The North Sea
Date: Sunday 27th May
Distance : 127 miles.
Weather : Fair, SW 13 knots
Nigel was late, of course. Not because he was late driving down from Stafford, Oh No. He was late because he had stopped at the best resturant in Harwch for 'breakfast'. After 15 minutes waiting around in mystification, a phone call revealed all.
Midnight : The North Sea is littered with Oil and Gas rigs. The Ninjin field is a complex off of Holland. We passed close to the most Northerly rig of the complex, but Pat swears it was moving. These things are lit up like christmas trees, but it is still surprising the amount of traffic passing close by, outside the lanes, at night. If I was on one of these rigs, I'd feel a bit vulnerable.
We left Harwich around 10AM, and were at the North Shipwash by 12:15. It would probably been a reasonable spinnaker run straight across to Ijmuiden if only the Spini hadnt been twisted in the sock, and, nervous about not being able to get it down, we let it be. (It took 30 mins on the pontoon later to sort out the twist)
14:00: We were crossing the Gabbard, and Nigel was sleeping of his breakfast....
15:00: Not a thing in sight. Nigel wants to know if anyone fancies anything to eat?
19:00, across the shipping lanes and time for something to eat. Nigel's cooking...
06:00 Ijmuiden. One of the ironies of sailing, is that many of the destinations are hardly romantic landfalls, particularly around the UK and Europe. Still, the power stations can be seen from a long way off. A curious feature of the Dutch coast are long foam streaks on the sea. You can see these things from a plane. I wonder why they form?
The Frisian Islands
Date: Monday 27th to Friday 30th May
Distance : 229 miles.
Weather : Fair, NE, mostly 10 knots
We were planning to lock into the Nordsee canal and stay in Amsterdam for a few days, but the weather was fair, so we thought we would make the trip across the top of Holland and Germany to Cuxhaven.
Left Ijmuiden intending to head for Den Helder, but just before we left, and old salt said that he was heading for Vlieland (where?), due to benefitting from the double tide. Out came the almanac....
Somewhere off Den Helder there was a bang. We still don't know what it was but deduce we must have hit something under the water. It's rare not to be able to see anything on the surface (at least round here) but we couldn't spot anything. We may find out when we haul the boat....
Arrived late at Vlieland and guess what - packed to the gills. Rafted up to a very nice man who explained that this was just before the long Dutch Bank holiday, and had we come tomorrow, you would have been able to walk across the boats. Vlieland turned out to be very nice and worth the visit.
The following day we crept out at 6AM for the long trip to Norderney (motoring - NE breeze on the nose). We decided to go for Norderney because last time we stayed there we didn't get off the boat, and we'd had enough of Borkum. It turned out to be a much better choice.
We arrived in Norderney at around 9PM on the eve of the Bank Holiday - 'Men's Day'. This seems to be celebrated in Germany by blokes peeing of the back of the boat - even in the Marina. Another feature seems to be raucus laughter - mainly from the women. Its as though they have to prove that somethings funny. Odd.
After a day off, we headed for Cuxhaven via the notorious Elbe estuary. Just about everything was wrong. Tide, Wind etc. So we left late, to try and get the tide gate (still arrived too early for it) and in the event, the wind shifted and we had a glorious sail in about 16-18 knots from the Light Vessel in to Cuxhaven. Arrived at about 10PM, but guess what - packed (all the Hamburgers go to Helgoland for the Weekend, and Cuxhaven is the staging point.) Rafted up (again) to a very nice man in a Fisher.
One impression, is that since our last visit, many more Germans speak English. Delightful, but embarrassing...
The Kiel Canal
Date: Sunday 1st June to Tuesday 3rd June
Distance : 84 miles.
Weather : Fair, Wind up to F5, but latterly Thunderstorms
A day off in Cuxhaven, and then to catch the tide up the Elbe to Bunsbuttel and the Kiel Canal (properly the Nord-Ostsee Canal). What wind there was, obviously, was on the nose, and the tides conspired to be more difficult than planned. They seem to turn in the Elbe about 90 minutes after High-tide at Cuxhaven, which itself is 90 mins after Helgoland, and run at about 2 knots.
The Elbe is a bit like the M25 in shipping terms, as it's the main river up to Hamburg. Getting across it is a bit like playing chicken.
In the event,we arrived at Bunsbuttel around 12:30 and were kept waiting for about half an hour. By this time, around 15 yachts were bouncing around the waiting area (which, basically, is just the Elbe), before the inevitable free-for-all rush for the lock. In true Dutch style we played along and managed to carve up a few yachts but got beaten by a couple of motor boats, who cheated by going faster. We tied up, almost at the front of the lock. It was then that the strategy was revealed to be flawed. First, another yacht rafted up to us, which was not only easier for them (see below) but also gave them an advantage as it meant they would leave before us. In the game of getting out the lock first, this was a win for them. Secondly, he insisted on using his bow-thruster to push us into the pontoon - exactly what we didn't want.
The Kiel Canal locks have floating pontoons attached to the lock wall that Yachts can tie up to. Unfortunately, they float just about at water level, and the plastic fenders we use just 'pop out'. Some people recommend weighting the fenders with chain, but we simply dropped them until the whole fender floated on the water.
There are very few places you are allowed to stop on the Canal. The first primary one, after leaving the locks, is Rendsburg, 40 miles away. This has limited moorings and after the last few days of mayhem, and 15 boats leaving the lock, we wanted to get at the head of the convoy to make sure we got a mooring, which, following the rush to get out of the locks, we did. There is a speed limit of around 7 knots on the canal for pleasure craft.
The canal is pretty, but a long boring motor. We did pass one incident with both Police and Firemen clustered round a small yacht by the shore. Whether it had sunk or been holed we werent sure, but it seemed a lot of emergency people for one yacht.
About 8pm we arrived at Rendsburg - first. Guess what - loads of moorings. And only about 3 of the following yachts (all Hallberg-Rassys!) followed us. Rendsburg turned out to be the opposite of the last few days - empty and sleepy.
Following a days lay over, we left Rensburg for the last 20 miles of the Canal to Kiel.
On arrival at Kiel, we got some Diesel from the fuel barge just outside the canal. Predictably, it cleaned out all our Euros, (including rifling through the boat for small change) and had to also give them some (English) funny money to make up the difference. Diesel was €0.80 a litre