If you hear the words, “Moin, Moin” you know you are in Hamburg. This is local speak for ‘Good morning’. Not the formal version of ‘Guten Morgen’ but rather platt Deutsche, the local dialect. You can not talk about Hamburg without mentioning the Reeperbahn known by sailors around the world. It is the nightlife area where an all night bender is the norm. Graham was not himself on the Saturday night and so I had to explore alone. I finished up in an Irish Pub just off the Reeperbahn where I met some Danes who had taken a short ferry/car ride to party at German low cost rates. I left in daylight and the streets were still packed with people. On Sunday we got on the Hoppa bus(Rundstadtfahrt) and went for a spin. Then it was miniature World which is an incredible display of working models. It covered around 5,000 square metres and was exceptional. Even planes taking of and landing. We cruised through a flea market at the Reeperbahn and found a portable stool for 2 Euros which was perfect for helming on the river!
Apart from checking out the city of Hamburg our mission was to collect three folding bikes, which are known in German as “Klapprad”. I had bought them on German eBay about one month prior to our arrival. As we would be visiting lots of towns and cities the bikes would make ideal transport. I made contact with Mr. Bayes-Jakob and he was kind enough to deliver them to the City Sportboot Hafen where Meg was moored. They arrived made up but with the packaging still attached with nylon banding and the tyres only partially inflated. We cut open the first one and then tried to use our fender pump to blow up the tyres but we had no hope of achieving the recommended tyre pressure of 6-7 Bar(75-90psi). Graham took his bike for a walk the next morning looking for a service station with an air hose to inflate the tyres but he had no luck. Later we found a bike shop open on a Sunday but a peculiar piece of German law prohibits the shop owner from selling bikes or accessories on a Sunday so technically we could not purchase a bike pump or locks for the bikes however this particular shop rented bikes which was allowed on a Sunday. So we paid the “rental money” and walked out with the goods we required! There are more ways than one to skin a cat. With the tyres inflated and locks in place we were now highly mobile.
The next event was completely unscheduled. Graham had not been feeling particularly well and we had had a rough sea passage from Peenemunde to Travemunde. He had some pains in his chest which he thought may have been a pulled muscle. Well at 2 am on Monday morning he called out to me saying he had better get to a hospital and have it checked out as the pain had increased and was showing no signs of abatement. I called 112 (the emergency number in Germany) and I explained in my best German that my friend needed to get to a hospital quickly. I said we would walk to the train stop, immediately above the marina and wait for the ambulance to arrive. They said only if he feels he can do that otherwise they would come to us. There below with flashing lights was the fire truck (Feuerwehr) and we were a little confused however the fire brigade are trained as paramedics and after a quick assessment we were off to Accident and Emergency at the Asklepios Hospital in the very expensive suburb of Alster. I was shown to the waiting room and Graham was immediately wired up. They doctors tested throughout the night while I finally fell asleep in the waiting room and woke up at 5 am and went to visit the Kiwi patient. He was looking comfortable but already knew that the Cardiologist intended to put at least one stent in later that morning. Well Graham was absolutely full of praise for the Cardiac Team who worked on him. With only a local anaesthetic they performed two operations placing one stent on the Monday and another on the Tuesday. He said the equipment and the skill level was first class and at no time did he feel anxious. On Thursday 11 June Graham was released from hospital with a bag of pills. He arrived in a taxi from the hospital and emerged looking like a bandy saddle sore cowboy. The cardiologists had cut the artery on either side of the groin and hence the walk. Graham was on light duties but able to continue with the voyage.
Sharon arrived the following day only instead of meeting us in Hannover she had travelled by train to Hamburg. It was our job to be on the station to ‘spot the pixie with the pink earmuffs’! She had warned us that she had FOUR bags and no Sherpas. Big hugs and we were off back to the harbour. That evening we found a very nice Portuguese restaurant only a few hundred metres from the City Sportsboot Hafen.
On the Saturday morning Sharon and I set off on our new folding bikes to explore the city of Hamburg. The nicest area is the neighbourhood of Alster where a large central city lake (160 Ha) occupies pride of place and the ‘Hamburgers’ use it to the max on weekends. We estimated there were over one thousand people sailing, paddling canoes and paddle boards, rowing plus the usual tourist cruise boats. After lunch on the lake we needed to pick up some important items – like a new bulb for our 360 deg all round white light. Nobody seemed to stock the bulb we needed and as it was part of our navigation lights we could not leave without it. We finally found A.W. Niemeyer about 8km from the centre and it was perhaps the largest chandlery I have ever been in and yes they had the bulb plus a number of other things that we did not absolutely need!! The skies opened up with an electrical storm and biking back was out of the question so we called a taxi and the first big test of folding two bikes and getting them into the boot. Eureka it worked and within a short time we were back aboard Meg.
It had been a very busy 5 days in Hamburg including Graham’s heart operation. I told him that I was pleased that it had not fallen on me to perform the operation ‘deep sea’ with a rusty fish knife and a packet of aspirins! Before the electrical storm had finished we had let go the mooring lines at 1800hrs and we were on our way south up the Elbe well at least as far as the first lock which was shut down for the night. We moored up and tucked ourselves up for the night. It should have been a great nights sleep but at 3am there was a large bang next to the hull and Graham and I were immediately on deck to find the tide had dropped a massive 3 metres and we had partially ‘hung the yacht’ and the loud bang was the rope around the deck cleat suddenly letting go! We immediately slacked the other lines with a screwdriver as one would not want to catch the pinkies under that load. Now Graham and I both pride ourselves on our seamanship and to almost hang the yacht was a sad indictment on the crew, however who would have thought that there would have been that much tidal effect more than 40 km inland from Hamburg.
The next morning we flew through the first lock on our way to Hannover – Sharon’s first ever. Next came the ship lift at Scharnebeck. What a marvelous piece of engineering. Using 240 wire ropes each with a diameter of 50mm the operator lifted the ships including our baby plus the entire bath tub which we estimated held 3.5 million litres of water 38 metres in the air! We were making our way up the Elbe – Seiten canal towards Hannover. The weather was cool and in the cockpit we were rugged up as there was a wind of 10 – 15 knots blowing most of the time. Eventually we reached the junction of the Mittellandkanal – turn left and you are on your way to Berlin – turn right and and you will soon arrive in Hannover. If it is a city we are visiting I will try to find a marina that gives easy access to that city. If you are not sure then look for the cathedral / church spires and that generally marks the old city.
The canal was well formed, reasonably wide with sometimes forestry on each side and at other times cereal crops with irrigation guns. The barley and wheat crops were heavy. There was a lot of barge/ ship traffic and occasionally we used the overtaking lane. This can be a trap for young players as it can take more than 5 minutes to overtake an 80 metre barge because of the suction effect from the barge’s big propellor. You hope that there is nothing coming in the opposite direction!
The Hannover Yacht Harbour was just off the Mittellandkanal and the Hafenmeister (harbour master), after I had quizzed him on the ‘tiefgang’ (waterdepth),directed us to a berth that allowed us alongside the pontoon. The depth sounder registered 1.5metres and our draught is 1.65 metres. We were not quite on the bottom as when we calibrated the depth sounder in Annapolis we had used a 12″ crescent wrench tied on rope to determine the actual depth however it must have penetrated the mud having grounded out more than once we can now say with absolute certainty that a reading of 1.2 metres will have us ‘firmly on the bottom!’
After the usual formalities we were checked in with keys the entrance gate, maps of Hannover and instructions for catching the bus to the city. Sharon and I went on a reconnaissance mission while Graham rested on board Meg.