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May 2013 - Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

Baltic Sea |Latvia | Pavilosta | Saka River | Pavilosta marina

May 30, 2013

Hi Everyone, Sunday we had a nice 25nm downwind sail to Pavilosta, Latvia. This marina is in a very small village on the banks of Saka river (narrow). Pretty and quiet. We walked around the village and along the river. Then we walked along the seashore enjoying the sunshine and searching for amber.

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Ventspils | one of many cow statues around town

Monday we sailed close hulled 30nm to Ventspils, Latvia. Thankfully we got an early start so when the wind piped up to 25-35kts we had about 15nm to go. We ended up motoring the last 9 nm heading directly to the harbor to get off the sea sooner. We used our "mooring tool" for the first time in gusting 25kts of wind. This gadget on a pole allows you to hook the top of a stern mooring buoy and threads your line through the eye. Then you pull it back aboard as you go by. Well I got the line back to the boat but not tied down fast enough nor did I have enough line fed out to reach the quay. So it stopped our momentum heading toward the quay and we were blown sideways. Fortunately Alchemy came to the rescue tossing us a mid ship line to pull us over closer to him and I was able to get my lines to others waiting on the quay. Always some new thing to make docking exciting:-) About an hour after we were all situated big winds and an electrical storm came through. Glad we were snug and safe. It stormed well into the night.

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Riga | Old Riga Buildings | Brotherhood of Blackhead

Tuesday Ginger, Dick, Al and I took a 0720 bus three hours to Riga, Latvia's capital city. We had planned to take our boats there but the winds for the next week were not favorable for that direction. We had a great hotel, Hotel Justus in Old Town.

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Riga | St. Peter's Square | Petrikirche

After we got checked in we went to St. Peter's Square to join a free Old Town two hour tour in English! Our guide Tom was excellent and it was fun to learn about Riga and have our questions answered immediately. After our tour we had a cafeteria style lunch in a nice restaurant. We decided on visiting a restored merchant house, Menzendorff House and then we walked Antonijas Street where the embassy's are and many restored Art Nouveau buildings.

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Riga | One of beautiful parks along the old moat surrounding Old Town

The moat of the once walled city now provides beautiful parks along a canal surrounding Old Town. We rested up for a couple of hours and then went for a light dinner of soup and salad, perfect after the huge lunch we had. Unfortunately it was raining when we came out of the restaurant so we decided it was not a good time to see Riga by night.

Wednesday we had nice breakfast served at our hotel and then went to visit Riga's Central Market. The market is housed mostly in five huge 1930's pavilions created using the roof structures of World War I Zeppelin hangers built by the Germans near Liepeja. This was by far the largest market we've ever experienced. We joined another free guided tour at noon. This time exploring the area east of Old Town known as the Moscow Suburb. Again we had a good guide and enjoyed seeing the market again with her before continuing our tour. Four "Young Adults" joined us for lunch at a Folk bar recommended by our guide. We had such fun sharing stories that we had to hustle back to our hotel to gather our things before catching our 1700 bus back to Ventspils. We had a great experience and are glad we took time to visit Riga.

Today we walked to central Ventspils, picked up some groceries and exchanged our LATS for Euro's. Workers are busy putting in new sidewalks and bicycle paths. Tomorrow we plan to sail to Kuressaare, Estonia on the Island of Saaremaa (NW Riga Bay). Love and God Bless Sally and Al

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Liepaja | Promenade Hotel | Artemis

May 25, 2013

Hi Everyone, We arrived in Liepaja, Latvia on Wednesday. We moored alongside pontoons in front of the Promenade Hotel, owners of the yacht center. This is a very friendly city. Many people have stopped by to welcome us and ask questions. Liepaja has a very troublesome history. They have been occupied by seven different armies in the last 92 years. They only became independent and open to foreigners again when the Soviet Empire was dissolved in 1990. Many restoration projects are underway of mostly roads, sidewalks, parks, and historical or public buildings. Hopefully money will be found to restore other parts of the town. It would be a shame to lose the neat wooden villas scattered around town.

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Liepaja | Peters Market

Thursday We went to Peters Market, a fantastic indoor and outdoor market. It's the best market we've experienced since Turkey. We toured around Liepaja with Ginger and Dick.

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Liepaja | Holy Trinity Church

We felt fortunate to happen upon Holy Trinity Church's organist practicing on their fabulous organ. (largest mechanical organ in the world). We also had many of our questions answered by the young woman supervising the restoration of the church. Later we met a gentleman on the street who shared his family story. Most of his family was killed in Liepaja by the Red Army but he escaped to Nazi Germany. Unfortunately he was in East Germany after the war. Now he is a German University Technical professor and has a home in Liepaja. He wanted us to know how badly the Latvian's have suffered during Russian occupation and that many Russians still have powerful positions in their country.

We had an interesting visit to a workshop of Liepaja's craft guild. These artists have come together in one dwelling to work their craft and allow visitors to be guided through to watch them work and to ask questions. We observed loom weavers of linen and wool, basket weavers, jewelers, costume designers, felt artistry, painter, quilter... all so very interesting.

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Liepaja | suburb Karosta | Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas

Friday we took a bus to Karosta an old military suburb of Liepaja. It was developed as a naval port by Tsarist Russia in the late 19th century. Karosta later became a submarine port for Russia. It's starting to be redeveloped but of special interest to us was the Tsarist Era buildings, Kalpaks Bridge (pre WWI swing bridge), Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas and Karosta Military Prison. We found the 15 min. movie in English at the prison to be very informative, answering many of the questions we'd been asking each other as we wandered the area.

Baltic Sea | Latvia | Liepja | Occupation Museum

Saturday we visited two Liepaja museums. The Museum of History and Art was in a gorgeous 1901 villa with inlaid wooden floors, wood paneling, stucco ceilings, and a beautifully carved staircase. The displays were an odd assortment of artifacts but the villa and furnishings is what caught our interest. The Occupation Museum had an audio guide in English so we learned more about the history of Liepaja. These poor people have suffered so much from both the Germans and Russians until very recent times. (1990)

Sunday we plan to head further up the Latvian coast. All depends on the weather we have two marinas in mind. Happy Memorial Day weekend. We remember those who have died. Especially those who gave their lives defending our country and/or giving aid to other countries fighting for their liberty. Love and God Bless Sally and Al

Baltic Sea | Lithuania | Klaipeda | Artemis and Sunrise approach to Klaipeda

May 21, 2013

Hi Everyone, We left Gdansk, Poland Friday at 0830 to sail 120nm to Klaipeda, Lithuania. The bay of Gdanska was pretty choppy and we were pounding along for the first hours. The waves actually were stopping the boat at times. We turned on the engine for an hour but our headway didn't improve. So we decided we were better off taking a little more wind and sailing. It took us longer to get here but we were able to sail and no engine noise! It was a beautiful overnight. It wasn't dark until 1030-1100, the bright red moon set about 1:00 and it started to get light again before 4. Lots of stars, pretty moon and a quiet sail. The winds shifted toward morning to the SE so we could turn more toward Klaipeda. We sailed until the entrance buoys about an hour from port.

Baltic Sea | Lithuania | Klaipeda | 4 Navy PT boats and bands on the quay for our arrival

Baltic Sea | Lithuania | Klaipeda | Artemis and Alchemy in marinia

We arrived to hordes of people on the quay, music, and banners flying (to celebrate our arrival?). I'm sure that two beautifully designed American sailboats were a novelty to them. Many people shouted and waved to us asking questions about where we came from as we approached the harbor. Klaipeda was having a religious and secular holiday. The navy had 4 PT boats along the quay and people were touring them. Lots of military demonstrations, even allowing people/children to shoot guns at targets. Al and I were too tired to check it out but we did go to the boat parade and fireworks later.

Baltic Sea | Lithuania | Klaipeda | Old Town Theater Square |Folk Music in front of Drama Theater

Sunday after mass we walked about Klaipeda. Hundreds of people were running in a race for Cancer Victims. We enjoyed a mini performance of folk music by a young group dressed in folk costumes. They played violins, zithers, accordions, drum set, and wooden recorders. The Lithuanian people are very welcoming. Their language has many dialects that cross over to the Latvian language (only two countries that speak this language)but we found many people who spoke English.

Monday we took a ferry then bus to Nida, Lithuania an ancient fishing village on the Curonian Spit. It's a 4km wide, 97km long spit separating the Baltic from the lagoon that borders Lithuania and Latvia. Beautiful sandy beaches, some 50m high dunes and pine forests border the lagoon.

Baltic Sea | Lithuania | Nida | Old style fishing huts in Nida

Nida has many old style fishing huts with reed thatched roofs, and traditional horsehead cross pieces. The area is also known for the unique wooden windvanes that flew at the top of the Curonian lagoon fishing boats. Each boat needed to identify which village they came from. But with time each fisherman began adding pictorial detail like trees, lighthouses, churches, horses... making their vane unique to them.

Baltic Sea | Lithuania | Nida | unique wooden windvanes

We had summer like temperatures 75-80 then last night a storm blew through and this morning the temperature dropped back into the low 60's. Off and on rain today so we decided to wait another day to head to Latvia. Today we did some travel planning with Alchemy and then visited two museums a blacksmith museum and a Lithuanian Minor regional historical museum. Tomorrow we'll sail 50nm to Leipaja, Latvia. Love and God Bless Sally and Al

Baltic Sea | Poland | Leba | Artemis in Leba marina

May 17, 2013

Hi Everyone, Sunday We had a great dinner out with friends Dick and Ginger (s/y Alchemy) Sat. night after we arrived in Leba, Poland. We hadn't seen them since London and we'll travel to St. Petersburg with them. The little restaurant was open for the first time this season. I think the only other people in the restaurant were family and they pulled out the accordion and started playing songs. Great reunion.

Baltic Sea | Poland | Leba | Stowinski National Park | Al among the shifting sand dunes

Dick and Ginger left early this morning for Hel, Poland. Al and I rented bicycles to explore Leba (weba) as we were to lazy to haul ours out of their suitcases:-) We rode about 10km out to Stowinski National Park. We had good bike trails that took us through woods, along a lake out to the "shifting sands". What an amazing sight! These dunes started at least 5000 years ago. They cover an area of about 6 sq. km and reach a height of 30-42 meters. The sand dries and is blowing it steadily inland at a rate of 2m to 10m a year covering everything in it's path.

Baltic Sea | Poland | Leba | German rocket launcher test sight | 50'wooden tower

Then we visited an outdoor museum of a German rocket launcher test sight and a history of the development of rocket missiles original set up by the Germans in 1940. Poland later used this sight to develop meteorological rockets. We climbed a 50ft wooden tower that gave great views of the forest and dunes.

Baltic Sea | Poland | Leba | inner river harbor of Leba

We had the bikes for the day so we rode around Leba until the slight showers drove us home.

Baltic Sea | Poland | Gdansk | Old Town Gdansk | Artemis and Alchemy in Marina Gdansk

Monday we left Leba at 0500 to sail 52 nm to Hel, Poland. We started out motor sailing but by 0930 the winds picked up we had genoa, main, and mizzen up. Then we decided to drop the main, set the whisker pole and sail jib and jigger (genoa and mizzen) We had such great sailing we decided to skip Hel and go the extra 24 miles and sail to Gdansk, Poland. We needed to travel about 4nm up a river from the sea to reach it. We arrived about 1800 and moored alongside a pontoon in Marina Gdansk, right in the center of Main Town Gdansk. Surprise, surprise right next to our friends on Alchemy. We thought they were still in Hel. It's magical just looking around from our boat. We were too tired to think about doing much more than that.

Baltic Sea | Poland | Motlawa River | Gdansk | Old Town looking up river

Baltic Sea | Poland | Gdansk | Long Street

Tuesday we enjoyed wandering around Gdansk. It's a major seaport and ship refurbishing port. So a very prosperous area throughout the ages. two spectacular streets that run together are Long Street and the Royal Way. This was the route the Polish kings paraded during their visits here. It's a pedestrian street today lined with magnificent facade buildings. Gorgeous!

Baltic Sea | Poland | Gdansk | Old Town | Archeological Museum

We visited the Town Hall museum, Artus Court, and the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We had a good lunch of pierogi and zurek zupa (soup)in a bread bowl. Later we went to an organ/violin concert at St. Nicholas Church.

Baltic Sea | Poland | Beautiful Rapeseed Fields

Wednesday we rented a car in Gdansk with Ginger and Dick. This area of Poland is a richer agricultural area than the areas we have visited before this. Thus we saw more prosperous towns. It's a very pretty time of year with various shades of green and the brilliant yellow flowers of the rapeseed fields (used to produce vegetable oil). Most of Poland we had experienced along the coast was very flat. Today we discovered beautiful rolling hills and farms.

Baltic Sea | Poland | Stuthof | Stuthof Extermination Camp | Crematorium

The beginning of our day was difficult spiritually as we visited the extermination camp at Stuthof, Poland. The Nazis disposed of Polish resisters here from the beginning of WWII and then later brought Jews here for extermination.

Baltic Sea | Poland | Stuthof | Stuthof Nasi Germany Concentration Camp | grounds

Much of the museum had sign boards both in Polish and English and included some personal accounts of survivors. Walking the grounds, studying pictures and going inside the crematorium and gas chamber were very troubling. Our final stop was a walk deep in the woods bordering the camp to the place a pyre was build of wood drenched in tar used to dispose of masses of bodies as they were unable to keep up using just the crematorium...

Baltic Sea | Poland | Malbork | Teutonic Castle

After lunch we drove further into Poland visiting Malbork and walking around the castle built by the Teutonic Knights. It's quite and impressive structure and considered Europe's largest Gothic castle. We got a little lost driving to Gniew our last stop for the day. But sometimes lost is good as we found a great tea/coffee stop and indulged in apple pie w/ice cream.