where she spent the winter, just west of the Tower bridge.
We set off from London in May down the busy Thames River into the English Channel. The Thames is notorious for destructive floods. These are now controlled by manmade barriers (pictured below) which are a huge engineering marvel. The barriers are closed during exceptional high water, mitigating the water’s destruction. Enoumous gates rise between these clam shell structures to block the flood. If they are closed you dont’ go anywhere.
Some English Channel and North Sea highlights include:
– well known for the Dunkirk evacuation
, code-named Operation Dynamo
, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk
. This was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk between 27 May and 4 June 1940. The operation occurred when large numbers of British, French, and Belgian troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army during the rather quick Battle of France in WW II. A miracle it was to get hundreds of thousands of troops across the English Channel in thousands of mostly small boats.
– more like a stopover point to enable a day trip into Bruges, Belgium
– a UNESCO heritage site. Bruges could be the backdrop for a fairy tale. The cobblestone streets lead to countless medieval historical, architectural and artistic wonders. Old, old ornate houses frame quiet canals. Bustling market squares have soaring towers, historic churches and gilded architecture galore. Then the food. We did our best to savor the famous frites with mayo, robust beers, mussels and, of course, Belgium chocolate!
Belgium chocolates. And the shoes? Yep, chocolate!
– is best known as a popular seaside resort and harbor. In spite of chilly temps (mid-60’s), there were oodles of kids riding bikes, skate boarding and toting surfboards in the small village. To our surprise we found that Scheveningen is a suburb of The Hague. This great city was an easy 15 minute clean efficient tram ride from our marina. Boom, from the boat, right into the heart of The Hague, one of the most extraordinary cities in Holland (or the world!). It is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State. But, trivia lovers, the city is not the capital of the Netherlands which constitutionally is Amsterdam.
The Hague is essential to international politics: It is home to over 150 international organizations. These include the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The Hague is the fourth major center for the United Nations, after New York, Geneva and Vienna. It is also known as ‘the Royal City by the Sea’ as many members of the Dutch Royal Family reside in its chic neighborhoods.
It is also a live-in city. The Plein and Grote Markt squares are loaded with great restaurants, outdoor cafes, coffee houses and night clubs. All very lively and welcoming places every day of the week! We are with the Royals, our kind of place!
– A popular German seaside resort community on the North Sea that lies at the west end of the Elbe River estuary. For a long time the town belonged to nearby Hamburg (1397 – 1937) and was one of Germany’s most important fishing ports. As we entered the Elbe and cruised along the grassy shoreline we noticed hundreds of what appeared to oversized beach chaises. These contraptions rent out for the season mostly to retirees with ample time to lay out. So when you see folks unlocking their chaises (some storage provided) and start bucking down to catch a few rays…well, you get the picture….it ain’t St Tropez..!
The Cuxhaven semaphore pictured below, is an historic maritime indicator using pointers and arms to signal wind speed and direction on the nearby islands of Borkum and Heloland. It was originally built in 1884 and rebuilt in 1904 after storm damage. With the introduction of wireless technology, it lost its worth and today is only of histoical interest.
Kiel Canal, Germany
– This very busy man-made waterway extends some 60 miles linking the North Sea with the Baltic Sea. About 250 miles of travel is saved by taking the short cut canal instead of going around the Danish peninsula. The canal is narrow and small boats and big ships squeeze by each other. Strict rules apply with hefty fines if violated. “Das is Deutschland and vou vill do what you are told!”
Each vessel in passage is classified in one of six traffic groups according to its dimensions. Larger ships are obliged to accept pilots and specialized canal helmsmen, and sometimes the assistance of a tugboat. Big ships may be required to moor at bollards (pull overs) provided at intervals along the canal to allow the passage of even bigger vessels. Of course, special rules apply to pleasure craft which are a nuisance to the commercial traffic.
Once we exited the Canal we set off to rendezvous with the other OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) Baltic Sea Rally boats. In Boknis, Germany we attended a meet and greet with delicious BBQ. There are some 11 boats in the OCC Rally. We are the only power boat. The group is comprised of English, German, South African, Finnish, Scottish and finally, of the 11 boats – 5 are Americans. We look forward to getting to know everyone better as we go! We left Boknis for a two day passage to Gdansk, Poland. The Baltic can be a feisty sea but our introduction was met with remarkably calm sea conditions…yes!
A map of the Baltic Sea
– The Motlawa River leads from the Baltic to Gdansk. Just after entering the river we followed local custom and dipped our flag at the Wasterplatte Monument. This honors the Poles who died resisting the Nazi invasion in 1939. We passed by several shipyards making our way to Marina Gdansk located in center of the old city. These dismal shipyards were made famous in August of 1980 by Lech Walesa the leader of the Solidarity movement. What brightness can spring from such bleak surroundings!
The city of Gdansk was an unexpected surprise – it is wonderfully un-Polish. I imagined the city to be a wasteland of rusted, smoke-belching shipyards, with rundown tenements. But oh contraire! In the 1950’s and 60’s, the city was re-built as a result if the large scale destruction during WWII. The conservators, artists and builders, did a brilliant job re-creating the Flemish-Dutch, Italian and French influences in restoring the city to its past grandeur. A stroll down the main street Dluga ulica, reveals outdoor cafes, fountains, elegant houses with astonishing facades, intriguing museums, and narrow cobblestone side streets – a thoroughly inviting very European city.
Old Quarter Gdansk, the tallest building on the right is the famous medieval crane.
WHAT’S UP NEXT? – the Pearl continues east, to more of Eastern Europe, via the south shore of the Baltic and eventually to St. Petersburg, Russia or BUST!
for now, Ocean Pearl over and out ~
Tina and Braun
P.S. Some left over photos of England that did not make the last blog.
Pat and Tina on the bow “locking out” of St Katharine’s Dock
P.S.S. Should you wish to respond to the blog…best to hit my email address at firstname.lastname@example.org because I can then capture your email address for those of you that I do not have in my personal contact list…I can then answer or respond back! We received an overwhelming response to the last blog with the footage from the drone video over St Kates dock in London…clearly, EVERY MAN now wants a drone of their own!