The logic development mandated that we take over the responsibility for the ship we sail ourselves. This required a formal education. Having some experience after sailing with Captain Mariusz, I drove to a one-week training in Gdynia, in order to obtain the Polish Skipper’s Certificate – which extends the Sailor’s Certificate that I already had. After passing the exam, that took place at 7 Bft, I thought that I am prepared for just anything at the Baltic Sea. Thus we chartered a small sailboat – a Hunter – at Heiligenhafen.
Why that boat?
I had decided to charter older boats. If I buy a boat one day, it will be an old boat too. Thus I need to gather experience. I am prepared to do some repair work. We do not expect comfort – it is a sailboat and not a hotel. I wanted to get a boat with a wheel, battened mainsail and in the range of 26-29 feet. Thus “Chipie”!
Then a surprise comes: my Polish certificate is not valid in Germany. Thus I have to make the German certificate (SBF See) and other required papers quick. After a manoeuvre exam on the Ammersee it is done – we can prepare our cruise now.
This preparation is not trivial. Agnieszka sings a concert with Master Penderecki in Kiel on Sunday evening, and we take over the ship on Saturday morning – can we make 30 miles in between? Yes we can, we were already making 50 miles a day in our previous cruises!
We (our boys and myself) come from Augsburg and hope for an early take over of the boat. This was planned at 9 o’clock, but the owner comes one hour later. Yet another hour gets lost because I search for a denatured alcohol for the stove – I had assumed that all yachts work with gas. Another hour was lost for cleansing the locker, that the previous charterers had stained with diesel. So it is 3pm when we are ready to take to the sea – just when other charter crews seek their slots in the harbors. We want to do some sailing nevertheless, in order to come closer to our target for the next day: Kiel. Thus we set sail towards the harbor of Orth. We strike sails shortly before the channel and then a long search for a free place in the harbor begins. Finally, we go longside in a third row of boats. This will be good for one night.
There is a gale warning on that day: winds of 5 with gusts up to 8 Bft. We sail out – I mean, 5 Bft is nothing unusual for the Baltic Sea. Shortly after we take to sea, the sky gets dark and the gusts grow stronger an more frequent. We need to shorten the sail. It is easy for the foresail – furling, bit for the mainsail, somebody has to o onto the deck. The cooperation between Jeremi at the mast, and Mieszko at the winch does not really work – it was never trained. Thus I decide to strike the sails – we motor towards the land, where I hope to find wind shadow.
This motoring against the wind and waves on the small boat is very unpleasant. It is also not very healthy for the ship, as the propeller comes out of water now and then. Sailing would be more quiet!
After one hour of this, the crew gathers courage to try the reefing the mainsail while we set it – this works out. Thus we sail shortened sails till the end of the day. Even when the gusts diminished. Thus I learnt that the wind power is not absolute, but relative to the experience of the crew.
We come to the harbor of Strande at the north of Kiel urban area and go into a box with ease. Agnieszka arrives with the public transportation as planned. This was a tiring but very instructive day.
This day is devoted to the sightseeing of Kiel and to a small repair on the ship – a hose for the drinking water got loose.
We want to get closer to the Danish South Funen Archipelago, which is called Danish South Seas by German sailors. The weather forecast indicates little wind, so we target the closest harbor: Bagenkop. This will be the long day spent partially under motor, partially sailing. Towards the end of the day the wind grows stronger, to a pleasant 3 Bft on the reach – just as we need to prepare for the harbor approach. Thus we do not set the boom preventer. Which of course results in an uncontrolled jibe when I give away the wheel to consult the chart for the harbor approach. Main sheet is fixed to the steering wheel post and it gets the most of the shock – the electric instruments turn off. It is especially annoying that the depth sounder is not available while we approach an unknown harbor.
But this is not the approach that proves to be the challenge – after a good entry to the harbor (chart study paid off), we try to enter a box having a side wind. The result with the inexperienced crew is that we lie on the mooring piles. Which is not dangerous, but not really what we wanted. We enter the box with the help of neighbors and spend the evening in their nice society. I also repair the power connection to the instruments, which got loose during the jibe.
We want to see something during our cruises. Here, close to the Bagenkop marina, there is a museum for the Cold War – this may be interesting for the boys, so we talk a walk there. This is like a life history lesson.
In the afternoon, we take to sea and make sailing exercises in the bay in front of the harbor – jibes, tacks, reefing. We should have done this at the beginning of the cruise. In the evening we are a better crew, and we celebrate this in the harbor with wine, guitar, and song.
Also in the evening, a man comes to us and we exchange some remarks about the “Chipie”. There are not many boats of that type in the Baltic Sea.
We must start our journey back today. Again, the weather report speaks of very low winds. We do most of this long leg back on motor. The wind comes at the end of the day and forces us to tack into the Fehmarnsund. We decide to stay in another harbor that our charter basis for the night, to have at least a small sailing tomorrow. So we enter Orth, which again is quite full. We find a place longside to another yacht. Then we eat our last supper on this yacht, last time singing shanties on the “Chipie”. We also meet here Ingo, the man from Bagenkop who was interested in Hunters. It is nice to meet acquaintance in the new place.
A short sailing on the last day of our charter cruise. A fresh wind from E makes us tack in the Fehmarnsund. It is a nice navigation drill to avoid shallows in the north and stones in the south. Then, our sailing day – and our first autonomous sailing adventure – go to an end. We dock in the harbor, give the boat away and go on with our landlubbers‘ life.
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Further charter cruises followed. Still in 2013, I was a skipper in a flotilla of sailing boats that was organized as a company event by my employer at that time. Crews mixed from colleagues of various company locations visited the Danish South Funen Archipelago up to Svendborg. I have gathered valuable experiences.
A formative experience was when my first mate said “when I have a sailboat…” In this moment it became clear to me, I could own a sailboat while working as a software engineer, I do not have to wait till the end of my professional career.
Next year, 2014, we wanted to organize a family cruise again. However, my older son Jeremi didn’t want to sail with us. I was convinced that we needed four people to sail a boat thus I invited a friend to join us. This mix of family and friend was at that stage of our hobby a bad idea. We have had yet not yet the opportunity to become a crew ourselves. The cruise itself was a success: the two weeks – and this was a very good idea for a charter cruise length – we sailed around the island Funen, seen interesting things and made relevant experiences. One of the most positive experiences was sailing according to the weather. Using a three-day forecast, we could adapt th eplanned route to the wind strength and direction and still make some progress.
Summer 2015 there was a mixed cruise again – another friend of mine joined us with his girlfriend. This cruise was planned as a kind of training too, as his experience was much bigger than mine. For I had to sacrifice my idea of chartering an old boat, as we didn’t want to disgust the girlfriend, a potential newcomer to the hobby, with diesel stench and repairs.