MARLOW TO THE MED
Join our Marlow 72 owners as they travel from Germany to the Mediterranean
etting off from Rostock in Germany at the start of our long journey to the Mediterranean, it’s hard to believe that in a few weeks time we will be sunning ourselves in very different climes. At least the strong easterly wind is blowing in the right direction to help us through Fehmarn Sound to Kiel, where we are greeted by attentive German customs officials in bulletproof vests.
Papers checked, the main interest is our fuel tank. High diesel prices tempt some to use tax-free red diesel, which can be detected even when mixed with normal fuel. We have nothing to fear but our tank capacity of 13,000 litres makes us a prime suspect and they want a sample. This fails due to the lack of a drain cock but they are satisfied by an email from our fuel supplier.
Motoring through the locks of the Kiel Canal is routine for us and our berth at the SVC in Cuxhaven is familiar. But such familiarity can lead to carelessness and the next morning when leaving the harbour backwards, I turn in too early and ram the outer pontoon. Luckily, it’s a lightweight floating dock that puts up little resistance to our 60-tonne Marlow. There is only paint and gelcoat damage to our hull, but the heavily bent pontoon hangs sadly in the water. We dock at the nearby fuel pontoon and deal with the port authorities, water police and my insurers.
Misfortune seldom visits alone and shortly after leaving Cuxhaven we are enveloped in a dense fog on the Elbe. Many boats are only visible to us as small coloured dots on the radar screen and several times I have to dodge them so I’m relieved when the fog finally lifts. What began as a problematic day becomes a glorious one, cruising under bright sunlight with just a little helping wind along the East Frisian Islands to Norderney. Since the weather at sea is forecast to be windy again, we decide to take the Staande Mastroute which allows us to cruise through the inland waters of Holland. Even though we know a large part of the route, it is always fun to steer our large ‘steamer’ through the pretty Dutch countryside with its narrow canals and bridges. This year we take time to stop over in Dokkum and get to know this ‘doll’s village’ with its distinctive windmills a little better. Along with Lemmer, Amsterdam, Haarlem and Dordrecht, Willemstad is one of the highlights on the Dutch section of our trip. Here we even manage to get a place in the old small town port without a reservation. The harbour is built into the former citadel and Willemstad is an attractive destination – not just for boaters though, so be prepared for lots of tourists.
Whereas last year jammed bridges gave much cause for annoyance and unplanned detours to the North Sea, this time everything goes smoothly and we reach Belgium and Zeebrugge as planned. Here we welcome our first guest on board before leaving this familiar terrain and heading for our first French seaport of Dunkirk. This squares the circle of our boating career that began 20 years ago with a charter in Pontailler-sur-saône when we hadn’t the slightest clue about boats.
Dunkirk is not the most inviting place in the world from the sea: huge industrial buildings with smoking chimneys form the reception committee at the entrance to the harbour. If you are not tempted to continue, you have the choice of two wellequipped marinas.
Even in Boulogne-sur-mer, despite having a well-preserved old town, there is still no real ‘French’ feeling. Much appears to be careworn – many places are empty and the sailboat next to us is sprinkled with verdigris, not helping to improve the ambience. But then comes Le Tréport.
Azura docked in the quaint town of Willemstad The Kittels follow a cargo ship along the Kiel canal The narrow canals of Amiens provide a pleasant distraction What began as a problemat i c d a y becomes a glorious one, c r u i s i n g with sun and a l i ttle wind