Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore sailing seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Ellos, Sweden to Southampton, England

September 8, 2007, 0600 hrs, 51.33 N, 01.56 E, Log: 112,107 miles
Motorsailing at 7 kts into 13 kt headwinds, 1’-2’ seas
Baro: 1026, Cabin Temp: 68F, cockpit 64F

Belgium to Port, England Ahead

Wow, what a North Sea passage we’ve had! We left Helgoland, a tax-free island off Germany noon a couple days ago to find 25-35 knot NW winds and VERY close period waves in waters that never were deeper than 130’. Mahina Tiare was in her element, shoulder down, charging along on a close reach at close to eight knots, then close hauled and finally, as winds lightened yesterday, on a glorious broad reach under blue skies and warm sunshine. We even had a spectacular sunset including a green flash seen by all at sunset last night, but the most unforgettable part of our North Sea crossing was the incredible level of traffic. Richard and Steve did an excellent job laying out courses that would keep us sailing along the outside edge of the crisscrossed pattern of shipping lanes. When necessary to cross you must do so at right angles and then it’s an added challenge to keep clear of the hundreds of fast-moving ships and erratically-moving fishing boats. We’ve had as many as a twenty ships on our three-mile radar screen at a time!

Our excellent sailing winds deserted us after the green flash, but the night was magical with a thousand stars overhead, the glow of Holland’s offshore islands, and hundreds of ship’s lights surrounding us, so nobody complained as we motorsailed through the night, anxious to be clear of the shipping lanes and looking forward to a morning landfall in England.

To bring you up to date, after Leg 4, we had less than a week to get Mahina Tiare tidied up for her second appearance in the annual Sweboat Orust Boat Show which coincides with Hallberg-Rassy’s annual Open House. After a weekend to clean and rest, we were at Martinsson Brothers’ boatyard, six miles north of Ellos first thing Monday morning and within minutes MT was in the slings being lifted out. Although I had dived and checked for keel damage in Norway, I wanted the yard to do closer inspection and fair the smooshed lead.

Mahina Tiare in the slings

Jens demonstrated fairing a lead keel with a sledge hammer!

It took Jens a few minutes with a big hammer to smooth out the place on the front of the keel where we had run aground in Spitsbergen, then a little while longer with a grinder to smooth it our further. By noon he had filled, sanded and primed the small area. We were relieved and pleased to see no damage at all, other than the dented lead. We’ve seen where similar groundings have resulted in the back of the keel being pressed up, damaging the hull and interior structure of some lightly-built boats.

The time out of the water gave me the opportunity of greasing the Max prop and re-antifouling the waterline where ice had scraped off some of the bottom paint. Meanwhile, Amanda was removing fittings and sanding the caprail. We varnished the next morning, minutes after MT was relaunched, but got a call that HR needed us in position a day earlier than earlier planned. With wet varnish we carefully motored downwind six miles back to the boatyard and had to thread the needle through boats already moored ready for the boat show. Finally we got into the Travelift bay which would be our prime display location for the show, with only a few footprints on the varnish from helpful boatyard workers who helped us through the maze of lines and boats.

Long before the show opened at 10am Friday morning throngs of eager show goers flocked around the marina. With over 24,000 people viewing 90 European boats from many builders and countries, it was an exciting show. There were also three huge long display tents erected in the boat parking lot with many of the major European sailboat equipment suppliers. We saw boats and gear that never make it to the North American market and it was a great opportunity to have questions answered by the manufacturers or their reps.

Our PowerPoint show at the Hallberg-Rassy Open House dinner for 200 at went very well and MT was jammed with keen sailors from every country imaginable, (even Estonia and Australia!) many with similar stories: the kids had now left home, and mum and dad were ready to expand their sailing horizons and why hadn’t someone offered a program similar to ours ever before? Our 2008 sailing schedule back through European waters (Azores, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, England, Spain, Portugal and Atlantic Crossing) was close to home and exactly what these sailors were looking for.

Sweboat Orust Boat Show
We met several young couples in their 30’s who were keen to take a break from their busy careers and share the adventure of offshore cruising with their young kids while home-schooling them aboard.

Before we knew it, the show was over, and Christoph and Mai Rassy invited us and our friends Roland (HR sales manager) and Vickie (owner of HR Parts) to their home for an after-show visit. At 73, Christoph had just, the weekend before, completed a world circumnavigation with the Blue Water Rally aboard his HR 62, Bamsen. Mai had flown and met him eight times making some of the shorter passages with Christoph and showed us treasures she had collected around the world. Christoph said it was good to be back, and although he has retired and his son Magnus is running the yard, it was obvious that he is still very proud of what he created after arriving with only his bicycle and tools from Germany 55 years ago.

Monday morning was a zoo in the boatyard, with winds gusting to 30 knots, skillful skippers extracted their boats from the maze and set sail. We managed to find a place to tie up at the HR marina’s edge and went to work reprovisioning and restowing our bikes and gear that we had off-loaded for the passage to Spitsbergen.

We were ready, but exhausted when our eager Leg 5 crew arrived Wednesday morning and after a leisurely lunch, set sail for a quick visit to lovely little Gullholmen village and then south. We didn’t really have a destination but with excellent winds we headed offshore out of the narrow channels, got in some reefing practice, and then came zooming back in the channels, sailing past Mollosund, one of Sweden’s oldest and most picturesque fishing villages to an anchorage between a group of small islets and a mussel farm. Mollosund looked like a movie set at sunset with the picture-perfect

Mollosund’s waterfront
little houses and windmills and twinkling lights.

We sailed before dawn Thursday morning, with the goal of sailing 83 miles south to the Danish island of Anholt before dark. With ideal sailing conditions and clear skies we made it, tying up in the nearly empty harbor by 1730. We found a large, well-protected harbor with a ferry to the mainland, a few fishing boats and lots of empty dock space. A Danish couple aboard a tidy Camper Nicholson 43 told us that only a few weeks earlier the harbor had hosted a record 631 yachts, making it possible to walk completely across the harbor, stepping from boat to boat. As school had recently started and summer holidays were over, only a few keen sailors were about.

Amanda takes a quiet moment at the harbour club house

Southerly gales lash the popular swimming beach

Near gale force southerlies kept us in port and tackling our busy teaching schedule the following day, with plenty of time for exploring this quiet and beautiful sandy island. Surrounded by beaches, Anholt has just 165 residents, many of them artists and reminded us of Kawau Island near Auckland and Lasqueti Island in Canada’s Gulf Islands.

Germany’s Kiel Canal was our goal two days later so we looked for new places to visit along the way south. Ballen, a small village with a picturesque harbor on Samso Island came highly recommended, and after a 60 mile sail and then motorsail as winds dropped in the late afternoon we arrived in a this very friendly place. We love Denmark! The people are cheerful and outgoing, never hesitating to stop by a newly arrived yacht on the dock for a chat, and eager to share stories their favorite anchorages and harbors. When paying our modest moorage fees, the jolly harbormaster said, “Look out my window, I have the best view in the world!” He could see past the harbor, to the channel where ships and yachts sailed past.

With few cars (many of the locals and guests travel by bicycle) and smooth, flat roads, Samso just begged to be explored, so for the first time ever during an expedition, I popped our folding DaHon Helios bikes together and we explored until dark and then early the following morning. We found family farms with unattended roadside vegetable stalls and honesty boxes, something that reminds us so much of New Zealand. We also marveled at the tons of huge wind generators, showing Denmark’s strong commitment to reducing fossil fuel usage.

Amanda checking out the produce at a roadside stand

Wind generators at work

With a relatively short distance of 37 miles to Korsor, the following morning seemed a perfect opportunity to measure and mark our new chain and to install a nylon link. Without complaining, our crew drug 260’ of 10 mm (3/8”) chain out onto the dock, measured it and marked it every 50’ with different color nylon cable ties while I climbed down in the anchor locker to shackle the bitter end with a nylon lanyard. This will allow us to quickly and easily jettison the chain if we are ever in a situation that requires that. Previously we had to remove everything from the locker and dive down 4’ to unshackle the bitter end of the shackle, or use a hacksaw to cut the chain.

Steve and Richard marking chain

New rope link for attaching anchor chain

We had a extremly windy sail to Korsor with lots of traffic as we passed under the ten mile long bridge that connects Denmark. Korsor has a small yacht club-owned harbor, and there was just one open dock tee to moor to in a fairly exposed position. But we were sure thankful to be in the harbor as winds gusting to 25 knots buffeted us for much of the night.

Monday morning several of us explored the town early, and I found a bakery opened and used up all of our Danish coins buying all manner of tasty pastries and bread.

Our 70 mile passage to Kiel was in near-gale conditions and MT was flying! Dodging warships, square riggers and race boats our crew threaded us into Kiel harbor and we rafted up to another boat for the night at Holtenau, just next to the canal entrance.

At 0700 a flashing white light told us to enter the first lock chamber. Minutes later Val and I met the lockmaster in his control tower, paid the modest 20 Euro (US$30) lock fee while the lock gates slammed shut behind MT and the front ones suddenly opened. With a perfect sunny day we enjoyed the 55 mile passage through pastoral farmlands, passing all types of ships, modern and huge container ships and tankers and the forever romantic beautiful old narrow canal boats. There is a path along much of the canal and often runners, cyclers and people walking their dogs would wave from the shoreline. Amanda and I took turns teaching and steering throughout the calm day, and before we knew it, Brunsbuttel lock loomed ahead! We arrived just after eight smaller yachts had entered the chamber, and minutes later the gate closed.

Canal cruising

Exiting Brunsbuttel lock

After our tranquil journey we were totally unprepared for 24 knot headwinds, short, choppy seas and the very intense traffic of the Elbe river on the 12 mile stretch to Cuxhaven. Fortunately, Val had laid out courses and waypoints on the

Steve in his element
chart and in the GPS so we weren’t too flummoxed, just soaked!

It was still gusting 25 knots inside Cuxhaven Yacht Club’s crowed harbor, but we eventually managed to raft up to one of the 20 visiting boats also waiting for the winds to drop.

The club’s harbormaster thoughtfully provided us with city maps and we set off exploring, even though everything was closed. The GRIB files showed headwinds the following day for sailing to England, so we planned a day in port, UNTIL, on our morning run, we spied a classic looking old ferry with HELGOLAND painted in huge letters down the side. That was it! Instead of staying in Cuxhaven (ok, but not fascinating) we would head for this small offshore island, 37 miles away with a good wind angle for sailing!

We knew very little about Helgoland, other than it had been under British Rule from 1840-1890 when they traded it to Germany in exchange for Zanzibar, and that it was a duty-free destination. What we found was a rugged little island with

Helgoland’s distinctive north cliff
many different man-made harbors and breakwaters, sandy beaches, great hiking trails along tall red cliffs with large nesting gannet (bird) colonies along the cliffs. There were also tons of sterile buildings housing holiday apartments, crowded tacky duty free shops, a duty free fuel dock, and for me a ship store that had great a price reduced selection of Musto and Henri-Lloyd sailing clothes.

With just 300 miles and 20-25 knot winds forecast, we were in no rush to leave Thursday morning, as we didn’t want to arrive off Ramsgate, England in the dark Saturday morning. By 1330 we were underway with great challenging sailing conditions. Before long two reefs became three and we kept reefing the headsail down until it was about 40% and yet still Mahina Tiare kept charging along at 8.5 to 9 knots.

Cyndi and Val’s North Sea vacation

Fran and Cyndi wonder at the green flash


September 12 2007, 2300 hrs, Cowes Yacht Haven, Isle of Wight, England, Log: 112,506
Baro: 1027, Cabin Temp: 70F, cockpit 58F

Soon after first light on September 8th we arrived off the entrance channel to Ramsgate where Harbour Control granted us permission to enter the harbor between ferry boats.  Following breakfast and classes on diesel engines, electrical power systems and watermakers, we all headed ashore to explore this historic port at the entrance to the River Thames.

Ramsgate Harbour
Ramsgate’s High Street market area was a sea of humanity with lots of people down from London for the day to pry at the market stalls which packed the pedestrian walkways. Steve claimed a lot of the people on the streets reminded him of Star Wars characters – it was certainly a broad mixture of people from many cultures.

We enjoyed a first-class dinner ashore in an Indian restaurant with a great view of the harbor and English Channel, followed by a dawn departure for the 80 mile passage to Brighton. Viewing the white cliffs of Dover was frequently interrupted by all types of ferry traffic entering and leaving Dover on the run to Calais. We had perfect conditions for celestial navigation (latitude by noonsite) Lifesling overboard conditions and everyone perfected our modified quick-stop maneuver before arriving in the classic English seaside holiday town of Brighton with plenty of time before dusk.

Image 18 Richard takes a noon site

Brighton Marina, with 1800 berths and extensive shore side complex is the largest in the UK and we were amazed at how many new shops, hotels and condos have been added since our 2001 visit. We discovered that 30 English pounds ($62) was the

Amanda enjoys Brighton’s glowing pier
normal (expensive!) moorage fee for Mahina Tiare’s 14 meters at nearly all of England’s South Coast marinas. After sunset we enjoyed walking along the waterfront above the miles-long beach towards Brighton Pier that sports ancient amusement park rides that colorfully blink neon against the dark sea horizon. We saw people playing beach volleyball, enjoying beach campfires and generally having a good time.

Benefits of the marina complex included at-cost fuel (which we topped up with), a giant ASDA supermarket (owned by Wal-Mart), several marine stores, factory name outlets, numerous restaurants, three pound all day bus travel around Brighton, nice hotel, and if you want to stay a while, hundreds of apartment buildings. This should make our crew change in Brighton next year a breeze.

Filling our US propane tanks always presents a challenge in Europe. EU rules forbid refilling tanks, instead boaters exchange empty tanks for full. Great idea for safety, expect that every single country has different types of tanks and pipe fittings. So, we look for small place like Tromso, or where the people at the gas facilities are relaxed. At the Brighton marina fuel dock I noticed a cage with exchange propane, butane and Calor gas bottles. With some persuading I managed to get the attendant to rent us a tank for a few minutes while Jim, Val and I decanted from their tank to ours. We

Val with the propane rig
did this on the top of the breakwater, away from any vehicles or people. I use a hose I put together in Scotland last trip, consisting of two US-style pigtail hoses from West Marine, connected with a valve in the middle. It is important to remember to open the small vent screw on the side of the US tank’s valve to let the air which is being displaced by the liquid gas escape. Two full 20lb tanks should last us 10-12 weeks, or the rest of the season.

We had a slog from Brighton to Cowes but it was worth it. Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, is the birthplace of yachting and the America’s Cup and we found Cowes Yacht Haven just as friendly and convenient as ever. With only a day

Crew hoist the staysail
remaining, we pulled out all the stops to complete our teaching schedule. Amanda covered winch maintenance, sail repair, sending everyone aloft for rig checks, double-braid splicing and I followed with storm tactics, communications options and Customs worldwide.

We went to sea after lunch to practice deploying warps and drogues and followed by rigging the cutter stay and hoisting the storm staysail. We then worked out our sextant sights from a couple days earlier, while Amanda made dinner, Jim’s sight came in only 1.3 miles from the GPS fix, a new record! Whew! That was one busy day and crew still had to pack and clean as they had elected leave early in the morning and utilize the easy connections to Southampton and beyond. Richard and Fran were off to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, Steve and Jim headed off to explore London for a day and Val and Cyndi headed straight to Heathrow with the goal of purchasing an HR 43 or 46 ASAP. 

Here they are!

Leg 5 Crew - Val, Cyndi, Richard, Fran, Steve & Jim

Val Landes, 57
I am a anesthesiologist and pain management physician and a recent back injury changed my adrenaline-rush sports activisms such as motorcycle racing to a more realistic lifestyle of sailing.
We purchased an three month old Island Packet 3700 that had just been sailed to Hawaii by the first owner and my son and I sailed it from Hawaii to California this February. I made a thousand mistakes to learn from as I now am studying, taking lessons. This expedition aboard Mahina Tiare has opened my eyes to the homework needed before upgrading my boar and pursuing a life of cruising adventures. One of my goals is to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders while we cruise.

Cyndi Landes, 51
We live in Greeley, Colorado where I work as a surgery center as a pain management technician. We love to travel and experience new places and when we are home I design and sew quilts.

Richard Dowling, 63
I am involved in technology in a telecommunications company that we have homegrown from a start-up over 28 years. For recreation I fly my Cessna on floats and skis and during the Iditarod Sled Dog Race each march I join 25 other pilots in the Iditarod Air Force, flying support for the race. Fran and I joined this expedition to gain more offshore sailing experience in preparation for our own cruising adventures.

Fran Kelly, 41
I recently moved from Kauai to Alaska to be with my partner, Richard. We own a Waterline 48 steel cutter which we recently sailed from Sidney, B.C. to Anchorage including crossing the Gulf of Alaska. We plan to cruise the South Pacific in the next few years.

Steve Schroeder, 55
I currently sail my Hunter 23.5 with my wife Rose in circles on a small lake in Southern Illinois. Our goal is to retire in 2-3 years from our work in real estate development and spend time coastal cruising and maybe passage making on the US East Coast.

Jim, 61
I usually sail the Great Lakes with my beagle, Charlie, aboard my Shannon 28. Charlie is a great sailing companion, not complaining or arguments. I signed up for this trip to fine tune my sailing and plan to sail in other parts of the world. We’ve had terrific sailing and great scenery, especially along this south coast of England.

As special treat for us will be a few hours to enjoy some great cycling on this glorious English-countryside island before heading over to Hamble Point Marina Thursday morning to borrow an empty slip at Transworld Yachts, the English Hallberg-Rassy dealer. Several of their boats are off to the big Southampton Boat Show. Well be working hard to get all of our provisioning and cleaning done Thursday as we’re excited about seeing the opening day of the boat show on Friday before our Leg 6 crew join us Saturday noon. Wow – it’s going to be a busy few days for us!



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