Helgoland Escader 2016

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Öresundskretsen of Svenska Kryssarklubben arranged an escader (group sail) to Helgoland.
We met in Klintholm, Denmark, a good port to start from when sailing to Germany from Sweden.

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We were four sail boats who hoisted the yellow escader flags. Many more were interested, but could not join the trip.

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We became a very close group with only eight participants. There was space for all of us to sit on any of the boats.
Our first dinner together. From left: Julita, Annette, Tord, Marie, Anny, Jerker and Gert-Ove. Björn is behind the camera.

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There are restaurants in Klintholm, and one can also buy fish directly from fishermen. Turbot (Swedish piggvar).

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Our first destination was Gedser, 35.7 nautical miles (NM). There was enough wind to sail.
To the left S/Y Solveig with Marie and Jerker, to the right S/Y Frigg with Julita and Tord.

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Gedser has a very good marina, but the town, a 10 minute walk from the marina, was not very lively.

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The next leg was to Heiligenhafen, 39.1 NM from Gedser. Not much wind.

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Not much wind, but lots of warm sunshine. S/Y Frigg.

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We noticed a lot of algae disbursed in the water.

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Getting close to Heiligenhafen. The Fehmarn Bridge has a clearance of 22 m.

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Typical houses near the entrance to Heiligenhafen harbor.

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There was a five day harbor festival when we arrived, so there were lots of activities.

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Even though the marina we stayed at was very large and had 14 piers, there were not many
guest spaces. The harbor was completely full a few days later according to the harbor master.

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Heiligenhafen has been a very popular vacation place for many generations of Germans.

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One way to get out to the water, without getting cold and wet, was to walk on the long pier.

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A place for many promises. Each padlock was inscribed with the name of a couple.

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The marina had a place for grilling. We were lucky to meet some Germans, who gave us good advice about Kiel, our next destination.

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Light tail wind made it possible to sail all the 38.5 NM to Kiel. Marie and Jerker testing the spinnaker on Solveig.

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The Germans we met in Heiligenhafen recommended Kiel Stickenhörn marina and Kielerwasser Restaurant nearby.

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It went smoothly to get into the locks the next morning. They were open when we came. The traffic
lights blinked white, which means “enter”, so it was just to enter and tie the boats to floating
wooden platforms. The lock for small boats is under repair, and we had to use the middle lock with
larger boats. The ladder up to the office is not safe to climb, so we did not have to pay any fee.

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It took us 15 minutes to get through, but the parallel lock with very large boats
took longer to fill, which allowed time for one of the hands on board to fish.

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Traffic lights in the Kiel canal. We never quite understood how they
worked, although we knew that a green light means “go”. But two
red lights? Big ships stopped for the red lights, but all German
pleasure crafts just continued, and we followed them.

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The canal is not always so wide, and pleasure boats should stick to the sides. However, do not go shallower
than six meters. One of our boats hit ground twice, although the boat was not too close to shore and the depth
should have been four meters. Maybe the stones lining the canal have slipped down and then formed grounds?

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There are many small ferries crossing the canal. They seemed to be very considerate and do not start out
in front of approaching vessels, regardless of size.  We saw ferries cross as soon as we passed their route.

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The Kiel Canal is 99 km long. There are signs along the way with the distance to the eastern end of the canal.

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We arrived early and spent the night at Regatta-Verein, close to the center of Rendsburg. 22 NM.

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The harbor master allowed us to use the lawn in front of the office for a grill dinner.

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Mooring at Brunsbüttel at the west end of the canal to wait for the right tide to continue out of the canal.

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We discussed when to go through the locks, as the Elbe on the other side of the lock is
heavily affected by tides. Although we waited three hours, we probably left too early, and
had a slight current against us to Cuxhaven. It was very hot and all were eager to be off.

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The locks are large and cordoned off so that you cannot get very close to them on foot.

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There are special viewing platforms for tourists.

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We had some good wind that enable us to sail down the Elbe. Here are Frida, a Malö 40,
sailed by Gert-Ove and Anny, and Solveig, a Hallberg Rassy 37, managed by Marie and Jerker.

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Solveig passes giant container ship on the Elbe. The Houston Express is 332 x 42 meters and holds up to 8,400 containers.

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Arrival in Cuxhafen, 49.9 NM from Rendsburg with a three hour wait in Brunsbüttel.

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Cuxhafen Yachthafen is a large, full-service marina used by boats going to Helgoland. The piers float because of the tide.

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We left at six in the morning, in order to take advantage of the tide. “Perfect time to leave,”
according to a German moored in the next space. We had the tide with us all the way, but no sailing.
It was calm all 35.6 NM. There was so much mist that we did not see Helgoland until three NM away.

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The harbor is on the south side of the main island of Helgoland.
Pleasure crafts moor in the NE part of the harbor – where boat masts can be seen.

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A map of Helgoland. The marina is located at the bottom right –
where small white boats are shown. The main island is one square km.

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The marina where we moored, after many boats had left. There are floating piers as the tide variation is around three meters.

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Boats left an hour after high tide, and it became full at low tide when boats from the mainland arrived.

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There is a small harbor just north of the marina where you can tank boat diesel for € 0:86/liter. Helgoland is a VAT free area.

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Close to 1400 people live on the island. Helgoland’s tax free status is
probably a reason why so many people can live permanently on the island.

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Business is geared towards tourists. The main goods on sale seem to be alcohol
and cigarettes. Other items, such as clothes and jewellery, are also tax exempt.

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Many tourists come for a day tour, to see the island and buy tax free goods.

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Some arrive by large catamarans that moor in the pleasure boat marina, but many arrive by
small ships and are shuttled to shore. The small boats also take tourists to the other island.

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Visitors waiting to be shuttled back to their ferries.

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Helgoland had a lot of tunnels used as defense during WWII. The British tried to blow up
the system in 1947, but some tunnels remain and can be visited on guided tours. The guides
seemed to be older men, like the man in a white beard in the centre. He was not born on the
island as civilians were not allowed to live on Helgoland between the end of the war and 1955.

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The guided tour lasted 70 minutes. There is perhaps not so much to see of the tunnels.
What is interesting is the guide’s telling the history of Helgoland from pre-historic times.
Visitors must be fully fluent in German to be able to understand what the guide says.

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Having some liquid before the tunnel tour. This café, like so many others on Helgoland,
did not accept credit cards – only cash. Liquor shops seem to accept credit cards, as does
the diesel station, but not many bars and restaurants and not even a jewellery shop.

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A must eat when on Helgoland, cooked crab claws at €16:-/kg. These were 150 grams each.
Use pliers to crack the shells. It works better than a hammer. There is also lobster, but the
cost according to one restaurant menu was €145:-/kg.

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The Störtebecker Cup for optimist boats took place when we were there. Around 200 boats participated, and 150
boats continued training the following week. The German championships in Optimist were held two weeks later.

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Some of the Optimist boats that competed. One competition is a long
distance sail, all around the main island in an optimist. Brave kids!

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Helgoland has their own flag, with three colors. The color red represents the cliffs, a perfect nesting place for many sea birds.

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There is a well prepared path around the island, even suitable for people using wheel chairs.

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Along the path are information plaques about the island.

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The highest point on the island, 61.3 m above sea level.

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Helgoland is well known for its nesting sea birds. About 400 species of birds have been found on the island.

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You can get close to the birds.

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These birds are Northern Gannets (Swe: Havssula) and are common on both sides of the Atlantic.

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About 90 % of all nests include plastic, instead of sea weed. Many birds and chicks get entangled and die.

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The are so many birds that one wonders how they find space to land.

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The Northern gannet is very large. The wing span can be up to 1.8 meters.

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You can get very close to the birds.

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One of many bird of preys, a Common Kestrel Falcon (Swe: Tornfalk)

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There are a few livestock on the island, mainly sheep but also some highland cattle.

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We spent two full days on the island, which felt about right. We managed to see what we wanted, and experience
some of the special things on the island. So we started back towards Cuxhafen with the tide about noon, watching
out for the obstructions in the shallow water around the island. This picture was taken from the edge of a cliff.

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It was possible to sail when we headed back.

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No sailing when leaving Cuxhaven and going up the Elbe, just watching out for the big boats.
The container ship Hanjin Sooho is 366 x 48 meters and carries over 13,000 containers.
China sees Hamburg as the main port for their goods to Europe because of its large train terminals.

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Entrance to the locks at Brunsbüttel. They were open when we arrived. It took 15 minutes to pass through into the canal!

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The Kiel Canal is the world’s busiest artificial waterways and saves ships 250 NM
between Kiel and the Elbe. Some 60,000 ships are said to use the canal every year.

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Some of the boats on the canal look a bit special.

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We left Cuxhaven in the afternoon because of the tides. Pleasure boats are not allowed to travel on
the canal at night, and we did not want to moor in Brunsbüttel. There are not so many places to moor
in the canal, but there are these poles at N 54º 01’936 E 009º 17’926, about 20 NM from Brunsbüttel.

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Other boats there told us to use long mooring ropes and notto tie up too
close. Big ships passed on the canal at night and could cause quite a swell.

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Finally at the lock at Kiel. All other locks took about 15 minutes each. This time we waited more than an hour for the lock to open.

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We had dinner in a restaurant close to Kiel Düsternbooker marina on the last evening of our escader. It took
12 days to make the 325 NM trip and we enjoyed it. We met great people, and learned a lot about Helgoland.

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One thing we had learned was what the colors of the Helgoland flag represent:
green for the land, red for the edge (the cliffs), white for the sand.

Grön is dat Land, rot is de Kant, witt is de Sand. Dat sünd de Farven vun’t hillige Land.

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