Baltic-North Sea Crossing

I had the great adventure to help my English friend Barry Bland pick up his new sailboat from the factory in Greifswald, Germany
and sail it back to Britain. This required sailing through much of the Baltic Sea, through the Kiel Canal, into the River Elbe and
west through the North Sea. It took us about a week to travel the 515 nautical miles (593 statute miles). While it was a great
adventure, the Baltic and North Sea in February provided anything but a pleasure cruise.

Our track from Greifswald, Germany to Lowestoft, England.


All good stories start at the beginning. . . . . and so here I am waiting in the Charlotte airport to board my flight to London.

Sun sets as we prepare to take off for our night time flight.

Second for take-off.

Flying over Charlotte, NC.

The route takes us up the east coast of the U.S.

New Bedford, the home of the Gent family and the starting point for the story "Moby Dick."

Arriving in London.

The River Thames.

In the Heathrow Airport, I wait for my next flight which will take me to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Morning apple juice.

The control tower at Heathrow.

Arrival in to Copenhagen (Kobenhavn)

Inside the Copenhagen airport (with toy camera effect).

Copenhagen control tower as we depart for Hanover, Germany.

The shore of Germany and the Baltic Sea. In a few days I will be sailing past this exact spot.

Locks on the inland canals of Germany.

Wind turbines are a common source of electricity in Europe.

Toy effect of a small German town.

Hanover airport on arrival.

Upon arriving in Germany, I was met by my oldest friend, Alex Westermann. Alex and I have known each other since
high school and have traveled back and forth to each other's houses many times over years.
Here he is with his wife Olga and son Valentin.

Olga and Mijka

Unfortunately after a very short 24 hour stay, it is time to say goodbye as Alex will drive me north to the
town of Greifswald, home of the Hanse factory, where we will meet up with Barry.

New wind mills next to a 300 year old wind mill (no longer functioning).

On our way, we drive past the home of Alex's parents, where I stayed during my first visit to Germany in 1992.

An artificial ski slope.



Greifswald, Germany is where we met up with Barry and the rest of the crew. One night on the boat and then off for the
maiden voyage the next morning.

Alex enjoying a cup of tea during the first night on Matilda.

Greifswald is an old German village near the border of Poland, located on the Baltic Sea.

Alex at the helm.

This wooden drawbridge in Greifswald is only opened twice per day and must be cranked by hand.

Barry, me and Alex on Matilda.
I say that Alex is my oldest friend (because I've known him so long) and that Barry
is my OLDEST friend (because he's a crotchety old curmudgeon).

Matilda on the left.

Untying lines, getting ready to shove off for the maiden voyage.

Alex taking some last minute photos.

Leaving Alex behind was sad parting, but it was great to see him again after 7 years.

Leaving the harbor towards the sea.

Stokey and Roberto raising the German courteousy flag.

Finally in open water and headed westward.

This is one of Barry's 17 different hats he had aboard.

The mascot onboard was "Algenon Stupid" (the bear) which was on Barry's last boat.
Algenon was strapped to the bow and has already done one trans-Atlantic crossing.

Stokey joined us for the journey from the Isle of White. He has spent much time in the Baltic and North Seas an
is considered to be one of Britain's foremost experts on celestial navigation.

Large flocks of birds.

Quite a few people were out fishing for salt-water pike.

A young eagle flying around.

A spacious interior.

The galley.

One of two bathrooms on board.

The new bridge to Ruegen, the largest island in Germany.


The Nautineum in Stralsund is a maritime/sea museum on the island of Ruegen.

This is an underwater laboratory. . . . kind of the underwater International Space Station.

The raising of the second drawbridge of the trip. It only opens twice per day, so timing is everything.

The control tower for the drawbridge.

Both bridges up, ready for us to pass.

Two green lights means "you may proceed".

Through the drawbridge and under the suspension bridge.

Both sets of bridges successfully navigated and fading behind us.

A very old German military boat.

Passing downtown Stransund.

Two men in an inflatable out fishing for pike.

Toy effect photo of the wharf.

Leaving Stralsund harbor.

A heading of 050 degrees.

At the helm with my survival suit on.

West of Stralsund and south of Ruegen Island is a national park and home to many sea birds.

Many of these are wild swans.

Only a few meters outside the chanel, the depth goes to only a few feet. During low tide, it is almost dry land.

The remnants of old military gun placements.

Running aground is a real danger in this area, especially in poor visibility. Luckily we had a bright sunny day.

Exiting away from Ruegen Island and into the open and frigid waters of the Baltic Sea.

Time to get the lines out and hoist the sails.

A farewell to Ruegen.

Cruising along with just the sound of the wind and waves.

Barry using his phone before we get too far offshore.

"What were you thinking?"

The first of many sea based "wind farms" we would pass.

Sunset over the Baltic, full sail.

All of the little triangles represent shipping traffic that we had to
navigate through. This is made more difficult by the setting of the sun.

Fifteen hours into the first day.

We sailed through the night. This is actually a pretty good photo of the stars, especially since it was taken on a moving boat.
You will notice the constelation Orion in the bottom center.

Each of these red lights represents a windmill. There were hundreds, if not thousands, that we had to pass during the night.

Star streaks above the sails.

A giant crane being towed through the sea. From a distance it looked more like an alien craft hovering.

More wind farms.

Morning comes and we get to see some of the cargo ships we were dodging all night.


After 36 hours of solid sailing, we make our way to the German port of Kiel.

Entering Kiel Harbor.

Barry's happy face.

The British Kiel Yact Club, of which our companion Stokey is a lifetime member.

Swans outside the window.

A brave moment for Barry.

Blues Brothers visit Germany.

Barry and Roberto walking through Kiel, happy to stretch their legs.

Buying some fresh bread and cakes for the boat.

An awesome wooden bicycle in Kiel.

A food stand for an upcoming festival.

Starbucks. These things are f@*#ing everywhere!

Returning from a German Woolworths with my purchases.

Lowenbrau actually is German. . . . . who knew?

The Red Light district of Kiel.

The Kiel maritime museum.

Sunset over the British Kiel Yacht Club .

The British Kiel Yacht Club was obtained after the Allied defeat of Germany during the Second World War. Historically
this was entirely a German military base, but under the surrender agreements, the British maintained control of part
of this military base and eventually turned it into a sailing center for the British military. Stokey was a skipper here
and taught sailing to the British soldiers during the 1970's.

Kiel Canal Crossing

Referred to as the Nord-Ostsee Kanal in German, the Kiel Canal allows ships to transfer from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea,
or vice versa, without the excessive added miles and time required to sail all the way around Denmark. This was the
shortest and quickest route for us as well. It was very interesting being in such close proximity to all of the large
commercial vessels.

A time lapse video of the Kiel Canal passage.

A video of passing a large cargo ship at a relatively close distance.

Leaving the British military base.

A bright sunny morning.

Right next to our boat dock, this is part of an active airfield being used by the German military. Many planes took off and landed
during our time here.

Hangers near the airfield.

Ships already lining up to enter the canal.

A ship load of lumber (yes I know what that sounds like.)

The lighthouse at the end of the canal.

Waterfront businesses at the canal entrance.

Waiting our turn behind the "Beata".

Military ships patroling the harbor as we wait our turn.

German U-Boat.

A Baltic Sea cruise liner coming into port.

Two locks are available. The left lock has a getting ready to exit coming our way.

A German military training aircraft.

The Beata in place, ready to transit through the lock.

German border protection.

Getting ready to enter.

The canal was begun by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1889 and was completed in 1895.

Lock control.

Exiting the lock into the canal, leaving the Baltic Sea behind us.

We of course had to give right of way to the larger vessels. We spent most of the time hugging the bank.

The canal is monitored its entire length. Lights like these inform captains about other ship traffic.

Ferry boats exist up and down the canal as an alternative to costly bridges.

Ducks taking flight.

Our most relaxed cruising was in the canal. I even broke out the ukulele for a while.

These are not the kind of boats you want to play "chicken" with.

We of course had to watch "Captain Philips" while we were at sea.
We looked at each ship to see if we could find the Maersk Alabama.

A very nice country home along the canal.

Classic architecture.

Modern architecture.

Lurssen is a maker of military ships and mega-yachts.

A busy intersection that requires TWO ferries to traverse the 800 foot wide river.

Another unique ferry system is this cable care suspended underneath a bridge.

The most important building, the brewery.

A crazy old 3-wheeled German motorcycle.

The Lady Christina transporting parts for the every growing wind farms.

Giant propeller blades can measure more than 80 feet.

Life boat poised for launch.

Massive wind turbine propeller blades.

Entering the end of the canal and the town of Brunsbuettel.

The locks at the end of the canal. We will spend the night inside the canal and exit in the morning with the outgoing tide.

Brunsbuettel ferry.

Barry can't help but break the rules.

Picking out a new anchor for the Matilda.

Enjoying a warm room and a cold beer.

The Matilda tied up for the night.

Our neighbors for the evening.

We were woken up early and asked to move the boat because a survey team was trying to measure water depths where we were tied up.
Unfortunately Stokey went for a walk into town without his phone and wallet. It was quite a surprise when he returned to find
us gone! We had to move back up the canal about a half mile and walk into town from there.

The tug boat that asked us to move.

Barry ready for our walk into town to find Stokey.

Train signals as someones yard ornament.

A cool old German motorcycle.

Serious pickup truck.

This "tractor" was parked in the road when we left and when we came back. Obviously not a busy street.

Back to the Matilda to navigate through the locks.

Our current position on the dock.

Where we are headed with the ships already in the locks.

The Meerdijk entering the northern "old" lock. This is who we will be pulling up next to.

This giant cargo ship is in the lock and headed into the canal.

A tight squeeze past the freighter.

We pulled the Matilda up to the front of the lock by hand so we would be the first ones out and not have to battle
the strong currents produced by such a large ship.

The Matilda doesn't look quite so big in comparison.


Locks open and headed into the River Elbe.

Leaving the Nord-Ostsee Kanal behind.

The western locks control tower.

A seriously large freighter passing by. He is coming from Hamburg down the Elbe.


This is a beach I walked along 16 years earlier. It's a bit surreal passing it from the ocean all these years later.

"Which way did they say to go, right or left?"

A cool GPS receiver than can be hooked up to an I-Pad or tablet.

Channel marker with a lot of tide pushing past it.

Freighters in the fog.


Once out of the River Elbe and into the North Sea, we headed to the remote island of Helgoland, located about 50 miles of the German coast.
This outpost has been owned by many countries over the years, but is currently under German rule.

Like Alcatraz emerging from the fog, the stony outcropping of land rises out of the North Sea.

The lighthouse can be seen flashing in the distance.

Arriving at Helgoland just as the sun is setting. Perfect timing.

The sun sets just as we pull into the harbor.

Tying up Matilda in Helgoland.

A German photo of a white German shepherd.

Enjoying a hard earned beer in the Knieper

Diplomatico is a type of Rum I buy, but have only ever seen Miami before. It was everywhere on the island.

One of the working catamarans designed to service/build the giant wind turbines.

Helgoland is a major destination for duty free items. It appears that at least 1/3 of all stores on the island are duty free shops.

Helgoland has approximately 1100 permanent residents.

A cool high profile boat trailer.

The end of this catamaran is designed to grab a hold of the base of a windmill to work on it.


Duene is an island just east of Helgoland. It has a small airstrip and not much else.

Unicorns are stenciled all over the island. It is apparently their local sports team.

Graffiti saying that the "Unicorns can never be stopped!!"

The Bunte Kuh (colorful cow) is a popular eating and drinking location for tourists. It was originally
named after a large wooden sailing vessel with the same moniker.

An artists rendition of the original "Bunte Kuh".

The local pub.

Matilda tied up against the inner sea wall.

The German Luftwaffe.

Looking across the sound from Helgoland to Duene.

The toy effect on the house of Helgoland.

Distance to Berlin.

The light house at the tope of the hill.

The cliffs towards the northern half of the island.

Birds nesting along the cliffs.


Doorways and tunnels are cut through many of the cliff sides.


Sheep are the low maintenance lawn mowers on the island.

A sticker encouraging the desolution of all old Nazi structures, basically wiping away any sign of their existence.


A picture of Helgoland as a U-Boat base circa WWI.

What was left of the island after it was bombed by the English in WWII.

A crater left by a 5000 KG bomb dropped by the English.

Land is at a premium on the island and a number of people have small gardening plots at the top of the hill.

Seagulls are renowned thieves on Helgoland. This was a drawing hanging in a local bakery.

A new neighbor arrived at night.

The dive boat for people working on the wind turbines.

An onboard barometric chamber for decompression.

Luftwaffe making their rounds.

Beer and some dinner in Helgoland.

Watching "Gold Rush: Alaska" with German narration.

Currywurst and pommesfrittes.

North Sea

We left Helgoland for a relatively straight shot to England.
Sailing took a day and a half and took us off the coast of Germany, Holland and Belgium,
eventually arriving in Lowestoft, UK.

A video of sailing through the North Sea.



An early departure puts the tides and winds in our favor.

The chart plotter was missing a few sections of map.

The world IS flat and we're about to drive off of it.

The long stretch home. . . . . from Helgoland to Lowestoft in one go.


Watching "Master and Commander" while sailing.

Mezzo Mix was a favorite of mine during my first visit to Germany in 1992 it is orange Coca Cola (made by Coke).
The Yellowbrick is what transmitted our position so friends and family had live tracking of our progress.

The cold grey North Sea. It is hard to tell where the sea ends and the sky begins.

Dark, grey, rainy and horrible. . . . now this is the North Sea I was expecting.


Much of the night time watches were spent dodging gas platforms like these.

On watch as the dawn approaches. Everyone was required to where a harnass and lifeline while on watch. If anyone
fell overboard, especially at night, it would be difficult to find them and hypothermia would be certain.

About 150 miles from England. Time for a group photo.

A few rays of sunlight as the second day turns to night.

Dark storm clouds rolling in behind us bringing on 20 knott winds.

Arriving in Lowestoft England close to 11PM

Navigation into the harbor is tricky, particularly at night.

Finally in England ready to tie up the boat.

A celebratory Bud Light for Barry (which I brought all the way from America for the occassion).

Matilda tied up and safe after her maiden voyage, the first of many for this ship.