Hopping to Heiligenhafen

A tense ten minutes …. Had they seen us? Did they have their sights on us? Were we about to be shot from the water for daring to intrude on a gunnery range? Would we make a clearer target with the sails up or down? Then …. relief …. a german Dehler 38 sailed between us and the guns – he would protect us; safety in numbers …. finally …. safety …. we sailed past the yellow buoy and into clear water ….

Off the coast at Hohenfelde is a gunnery range, so to get from Wendtorf to Heiligenhafen involves a long round trip – around an extra 6-8 miles offshore, but the harbourmaster at Laboe had told us that they only operated the range between 9 and 5 (good to know that even the guns in Germany keep strict office hours!). So, having set waypoints to go right round the edge of the range, we started to think that we might be able to sneak across the top of it before 9am. We had left Wendtorf at 0610 and were making over 7 knots over the ground, so reckoned that we could aim for the far north-eastern edge of the range and be clear by 9am …. just. All went according to plan until half an hour before the planned exit, when the wind decided to drop meaning that we missed our planned escape by 10 minutes. However, by then we started to realise that other German boats were actually sailing straight through which rather deflated the illicit excitement of trying to cheat the system!

So, we had all the classic elements of a perfect sail – a F3-4, a beam reach and dodging guns. All that was missing was sunshine, but that didn’t seem to matter. Once we had cleared the gunnery range we had to head up a little, but we were making the north cardinal buoy of Heiligenhafen in one tack making it a relatively easy run and we made the passage of 34.7nm in five and three quarter hours (an average of over 6 knots) arriving at 1155.

Heiligenhafen itself is a nice holiday town. The marina is huge – it takes 15 minutes to walk from end to end, and it is surrounded by restaurants, beach shops and souvenir shops, but it nevertheless has a nice feel. The beach itself is less than 10 minutes walk from the marina and it is covered in Strandkorb.

Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Rügen, Beach at Sellin — 2009 — 1173” / CC BY-SA 4.0

Strandkorb literally means ‘beach basket’ which seems quite an appropriate description. They come in many varieties and accessories include side tables, extendable foot rests, sun awnings and even various storage options. The Strandkorb is considered a cult object of what is described in German as Gemütlichkeit (a word which conveys a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer); a notion that has survived two world wars, social and industrial revolutions and the East-West divide of Germany. However, the friendliness doesn’t seem to extend to allowing other people to sit on your Strandkorb – all the ones we have looked at thinking we could have a quick sit down have been firmly shuttered and locked!

The waves and the wind are God’s, but the sails and the rudder that you get you to harbour are yours.