Wangerooge, Spiekeroog, Langeoog… one by one, we’re crossing the East Frisian islands off our list – or rather adding them to our charts. And now, on October 20, we drop anchor just off Baltrum.
Baltrum is a lot smaller than the other islands we’ve encountered, but has many of the same characteristics of its larger cousins: it’s blown about by the tides and winds; it’s secured by groynes and sea-walls; it relies these days largely on tourism; cars – apart from electrics one – are not welcome; pirates and wreckers used to think of it as home.
Yet again, it’s curious that Childers has bothered to plot out another night where our heroes simply hang around. In terms of pure story, it would make more sense to motor straight on to Norderney. But I guess the idea is to stick to the same rate of progress as a real small-boat sailor. So for us that means noodling in and around Baltrum for a while, dropping in at the local museum, perhaps, or dining on a dish of local oysters.
Just to be clear, there were hotels on Baltrum when Carruthers and Davies sailed past. The Hotel Küper and the Hotel Zur Post were welcoming guests from the mid-1890s. So on the night of October 20, there was really no need at all for our heroes to slum it in the fog. At low tide they could have trudged ashore and got a warm bath and a decent meal.
One curious quirk of the island, by the way, is that there are no street names on Baltrum, so finding a hotel might be tricky. Each house is simply given a number when it’s built. Number 1, Baltrum, is not necessarily the oldest house on the island, however. If you knock down an old house and build something new in its place, the building still retains its original house number.
Finding your way to, say, Number 22, Baltrum, without a map might be a tricky business. Thank goodness, then, the Dollmans decided to live on Norderney, where there are standard street names and addresses. If Clara lived on Baltrum, Davies might never find her.