Sailing from Brest to Riga

19.07.2007 Riga – Paris – Brest

Good morning!19.07

I just finished chatting with the captain and as it turns out it is already 5.30 in the morning. We spoke about various things and it’s morning already. Well, I guess I should tell you about what happened yesterday.

We arrive at the airport at 11AM and I meet with Ralfs. Māris and Uldis arrive soon and we check in and go through the control zone to the tax-free area. We have a meal in LuLu and get on the plane that would get us to Paris in 2.5 hours. The plane is the same as any plane around so we take our time and fool around with our handheld GPS, following the course, speed and altitude of the plane. The course can be seen in the picture, the altitude was around 11 km and the speed was 700 kmph. An old fart near me had a beautiful woman with him. The old person must be rich or… well, maybe he is just a nice guy, but it is hard to tell. The landing was good and soon after the applause, we were in the Paris airport and discovered for ourselves that the place is huge.

The luggage was held up and we missed the bus that we were planning to take to the center where w would have taken the train to Brest.

We decided to rent a car and drive ourselves (550 km) and stop at gas stations as we go. In one of the stations, we had a raw steak and grudgingly continued our trip. The French do not seem to speak English and thus we could not explain to the chef that we wanted the steaks well done. Many kilometers later, we decided to have some wine that allegedly costs like water there. In one gas station we could only buy wine if we were to buy something to eat too (we were not too keen on doing that) while the other only sold beer, but it turned out to be not so bad after all and we were sipping beer from the 250 ml bottles. The strange thing is that France gets more beautiful proportionally to the distance from Paris. The navigation got us to Brest where we arrived just after midnight. The GPS helped us to find the large yachting club. The yachting club housed more yachts than the total amount registered in Latvia (around 400). The captain told us later that the club is fairly small comparing to other clubs of the same region. Some even have more that 10 000 yachts.

The impressions are great, I have driven a huge distance, while I have not yet seen that much, and I liked what I saw. We take our bunks and go to the mess hall to discuss the future.

Tomorrow we are going to take a walk in Brest, take a look around and do some shopping, so that we can leave the place in the evening and go out in the ocean. According to the plan, we are to arrive in the next port in 1.5 days.

People tell that there are whales and dolphins in these waters and I really hope to see and photograph them – only time will tell if I manage to do that. I must get some sleep for I must get up in 4 hours and get some fuel. After that, we will be out in the city and off to the ocean while the tidal currents are favorable to leaving the port. Good night.

You do not always get what you asked for and now we are planning to leave the port only on 21.07.2007 at 2 AM when the tide is at the highest point in the current phase of the moon. (I find it curious that the water level changes within 6 meters twice a day. We wander the Brest, enter various restaurants and shops and joke around. We are happy with our lives.

After the shopping trip, I got a pair of yachting pants and some other necessary accessories. We also bought some food for our 140 nm trip to the Guernsey Island owned by the United Kingdom.

I ordered some snail salad with shrimps for supper and discovered that I have a sautéed earthworm in my dish. It did not ruin my appetite, but it was not tempting enough for me to enjoy my meal in full. I will finish my writing for the day and am going to the yacht club office to get some wireless Internet so that I can send this message.

Well, I should sack in for I am to get up at 2 AM tomorrow (21.07.2007) or, to be more precise, later tonight. Good night!

21.07.2007

I wake up at night and ebb has begun. I do not get the idea of why are we not leaving. It is Friday night and it turns out that the French like to throw parties too. I go for a walk at the pier and see the water level changing. I study the water and take some measurements, but still do not understand it. The shitfish jump out of the water all around the yacht. Soon everyone is awake and we get to the gas station, fuel up with diesel and sail out for the ocean at the dead of night. The captain is in his cabin while I am at the wheel. Uldis is studying the map and corrects the course from time to time. We are surrounded by 2-meter waves, that shake us noticeably and from time to time, an odd wave rolls over the bow. Everything is cool and all we need to do is go on.

The one thing that is not clear is where to go, for the surrounding area is filled with, buoys, lighthouses and other lights. A ship and to yachts pass us and I must confess that I managed to notice them only in the last moment for it is very hard to distinguish the moving lights from the still ones.

The currents are good all night long and we go motorized by the seaways and meet the dawn in the ocean – a fairly nice view. Of course, I took some pictures of it. Some of the guys go to sleep and I am left with Uldis at the wheel where we steer the boat and chat. The weather is fairly calm and soon one can start tannin and it is getting fairly hot. Some time later Uldis goes to sleep but soon thereafter, the others start to wake up and we have a great time. I start feeling very sleepy and go to sleep at midnight. When I get up at 8 AM in the morning, we can see the Guernsey Island and it is an incredibly great view. I am sleepy at the wheel and it is getting harder to hold on course for I cannot see anything with my eyes closed and no one can see that my eyes are closed for I am wearing dark sunglasses. Captain Uldis asks me from time to time where exactly am I steering the boat and then I wake up and correct the course within 3 minutes. The Captain makes some coffee and feeds me some sandwiches and as a result, I am fully awake now and take pictures of the beautiful nature of the Guernsey Island. While I am down in the cabin, Māris is at the wheel and shouts that a huge fish is circling us. I jump out and see two dolphins playing around the yacht, but they swim away very soon. Well, what’s the commotion about? I would really like to see the dolphins more as well as the whales that are supposed to be around here somewhere.

We stop at a buoy and wait for the harbormaster to arrive and show us our dock. He comes to us and we discover that our draught is too deep and thus we must anchor at a floating plank way with no exit to the shore. 5 meters away is a water taxi that takes us to the shore in 5 minutes for 1.5 pounds or 2 Euros. This must be one of the shortest and yet most expensive taxi rides I have ever had for the five of us crossed 15 meters of water for 10 euros in total. Must be a juicy business.

The island is nice but there is not much to talk about it – one would be able see the pictures for himself. The interesting thing is that there are around 3000 Latvian guest workers on the island and we only met six.

We got to the showers though we had to look for it quite some time. The tide was high and the ebb low, thus the changes in water level were quite impressive. The yacht harbor has a traffic light that shows red and green light for six hours each. Although I can’t imagine how anyone could violate the traffic light signals for there is no water when the light shows red. At the traveler’s cheque sending station there was a sign in Latvian – “You can send money home here”.

One always wants to check the left side of the street first and only then the right, as we are used to. However, the system is of no use for us in England and thus we cross the streets shaking our heads in all direction.

We caught a rubber taxi that took us for 10 EURO to the yacht where we stayed. We thought of going to a pub called Folies that was to be full of Latvians and Portuguese. The pub is also famous for the pole dancing contests that can bring the winners up to 100 ponds in cash. We really wanted to see how do the Latvian girls behave themselves abroad, but could not get ashore. I must say that we were disappointed. They think of our countrymen as cheap labor and treat them accordingly, but there is nothing much to say, if someone doesn’t want or cannot work and stay in Latvia. I think that they don’t wan to, since one can do very much, almost everything. Well, enough about that. I found it strange that we didn’t meet any of our oligarchs at this offshore zone. The morning (23.07.2007) it is a bit rainy, there is a small wind, and some waves. We go out and the weather gets calmer. It’s cloudy, but warm and we take off our jackets and sweaters. Okay, it’s time I finished my writing and I got bored of writing anyway. We are going to Cherbourg. I am going to put the PC down, for the battery is getting empty. We are going to prepare a meal. A chicken in an orange, curry and honey sauce with potatoes. See you soon.

We get in the Cherbourg harbor on full stomach and calmly. We take a walk in the town – it’s rather nice. We have some Turkish kebab made by Turks and get back to the yacht. Today two new people join us and we celebrate it with a liter of whiskey.

In the morning of 24.07.2007, I solder the autopilot, though it is not working after either. The others wander the city. I wanted to buy a Cherbourg umbrella, but there seem to be none. Everyone is back on board and tan while Ralfs is at the wheel. There is not much to do outside anyway for it is hot. I will get inside and wait until they add the mayonnaise in the tuna salad and then I will most likely take an afternoon nap. We are sailing to Dieppe and will get there in 24 hours or less, depending on the wind.

I had a good sleep and see the dawn. Raimonds and Liene are pawing the wheel and keeping the yacht on course. They must have steered all day long while the others were sleeping and thus must be tired and want to go to bed. I put my warm yachting pants on and get to the wheel. The surroundings get darker and a shipping boat shows up at the horizon. The ship has great interest in us and just keeps coming right at us. After a short while, it starts netting. There are some stories of French fishermen releasing their nets right in front of the yachts just to have fun in watching the yachtsmen try to evade the nets. This time, however, they were netting on the side and they had no chance in having fun about our efforts to evade their nets. The wind is getting stronger and some waves are 3 meters high already. The captain goes to sleep and I stay at the wheel with Uldis. We change every half and hour for it is hard to steer and the great waves throw the yacht around, making it hard to hold the course. The ones in the cabin have their own troubles. The sleepers cannot only get used to flying kitchenware and other items, but get a chance to fly around the cabin themselves. Captain Uldis got an idea that every time he is about to fall asleep, I get in a large wave and the sail make a loud noise and bellies from the other side. We drink an exquisite wine from carton (goes for a little more than one euro for a liter) and enjoy the wind and the spatter.

The stars are shining bright and some of them fall from time to time. If the stars keep falling with such intensity, my wish list is going to be empty any time soon. I am getting sleepier and sleepier and then I just pass out at the wheel. Some time later, I discover that we are completely off course and we decide to wake up Māris and Ralfs so that they can take the shift. I go to bed and fall asleep immediately.

When I wake up, I discover that the dawn that had come just 15 minutes after the change of the shifts had been very beautiful.

I get up and we are by Dieppe. It is a city with large cliffs and visible relief.

We enter the port and go to the offices of the port. The heat is rather unpleasant, but the local fishermen sell flukes, skates and other unfamiliar beasts. We finish with the formalities and find out that an elegant ocean storm is coming that might cause a setback in our plans to leave for Bologne tomorrow. We get the codes for the showers, take a peak at the pissed-all-over paradise and go for a walk in the city. We find the Turks and they make us some hot kebab. The town is rather interesting and we walk for a long time and even get to the ocean. The beach is made of round tangerine-sized stones. I paddle the ocean shore and take a few pictures. I bought some tobacco and coal for the water pipe as well as calvados-cider. We get back to the yacht only to discover that the wine and beer reserves are empty. We get to the supermarket and fill the trolley with beer, two-liter bottles of cider and a 10-liter carton of wine. It would have been a nice shopping trip if there would have been a way to get all the goods to the yacht, but we still manage to do it. Ralfs and Uldis are buying food and thus don’t help us in our alcohol-carrying duties, but all ends well and we get to the yacht and start trying the freshly purchased drinks.

The natural cider tastes like alchy and since we have no still with us, the drink is going to be our offering to the Neptune. We light the water pipe and discover that the Belgians next to us look at us suspiciously – they must be thinking that we are smoking opium or at least weed. That is not the case – it’s just apple tobacco. It’s dark outside and we go out to the city to have some kebab and take a walk to the ocean. When we get back, we start playing cards. Māris passes out a few times during the game and cannot remember what the game was so we decide to quit playing and go to sleep. In the morning (26.07.2007), we have jam, foie-gras, French bread, cheese and sausages for breakfast and have creme-brulle for dessert. It’s very windy and rainy. The weather prognosis was correct and we are stuck in the port. No yachts are leaving the port, just keep coming in. We have no idea of how long we will have to stay and the prognosis looks grim. We must take the first chance to get out in the ocean. We want to get to the English Channel and in the North Sea. Right now, we are thinking of what to do. It’s no fun to go outside in this weather, but staying inside is no fun either. Ok, keep in touch.

I went swimming in the ocean. This was the first time I went swimming during the trip.

We walked around the city and had lunch. Now we are back on the yacht and just sitting here. Ralfs is making coffee and others are just walking around the rainy Dieppe. The ocean is windy and the wind is only going to stop tomorrow morning. We want to leave the port at 11 AM and go to Bologne. We are tired of sitting in the port – it’s the second day already we are fed up with the place and I want to see some other countries. We have Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden on schedule. We have entered the Eastern Hemisphere on our way from Cherbourg to Dieppe. Well, at least it’s the same hemisphere as Latvia. We are getting a bit closer to our home. It’s nice here and we have had no quarrels – I guess it means that we know how to get along. Everyone is in good mood most of the time and we smile a lot. I think about home from time to time, but I cannot say that I long about it too much. It’s fun being here. We visited a museum today, by the way. I must sort the pictures. I have made a lot of them and we will have to make a special evening to see them all. It’s a long way still and I will be in Riga in the middle of August. I guess that I will have to celebrate my name day on the yacht too.

We spent the evening on the yacht and played cards. In the end, we sang various foolish and not so foolish songs. I guess some of them might even be called nice songs. The English Channel is windy and it rains there.

We went to the shop in the morning and fill our food and beer supplies. We enter the English Channel and find out that the wind speed is around 20 knots. There are enormous waves left by the yesterday’s storm. The ocean is white from the foam and I have to take the wheel. The waves are about 3 meters high and from time to time, a 4-meter wave covers the yacht with water. The ones sitting and sleeping on the deck thank me when I get us in a wave and soak everyone. Actually, it’s fun. My PC flies around the cabin and it doesn’t make me too happy. Someone has forgotten to shut the valve in the toilet and now we have a smelly fountain. The captain tells his commentaries on the subject in colorful Russian. I guess he likes it too. Some people laugh about me for it is hard to write when you cannot hit the right buttons most of the time, but I still keep trying. Some water just splashed in the cabin and I guess we will have to close the hatches for we don’t want to sleep in a puddle.

The bell starts to ring by itself and it is a clear sign that the waves are really big. We can see underwater landscapes through the portholes from time to time. I will take a look some time later for now it is time for my memoirs. Apart from the fun with the waves, it’s quite warm and sunny. The water dries very fast and we can wait for the next wave in freshly dried clothes. The captain keeps eating dessert and Māris sleeps outside and looks suspicious. I do hope that he doesn’t get too green. I have found my sea legs and the waves make me happy. It’s really nice to sail on 4-meter waves. We will spend the night in a pit stop in a town called Bologne-sur-mer. The day after tomorrow will be the day when we will enter the narrowest place of the English Channel. It should be interesting for it is one of the most dangerous sea roads in the world. The map of that place is full of dots marking shipwrecks. If we will go on the side, then I guess we will be standing by the portholes and taking pictures of the underwater wrecks. There are some shipwrecks in the area we are in now too. Ok, it’s time to finish the writing for today and pay a visit to the little green men in the cabin. Some of the might need an insurance like – “It’s going to be over pretty soon”. They cannot sit in the cabin for then they get really sick. The best thing for them to do would be to sit or lay on the deck and look at the horizon. It also makes sense to have a drink, for it messes with the vestibular system and you don’t get sick that easy. They keep refusing the drinks, nevertheless. I will go and get Uldis and we will go outside to drink some beer. The day is nice and hot and one can really enjoy some beer and a cold shower. There isn’t anything better than the royal yachting sport.

I slept half a day, must be because I did not get enough sleep at night. I even dreamt about the sea. Within three hours, we are going to be in Bologne. Every place is going to be closed for the night and we won’t get a chance to see much of the city none either. We will have to get up at dawn and it means that we will have to go to sleep early. I don’t think I will be able to sleep for I have already slept for most of the day. It is nice to sleep when the waves lull you to sleep.

I stayed in my bunk and read an old magazine for we have no new magazines in Latvian. I got up on the deck. We are close to the port. It is nice to see the waves breaking over the bulwark. It starts to rain and we get in the port that turns out to be crowded. After a few complicated maneuvers, we manage to berth by an English yacht. Other yachtsmen meet us with applause. I guess it means that we are the first ones to pull it off. The others were sent away from the place where we anchored. .When we passed him the ropes for the first time he threw them back. After a while, he understood that there is no other place for us to stay. We meet a Belgian guy who was right beside us in Dieppe. After getting a rain shower we get inside and start making supper. Liene starts peeling potatoes and making salad. Uldis mixes rum with cola and captain Uldis makes a mayonnaise-walnut-garlic sauce. The sauce will be served with eggplants prepared by yours truly. The meal is ready and everyone gets calm and sleepy on a full stomach. We have some coconut cream and go to sleep. I am writing these lines while the others are either asleep or reading. A Belgian yacht berths by ours – the yacht club is full to the limit.

We get up at six o’clock and one of us will have to get up in the mast to free the tangled rollfoku. I guess I will get the honors as the youngest with the most experience apart from the captain (except for Raimonds), but I’m not in a hurry to find out. I will be asleep at six o’clock and will not be able to resist the masting. Anyway, we pass the narrowest part of the English Channel and celebrate by drinking champagne from a large bowl that we keep passing around. We celebrate our arrival at the North Sea. We were told that tomorrow the weather should be fine (28.07.2007), but it sure doesn’t look that way. Right now, there is heavy rain outside, but no wind. Everyone is asleep and I will just try to get my writing into my diary and go to sleep myself. It’s a pity that the mobile Internet is so slow, I would like to read some commentaries and answer letters. I barely manage to get my diary entries on line so don’t be upset if I don’t answer you. Some port is bound to have a better connection and then I will be able to answer the letters, chat a bit in Skype and MSN and write answers to commentaries, as well as post some pictures. I have 2-3 hundred pictures already. Good night! The next entry will be from the North Sea near the shores of Belgium. To be honest, I am tired of France and I want something else for a change. It’s still raining and it will help me fall asleep.

It’s morning at last! It was hard to wait for it. Every hatch of the yacht was closed and the cabin lacked air and it was very hot, thus there was no way to get a good night sleep. I had breakfast and am going to be masted. The mast itself is pretty high (20 meters above water). While I untangled the falle, I also took my chance to see Bologne, for there was no time to get ashore. The town looks a lot like Ķengarags and I have no feeling of loss for not seeing the labyrinth of gray buildings. We get ready and leave the port followed by a few yachts. We see some ships and a fair bunch of yachts upon entering the English Channel, I guess the must have chosen to get through the most narrow spot during the day. The weather is quite OK, it’s a bit windy and the waves shake us a bit, but the sun is shining and I am getting sleepy. I’m off to bathe in the sun. The trip is uneventful except for our adventures ashore, the weather and the interaction between the travelers. The schedule goes like this – steer the wheel and then sleep or look nowhere in particular. This is what happens to every sailor in favorable weather conditions – I must say it’s very relaxing. We remember our adventures in the place we stopped on way, e.g., how Māris asked a Turkish man in a kabob stand – „Where is bugubugi in your town”. The Turk obviously had no idea about what Māris wants from him until Māris started dancing disco. Everyone was laughing their brains out by the time. Our laughter made the Turkish man more cautious and made it even funnier for us.

We are almost at the narrowest point of the English Channel and we can see many boats and yachts around us. We can see both England and France at the same time.

The LMT connects the mobile phone of Uldis they had disconnected earlier, for his warranty deposit is only some 50 LVL, for he is a fairly new user of the LMT. I go inside and read some of the old magazines I have had no chance to read earlier and fall asleep from time to time. I have been sleepy for the last few days and I see no point in trying to stay awake if my body just wants to have some sleep. After a short while, we are near the entrance of the Newport harbor (Belgium). Great waves meet at the sea gates, but we can feel no wind strong enough to make them. It must mean that the waves from the sea meet the river here. Some of the yachts look funny for they act like in real storm while there is no storm around. We try to keep along the line and get around the bathtub and thus take no part in the tempest in the teapot. I take pictures of the brave heroes fighting the waves and risking wrecking their yachts against the bulwark

Well, the pictures turned out nice and I guess I will post some of them for everyone to see.

I also took a picture of a cormorant trying to swallow a fluke in whole, unsuccessfully I must add.

The fluke is quite wide, but I guess the cormorant has no trouble with swallowing regular fish.

We tie the yacht and go for a walk in the town. It turns out that there is a 3 km walk to the town. On our way, we see some live and some dead hares (the ones with the long ears) – they are quite small and there are a lot of them around. They might be rabbits for all I know. They just keep running around the road and are hit by cars from time to time – something quite infrequent in Latvia. The town is small, but quite nice, and reminds me of some little towns in Denmark – Nexo or Ronne. We plan to visit them during our trip. I have been there and want to pay a second visit. There is a concert of Irish folk music in the city square some musicians play their instruments and a guy is performing some sort of a line dance with a whole lot of girls.

We get in a pub later a have a great meal. Raimonds, captain Uldis and I order steaks, Ralfs and Liene order spaghetti Bolognese while Māris and Uldis order trotters. The most enjoyable thing in the pub was the fact hat the portions were huge. All seven of us spent a total of 140 EURO, which is considered a low price here. We walked by other pubs and the prices there went as far as 30-40 EURO. We had some beer and wine too. It was a great supper. We were talking about playing cards on our way home, but the idea was canceled once we got to the yacht and we all went to sleep. Māris passed out in the saloon as usual and later had to walk to his cabin half asleep. I am getting sleepy to and am going to my bunk.

The morning (29.07.2007) starts with the yelling of the captain that someone had made bubbles and he had nothing to breathe during the night. I have no idea what is that all about, but since I am always around for I sleep in the saloon, everything goes off at me first. I am not offended for I don’t think that it’s personal. I am used to being on yachts and understand that people not used to being on yachts tend to do something wrong for the living conditions differ. E.g., one has to put everything down the way that it cannot fly around. Land lovers are also not used to putting the dishes in the sink instead of just leaving them on the table. They also tend to forget that one must keep an eye out for unfinished beer that tends to fall over if one doesn’t want to have an indoor puddle. Everything is going to be fine, I don’t thing that anyone would do something wrong on purpose.

Ralfs makes oatmeal for breakfast and Liene makes natural ovaries (it’s an old joke of the way Russians have translated яичница натуральная (scrambled eggs) in Latvian) with sausages, toast and coffee. After all of the above has been consumed and we have had a dessert, we start to get a feeling that we have had a meal.

Everyone feels stuffed and no one is too eager to wash the dishes so we decide to draw matches and yours truly got the shortest. We are still eating and Māris discovers that the French cream has become penisless. (It’s a joke on how a Russian dining facility employee used to call pot cheese). (The word for pot cheese in Latvian is biezpiens and Russian-speaking people tend to pronounce it like bezpenis, which means penisless.).

The propeller vibrates too much and there is a chance that it might even fall off, so we decide to lift the yacht out of water and wash the bottom with high-pressure water jet and fix the propeller. We will get a chance to do that on Monday when the hoisting engine is going to be available. We have a free evening today and we are going to leave port tomorrow (29.07.2007) after the repairs. We discover that the Belgian fellow who was right beside us in Dieppe and Bologne is also beside us now, although the club houses around 3500. This is the yacht club of the Belgian Air Force.

On Monday, we are going to the next port and will get ready for the long trip.

Coastal sailing is very complicated and one must consult the map all the time for there are too many shelves around and one really does not want to get on one of them, thus we are going to enter the North Sea and sail the next 200-300 miles (400-600 km) in deep waters fairly far from the shore. We still don’t know the next port we are going to enter, but we are going to get closer to the Kiel Channel. We have no idea how long we are going to stay there for Māris, Liene and Raimonds are going to leave us and fly back to Riga. There will be four of us left at best and it’s not something one might want for a 2-3 day round-the-clock sailing. There is also a chance that Uldis might leave us too and there will be only three of us left. It might get really hard to steer round-the-clock for we need some time to sleep too, but – it’s going to be fine. There is no point in trying to guess the future.

We were in the town today and had a pot of clam. We asked the waitress what kind clam would she recommend she answered that she can recommend nothing for she doesn’t eat clam and doesn’t want to try it either. We emptied the pot and it was quite delicious. Ralfs, both Uldis’es and I had a pot on four, while Raimonds and Liene had a pot each. They must have a great feeling of stomach full of clam. I managed to post this message for the Internet here is OK. I will try to post some pictures too. Take care.

The next morning comes and everyone gets up. No one is in a hurry for we are still in Newport harbor and we should get the yacht lifted out of the water today for we must find out what is wrong with the propeller. We spend half a day trying to find a navigation almanac that would help us to find our way in all the currents, ebbs, tides and small ports. We also try to find a hoisting engine that would get us out of the water. After spending much time and effort on our quest, we find both. When the yacht is out of the water, we discover that there is a part of net with all the bobbers wrapped around the propeller that creates the vibration and complicates the maneuvering. We take the snarl off the propeller and feel happy that there is nothing wrong with the propeller itself, so we get the yacht back into the water.

Everyone wants to go shopping for we need food for the next passage to a port close to Amsterdam.

We make Boeuff Stroganoff with spaghetti for supper and go to the pub of the yacht club before going to sleep. We browse the web there and have a few beers. After the pub, we get back to the yacht and empty a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of rum. The mixing of the aforementioned drinks had a peculiar effect on Māris and Raimonds, who put on their life jackets and jumped straight into the dirty waters of the port. We shot the whole affair. Māris decides that he must test the life jacket and lays on the water on his stomach facedown and waits for the jacket to turn him on his back. After a minute, he announced that the jacket must be faulty for if he hadn’t turned on his back himself we would have had to get him out with a hook.

We get on our way the next morning.

The weather is quite interesting – it’s a bit windy and the sea is covered with white foam. It’s a nice view though one must put on his warm clothes to enjoy it while feeling warm and dry. The traveling takes some 24 hours and we get in the port of Ijmuiden in the morning of the next day. The port is within an hour drive with a bus from Amsterdam. Since we entered the port at 5 AM, we go to sleep at once so that we can go to Amsterdam later. We are at the capital of the Netherlands by noon and have a few beers, eat and start our quest to find the red light district. On our way to the red light district, we see the city and coffee shops. We have split apart and get together only after some search for the lost. When everyone is back together, we start roaming the narrow streets filled with love for sale. After everyone has enjoyed Amsterdam, we get back to the port.

Raimonds, Liene and Māris leave us in the morning and I must say that it’s a pity for I had become accustomed to them. We wring our wet handkerchiefs, buy food and some beer as well as fill up with water and diesel and get back in the sea. There are only four of us left, but the passage to Kiel is a 48-hour long round-the-clock drive, so we split up in two teams. Both Uldises are in one team and I team up with Ralfs. We start our shift and Ralfs is at the wheel. The shifts are designed in a manner that each shift must steer for four hours while the other one is sleeping.

It means that we are going to be on shift from 13.00 – 17.00 ; 21 – 01; 05 – 09 and so on till we get to the port. It’s August 3 today and we are planning to enter the port in the morning of August 4.

We are half way to the Kiel Channel and have about 100 nautical miles (~200 km) to shore. We also have our shifts in the caboose, or in other words, the kitchen of the yacht. Yesterday it was Ralfs’ turn to prepare meals so today it is my turn. We will see about how the next shift is going to be, but everything is voluntary anyway. We agree on things and the main idea is for everyone to feel good. There are some things that no one likes to do, but that still need doing no matter what. If not, then we would be running around hungry and there wouldn’t be any clean kitchenware left. None of us is a fan of cooking or dishwashing and thus we take our turns. The sun raised not that long ago and two fighters passed us low above the water. We saw some dolphins and several oilrigs, as well as a wind generator platform built in the sea. A ship or a yacht passes us from time to time and I must say that the traffic is quite heavy here. The best time to see it is the night when the water around us is filled with moving and static lights. The winds are strong during our passage from Netherlands to Germany and shake the yacht. The yacht sails at an angle that makes cooking a challenge. Making sandwiches is not that much easier for everything that is not fastened well enough keeps flying around the cabin. If my reaction was comparable to that of a dog, I could be catching sandwiches with my teeth. Since I don’t, I must keep the food from flying around. It’s fun to see people getting pate all over their sweaters or drink their coffee past their mouths. It’s going to be easier once we get ashore. It’s sunny and I must go and have something to eat. Ralfs wakes up from time to time for the waves throw him around the cabin and he hits the walls all the time and thus haves a hard time sleeping. He announced that he would make us oatmeal that would replenish our meals that consist of sandwiches made by our captain. Our captain is makes us sandwiches while Uldis is at the wheel, Ralfs cooks the oatmeal and I am writing everything down. There is a change of shifts in an hour, it’s somewhat hard to keep up with the new schedule, and I have had just a four-hour sleep. Everyone is a bit sleepy right now. The captain must be having it the hardest for he sleeps lightly and consults with the map all the time so that we don’t hit the shelf and maneuver between the buoys, along the seaways and manage not to collide with other ships and yachts. We will be able to get some much-deserved sleep after just half a day. I will turn off my computer to save some batteries. I want to be able to write down my impressions when I want to, not when I can.

Since there is no wind and the sea is, calm we have no other choice than to lower the forward sail and to use our diesel-sail or, in other words, the motor. The rollfoksis jammed and I get masted again to unjam it. I must admit that it’s no fun being 20 meters above water in the sea keeps throwing the stick around with you attached to it. It is hard to keep oneself from falling of the mast and I get a few bruises and tear my pants. I don’t think it’s anything serious, since I am able to write you this message. I managed to fix the autopilot and everyone celebrated the fact with some beer. I hadn’t even swallowed my first swig when the autopilot turned itself off. We had already made up some nice fantasies of not having to get around every single wave and of not having to check every single gust of wind.

Well, I guess we will just have to use our sailing skills. I must add that our skills have improved greatly for the trip was long and full of various ordeals

Captain Uldis is proud of himself, proud of us and the distance we have covered. Uldis has turned form a land lover into a sea lion and steers as a devil himself in all directions and speeds. Today it’s sunny and there is almost no wind, except for a few gushes in the morning and at night. We are sunbathing and sleeping. Even our captain with his Mediterranean tan has put on his shorts. Every day before he was always complaining about the cold (it might be so that the temperature is rather low comparing to the Mediterranean and every organism needs some time to adapt).

I decided to test my luck with the autopilot one more time. I cleaned the wires, put in new wiring and cleared everything with a special spray. Uldis is reading Breakfast of champions (the one written by Vonnegut and not the one on the floor) and the other Uldis is making Sailors macaroni. Something is not right, the macaroni burn to the pot, and I have no luck with the autopilot too. Atop of that, a bottle of exquisite cider breaks somewhere in the yacht. It seems that something isn’t right and Uldis (the captain) gets out of the cabin to how Ralfs is dealing with the wheel. Ralfs is standing by the wheel and looking somewhere afar. We had two or three portions of food for supper and now are half-asleep and silent. Some are in luck, their shift starts in 10 PM, and they have some time to sleep. Some of us have to steer the wheel. With no further ado, I am going to sleep and leave the silvery ring called the wheel in the hands of both Uldises. Sometime later, we will take the thing in our capable hands. Sweet dreams, the time is 7.26 PM (03.08.2007) and I am going to have some sleep out on the deck.

It’s Uldis’s shift in the caboose and thus our shift gets an extra bonus. I don’t want to think about tomorrow when I will have to take the role of Cinderella myself. See you later.

It’s tomorrow (04.08.2007) and since we are close to the floodgates of the Kiel channel, we must maneuver between ships and follow the buoys. An important part of out journey has just begun. One can look around and see everything that the navigation books write about. The GPS is connected to the computer and helps us orientate along with the good, old compass. One of us is down in the cabin with the computer and the other one is on the deck. We both have our own, portable GPS devices apart from the stationary one in the cabin, as well as various devices of measuring wind speed, depth and various other needed things at hand. We also use the old maps that are not that necessary at the time, but one cannot live without them either in case any of the devices stop working. Poor captain doesn’t get to sleep at all for he tries to keep an eye on our activities and to pay attention to the map in these less than favorable conditions. We are like single light in a chain of Christmas lights. Oh, I forgot to mention that it’s the dead of night. It is my shift and Ralfs is at the wheel while I am following the course. Captain Uldis is trying to get some sleep. He hasn’t slept for a while, but still cannot fall asleep. I feel quite lively for I had some sleep during the day in the sun. Our shift is our – Ralf says right on time and gets down to the cabin to wake up both Uldises. He accepts my idea to let the captain sleep, but still considers it a bad idea. He doesn’t explain the why, though. Captain Uldis wakes up with his namesake and joins us on deck. Ralf goes down to take some rest and I thing that it is time for me to have some rest too. I decide to stay on the deck for my clothes are warm and I am going to be at hand, just in case. It turns out that sleeping on the deck is a hard thing to do, due to the wetness and damp that get through the clothes and into the nerve endings. I fight the weather for a time and then fall asleep (in the cabin). Captain Uldis asks me not to take of my clothes in case there is a need for help. So I sleep in a half sitting position wearing two pairs of trousers (one sailing trousers and one regular ones), two cotton undershirts, two sweaters and my jacket. It’s very warm and I fall asleep very soon. An hour later, they call me to help getting water out of the bilža (the space below the flooring). There is quite some water there. It must be done from time to time, more often when driving on engine than on sail. We were driving on engine for we thought it would be best to do so in the current traffic, visibility and wind. I get a call a short while later to change with Uldis who is cold. I stay on the deck with captain Uldis. It’s nasty, damp and cold. The sweaters are of no big help and I start to shiver too due to the headwind. At times like these, one understands that the yacht is not the place where one can tan all the time as seen in Hollywood movies and that the right gear is needed (unluckily it’s very expensive). I also discovered that my economy-class gear is not good enough for this weather. Well, I will harden myself and will get the valuable insight on what to look for the next time I go shopping for sailing equipment. Our shift starts and Ralfs starts getting up and moving around. Uldis has passed out on the coach and lies there immobile.

An orange and large ball called sun by most people rises at the horizon. The view is great and we can start to rind our outer layers like onions. We are right by the floodgates and enter the channel itself a short while later. There we anchor the yacht and wait for a man. Captain Uldis vaunts his namesake and tells us that we are great guys that we have managed to get through a navigational hell like that. We remember the first time we met in Brest that feels like a time long ago.

Both Uldises are asleep, but I can’t go to sleep yet – I have the duty to my memoirs. Ralfs is getting restless for he will have to steer while we will be sleeping. Uldis just went out to meet the man that is going to join us and I am going to finish my writing and take a look at the newcomer. I will take my chance to sleep later, good night.

By the time I get up, we are near a small German town called Reinsburg. The port is very nice, but small, the same as the town itself. The town seems to be deserted at the time we had a chance to walk around. It might be because it’s Saturday evening. We visited the pub of the yacht club before going to the town and go right to sleep after returning from it. We continue on our way through the Kiel channel to the second floodgate in the next morning.

The day is hot and there is no wind but there is a lot of movement in, around and about the channel. Ships and yachts sail the channel and ferries carry people and cars across the channel. Bicycle riders drive along the channel and we wave them hello from time to time. There is virtually nothing to do and we tan and wave hello to everyone. The whole skiff driving team including the coach answered to us by waving back and we half expected them to crash for there was no one watching the skiff at the time.

Finally, we have anchored the yacht and are waiting for the floodgates to open and then we are in the Baltic Sea.

We see flocks of medusas and discover that the floodgates are here only to collect a fee from the travelers for the water level does not change here. The fee is 35 EURO for a yacht of our size. The gates don’t open until everyone has paid the fee for opening the gates of the Kiel channel. The entrance of the channel is free as well as the sailing itself. The exit costs money. I have no idea about the system at the other end of the channel, but it would make sense to take money for exiting the other end too.

We are out of the channel and go to Kiel that is not to far away. We are planning to spend a night here and replenish our food supplies for our 2-3 day long trip to Bornholm.

We wander the city and it doesn’t impress us. We try to find a kabob shop, and it’s a pity that we fail miserably for we are fed up with various restaurants and pubs and wanted to have a simple kabob. We are out of luck and have to eat in an Argentinean grill bar. The Argentineans are famous for serving numerous sorts of meat (in our case it was seven) until you are stuffed and fall off the stool. The meat is brought over by the baker himself and you can have as much as you like. They offer us some salad for it’s cheaper to fill the customers with vegetables than with meat. When we are done with the meat, we have a roasted pineapple and a baked banana. The dessert surely outweighed the lack of kabob. The meat was too much and we groaned while walking home to the yacht. Some of us go straight to the yacht, but Ralfs, Uldis and I decided to go to the nearby pub and have a beer before going to bed.

Uldis and Ralfs congratulate me on my name day (06.08.2007) and we buy provisions, take a shower and go out into the sea. I get numerous SMSs and calls on my name day. Captain Uldis discovers that it is my name day a while later and presents me with an incredible bottle of whiskey. We celebrated a bit all day long, sang and laughed a lot until our 12-hour night shift. I had to pull through the night together with Uldis. We set up a video camera that taped our songs and other activities and emptied the whiskey bottle presented by our captain. The night was filled with fun and the others couldn’t sleep due to our singing. Our singing was beautiful and thus it made everyone else very happy. It is dawn already and we are getting close to the Riegen peninsula that welcomes us with a wonderful view

The shifts change and we go to sleep. It turns out that the engines broke while we were asleep and that some German master in Riegen repaired them. We also found out that the sail was torn. Everything was back to normal by the time we got up. I must note that everything is fine during our shift and that their shift has the troublemakers who break the engines and tear the sails.

The trouble with the engines made us pass Bornholm and go straight to Liepāja and we are on our way. I have caught cold during one of the nights, have a running nose, and cough. Everyone else is just coughing. We experienced a shower lighted by occasional lightning last night together with Uldis. It was nice but I would have appreciated it more if it was a bit dryer. It’s a hot day and we are closing Liepāja and are planning to enter Liepāja tonight (10.08.2007 at 3 AM. We will turn the watches to Latvian time and see at what’s next. As far as I know, the major and journalists are already waiting for us. Uldis, Ralfs and I don’t want the welcome; we want to get home baked potatoes, home-baked meatballs and our on beds.

The closer we get to home, the more one wants to get there; the thoughts turn themselves to relatives, friends and work. I will become soon. I must get back on deck and tan a while or I will have the whitest skin of them all.

Everything is ok in Liepāja – the yacht club is miniature, but with a great service hall. Inga and Jānis who had sailed the same yacht Brest wait for us. We exchange smart phrases and exquisite jokes and then they go to sleep. Uldis and I go to BugiBugi that turned out to be a place with weird clientele. We were there until dawn and Uldis went to sleep while I continued my discussions with local activists that decided to beat up their countrymen from time to time. After a short physical warm-up, the leader of local activists and one of his friends joined me on my way to the pier where the yacht was to make a concert for the yachtsmen. We sang a dirty song and parted our ways. The last day goes by and Uldis leaves us. I stay alone with captain Uldis and we keep smoking cigars and waiting for Inga. She comes a short while later and we can get to the cake and the champagne. Jānis joins us and now there are three of us who are going to continue on our way to Pāvilosta.

Pāvilosta is a small and nice town that looks deserted. We go to a pub and meet Laura who is going to join us on our way to Riga. We spend the night there and sail to Ventspils where we go out to have something to eat and take a sauna. We spend a calm evening for we want to leave as early as possible in the morning to get to the finish as soon as possible. It’s raining and we have to wait for a chance to get out in the sea. It’s 10:25 AM already and we had planned to leave the port at 9:00AM. We are going to wait for half an hour and go out in the sea – one cannot wait forever. We are planning to get to Riga in the afternoon of August 15 and the journey would be over at last. Just a day of sailing left and another stop in Roja for a few hours to let Jānis off the yacht and take to eager yachtsmen on board.

Everything went as planned and we arrived in Andrejosta at 1:00 PM (15.08.2007) and were awaited with champagne celebrating our homecoming.

52301_pic1

52301_pic4

52301_pic5