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by Rene Vidmer - Nazareth, Pennsylvania - USA

Part One - Part Two

K. O. T. W. s European Odyssey - Part 2

Tuesday, June 26, Faxe Ladeplads, Denmark
Have spent the last three days holed up in a 7 foot by 4 foot box (KOTW’s cabin), waiting out the high winds and constant rain, that forced me to put in at a “port of refuge” along an otherwise featureless coast of high white cliffs. The tiny harbor at Lund had no clearly marked entrance, so I picked the most likely route and promptly ran up on a rock. With the sea kicking up all around, I got out of the skiff to lighten it and standing on the rock I pushed her off and barely got my feet wet. 
That was a couple days ago. I’ve since gained 5 miles along the coast to Faxe Ladeplads which is a proper harbor.

At 9:30 in the morning, I’m contemplating a big jump South to the German border as the rains have finally stopped and the winds appear to be abating.

The “harbor” at Lund
Göteborg to Lippe

Thursday, June 28, Fehmarn Island, Denmark
Am lying to anchor in large bay on Fehmarn Island not far east of Kiel. 
After too many days of extremely adverse conditions, 4am this morning saw a flag pole with an all but limp flag off in the distance at Vordingborg. 12 hours later, after making my longest ocean crossing yet - forty miles - I say goodbye and thanks Denmark, and hello Germany. 

Hundreds of houseboats line the canal banks outside Kobenhaven
I come upon Hamlet’s castle at Elsenore in Denmark

Saturday June 30, Lippe, Germany
About 1/3 way to Kiel along east coast of Germany.

Thunderstorms this morning. Some directly overhead. A lot of rain and noise but it cleared by noon. Am at an outdoor trestle table in Lippe harbor having a beer on this desolate coast.

Sky has clouded over again but had an easy run across a 10 mile bay. There are often one or two boats to be seen on the horizon which is always comforting when sailing out of sight of land. Interestingly no one, not even the powerful sport fishermen travel at more than moderate speed. 

Lippe is a tiny pocket harbor and the only one for many many miles so it is full of boats. There is no anchorage so I think I’ll have to tie up here.

Monday July2 2:00pm, Bad Bederkesa, Germany
Am having a Frankfurter in a garden cafe in the town of Bad Bederkesa on the Hadelner Kanal in Northern Germany on my way to Bremerhaven. 
Yesterday the Kiel Kanal dumped me into the Elbe at Brunsbuttel, where it would seem half the worlds shipping transits, stirring up a sea that threatened to swamp little K.O.T. Wolf. I ducked in behind the lock wall where there was some protection but unfortunately there was no water. I spent the next hour dragging her back to deeper water. Because my anchors will not hold in such viscous mud, I had no choice but to chance it again out in the Elbe. With heart in mouth I managed to wrestle her around a headland and into a harbor of refuge of sorts. 

There is a 14 foot tide here and at near dead low and with mud flats all around I man-aged a near sleepless night, with thunderstorms and heavy rain. With the wind howling at 6:00 in the morning, I tried for a lea shore on the other side of the mile wide Elbe, and a chance of relief at the Kanal entrance. The boat did not break and we made it and here I am on a partly sunny day at an outdoor table with my hotdog and French fries.

July 11, Sneek, The Netherlands

Mosying around the back streets of almost any Dutch town brings unexpected rewards.

Tuesday July 17, Teraliene, Belgium
It is not raining at the moment. It has been raining nonstop for the last seven days, but  two hours ago it stopped. The sky is still overcast and there are plenty of rain clouds still around. But, for the first time in seven days it is not raining. And it is not bitter cold. It’s not sit on your hands while the cold penetrates your parka, your fleece jacket, your sweater, your black turtleneck pullover, your silk winter underwear. That was yesterday. Today. My pullover and fleece are enough.  This in the middle of July. 

I am waiting for the sluis (bridge) to open. Actually, I’m waiting for the sluis Meister to acknowledge my presence.

Later: After nothing happening for two hours I called the phone number listed by the bridge and the lock master said “ oh, I was waiting for you but you didn’t show, so  I went home”. This happens sometimes because they see the little boat but ignore it.

I am on the river Dender which runs South in a serpentine path from near Antwerp. It is a small but very complex river with a changing landscape around every bend, and dotted with small Belgian villages. 

July 21, Saturday 10am The tunnel at Bellicourt on the St. Quentin Canal

The tunnel is about 3 miles long and to traverse it you have to hook up to an electric tow boat that pulls you and a caravan of boats through the tunnel. However, I’m the only one here when the tow shows up so it’s this big tow boat with its huge hawser towing just me along. The tunnel is not very big but plenty big enough for KOTWolf and it’s fairly well lit though there’s nothing to see. 

Wednesday July 25, Conflans, France
I am now in Conflans France, a few miles North of Paris at the confluence of L’Ois and Seine rivers. I am tied off to the right bank of the Seine, just north of the town proper under a copious willow tree which may help deal with any rainstorms.

Two AAAA days in a row. The first on this trip of 2 months so far. Blue Sky =A. Flat water =A. Light wind =A. Temp in high 70s =A

Paris has its own Statue of Liberty. The Eiffel Tower in the background

September 4th, 2012
The trip through Paris and down various rivers and canals to the Med was uneventful except to note that the weather was marvelous and the locks numerous (negotiated over 250 locks in France alone, rising from near sea level to almost 1000 feet and then back down again).

High above the  shallow Loire River The Loire Lateral Canal crosses via an aquaduct

K. O. T. Wolf entered the Mediterranean at Sete and ran the East coast of France and Spain down to Tarragona, where she was hauled and carted to family property in Northern Spain to be patched up, refitted, and hopefully relaunched soon. 

I haven’t yet figured out the distance sailed, but an average of 50 miles a day, which I think is about right, would put it between 4,500 and 5,000 miles.
The French canals. They remain much as they were in the time of Henry IV when they were first created.

I have mixed feelings about this trip. It was certainly an adventure, but it was three and a half months away from home, and that’s too long. When cruising the States (assuming you live in the U. S.) taking a plane, train, or bus home after a couple of weeks on the water is doable. Flying back and forth to Europe every few weeks is a prohibit ably expensive proposition. Plus, fuel is 3 times as expensive as is just about everything else.

For 3.5 months I slept every night in the boats’ cabin. This was no hardship as my closed cell mattress is as comfortable as any bed. Also, I always anchored out, or tied off to an overhanging tree branch, gaining privacy and saving marina docking fees which can be considerable. Spain’s Costa Brava has plenty of  harbors but almost no anchorages, and those are just open roadsteads, so I did tie up one night at a marina slip. It was a weekend, and there were parties in progress at every other slip. The din finally died down about two in the morning, but I was reminded once again why I hate docking at marinas.

The first half of this journey was against the prevailing winds which are almost exclusively out of the West. Punching into these is slow going and often wet and very cold. Finland offers some interesting cruising among its thousands of small islands, but I recommend West to East. The same holds true for Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.

The boat's interior

Although this little skiff never leaked a drop over several years of battering about the  waters of the U. S. and Europe, her 1/4” plywood hull is upon examination heavily scarred, cracked, and gashed. She suffers a particularly bad foot-and-a-half-long slash in the bows, luckily well above the waterline. All of these were preventable, and most were due to inattention or failure to put out adequate bumpers in locks and docks. Nevertheless, I think the hull sides are the AF4b’s most vulnerable area. A layer of cloth and glass might not add too much weight. 

If you would like to contact Rene to discuss his trip or ask a question, you can email him directly at:

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