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Published: June 23rd 2014
It Never Got Really Dark
as you can see by this photo taken at 1AM
We just completed a 31 hour crossing from the town of Stralsund in Germany to Leba, Poland. When you leave Stralsund you must wait for a bridge opening so we left the harbor about 8AM for an 8:20AM opening time. It reminded us of the many bridge openings we had waited for on our trip down the East coast going through the ICW back in 2010. We looked like ducklings all in a row as we waited patiently (and some not quite so patiently) for the opening and then “marched through” so we could continue our journey. You then enter a very large lake which we crossed before going out to the Baltic again. Using this route saves quite a bit of time and keeps you in more protected waters. It is a lovely large shallow area that was obviously a favorite of local sailors. One of the advantages of being out for a pleasant day sail is the direction is irrelevant as long as the sail is good. For those of us who are cruisers and have a destination someplace else the wind is not always our friend. We unfortunately had to cross in the “wrong” direction which seems at
At 1AM It Is Still Light Enough
that we can even see the birds flying just above the surface of the water
times to be the norm. We started the trip with the wind dead on our nose (which was not the direction that was in the forecast) running anywhere between 12-20 knots. Fortunately the wind started to move around so we could use the sails some, but the wind decided to die down to a slow 3-7 knots. Fortunately Tsamaya has a good motor and with having filled up with diesel in Helgoland we were able to continue the trip at an average speed of 5-5.5 knots. The sails were a help much of the time, but not as much as we would have liked.
The amazing thing about this night crossing was that we found there never was a time when it was completely dark – this definitely makes it easier. The sun was starting to set about 9:30PM but didn’t finally go down until 10:30. The horizon had a beautiful red glow to it so even when Janice came up to take over her 4 hour shift at 1AM it was easy to see. The seas had become completely flat, we had a half moon showing and the sun started to rise about 3AM. In looking at the
2 AM It Is Even Lighter
so "night duty" isn't so bad anymore!
many photos that Janice took it sometimes was hard to determine which was sunrise and what was sunset – thankfully the camera tells us the time of day so we could positively identify which was which!
It was so very peaceful with very little boat traffic – we did see a few flags indicating where drift nets were set by the fishermen, a wooden pallet that floated by, an anchored freighter and a few birds flying by, a very calm and lovely journey. We do enjoy the calm and quiet (except for the sound of the engine of course) but we do find that when there is more activity the time goes by faster while on watch. We definitely appreciate our NPR podcast on the iPod as they help pass the time. A few “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me’s and “Weekend All Things Considered” and the next thing you know your watches over.
We were pleasantly surprised when we came into the marina in Leba to find that there was someone from the marina waiting for us to direct us to a slip and even help us with our lines. Once we got settled we took a fairly
quick walk to the town to get to an ATM for some of the local currency, the Zloty. This is the first country since we left the UK that we cannot use the euro in and the marina requested payment in cash. Yes, Poland is an EU country but they have not yet adopted the euro, unfortunately for us. We could see that the town is set up for tourists with its many shops lining the street selling everything from post cards to souvenir t-shirts and items to take for a day on the beach. Like most of the southern coast of the Baltic, the shoreline of Poland is lined with very fine white sand beaches. This creates an ideal location for tourist destinations. Remember the Baltic does not have a tide to speak of and therefore there is rarely any current. This part of the shoreline is very shallow and in the summertime it is the ultimate destination.
Besides the beaches one of the big draws to this area is the Slowinski National Park. This park encloses part of a unique ecosystem that contains pine forest, peat bogs, numerous lakes and moving sand dunes. Yes, that’s right folks
2:45AM The Ship Can Be Seen
but the scene looks almost surreal
these dunes move, 3 to 10 m (6 feet to 32 feet) per year. The way this works is, the waves bring the sand up onto the beach, the sand is extremely fine-grained so the wind coming predominantly out of the West blows the sand and creates the dunes. In the summer when the wind is not so strong the sand builds up making the dunes higher. Then in the winter when the strong northwest winds start to blow the sand is blown off the top of the dunes and deposited behind them thus extending the dune in land and causing it to “move”. This process moves the sand onto the land and kills the trees that are in its path. The tallest of these dunes is 377 feet above sea level. They are also called the White Mountains which is quite appropriate as we could see when we were sailing by. Fortunately we knew they were there otherwise you would have thought that we were passing snow topped mountains as the sand is so white. The Park is quite close to the marina so it was a great day to get our folding bikes out and take the 8
kilometer (5 mile) ride out. There was also the option to ride out in battery-powered tourist trains that ran regularly back and forth from the entrance of the park to the base of the dunes.
Think of what it is like to walk on the beach in deep sand and then put it on a vertical incline to get the feeling of what it was like to climb to the top of the dunes. We decided that it was great exercise for your calf muscles! The view from the top was spectacular; you could see the lakes, the pine forest, acres and acres of sand dunes in all directions and of course the Baltic Sea. It is hard to capture the magnitude of the dunes in photos, but hopefully you can get a feel for what it was like. We had packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed it while at the beach. There were some brave souls in the water, but many were just walking the beach and picking up the numerous well -polished stones located here. We now have a small collection of quite unique colored stones from this beach. One of the real prizes that beach walkers
Evenings Are Just as Beautiful
as seen by this photo taken at 6PM
are always looking for is small bits of amber which are washed up and well-polished by the fine sand. We were lucky to find one small piece and several other amazingly beautiful brightly colored stones..
One of the other sights here is a rocket museum. The German Army used this area for testing long-range rockets between 1941-1945. The V-1 flying bomb which terrorized London was also tested here between 1943-1945. The reason for choosing the site was because it was well outside the range of Allied bombers and it was an extremely rural area populated only by small fishing communities.
We biked back to town and went to another beach nearby. This one was being expanded by the dredger that was working to deepen the channel. This is the other common problem affecting all parts of the southern coast of the Baltic. That same sand that creates the dunes also fills channels and harbors making them unusable. Almost every harbor we entered on this coast had a dredge working someplace to keep the channels open. We were able to see how they managed this with the placement of metal pipes along the beach to move the sand from
the bottom of the channel onto an area which created a “new” beach. It was fascinating to watch the bulldozers at work moving the dredged sand with the people walking close by without a care. We thought of all the kids that were playing very close to these machines without a problem and what it would have been like back in the US with its caution tape and “keep out” signs. A different way to approach safety – either allow people to make good choices or have to tell them what they need to do. No judgment – just noticed the difference between the two approaches.
In the evening when back in the marina we got a chance to meet Leslie and Gary from SV Spellbound. They are on the OCC Baltic Rally with us and we had heard that they were coming to Leba. We have quite a few mutual friends which is always a nice first introduction. We had not made it to the first get together for the rally so this was the first couple we have had a chance to get to meet. If they are any indication it will be a great group to
get to know as we travel through the Baltic region.
Our next destination is Gdansk, Poland so we left the next morning at 4:45AM as we had about a 12 hour journey ahead of us. Our first stop in Poland was a good one and we look forward to learning more about this country and its people.
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