The pandemic situation delayed the start of our sailing season, as the northern land governments closed their borders, so we could not reach our winter storage (Holstein) nor summer berth (Mecklenburg). A week of vacation, planned for splashing and transit of the boat, and for necessary regular work such as varnishing, was wasted, as I could not reschedule my days off – again, due to corona.
We could splash and transit the boat later, on a long weekend end of May.
The second vacation is still a couple of weeks away. I come to my boat in order to work remote from there and to do some work around the boat after-work, so to say. One time in June, I bring my Mother with me, so that she gets to know what occupies my mind. I also want to show her something more than docking in our harbour, so we sail down Warnow one evening. My harbour neighbour Kai accompanies us and talks about places that we pass along the river.
We arrive at the river mouth, where the conditions are not favourable: a strong north-east wind pushes waves straight into the mouth, between the breakwaters. We give up the idea of sailing short out onto the open sea and we turn left towards the old harbour of Alter Strom. I have never seen that harbour, we always pass by.
There are many tourist ships coming from and into Alter Strom, so I need to keep to the starboard. There is not much space to the right however, the rocks of the breakwater look dangerous. I try to share attention between the ships on my left and the distance to the breakwater to my right, but then I get an impression that something is wrong. Like we drive through honey. I look at my depth instrument – it is a while that I looked at it! – and it shows just 1,3m, we stand on a shoal! In front of Alter Strom!
I switch power to backwards, but the waves coming directly from astern push us further onto the shoal. Then I try to push us forwards, through the shoal, but I give up this idea, no one knows how broad it is – it should never be there in the first place. Kai tries to beckon anybody to help us, there are so many Inflatables speeding around us. But none of them notices us. And the rocks of the breakwater get closer to us.
I jump towards the VHF and send out “Panpan”, hoping that the SAR ship, that lies in Alter Strom in front of us, sends her motorboat to us. Traffic Control Warnemunde receives our call and cannot really understand where we are. They could have looked out of their window. Meanwhile the boat floats when a wave passes us, and in the valleys between the waves the she crashes against the bottom.
I try to free us with motor power again. I block the rudder midships and give full power astern, more than I have ever dared. I don’t even look at the RPM display. The engine gets loud, bu I hear that the screw turns in the air – sometimes. But whenever there is enough water under us, it pulls us backwards. Very slowly, like through honey. Soon, the crashing of the hull against the bottom stops, we float free! We sail towards our home harbour, we have enough of Alter Strom.
Kai informs the Traffic Control that we are free. Apparently they already informed the SAR ship and they wanted to sail out (why not just send their motorboat?) so we cancel the whole action at time. Then we have to quit the communication as the VHF gets induced (are we too close to their antenna?). Then I check for leakages and get shocked by the presence of some water in our central bilge. I would expect water in the aft bilge, which is the deep one. Perhaps we can check it back in home harbour.
Before we reach the harbour, we get stopped by the police, who fines us for quitting the VHF communication. The understand our explanation that we were busy checking the leakage, but the Traffic Control does not accept it. So this is what the Traffic Control Warnemunde is busy with rather than keeping the fairway on its designed depth of 4m.
Couple of days later, I haul the boat out of water with the help of the colleagues from the harbour club. Together we check that there is not even a scratch on the antifouling, much less any harm to the hull. The next heavy rain exlains the water in the central bilge: there is a leak through my deck and then along the board. So I will have to repair the deck someday, but in between I learn that checking all bilges before every sail is not just a tradition.