»WattnExpress« in Neuharlingersiel: Faster to Spiekeroog
Photo: Sina Schuldt / dpa
Anyone who has been on their way to one of the East Frisian islands has had to study the ferry timetable carefully - because it depends on the tides in the Wadden Sea.
A little tedious, but a foretaste of a North Sea holiday that is structured by the ebb and flow.
Since Monday, at least Spiekeroog can be reached largely independently of the tides.
A new ferry with little draft started operations, as a spokeswoman for Nordseebad Spiekeroog GmbH said.
On board the "WattnExpress", which can accommodate up to 50 passengers, there were around 30 passengers on the first of two morning departures from Neuharlingersiel on the mainland.
More descents were to follow in the afternoon.
In the shallow Wadden Sea, the larger passenger ferries to the islands of Wangerooge, Spiekeroog, Baltrum and Juist always run at different times due to the changing water level.
The "WattnExpress" with a draft of just 70 centimeters will in future run between Spiekeroog and Neuharlingersiel at fixed departure times, seven days a week, regardless of the tide.
Departures are planned in the time windows between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
In addition, the additional offer should also reduce travel times.
With the high-speed ferry, a crossing takes just under 20 minutes instead of the previous 45 minutes.
However, there is also a fare surcharge of around five euros for faster transport.
The reason for the decision to build an almost tide-independent fast ferry was the changed demand behavior of customers who want to travel much more flexibly, said Ansgar Ohmes, Managing Director of Nordseebad Spiekeroog GmbH, which operates the ferry service to the island.
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Islanders, holidaymakers and craftsmen are less and less willing to follow the rhythm of the tides on their journeys.
This is also shown by the "considerable growth" in the area of so-called water taxis in recent years, said Ohmes.
The number of these small fast ferries and their daily departures to several East Frisian islands has recently increased significantly.
Spiekeroog had actually already planned the new scheduled service with the "WattnExpress" for holiday guests at Christmas and New Year.
However, for two pontoons, where the ferry moors in the ports, there was no permit for heavy transport from the factory to the pier.
The pontoons were delivered to Neuharlingersiel and installed last week.
"Star Island" with little light pollution
The car-free island of Spiekeroog is located between Langeoog and Wangerooge and is just over 18 square kilometers in size.
In August 2021, it was declared Star Island along with Pellworm.
Behind this is the US non-governmental organization International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), which has also designated other regions in Germany, for example in Brandenburg or North Rhine-Westphalia, as star parks.
In these places there is so little artificial light and therefore less light pollution than anywhere else in the country.
The community has also done a lot for this.
The then mayor, for example, reprogrammed the light intensity of public lights or replaced lamps.
Three so-called sky observation sites were set up on the island: a "light site", a "dark site" and a "astronaut site".
The starry sky at night can be observed particularly well in spring and autumn.