Blog #2: Living on a small island and preparing the boat for the waterways.

Hello world

This is Blog 2 where I will tell you a little more about living on a small island and preparing the boat for the waterways.

Captain JJ Christensen.

Moving to a small island in the cold north

In the years 2013 and 2014 I was sailing around Denmark in the summer on La Sardina while working as an IT consultant onboard. I managed to visit most of Denmark this way step by step.

Born and raised in a small village inland with no oceans anywhere I was fascinated with this new world with boats and the sea. Especially I liked being on the smaller islands of Denmark and I was growing tired of the big city, Copenhagen. It seemed like a good idea to live on one of these small islands.

In 2014 we bought a small house on one of the islands I had visited on my voyages, Ærø. It was a small island only 25 kilometers long and no more than 9 kilometers wide. The island has around 6000 inhabitants in 3 main villages. The house was in the larger village of Marstal that has a big marina with marine shops and shipyards.

This city is very famous for its impressive shipping history where it had up to 400 large schooners in its heydays. Even today it is a must to visit for the many historic wooden ships we still have sailing around in Denmark.

I always dreamed of having one of those wooden boats but it takes a lot of work to maintain them and because I’m such a big procrastinator it will never ever work.

Schooner Fylla arrives in Marstal.

It is also a good island for a photographer to be on. It is well known for its many spectacular  sunrises and sunsets with almost magic colors. Also it has very beautiful landscapes.

The island was also very popular among many eloping wedding couples and there were around 1000 weddings a year when I arrived there. In the end the island had more than 5000 weddings a year, before bureaucracy and legislation axed the wedding business. 

Well, I started working as a full time wedding photographer on the island and during the next 4 years I photographed more than 600 weddings ranging from civil ceremonies only 30 minutes long to all inclusive 15 hour church weddings with hundreds of guests. 

In 2018 it was time to move on from this small island in the cold north in search of nice sunny days, which are so rare for us. My body does not handle the cold and humid climate so well anymore. 

I wanted to sail to the mediterranian sea because as everybody knows they have nice sunny days all the time, even in winter it’s nice.

The obvious route would be to sail into the north sea through the northeast channel and head south through the english channel, across the bay of Biscay and finally pass Gibraltar. 

But another more interesting route would be through the inland european waterways with their charm and history. This ended up being the route we chose.

Preparing for the waterways.

Before making this trip from the cold north to the mediterranian on the inland waterways there are a few things that must be in order.

  • You need a CEVNI certificate that proves you have learned the rules and regulations of the rivers and canals.
  • You need to use your VHF radio on the rivers and you must have a radio certificate to use it legally, and more importantly to not disturb the traffic.
  • Your boat needs to be registered. Normally in Denmark we don’t register pleasure boats but all other european countries expect such a registration paper. 
  • You need some kind of VAT paid certificate or documentation or else you run the risk of having your boat impounded by customs officials in other countries. My boat is from before the VAT was even invented but just in case I got the certificate made.
  • Liability insurance is needed, you should already have this, many marinas will check it and will refuse you if you don’t have it. You also need the insurance to be extended to cover your trip in other countries and the coverage needs to be more than a million Euros.

In February 2018 I finally had all papers and requirements in place and everything was ready except the boat. I wanted to start the trip around March/April 2018. 

Making the boat ready

I had been procrastinating regarding work on the boat and off course all this work still had to be done.

Bottom had to be cleaned and painted, and crutches to keep the mast on deck had to be created. 

Weather was really acting up this winter and it was not possible to start any work on the boat until April 2018. But then finally the weather relaxed just enough to do some outside work.

La Sardina still covered in snow and ice.

First project was to get the boat on land, clean the bottom and paint it again. 

It had been 2 years in the water and it was covered with growth. I’m such a procrastinator that it simply never happens that I get the boat on land every winter as I’m supposed to and this is always the result. 

Many many kilos of barnacles and oysters had to be removed. 

On the other hand, I’m good at always giving the bottom extra layers of antifouling when I finally get it on land. The work I did here lasted for 2 whole years sailing across Europe.

Also I polished the sides so it would look nice and shiny for the trip. Fitted extra boatnames in front which is a requirement on the rivers that makes it easier for lock masters to identify our boat.

La Sardina with new boat name added on the front.

And the boat came back into the water and what a difference this new clean bottom made in speed and so much easier to steer.

La Sardina ready for the water again.
La Sardina ready for the water again.

Next project was to build those crutches so the mast could be stored on deck. It took a lot of watching videos and reading on the internet before I had a clear idea of a design.

But the work went well and after a few days playing around I finally had a working solution that was easy to store and safe, even in case of waves which can happen on larger rivers and lakes.

Finally underway

Finally underway

And finally one unusually sunny day in the cold north everything was ready. Boat was prepared, provisions loaded and I was removing the dock lines for the final time.

A course for Kiel in Germany had been plotted and off into the ocean we went on this sunny and absolutely windless day.

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