We started to notice them during our second day in the Helsingør marina — huge black and grey jackdaws — flying around the top of mast. That evening, the first big branch fell on the deck. And then a second. We thought they must be building a nest somewhere. We never thought of looking up.
The next morning, a couple from another boat passed by and asked “have you noticed that you have a huge bird’s nest at the top of your mast?” Needless to say, we had not noticed!
Removing a huge bird nest – not as easy as it seems!
Jacques volunteered to go up using one of the spinnaker halyards, with me winding the winch. The winches on the mast are not electric, so I was in fact winding Jacques and his 70 kilos up 24 meters of mast. Each turn of the winch covered maybe 10 centimetres. The next time, we’ll use the electric utility winch on the cabin top so that I won’t have to wind 70 kilos 240 times. Or it will be me that goes up instead of Jacques…
View of Helsingør marina and castle from 24 meters up the mast
The nest was not easy to remove! First of all, you’re 24 meters in the air, suspended by a slim rope, and secondly, the branches were really quite woven together. Jacques had to take it apart, branch by branch or risk damaging the delicate wind indicator that you see on the left side of the above photo. Not a fun job!
View from the mast
Repairing a Leak
A leak on a boat can make any boat owner anxious. Fortunately, this one was at least of the fresh water variety, meaning that it came from inside the boat – not outside (the first thing you do is taste it to find out). The leak was showing up as a thin stream of water going into the bilge, but not all the time, which made it puzzling. After two weeks we finally traced it to the washing machine. The installer had not screwed the intake hose to the cold water supply tightly enough, so water was gushing out with every wash.
Jacques is sitting on the washing machine, located under the navigation table seating. The access to the machine is in the shower, which is behind the nav station seat.
Thanks to the enormous storage space in our boat’s workshop, we had all of the tools and products we needed to take care of the problem. A Swiss Army knife always comes in handy as well.
We were looking forward to visiting Helsingør, the city famous for Hamlet’s Castle. We arrived after a short 4-hour sail from Mölle, Sweden.
The Nordhavn (North Marina) is huge and well-equipped. You’ll find everything you need for your stay, including a chandlery and a small grocery store. If your boat is 42 feet or less, you’ll always find a berth here. If you arrive early enough, you’ll even find a place for your larger boat (there’s room for about four boats of about 50 feet in length). If there aren’t any spaces left for your larger boat (over 15 meters), you can stay at the small marina near the maritime museum, a short distance away, but you’ll hear the noise from the seemingly endless ferry traffic that passes nearby.
The Nordhavn (North Marina) has the best view of the castle in Helsingør
Here is what you’ll find in the north marina (Nordhavn):
- Showers and toilets
- Laundry facilities
- Fuel and pump-out facilities
- Free Wifi
- Water and electricity (16 amps)
- Shops for provisioning and food as well as workshops for engine, rigging and sail repairs
Marina fees range from 140 DKK (10 meters and smaller) to 300 DKK (15-20 meters). The marina adjoins a small beach, well-loved by families with small children, dog owners and kayakers. We noticed that the Helsingør has a huge number of kayakers, both young and old. They all come out on the water directly after work or school, and since the evenings are now long, they stay until about 9.00 when the sun displays its last rays for the day.
The beach next to the marina – the water was still cold in early May, but Senna didn’t care. That’s Sweden in the background.
Helsingør is a charming small city. It’s large enough to be interesting and provide a great choice of restaurants, good shopping and museum/castle visit, yet small enough to easily explore by bicycle. The distance to the centre of town from the marina is a little over 1 km. We loved it so much we stayed for 4 days.
Sculpture on a wall outside a small private house.
Kronborg Slott (Castle in Helsingør)
The famous “Hamlet Castle” Kronborg Slott is definitely worth a visit. Its amazing collection of sculptures, paintings and tapestries as well as the castle itself seems to be taken right out of a storybook. Known as being one of the most beautiful castles in Denmark, it was built during the period 1574-1575. Holger Danske, the legendary Danish hero said to be Denmark’s protector, is said to be asleep in one of the castle’s underground passages. According to Danish legend, he will awake if Denmark is threatening by enemies. During the summer, you can watch open air performances of Hamlet at the castle.
Here are a few images of the castle and its surrounding park.
The moat surrounding the Kronborg castle
Sculptures at the entrance of Kronborg castle
Beautiful wooden bridge leads to Kronoborg castle
The canons (they still work) at Kronborg castle
Sculpture at Kronborg Castle
These surrounding buildings are now art galleries and cafés.
We stumbled upon these amazing murals not far from the ferry terminal (ferries that go to Helsingborg, Sweden).
This mural pays tribute to the industrialisation of shipbuilding in the area.
This mural seems to juxtipose older sailing ships and newer steamships.
One of the colourful buildings on the main shopping street in Helsingør
An inscription written in old Danish over a door.
The food shopping in Helsingør is fantastic. Several artisan bakeries sell enormous selections of fabulous Danish brown bread. The cheese shop also sells some seafood and we bought some fish and some shrimp-based and crab-based mixes. You’ll also find an excellent butcher shop in the main shopping area. The meat we bought was so tender it almost melted in our our mouths.
If you visit Helsingør, you must visit Landmad (Country Food) a shop that sells local farm food and derived products such as vinegar, oils, and herbal tea. One of the signs in the shop asks “Have you kissed your cow today?”
We bought bread, butter, cream, eggs and sausages at the “farm to table” shop Landmad (Country Food).
Helsingør, we will be back!
Day 6: Rendsburg to Stora Baeltet Denmark
The rain and thunder of the previous night was forgotten as the sun appeared in a clear blue sky on our 6th cruise day. We were disappointed at not being able to stay one more day in this charming town and marina. But we needed to be in Ellös, Sweden by Wednesday evening and it was now Sunday.
We arrived at the Kiel-Holtenau side of the canal at around 11.00 and after a short 30-minute stay at the waiting pontoon, we received the signal to proceed into the lock. This is the side on which you pay the transit fee (41 Euros for our 16 meter boat). The kiosk where you pay is a tiny market – it sells milk, bottled drinks, snacks and newspapers.
Finally in the Baltic Sea after exiting the Kiel Canal at Holtenau.
After exiting the lock at Holtenau, just north of Kiel, we were finally in the Baltic sea! We were now in the Kiel Fjord, famous for the Kieler Woche regattas, the largest annual sailing event in the world.
The first thing we needed to do after exiting the canal was to find the marina with the fuel station Axel told us about while we had dinner in Rendsburg. He said it was the least expensive one in the area. That’s important when you’re filling 800 litres of diesel! It’s the “Hafen Strande” in the town of Strande.
View towards Laboe on the eastern side of the Kiel Fjord.
Another view of Laboe, on the other side of the Kiel Fjord.
It was about 13.00 by the time we left the fuel station at Strande and turned northeast toward our route through Denmark. The plan was to sail towards Stora Baeltet (the Great Belt) between the islands of Fyn on the west and Sjaelland on the east. The wind was increasing from the east and we planned to find either an anchorage or a marina on the way with sufficient shelter.
A view of the Danish island of Langeland. Wind generators are everywhere in Denmark.
Using the book Cruising Guide to Germany and Denmark and the handy marina guides that came with our paper charts (NV Charts, Germany), we began be checking out anchorage possibilities. The islands close to our route however, were either too low to provide shelter from the wind (which was now gusting to 30 knots) or had shallow water — too shallow for our draft of 1.8 meters. We continued up through the fairway towards the bridge over the Great Belt (Storebaeltsbroen), the 18-km long bridge between Fyn and Sjaelland, thinking that we’d surely find a suitable marina or an anchorage on the way.
By 19.00, we still hadn’t found a harbour, so we decided to just keep going through the night until we arrived at the island of Anholt the next day. Anholt is a great jumping off point to sail east to the Swedish coast.
At 22.00 we started our 4-hour shifts — first Mark and Liz, then Jacques and I. The night passed rather uneventfully with the exception of the passage under the bridge, which was lit like a Christmas tree. It was truly a fantastic site from the water. By 6.00, the wind had increased slightly – we were now getting gusts of 35 knots from the east, but we had been protected from any heavy swell by the peninsula of Sjaellands Odde just east of us. By the time Mark and Liz were up for the morning watches we were getting waves of 3-4 meters.
Day 7: Stora Baeltet to Bønnerup, Denmark
Jacques and I were now off-watch and decided to try to get a couple of hours of sleep. After about an hour, I was awakened by the feeling we were changing direction. We had been on a northerly course and with winds from the east, I had been sleeping up against the lee cloth, when suddenly I rolled fully onto the mattress. We had tacked and seemed to now be on a broad reach towards the west.
Mark and Liz had decided that it would be a prudent idea to take shelter at Grenå as the winds were now gusting to 40 knots but forecast to drop off that afternoon. After a quick check in the harbour guide, we decided to go for the marina in Grenå. The ferry/fishing port was our back-up choice if the marina entrance was too difficult to enter (the wind and waves were going right into the marina entrance). A few hours rest in the harbour would give us a chance to have a good meal and a rest before continuing that afternoon.
We attempted to get into the marina but saw from a distance of around 500 meters that it would have been too dangerous. The 3-meter high waves were crashing violently against the outer marina wall. We entered easily as the entrance faces north instead of east. The possibilities for tying up were limited as we hadn’t yet prepared a fender board and the harbour walls are definitely not made for pleasure boats with gelcoat hulls. We finally agreed that the best idea was to snuggle up against a huge dredging vessel. It was so tall, its bulk had created a spot out of the wind and we were able to raft up relatively easily.
We then kept one-hour watches as we were afraid of chafe on the mooring lines. We had almost a lot of swell in the harbour and the banged-up, rusty steel dredger was not exactly mooring line-friendly. I was happy we had bought two enormous round fenders – they were exactly what we needed here!
After a few hours rest and a hot meal, we set out for the Bønnerup marina/fishing harbour on the north side of the peninsula. Its entrance faces north, so Bønnerup, a two-hour sail from Grenå, would provide us with decent shelter throughout the night. The entrance to Bønnerup marina is flanked by seven enormous wind generators. They certainly were providing a return on investment with the wind we were getting!
Bønnerup Fishing Harbour (Denmark)
We phoned the harbour master as we approached. There were no more berths in the marina! Everyone was waiting for the wind to decrease, and even the fishing boats were not going out. We were directed to the fishing boat side of the harbour. Once again, we were happy to have those huge balloon fenders to protect our gelcoat from the rusty steel pontoon where the boat delivered their catch!
Freja tied up to the fishing boat quay in Bønnerup.
One good thing about being on the fish-delivery quay, we were completely sheltered from the wind behind the fish hall – where the fish is deposited, smoked, packed and sold. We had dinner in the cockpit whereas the boat owners in the marina, in the direct path of the wind, stayed below.
Freja in front of the fish hall in Bønnerup Harbour.
Day 8: Bønnerup, Denmark to Kullavik, Sweden
By the next morning, the wind was beginning to decrease in strength and down to around 25 knots from the southeast. We got an early start – we wanted to arrive to Kullavik, Sweden by late afternoon.
Wet and windy morning in Denmark.
Why Kullavik? Because Mark had been in contact with a swedish journalist who wanted to test sail the boat. The journalist, Joakim, offered us a berth in his home marina, Kullavik, south of Gothenburg.
The weather was windy but fabulously sunny as a strong high pressure system had moved in over Sweden. We were all impressed by the beauty of the skerries around Vrångö as we approached the coast. The sailing was getting more and more comfortable as the swell decreased. I was so happy to be back in Sweden!
Sailing towards the west coast of Sweden
Passing the skerries south of Vrångö, Sweden.
We arrived at the charming marina of Kullavik just after 16.00. Joakim met us at the marina entrance and directed us to a mooring which was generously offered to us for free. And then Joakim lent us his car so that we could visit the local supermarket! Generosity abounds here!
Approaching Kullavik. The red building is the boat club sauna.
I stocked up on some of my favourite Swedish food and drink: Ramlösa Citrus mineral water, Skagenröra (a prawn dish) Västerbotton cheese and Kalix löjrom (Bleak roe or caviar from the Bothnian Bay in the Baltic). Yum!
After giving Freja a nice fresh-water rinse – she hadn’t been cleaned off since she left Southampton – we prepared for dinner. We had invited Joakim to celebrate our arrival in Sweden and opened a bottle of chardonnay to drink with the appetisers, and a bottle of Merlot to drink with dinner – both from our vineyard. Skål!
Freja at Kullavik Marina, Sweden