The Battle of Bornholm


There was no wind next day so we moored in Holtenau harbour to catch up on sleep and see our friend Ingo who keeps his boat there. Its an old fishing harbour in the Kiel Fjord, with just a few yachts, and as friendly a place to stay as you can find anywhere. The wind arrived to order the next day and a fine fresh NW ‘ly blew us all day and through the night to the Island of Bornholm , some 170 miles to the East, where there are several idyllic little harbours in the East coast that we had always wanted to visit.

It was a busy night with all sorts of warships from many nations racing hither and thither , but no one seemed to pay us much attention . Until the morning.

We were trickling along in the fading breeze under spinnaker, eating a late breakfast and enjoying the bright sunshine, when the radio bust into life. A Latvian warship announce he was going to give coordinates of a live firing exercise , so I felt I ought to plot them. They were uncomfortably close and the firing was due to commence at 1200 hrs Bravo , whatever that means. If it was UTC we were fine , but if it meant local time, we were in trouble. I tried to call up to clarify but was met with stony silence.
Shortly afterwards a Belgian warship did the same thing , and his co-ordinates put us halfway between the two! Perhaps they were going to fire on each other! Again the Belgian refused to answer my call on Ch 16 , but he switched on his AIS and I obtained his call sign and persisted.

I needed to know what direction they wanted me to go. The quickest way to clear them was via a gunnery area off the South coast of Bornholm, but they too ignored my call. Eventually the Belgian replied , was spectacularly unhelpful and ended up signing off with a deliberatly childish “BYE BYE . OUT!”

I decided the best way out was to Ronne on the West coast as my original course , around the South coast firing range , was downwind and therefore slow. Our plan of visiting the East coast was thus stymied ( tomorrow is due to blow hard from the East and the harbours will be closed) completely unnecesarily as had they deigned to have a sensible discussion , that course may well have been perfectly acceptable. Its not the first time we have seen the arrogance of naval vessels , tho it is the first time we have been directly affected , but however important the stupid wargame they were playing may be , cretinous behaviour like that gives one no confidence that they will behave sensibly in a real live situation.

We never heard any bangs at all! With any luck they sank each other .

Mmm, I feel better for getting that off my chest!

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