This September, Jan-Dirk Seiler-Hausmann from Germany and I were invited to help our Polish friend Grzegorz Derecki (from several Raids Finland) sail his 22 ft yacht, Pura Vida, from Freest in Germany to its home port of Szczecin in Poland. This region, spanning coastal stretches of both countries, is Pomerania.
The meaning of the name Pura Vida is given by this travel guide:
‘Costa Ricans (Ticos) use this term to say hello, to say goodbye, to say everything’s great, to say everything’s cool.
However, it is not the words that reflect the true meaning of “Pura Vida”. Pura Vida is the way Ticos live. Ticos have a very relaxed, simple way of looking at life. No worries, no fuss, no stress – pura vida to them means being thankful for what they have and not dwelling on the negative.
Grzegorz had holidayed in Costa Rica and chose this saying for his beautiful boat, built in Szczecin by a Polish shipwright. She is an Iain Oughtred Kotik design and she sails as well as she looks.
Jan-Dirk had flown to Warsaw and the two had then driven to Berlin Airport to collect me, en route to Freest. We had already established that Jan-Dirk preferred B & B accommodation, so Grzegorz took his tent, giving me the main berth on the boat, which was very comfortable (the choice of colour for the mattresses was made by Grzegorz’s wife, apparently a key decision in the build!).
Freest is an attractive small port with an old-fashioned boat yard and moorings. This area is not crowded with holidaymakers, so Jan-Dirk was easily able to secure a room in a local inn, where we also had a typically German dinner, finishing with Fassbind schnapps from Switzerland, to universal acclaim.
Our passage was through the channel between the island of Usedom and the mainland, then across the extensive, land-locked waters of the Achterwasser and Szczecin Lagoon, and finishing via the lakes and channels of the Oder estuary, to Szczecin. Of note at the start was the village of Peenemünde, on Usedom. Here, Wernher von Braun had developed the V2 rockets, during WWII.
The lagoon waters are shallow, with many fishnets and traps dotted about, so the navigation channels are important both for depth and free passage. Happily, Pura Vida has a centreboard and draws only 0.6m with it up, so, downwind, with a good lookout kept for the nets, she is ideal.
The trip was expected to take 2-3 days. Our speed would be largely determined by passage through two swing bridges on roads between Usedom and the mainland. These only open at a few specified times a day to let yachts through. If you are not in line when they open, you miss the slot. So, to make the first opening time, we sleepily left Freest at 6.30 a.m. Luckily, it was a fine day and we had all slept well.
Pura Vida has an outboard sitting in an offset well under the aft deck, with controls accessible from the cockpit. This proved invaluable after we decided we could accomplish the voyage in two days, particularly early on when we had to get to the first bridge on time and were confined to a narrow channel, with the wind from dead ahead.
The wind grew to F4 as the day wore on and, after successfully passing under the second bridge around lunchtime, we attempted to visit the harbour of the village of Usedom, but finding it closed by a construction project, we consulted the charts and flew on a broad reach across the lagoon to Mönkebude. While out in the middle of the lagoon, several hundred geese flew across our bows in single files – a very fine sight!
Mönkebude is an unspoilt village resort, with the moorings of the marina stretched along the inside of a mole. Facilities were spotless and accommodation for Jan-Dirk was arranged by the local tourist office.
In the morning, we had an excellent breakfast in a cafe attached to a bakery a few streets back from the harbour. Walking to the cafe at about 7.30 a.m., the sky was full of twisting and turning swallows which then dashed under the eaves of a large building, presumably to feed their young, before dashing out again for more provisions. Fortified ourselves, we set off for the second day’s sail, again with a fine breeze on our quarter.
As we neared the estuary of the Oder and the island of Chelminek, the navigation marks formed several large gates, sized for large vessels to pass through. We kept to the side of this channel, out of the way.
Sailing up the Oder estuary, we passed one island which had been established as an early bird conservatory by Paul Robien, who lived on the island alone until his death in 1945. A sea eagle flew over the water as we passed.
Pura Vida: Impressions
Pura Vida impressed greatly. She has a good beam, so even a large person, such as myself, can move along the side decks with assurance. She is beautifully built, with teak decks and a mahogany hatch and coamings. Both at the mooring and at sea, she felt like a proper little ship and she sailed fast – 4-5 knots, without fuss. We covered 81 nm over the two days.
(Photographs by Jan-Dirk, Grzegorz and me.)