We sailed out of Koigustesadam just after midnight early on Tuesday morning and Graham took the first watch once we were clear of the bay. Shipping in this area was minimal and the warm breeze kept us moving along at just over 6 knots.
We reached Ventspils, Latvia, at 1530hrs local time ( UTC +2) and it was another scorcher. We called the Marina and the harbourmaster was waiting on the dockside to secure the lines. This was for us ‘stern to’ mooring with the bowline attached to a float. It takes time to pick up the buoy from the bow and thread or rope through the eye, and with a strong crosswind blowing the bow quickly blew off until we were diagonally across the berth. However, we were secure.
The new modus operandi is to pick up the buoy from the swim platform while going astern and walk it down the side of the hull while threading the bowline.
The harbourmaster and I went to his office to sort the paperwork and he gave me a lot of information about the local area. Mike has a very good app loaded on his phone called “in your pocket” which gives candid comments on bars, restaurants etc., and part of his portfolio is now Entertainment Officer.
A few minutes after docking a Norwegian fellow sailor, Reidar Inselseth, stepped forward and introduced himself as he had seen our black Kiwi flag. He said that he had been in New Zealand (Auckland) a couple of years ago at a fishing conference and that he regularly bought NZ Hoki for the European markets. He advised us to be cautious in the Southern Baltic at this time of year because you can get hit with sudden squalls coming out of nowhere. Reidar lives in Klaipeda, Lithuania and offered help should we need it which is always appreciated.
Coming into the harbour we noticed this huge artificial cow standing on the breakwater and we wondered why? While walking around the city we saw many more cows with their own distinctive character and before long we were all into “cow spotting”! See attached photos.
It is obviously a marketing theme for Ventspils and they have done it well.
Latvia has a very good Bob Sleigh team and moored up alongside of us was the mechanic for the national team. He had come to talk to us about why we had two long planks attached to the stanchions. I explained that we had been through the canal system in both Scotland and a small amount in Sweden and that the planks protected the fenders against the rough concrete walls of the locks when raising and lowering Meg. He told us that the Bob Sleigh course for the last Winter Olympics in Russia was so extreme that it had to be modified to take out some go the ‘G’ forces as it was too dangerous for the competitors.
We walked for miles and were impressed with all of the floral displays throughout the city. They even had two retired Bob Sleighs incorporated into one of the gardens.
It is billed as a family friendly city with lots of playgrounds for children. Mike and I went to the Olympic centre where children were involved with track and field. There was also a large ice skating rink where the refrigeration was working overtime with an ambient temperature of 32 C. I took a video clip of some young girls being coached in ice ballet. We did brunch at the cafe – Mike had a vegetable omelette and a long black coffee and I had bacon and eggs and a latte – total cost Euros 7.5!
We were out of gas. This has been a real challenge throughout Europe as there is no standard gas bottle. Although I have two American gas bottles aboard( the same as New Zealand) Europe is all different. In Turkey we could not fill our bottles and so I bought a Turkish bottle and the cross over regulator and pipe fittings. In Spain we transferred gas to our American bottles using a free flow hose and gravity – a long slow process. As we exited the Mediterranean we were told to change over to Camping Gaz as these bottles would be exchangeable throughout the U.K. and all of Northern Europe. So in Lisbon we dumped the Turkish bottle and switched to Camping Gaz. Well guess what – the Baltic States have the same fittings as Turkey and no Camping Gaz. Bugger!!
So I bought another large Latvian bottle and using the Turkish regulator we are back in business with the large gas bottle (which will not fit in the gas locker) strapped onto the swim platform until we can transfer the gas back into the American bottles!! All this bother for a good cup of tea.
Ventspils has a great beach just a short distance from the Marina and the Latvians were busy sunning themselves. While solving the gas problem we were not at the beach, but we did manage a couple of pints and a good lunch at “Pie Mola”, a great little family run cafe only 50 metres from the yacht. Again great food, cold beer and friendly staff at a very reasonable price.
We trickled out of the harbour in the early evening to the sound of Willie Nelson “On the road again” and with three loud blasts on the new hooter we were gone.