Charmary in the Baltic

Charmary in the Baltic

Charmary is a 1990 Starlight 39. I purchased her in 2011 as just the second owner. After a round-Britain trip 2012-14, we decided that a change of cruising ground was a good plan. However, as Robert Burns would have put it “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley” – a loose translation of which tells you that things didn’t go entirely to plan! The main spanner in the works, was that we needed a lot of spanners to change the original Meteor engine for a nice shiny new red Beta 38. Once that was done and my hands had stopped shaking from writing all the necessary cheques, we set off for the Netherlands.

We spent the rest of the 2015 season based in the relatively new Amsterdam Marina – just to the west of Amsterdam Central Station which proved an excellent base for exploring the Ijsselmeer.

For 2016 I managed for the first time to get a couple of months off work, so we decided to head for the Baltic. The ultimate plan was to get to somewhere around Stockholm and we were booked onto the 2016 CA Baltic Rally from Ystad to Kalmar, but in between that we were completely flexible.

We started by heading through the standing mast route in Friesland. We had planned to head right through to Delfzijl, but an unplanned stop in Leeuwarden for bridge works meant we got to know the town quite well. Given it was the birthplace of the Mata Hari, it sounded promising, but after three days there not even the Mata Hari herself would have stopped us getting the first available bridge opening. From there we headed through Dokkum to the Lauwersmeer. Given the delay, we decided to head straight out to sea and miss the last section of the canals. We did an overnight passage to Brunsbuttel and into the Kiel Canal.

The Kiel Canal could be seen as the M25 of canals, but it was a far more pleasant experience than travelling round the M25! It is a two-day passage and you can fill an entire I-Spy book of ships on the way through, but it is an interesting experience. The massive locks at either end can be daunting, but we came through unscathed. Heading out from the Holtenau locks was an exciting moment – we had finally broken into the Baltic.

At Kiel we changed crew and from there we headed east to Fehmarn island and then across to Denmark. We hopped up the most direct route to Copenhagen and spent an enjoyable few days in Langelinie Harbour. Langelinie is ideally placed for viewing the Little Mermaid statue – perhaps the most iconic representation of Copenhagen. In fact we went almost directly past the statue to come into the harbour, saving us the cost of a boat trip to see the mermaid. From the harbour, it takes about 1 minute to walk round to where the mermaid is and then about 15 minutes while you wait for the hordes of people to shift sufficiently for you to actually get a view of the mermaid!

The next fortnight or so was spent cruising around the Oresund. We visited Helsingor (Denmark – the home of Hamlet’s Elsinore Castle) and Helsingborg (Sweden). The ferry crossing between these two is apparently the busiest in the world and this relates mainly to the fact that drink prices are much cheaper in Denmark! We found some fascinating locations around the Oresund. Humlebaek harbour gave us direct access to the famous Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, while on the island of Ven we moored in the delightful harbour of Kyrkbacken. The island was the home to the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. He made the island a centre of astronomical observation and many famous mathematicians and astronomers visited the island in the 16th Century. One of his assistants was Kepler who went on to use Brahe’s observations to develop Kepler’s three laws of motion. The island now has a museum dedicated to him, though it did not mention his artificial nose. History does not record how he lost his nose, but it may perhaps have been cut off to spite his face. Actually he lost part of it in a sword duel over the legitimacy of a mathematical formula, but we definitely preferred our version as no-one is likely to believe that anyone fought a duel over maths!

From Ven we headed slowly around to Ystad in Southern Sweden for the start of the CA Rally in mid-June. Around 15 boats took part in the rally. From Ystad, the rally visited Simrishamn and then Karlskrona – the Swedish Naval base. Karlskrona was originally founded in 1680. King Karl XI ordered a survey of southern Sweden to find a new naval base. Up until that point the navy had been based around Stockholm, but they discovered that while they were still iced up in Stockholm in the Spring, the Danish could create havoc as they were less prone to being frozen over the winter. So, Karlskrona was chosen as the spot for a new naval base as it was further south and less prone to icing up. It was even named in honour of King Karl – the name literally means Karl’s crown. The town is now the only naval base in Sweden and much of it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

From Karlskrona we headed to one of the most unique places we have ever visited. Utklippan is basically two rocky islands around 15 miles offshore. The harbour was blasted out of the rock in the 1930s and 40s to provide an emergency harbour for the local fishermen. It is a place to avoid if you don’t like rocks. In fact, even if you do like rocks, it has the sort of entrance where it is handy to have a change of trousers close by. Once in, it is an incredibly sheltered harbour, but the state of inebriation of many on the rally that evening may have reflected the relief at all getting in safely. This is more than a German visitor managed. He strayed a tiny bit to starboard of the entry line and was brought up sharply as he hit a rock and stopped dead ….