The forecast in the morning is for light winds from the north-east. We leave Kerteminde at 1000, needing to motor out of the fjord directly into the wind. Once we reach Alervet point, however, we turn northwest and catch the wind on our beam. We have arranged to meet Axel and Claudia at either Korshavn, a tiny harbour at the very north-east tip of Fyn island, or else Kolby Kås on the western side of Samsø island, further north. We’ll decide en route which to choose, depending on how things go. Starting from Korsor on the other side of the Store Bælt, I estimate they are probably around a couple of hours behind us.
We have about an hour of light wind and make reasonable progress past the island of Romsø on our starboard. Then the wind dies to almost nothing, and we sit with the sails flapping.
“We are not going very fast”, says the First Mate.
“No, we aren’t”, I say. “It would be nice to have a bit more wind than this. But there’s not a lot we can do about it.”
We brew the kettle and have a cup of tea drifting along in the current. On the AIS, we see that Axel and Claudia are still making seven knots. They still seem to have some wind, while we languish in the doldrums. They’ll be catching up with us soon.
Suddenly, the wind picks up.
“Ah, that’s better”, I say. “Someone must have heard me.”
“It’s a bit too strong now”, says the First Mate. “Couldn’t you have asked for something in between?”
Within the space of ten minutes or so, the windspeed has gone from around four knots to 16 knots. We are heeling significantly, so I take the sails in a reef. It helps, but we are still at quite an angle. We get a text from Claudia.
“Has the wind also stopped where you are?”, she asks. “There’s nothing here.”
“We were like that”, we text back. “But now it has picked up again.”
We whizz along at a good speed. Before long, there is another text from Claudia.
“We have it too now”, it says. “Shall we meet at Kolby Kås on Samsø? We have heard that it is not easy to anchor at Korshavn because of all the seagrass there.”
“See you at Kolby Kås”, we text back.
We are now entering the Samsø Bælt, the stretch of water between Fyn and Samsø islands. It becomes quite choppy, and the windspeed slowly increases even further. Before long it is around 22 knots. I take in another reef. We are still sailing at around eight knots. Ruby Tuesday alternately plunges through the troughs and rears her head again for the next wave like a thoroughbred. From time to time, particularly big waves wash over the foredeck and back down again on the leeward side. Exhilarating!
We continue on like this for a couple of hours. Eventually we reach the lee of Samsø island and the wind eases off and the sea becomes quieter.
“Phew”, says the First Mate. “That was a bit rough. I hope we don’t get too many of those. Particularly as winds that strong weren’t predicted.”
We enter the tiny harbour of Kolby Kås and tie up against the pier. Some old tyres cushion us.
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to tie up against tyres?”, says the First Mate. “I know they will act like fenders, but they might make black marks on our hull.”
I jump ashore and peer down at the side of our hull. A perfect imprint of one of the tyres is near the bow. There’s another midships, not quite so perfect. And another near the stern, a smudgy mess.
“We can pretend that it’s the latest in abstract art for sailing boats”, I say. “It might start a trend.”
Axel and Claudia arrive later in the afternoon in their boat Astarte.
“Why did you moor up against those tyres?”, Axel calls out. “I think we will go over here.”
“See”, says the First Mate. “It’s not much of a trend so far.”
“Give it time”, I say.
We invite Axel and Claudia over for coffee.
“I have to say it was a bit of a surprise to hear from you”, I say. “We thought you were still over in Griefenwald.”
“Well, we were”, says Claudia. “But we have to be back at the end of the month for a family birthday, so we need to get Astarte down to Rendsburg and all tucked away for the winter before then. We have to go back into the Kiel Canal to get there, and have quite a lot of work to do on her to prepare her.”
“We’ve had a frustrating summer”, says Axel. “We had a serious problem with Astarte just as we were leaving Gustow. We started taking on water, and couldn’t work out where it was coming from. We managed to limp in to Griefswald with the bilge pump working overtime, and got her lifted out by one of the yards there. It turned out that it was coming in through the stern tube.”
“A sailor’s worst nightmare”, I say. “You were lucky you were so close to land.”
“Then trying to get it fixed was a real hassle too”, says Claudia. “The company that said they would be able to do it, then changed their mind and said they couldn’t. But at least they felt guilty about it and said that we could use their yard and one of their staff if we were going to fix it ourselves.”
“Getting the old shaft out was also a problem”, says Axel. “It was jammed, so we had to heat it to loosen it and had to be ready with buckets of water inside in case it caught fire. We also had to cut the skeg off to get it out. And it also took a while to source a new one. At first the company sent us the wrong one.”
“It all sounds horrible”, says the First Mate.
“Yes, it was”, says Claudia. “But in the end we managed to find the right shaft, and thanks to everyone working night and day, we manged to get it fitted. Finally we got her back in the water.”
“Well, I hope that you have trouble-free sailing from now on”, I say.
In the evening, we all go for a walk along a farm track, following the coast of the island and watch the sunset. We walk back along the track in the darkness. It is surreal.
Back in the harbour, a few more boats have arrived. None have tied up against the tyres. Some trends are slow to start.
We both leave at 1000 the next morning heading for Bogense on the north coast of Fyn island. The wind is from the southeast and the sea is calmer than the day before, giving us a comfortable beam reach. Axel and Claudia’s boat is a half a knot or so faster than ours, as being a ketch it has more sail area, and they pull slowly away. When we arrive in Bogense, they are already tied up.
“You got here just in time”, they say. “There are only a couple of berths left. Look, here’s one here.”
It’s a tight turn, and there is a fresh cross-wind blowing. We make a bit of a hash of it getting in, narrowly missing the boat on our right and coming to rest against the boat on our left. Luckily there are plenty of fenders on both boats. Sensing disaster, people appear from the blue to help with the bow-lines. I fling the stern ropes over the poles. Amazingly they go over first time. That doesn’t happen often. We pull them tight and we are secure.
In the evening, we have drinks on Astarte. The conversation turns to Brexit.
“It’s sad that the UK didn’t want to stay in the EU”, says Axel. “We really can’t understand the logic behind it. What benefits has it brought?”
“We are probably not the right people to talk to”, I say. “We don’t really see any benefits either. The one example most often given is the speed with which Britain could roll out the vaccine last year compared to the delay due to all the red tape in the EU.”
“It’s true that the UK had a head start”, says Claudia. “But most EU countries have caught up now, and many even have greater vaccination rates than the UK. So you can’t really say that is a benefit.”
“And what about the Northern Ireland Protocol?”, says Axel. “What sort of person makes an international agreement, telling everyone that it is ‘oven-ready’ and the best deal ever, and then a few months later wants to unilaterally break it because it isn’t suitable?”
We stare at the floor and shuffle our feet. There’s not a lot we can say.
“And now there’s talk of empty shelves and Christmas being cancelled because of a shortage of lorry drivers with all the East Europeans going back to their countries”, says Claudia.
“I think the Brexiteers were just lucky that COVID came along when it did”, says the First Mate. “They are able to blame all the Brexit problems on the pandemic and lockdowns. There may have been some effect, but there is no doubt in my mind that the real reason is Brexit and all the disruption it has caused to supply chains.”
“It’s amazing that a modern country would do that to itself”, says Axel. “Especially Britain, who we in Germany always saw as being so sensible and pragmatic. You were always very influential in Europe, but now you have lost all that.”
“The interesting thing will be what role we find for ourselves now that we have left the EU”, I say. “All this talk of ‘Global Britain’ by the government, but no one really knows what it means. The debacle in Afghanistan last month is hardly a good omen. The USA hardly even consulted on the troop withdrawal there. My worry is that we will become a ‘vassal state’ of America, hanging on to their coat-tails.”
“Yes, and all that sending of an aircraft carrier to the Pacific Ocean a few months ago to frighten the Chinese”, says Claudia. “Surely they are not serious abut trying to influence anything there?”
“Who knows?”, I say. “The present people in charge are capable of anything, no matter how crazy it seems. The world is becoming a dangerous place.”
Axel and Claudia leave the next morning. It’s been good to see them, but they have to get home now.
We decide to walk into Bogense to explore. The town began its existence as a trading post in the 12th century and eventually became a market town, but was destroyed by fire in the 16th century. It was rebuilt, but never really recovered. These days it is still involved in trade, but tourism is becoming more important, especially from sailing. The marina is supposed to be the largest on the island of Fyn.
“Let’s start at the church”, says the First Mate. “It’s pretty much in the centre. It’s called the Sankt Nikolaj Kirke.The guidebook says that it was built in the 15th century on the remains of an earlier 12th century church. The baptismal font is from the 13th century, the altar was built in the 16th century, and the pulpit from the 17th century. Its spire is even used as a navigational landmark for boats.”
“It has certainly had some history”, I say.
Not far from the church is the Town Hall, an impressive building in white.
“The old houses are all so cute”, says the First Mate. “But there are only so many pictures you can take of them. I think I am going to specialise in doors. There are so many different types.”
“Come and have a look at this statue”, I say. “It’s a bit rude, but with your strong constitution you should be able to cope.”
I am standing in front of a statue of a small boy having a pee.
“Ah yes”, she says. “The guidebook says that it is called the Manneken Pis. Apparently it is modelled after a similar statue in Brussels. The story behind this one is that back in the 1800s sometime, they found a baby boy on one of the ferries coming to the town. No-one claimed him, so the city butcher and his wife adopted him. The baby eventually grew up to become a consul in the Foreign Office, responsible for passports and visas and the like. To show his appreciation to his adopted city, he commissioned this statue.”
“He must have had a sense of humour, at least”, I say. “I am not sure that I would like to be remembered for peeing in the main street of a town.”
“Speaking of which, I wouldn’t mind a coffee”, says the First Mate. “But have you noticed that many of the places seem to be closed?”
“I read somewhere that many smaller shops are only open for the summer tourists”, I say. “As soon as they disappear at the end of August, the shops close until the next summer. It happens in Britain too, but I am surprised how early it happens here, particularly when the weather is nice like today, and the older set without children are now on holiday. Like us.”
“This place looks like it should be open”, says the First Mate, sitting down outside a restaurant.
I peer through the window. A man is tidying up behind the counter at the back of the shop.
“There’s someone in here at least”, I say. “Perhaps he’ll give us a cup of coffee and a cake.”
I wave to him to come over. He waves back. We wait a few minutes, but he doesn’t come.
“Pretty poor service”, I say. “It’s not as though they are busy or anything.”
I peer through the windows again and mouth the word ‘coffee’. The man says something, but I can’t understand it. I scratch my head in puzzlement. The man scratches his head too. I stick out my left arm. The man sticks out his right arm.
It slowly dawns on me that he is me. There’s a mirror behind the counter.
“Is he coming?”, says the First Mate.
“No”, I say. “He said that they have just closed for the day. We’ll just have to make our own coffee on the boat.”