Germany, not what I expected

by Captain Jay

You hear many things about the Germans, they have quite the reputation for being strict and always doing things “by the book”.  Out of ignorance, I was telling the girls to make sure they always use crosswalks and not jaywalk, walk on the right side of the sidewalk, and always behave because in these parts of the world people follow the rules.  I think it’s safe to say that I scared the girls so bad that when we went to walk around town for the first time they were all acting like robots, for which we got some looks.  To compound this moment that we were having, we went to have some ice-cream and after searching for a while we found a place and sat down to order.  We were trying to order ice-cream in a cone like the other people that were in the shop but were refused.  We couldn’t understand because the man who owned the shop was trying to tell us that we had to leave if we want ice-cream in a cone.  We understood that the guy was kicking us out of the place.  A very nice lady who was witnessing this whole fiasco came to our aid and did some translation.  “Ice-cream cones must be eaten to-go and you can oder from the menu only when your sitting down.”  We replied with a shaky “OK” and ordered our cones and left.  Now we were thinking that everything we had heard about Germans must be true.  Later we found out after talking with some friends that in Germany they have two kinds of taxes one for people that sit down and order and another for “to-go” items, hence the problem that we had.  So, we chalked that one up to “lost in translation” and gave the guy the benefit of the doubt.

As we traveled on through Germany from the coast in Cuxhaven to Hamburg and on to Berlin, which is close to the Polish boarder, we experienced enough of the country to collect enough information to make some generalizations.  I am happy to report that I was very surprised to learn that many people jaywalk, park cars crooked, and they drink beer for breakfast in open container in public!  Life is surprisingly quite slow in the big cities, many people are just strolling around, talking and hardly ever in a hurry.  People on the streets were very friendly, helpful and always willing to lend some information.  It was a pleasant surprise and we all enjoyed the time we spent in Germany.

Now that we are out of Germany and I can’t go to jail I will tell a little story…

The sailing life is not always easy, well actually, it never is easy and often you are faced with problems that don’t have a good solution.  Propane gas for cooking is the biggest problem for us because every country has different types of tanks with different pressures, regulators, gas mixtures and valves.  Some countries have adapters and in other countries you are left to your own tactics.  We have a German regulator so I assumed it would be easy to get our tanks filled and boy was I wrong.  After an exhausting search with the dock masters help it was determined that it was impossible to fill our tanks.  We were in a bit of a predicament because we had 200 nautical miles to sail and would surly not make it with the amount of propane gas we had left.   Sailing is painful enough and the thought of not having hot coffee was unbearable.  The only “legal” option left was to buy a tank and a regulator then retrofitting our stove.  This would cost 120 euros and then I would have to change everything back when we arrived in France.  If I would have spent the money in changing our tanks and fittings every time we needed to I wouldn’t be where I am today, it's just too expensive.  


The solution was is the back of my mind and I was trying to avoid it but sometimes you got to do what you got to do.  So I went to the hardware store to buy a regulator (20 euros) and I borrowed a tank from the splendid dock master with a story that didn’t quite reveal all the details but to which she complied to "turning a blind eye" .  I had a good laugh with the dock master because our regulator which was ‘Made in Germany’ didn’t fit German tanks and the regulator I bought to fit the German system was ‘Made in Italy’.  I am not sure how these things happen but they do.   I can’t take credit for what I did because I was taught by the best.  A friend in Cuba showed me this trick and people in Cuba know a thing or two about improvisational problem solving.  I connected bolt regulators together in such a way that the gas can flow from one tank to another when you hang the filled propane tank upside down with the empty tank resting below it, using a glove you open the valves and after about a half an hour voila!, the tank is nearly full.  You can’t get it totally filled because the pressure equalizes and the last little bit won’t transfer.  “Better safe than sorry” so I hung it far away from other boats on a lonely fire extinguisher stand, just in case.  Sorry the picture is not so good I was doing this at night for obvious reasons.  Needles to say the coffee was better that ever on our trip from Germany to the Netherlands.