A "surprise-trip" to the Shetlands
Jürgen and I originally planned a trip to Iceland but we had to cancel it (partly). Jürgen is the guy I went to Norway with in 95. We did several other trips together, most of them leaving us only few hours on land. My friend constructed the boat by himself when he was twenty years younger and he built it all by himself. Building it by himself included nearly everything except the engine. Once having moored at a pier with some drunkyards drinving around with their cars some five meters above our level I asked him what would happen if one of them went over the edge and dropped down on us. He said that nothing would happen. So I asked him why he was so shure. He pointed at some plastic pipes under the deck. He made even these pipes and had testet them by driving with a lorry over them - just a single pipe and a lorry on it. He said that it only bent six centimeters.
Jürgen had to reduce his time for our 1997 project down to two weeks and it is pretty obvious that this is not enough for a trip to Iceland.
As it showed during the following days even three weeks would not be enough for Iceland - at least when you plan to have time enough on land to write more than one postcard.
We took off from Schilksee (my home) Monday at 4.00 a.m.- I had slept on the boat, and we had no special plan where to go. Jürgen suggested that we should go to Poland but I thought that would be a vision for years in the future - so we took off for the Kiel-Kanal......and the North-Sea.
We went into the locks at Holtenau at five . Half an hour later moored on the other side. We had definitely no maps. So Jürgen went to Stegemann -the shop which provides nautical maps- to buy some maps from the English coast or any other coast. I really thought that we could probably go to Harwich and maybe take the train to....let´s say Coventry to visit some friend - or maybe..just.have a good time on land. Explore the english coast.
Jürgen went to the customs and asked if he had to show his passport to get through to Stegemann. The officer said that he did not need to and Jürgen went on. He found that Stegemann opens at 8.00. So he went back and said to the officer that he had failed for reason of opening-times. "I know the times" said the officer. (That is supposed to be a kind of humour.)
So we went on and Jürgen slept for several hours for he just had returned from a buisiness-trip to Turkey. (He told me that he wanted to sleep in a hotel in Istanbul but that it was nearly impossible to find one without girls. So he thought he could rent a room and send the girl away..) In Rendsburg he phoned up another friend and asked where we could possibly buy some maps- this friend is a pilot and the GSM found him on Læsø. He said that we shurely could buy maps in Brunsbüttel. Around five we arrived there and were told that they had ceised to sell nautical maps some fifteen years ago - because You can buy some in Kiel and to go there You need a pilot (when a big ship). Maybe Helgoland could be the place for maps...but that would mean a stop of six hours.
So we left and had to figure out what our possibilities were. As far as I know most of the English harbours on the eastcoast are tidal, Kingston has locks but I do not know how to approach. Some places have sands around. Could be hazardous if You come there by night and don't know how to interprete the lights - if there are any. So we used the only map we had which covers the sea from the Baltics to west of the British mainland and programmed the GPS for: Edinburgh, some place on the Orkneys, Fair Island, Lerwick....Kingston, Lowestoft, Harwich.
We were right in time to be swept out with the tide and made close to nine knots. A bit of concentration was needed for greater ships came down the Elbe and peacefully we sailed out into the night. Two o´clock a.m. saw Helgoland close to the right and half an hour later I handled the command to Jürgen. When I awoke at six he told me that lots of fisherboats had kept him buisy for they changed courses without an evident system.
He went to bed and it showed that he had a bit of fever...influenca. That ment for the next days twenty-one hours of work for me controlling the boat, the course, sails, engine and cooking some soup every now and then. What was going on in the left three hours was not my concern (mostly from 2 to 5 am). Afterwards Jürgen told me that he kept an alarmclock in his hand in order to wake him up every ten minutes and that he managed to wake up every nine...
The next day we passed a german exploration ship, the Gauss, four fisherboats and I read some Mickey Mouse. I was a bit embarrassed because of the pollution on the sea.
Once at coffe-time under deck with the engine running a noise and a shock frightened us. We put off the motor and thought about the reason but had no idea. Not with a real plan I went to the rear and ...saw something greenish following us. By examining the phenomenon a bit closer we found out that it was a net. Just nearly ten square-meters of net. Wrapped around the prop. We liked the colour of the sea which is of a certain kind of blue we do not know here. Really fascinating. But we did not fancy the idea of swimming for we thought it might be pretty cold. But now there was no choice. I took a long knife and went in. All to my surprise it was warm and so I enjoyed the dip and succeeded in getting the net out. Several days later we would be reminded to this event.
I liked the nights very much. They were warm, peaceful and inspiring. You could sit at the rear, partly on the reling, smoke a cigar and have one of the few beers we kept. Nothing around, silently being pushed northwest.
One day at seven+ in the morning....but I´ll make it easy for me and insert a letter I wrote to some other persons. Read the following:
To captain & staff of MS "Color Viking"
GB NE 29 6 EA
Kiel, 6. 8. 1997
Communication is the key to understanding
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen
Imagine Yourself in a little sailboat on the way from Germany to the islands of Shetland, just You and a friend.
You have watched a beautiful sunrise, enjoyed a cup of coffee and from the distance a really big ship is approaching.
You sit and watch. By and by the big, big ship is coming closer and the question arises what might happen within the next couple of minutes. The big ship is getting bigger and bigger and You get a bit nervous because You start to think that probably a ramming could take place and leave the less part of a chance for You.
Not to say that You are a coward but suddenly in a touch of anxiety You push around the rudder and turn round giving way to the big, big, big boat.
That happened on 24th of July at N57036.336 and E3001.573 at 7.40am and he big, big, big ship was Color Viking.
The ship passed short distance in front of us and we saw some of the crew on the bridge waving at us while the big ship got smaller and finally disappeared and we went back to our maincourse.
We thought that sailboats in aereas like the described one had the right to stay and enginedriven vessels had to give way. So we started deliberating what might have been the clue.
-Maybe we mistook the situation and there was space enough for us to go on.(Cowards)
-Maybe the friendly folks on board were a bit in sorrow for us (such a small boat so far away from home) and wanted to have a closer look to make shure that everything was ok.
-Maybe they tried to speak to us on ch.16 (which we do not provide) and then wanted to see.
-Maybe the friendly crew wanted to offer a cup of coffee and then saw that we already had one.
-Maybe they thought that, yeah, that such a little boat should better go out of the way.
We do not have a clue to what the idea was and therefore would friendly like to ask You to help us out.
Thank You thousand times in advance, best wishes
Several weeks later I received a letter from Color-Line:
We have received Your letter of 6. August regarding Your crossing of the North Sea in Your sailboat on 24. July, and do indeed understand Your frustration when our Color Viking was getting closer and closer and closer.
On behalf of the captain of Color Viking we can inform You that Rogaland Radio had sent out a PAN message regarding a missing boat. Color Viking tried to call You on channel 16, but as You did not answer, he decided to go closer in order to read Your initials.
We thank you very much for Your letter, which gave us the opportunity to give You an explanation about the incident. If You ever decide to travel between Bergen and Newcastle with Color Viking, the captain wish You welcome to visit the bridge, in the meantime we remain
Another day when we were again using the Yanmar (little two-cylinder japaneese diesel with a consumption of not much more than one liter per hour) - (which we had to do several times, for the wind was always perfect in direction but sometimes a bit slow..) all of the sudden the Diesel stopped and a search for the reason began. It turned out that the fuel filter was blocked with dirt and a melange of water, tar and diesel-fuel. Jürgen said that he had a filter-box on his desk to remind him to buy some new ones. (-which he did not do.)
Not having an engine or having an engine that doesn´t work comes out to the same. But...never give up! With some hoses, an empty shampoo-bottle (plastic), some tape, two spare tanks, a pump and little other things we gave new life to our mechanical assistant. Unfortunately next day we found some three liters of fuel in the bilge, the construction was not stable enough for seaconditions. This time we had the fuel in the back behind and besides the motor. When we filled up the tank in Lerwick we had some more liters in the front part. Luckily not my fault.
Another day all of the sudden I saw some movement on the surface of the sea. I concentrated on that spot and ...some big, big animals were around us! One after another came from behind, swam with incredible speed towards us, dived just cm´s away and came back to the surface cm´s in front of the boat sometimes jumping a bit out of the water. I called Jürgen back on deck and he brought the camera with him. We could not count the beasts, maybe there were three or four, about eight feet long, maybe longer. They seemed to play with us. That lasted for maybe twenty minutes and then they were off again. What an adventure!
One day we came to the oil-platforms or rigs. They look like Mississippi-steamers on legs. Gigantic things. Whole cities on legs. Once we could see thirteen of them same time. In the night they were illuminated like Broadway. Off-shore tenders were besides them. I found it astounding that they did not use anchors. They were on stand by with running engines all day long. OK, You might say: hundred meters of chain!....but what about a bouy? -or anything attached to one of the giant legs?
Friday in the afternoon I first saw some rock of the Shetlands. But the closer we got the farer the rock seemed to be. At eight it was shure that we would not reach Lerwick without engine. So we sailed on until maybe ten and than gave the engine a chance. It was our luck that the sea and the waves became more peaceful and we came closer to the shore. I saw some rock in the oncoming dark and we did not really know how to make our way. There was a kerb in the hills on the mainland and I thought that I should use this as a mark. As we came closer a fisherboat came out and made shure that we could use the passage. Some time later a lighthouse came into sight - but it had no sectors like the ones we know. The lights of Lerwick came out, Jürgen watched the sounder and I was concentrated on the rest. The plan was that if we hit something he would push in the reverse-gear, full power to the engine and I should force the boat to the proper course. A big rock came out and we did not know which side to leave it on. As we came closer it seemed that it was no island...just a peninsular.
Through the telescope I scanned the shore and could not find a single boat. Lerwick as a big place on the Shetlands without a harbour? A ferry went to and fro in the distance and we were close to two a.m.
After slowly "sniffing" at the next islet another patch of the town came insight and I saw a mast of a boat. Twenty minutes later we had our towes on land and enjoyed some beer. The time we went to bed was close to three and there was an awful noise coming from town, like a procession...nex day we saw more of it.
Next morning we took a short breakfast and started to work. Clean the boat, look for filters (the first thing they asked us in the premises was if we were looking for a job), fill the tank, buy a guestflag and check in at the harbour-office. It was not before four-thirty before we finished these jobs.
In the harbour office we saw three colour-radars and two tiller-controlled video-cams. High-tech! "Do sailboats have to have special reflectors to be seen on the screen?" "Oh no! One of these days our butcher went to Bressay with a canoe. I could follow him all the time."
We went a bit through the streets, bought some postcards (I wrote fourteen with very different texts and the standard-text for Jürgen´s nineteen) and explored Lerwick. I was embarrassed by the huge fuchsias with stems as thick as my arm. Except some trees in Lerwick itself there were no trees at all. In the evening we went for a meal which was not too easy and we ended up far east. The waiter was constantly staring at us always mumuring:"So big , so big!" In the evening we saw lots and lots of girls in disguises. Nurses with whips, flower-power-freaks, space-women, mixtures between lemurs and plants...The boys did not look at them. They just drank awful lots of canned beer and every now and then preformed some fights. One of them tried to involve me for he thought that I might be able to throw the rest of them into the harbour. That´s what he said. As I refused he shouted at his mates:"Look here, I´ve got a friend who might throw all of You into the water, he is just a bit lazy at the moment." I met him few times when wandering around and he always said hello like to an old friend. We went into THULE for a beer ad learned how people from Mars might feel when first on earth. We did not understand too much. It was loud like ten jets at take-off. We were simply glued to the ground by spilled beer. Beer in plastic. So we decided to try CAPTAIN FLINT´S but it was saturday and they close very early. So: last beer and Glen Rosa (a bootlegged wiskey a got from my Bulkington-friend) on board SY SARAI".
Through e-mail from a reporter of Shetland-Times (Dawn Thompson) I learned that it was a hen night. One of the girls was going to marry (or get married?) and it was the last night of freedom. And for the boys...they always are the same.
Sunday saw us writing, showering and having time for the islands on the afternoon.
We found it warm on the Shetlands. Some clouds came by and in our place You would be shure that in some minutes You will have a storm, rain and all the worse, but there they just vanish. I spoke to a local person about the winter there. He said: Oh, it´s quite the same. You see I wear the T-shirt, I wear it all year long." Well, what about snow?" Yeah, sometimes we get the snow, but warm snow, You know, it´s no cold snow. Just two or three days."
He did not like the Shetlands too much:"They are not so good when You are in a car. You drive to the end of the road and that is it. When I lived in Scotland I could drive to England, but here just to the end of the road."(He had to use the car more than we, for he had an accident and normally is in a wheelchair.) Pointing at some seagulls and said: We call them shatehogs for they shate all time."
We took the ferry to Bressay and walked to the place where the inflatable to Noss takes off. Unfortunately only before five pm. But we enjoyed it anyway. Lots of deserted and given up fishermen-houses. On our way back we wanted a meal and stopped at the inn on Bressay. "Yes we have our kitchen opened everyday but......" -back to our own kitchen? We preferred a take-away.
Opposite side of the road from the landing-place of the ferry we saw the sign Repairs of the last ditchology - Dawn wrote: Last ditchology just means that they fix anything, a friend I was at school with painted the sign on the door. Two men work there, apparently one is a whizz at fixing videos.
So: If there are any problems with Your video-machine - go to Lerwick.
I found it funny to see so much signs in kyrillian letters but think that it comes from the times when fishermen from USSR used the Shetlands as a stop or shelter before going home from Greenland or polar seas. No german ships in the harbour, just some norwegian. For them it´s just appr. 200 miles which is one and a-half day -if You are lucky.
Sunday at eight-thirty p.m. we left Lerwick. A day on the northsea followed, some oilrigs passed. Next evening brought the great silhuette of Norway´s coast and later the lights of Egernsund. What an idea to have some time on land but we had to be back on Monday - the latest.
The next morning we were very close to the coast, some hundred meters. The wind was mostly against us and a heavy sea rolled at us from the south. Finally we made four miles in four hours. A fjord opened to our left. Must have been Flekkefjord - we had definitely no norway-maps. We slipped in and waited for the wind to calm down. Jürgen slept some six hours, I read a bit but we did not touch land. In the night Sarai was on the sea again, there were still some waves which were sufficient enough to break the auto-pilot. Thursday afternoon we left the coast towards Skagen and that was (nearly) the last blow of wind we had. We took a dip, switched on the engine and crossed the steamer-trail. Eight o´clock in the morning we reached Denmarks north -tip. A slight breeze came, Jürgen switched off the engine ....and a metallic noise alarmed us. A close look at some vital parts made shure that the bolts which connect(ed) gearbox with propeller were broken - possibly due to the net. No spare parts on board and Jürgen not willing to go to Skagen (half a mile) to ask for some. That ment in clear words: no engine except for battery-charging, constant work all days and nights (auto-pilot!) and twohundred and twenty-odd miles (nautical ones!) to go - and less than 94 hours (ending up with an average of ...ok, might be possible) - and a weatherforcast predicting no wind, slow wind from various directions. Friday evening not far away from Aalborg, Saturday evening past Grenå, Sunday noon the new bridge (Korsør-Nyborg). I thought we could make Henrik (my son) come with a ferry to Bagenkop, pick us up in Lohals and then go back by car leaving the boat for a week in Denmark. But Jürgen can be something like a mixture between a gambler and just hard-necked. Sunday seven p.m. Spodsberg - no wind, just a slight current pushing us. Nine o´clock Keldsnor. Ten o´clock Keldsnor... Midnight Keldsnor. Jürgen offered the last bottle of wine to keep me in mood.
I rose at three and we were moving.
At six Kiel was in sight, I phoned some collegues and my boss (GSM) that it could be a bit late and we sailed into Schilksee about quarter to eight.
In a hurry we took our luggage and went to Jürgen´s car ...just to notice that the brakes were somehow fixed and that the only chance to drive was to go ahead- which is not easy when parking in front of a wall.
Several month later: A letter from Norway!
When we had the last drops of Glen Rosa I wrote on a sheet of paper that we felt happy and put it into the bottle, sealed it and threw it over board........just few hours after having left Lerwick.
As it turned out the bottle had found it's way to Norway. Some pupils in a coast-cleaning-project found it and wrote a nice letter. The place in Norway is Giske.
A nice correspondence commenced.
You might judge this trip as hazardous. I think there was no danger at all. Just the danger of coming back to work few minutes too late. We know how to handle a boat, we respect the sea and we can trust each other.