Shakedown cruise on the Baltic Sea
We bought Lille Ø in May 2021. The summer was spent getting this 42 year old boat ready for the sea again. This included rebuilding the cabin top, replacing the electrical system with a new 12V LiFePO4 setup, and installing a set of modern NMEA2000 navigation instruments powered by Signal K.
With all these changes, we only had a month to actually sail. So this trip should be mostly seen as a "shakedown cruise" to see how the boat and all the new equipment behaves, and figuring out what still needs to be done before a longer cruise next year.
Despite the engine trouble in the beginning, we had a great trip! We found out that the boat sails beautifully even in bigger seas, and visited lots of nice places. Especially the Blekinge archipelago with all its skerries was a memorable one.
The trip also showed us the strength of belonging to an active sailing club. Without the help of friends at the club, we'd likely still be in Henningsdorf waiting for a mechanic!
We started the trip after work from SC Gothia at 15:15 with the customary horn signals. First stop was the Marina Lanke fuel dock to fill up the tank (52.6l). After some queuing, we left the station at 15:50 bound for the Spandau locks. We cleared Spandau locks at 17:20, and headed north with the intention to overnight at lake Lehnitz.
At 18:40 the engine suddenly stopped and didn’t start again. We were able to tie the boat to a piling meant for cargo ships on the side of the canal. We tried various things to fix the engine, including pumping the feed pump manually and bleeding the primary filter. No help.
- Distance today: 9.8NM
- Trip distance: 9.8NM
- Engine hours: 2
- Lunch: Risotto at Gothia mess hall
2021-08-14 Henningsdorf dalbe 16 - Spundwand Kuhdammweg
Berndt from the club arrived early in the morning with his motorboat carrying some spare parts and cold beverages. We did some additional motor debugging, but this time it started without issues. A mechanic was contacted, and we agreed that he could arrive the next day to help us in Töplitz if we first get the boat there. At 12:25 we started south towards Havelkanal to bypass Berlin. We arrived to the Schönewalde locks at 13:25. We had to wait for a barge to go through (and almost smash the sport boat waiting pier). We were through the locks at 14:25. At 15:55 the engine died again. A strong wind was pushing us towards the rocky side of the canal, and we dropped anchor to prevent this. Then we dug out our dinghy paddles, and turned the boat around with those. There was a docking wall slightly downwind, and we paddled the boat towards it. After a while, a small rubber boat with motor approached and towed us to the target. We tied securely. Berndt arrived again in the evening to inspect the situation and bring us a new diesel pump, this time with a car, as we were only 20 minutes drive from Gothia. The mechanic was arranged to arrive the next morning.
- Distance today: 12.8NM
- Trip distance: 22.6NM
- Engine hours: 2.4
- Lunch: Spaghetti aglio olio
2021-08-15 Spundwand Kuhdammweg - Brieselang
The mechanic arrived at 7:30. We changed the primary and secondary fuel filters. A manual “bulb” fuel pump was installed in the line replacing the electric diesel pump. The engine seemed to run with some occasional manual bleeding at the injector pump. There was some water flowing to the bilge from the side of the engine (later determined to be overflow from the fresh water anti-siphon). At 13:24 we started motoring north with the intention to get closed to the Baltic sea. Susanna sat in front of the engine, ready to bleed the injector if the engine were to sputter. And sputter it did. Constantly. So after few minutes we decided this wasn’t going to work, and stopped at the nearby marina Brieselang at 13:52. The day run was a glorious 2.1NM.
At 15:02 Berndt arrived. We removed the clearly leaky manual fuel pump with a continuous fuel hose. Now the engine was running better again. We ordered pizza to the marina and paid for 4h of electricity to top up the batteries.
- Distance today: 2.1NM
- Trip distance: 24.7NM
- Engine hours: 9.1
- Dinner: Pizza (ordered)
2021-08-16 Brieselang - Marienwerder
We left Brieselang at 9:35. The engine nearly stopped again when were just about to arrive to the Schönwalde locks, but Susanna was able to prevent it by bleeding the injector pump quickly. Now the procedure was to always have a person in front of the engine with appropriate tools when about to maneuver. Long wait at the locks due to maintenance work being done there 10:30-12:20. 12:35 the engine died again and had to be bled. Started fine afterwards. 12:45 bled again as a precaution. At 13:15 the engine died again and had to be bled. We arrived to Lehnitz locks at 16:00, and were out already at 16:28.
At 19:15 we arrived to Marienwerder and parked the boat in the box we had pre-booked. Marina was quite full with the storm forecasted for the next day. In total, the injectors had to be bled 11 times this day, a hot, loud, and stressful job.
- Distance today: 24NM
- Trip distance: 58.7NM
- Engine hours: 6.5
- Lunch: Käsespätzle
We decided to stay in Marienwerder until the engine was properly fixed, instead of trying to limp forward bleeding the injectors constantly. The risk of getting in trouble or stranded was just too high. And Marienwerder was still reachable by a mechanic. Since the newly-installed fuel hose was of wrong diameter, we ordered correctly sized hose and clamps from a local car repair shop. These were promptly delivered to the marina and installed. With some consultation with the mechanic, we tried a few things. Bypassing the primary fuel filter, etc. But always the motor would sputter after the first 1-1.5h. Neighboring motorboater was complaining loudly about the engine noise. The irony! Finally we tried bypassing the fuel tank, running both the diesel intake and the return to a canister. Now the engine ran without issues. Interesting! At this stage we filled the tank with a borrowed jerrycan from the marina. There was a fuel dock, but we decided against maneuvering there due to the high wind and narrow marina. The next day our mechanic arrived. After various other things we tried, it was determined that the issue was with the diesel return line. The fuel inlet pipe used for that in the tank was blocked, which meant a pressure build-up over time in the return system, eventually causing air to leak into the fuel system. After installing a new return inlet, everything was fine. Of course it would still take days to rebuild the trust in the engine…
- Distance today: 0NM
- Trip distance: 58.7NM
- Engine hours: 5
2021-08-19 Marienwerder - Oderberg
We finally started the engine and headed out of the Marienwerder harbour at 9:58. There were major canal dredging works on the way, causing some stress with the works vehicles driving in erratic fashion despite it being a one-way traffic zone. We potentially touched bottom when evading one of them.
At 12:48 we arrived at the Niederfinow ship elevator. What a machine! At 13:33 we were through it.
Since it was Thursday, we had the traditional Finnish lunch of pea soup and pancakes. After some look at the charts, we determined most harbours down on the West Oder to be too shallow for our boat, and hence decided to stop the day early and park in the Oderberg marina at 14:45. In this marina sailboats sit snugly in soft mud. No motor issues the whole day
- Distance today: 17.6NM
- Trip distance: 76.3NM
- Engine hours: 4
- Lunch: Pea soup & pancakes
2021-08-20 Oderberg - Szczecin
Rainy day! We left marina Oderberg at 6:54. At 7:33 we arrived to the Hohensaaten locks, and were through by 8:09 as the only vessel in the locks.
By 12:33 we entered Poland on the canal and hoisted the appropriate courtesy flag. The low railway bridge upon arrival to Szczecin was quite exciting! Only 2.96m clearance, so we motored through at a very low speed, with a person in the bow holding a boathook to make sure our laid-down mast and its instruments would clear it. No problems.
We arrived at 16:33 at the AZS marina, found free box based on the red-green labels, and booked the mast crane for early next morning. Time for a dinner. We were finally in a place where ships looked like ships, and sailboats had masts up! Normally the trip from Berlin to here would take only two days, but with the engine troubles we had, we were just happy to get there.
- Distance today: 48NM
- Trip distance: 124.3NM
- Engine hours: 10
- Lunch: Finnish macaroni casserole
2021-08-21 Szczecin - Swinoujscie
We moved the boat to the mast crane at 7:30, and by 8:20 the mast was up and we were able to start tuning the rig and preparing the sails. This was also an opportunity to do some light provisioning, even though the grocery store was quite a walk away. We also utilized the local chandlery to get some spare parts for our navigational lights. At 11:32 we left the marina and started crossing the shallow waters of the Dabie towards the sea.
At 13:38 we installed new waterproof connectors for the steaming and anchor lights. Pretty exciting to do electric work on deck whole under way. We also installed the wiring and the NMEA 2000 connector for our new ultrasonic wind sensor. Arrival to the Swinoujscie marina at 19:08. The marina was totally packed due to a harbour festival, and we ended up side-tying the boat to a Dutch steel schooner.
- Distance today: 29NM
- Trip distance: 153.3NM
- Engine hours: 6
- Lunch: Fried rice with aubergine
2021-08-22 Swinoujscie - Sassnitz
After a rolly night in the harbour, we went to check the fuel dock that had been closed the previous night. With some discussion with the fishermen on the pier, it became apparent that the fuel dock wasn’t operational and the only way to refuel would be carrying jerrycans from a regular gas station some kilometer away. Since we still had half tank left, we decided to press on. At 8:35 we left the harbour, and by 9:10 we had sails up and were heading towards German waters with a nice force 4 from the beam. We were steering course 330. Our general target was the Swedish south coast, but going there following the German islands of Usedom and Rugen so that we’d have plentiful safe harbours to tuck into on the way. This was also an opportunity to test our tiller pilot, which had no problems steering despite the somewhat large swell on our starboard beam.
At 13:45 we received a mayday from a German sailboat that had run aground near Greifswalder Oie. We plotted a course and would’ve been there in about 25 minutes. The emergency was answered by MRCC Bremen, and we continued our way northwest. Due to the swell buildup, we decided at 14:25 to head course for Sassnitz and overnight there. At 16:18 we dropped the sails outside the Sassnitz harbour. Without their stabilizing effect this became a rollercoaster ride. Lesson learned: next time we’d drop sail inside the large wavebreak instead. By 16:40 we were tied in one of the marina’s ridiculously oversized boxes. We checked in with the marina office, and booked fresh bread for the next morning. In the evening we dined in a nice Italian restaurant next to the marina and used the opportunity to do laundry.
- Distance today: 41NM
- Trip distance: 194.3NM
- Engine hours: 2.5
- Lunch: Coconut curry lentil soup
2021-08-24 Sassnitz - Simrishamn
The night in the Sassnitz harbour was quite restless. The marina is large enough for a swell buildup inside. Despite the night poorly slept, it was time to press on. The weather forecast was showing a storm coming over in two days. If we’d want a chance to sail, we should be in the lee of the Swedish south coast by then. We went to the fuel dock at 10:14 after breakfast and some discussions. Karin and Daniel left the boat at this stage for their own adventures, so from now on, it’d be just the two of us. We filled up 40l at the gas station. Having learned the lesson, we hoisted sails inside the harbour at 10:41. Then out on an easterly course to get a tack avoiding the white cliffs of Königstuhl. At 11:50 we tacked north to 350 and enabled the tiller pilot. Now we’d start the 4h-on-4h-off watch system we use on passages.
At 13:05 we inspected a low voltage alarm from the tiller pilot. One unrelated issue found was that the cable connecting the starter battery to our battery isolator (and hence enabling charging of house batteries from the alternator) had become loose. Reconnected it and ran motor for a while to recharge. At 16:00 wind picked up to 15kt Crossing the main traffic lanes between Germany and Sweden went without a hitch. Having an AIS transponder was certainly a boon, as not only we could see all the traffic in our Navionics, they could also see us. We even saw a large cargo vessel make a course change to pass us more safely.
Land ahoy! We sighted the Swedish coastline at 19:13. First came internet, and then the sight of land. By this time waves had reduced significantly, to maybe 0.4m height. At 22:20 we turned course to east and Simrishamn. As the wind was dying we shook out the first reef. Soon the autopilot would be unable to steer due to the low boat speed. We continued ghosting along the Swedish coast.
We took a tack north again at 6:40 to avoid the Traffic Separation Scheme in front of Bornholm.
By 11:15 the wind had died completely, so it was time to drop sail and motor towards Simrishamn. We arrived to the nearly-empty marina at 12:31 and tied up to one of the guest boxes. Harbour office wasn’t open off-season, so the payment was handled via a web form which sent us the PIN to access marina facilities.
- Distance today: 95NM
- Trip distance: 289.3NM
- Engine hours: 1.2
- Dinner: Risotto with carrots and olives
- Breakfast: oatmeal porridge
We took the opportunity of the stormy day to explore the cute little fishing town of Simrishamn. The westerly wind did a quite significant drop in water levels, as was seen at the marina beach. Simrishamn was also good for provisioning. We filled the water tanks at the pier, recharged batteries, and enjoyed the availability of Finnish foods and snacks at a typical Swedish supermarket. The difference in attitudes towards the COVID-19 pandemic were quite apparent from the scared looks of other shoppers because we were wearing masks.
2021-08-26 Simrishamn - Tarnö
On our tour the previous day we had found out that the military shooting range outside of Simrishamn would be active on our departure day. Because of this we had an early start at 7:05, plotting the course so that we’d clear the range before it activates. At 7:15 we had sails up, and were sailing with a slight angle through the south-east corner of the range (course 030). At 8:38 we were out of the shooting range and switched to a more northerly course to head towards the Blekinge archipelago.
At 10:22 we switched on the tiller pilot. By 11:35 the wind had reduced to 9.7kt, and we shook out the reef. Around 13:35 the wind died, and we started motorsailing, keeping the main sail up to stabilize the boat in the still-existing swell. Our first time using the motorsailing daymark! At 17:06 we were tied up at the pier in A. This is a free pier available for boats shorter than 40ft. You tie up to a buoy at the stern.
We removed some 15l of water from the bilge using an improvised bucket as the bilge pump had died. Then to explore this Unesco world heritage nature site!
- Distance today: 41.5NM
- Trip distance: 330.8NM
- Engine hours: 3.5
- Lunch: Pea soup & pancakes
Internet information had led us to believe that the island would be deserted at this time of the year, but turned out the ferries still run, just on a reduced schedule. We had a coffee and waffles break at a local cafe, and took some of the designated nature trails. A lovely tea break on some skerries. The level of Swedish infrastructure was quite visible. This island only has summer cottages, and yet they were installing fiber internet to all of them!
2021-08-28 Tarnö - Karlskrona
We left the pier at 8:37, and hoisted sail as soon as we were out of the narrow channel between the skerries. Our propeller didn’t feather automatically this time. We had to switch it on reverse for a moment to make it stop spinning and feather. Tiller pilot was steering on an easterly course. We chose to navigate to Karlskrona south of the archipelago to have a clean course on the main shipping lane. At 12:29 we arrived to the Karlskrona fairway, dropped sails and motored past the old fortresses guarding the harbour.
We tied up in the guest harbour at 13:53. Just like in Simrishamn, the marina office was closed and payment was with the GoMarina app. Karlskrona guest harbour is a big one, with again space to build up some swell. Good services, with possibility to do laundry, and even a Swedish sauna in the shower facilities. There was a circus show being performed in the rigging of an old wooden schooner, so we cracked open some beers and enjoyed it.
- Distance today: 27NM
- Trip distance: 357.8NM
- Engine hours: 1.8
- Lunch: Navy bean soup
Karlskrona is a Unesco-listed Baroque city and the main base of the Swedish Navy. We spent the day exploring the Navy museum and the old city center. Quite a grey day, and much of the museum was closed due to Corona restrictions, but it was still definitely worthwhile to see! As Sweden has affordable cheese, we also stocked up the fridge. We also used the time to do configure some navigation electronics upgrades. A very nice one was setting up saillogger.com for the boat. This software automatically monitors the vessel and provides electronic log entries, remote vessel monitoring and statistics. We also started sending the ship’s weather data (barometric pressure, temperature, and wind) to the windy.com service to help improve forecasts around us.
2021-08-30 Karlskrona - Utklippan
After a night well slept, we left the Karlskrona harbour at 10:03 for a shorter hop towards the Utklippan lighthouse island. At 10:15 we hoisted sail in front of the Navy museum. At 11:08 we were out of the Karlskrona fairway, and set the tiller pilot on course. By 12:10 the wind had risen to 30kt, so we set the 2nd reef. The boat was tracking nicely on a beam reach and the tiller pilot had no problems steering despite the big swell. At 12:38 we were approaching the island, and so it was time to stow the tiller pilot and prepare for arrival
The utklippan harbour entrance is very narrow, and there isn’t much protection from the wind. So our arrival was a hasty dropping of the mainsail in the harbour channel, and almost immediately tying up to the wall. The harbour has rings instead of bollards, so it is nearly impossible to catch those without stepping ashore. Luckily there was a Swiss sailboat to receive us as we arrived “hot” with the wind. At 13:00 we were tied securely. In the summer season the island has a hostel and a pub. This being off-season everything was closed.
We took one of the harbour rowboats to the lighthouse island to have a look around. Sadly the famous island seals were not visible this time. Rowing back was difficult upwind even inside the semi-protected harbour basin.
- Distance today: 13NM
- Trip distance: 370.8NM
- Engine hours: 0.5
- Dinner: Spinatch pancakes
2021-08-31 Utklippan - Christiansoe
We left the Utklippan harbour at 8:10, and had the sails up just five minutes later. Tiller pilot was set to a downwind course paralleling the main shipping lane, and we set a preventer to keep things safe. At 9:00 our topping lift got tangled with the radar reflector on our port side main side stay. It took us 40 minutes (and cost one lost beanie) to clear it. At 10:10 we gybed east to cross the shipping lane. By 10:50 the wind had died so we switched to motorsailing on 1st reef to clear the northbound lane. By 12:30 we were clear of the shipping lanes and were able to start sailing again towards Christiansoe. At 13:10 we reached Danish waters and switched the courtesy flag appropriately. Around 15:52 the wind had died, so we dropped sail and started motoring towards the island fortress. We found out that our depth sounder maxes out at 90m. We tied up at 18:50, stern with mooring buoy, at the west island. Just in time to still get dinner and beer at the local restaurant while enjoying a beautiful Baltic sunset.
Marina payment was with a machine at the harbourmaster’s office
- Distance today: 46NM
- Trip distance: 416.8NM
- Engine hours: 4.3
- Lunch: Coconut curry lentil soup
Christiansoe is a stunning fortress, and so we spent the day exploring the islands. We found a small local brewery with lots of different exploratory beer varieties. Apparently the selection would be even better in the beginning of the season. Not cheap, but worth it! We also bought some local pickled herrings and did laundry.
2021-09-02 Christiansoe - Svaneke
We had already caught a glimpse of the island of Bornholm on our way to Simrishamn, and now it was time to get there. At 8:15 we left Christiansoe, with some difficulties to detach our Easy-Catch system from the mooring buoy. Sails went up at 8:30.
Very light wind sail downwind towards Bornholm. At 11:08 we gave up and started motoring. The small harbour in Svaneke was full, but luckily there was still one box free with a green marker. We tied up and had a long hike to the under-renovation harbour office to pay atr the machine. Later on the harbourmaster came for a visit and advised us that the water at the pier isn’t safe to drink, so we filled our tank via jerrycans from the other side of the harbour. While we enjoyed the liquorice ice cream, neither of us really enjoyed Svaneke. The city was built with the 70s ideal of tourist towns, everything catering for cars and small-to-non-existent sidewalks.
We had plans to explore Bornholm further, but a closer look at the weather forecast told that the only window open would be to cross to Poland the next day. After that there would be no wind in this area for a week. And that would be a long way to motor…
- Distance today: 13NM
- Trip distance: 429.8NM
- Engine hours: 1.1
- Lunch: Pea soup
2021-09-04 Svaneke - Swinoujscie
We started from Svaneke harbour at 11:10 to catch a favorable wind shift. At 11:20 we had sails up and were heading downwind along the east coast of Bornholm. At 13:30, somehow past Nexoe the wind died. We motorsailed a bit to get out of the wind hole.
At 13:45 the wind shifted to westerly and started strengthening, so we resumed sailing. We started the passage from Bornholm to Poland on a nice 15kt beam reach, but it would reduce, turn southerly and die overnight.
By 9:16 there was no wind left, and we had to drop sail and start motoring. We arrived to Swinoujscie harbour at 12:20, this time finding plentiful free space. In this marina the reserved boxes are marked with a red sign. Unmarked boxes are free. We paid for the marina at the harbourmaster’s office, had lunch in the tavern, and went to town for ice cream and provisions.
- Distance today: 98NM
- Trip distance: 527.8NM
- Engine hours: 3.4
- Dinner: Asparagus risotto
- Breakfast: Oatmeal bluebery porridge
2021-09-05 Swinoujscie - Szczecin
Left the harbour at 9:50 under engine. At 11:52 we entered the Szczecin Lagoon, and hoisted sails. However, the winds were weak and by 13:15 we were motoring again. We arrived to the AZS marina at 18:34. Initially we took just some box, but the owner arrived later and instructed us to look for a box with a green marker. We booked the mast crane for the next morning.
- Distance today: 36.5NM
- Trip distance: 564.3NM
- Engine hours: 7.4
- Lunch: Tomato feta oven pasta
We dropped the mast in the morning with the help of the harbourmaster. Then it was time for some maintenance. The electric oil pump we had brought from Berlin let out the magic smoke, so we bought a manual one from the marina chandlery and changed the engine oil. After some discussion with the harbour master, it was communicated that the local fuel dock is “no good”, so we hauled 30l of diesel from a gas station some 15min walk away.
2021-09-07 Szczecin - Oderberg
This was Susanna’s birthday, so we hoisted the signal flags for “S-U-S-K-I-4-0”.
We left the AZS marina at 7:30, sipping coffee while motoring along the misty river. After an uneventful trip, we entered the Hohensaaten locks at 15:53 without having to wait by “tailgating” a freighter. Tied up at the Oderberg marina at 16:59. It was time for some birthday sparkling wine!
- Distance today: 46.4NM
- Trip distance: 610.8NM
- Engine hours: 9.8
- Lunch: Shakshuka
2021-09-08 Oderberg - Berlin
We left the Oderberg marina at 6:48, ghosting along the quiet river in a thick fog.
At 7:50 we arrived at the Niederfinow ship elevator. The fog had just started lifting in the morning sun. Coming in this early, we got a private elevator to ride with!
At 8:40 we were out and motoring towards Berlin. We passed the dredging works at 10:50. It was exciting as always, but less problematic than the last time. At 13:55 we arrived to the Lehnitz locks. The waiting pier was full, and we ended up helping a chartered motorboat tie up alongside us. We had a long “boat buying chat” with them while waiting, and got a bottle of cold sparkling wine for our troubles. At 14:20 we were out of the locks and on the Lehnitz lake. We arrived at the Spandau locks at 17:10, and had a very long wait. Maybe the lock keeper had a lunch break? In any case, we motored out at 18:04. Arrived back to Gothia at 18:45. Berndt was waiting at the end of the pier with a tray full of cold beer. Good to be back home!
- Distance today: 56NM
- Trip distance: 666.8NM
- Engine hours: 10
- Lunch: Spaghetti Bolognese