27 sailing yachts and one motorboat on the way on a friendly Baltic Sea

The 4th SOUTH COAST BALTIC Boating Rally took place from 4 to 14 August 2019, setting sails on Bornholm and proceeding along the Polish Coast to Vorpommern in Germany

Sometimes calm, sometimes with winds from different and unpredictable directions and then again conditions that allow pure sailing pleasure. This is how the Baltic Sea is and the almost hundred participants experienced it during the 4th SOUTH COAST BALTIC Boating Rally. When the boats leave the harbour of picturesque Svaneke on Bornholm in the morning of 5 August, the sun is shining. Only a breath of wind pushes the international flotilla to Darłowo in Poland, which is located on the West Pomeranian coast and about 60 nautical miles away.

This time 28 different boats from Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Austria, between seven and fifteen metres long, participated in the rally – including one “exotic” one: The nine metres long motor yacht “Heiba” (a Pedro Donky 30) with captain Heinz Meibert is also part of the flotilla. “I hope you will accept me in your midst among all the sailors,” the one-handed motorboat driver sums up his fears on the very first evening. But there are no reservations. On the contrary, the other flotilla participants pay their respects to Meibert, who has already been on the sea since four months. And in the course of the rally, the “Heiba” will even prove to be a blessing for the flotilla.

Hidden harbours, sausages and a lighthouse with tradition

When the 18 boats that started in Bornholm are approaching the Polish coast from the open sea, the sailors can detect the harbours with their excellent infrastructures only very late, because they are hidden and sheltered in river mouths. This also applies to the second port of the tour, Darłowo at the Wieprza River. In Darłowo, there is already a first highlight: the unique sliding bridge, which is reserved for pedestrians and opens every hour. After an extensive barbecue with sausages and other polish specialties, the rally management team consisting of Adam Walczukiewicz, the experienced skipper of the lead boat, Jens Masuch from the South Coast Baltic Marketing Initiative and Nicole Spittel from the Tourism Association Vorpommern informs about the weather forecast for the coming day, give navigational advices and even explain what can be seen at the next stop. So everyone is always up to date and every participant has a safe feeling on the way, even if a boat has to deviate from the course.

The smallest boat, which dares to cross the open sea from Svaneke, is the 29er Kings Cruiser “Saga” from Bornholm. Its crew, Lars Nygaard and Sara Bøgsted-Gildberg, participates for the very first time at the rally. And it is also their first bigger tour with the boat. “While on our lead boat “The Wind”, a 50’s Bavaria, a calm sailing high above the waterline is possible, we are only 60 centimetres above the water surface and directly exposed to the forces of the sea. But despite getting wet, this is also a lot of fun. And we know that we can meet great sailors in the next harbour and experience a relaxed land program”, they say.

The next stage continues along the Polish coastline to the largest seaside resort in Poland, Kołobrzeg. The harbour with the “Marina Solna” lays protected in the mouth of the Parsęta River. All boats of the flotilla find their berths close to each other. Some of the participants take the opportunity to visit the city’s long Baltic beach, which is only a short walk away from the marina. The lighthouse Latarnia Morska with its magnificent view offers a stopover on the way to the beach. Already in the 17th century, a beacon warned here the ships and from 1866 it was operated continuously, to show ships a safe way into the harbour at night.

Stormy reception at Świnoujście

Great weather awaits the sailors on the 50 nm long leg to Świnoujście the next day – a dream of Baltic sailing with the best winds from the northeast. At least in the beginning; then the wind eases again and the yachts move with only three knots further along the coast. As soon as the boats have moored in the Marina North Basin in Świnoujście, the sky closes and a downpour sweeps over the marina. The Baltic Sea impressively shows what it is made of and inspires so many sailors; also two Austrians, Jade and Othmar Smarzija, who are there with their brand new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey. They had previously decided to leave the Adriatic Sea and their motorboat behind them in order to explore the Baltic Sea by sailboat, despite the unpredictable weather. Even after the downpour both agree: “In summer it is incredibly hot and crowded in Croatia. We enjoy the changeable weather and the new territory. We are eagerly awaiting the small harbours and cities along the entire Baltic coast and especially looking forward to Usedoms “Kaiserbäder”, of which we have heard so much already”.

Crossing the open border by bike

After rain comes sunshine and the sky opens again soon. The next day, the nice weather keeps on going and provides optimal conditions for a bicycle tour along the Kaiserbäder on Usedom. But first there is a stopover at the border between Poland and Germany, which is nowadays only recognisable by two border stones and a remaining forest aisle.

Afterwards the SOUTH COAST BALTIC Boating Rally participants were greeted by the Mayor of Heringsdorf, Laura Isabelle Marisken, who is already waiting at the historic pier in Ahlbeck with sparkling wine, classical music, bright sunshine and a warm welcome speech to the boaters. “To experience together with all the participants the special atmosphere of the historic pier in Ahlbeck in combination with the beautiful sunshine was one of the highlights of the entire tour for me,” tells Thomas Schwarz, skipper of the Yacht Club Bayer Leverkusen ship “LeYa”, whose crew consists of two youngsters, Viktor and Vincent, as well as their mother Barbara and her friend Ina. Afterwards, the boaters split into three smaller groups to explore either the spa architectures of Heringsdorf and Bansin on the German side or cosy town centre of Świnoujście on the Polish side.

By flotilla through the ”Kaiserfahrt”

On the next day, a blue sky greets the participants. 10 further boats, which avoided the open sea or did not manage to join in Svaneke for technical reasons, join the flotilla in Świnoujście. The group has now grown up to its maximum of 28 boats. On southern course they glide through the Piast Canal, which is called Kanał Piastowski in Polish and “Kaiserfahrt” in German. It was inaugurated in 1880 and connects the Baltic Sea with the Szczecin Lagoon. The river Swine, which is difficult to navigate, had served its purpose as a shipping lane when the canal was established. As a result, the port in Szczecin gained in importance.

The moment when the canal opens into the vastness of the Szczecin Lagoon is breath-taking. The wind is favourable and promises a fabulous sailing experience over the Szczecin Lagoon. “I never have thought that the Szczecin Lagoon would be so wide and also so suitable for sailing,” tells Giedrus Gipas, a sailor from Lithuania. “It reminds me of the Curonian Lagoon. But our lagoon is not so extensive.” He always wanted to visit this region. The home harbour of his nine meter long “Bossa Nova”, a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, is Uostadvaris in the Nemunas delta and he had probably the longest journey of all to join.

A spectacular fireworks show in Szczecin

The fireworks explode in bright colours over the heads of a huge crowd and the rally participants sit on their boats in the front row, in the Szczecin NorthEast Marina. Just in time for the fireworks festival “Pyromagic” the boats of the flotilla dock in Szczecin. Actually there are only 70 moorings, but on these two days 165 yachts were accommodated there. For the boaters and their companions, the winner of the festival is also found fast: Szczecin! They are impressed by a great party with peaceful spectators and a pleasant atmosphere. The flair in this city is young and modern, and the Philharmonic Hall, which opened in 2014, is just one of many symbols of this. After two days stay the rally goes on further west to Vorpommern in Germany.

Through shallow waters into nature

Everybody knows it and Adam Walczukiewicz, skipper of the lead boat “The Wind”, preached it several times at the skipper meeting the evening before: “Always stay in the fairway on the lagoon, pay attention to the gill nets and go around them generously”. The warning has a reason, because the Szczecin Lagoon is flat and interspersed with several gill nets. At the latest after the Zecheriner Bridge, the water under the keel rapidly diminishes to the right and to the left of the barrel line. All skippers pay attention to their own boats, but also to the other. This is what makes the trip in the flotilla so special. The participants help each other.

After passing the Achterwasser, the boats reach the marina “Nature Harbour Krummin”. The peace and quiet in the middle of the nature forms a stark and pleasant contrast to the celebrating Szczecin. A varied land programme awaits the sailors on the next day. Bicycle tours to Peenemünde and its Historical-Technical Museum or the fishing village Freest including a visit to the Boatyard Freest with Kerstin Dubs’ traditional boat work and a journey through the time in Freest’s museum of local history are some of the program highlights, which are organized by the local partners.

When leaving Krummin two days later, the “Heiba” and her captain Heinz Meibert has their big appearance. The motor boat helps to pull the lead boat “The Wind” into the right direction. With strong wind and little space to turn, manoeuvring would otherwise have been quite tedious with the large wind impact surface of the 50-foot yacht.

Over the stormy Bodden

During the following stage the Bodden waters shows what they are made of. On the Greifswalder Bodden, the sky turns dark grey. Strong winds up to 30 knots come up and disappears fortunately as fast as they have come. The fairway leading into the river Ryck is soon ahead. After passing the wooden folding bridge in Wieck, it is still about two nautical miles to the destination, the Marina Yachtzentrum in the University and Hanseatic City Greifswald. The marina is located not far away from the museum shipyard and the museum harbour. With around 50 historical ships, it is Germany’s largest and an ideal backdrop for students who meet here for a beer or a snack in the evening. The day ends with a calm cinema evening in a shed nearby the harbour and is thus a pleasant contrast to the splendid spectacle in Szczecin.

From the harbour it is only a few steps to the lively historical centre of Greifswald with its market place, its many restaurants and the interesting brick Gothic. In the morning of the following day, the participants have the opportunity to get to know all this in detail during a guided tour.

All facets of the southern Baltic Sea coast in one tour

The last destination of the international flotilla is the Marina Kröslin in the Baltic Sea Resort, where the tour ends with a closing party.
Impressive nature experiences, hospitality in all marinas and above all a lot of fun while sailing with a group have inspired the boaters one more time. They could experience how multi-faceted the SOUTH COAST BALTIC is: Lively Polish seaside resorts such as Darłowo, Kołobrzeg or Świnoujście with their fine sandy beaches invited the sailors. The up-and-coming Szczecin impressed as a modern celebration capital. And the rather calm Vorpommern and Usedom´s “Kaiserbäder” Heringsdorf, Bansin and Ahlbeck as well as Krummin at the Achterwasser showed the contrasts that can be found along the southern shores of the Baltic Sea with its manifold offers on shore.

And also on the water, the region is characterised by a unique diversity. Many of the participants decided to take part in the rally in order to experience exactly that for the first time. “We already know the western Baltic Sea well, but the section between Stralsund and Kołobrzeg in Poland was still a white spot on the map for us,” explains rally participant Werner Schliecker. With his wife Ursel and dog Felix he took part in the SOUTH COAST BALTIC Boating Rally already for the second time.

This 4th edition of the rally was organised and financed by the SOUTH COAST BALTIC Marketing Initiative and supported by the EU within the Interreg South Baltic Programme.

And the 5th Rally is already scheduled: It will take place from 28 June to 7 July 2020 and lead, like the first three editions, from Gdańsk / Poland via Kaliningrad / Russia to Klaipėda & Nida in Lithuania. Registration forms will be available from Dec 2019 on www.southcoastbaltic.eu.