Monthly Archives: May 2019

CHANNEL ISLANDS: Part I

Getting there

Monday-Tuesday, May 20-21, 2019

To lessen the miles (and help with any adverse current) we left Lymington and headed to Studland Bay, an easy 17 miles away. As we passed the Isle of Wight the three formations of chalk and flint called the Needles came into view.

Although, to me, ’The Molars’ would be a more appropriate moniker.

Reaching our destination, startling white cliffs greeted us reminding me of how much we enjoyed our first visit here in 2014. One of the reasons being Studland Bay was the only anchorage we had while cruising the south coast of England due to being a coastline relatively devoid of safe places to drop one’s hook.

The anchor dropped quickly and smoothly, always a relief when performing that exercise the first of the season.  Pulling it up made up for the ease of dropping it as the current pushed JUANONA forward while the anchor chain pulled backwards. But, the windlass (anchor motor) won out, and off we sailed to Alderney, the northernmost island of the Channel Islands.

You could count my knowledge of this archipelago in the English Channel on two fingers:

(!) They are not part of the EU, which means non-EU boats can check in here to reset the VAT clock (avoid having to pay VAT tax on the boat) of 18 months. Considering the other possibilities to reset the VAT are Norway and Morocco, this land mass offers a valuable service to yachties. If we didn’t have our import of JUANONA under our Dutch temporary residency, we’d also be very thankful for this (and our visit here will serve as a backup for difficult bureaucrats)

(2) The 2008 book, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, that swept the U.S. book club repertoire described a brutal Nazi occupation during WWII.

So, I checked online to find a bit more background on the Channel Islands…

Romans visited the islands followed by Christian missionaries (which may be why the largest cities on the islands all start with “Saint”?) in the 6th century. In the 9th century Norse invaders took over the islands and they became the property of the Duchy of Normandy. By the 10th century the islands came under English rule when William II of Normandy (aka William the Conqueror) became William I of England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

A jumbled history of English and French stakes to the islands occurred over the next eight centuries, resulting in a split of the islands into two Crown Dependencies:  the Bailiwick of Jersey (the largest island) and the Bailiwick of Guernsey (the latter covering Guernsey as well as Alderney, Sark and some smaller islands).

Not to go into too much detail (and, frankly, I don’t think I could untangle the snarl of who-ruled-what-when well enough for myself, much less you), the islands are self-governing but are still ‘possessions’ of the United Kingdom. They print their own currency (1:1 to the British pound), and have their own courts and administration. (FYI:  there are three of these Crown Dependencies, the other being the Isle of Man.)

Jersey (population 100,000+) and Guernsey (pop. 63,000+) are the dominant islands with Alderney (pop. 2,000), Sark (pop. 600), Herm (pop.60), Jethou (and, I love this:  pop. 3) and Brecqhou forming the primary grouping, with much smaller iles dotted around.

Fishing, quarrying, mining (silver), and agriculture (cows) formed the economies, with tourism now being one of the largest money-makers.

Obviously, I’m missing a lot of history here but you, at least, know as much as I do (and, probably more if you’ve read about this area).

So, now to our first island…

 

Alderney

Tuesday-Thursday, May 21-23, 2019

Current and tide rule the boating world around here. No wonder when there are 10+ meter (33 ft+) tides which can create currents of up to 5 knots or more. The high tide range significantly limits anchorage possibilities, which is one reason there are so many shallow-draft boats around here which can ‘take the bottom’ (ie they can dry out and stay upright on ground when the tide goes out).

When we left England we set a heading of 190 degrees, a straight line into the town of St. Anne at Alderney, 56 miles south-south west of us. But, as you can see from the chart plotter, the current pushed us almost 40º to the east giving us a course over ground (COG) of 150º and moving the bearing to Alderney to 205 degrees and eventually even more.

It wasn’t until a few miles from our destination that our COG came close to matching our set heading. As these two photos show, our track simulated a drawn bow.

We picked up one of the many guest moorings and the next morning hailed the water taxi operated by one of the many friendly locals we met during our two-night stay here.

Expecting more deserted harbors the number of other boaters (mainly, a lot of guys enjoying a boys’ cruise it seemed) surprised us. Yet, sailing season starts early over here. Although, we still had plenty of time to peruse this area of the sea before the huge bubble of boaters when schools let out in July and August.

Within 90 minutes, we managed to snap a photo of the interior harbor,

climb the steep hill to town center, eat a lovely breakfast (some of the best coffee ever) at Jack’s Cafe (highly recommended),

rent electric bikes (and, we agree with Colleen:  they provide the perfect spurt of energy when needed :), and clear Customs after lowering our official yellow quarantine flag we had raised prior to entering.

Speaking of Customs, we asked the officials to stamp our passports. Now we felt doubly ‘legal’ for not only did we have our temporary Dutch residency covering us for Schengen and temporary import of JUANONA but also official exit from the Schengen zone.

In addition to the official paperwork we will also retain receipts of our Channel Islands marina andharbor fees to prove our temporary exit from the European Union for any future official questioning. This pertains to diesel fuel as well, for some countries require proof that we didn’t cheat the system by buying fuel while claiming it was for commercial use and therefore exempt from tax.

Official business completed we hopped on our rented bikes for our jaunt around the island under a brilliant blue sky and warm sun.

Although it’s not my area of interest, anyone fascinated by military equipment and defense should visit here. Known as one of the most heavily fortified places in this part of the world, Alderney boasts over 30 forts, batteries, bunkers and armories seemingly on every headland, 18 of which the Victorians constructed between 1850 and 1860.

Within two hours we had easily biked and toured various landmarks around Alderney, espying a rookery of gannets,

spotting an immense fog horn located on top of Mannez Lighthouse, built in 1912…

reading the plaques in English, French, Polish, Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish on the  Hammond War Memorial commemorating the forced laborers who lost their lives here during the occupation…

and recognizing a name used for Rod and Jo’s famous log on Sleeth Island :)

As we continued our cycling the circumference of this island we couldn’t avoid reminders of how heavily fortified this island became. It seemed every few miles we’d come upon some sort of military structure. Many, if not all, of which the Germans repurposed during WWII.

To obtain a more in-depth education about Alderney we visited the local museum;

and, it’s well worth visiting, beginning with the lovely lady greeting us. She was happy to have us since it seemed we represented 50% of the museum’s visitors that afternoon. We were joined by another couple from the states, two friendly gentlemen ending their three-month, eclectic travel of Malawi, the Greek Isles, and now the Channel Islands. The four of us weaved various paths in and around several rooms filled with peacetime artifacts, such as a mangler (in which I once got my arm caught in a motorized  one a long time ago  that was fun,),

juxtaposed with wartime memories.

IMG_3861The book mentioned earlier in this post has generated huge interest during WWII. Unlike Guernsey, the majority of the islanders decided to evacuate. This occurred when they saw the Germans continuing their march west towards the French coast. In 1940 the first to be evacuated were the children, many of whom went to Cheshire, England. The islanders voted at a town meeting to leave their homes and the next day on June 23, 1940 six ships from England left for Weymouth.

Hitler relished the invasion and occupation of these islands, Germany’s one foothold in territory belonging to Great Britain. In particular, he saw Alderney as an important part of his ‘ Atlantic Wall’. It was this island’s proximity to mainland Europe (only 8 miles separating it from mainland Cherbourg, France) that caused Hitler to heavily fortify Alderney.

He also planned to invade England from Braye harbor in which we were currently moored (which, thankfully, never took place).

Initially German soldiers felt it an honor to be posted on the first invaded piece of British soil; however, the lack of fighting and amenities soon changed this attitude to one of boredom and lackluster duty. Although, it didn’t keep the local SS from terrorizing the 5,000 slave laborers imported from mainland Europe to construct fortifications around the island. As one German soldier wrote in his diary, “It certainly was a godforsaken island.”

But, there always seems to be bits of caring humanity regardless of which side one is on, and the museum featured one such German soldier, Conrad Gries.

He was responsible for drawing up plans of the minefields laid on Alderney. Ordered to destroy the plans prior to the liberation of the island May 16, 1945, he hid a copy in the hopes the Allies would find it. Which they did, no doubt saving many lives.

A small room off to the side detailed a curious event right after the war when islanders returned to Alderney (due to lack of resources on the island this occurred in stages using the application below). The first group returned December 15, 1945.

A joint project of the curator, a school group, and residents describes the ‘Battle of the Butes’ (the Butes being a locale). After five years of occupation, many homes were in disrepair and household goods sorely lacking. Added to this was the need to fumigate for vermin, causing further destruction to personal property. To compensate, the Red Cross, British government, and other sources sent, i.e., ‘issued’, supplies, aka ‘Issue Furniture’. Included in this stash were items recovered from the island’s homes.

This didn’t sound so bad but how the appointed judge from the Home Office in England decided to allocate these household goods is bizaare:  they roped off the goods, assembled the returning islanders, then blew a whistle, lower the ropes, and a stampede of frantic men, women and children try to claim as many pieces as possible.

I mentioned to the woman at the front desk how demeaning this free-for-all must have been, especially considering what those people went through during the war. She said it caused a lot of friction between the islanders, and even now, there’s a residual disgruntlement. People would enter a friend’s home only to spot a bureau or vase that use to be theirs (!). Or, they wouldn’t invite someone over in case the friends recognized an item belonging to their family.

Beyond the horror and sadness of WWII, the museum showcased local shipwrecks, all understandable due to the dangers of navigating these waters.

From an Elizabethan wreck dating late 1500s to the  LIVERPOOL, the world’s largest four-masted, full-rigged ship, in 1902

to a small cabin cruiser in 1969 and the SS ARMAS of Cyprus in 1973.

Another interesting bit of information concerned the Alderney Cow, bred form the 1850s to 1920s. Since my knowledge of cows as a farm animal is iimited to the love of cheese, butter, and all things fatty, I’ll quote directly why these animals were prized:  ‘high quality milk-butter yield, easy husbandry, and requiring littler expensive dietary needs’.

Unfortunately, the uniqueness of the Alderney cow was lost when interbreeding with Guernsey cows occurred in 1927. But, at least they live on in literature for those who have read A.A.Milne’s “The King’s Breakfast” and Jane Austen’s EMMA.

Looking for further island exploration Max happened upon, most likely, the most dangerous adventure on Alderney:  The Bat and Hedgehog Tour.

Checking with the Alderney Wildlife Trust, the guide said this week’s tour had been scheduled for Tuesday (the day before) but he’d be happy to accommodate us by doing it tonight. Sounded great to us! So, we made our reservation and then strategized on filling up the four hours prior to meeting him at 9p.

We settled on finding a local hang-out followed by dinner. However, we faced a minor problem: the liveliness of the town bustling with locals and tourists alike that greeted us in the morning had now dwindled to a trickle of activity. All shops and most eateries had shut their doors and would next open Thursday morning.

As we slowly made our way up the main street peering in windows hoping for an ‘OPEN’ sign, a kind woman stopped to ask if she could help us (this was the second time of the day someone had offered us guidance, earning Alderney high marks on friendly natives). She said we may have noticed that businesses close every Wednesday afternoon but what were we looking for? We said eventually a place for dinner. And, with that piece of information she said, ‘Eddie’s is just right up the block, and tell him Norma sent you.’

Her name worked like a charm. Being his Tapas Night, he said he was full but could serve us out in the garden. Which is how we ended up with not only a lovely view but also some exquisite samplings of dishes.

A setting sun brought on a chill so we left for a pub we had checked out earlier. Wanting to be alert for our tour, Max decided to order a tea, and if anyone looked like the sort of person who would ask for tea in a pub, Max would be it:

But, the most entertainment came from the warm and chatty bartender’s response to his request. She was flummoxed and stunned, then exclaimed, ‘TEA? You’re in a pub and you want TEA?!’ I can only imagine how she would have responded if he had added that it was really herbal tea that he wanted…

Forty minutes later (after a beer after all) we found ourselves back in the Alderney Wildlife Trust office where our young guide Roland commenced the tour with so much information my head was spinning. This guy is a walking encyclopedia for bats and hedgehogs.

We discovered bats comprise almost 20% of the earth’s mammals… you identity the different families by  their echolocation range… they actually fly, not glide like ‘flying squirrels’… and, they’re difficult to spot in the dark (that’s my observation after walking around with a loudly clicking echo meter managing to only see one or two madly darting objects).

 

Hedgehogs, on the other hand, are easier to spot as long as you know where to look and have an informative guide. Alderney has the unique distinction of being one of two habitats (North Ronaldsay, an Orkney Island is the other) where you can find blonde hedgehogs. And, it seems locals take on bragging rights if one lives in
their garden. Otherwise, it’s the more common brown ones.

They don’t burrow but nest. And, naturally, those nests are often under and in hedges.

Roland ensured we knew that they were not albino but blonde due to a recessive gene that just keeps occurring. Having no predators on the island, hedgehogs thrive on Alderney. And, possibly the blonde ones increased in population due to being easier to see at night, so less road kill. Nice to know.

My fondness for these little creatures comes in large part from a childhood addicted to Beatrix Potter’s books.  A favorite was THE TALE OF MRS. TIGGY-WINKLE, the story of a female hedgehog who washes clothes for the animals in the neighborhood.

I even had a little animal hedgehog I could dress up. I know, I know, anthropomorphism and sexism combined but, hey, I was a kid. Who wouldn’t want to know of a hedgehog with whom you could sit and share a cup of tea?

So, when I saw them they immediately brought to mind a little hedgehog running around in a mob cap and apron while my voice became the high-pitch of baby talk.

Roland told us not to worry about harming them because if they truly felt threatened by us they’d curl up in a ball versus just scurry away. Which made both of us relax a bit when he shone his flashlight on one.

Supposedly, it’s rare to see them, but all we saw were little blonde hedgehogs out for the night.  Hmmm…. perhaps the blonde ones have more fun? :)

Our dangerous tour ended with our happily exclaiming our luck in seeing those cuties as we made our way back to JUANONA.

With sun shining and decent winds we left the next morning for our next Channel Island, alas, one without Mrs. Tiggy-winkles…

 

Really?

We’re in France, and to get further southwest, we’re going north? 

Yup, we’re going north…

ENGLAND

Thursday-Monday, May 16-20

New Haven

Our original plan for reaching the Channel Islands was to follow the French coast from Boulogne sur Mer to other French ports until we reached Cherbourg. Then cross to Alderney, the northernmost of the Channel Islands.

But, after speaking with other cruisers and considering the tides, we changed countries (and courtesy flags) and headed straight across to New Haven, England.

With decent winds and a favorable current, 10 hours later we pulled into a small marina in New Haven for the night. At a local pub we recovered from our docking (strong currents and wind on the stern created a ‘fun’ time) and made plans for an early leave-taking the following morning.

Lymington

We hoped to stay in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. You may know of this as being the location of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s summer home, Osborne House. Maybe more noteworthy for sailors:  it’s the site of the original race leading to the America’s Cup. However, we discovered two regattas had fully booked the marina. Quickly perusing the chart we noticed a port opposite the island and found an open berth there.

Again, currents and tides dictated our ETA as this area, known as the Solent. The currents flow at significant strength and require diligence and careful timing.

Another full day’s sail and we landed in one of the poshest marinas we have ever been in, the Lymington Yacht Haven (the marina in the bottom, right-hand corner below).

When checking in the friendly, young staff member handed us a welcome bag (four-color, marina brochure, floating keychain, and two bottles of water) stating, ‘…and, the showers are luxurious.’  That intriguing endorsement ensured I’d be holding them up to a high standard only to discover that, indeed, the shower facilities were jaw-dropping to die for. First, you walked into a bathroom you would be happy to find at a pampering spa…

only to enter your personal shower stall featuring

not one, but TWO shower heads…

a teak changing bench and sink complete with sweet-smelling soap and lotion…

and, drum roll here:  a towel-warming rack (!).

I later discovered Max wasn’t as careful and almost singed a body part….

When delicious hot water gushed from the heads my joy increased:  I felt my hair leap with happiness as I purged it of the shampoo build-up from five weeks of tepid, spitting showers. Plus, a convenient hair dryer and curling iron, if needed, resided in the shared sink area.

Adding to my high rating of the facilities was the laundry room with two washers and two dryers (and an ironing board with iron available at the front office).

The only downside came from trying to hook up to the free WIFI, but in all other areas–easy stroll to town, access to chandleries and groceries, bucolic scenery, and helpful staff–this marina earned its hefty nightly fee.

Taking the weekend to enjoy our surroundings we walked into town, a leisurely ten-minute stroll. With its cobble-stone roads fronted by small cottagey-stores,

we felt as if we stepped back in time to August 2014 when we first landed on England’s SW coast after our nine-day passage from the Azores. Then, Max, our crew member Steve, and I soaked up the yachting heritage associated with Falmouth.

And, similar to Falmouth, you’re never far away from someone plying the waters.

One boat’s captain exited a wheelchair to take a disabled passenger for a ride on the water. From the passenger’s huge grin we knew he was anticipating a lovely morning on the river.

Walking back from town we noticed a large pool stocked with floating apparatus. This was the Open Air Baths filled with sea water and waiting for customers to enjoy a chilly (refreshing?) swim.

It seems any town on this side of the English Channel reflects centuries of livelihoods earned from the sea. Lymington’s economy depended on four industries:  shipbuilding; smuggling; salt; and, sailing.

From the medieval times shipbuilding played an important role in this town. During the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) nine ships built here contributed to the defense of the country. Just up the river from our marina, the Berthon Boat Company founded in 1877, continues that trade.

Like many of the towns situated on England’s southern coast, smugglers found plenty of ways to ‘import’ wine, bandy, silks, coffee, tea and other goods into the country. Support from the local community here ensured a steady flow of goods (and revenue), especially at the end of 17th century.

Salt created Lymington’s wealth in the 1700s with this town and surrounding area being the largest sea salt industry in England. This dominance eroded when Cheshire mined it for less causing Lymington to close it’s saltern in 1865.

Finally, sailing and yachties provide a good source of income for the locals; and, based on the fee for our two nights, it’s a very rewarding business.

The marsh served as the backdrop for the marina, and on Sunday we joined other walkers and stretched our legs along one of the many paths. It was here Max found some jetsam that he quickly rescued.

He managed to return it to spiffiness with a wash; and, after scraping off the algae grime he proudly added it to our flotilla of fenders. I have to say it’s a handy souvenir of Lymington :)

Next, crossing the Channel (again)…

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s down the coast we go…

HOPPING ALONG

Monday-Friday. May 13-17, 2019

Favorable winds from the north encouraged us to leave our adopted Dutch country and head down the southern part of the North Sea. As opposed to doing one long overnight passage we decided to do daily hops of 40 to 60 miles, landing us in a new port each night.

Covering miles only during daylight made it a heck of lot easier for coastal sailing. If sailing at night, I’d rather be out in the middle of the ocean:  when you see a light, there’s no question it’s attached to a ship, oil platform, or UFO. When you’re near the coast it could be an onshore beacon, street light, reef, or even a low-flying airplane (which occurred in 2004 sailing by Boston’s Logan Airport…).

As our AIS shows, we were amidst a lot of ships,

some requiring a close watch, the ship named CAUSEWAY being one of them. According to the CPA (‘Closest Point of Approach’) of 0.0 miles, if neither of our courses changed in the next 3.7 miles, we’d see a bold ‘Collision warning!’ flashing on the screen.

By the second day we’d established a routine of rising, checking the wind forecast, reviewing the currents and tides as well as shipping lanes* then heading out of the harbor to follow the coastline south and west.

* To facilitate  commercial traffic while lessening the chances of collision with pleasure boats the authorities have established shipping channels, typically a lane in each direction with a TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) in between. To accomplish the fastest crossing of these lanes, we need to do so at a ninety-degree angle. And, trust me, when crossing the lanes extending out of Rotterdam, the busiest port in Europe, we wanted to be on the other side of them as quickly as possible. You can see the solid line of ships heading south in one of the AIS photos above.

With only a few, all-weather ports (many man-made) along this stretch of the coast we based our selection of marinas on their ability to accommodate our 2-meter (6’ 6″) draft and the ease of entering and exiting the harbor (strong currents can play havoc when docking and undocking). For three mornings we exchanged one port for another:  Scheveningen (Netherlands) for Zeebrugge (Belgium) – the teal blue dot is where we docked;

Zeebrugge for Dunkirk (France)–the green is where JUANONA was,

and Dunkirk for Boulogne Sur Mer (France), not to be confused with Bologna, Italy…

It got to the point where I’d wake up and try to remember the previous port’s layout by visualizing the dock, and the toilet-shower facilities.

A ritual we carry out at sea is exchanging one country’s courtesy flag (flown on one of our spreaders) for another’s. In this case it was our Dutch flag

for France’s.

Having covered a fair bit of miles in three days and seeing the favorable forecast of northerly winds continuing for a few more days we decided to stop for 36 hours in Boulonge, a port other cruisers had recommended.

Being one of the few American boats around we managed to attract the attention of the French law enforcement. Four officials boarded the boat upon our arrival in Boulogne, and for an hour they perused our paperwork trying to decide if we needed to pay V.A.T. on JUANONA.*

* Just to give you a quick synopsis of issues facing foreign boaters in European waters, we would have to pay a 20% Value Added Tax (basically a sales tax) on Juanona if she had been in the European Union for more than 18 months. The only way to avoid this tax is by taking her to a non-EU port (which is why we always touched the coast of Norway prior to returning to an EU country).
On top of this is a restriction on foreigners themselves in Schengen countries (currently, all EU and Scandinavian countries except for the UK). If you’re not a Schengen resident, then you’re only allowed three months within those countries; and, once you’re reached that limit, you have to leave and not return for three months.
These regulations mean your boat is allowed for 18 months and yourself, three. You can see how tricky of a dance this is if you plan to cruise these European waters.
By obtaining temporary Dutch residency in the Netherlands, Max and I are considered Schengen residents. And, thanks to the advice of fellow cruisers, Gus and Helen Wilson, we were able to temporarily import JUANONA into the EU. Due to those two actions we’ve protected ourselves and JUANONA from the EU and Schengen restrictions.
However, the French customs officers weren’t familiar with the Dutch paperwork stating we had temporarily imported JUANONA into the EU, thus the hour sitting in our cockpit trying to decipher another country’s government form.

It all ended well with their providing us a French document approving our temporary import. Since 2014 we’ve been boarded five times by custom officials:  twice by the Brits, once by Germans, once by the Dutch, and now by the French. And, we were hailed over VHF by the Norwegians.

As the French Customs officials were leaving I realized I had actually seen them as we made our way south. Fortunately they didn’t board us then as it would not have been fun maneuvering, especially for an hour…

Like most European cities and towns we visit, Boulogne’s history includes centuries of different occupants who desired this strategic port. Situated at the mouth of the Liane River, the Romans called it Gesoiacum. Later it became known as Bonoia and switched hands often:  Normans destroyed it in 882; it was rebuilt in 912 and became a desirable harbor for the Burgundian Dukes, then French kings beginnng with Louis XI in 1477; England got hold of it in 1544 after a two-month siege and ruled for a short while before it reverted back to France in 1550 via the Treaty of Boulogne. Napoleon used this as his headquarters when planning to invade England (but didn’t); and, the British used it in WWI; the Germans overtook this port in the 1940 Battle of Boulogne just a few weeks before Operation Dynamo (evacuation of Dunkirk); finally, the city was liberated in 1944.

We explored the upper city or ‘old city’, which features preserved buildings from earlier times including the fortified gate.

Max, in search of an MDT (Max Disaster Tour), read two reviews saying there’s ‘a must-see’ crypt under the Basilica of Notre Dame de Boulogne.

I joined him for the above ground walk-around but, having read in a guidebook that the crypt was ‘imminently skippable’, I opted out of paying the 5 euro fee to visit below ground.

Considering Max found me down the street within 15 minutes of his MDT, I think the LONELY PLANET guide book provided a more accurate description of that site…

But, the real highlight of Boulogne was a modern building perched above the beach:  a fabulous aquarium.

With a 2018 expansion the Nausicaá became the largest aquarium in Europe. Its mission not only focuses on raising awareness of the marine environment but also encourages action to improve global management of this vital resource. This French National Sea Centre is now a UNESCO site due to its promoting of healthy oceans and seas.

The design of the new Nausicaá replicates a manta ray, although my photo of it as we’re leaving the harbor doesn’t provide the aerial view to show it as such…

The admittance fee of 25 euros each gave us pause, but a second look at recent reviews convinced us to take the plunge. And, we are very glad we did.

We weren’t the only ones anticipating a fun day of exploring the mysteries our oceans.

In spite of kid mobs, who always seem to carry their own peculiar smells and exuberant noise levels,

 

the displays handled crowds well with easy-to-follow signage creating a smooth flow of people throughout the exhibits.

Imagine oceanography, marine biology, and environmental studies combined into one semester of school. That’s what it felt like when peering in the tanks and reading the signage.

The mission of Nausicaá focuses primarily on the relationship between mankind and the sea; and, in each area the aquarium presented the effects of climate change and its disastrous consequences,

while acknowledging those without a political voice or monetary resources are the ones paying the price caused by those with that power.

Yet, as opposed to being totally depressed by the way we’re destroying our world, Nausicaá offers hope in the forms of activism, both on the parts of individuals as well as organizations. For example, a partnership between The Environmental Advisory Company and the Four Seasons Hotels has funded the Reefscapes Programme (at the end of 2011 160,000 cuttings were transplanted onto 200 coral structures).

To encourage visitors’ participation in these efforts, the aquarium provided websites as well as coin drops so visitors could donate to various causes, which we did for one (Andrea, this was for you :).

 

It was difficult to avoid being caught in a hypnoptic trance gazing at tanks populated by ballooning jellyfish…

 

 

and swirling highways of fish,

 

with the pièce de résistance being the soaring ray.

 

All with New Age music (which you can’t hear in my clips) enhancing the otherworldliness in front of us.

We had seen a similar exhibit but on a much smaller scale at the Ozeaneum in Straslund, Germany  last year. There, the focus was on a specific body of water, the Baltic Sea, versus Nausicaá’s global coverage. Both are stellar examples of using entertaining displays to teach those of all ages about our watery world.

From simple explanations of tides…

and displays on oil rigs…

to communing with marine life,

we found ourselves stopping at almost every display, only skipping those geared towards young children, with one exception as seen in the top photo of this post…

The exhibits did include flora and fauna associated with the water but not necessarily in it. One being the stick insect hiding in this photo.

This aquarium would be worth seeing just to surround yourself with fantastical marine life. In one of the largest tanks in Europe we became encased in blue,

with smaller tanks showcasing otherworldly critters, both bizarre

and lovely.

After three house of meandering through exhiibits of above and below the oceans, we reluctantly left.

I find it easy to be overwhelmed by the richness of information available in sites such as these. If we were going to be here for any length of time, I would get a season pass and peruse one small section at a time. Or, simply sit and watch a world swim by.

When leaving the next day it seemed so appropriate that Nausicaá was one of the last landmarks we saw exiting the harbor. A reminder of the precious resource on which we sail as we continue cruising…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait, HOW do you pronounce it ?

SCHEVENINGEN

Monday-Friday, May 6-13, 2019

With seemingly favorable winds we untied from Haarlem’s town wall.

After three bridges…

and two locks, with Sarah paying the lock master at one…

then her steering us down the main canal to the industrial lock of Ijmuiden…

we tied up

opposite a group of Russians heading to southern Norway…

then exited into the North Sea. The first time  JUANONA’s hull felt salt water on her hull since last September when Max and I finished our 2018 cruising.

Hugging the coast to stay out of the busy shipping lanes,

the winds turned out to be less west and more southwest along with residual waves from a previous storm resulting in a bouncy ride vs. winds perpendicular to the hull providing a smoother sail. With five hours of washing-machine waters (less than 60 feet depth) behind us we thankfully entered calmer waters when turning into Scheveningen’s Marina, Den Haag’s (The Hague’s) port.

Difficult (make that impossible) to pronounce we later discovered this city’s name was used to tell a German from a Dutchman during WWII. When trying to get my mouth around the ups and downs of this word, I saw locals invisibly cringing and envisioned them covering their ears as protection from a foreigner’s inept attempt.

Yet, that was the only difficult part of this port. Friendly marina managers, such as Roger,

and welcoming locals, including Leane*, who had spotted us entering the harbor from her apartment (where we took this photo, JUANONA s the furthest boat on the right with blue sail cover) and her husband Rob,

soon made JUANONA’s crew feel like we had found another home. With great facilities including two machines and dryers :) the three of us settled in.

*Sarah first met Leane at Dierckx & Dierckx, the cafe she and her sons own. Like me Sarah searches for the perfect spot to write while enjoying the ambiance of an aromatic cup of coffee, the opportunity to taste delicious food, and warm hosts and patrons,  including Nicole whom we also met there.
I joined Sarah when she returned to the cafe and instantly understood why she raved about this locale.

In full disclosure we did have a bit of a tough docking scenario with strong winds and a tight turning radius. I was thinking at least we didn’t entertain anyone since no one was around. Wrong. Leanne looking out from their apartment saw us approach and also land. She added, though, another, earlier boat had similar issues.

Her seeing us land reminded me of our friend Gunnar, who also had spotted us coming in and docking not so well. However, I’ll gladly perform that exercise if it means we can meet folk like them.

From Scheveninger we introduced Sarah to one of our favorite Dutch museums:  Mauritshuis (where Johann Vermeer’s 1665’The Girl with the Pearl Earring’ and Rembrandt’s 1632 ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ reside).

With Rembrandt’s 350th Anniversary (he died 1669) the museum hosted a special exhibit of his work. In addition to self-portraits (the room added the light halo, not him) and others of his works,

the museum featured paintings attributed to him but found to be by someone else (possibly a student of his).

The exhibit also explained how a painting became part of the museum’s collection, such as the anatomy lesson work:

commissioned by the surgeon’s guild, 26-year-old Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp originally hung in Amsterdam’s Weigh House (the Waag). Yet, having been moved from the surgeon’s guildhall to the kitchen, the painting wasn’t looking its best by 1817. Ten years later the powers-that-be considered selling it. Fortunately art connoisseurs decided otherwise, and the Dutch State purchased it. Rather than landing in the Rijksmuseum, the obvious choice, King William I (1772-1843)* stipulated it to go to the Mauritshuis.

*He was actually the first king of the Netherlands. Prior to him the de facto leader of the country was a stadholder, a position similar to a duke or earl.

Other paintings that caught my eye included Vermeer’s 1660 beautiful cityscape of his hometown, Delft,

which prompted the three of us to hop the train to show Sarah another quintessential Dutch town, one where William the Silent (1533-84) was assassinated during the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule. His tomb [another painting in Mauristhuis, by Gerard Houckgeest (1600-61)]

is found in Delft’s Nieuwe Kerk where Max and Sarah are standing.

Sarah wasn’t the only folk from home we were lucky enough to meet up with. Our friends Rod and Jo from NH were visiting their daughter Kim who lives in Amsterdam with her husband Pete.

With Jo and Max sharing common ancestors off the Mayflower, Max led us on a pilgrimage through Leiden’s sites. From where they stepped into boats to take them down the canal to meet the Speedwell (the ship that would take them to the Mayflower in England)

to the church where they worshipped…

to the lane where Max and Jo’s common ancestor (William Brewster) had lived…

to the Pilgrim Museum, a small 14th century home first used by parish priests in the nearby Hooglandse Kerk (Church) and later serving as two apartments in the 1600s.  Sarah, an enthusiastic young woman, served as our guide in spaces not much larger than JUANONA, pointing out specific objects related to the Pilgrims. One being a reference book describing America. The Pilgrims most definitely read this as they decided to go to North America.

Our host helped Max with locating some specific documents associated with his ancestor.

Anyone interested in the Pilgrim’s history, check out Max’s blogThe day wandering in the sun was delightful and only one slight mishap of which you’ll have to ask Rod when you see him…

Catching up with family and friends overseas is always a treat, and seeing the Joneses made our last days in the Netherlands special. Our Sarah would have enjoyed meeting them, but she had finally obtained a prized ticket for the Van Gogh Museum. Yet, she did stop in Leiden on her return to Scheveninger for a brief exploration.

The next day Sarah and I enjoyed coffee and Leane’s traditional Dutch apple cake

before we saw her off for the next leg of her journey, this time to meet up with her sister Hannah in Spain.

Waiting for weather we used a rental car to retrieve our re-certified life raft (a French requirement for sailing in their waters) and explored the small town Brielle. The history museum in this town reacquainted us with the Eighty Years War, including Queen Elizabeth’s sending of Robert Dudley (1532/33-88) with 6,000 troops to the Netherlands in 1585 to help them fight the Spanish (yet, his incompentcy and arrogance caused her to recall him).

Surprisingly we also noted a 17th-century portrait of Christina of Sweden (1626-89) (posing as the goddess Diana). She was briefly queen until forced to abdicate with her first cousin, Charles X, stepping up to the throne. If I recall from our last summer’s travels, she had quite a colorful, rebellious life. The picture hangs in this small museum because a local merchant purchased it in the 1700s to hang above his fireplace.

 

On our last full day in Scheveningen we took the tram, train, and metro to Rotterdam and visited the Maritime Museum (Max is posing with Captain Splash below...).

The highlight of this museum is a simulation of working on an energy platform in the North Sea. Thinking this would be a bit of a kids’ activity when I donned my yellow helmet and vest, I was pleased to find how interesting it was.

Before we entered the simulation platform we noticed a video loop featuring Trump regarding climate change. An interesting intro. One we quickly absented ourselves from.

Punching our tickets into various machines that track your personal performance and either give you encouragement

or something else …

Not that I’m really competitive but it did make me feel better when Max got a similar message…

So, we tried our hand at loading containers (Max’s work on this one)

identifying locations for a wind farm…

and directing a helicopter landing where Max first made it disappear (into the sea)

but made it ascend again into the heavens for a proper landing.

Having dismally failed our rig work we left for Deltshaven, a 30-minute stroll from the museum. It was here the Pilgrims (those who could fit aboard) took off on the SPEEDWELL to Plymouth, England.

Waiting for the church to open

we enjoyed the sun, some beers and coffee

while meeting a young English-Russian couple who had just moved to Amsterdam. He’s IT, and she’s a capital market lawyer. She shared with us that her father had a sailboat on a Russian lake and she enjoyed being on it. As we walked away Max whispered, “I bet she’s one of those oligarchs”.

A service was being held at the church (the same one the Pilgrim’s worshipped in prior to their departure). Luckily, we were able to quietly enter and take a few shots before the service got underway.

We returned to JUANONA and began preparing for an early morning departure, destination Zeebrugge, Belgium, the old harbor of Brugge. But, before I end this post I wanted to mention the famous boat we saw moored opposite ours at the marina:  MAVERICK.

Sailed by Dutchman Mark Slats in the 2018 Golden Globe Race (a non-stop, single-handed round-the-world competition) it was a tight finish with his just missing first place.

The guy had also participated in the 2017 Transatlantic Rowing Race in a two-man boat; however, he finished solo because his rowing partner couldn’t take it and jumped off in the Canaries Islands. Mark continued, taking first place in the solo division and fourth behind three, four-man (!) boats. I remember we actually saw one of the racing boats in the 2003 rowing race docked in Barbados. A homey spatula and toothbrush hung in the little cockpit.

Max spoke with him when he saw him on the dock earlier. Slats told him he signed up for the rowing race to give hope to his mom battling cancer and raising funds for a charity. In the brief conversation he also mentioned he was leaving to bring a VOLVO-race boat back. Max would have loved to join him but didn’t ask.

As we were leaving the next morning we spotted it in the outer harbor and was just able to pop a shot off before entering the seas.

With that we left our Dutch home behind and headed southwest to explore new harbors and lands.

Next, a change from ‘Goedenmorgen’ to ‘Bonjour’…

 

 

 

 

Launched (for real)!

MONNICKENDAM to AMSTERDAM…

Friday-Monday, April 26-29, 2019

After sprucing up JUANONA with new bottom paint

and John’s repairing of the keel,

Jim carefully launched her

after Max taking a ride to the top of the mast for affixing the repaired wind instrument.

A successful launch and some good-byes

And, we’re off! Although, only for a short distance(16 miles) to Amsterdam Marina located a free ferry ride

across the harbor to the city center.

This marina offers great amenities, including, Anne, a bathtub (!), private showers, AND my fav:  washing machines!

We took the opportunity to revisit some sites and explore new ones, such as Micropia, a museum focused on microbes.

And, where’s there an opportunity to use my most agreeable model…

IMG_2486

A bit bizarre and one I’d recommend as a second (third?) tier museum; but, it provided some interesting tidbits such as the fact that all species on earth “share a single ancestor:  an ancient bacterium… the same hereditary material within their cells:  DNA.”

The museum featured a microbe body scan where Max discovered he carried 168 trillion microbes.

By selecting a specific body part details we found that the small intestine trains our immune system to recognize the good and the bad bacteria. And, that Brevibacterium linens, which digest dead skin cells such as between the toes resulting in stinky feet, also produce some of the strong-smelling cheese some of us enjoy. That can give one a bit of a pause…

Being a holiday weekend (April 27 is King’s Day, celebrating his birthday) we found some lines intensely long (such as the Rijks Museum) and the city crowded (typical, though, especially in tulip season). Remembering a great Asian restaurant we decided to get take-out for dinner

where we peered through the window into a tiny kitchen where three to four people managed to choreograph delicious dishes. And, incredibly (too) filling.

 

Continuing onto HAARLEM…

Monday-Monday, April 29-May 6, 2019

Knowing we could easily access Amsterdam and its sites from one of our favorite Dutch cities, we decided to head off to Haarlem, just a few bridges and one lock a further 12 miles down the canals.

Three years ago  this city seduced us in the loveliness of the Netherlands, from the abundance of flowers to its famous Golden-Age Dutch master Frans Hals to its 16th-century charm, prompting us to apply for temporary residency and making Holland our winter home from 2016-19. It felt appropriate to return, making our stay here a full-circle.

We tied to the town wall on the other side of the windmill where we were on our first visit. And, the perfect introduction to Holland for our young friend, Sarah Arndt.

One of John and Leslie Arndt’s daughters, Sarah had worked as one of the program leaders shepherding 20 college students through a semester of accessing Ecuador’s, Malawi’s, and Italy’s food policies. With time between the end of her job and meeting her sister Hannah, she joined us adding a zest to JUANONA’s crew.

And, it was wonderful.

Seeing familiar haunts through the eyes of a newcomer inspires renewed appreciation for all we’ve experienced, and Sarah’s interest in different cultures gave us that gift. During her stay we toured Haarlem,

enjoyed local beers,

and requested poses, which she kindly agreed to do.

With a shared interest in Dutch history and art, we visited some of Haarlem’s museums–Frans Hals, Teylors, Corrie Ten Boom’s House–while taking in the city’s ambiance of what some call the small Amsterdam.

Our daily excurions would often begin as a trio, then duo, ending as singles when specific areas would draw us into solo journeys.

One example of our divergent courses began when we couldn’t get into the new David Hockney exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum. This led us to the Rijks Museum’s Gallery of Honor featuring stellar work by the Dutch Masters of the country’s Golden Age (17th century), with Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ covering the entire back wall.

Exiting we heard music drawing us to a group of street musicians. Having mentioned to Sarah we usually hear some beautiful classical tunes, I couldn’t identify these notes (not unusual for me). I decided to record it in order to ask some knowledgeable, musical friends, Melanie and Anthony. Then I heard a familiar tune and laughed…

yep, the score from ‘Game of Thrones’! Soon followed by the theme from ‘Mission Impossible’.

But, back to the Van Gogh Museum, one Sarah really wanted to see. So, while Sarah decided to take her chances of garnering a ticket from any possible no-shows, Max and I headed to the Neue Kerk (New Church) to see the World Press 2019 photographs. Finding that closed, we turned to the Palace just to the left of the church.

Never having been tempted to tour this site, the short entry line enticed us in, and we’re glad we did. The palace is a stunning example of the imperial style created during Louis Bonaparte’s brief reign as King of Holland (1806-10) during his brother Napoleon’s occupation of the area (1806-13) .

Initially constructed in 1648-55, this building served as the Amsterdam’s Town Hall and came to represent Holland’s independence from Spain and the end of the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648).

Designed by architect Jacob van Campen and featuring over 100 sculptures by Antwerp sculptor Artus Quellinus, considered in the same league as Italy’s Bernini, the building was pronounced the eighth wonder of the world by the residents of Amsterdam.

Beginning with the impressive Citizen’s Hall,

we wandered through 21 rooms–many containing the original furniture from Louis’ time.

Now, it’s a tourist attraction as well as the official reception Palace of the Royal House of the Netherlands (one of government’s three palaces). It also is where foreign dignities may stay during their welcome here.

With the Tribunal room located on the ground floor we discovered an MDT (Max Disaster Tour) site. In this surprisingly small but elaborately sculpted room judges reviewed and announced death sentences four times a year. Here the accused would be tried, sentenced, and the type of execution chosen – hanging, strangulation, beheading, or drawn (big ugh).

This led upstairs to the Justice Chamber where all knelt in prayer upon which the accused stepped through the window to the balcony (installed during Louis’ times) where he/she was executed.

Max and I also saw the special exhibit at the Hermitage, a small sister museum to the one in St. Petersburg. Catherine the Great (1729-96) began collecting art and in 1764 displayed it in the ‘Small Hermitage’. Her grandson Tsar Nicholas I expanded it by building a larger museum 88 years later. This was renamed the State Hermitage Museum after the 1918 Russian Revolution. In 2009 Amsterdam opened its Hermitage, a sister museum we’ve frequented often when in Amsterdam.

Unfortunately we had only an hour before closing but the art was tremendous, and some was intriguingly juxtaposed with two similar items yet from two distinctly different time periods. One example being the statue of Egypt’s King Amenemhat III with the affable bust of Catherine the Great; both were created during their lifetime and both reflected the monarch’s desires to be approachable. Catherine’s even smiling!

The exhibit included a wide range of items, from a rather disturbing portrait, ‘Donna Nuda’, by Leonardo da VInci…

to a wasp-waisted dress worn by Tsar Nicolas II’s mother, Empress Maria Fyodorovna (1847-1928)…

to a musical desk created for Catherine the Great.

With a video demonstrating this lyrical desk’s sliding doors and hidden drawers we ended our too-brief tour and began our trek back to JUANONA.

Memorial & Liberation Days (Saturday & Sunday, May 4 & 5, 2019)

On the weekend we observed the two-minute silence at 8pm. Initiated at the end of WWII this joint event has grown into recognizing the sacrifices of all who have died to protect the freedom of others.

We thought this time would be extremely powerful if surrounded by a stilled, hustle-and-bustle crowd; but, unable to locate one we wandered into St. Bavo, Haarlem’s imposing church anchoring its main square. There we stood with a small group as they tolled a bell up to the time,

then listened to the quiet sound of thankfulness to be where we were because of the sacrifices by others.

The next day the mood flipped 180º from the somberness of memories to a fiesta associated with Liberation Day. Since 2016 this time has been a keynote in our Dutch experience and truly the one that cinched our decision to use this delightful country as a home base. Yet, unlike in Amsterdam’s Dam Square 2016, this time the celebrations mainly offered loud music, food and drink carts, and a horde.

As you can see from an overflowing receptacle,

the public urinals came in handy with Max demonstrating his single-hander.

And, a mixed signal with a young entrepreneur dressed as a hot dog selling hamburgers…

Sarah, too, found it underwhelming in culture and overwhelming in crowds as she tried it out after a day in Amsterdam.

Back aboard we enjoyed another evening of shared meals, some augmented with treats from Sarah, and conversation

then retreated into our private thoughts and projects as the late evening sun turned to night.

With a decent weather forecast we decided to give Sarah a taste of canal cruising then sailing in the open sea. Tomorrow:  On the move again with favorable winds, and even better, more friends to see!