Swinoujscie - Kolobrzeg

12 Jul, 2009 | 50 nm | position 54° 11.40'N 15° 32.91'E

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The harbour in Swinoujscie is spacious and was visited by many foreign ships. It has a restaurants on the pier and a live Polish band was playing in the evening, for a very small audience.

There is not much left of the Prussian city Swinemünde, which was largely destroyed during WW II. According to Wikipedia, its population of more then 30.000 Germans were expelled or fled. Some of the remaining ones suffered under polish security forces. Nowadays, you see German tourists here again, even though there is not much going on, nice coloured houses though:

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We have now sailed 2 days along the coast of Poland, and what we have seen so far was very unexpected; The coast have consisted of 95% beautiful sand beaches and most of them have been full of party tents, party boats and party people. One should think we are in Ibiza!

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Here is the sunset over the Kolobrzeg beach, were we had a drink and listened to a live blues concert.

Harbour day in Kolobrzeg

13 Jul, 2009 | 0 nm | position 54° 11.40'N 15° 32.91'E

Besides the fortress and the Lighthouse there is not much to see of this former Hanseatic city. It was largely destroyed during WW II and lost all its population with the once who could not flee, being expelled or murdered.

Some 4 km from Kolobrzeg there is supposed to be a 807 year old oak, and the first mate decided to take the first dog on a bike ride to see this oak. Unfortunately the paved bike path at the outskirt of the city (and there are not many bike paths to start with), turned into a dirt track and then ended in a road side ditch. The traffic on the road was so heavy, that a bike ride did not seem a smart thing. Therefore the first mate and first dog returned without having their task accomplished.

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The yacht harbour is situated around?!? a Prussian fortress build in 1774, and was the longest standing defence in Pomerania against Napoleon's invasion of Prussia! The fortress had originally a moat surrounding it, but its been filled in in front of the entrance, where the drawbridge was, but the harbour resides on the 3 other sides. The fortress is now being used as a restaurant, and in the evening it is filled with local people dining and dancing to live music.

We really enjoyed the band that was playing when we were there.

Kolobrzeg - Darlowo

14 Jul, 2009 | 34 nm | position 54° 26.51'N 16° 22.30'E

Beautiful sailing, doing 7-8 knot in flat sea today.

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Darlowo is boiling with Polish tourists, and in this tiny village, there is at least 4 huge party boats that makes a tour every hour.

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To get into the harbour, one have to wait for the draw bridge that opens on the hour.

The white and blue spacecraft looking construct on the right is the bridge control centre. The outer yacht harbour is just mooring up along the channel which extends quite a bit into the country. Make sure to use enough fenders while mooring here, because the Polish have no "no wake zones" nor speed limits in their harbours, and even the SAR boat made some quite big swells! Already in the 11th century a fortress named Dirlow, also called Dirlovo, existed here. The city of Rügenwalde was probably founded in 1270, came under Lübeck law and joined the Hanseatic League. Again, its citizen had to flee or were expelled after WWII. Today the city is a summer resort.

Darlowo - Ustka

15 Jul, 2009 | 22 nm | position 54° 35.52'N 16° 51.04'E

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Reaching along in a soldier's wind!

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One hour out of Darlowo the MOB boat of the SAR caught up with us and wondered if we were okay, it turned out they were looking for a German boat in distress, but as we hadn't seen another boat at all this day, we couldn't help them.

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A heavy rainstorm hit us in the harbour and all the tourists sought shelter, and soon the piers we empty of tourists.

Originally a small fishing settlement the city of Stolpe became member of the Hanseatic League in 1382. The creation of the Polish Corridor at the end of WWI caused an increase of traffic from the city (then called Stopmünde) and East-Prussia. The city started to enlargen und modernizing its harbour in 1938, without being able to finish it.

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Todays Ustka is yet another polish holiday resort area and full of families. It is hard to believe, that the polish reproduction rate is one of the lowest in Europe when you see all the children here. The party boats are getting bigger and bigger, this is so far the ultimate party boat - almost the size and form of full-rigged ship.

The cuisine is not particular international and again, there are not many foreign tourists here. The beaches are wide, have fantastic sand. The difference to the Mediterranean is: no topless, probably much less silicone and we have not yet found a nudist beach and of course a bit fresher temperature.

Ustka - Leba

16 Jul, 2009 | 28 nm | position 54° 46.21'N 17° 33.08'E

The first mate made a big mistake and got us up around SIX AM!!! She thought, we had a long leg in front of us and better get started. However, it turned out only to be 28nm.

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The castle at Leba behind a crowded beach! The harbour is surrounded by forest and a bit outside of Leba - very nicely located. Again, plenty of polish holiday makers, again, many families and the city seems to provide a lot of activities for holiday makers.

And, hard to believe, most other boats had already left 6am, - what type of vacation do these people have? We had barely enough wind to sail to Leba, this time from north - but sailed we did. On the way we got a good view of the Slovinski National park and it's dunes.

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Harbour day in Leba

17 Jul, 2009 | 0 nm | position 54° 46.21'N 17° 33.08'E

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During the morning the first mate took the first dog for a bike ride to the Slowinski National Park. It was possible to rent bikes at the hotel at the harbour, but the captain did not want to join. He was busy with working on the boat. It is about 8-10km from the harbour to the tallest not afforested Barchan dune, the Łącka Dune in the park . The bike ride took us through a pine wood forest, and the red wood with the green grass looked just so beautiful - no picture can capture that.From the dune you could go straight to the never ending wide and white beach. Lots of people go to the park and then spend the day at the beach. In the past the German general Erwin Rommel practiced desert warfare in the vast dunes of Leba. Nowadays, children are playing, running, rolling and jumping down the dunes and just having great fun. The first dog wanted to have some fun to, but dogs had to be kept on a lead at all times in the park.

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Back on the boat the first dog just went down to his cabin and spend the next couple of hours recuperating.

It was a lovely trip to the park in blissful ignorance, that these sand dunes and floods have been such a threat to Leba, that the city was relocated in 1558 to a safer location.

This is the hottest status symbol onboard Polish yachts - a scooter

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Leba - Hel

18 Jul, 2009 | 72 nm | position 54° 35.97'N 18° 48.03'E

Started off early, because of a long leg (48nm), in the beginning it was 10-15kts wind and we were making headway. Then the wind turned head on and increased, and the waves got quite short, so after sailing 30nm we were only 15nm miles closer to our destination.

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Sunset over K18 "Bryza", a Polish navy passenger ship, that was supposed to be sunken as a artificial reef outside Hel the 6th of June 2009, but obviously is still floating!

In the afternoon we got hit by several heavy thunderstorms with squalls up to 48kts wind (i.e. storm) and with visibility at zero we all went below deck and hoped the lightning wouldn't strike us. At 1900 hrs we shook of the last thunderstorm and radioed Hel harbour on ch. 10 for permission to enter.

Along the coastline there are plenty of ship wracks and sea graves marked on the navigational chart, which caused us to read some of it's history: At the end of the WW II hundred of thousands of refugees fled from East Prussia to Danzig on foot and tried to escape through the cities port. Some of these ships with refugees were sunk and in the process tens of thousands of refugees killed - we guess, that these are some of the marked sea graves.

Harbour day in Hel

19 Jul, 2009 | 0 nm | position 54° 35.97'N 18° 48.03'E

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The spaceship like structure in the harbour is the harbour office and restaurant. Sort of a gray day in Hel with rain showers, so the First Mate decided to work, while the Captain took the dogs for a walk. Along the harbour at the back side of the factory you can find a long row of sea life - pictures.

Welkin The rookie sailor's corner

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The rookie sailor is still a bit uncertain about the life onboard.

He is steadily trying to find new ways to prevent falling overboard.

Here he has tried secure himself with a reef line.

Hel - Gdansk

20 Jul, 2009 | 22 nm | position 54° 25.19'N 18° 39.19'E

After passing the breakwaters the trip up the river to the yacht harbour takes about half an hour.

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Both banks of the river are busy with shipyards, dry-docks and freight terminals.

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It was here in the harbour that Lech Walesa and hisSolidarity movement started and played a major role for the end of the cold war.

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The size of the party boats culminated in Utska and have now come down to a manageable size!

Here we are almost at the harbour, it is just left around the ship on the left, and dead in the centre of town.

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After having moored we were greeted in Danish by Henning, an expat Dane that spends the summer here onboard his Grand Banks.

His knowledge about Gdansk and Poland come in very handy when one don't know the polish language. The harbour is very nice, with Wi-Fi, power, 24/7 guards and boat chandler and grocery store close by.

In addition we received tourists information including a city map and description of sights.

Very useful!

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Harbour days in Gdansk (Danzig)

21 Jul, 2009 | 0 nm | position 54° 25.19'N 18° 39.19'E

The city of Gdansk is the most beautiful city on the coast of Poland (and for us the only city really worth seeing here). We think it is actually the most beautiful city we have seen so far on this trip.

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Danzig was heavily bombed during the last world war both by the allied forces and Russia, but a lot has been rebuild and restored. The whole old city seems to be intact again and even at the outskirts you can find lovely old still preserved - even if not so well - buildings.

Starting just 300m from the harbour is the famous Royal Route, with plenty of historical buildings from as early as the 14th century. And as you can see from the pictures, the city is boiling with tourists.

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For getting information on Gdansk, it is not advisable to rely only on the city's Webpage or tourists information, which reads like polish propaganda of the worst style.

They e.g. mention, that Gdansk received city rights by Swantipolk II, but forget to mention, that it was mainly a German city at that time (Wikipedia). In the same anti-German style (pagan Prussian, yoke of Teutonic order, butchering, great crisis) they continue.

We can learn from there, that at the end of WW II "the destroyers left the scene replaced by builders, conservators, and artists who spent another fifty odd years bringing the city back to its glory.", but they find it not worth mentioning that before that the city has lost 95% of its more then 300.000 citizen which is about the percentage, which was German - the ones who build the city in the first place and had to flee, were expelled, many being killed.

On the second day we set of to IKEA during the late morning. Somehow the mattress on our boat is not really good enough, for sleeping weeks or month on it. Putting a frame below helped, but now our backs are hurting again. Luckily the IKEA products have identical names and quality all over the world and via the internet we found out, that the memory-top mattress is significant cheaper in Poland.We failed to find the bus to IKEA, not able to get proper information at the railway station and had to spend 80sl on a taxi, having to argue heavily with the taxi driver to give us back the change from the 100 sl-note, which he wanted to keep. The return trip was then 2sl with the bus!

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In Gdansk we then found for the first time a Chinese restaurant and enjoyed some spicy Cantonese food. Food shopping was a challenge in most places in Poland: There are not many supermarkets but instead small shops, without any pre-packed or fresh meat or fish at all. Not being able to communicate in polish turned such shopping into quite some experience. Fresh veggies and fruits were available everywhere on markets, and besides the farmed products you can by forest wild strawberries, blueberries and chanterelle very cheap. The local veggies and fruits are available in high quality and low prices (for West European standard!).

Gdansk - Hel

23 Jul, 2009 | 17 nm | position 54° 35.97'N 18° 48.03'E

We stayed an extra day in Gdansk, waiting for the weather forecast to be ok for crossing over to Russia. We went to Hel in the afternoon, just to be a couple hours closer to Kaliningrad. Our surprise was big, when 3 Polish border control officers came to our boat and told us we could not go to Kaliningrad from Hel. The reason being that there were no border veterinarian in Hell, so we had to go to Gdansk, Gdynia or Wladislawowo, in order to take the dogs with us out of Poland! In this way, our 2 hours advance suddenly turned into an 4 hour penalty!

Welkin The rookie sailor's corner

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What does a rookie sailor do when life on onboard gets boring?

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Well, in Hel he attacked his master's favourite T-skirt, and made this nice Smiley to cheer us all up!

Hel - Gdansk - Baltiysk- Kaliningrad

24 Jul, 2009 | 88 nm | position 54° 42.28'N 20° 28.77'E

Left the harbour in a rather dark clouded weather at 05:45 for Gdansk Border Control.

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The border control officers arrived 10 minutes after mooring by the Gdansk harbour captain building. After another 20 minutes we got the dogs' and ours passport back from the 4 stars! officer, and we were all set for leaving the Schengen area.

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But we wonder why we had to take the detour to Gdansk, because there were no veterinarian check of the dogs, and not even a check of their identity, i.e. reading of the RFID tag imbedded in their necks! At 08:30 we were finally on our way and after hoisting the Russian courtesy flag we were ready to cross the invisible border to Russia, some 20 nm out in the Bay of Gdansk.

Entering Russia

During the whole trip we were the only sailing boat on its way. Our contact in Kaliningrad informed the Russian border control more than 24 hours before our arrival, so the only radio contacts from border control were Polish. Then 7nm before the breakwaters, we radioed Baltiysk traffic control on Ch. 74, and repeated this procedure 1nm before, in order to get permission to enter the Kaliningrad channel, once in the channel, closer to the customs quay ( bay 3, pier 81), we radioed traffic again to receive ok to approach the customs, we were even given a compass course to steer for the quay.

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Here we are waiting our turn, as instructed, to enter the channel after this Russian tanker. When entering Baltiysk (Pillau) we were greeted by this monument

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The harbour is home of the Russian Baltic fleet, here is one of the many rows....

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Just before entering the customs, this impressive hovercraft, with 3 turboprop engines, was parked.

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To get a feeling of the size, find the highlighted man standing on the shirts on the left side!

In 1945 from the harbour of Pilau more than 450.000 refugees were ferried to western and central Germany when the Red Army entered East Prussia, and virtually no German remained in Pilau. After WWII Baltiysk became the naval base of the soviet Baltic Fleet and a "forbidden town": foreigners could not enter Baltiysk anymore.

Kaliningrad Channel

At the customs quay, a guard met us and told us to wait, and the dog were allowed on land. Border control and customs officers took our passports and disappeared and in the meantime a veterinarian arrived to check out the dogs' passports.

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After a short visit onboard by the border control and customs, just to fill out the necessary forms and checking for stowaways, we were cleared to enter Russia, and could radio Baltiysk traffic again, for permission to continue up the channel to Kaliningrad. One needs visa to enter Russia, and in order to get a visa one needs a passport that's valid 6 months after leaving Russia, (the first mate discovered this 2 weeks before trying to get the visa!), and an invitation, we got ours arranged with the assistance from Vladimir Ivankiv.

In addition to the invitation an European health insurance is required. The accepted ones are usually listed on the Webpage of the Russian Consulate. One thing we have to mention; the border control could tell us that of course we could visit Pionersky, ( some 35nm to the north) as planned, but we had to come back here to do the customs and border clearance! One of the reasons we we had for going to Pionersky was to avoid the 113nm stretch to Klaipeda, instead we could sail 35nm back and fourth and nothing was gained! The trip up the channel takes 3 hours, and as the instructions for skippers we were given in English told us; "sailboats must be towed or under its own power".

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From the channel you have a fantastic view of the lovely Vislinskiy Zaliv (Frisches Haff).

The channel is 20miles long and was constructed around 1900 for 13 million Reichsmark, allowing ships with 6.5m draft into the harbour of Königsberg. This immense investment caused some envy in other big Prussian cities, eg. Danzig. Along the channel you find lovely nature, but also industry and many people fishing. Anchoring is not allowed, so the Russians came up with another solution.

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We were only able to find our harbour around 2130 with the help of our Russian contact, Sergey Ananin, who welcomed us at the quay.

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The harbour, with water, electricity and 24h police guard, was located in an industrial area, in walking distance to the city.

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Until the second day of hour stay we were the only foreign boat - then a German sailing boat arrived - and we were not the only ones anymore. On the way out, two more German sailing boats arrived. It seems only Germans dare to sail to Kaliningrad ?!