The Former East Germany, In A New Light, Ep. 188

“You are entering an active shooting area. Change course immediately to 045 degrees for Tango 7 buoy.” 

Regardless of whether you have had your morning coffee or not, hearing these words from the VHF radio will bring any boater to complete, 100% attention. As we departed the Kiel fjord with our friend Pedro onboard for a week’s exploring along the northern Germany coast, we were following a series of waypoints we had carefully programmed into the chartplotter, a route that would miss all the shallow areas on our way to Heiligenhafen. I had noticed that much of the electronic chart was criss-crossed with purple boxes and tiny, hard to read symbols. These charts are the digitized cousins of the old established paper charts that mariners have used for decades. But ‘digitized’ is a bit of a misnomer. A human being, of unknown skill and compensation level, reads the paper chart and enters the latitude and longitude of all the features on the chart. Given that it is human, mistakes and omissions are possible, and to be expected. Place names are commonly misspelled. Important footnotes on the paper chart that explain the meaning of boxes and symbols are left off or buried in a menu deep enough that you should pack a canary for the journey. But this was one region you wanted to dig for the details. We were indeed headed into an active firing range and a fast-approaching patrol boat was ready to reinforce the verbal instructions with their imposing physical presence. We locked in a course for the T-7 boundary buoy without delay, and examined the chart closely for the full perimeter of the firing range. With the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the navies of the NATO countries were understandably on high alert. Our role in this conflict was to stay out of the way, and the explosions and staccato sounds of automatic fire in the hazy distance were a regular reminder for us to not cut corners. 

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Break On Through To The Other Side, Ep. 187

Neither of us could handle another 5am start. It was nice to know the sun had that kind of endurance this time of year, but after the big push in the last few days to get around the Netherlands and Germany barrier islands (area known as the German Bight), Karen and I needed some R&R time. Cuxhaven, at the doorstep of the Elbe River, is at the crossroads of history. Just a few steps away from our marina stood the ornate arrival hall for the Hamburg America Line which, until it ceased operations in 1969, was the major departure point for German and other European emigrants to the U.S. During World War I, the German Navy operated airships out of a nearby hangar. Today, like many coastal cities, a majority of the economy has pivoted to tourism. However, just south of the historic cruise ship terminal is a state of the art offshore wind farm assembly plant run by Siemens Gamesa. These wind turbine components are so massive, much more so than the land-based wind farms, that manufacturers strategically locate their plants at ports like Cuxhaven where they can immediately load the components onto custom built ships for transport to the offshore sites. It also frees them from any over-the-road size constraints. We got a chance to see the multi-story high nacelles (the central hub of the turbine where the gears and generator are located) being loaded onto a ship at Cuxhaven. Hats off to the men and women in this industry, doing their own pivot like other neighboring European countries, as they shift focus from oil and gas production to clean energy production.

A nacelle being prepared for transport (Photo Credit: Siemens Gamesa)
Custom-built ship for transporting nacelles. Cuxhaven
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