buy them here. The same store provided us with lots of charts last year, and they also helped us gain cell phone service by letting me use their phone to speak with our German service provider. The young man even remembered the next day when we went shopping...

We had dinner outside, overlooking the harbor, and it was not too cold to sit there - what fun!

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Scheveningen, a famous Dutch beach and gaming center - we find the structure built into the sea atrocious (spelling?)

September 7, 2006, Thursday

We would have left this morning were it not for our need of the charts (see above). It was raining slightly, but not enough to deter us to venture outside. After a leisurely breakfast, we went to see the harbor master to pay for the second night. I took all our laundry (three loads already again) but found both washing machines in use. I deposited our laundry, and we went off to the chandlery. After having accomplished that - the store had all the charts we wanted, a very rare situation!, we went food shopping. Last year, we bought a bunch of wonderful items including some decent French white wine in a super market not too far from the marina. We tried to find it - it was closed for expansion - to open on September 13. Did they not know that we had been looking forward to shopping there for weeks??? O well. The harbor master directed us to another supermarket, further away, much smaller with a very, I mean very, limited selection of about anything. What letdown. We limited ourselves to the basics and returned to the boat. Juergen did some chores, I finally did the laundry. By that time, it was blowing at least Beaufort 6 and higher in the gusts, and people returned quickly after having gone out of the harbor. We were glad not to have left that morning - how nice of the chandlery to close at 1800 and for us having to wait until today...

September 8, 2006, Friday

We left around 0600 after getting clearance to leave port (we received clearance to enter the day we arrived) and made our way down the coast towards Rotterdam (Europort) the shipping lanes of which one has to cross in a certain spot and in a certain way, all only after having received clearance. The sea was quite unstable, the waves unpleasant as we made the about 8 or 9 nm towards Rotterdam. We received clearance right away, and Juergen steered us safely past a freighter that would otherwise have been in our way (or we in his). The waves grew yet further to a very unpleasant and irregular swell - I felt "great" as some of you might imagine. Thank God, things calmed down after a while, and the day turned out quite nicely. We arrived in Zeebrugge, i.e., after another 63 nm. We filled up our Diesel tank (852 litres at a whopping price of slightly above 64 Euro cents per litre. That is less than is charged to cars.) We were assigned a very nice dock, conveniently located and easy to tie up to. For the first time in months, we actually quickly washed the boat. There was so much salt by now. The boat looked black. It really needs a polish, but who is inclined to polish when we have to cover 60 plus nm daily???

The harbor master had recommended for us to have dinner in the club house. Unfortunately, they had a large group of people to serve. We and a few other couples for sort of forced to have dinner outside, a somewhat chilly affair. Still, Juergen's sole was excellent as was my steak bearnaise. The wine was - o well, just some alcoholic beverage but not anything to write home about.

Before dinner, we had attempted to call immigration. A police officer came and stamped our passports - this is what we get for not coming from a Schengen treaty country. He also indicated that, after our dinner, someone would come to the boat to ask questions about the boat. He did not have the questionnaire with him and, therefore, could not complete the bureaucracy... After dinner, we waited for a while but were so tired that we decided to go to sleep anyway. That was a good thing because...

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Sunrise behind Zeebrugge - you see the enormous Cranes of this fairly large Port Operation

September 9, 2006, Saturday

At 0520, two police men knocked on the boat. They were from the immigration office and wanted to stamp our passports for our departure. They sure were not interested in any details about our boat and explained that with the requirement applying only to Belgian registered boats. We left the dock around 0600. It was still dark outside - and quite cold. The harbor is very large. It took us over 20 minutes to get to the entrance. Again, we received clearance to depart just as we had obtained clearance to enter yesterday afternoon. We hoped for the sun to come up soon as it was very cold, much colder than on any of the prior days.

Finally the sun came up - see for yourself - a beautiful huge ball of fire, but it took quite some time to warm us up just a bit. We had about 80 nm to cover to get all the way to Dover. We had the tide pushing us to speeds reaching 10 knots. Unfortunately, this was not too long-lived, and by the time we were near the coast of Calais (France) and ready to cross the channel, the tide was strongly against us. As the regulations require that we cross the shipping lanes at a 90 degree angle, we could not really make up for the tidal push, unless we had crossed much further South. The seas started to build as the wind also increased from about 5-6 Beaufort to 7 at times. As wind and current opposed each other, the seas became humongous (spelling?). It took us a very long time for the last 8-10 nm before we finally got close enough to the harbor entrance that we could call Dover Port Control for permission to enter through the West entrance (the East entrance is reserved for ferries and other official craft, not for pleasure craft like ours). Still, the seas had built so much that I asked whether we could obtain special permission to enter via the East entrance. The officer recommended for us to move a little North where the waves would ease and then to continue toward the West entrance. We did, and miraculously, things became smoother so that Juergen did not have such a terrible time steering Impromptu into the harbor.

The harbor master assigned us a dock near the one from last year. In the end, he asked us to move to our "old" slip anyway. We paid our dues for the night and asked that he call immigration for us. We were asked a bunch of questions (over the phone). Then the immigration officer sent a fax to the harbor master's office confirming free movement for us - British efficiency.

We returned to Impromptu, played some Backgammon, did navigation for the next day, had dinner and went to bed early. We agreed to depart around 0800 though this would require battling the tide in the latter part of the day.

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Arrival near Dover
Dover the morning we left (September 10)

September 10, 2006, Sunday

As we called Dover Port Control for clearance to leave, we were told to stand by at the North South towers as a cruise ship was in the process of entering and needed to tie up to its dock first. A coast guard launch would advise us further. Another sailboat was also waiting. After about 10 or 15 minutes or so, the officers on the launch instructed us to follow them (though the cruise ship was not docked yet). We did and this way, left Dover harbor around 0810.

The weather was gorgeous, the sun brightly shining, there was almost no wind, the sea was calm - where did all the waves from last night go -. We had a nice little breakfast in the cockpit while underway - a first this season. We slowly shed layer over layer of clothing until we actually wore T-shirts and shorts! We did not see those in more than four weeks. Life was good. The day was good. The coastline was gorgeous, with lots of lime stone cliffs and villages along the way, here and there a castle (or something that looked like a castle).

We had lunch in the cockpit, the table set as if at a dock - placemats, silverware, glasses (with wine though not our usual stemware). We had potatoe salad and some wonderfully crunchy hotdogs and had lots of fun. We discussed the continuation of our route, the miles still to cover - we have not even covered half yet but will by the time we are in Weymouth - about two sailing (motoring) days away. But the weather seems to deteriorate. So who knows how long it will take us to get there and when we will be able to leave from there for the island of Guernsey?

As matters stand right now, we plan on stopping in Guernsey for a day or two, then to cover another 65-70 nm trip to Morlaix, France (Karen, is that where your family originally came from?). From there, we hope to do trips of preferably not more than 40 nm a day, in some cases, we will have to cover around 50. Still, we hope that we will find weather windows that let us enjoy the French coast of Brittany for a while before we actually reach LaRochelle. Still, there are many ifs buts and whens, but the 70 - 75 nm trip from Weymouth to Guernsey seems doable, assuming we can find a decent day. So, all in all, We might even still have some fun along the way. We will keep you all posted whenever internet access is available. We had hoped to have it here in Brighton. It seems that the signal is so weak that we cannot even connect. So, please do not be disappointed if you do not "hear" from us in a while or do not get answers to your e-mails. It is all a function of internet access - the story of my life... Be well till next time...

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Entrance to Brighton Harbor - check out the enormous getty walls...

We arrived in Brighton, tied up right near the harbor master's office and were permitted to stay there for the night. We enjoyed the beautiful sunshine for yet another few hours and went to bed early. The days at sea wear us out, even on nice days. I guess it is all that fresh air and the new impressions we gain each and every day, though, sailing/motoring along the British coast felt a little like coming home. Familiarity is a good thing....

September 11, 2006, Monday

We chatted with a German couple on "Wanderer II" for a while. They were planning to go to Argentina, but firswt stop over in the Canary Islands for a few months, at least till January 2007. They also admitted that they were exhausted after two or three days of bad weather (who would not be???) and that they might never complete the trip, that they already today allowed for the possibility that they would not like sailing this much and might return home early.

The tide was still against us but we hoped for some nice current in our favor as we would move into the Solent. So we cast off our lines and Juergen put the engine in reverse. We went for a few yards and then moved back to where we had started out as if tied to the dock with at least one line. I double-checked everything. There was no line attached. Juergen tried again - same story. In the end, we tied a long spring line to the bow. Someone on the dock tied it to a cleat then asked Juergen to rev the engine forward full blast. The stern swung away from the dock. Juergen reversed the engine, again full blast - maybe not full - we moved right back towards the dock. We did the manoeuvre again while five people were trying to push our bow away from the dock. The spring line was thrown back to us. We barely made it past the dock - but we made it. We have never experienced anything like that - really scary and somewhat nerve wrecking as there was a brand new boat in front of us which we were concerned to run into - so was its owner...

We arrived in Cowes in the late afternoon and were delighted to see some of the sailboats practicing for the next race... We were allocated a nice and convenient dock, paid for the night and walked around Cowes a bit. The town is very picturesque, with a small pedestrian street lined with lots of shops. We even found a wonderful little restaurant, Murrays, where we enjoyed a nice meal and the first really good bottle of wine in quite some time.

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Arrival at the Solent
For those of you who have their Office Hours, this may be an interesting concept

September 12, 2006, Tuesday

Juergen had been seeing "flies" in the past few days, flies that did not exist. I was concerned as I had read about the symptoms of retina detachment and its dangers, and I was concerned. The harbor master recommended for us to take a taxi to St. Marys Hospital, which we did. After the usual paperwork and a brief description of Juergen's symptoms and a 15-20 minute wait, Juergen was escorted into an examination room - I in tow. He was interviewed by two "nurses" or technicians, then a doctor came to check his eyes. He did not seem to think that it was anything like the beginning of retina detachment but rather some sort of foreign object that was still floating around in Juergen's eye which, however, he felt, was going to disappear, particularly since the symptoms were not constant. Thanks to the British healthcare system, we paid nothing, called a cab to go back to town.

The rest of the day, we walked around town, had lunch overlooking the harbor, made some purchases for the boat and retired early. Juergen also spoke to someone on a German boat that looked like a long-distance sailor and invited two of the crew over for a glass of wine. They were planning to take the boat to Falmouth, then move with just the owner and one of the crew towards Portugal. The owner and another person of the crew later joined us for more wine. At least we could sleep late the next morning while they wanted to depart with the tide at 0500.

September 13, 2006, Wednesday

We had done some navigation and decided not to go to Weymouth but to go to Yarmouth, still on the Isle of Wight, and to move to Guernsey from there, hopefully catching the tide at least to a degree. I went to the internet cafe in Cowes to get the latest weather forecast and to check our e-mails. Who knows when we will have internet access again? Juergen, in the meanwhile, checked the tidal charts to ensure timely arrival in Guernsey. The trip to Yarmouth did not take long (approx. 10 nm). We were allocated a dock by the "Berthing Master" who drives around in a Boston Whaler type boat and greets every yacht arriving in this rather small harbor. We took a dock from which one could walk into town - for an extra charge of Pound Sterling 12.50. Had we known... The town was very touristy and without any personality. We walked around for barely half an hour and went straight back to the boat. We went to bed real early as we wanted to depart at 0430 the next morning. We would have about 95 nm to cover...

September 14, 2006, Thursday

It was pouring at 0350 and I was wondering why we would pick such a terrible day for such a long and somewhat scary trip, scary as the books write horror stories about the seas and the currents in the rocky area of the Channel Islands. We almost agreed to depart the next day only, when the rain stopped. We jumped up, got ready and, by 0430, we cast off our lines. The first ferry was exiting the harbor.

It was eery driving out of this unfamiliar place but the buoys were well lit for us to find our way through the channel out of the Solent and into the English Channel. It began to rain again, then fog set in. We turned on our radar as well as our AIS and watched for large ships as we were nearing the shipping lanes and, a few hours later, also another Traffic Separation System (TSS) which we crossed at an almost 90 degree angle. Barely ten nm later, we saw a group of rocky islands. Was this "Casqets" already?, the island we had used as our waypoint to find Guernsey? Juergen was convinced, I was skeptical but agreed in the end. It looked beautiful, but also threatening as the current ran strong and the waves were crashing onto the rocks with huge spouts of white foam. We moved towards the next two waypoints, always watching carefully and adjusting for the set off of the current. A large pod of porpoises swam around our boat and enjoyed the bow wave we created. Then they disappeared. We had seen some seagulls and birds of the size of cormorants, dark but with nice markings, heavily complaining when Impromptu got a little too close for their comfort. Those were the only sign of wildlife on this trip.

A high speed ferry passed us on its way to England. At their speed, they would barely take three hours to get there - how lucky. We finally reached the lighthouse, the entrance to St. Peter Port harbor. I called the marina for instructions. The tide had run out though we had terrific currents with us in the past two hours. We could not enter the yacht harbor but were instructed to tie up to a pontoon and to await further instructions. Soon thereafter, we were given custom forms to fill out - to be deposited in one of the yellow custom mail boxes around the harbor once we were tied up inside. We were also told that we could not enter the yacht harbor until 2245 that night. I was upset and exhausted and wanted to go to sleep. Of course, I waited with Juergen till then. An Englishman on his way back home, came aboard to give us some hints on harbors and restaurants, also a museum of salvage which is supposed to have terrific photographs.... He eased my mind regarding the currents. At 2245, when nobody came to get us, we started moving towards the yacht harbor. The light was green and the water sufficiently high over the rock barrier, the natural means to keep the depth in the yacht harbor at a minimum level.

September 15, 2006, Friday

After a good night sleep, we went to the custom office. Guernsey is not part of the EU. We wanted a stamp to prove our being here. He gave us a marina stamp as proof. Then we walked around town. It very much reminds us of Bermuda, except it has more life, better stores, lots more restaurants and lots more people, not just tourists. We already decided to stay for four nights. We found an internet cafe we will go to so Juergen can finally upload detailed charts of the French coast, and I can hopefully upload our website and check e-mails. Thanks to all of you who are writing from time to time!!!

Here just a few pictures of our first impression of St. Peter Port:

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St. Peter Port, a Tidal Harbor
The "ledge" to the Yacht Harbor
View of the Town taken from Impromptu