06 November 2017

10 Questions for Ronja

Kirsten Folkersen and Per Westergaard have been cruising since 2012 aboard Ronja, a Malö 36 hailing from Thurø, Denmark.

They have cruised from Denmark to the Mediteranean through the standing mast route in Holland and the English Channel. From Le Havre in France they had the mast taken off, and sailed through French rivers and canals to Port St. Louis du Rhone. From there they followed the French coast to Genoa, Italy, and this year to Sicily.

You can learn more about their cruise on their blog or through email.

They say: The first three years of our cruising we both had full time jobs in Denmark and only sailed four weeks each year. When our holidays ran out, we just went into a harbour and asked if they would look after our boat for the next 11 months, until we were back again. And from there we picked up the cruising the next year to new destinations. In 2016 we both retired from our jobs and we are now cruising two-three-four months a year.  

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising? 

The first year we underestimated the effect of the tide, because we were not used to having tide in the inland waters of Denmark. When we reached the German Bight we were appalled by the power of the tide, and more than once we had to redefine our route in order to cope with the tide. The second year we got problems with our Yanmar-motor at the river Marne in France (the propshaft broke). No marine mechanic within hundreds of miles, so we picked a local mechanic specialized in lorries. We never should have done that. A marine mechanic had to do the repair all over the next year. Happily he did this for only a third of the price of the lorry-mechanic in northern France.

What was the most affordable area to cruise in your trip and the most expensive? 

Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France are all affordable countries to visit, when it comes to the price of a berth in a harbour. Going from France to Italy was generally double up on the prices. Italy is hilarious in its pricing, and it is hard to understand the logic in their prices. In Sardinia we paid a record of 153 € for just one night in Porto Cervo. In La Caleta, also in Sardinia, we could moor for free at a certain pier, but if we took water or electricity from that pier, we had to pay 85 €. However the costs of living in general are ok in Italy, and the anchorages are beautiful and free of charges.

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy? 

French harbour captains insisting that you moor stern-to. We prefer to moor bow-to. And French and Italian harbour captains seriously claiming, that they have wifi in their harbour, and carefully print out the code. It is a joke. The wifi in nine out of ten of these harbours are not even close to working.

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising? 

Old age or maladies. The anchor, the mainsail, the whole boat getting too heavy to handle.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike? 

I like the helpfulness of German and Dutch sailors, when you enter a new harbour. They willingly jump from their own boat to take your lines and help you into your berth. This has occasionally happened in France as well. We still have to experience that kind of hospitality in Italy, but off course we have only been cruising Italy for some three months. We also like the willingness of the cruising community of all countries to exchange hints, experiences, destinations and good advice with one another.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?

I should have installed an AIS and 30 meters of extra chain to the anchor and some solar cells to prolong the energy supply while anchoring. Further I should have invested in an electric motor to pull up the anchor, which would have been a considerate gesture toward my wife and sailing companion, Kirsten.

Speaking just about your boat (not gear), what is one thing you wish your boat had that it doesn’t and what is one thing your boat has that you wish it didn't? 

I sometimes wish my boat had an extra five feet length, and just as often I wish, that she does not have an extra fire feet length.

In your experience how often do you think cruisers spend sailing vs. motoring, coastally vs. on passage? 

I am sure, we motor a lot more, than we like to admit. At a certain age you no longer fancy crossing the wind head on, and some of us do not even have the patience to keep on sailing, when the speed drops to less than two knots. Hard to explain why; because most of us do have all the time in the world. We are on the vacation of our life.

What do you miss about living on land? 

Absolutely nothing. In our case this is all about the balance between sea and land. We are cruising the world, but our concept is, that we do it bite by bite. We are not full-year cruisers. Our balance between cruising the world and living in an apartment in Copenhagen is important, and we are pleased even, when we cruise only one third or even one fourth of the year. And we may be even more happy, when we some day cruise more than half of the year.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it? 

What is the driver behind your wanting to cruise? 

Good question! It’s the adventure of it, the feeling of waking up each morning, and knowing that today you are going to experience something completely new to you, going to a place where you have never been before. It’s also the realization of a lifelong dream growing while we were busy at our jobs and sailing only for weekends and summer holidays in the inland waters of Denmark and Sweden. It’s the simple of life on board a yacht. It’s the time of the hour making no more sense. It’s the closeness to nature. It’s the intimacy. It’s life.