Sort of like the “Bedford Incident” but without Sidney Poitier, or a submarine or the drama, but let’s start at the end.
So, I just had a little conversation with the conductor of the train taking Ivan to Berlin for his plane to Venezia. The fact that I could have this conversation in German reminds me how comfortable I am in Germany, in spite of a few glitches and now being locked in a tower.
This past year, having Dauntless in Ireland, afforded me the opportunity to spend much more time with my old friends in Italy, the Netherlands and now, new friends in Germany. Since September, I’ve spent five weeks in Holland and three weeks each in Italy and Germany. The most time in many years. I do like Germany, maybe not as much as Italy or Ireland, or Holland, or Spain, or …, but I do like it.
I have some wonderful friends from Germany and being here this long actually makes me miss them more, but that’s a saga for a different day.
So it is with an understanding eye that I relate my incident in the tower.
Let’s set the scene.
For the last week Dauntless has been in the company of about 20 boats, all members of the Cruising Association which is headquartered in London. We are doing a week long “rally” in Eastern Germany and into Poland. I figured it would be a good way for me to wet my feet, figuratively, but hopefully not literally, for my first ever trip to Poland.
While all these travels are new to me by boat, before I became a boat based gypsy, I was certainly a car based gypsy and travelled extensively all over Europe, but never Poland or the Baltic Republics.
So on a windy, but sunny day, our little band of boats set off for Kroeslin from Stralsund, with a small stop for those who are interested on the island of Ruden.
Now, one pleasure I get out of being on a tour organized by others is that I don’t have to do any thinking. I don’t have to worry about bridge opening times nor actual routes. In fact, it was only after I was tied to the wall, just outside the little, very little harbor of Ruden that I realized only about half a dozen boats made this detour to check out Ruden.
OK, I was here now, so I figured I may as well traipse down the dusty path and check out the watch tower that looked south over the V1 and V2 rocket development area of Peenemunde and later as the observation post to make sure no one left the people’s paradise known as the Deutsche Democratic Republic (DDR). It’s actually comical to write that. You have to hand to the commies; they certainly have a sense of humor.
So, there was Dauntless, right at the entrance to the harbor, flying not one, but two Stars and Stripes, with of course the German flag, a large one mind you and my newest addition, a Kadey Krogen flag thanks to the great people in their Seattle office.
Thus while I was securing the lines and then changing from by boating clothes to my walk a dusty path clothes, a little German boat, carrying maybe six people came in and tied up in the inner harbor in a spot reserved just for them.
So an hour later, I find myself walking down the dusty path, past the island caretaker’s house, past the 1960’s style barracks, though it could be 1930’s, it’s hard to tell in the DDR, with not a soul in sight.
On the path just in front, I pass a German coming from the tower and figure he was with that little boat that came in after me.
The tower is basically a four floor, 20 feet by 12 feet structure. Each floor had one room looking south towards Peenemunde.
Now, while I was alone in the bulding, I was making noise. Under such circumstances, I usually talk to the photos and ask them questions. I don’t get many ansers though. I was also humming a tune; rather loudly as no one was about and it turned out the tune was from the Victory at Sea soundtrack done by RCA Victor and Robert Russell Bennett. It had been in my head for a few days as I had played it after some arduous crossing. At the time, I had no idea what particular track I was humming, but did discover later it was “D-Day”.
On each floor they had some information on the wall about the history of the island and one floor was about the war years. There was a photo of a B-17 in flight over Peenemunde. Now my German is not so great, but I could glean from the explanation, that they were not thanking the B-17s for liberating them from the madman who was Hitler.
And I really had no idea the tune I was humming was titled “D-Day”.
Really, I didn’t.
Having walked to the top floor, I figured I may as well go one more flight up to the open air roof.
It was open air and it was the roof. 30 seconds later, feeling my duty was done, I go down to the ground floor, but realize something is different; it’s dark. The metal door, which had been propped open when I had entered, was closed.
I actually went to look for the stairs to go down one more floor thinking I had forgotten how I came in.
Nothing. I go UP one floor, maybe I was in the basement? No, I can see I’m two stories up.
I go back to the metal door, which I had tried to open initially.
I try harder this time, now 98% sure it was the door I came in, I push really hard and see that there is a chain holding the doors closed. I push harder. Nothing.
Now, at this point, I am not panicked; but simply perplexed. I am still thinking I had possibly come in some other entrance.
Now, folks, this is a simple building. We’re not talking Taj Mahal. So, I realize that someone has chained me in the place.
OK, I check out the windows. Not only are they bolted closed, but the first floor has those iron gates covering them. I do see an English couple walking up, so I go wait for them and they confirm that the chain is padlocked.
Now, my phone is on the boat. Who would I be calling on this island?
I thought to myself, maybe I should have brought my chain cutter with me. The fact that it weighs 20 pounds and is three feet long was probably the main reason I didn’t. I also am not sure why I even bought it, as I can never remember using it. Maybe I bought it for just this occasion?
No, brute force will be my last resort.
I look at the door and the eye bolt the chain is connected to on the outside has one nut holding it in place. I pull on the end of the bolt hoping to relieve the pressure and maybe I can get the bolt off.
I do; it does and I unbolt the eye bolt.
Push it through and I am as free as a bird.
I consciously put the nut back on the bolt.
I start walking back to Dauntless, who is probably now wondering what is taking so long on this forlorn island.
Just before the harbor, I pass one of the Germans I had seen earlier, now sitting on a bench waiting, watching or maybe just plain resting.
He smiles. And it all becomes clear.
His smile gives him away. He gives me that mischievous smile that explains the whole situation to me at a glance.
I give him my “we’ve beat you twice and we could do it again” smirk and continue down the path, back to Dauntless with her two American flags standing straight out in the brisk wind.
I’m proud to be an American.
And, I really didn’t know the tune was titled, “D-Day”