Mike and Sukey Perry spent the 2013 season cruising from Maasbracht to Lübeck via Berlin and the Mecklenburg Lakes on their 43.9 Grand Sturdy Salamander II. So here we are alongside, just before the double lock on a brand new Dutch canal – The Veenvaart, connecting Erica with Ter Apel. And here on the warmest June evening so far, it seems the entire population of Erica and Emmen has come out to have a look. They come on bikes, on foot, on roller blades, on motorbikes, on quad bikes and even just now, two swimmers. They stripped off, leapt into the peaty water and swam off into the sunset.

Bounded by the Baltic in the North, the Oder in the East, the Elbe in the West, the lower Havel in the South West and the Spree-Oder Canal in the South East, this region is probably one of the largest cruising areas in Europe. Well over 2,700 km of interconnected lakes, rivers and canals form an inexhaustible, dense network of navigable waterways of differing sizes. Most of them are located in the Länder of Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, one of the regions of Germany which is most steeped in history, whether it’s the history of the Hanseatic League, the noble Junkers of Western Pomerania, the Prussian kings or the influence of Dutch princesses and craftsmen. Russian and French cultural influences can be observed everywhere – even Vienna has a share in it. The result is a region with unparalleled variety and diversity in terms of art and history.

Lübeck businessman and lighting designer Martin Stratmann is living his dreams, along with his wife Dagmar and many friends and guests. This is also a portrait of a wonderful landscape, a journey along the west coast of the Baltic and the neighbouring inland cruising areas. We had always had the Linssen bug and the urge to get on to the water without getting wet. We already had our first small motor boat before we found our house right on the river Trave at the edge of Lübeck’s old town, which had taken three years to renovate and we finally bought in May 1994. Even before we moved into the house, we had acquired a labour-intensive powered sailplane (oak on oak) as well, as we had had enough of water.