Category Archives: PASSAGES

Sailing from point A to point B with at least one 24-hour sail

PASSAGE PLUS

KIEL CANAL

Friday-Sunday, August 31-September 2, 2018

With a favorable Nothwest wind we left the luxury of Denmark’s Vejrø Island for Germany’s Kiel Canal. The canal is 60 miles long and night-time travel is not allowed for pleasure craft, which usually necessitates a stop at one of the few designated mooring spots along the canal. We chose to moor at the 85.4 km mark near the east end of the canal, a place we’d tied up twice before; last year heading back from Sweden, and this year heading into the Baltic.

Eight hours of steady motoring gives you a lot of time to dwell on important aspects of life such as what’s for dinner… how close can we get to shore without running aground… are we far enough away from the passing ships… are the folks cycling along the canal ‘wave-worthy’… did the folks considered wave-worthy wave back… and, when all of those thoughts run through one’s head, what do our belly buttons look like. 

In short, the first time through the Kiel Canal (end of last year’s cruising) offered a new experience. The second time traversing the Kiel Canal (beginning of this year’s cruising), we knew what to expect. The third time, well, we know what to expect… and it’s a long canal.

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So, reaching the town of Brunsbüttel near the lock on the west end of the canal meant an end to the sameness and the thrill of turning off the engine. 

During our day-long motor several boats going over six knots passed us. We decided to up our speed for now we were afraid the docks at the end may get a bit wee too crowded.

Sure enough, entering the small docking area we slowly edged in trying to find a friendly boat, i.e., one with fenders hanging over the side, welcoming rafters such as us. Spotting one free space alongside the pontoon we aimed for that only to decide at the last minute it looked too small to squeeze into and then easily get out of the next morning, which is probably why it was free. 

Fortunately, the beautiful new 57-foot sailboat in front of that space skeptically said we could tie alongside them. By this point we were pretty much alongside them already so they didn’t really have much choice in the matter. So, we decorated JUANONA with our travel-weary fenders, which used to be bright white but have morphed into not-so-bright-and-definitely-not-as-white hue. We then tied to the shiny boat who now had quickly put out perfectly coiffed fenders complete with pristine covers nice enough that I’d be happy to use for pillows in our main cabin.

This also meant we had to traipse over their lovely you-could-eat-off-of-it deck to reach the pontoon. It was at this point we learned this was Hull #1 of a brand-new Hallberg-Ratsey line, on its way to be introduced at the Amsterdam Boat Show. We quickly told them we would never walk on their boat using our shoes and could even put on clean socks to do so. They laughed and kindly said no need to do so.

With that we headed for the German Tourist Information Office to pay the dockage fee. While providing the necessary info on JUANONA and length of our stay (one night) a young Italian man inquired about the shower code (most marinas use a digital keypad for their shower and toilet rooms). 

What transpired could have been a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. With a certain disdain and lack-of-customer-service the woman behind the desk reported that he needed to see if his captain had paid the mooring fee in order to obtain the code. The young man said he wasn’t sure if he had paid but the captain was on the boat and would soon be in to pay if he hadn’t already. 

Even though the woman could have asked the name of the boat and then easily checked her records (she had all that information since it’s required when paying the fee), she didn’t. She just kept repeating to the young man’s code request, ‘the captain needs to pay the fee.’

At this point both Max and I were waiting for the sailor to leave so we could follow him out and give him the code. Yet, then the guy asked, “is the code 7492?” (He evidently had the code but something wasn’t right).  In response the woman replied, “yes, but it doesn’t work. I need to unlock the shower with my key.” ! I felt like we had just walked through the looking glass into the realm of the Red Queen… Poor fellow. If he had realized the woman was suspicious and not adept in helping others, he probably would have asked, “Is something wrong with the code 7492?”

Since shops closed early on Saturdays we only found a few fresh ingredients in the one Turkish store still open, then headed back to the boat where we discovered the shower guy was crew on our raftee boat. We began conversations with him and the other crew and the captain, all extremely friendly. Mike, the captain, worked for a delivery service and had been hired by the new owners of the boat to take this to the boat show in Lelystad, Holland.

Both of us planned to catch the early lock-opening out the next morning, which meant an early night; yet, we wished we had had more time with them. At least we exchanged information and travel ideas with Mike who was heading back to Wales after the boat delivery. He did leave us a boat card for the delivery service company saying they’d be thrilled to have someone of Max’s experience as part of the crew. Hmmm, I’ve heard of golf widows… :)

PASSAGE

Sunday-Monday, September 2-3, 2018

The next morning Mike and crew left and managed to catch the lock (the big, beautiful sailboat posing for a shot is the one we rafted to).

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Not everyone was as fortunate. A large powerboat zipped up and nosed a waiting sailboat out of the way resulting in a loud shouting match as the the lock gates closed with the powerboat in, the sailboat out.

Exiting the lock we left for our overnight passage. Originally we had planned to stop in at Cuxhaven, located 14 miles from the canal, then leave the next day for the Netherlands. But the wind forecast looked increasingly favorable to just keep going, and we had entered the river right at high tide, allowing us to ride the current all the way out the Elbe River before it turned against us.

The reason for coordinating sailing with favorable tides lies in the amount of current they generate: up to 4 knots in the Elbe. A favorable current added to our typical cruising speed of between five and six knots, frequently gave us over eight knots over the bottom.

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Having done this passage twice before, this waterway, like the canal, now seemed familiar. The first time (last year) we had to leave Cuxhaven at 3:30 A.M. with a passel of boats jockeying for position in the narrow channel between the beach and the shipping lanes. Not fun (except on that passage we later had a visit from s/v ADIOS with Dick and his son Leo aboard also heading back to the Netherlands). 

This time the overnight passage felt comfortable and straight-forward. With a decent Northeast wind, until the last five hours, and no customs boat hailing or boarding us, we cruised through the day

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and night. Even the main cabin stayed clutter-free.

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We kept the mandatory one-mile buffer between us and the shipping lanes (so called TSS or “Traffic Separation Scheme.”)

 

And kept clear of the fishing boat dragging their nets as we made our way to the Frisian island of Vlieland.

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VLIELAND

Monday-Wednesday, September 3-5, 2018

Within 28 hours we had changed our courtesy flag from German to Dutch

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and landed back at one of the barrier islands between Wadden Sea and the North Sea. Vlieland’s marina has served as our starting and/or ending point for the past two years of summer cruising. And, like Brunsbüttel it, too, appeared much busier than we had expected for early September.

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We discovered that the good weather had kept people sailing combined with a weekend festival, “Into The Great Wide Open”, which we had just missed.

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“Thankfully” according to one guy’s description of the music.

Yet, this scenic island serves as a popular vacation spot for many, as seen by the tent city we cycled by the next day.

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We managed to meet up with another cruiser, Peter, whom we had briefly met two years ago in Enkhuisen when discussing how to over-winter in his country. A lovely and fun night aboard with him and his partner, Lisbeth, enhanced our Vlieland stay. 

They left the next day for Terschelling, the Frisian Island just to the east, while we rented bikes for some land cruising along dune-laden beaches on the north side and marshy fields on the south.

 

AFLUISTDIJK

Wednesday-Thursday, September 5-6, 2018

Calculating another timed departure with favorable tides, we wove our way through the well-marked channel from Vlieland to Harlingen on the mainland and on to the gatekeeper of Holland: the Afluistdijk at Kornwerderzand.   (if anyone has read the book “Riddle of the Sands” or seen the movie, this screen grab of our chart plotter would appear familiar with green representing very shallow waters that can become land depending upon the tide.)

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We’ve maneuvered through this bridge-and-lock combo several times: at both the high and low season. Unfortunately, we found ourselves at one of the high points equating to jam-packed waiting areas both before the bridge opening and then after, waiting for the lock.

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We initially opted to motor around for over an hour, until the first batch of boats went through. The screen grab below shows our course…

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The only highlight was meeting up with Peter and Lisbeth at the lock, allowing us to exchange ‘motoring-boats-navigating-the-Boontjes-fairway’ photos and for me to snap a close-up shot of our friends.

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After an hour+ and waiting for the first crowd of boats to go through, we caught the next bridge opening. They then were able to make the next lock opening while we just missed it.

Another half-hour wait and then it was our turn with only two other boats. Yet, one of them happened to be a large schooner whose wake made it difficult to get lines around the bollards alongside the lock. While we were wrestling with lines, the other boat, a large beamy sailboat, inched in just managing to snuggle alongside JUANONA as they tied to the other side of the lock wall. 

Both boats got lines secured, and it was then that Max noticed no cooling stream of water jetting out of JUANONA’s stern. We often listen and look for the sound of spitting water. Strong gushes of spitting water means A-OK. No spitting gushes means ‘oh s _ _ _ T’ and a big Uh-Oh because no cooling water equals overheating engine. Great. 

He quickly shut the engine down as we waited for the lock’s water to adjust to the level outside the lock, and then for the doors to open. Max turned the engine back on and we darted to the first outside mooring area where we quickly docked before the overheating buzzer shrieked its alarm.

Luckily he was able to fix the problem (either something had covered the intake pipe–a plastic bag or jellyfish–or the impeller, a small rubber gasket, had stopped working). Huge sighs of relief accompanied by big grins meant JUANONA was a happy boat.

 

HINDELOOPEN

Thursday-Monday, September 5-10, 2018

The next morning we motored-sailed the 14 miles to one of our favorite Frisian towns, Hindeloopen, on the IJseelmeer, Netherlands’ large lake formed by two dikes. We had arranged to rendezvous with our friends, Helen and Gus Wilson aboard their boat s/v WINGS. They live aboard WINGS in London’s St. Catherine’s Docks, a harbor we had checked out in 2014 and definitely would have stayed if not for heading to Norway the next summer (easier to stay in Ipswich on the east coast).

Gus and Helen write detailed cruising notes we have religiously perused, along with others’. They also manage to scout out interesting activities wherever they land. Trust me, accompany them to any locale and you’ll be happily discovering information not many find.

Unfortunately, we missed out when visiting another Frisian harbor, Stavoren, 6.5 miles south of Hindeloopen. The four of us trained it to the town Sunday afternoon and neglected to stop in at the Tourist Information Office. But, Helen and Gus returned the next day with WINGS and explored this small town thoroughly for four hours (!) with a self-guided tour. (The lead photo of the lady looking out stands on a pedestal in Stavoren’s harbor reminding folk of a local tale.)

We were able to spend the previous day in Leeuwarden and Sneek on Monument Days, a weekend holiday they had told us about. On Saturday and Sundays the Municipalities provide access to buildings normally not open to the public. Thinking the capital of Friesland offered the most options, we headed there by train. Well, Leeuwarden’s Monument theme centered on school buildings, and after checking out two of the monuments the four of us looked at one another and made an unanimous decision to skip the “monuments” and head for lunch. Which is how we ended up at Max’s favorite Turkish donor vendor. :)

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In lieu of entertainment via the monuments, we happened upon some fellow Cruising Association members, Americans Mike and Robin aboard their powerboat m/v MERMAID (during the summer, while wintering aboard s/v MERMAID in the Caribbean, a frequent cocktail gathering place fondly called The Mermaid Lounge).

We also caught some large Dutch schooners navigating a narrow lock.

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Note the fender off the bow: they literally use these to bump the canal’s side in order to turn the boat. Quite a surprise to see this maneuver!

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The smaller city of Sneek did provide more interesting monuments, such as the tower view in the city gate….

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and, City Hall with its beautiful Asian murals in the upstairs conference room.

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A bonus was meeting a Swiss trumpeter waiting for his girlfriend who had been working in front of another monument that had just closed. He treated us to a private recital, the Frisian Anthem, accompanied (sort of)…

(I apologize as I can’t load the video correct-side up, but you’ll at least be able to hear the trumpeter and his enthusiastic accompanier…)

He even yodeled when I asked if he did that as well. Although he said his voice had changed so couldn’t really make the proper sounds.

Traveling around these Frisian cities and towns also enabled us to check out several of the recently erected fountains. Because Leeuwarden has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2018 (similar to the Danish city of Aarhus last year), special events and artwork appeared throughout the city as well as in some other Frisian towns.

One provincial art exhibit connected the 11 towns famous for the Netherlands’ skating race, the Elfstedentocht. An old tradition became a formal race in 1909 with skaters covering around 200 km (160 miles) without stopping. Think Hans Brinker and the silver skates.

The ice has to be at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) thick before the race can be run, which due to climate change has in recent times only occurred in 1985, 1986 and 1997. When it does, though, it seems the whole country participates. In 1997 over 300 speed skating contestants and 15,000 leisure skaters joined the fun.

If we ever had the chance to watch, we would definitely join the over million viewers as it would be hard to avoid catching the Elfstedenkoorts (the race fever).

Of the seven fountains currently erected we managed to see four:

Leeuwarden’s…

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Sneek’s…

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Stavoren’s…

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And, Hindeloopen’s (difficult to photograph but there are exotic birds spewing water on the tree limbs surrounded by horns representing the town’s name which loosely translates to running female deer).

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While in Hindeloopen we also managed to catch a concert performed by a young ensemble, Friese Odyssey, who cruise to various locales on one of those traditional Dutch schooners giving free concerts. The four of us enjoyed an hour of classical strings basking in the melodies and the enthusiastic playing.

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On Monday, we sailed the 28 miles back to our winter port, knowing we were home when we spotted Hoorn’s ancient tower.

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Good to be back, especially with a special event coming up…!

Take-off!

 

Friday – Monday, April 13 – 16, 2018

Hoorn to Afsluitdijk to Vlieland

Which is what we did just a week after arriving back aboard JUANONA in our winter port of Hoorn. But, before I have us untethering from WSV Hoorn Marina, we had some wonderful reunions. First, I received the three-cheek kiss and big hug from Kase, one of the harbormasters at the club. Then Max and I spent Saturday with Deborah, Thijs and Tika at Tika’s school bazaar culminating in a another delicious dinner in their garden and a lovely, handmade gift from Tika.

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On Monday some friends from across the pond–Rod, Jo, and Jo’s two sisters Nancy and Janet–dropped in during a visit with one of their daughters and her husband, leading to a fun evening and morning walk around the town.

Our timing didn’t allow for seeing all of our friends. We briefly saw Ingo but missed Martje, yet we will hopefully connect with them when we return in September/October.

Although it feels a bit early to begin our summer cruising, it truly isn’t. We sailed to the Netherlands from England’s east coast on April 17 two years ago; and this year bought similar Spring weather. With a forecasted week of favorable winds and temperatures, we readied JUANONA:  filled the diesel jugs and propane tanks, topped off the water tanks, prepped the composting toilet, and ensured easy meals were on hand. And, tulips safely stashed in utensil holder in the drying sink.

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and headed out the harbor

into the Markermeer on a beautiful day. Being relatively warm, swarms of pesky gnats joined us, but our spiders’ webs kept some of them at bay.

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A stiff breeze

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and libations close by

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made for a gentle sail.

Our now traditional route exiting North Holland entails first one lock at Enkhuisen (separating one manmade lake, Markemeer, from another, IJsselmeer) then a lock-and-bridge combo (Kornwerderzand) at the Afsluitdijk, the huge dike serving as the gateway to the Wadden and North Seas.

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Our destination was Vlieland, one of the Frisian islands arcing over the Netherland’s northern coast. This would be our fifth time visiting this lovely island, a perfect location for coming and going on our passages to the North and Baltic Seas.

We spent the night tied alongside a dock at the dike, then left at 0900, local High Tide, to ride the 2-3 knot current out the narrow channel. Motor-sailing, we joined the traffic lanes along the meandering channel, at one point passing an impressive rowing team with its colorful chase boat.

 

Being early in the season with so few boats out lessens, for me, a level of concern when tying up at the locks and in marinas. By now one would think I’d have it all down pat but, trust me, there’s no such thing when I’m involved. What I have accomplished is being pretty expert at crawling under the boom to reach the spring lines (midship), then boomeranging between port (left) and starboard (right) sides at the bow while setting up those lines and dropping the fenders overboard then gauging when to jump onto land. And, only occasionally does the Captain hear an ‘oh s _ _ t’ from his First Mate. Okay, maybe more than occasionally.

It’s not pretty but I manage… most of the time.

When docking, being able to tie-up on a hammerhead (the perpendicular top of a “T”) means simply gliding and stopping alongside the pontoon. Easy peazy (when no wind, current, or other boats fore/aft).  If you can see the green bottom of our dinghy at the very end of the dock, that’s sitting on the bow, upside down where we store it when cruising for a long distance, such as a passage.

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We shared the dock with a Nordhavn, a wonderful sea-going power boat.

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Whenever we see one of these, and we have in many ports over here, we always think of our friends Sue and Don, the latter being Nordhavn’s Northwest Office Sales Manager. Imagine being able to cross an ocean (or two) on one of these. Hmmm, I bet I could display a bit more flowers aboard one of those…

A rainy Sunday meant a day of organizing for the passage to the Kiel Canal while constantly checking the winds for our 166 mile passage, roughly a 36-hour sail. Thinking Tuesday, April 17, offered the most favorable winds, we relaxed only to wake up Monday morning, review the winds and decide to leave right then. The only casualty entailed my not stashing the usual baked goods from Vlieland’s aromatic bakery in town. Oh well, nothing a stiff G&T wouldn’t cure when we next land in port.

Our cruising grounds this summer will be the Baltic, a sea whose coastline offers a treasure of diverse cultures, centuries of history, and lovely anchorages and towns. The easiest way to reach that Sea is the Kiel Canal whose waterway we traveled on our westbound return to the Netherlands last August.

Other than two, for-sure ports of call due to weddings we’ll be attending this summer, our itinerary promises a flexible route and timing. Which is a good thing as we tend to do that fairly often, based on weather and last-minute recommendations. As demonstrated above. So, onto our passage…

Monday-Tuesday, April 16-17, 2018

Passage to Kiel Canal

An offshore sail removes the opportunity for a quick retreat to the shelter of a safe harbor. I believe that could serve as the correct destination for ‘passage’. For me, I define one as sailing through the night. Not being a night-owl I tend to start shutting down when it gets dark. So, staying awake, much less remaining alert, as the night closes around me can be daunting.

But, sailing close to a coastline helps on the alert factor because it’s when I am most nervous doing a passage. I’d rather be out in the middle of an ocean. There, at least, you’re not too worried about buoys, small fishing boats, wind farms or oil rigs, all being obstacles to avoid. Just freighters/tankers far out at sea, which now are easy to spot thanks to AIS (Automatic Identification System) providing all the info one needs to make decisions on whether to adjust one’s course or not.

So, there’s always some trepidation when our route places us within 20 miles or so of the coast. At least, designated shipping lanes keep the big guys out of the way of the small ones. Actually, it’s the other way around. And, if we’re crossing any of those lanes, we’re required to do so on a 90ª (perpendicular) course to minimize our time in the shipping lanes. German patrols are reported to issue 1,000 Euro fines on the spot for failing to obey. Definitely an incentive to go by the rules.

We untied the lines on a morning decked out in a brilliant blue sky and jolly yellow sun. As we rounded the eastern end of Vlieland we took a last peek at the sandy stretch of its windward beach then set our heading for 70º, a heading we’d pretty much follow until reaching the entrance of the Elbe River.

When planning our departure we had two tides to work around – exiting Vlieland and arrival a day later at the Elbe River – both with the capability of affecting our speed by 2 to 4 knots. This may not seem like much but when you average just over five, you’re talking a 50% or more drop in speed. For full disclosure when I say ‘we’ here, it’s a royal one as Max does the math.

And, to give you an example of the machinations to match departure and arrival with the most favorable current, first you check the areas’ tide charts listing the times of high and low tides. Then you adjust that to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Universal Time (UT), adjusting for any daylight savings hours. Finally, you reconfigure times back to local time (Central European Time or CET) to coordinate scheduled passage-making.

The result began with our departure just before 10:00 a.m. Monday. We motored the six miles to the North Sea on the outgoing tide from Vlieland. From there we set sail for Germany aiming for a 9.00 a.m. arrival at the buoy marking the entrance to the Elbe River to travel with the ingoing tide.

A forecast promised a decent wind for the afternoon, one that would taper off during the evening only to return early morning for the final leg. At one point a good wind, favorable current and smooth seas gave us a whopping 10.6 knots (!) compared to our normal 5 to 6 knots boat speed.

Like most sailboats, JUANONA appreciates wind over diesel, as do humans, especially those who’ve listened to a droning motor for hours upon hours.

With the two of us passages have become fairly routine, routine in that there’s no set schedule for watches other than someone always being up on deck or, if cold, down below but going above every 10-15 minutes to check the horizon and winds. During the day both Max and I tend to be up and about. As night falls the one who’s most tired will head below for two to three hours while the other keeps watch for any wind change, to obstacles, such as oil rigs, the latter lit like a huge candle on the ocean’s surface.

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If it’s only a one-night passage the napping of one to three hours versus a steady sleep doesn’t drain me as much as a longer offshore voyage with just the two of us.  And, if Mom Nature presents us with good wind and sun, you get happy sailors.

 

Wednesday morning we continued riding the current to the west end of the canal arriving at the entrance with several other sailboats and a large training vessel.

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Having been here before and (my) not messing up ‘locking in and out’ provided a healthy dose of confidence. Plus, so few boats due to the earliness of the season gave us plenty of space to maneuver and tie up.

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I jumped off, put the spring line (middle one) through the dock rings then fixed the bowline. Meanwhile Max handled the stern line. Which is when we saw our ‘greeter’ to the canal.

Lovely.

Immediately upon exiting the lock all the sail boats took a left-hand turn and docked at a small town marina in Brunsbüttel and its welcoming daffodils after 30 hours at sea.

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Always a relief to stretch one’s legs ashore after being in a confined space remedied by a stroll into town to check out the grocery store and to snap a quick photo for Ellen :)

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Just to remind us exactly where we were, all we had to do was look to the other side to witness container ships and cruise liners going in and out of the lock.

To get a better picture of this canal, here are some quick facts…

  • Since the 7th century, desire to make trade routes more efficient spawned interest in a canal.
  • In the 18th century the Danish King Christian VII started the process by completing the Eider-Canal in 1784, a 27-mile waterway as part of the 109-mile one linking Kiel to with the mouth of the Eider River.
  • 100 years later, both commercial and naval concerns prompted further development with construction beginning in 1887.
  • In 1895 the German Kaiser Wilhelm II opened the canal, which connects the North Sea and Elbe River at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau.
  • Originally named after his grandfather as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal, the name changed to simply the Kiel Canal (in German, Nord-Ostsee-Kanal) in 1948.
  • Initial depth was 30 ft deep, 72 ft wide at ground-level, and 220 ft wide at water-level.
  • 28 years later the canal was expanded to 36 ft deep, 144 ft wide at ground-level and to 335 ft wide at water-level to accommodate larger commercial vessels.
  • The third and most recent expansion occurred in 1966 with the widening of both the ground-level and water-level widths to 295 ft and 532 ft respectively.v
  • What’s really cool is this canal is recognized as the most heavily used artificial seaway in the world.

And, here’s a screen grab from the Internet that shows the full length,courtesy of GOOGLE MAPS. Not the best depiction but gives you an idea of the route. Brunsbüttel is in the SW corner with Kiel in the NE corner.

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Wednesday-Thursday, April 18-19, 2018

Brundsbüttel to Laboe

As a recreational craft strict rules guide our usage of this waterway, ensuring we don’t obstruct the real purpose of the canal:  keeping trade flowing efficiently. For one, we can only navigate during daylight hours, and even then only during specific times. A table listing times for us to navigate based on time of the year stipulated we could be under way between 0400 and 2030.

Secondly, our speed couldn’t exceed 8.1 knots per hour. We could use sail to help power us along as long as we hung a black cone in our rigging indicating as such to oncoming vessels.

Thirdly, we could only stop overnight in designated areas, such as one of the marinas along the way or off to the side at a mooring site (the latter being what we did).

And, fourthly, we had to monitor a particular VHF Channel while under way, a channel that changed during various segments of the canal.

For larger recreational craft (65 ft or more) or exceeding 10 ft in draft, additional rules come into play.

Of course when approaching/using/exiting the two locks at either end, more directives apply, specifically relating to the lights alerting boats when and when not to enter.

But, saying all of that once you’re in, it becomes rather zen-like. With calm waters and clear traffic rules, cruising the canal offers a relaxed, if sometimes unexciting venture to reach the other end. Adding in pastoral banks on either side, often with folk walking or cycling on paths bordering the canal with the occasional swan gliding by and, well, it’s a bit idyllic.

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Every now and then we’d pass a shoreline indicating more activity.

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However, coming upon huge ships in such a narrow passageway always provides a thrill, and an awareness of how I never ever would want to be this close out at sea.

 

By Thursday morning JUANONA landed at Kiel-Holtenau’s waiting dock. Having paid our transit fee of 18 euros back in Brunsbüttel, we were all set to lock out. Within 30 minutes a friendly lock-keeper provided instructions for our entering and exiting the lock, which we accomplished without any dead-as-a-doornail critter to avoid.

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We had reached our true starting point of this summer’s cruise–the Baltic Sea, which  promptly christened me when jumping onto a spring-board pontoon (think trampoline-y) with the bowline at the Laboe marina I just managed to fall in!

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Which obviously provided the Captain numerous giggles that he (unsuccessfully) tried to tamp down during our walk to and from town. I guess I should be thankful he didn’t have a video of it… and that the marina offered an amenity that makes me want to go down on my knees and kiss the floor they sit on.

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And, considering my current state, they were a godsend.

Next, some Baltic ports of call… without any unplanned body splashes (I hope).

BACK TO THE NETHERLANDS: Kiel Canal to Cuxhaven to Makkum

Makkum, Netherlands

Thursday, August 10

Hard to believe but just a week ago we were waking up off the Danish island of Ærø and getting ready to leave for Germany’s Kiel Canal and passage back to the Netherlands.

Our voyage from there to here entailed the usual passage-making prepping with several stops at marinas along the way and a wonderful surprise in Cuxhaven, our last stop before stepping foot in the Netherlands. So, let me retrace our cruising through Germany with an overnight sail to Makkum.

What prompted this desire to quickly head south to the canal then west to the Netherlands was a forecasted weather window, i.e., the winds and seas offered a decent, 24-hour time for crossing the notorious German Bight where prevailing westerly winds whip up the strong tides of the Elbe River into a frenzy. After sailing outside you then have the challenge of entering one of the shifting, shallow passes into the Wadden Sea (waters surrounding the Frisian Islands off the coast of the Netherlands).

A note about traversing the German Bight:  In addition to winds we also needed to consider the tide  when leaving from Cuxhaven. The Elbe generates at least two to three knots of current. With 22 miles to reach the outer sea buoy marking the Elbe the strategy is to leave soon after local high tide to ride it as far as possible before it turns against you. Inevitably, you will be faced with some current against you as further out the tide turns an hour+ sooner. What you don’t want is tide against strong winds. It’s choppy enough due to being shallow water. Toss in a lot of wind and a recipe for unpleasant and potentially dangerous boating is created.

As usual we changed plans along the way. The first alteration coming when sailing down to the opening of the Kiel Canal on the Baltic Sea. Instead of stopping for the night at Laboe, a marina close to the canal entrance,  we decided to make a bit more headway by staying at one of the few anchorages/moorings available once inside.

We had to mill around only a short while before the light at the lock turned White, the signal to enter (with no regular opening times we often have to tie up somewhere and wait).

Unlike other summer-time locks we’ve experienced in the past two years, only four boats, including JUANONA, locked in and out. We were accompanied by one large ship in its own sluice, so we pleasure boaters had plenty of room.

We arrived at a small cove off the canal and joined several other boats by mooring to black pilings. It wasn’t difficult tieing up due to (a) no wind and (b) a friendly fellow cruiser who poked his head out and gave us advice. Thanks to him we could decipher a posted sign whose illustration of how to moor was a bit confusing.

The next morning we motored (you’re allowed to motor or to motor-sail but not just sail in the canal) another 11 miles to Rendsburg, one of the few towns with a marina along the way.

It’s not as if the canal isn’t large enough for traffic both ways, including large ships,

but this is the closest I ever want to get to one of them:

After a couple hours we arrived in Rendsburg. With many cruisers eyeing the upcoming weather window, JUANONA was in good company to discuss weather updates, Cuxhaven’s marinas, and routes west.

In Rendsburg we met up again with Sylvia and Pascal who arrived a day after us and with whom we shared an enjoyable coffee break. Always a pleasure meeting up with fellow boaters. You feel a kinship just by being part of a larger group who are having similar experiences, and with WATERAAP our JUANONA is in good company.

We also met Erik, a fellow Ocean Cruising Club member, and his brother Dolf who joined him as crew. They were sailing DUTCH ROSE back to her home port in the Netherlands as well. We invited them aboard and spoke of weather, sailing, and life.

I missed the opportunities to take photos of our friends above but hope we rendez-vous again since all of us will be in ‘home’ waters once we reach the Netherlands.

In other conversations up and down the pontoons we spoke of reaching Cuxhaven and weather updates. I even saw a man I had met in Oslo who also was heading home.

Taking advantage of a waiting day, we walked into Rendsburg, originally serving as a fortress between the Upper and Lower Eider River. Stopping at the local bakery we headed for the Tourist Office only to pause when we noticed a fascinating sculpture. Getting closer we saw the animals had movable joints and appeared designed for youngsters to ride on. If they’d been a bit bigger, I definitely would have been on one.

Armed with a self-guided map we found ourselves in the oldest building–St. Mary’s, a lovely church dating from 1246. A friendly greeter welcomed us; and, although we didn’t speak German we acknowledged her explanations of certain elements with smiles while having no idea what she was saying.

Once outside we passed the Town Hall dated 1566,

walked to the grocery store for some minor provisioning, then wandered back to JUANONA.

Taking advantage of fairly light winds we left the next morning. Originally planning on stopping at another anchorage 10 miles before exiting the canal,

we opted to continue another 17 miles past the lock to Cuxhaven, our jumping off point to the Netherlands.

Once again, the lock wasn’t full and our timing was perfect. And, if you’re wondering why my exiting pose at the bow is similar to the one entering the lock it’s due to being thankful that all fenders are out, lines are ready for tieing to the pontoon or walls, and no lock guy telling us to hurry up (we tend to take these operations slowly and carefully). Or, even better, the task is completed without a problem and the captain is happy :)

The sail to Cuxhaven gave us a taste of how winds can whip up the water around here. Fast approaching the entrance to the marina we had to quickly drop the main sail while avoiding other sailboats doing the same. Once inside we tried to find a berth only to be told the one we were entering was taken, so, we reversed out and searched for a place to raft.

We found one and became the pontoon for another sailboat entering the marina soon after us. Fortunately, rafting is a given in this part of the world. By the time we left for the Netherlands two days later there were five of us tied together.

The next day when checking to make sure the one moored to the actual dock would be leaving when we were, we heard someone say our names. We must have looked stunned as our friends we met in 2002 in Rota, Spain were there! Dick and Gerda and one of their sons, Leo, had just purchased ADIOS, an extremely fast sailboat, in Helsinki, and now were in Cuxhaven after Dick and Leo had sailed her the 600 miles from Finland.

We had heard from Dick that they might be in this area the same time as we were, but, to actually have it happen?! Well, you can tell from our smiles how wonderful it was!

And, an extra treat meeting Leo.

We caught up on the past 14 years (the last time we’d seen them) then Gerda had to leave while later the four of us went to dinner.

When saying good-bye to Dick and Leo we heard a shout from above, and there’s Erik whom we met in Rendsburg saying hello. I tell you, it’s like old home week by the time you get to Cuxhaven. I even exchanged greetings again with the sailor I met in Oslo and Rendsburg.

These transient interactions create a natural camaraderie knowing you’re voyaging the same waters. By now we knew of a large number of boats all leaving at 4:00 a.m. the next morning to ride the current out the German Bight.

And, sure enough, starting at 3:15 a.m. we heard engines starting up as some got a jump on the tide. Our five sailboats one by one untied and headed out. Our passage, albeit a mini-one, had begun.

Exiting from the marina it was still dark, not as dark as the picture below (due to using a flash) but, still, dark!

We all had to stay outside of the shipping channel, which meant we hugged the narrow waterway marked by buoys. Our friends Sylvia and Pascal, who hadn’t stopped at Cuxhaven but continued on to the Netherlands once they exited the canal, had given us a heads up regarding this waterway.

Looking both forwards and aft we saw masthead lights marking the flotilla of boats. It’s rare to be in the company of so many sailboats heading in the same direction for an overnight. Plus, we knew Dick and Leo on ADIOS and DUTCH ROSE, Erik’s boat, were part of the group. We could have arranged scheduled communicating on the VHF but no one needed any distraction sailing these waters or any loss of sleep during this short passage caused by unnecessary radio chatter.

We paralleled this shipping channel down to the Frisian Islands, ensuring we left as much space as possible between the edge of the “TSS” or Traffic Separation Scheme and JUANONA’s track. We wouldn’t need to cross it, but, if we did, we knew it needed to be at a 90º angle. Failing to do so could mean a 1,000 euro fine on the spot by a German patrol.

As the sky lightened we continued to see fellow sailors plying the waters west.

Once outside the mouth of the Elbe we entered a flock of anchored ships waiting for a pilot to guide them in. They looked like sleeping giants, and sailing through them I sure as heck didn’t want to ‘wake’ them.

Sharing the water with so many vessels meant keeping an eye out for any potential crossing of paths. Max monitored one whose heading seemed a bit erratic (note his eye mask from sleeping during his off-watch :) ) but all was fine. With so many boats around our AIS alarm kept going off as a warning of possible collision.

Later I went down for a nap only to wake up and have Max smilingly beckon me up top. Poking my head out I saw why:  ADIOS was right off our starboard bow!

Max said they had sailed over to say hello, and he had begun capturing ADIOS swiftly gliding through the sea.

After fifteen minutes they waved good-bye with ADIOS living up to its name as they flew off with the wind.

During his night watch Max figured out we could save some time by approaching the mainland via the channel between Vlieland and Terschelling versus sailing another 20 miles to Den Helder. We could ride the tide (here, too, you need to account for a strong current) through the sandbanks and reach the lock into the IJsselmeer by early afternoon. Hey, I’m all for making any passage shorter!

The sun rose and we continued motor-sailing, or, I should say, motoring with a main sail up as by now the winds had pretty much died down.

We crossed into Dutch waters and changed out our Germany courtesy flag for our Netherlands one.

By 11:00 a.m. we were on the final stretch to the Lorentz (also known as Kornwerderzand) Locks which give passage through the massive Afsluitdijk dike. Passing a local fishing boat with its seagull fans we knew our landing was in sight.

The lock can be packed, as we found out last year, so no surprise seeing it so again. Making it a bit more stressful were two people waving us over while we were jockeying for position to go through the opening bridge that precedes the lock (by now there were at least 25 boats waiting to go through). We headed over only to discover they were customs agents curious about our length of time in the Netherlands.

FYI:  All EU countries (except Britain) including Norway had signed an agreement (the Shengen Agreement) restricting all non-Schengen residents to a three-month visit. After that visit, you have to leave for a full three months before re-entering. Thankfully, our temporary Dutch residency allows us to avoid this requirement unlike last summer when we had to get out of Europe early August to ensure we were in compliance.

I ran below and grabbed our temporary residency cards which they photographed. They then queried us about JUANONA’s time in the EU. [We have 18 months in the EU before we’d have to pay the 20% V.A.T. (value added tax) assessed on all large assets.]

Luckily, thanks to our friends Gus and Helen, ex-pats living aboard their boat in London, Max had filed paperwork allowing temporary importation of JUANONA. The customs folk were fine with our copy of the stamped receipt. And, yes, that is how I look coming off of a passage with bad sleep and not so great hygiene…

It took us three times before we could get into the crowded lock, and when we finally did, we knew we were ‘home’.

Our friends Sylvia and Pascal had anchored at 11:00 p.m. after doing a similar passage the day before. If we hadn’t been so tired we would have motored over. Instead, the four of us exchanged hearty waves from afar as we headed for Makkum and its marinas.

A wonderful hot shower and one load of laundry completed, we now are catching up on getting JUANONA ready for her winter berthing back in Hoorn.

Always bittersweet to think of our summer cruising pretty much over. But, what a summer! And, how we’ll miss the friends we’ve met!

Two spoiled sailors we are! :)

 

NS Passage #5

Passage Prepping

Thursday – Sunday, May 11-14

Soon we would be changing our view from trees to sea water as we began preparations for our passage to Norway.

We moved JUANONA from one Friesan island to another:  Terschelling to Vlieland, six miles to the west. Last year we used Vlieland as our departure/ arrival port to/from Norway so we were familiar with the marina and town.

Unlike Terschlling’s marina where showers, drinking water, and laundry machines were included in the docking fee, Vlieland charges for everything. But, it’s worth the extra nickel-and-diming because it’s a lovely island. And, it’ll shorten our winding path through the sand banks to reach the North Sea than if we left from Terschelling. Although, those free laundry machines are calling my name…

We ended up finalizing our provisioning in bits and bobs as we waited for the winds to start blowing from the south/southwest for our beeline to Norway. While in the lively, one-street town we took advantage of just sitting with a libation and people-watching.

While in town on Saturday we discovered folk were signing up for several foot races occurring on Sunday. Hearing that they’d run along the marina’s walkways, we managed to plant ourselves on the course with our greasy lunch. Our scarfing down food while athletic people ran by felt a bit weird but, trust me, it didn’t feel so weird that we stopped eating our hamburgers…

Part of the prepping meant relieving JUANONA of the numerous spider webs that grace her facade. Thankfully, we (royal ‘we’) now have a new night-time sport:  spider hunting. Max has become quite proficient as I saw when accompanying him on one of his safaris. He offered me the opportunity to join in and crunch some but I said no thank you; so, he merrily continued on as the solo hunter.

I’m just glad he does it because we’ve seen some huge ones ready to pounce on our faces in the V-berth. Anyone who’s woken up with a swollen eyelid knows what it’s like to be bitten by one of those dangling, eight-legged anthropods. Knowing your puffy eyelid was due to a spider crawling on your face is just one Big, nasty UGH feeling.

Passage

Monday – Wednesday, May 15 – 17

Since this will be our fifth time crossing to Norway, I could say this specific passage-making is becoming routine, but that’s not the truth. In effect we don’t treat any passage as routine, with the exception of knowing (1) we’ll be on a boat in open sea with no land in sight for awhile and (2) what clothes we have on when we left will most likely be the same clothes we peel off when we land. And, yes, laundry machines are what I hunt for when in port.

To catch a good tide running out, we left before 6am and motored then sailed into the North Sea.

With a perfect wind forecast of 10 knots S/SW, later building to 20 knots, the morning ride out from Vlieland was lovely and not too cold.

Over the next three days we settled into our usual routine of cross-wording,

cooking a one-pot meal (C+C+B, recognize big blue? :)  of chili (one of Max’s specialties),

reading, listening to music, and contemplating belly buttons while staring towards the stern as JUANONA rolls with the waves.

Underlying these activities is reviewing notes on harbors, sites, etc., for our summer cruising. Thankfully, those who have explored these waters over the years have generously provided excellent information either in emails, articles published by sailing associations or cruising guides researched and written by sailors. We use all of those sources to get an idea of where we’d like to go and what to expect when we arrive.

We maintained our usual watch schedule when it’s just the two of us:  roughly three-hours on, three-hours off. But, we’re flexible, so if someone’s more awake than the other, he/she will stay up for a longer watch to let the other sleep. (I snapped a photo of the captain gently sleeping but it’s a bit blurry as didn’t want to wake him with a flash.)

I had anticipated a chilly crossing just because the temps have been in the 50s; but, we were perfectly warm with our diesel Reflex heater located in the main cabin.

Of course, if you’ve left a dock, something is bound to cause a hiccup, which is why Max had to tighten the stuffing box to reduce water leaking in.

Beginning our passage just after a full moon we were hoping for moon-lit nights, but both evenings sported cloud coverage and no–and, I mean zip/nada/zilch/NO–visibility.

Which is why the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a boon to navigation. For me, the AIS has become the holy grail of our passage-making.

This nautical instrument allows us to see any boat traffic within a specified distance (we generally set the plotting range at a radius of 12 nautical miles when offshore). Any boats entering into our range will appear on our AIS screen noting the vessel’s speed, rotation degrees per minute, size, course, location, and what is truly wonderful:  the closest point of approach (CPA) to a specific boat and the timing of that point of approach (TCPA):

Additionally, we can contact the other ship’s pilot house by calling their Maritime Mobile Service Identity number (MMSI), a direct line listed on the AIS. On this trip we did so twice, with one of our calls resulting in our changing course for 15 minutes to provide more distance between JUANONA and a fishing boat dragging nets.

During our passage we navigated through several shipping lanes, which brings me to another electronic gizmo to which I also give thanks:  our GPS Chart Plotter. This plotter includes area charts (easily changed with a SIM card for various destinations)  with our GPS location overlaid on those charts.

For instance, we’re supposed to cross shipping lanes at a 90º angle. Our Chart Plotter shows our track across those lanes allowing us to quickly adjust our course as needed (black arrow is where we are with the red line showing our direct bearing or course to Norway).

By early Wednesday morning the wind petered out as forecasted. With 38 miles to go on this 293-mile passage, we added the engine to our energy equation and approached Norway’s SW coast, six hours later… but not without experiencing heavy fog for most of those six hours:

Luckily our GPS Chart Plotter provides an overlay of radar (indicated by those red splotches below that we later found out were due to a thunder and lightening storm). We, therefore, can pick up boats (such as small recreational vessels who don’t use AIS) as well as showing buoys and the outline of the shoreline.

But, what would happen if our chart plotter and AIS equipment failed? Good question.

As a back-up to our plotter, we’ve downloaded an app on Max’s iPad that provides almost the same information. Frankly, around here there are so many rocks, being able to scroll in to highlight an area makes digital charting really valuable (as the photo below shows in our foggy entrance to Norway).

And, if that fails, we have paper charts. I actually enjoy using printed charts for long passages because there’s nothing like marking your progress with little x’es along the way anticipating the last “x” when you arrive. With this being only a three-day passage and with all the equipment behaving, I just checked our miles to destination on the plotter and divided it by our speed to get an idea of when we might arrive.

By 12:30 we were tying up to the local quay and planning a foray into Farsund for fresh provisions and good wifi access…

…only to discover a lot of folk running around in some traditional costumes called “bunad”. Look at how gorgeous these clothes are:

Come to find out May 17 is the national holiday celebrating the signing of their constitution in 1814.

Instead of a military parade the procession through the streets is comprised of all ages. Children in particular are festive revelers on this day, no doubt looking forward to the traditional  meal of hot dogs and ice cream.

Arriving back to JUANONA we noticed another boat had come in, s/v EQUINOX with two Norwegians and one Swede aboard. Within an hour all five of us were on JUANONA discussing their upcoming plans. Their next stop is Scotland, as they continue to work their way down to the Canaries to reach St. Lucia in the Caribbean by the end of this year. They reminded us of our nephew Iain and his wife Sarah who, too, have planned some cruising time this summer after making arrangements with their companies. Great energy and spirits in all of them.

Having Camilia, Thomas, and Michael aboard was a wonderful welcome to Norway, similar to other times when we met Gunnar and Elisabeth in Os last year and Kjetil in Alesund in 2015. There’s something magical about meeting folks like them, a reminder of how sharing time with others is one of the main reasons we’re doing what we’re doing.

And, just to give a shout-out:  Michael owns a great cafe on an island called Styrso (near Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden), called Öbergska, which we’re definitely planning to visit during our summer cruising.

As I finish this passage-posting rain falls gently on JUANONA’s deck while we savor freshly brewed java in our v-berth and wifi-graze the news sites.

A perfect start to our summer cruising with one more ‘chore’ left to confirm completion of our NS #5 passage :)

 

We meet again, North Sea

Egersund, Norway, to Vlieland, Netherlands

Wednesday-Friday, July 13-15, 2016

Donning our foul weather gear complete with Norwegian rain hats, we left the home port of Max’s Norwegian family to begin our 310-mile sail back to the Netherlands.

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There were no surprises. We realized the passage would be a rough ride, but the winds were in the right direction (NNW). Additionally, we might not have had another favorable weather window for a while. The result? The now-typical experience of jostling seas.

With flexible watch schedules each of us napped during the day but not without sustenance as I fed the captain crackers slathered with peanut butter.

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The better meal was partaking of the freshly caught salmon Oddbjoern gave us the day before, which made for several delicious meals.

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I’d like to say this crossing was no different than the one to Norway earlier this summer, but my stomach didn’t quite see it that way starting the morning of the second day. This shouldn’t last too long as it was only a three-day passage with the promise of still water at Vlieland’s marina. At least that’s what I kept reminding myself

Three days of this:

because of that:

With a second reef in the main sail and no jib we still managed to average over 6 knots as we continued our push south.

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Finally sun greeted us on the third morning, and the seas slowly lessened as we neared the Netherlands’ outer barrier islands.

Upon sighting the welcome dune-scape of Vlieland we noted a coast guard boat patrolling the area. Whenever we spot one of those on our AIS (Automatic Identification System displaying boats within a certain radii from us) we keep watch to see if they slow down.

Sure enough, this one reduced speed, stopped and lowered an inflatable, which then zoomed over to us for further inspection. (FYI:  This is our third boarding in two years not counting the questioning over the radio by the Norwegian coast guard last year.)

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Similar to the other times, the Dutch border control treated us with professional courtesy while examining our ship’s papers and our passports.

With a quick peek below they thanked us and hopped back on their craft to return to the mother ship.

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Soon we were turning the corner and heading for the marina from which we left two months ago. And, I predicted fresh bodies, clothes, and boat… and a lovely salmon dinner awaited us with no harnesses necessary :)

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Back to another country we now call ‘home’ :)

Fourth Time’s a charm

Sunday – Tuesday, June 19-21

With a favorable forecast we departed Vlieland at 11:00a to begin our three-day passage to Norway.

Outfitted with my faithful scopolamine patch to offset any seasickness, I only felt a wee bit queasy viewing the breaking waves ahead.

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As we rounded the eastern tip of the island JUANONA quickly began gyrating as the wind against current did its thing. Fortunately it only lasted an hour and then smoothed out enough where we didn’t feel we were riding a bucking bronco. My knuckles turned to red from white and we were happily on our way.

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With a single-reefed main sail we settled into a routine.

As the day turned to night we began our alternating watches. Generally, this means a schedule of three hours on, three hours off; however, we practice a lot of leeway depending on how tired or awake one of us is. I have to say I believe this is the first, two-person passage where I got plenty of sleep, as did Max, which was heavenly. It also meant I wasn’t as grouchy as I easily could be.

Another first is using the aft berth for our off-watch time. Even when it’s just the two of us Max and I typically sleep in the main cabin with lee cloths (like on previous passages).

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So, it was a nice change to not have to do a contortionist act to enter and exit one’s berth.

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Late evening, Max added a second reef to the main (which means we shortened the main sail to a third of its full-size; this was due to a forecast of up to 30 knots of wind).

The winds did pick up on Monday at midnight as predicted, and poor visibility made our AIS and radar helpful crewmates as we avoided the usual North Sea obstacles of wind farms and gas/oil rigs.

To me it’s always eerie to come upon those structures out in the middle of the sea looking like some stalking, alien preying mantis ready to pounce on some poor vessel who gets too close.

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Of course, there’s a very good reason for steering clear of these manmade apparitions as one chart warned us:
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For those of you who wonder what the heck we do all day when on watch, the following will give you an idea of what it’s like to be hooked in…

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and keeping an eye out for something, ANY thing that would provide a diversion from seeing waves go up and down and you with them.

So, here’s looking forward…

and, here’s looking aft…

Our preparations for 30 knots of wind proved to be overly conservative since they didn’t really get much above 25 as we coasted through our second day of passage-making. We took out the reefs and added the motor to augment Mother Nature’s lessening wind.

A rare sighting of a fellow sailboat provided a moment of kinship as we hailed one another across the water. They were also heading to Norway only a bit further north.

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As the day moved into night we benefited from being this far north on the eve of the Summer Solstice.  At 10:00 pm it was easy to spot more rigs and buoys arising out of nowhere in the middle of our passage.

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My Tuesday early-morning watch was accompanied by dolphins feeding under and around JUANONA.

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And, as we neared the coast of southern Norway fishing boats began to appear more regularly.

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With the sun out the temperatures rose and we began to shed the woolies we had donned early Sunday. (Yes, we had both been wearing the same items ever since we left three days earlier…)

My long johns, having been a gift from my husband for Christmast 2013, are something you’d find on a Dr. Seuss creature

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while Max’s were a bit more sedate.

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With relatively quiet shipping lanes (unlike heading to Ijmuiden) and a calm cockpit day, Max enjoyed a book given to him by my brother

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then hoisted our flags:  one for the country in which we’re cruising (called a courtesy flag); and a yellow one (called a Q flag, which, in the olden days identified a ship as under quarantine until the authorities visited and deemed the ship and crew healthy enough to enter port).

I love seeing this as it means I can stop silently asking my childhood question ‘are we there yet’ and begin to salivate at the thought of some fresh-baked goods being part of my future.

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Finally in the early evening we sailed into the protected harbor of Egersund, one of Norway’s southern cities.

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Our fourth passage of the North Sea had felt seamless as we sailed and motored through three days of easy weather. Maybe I’m getting use to this, who knows? But, I do know as we both switched from passage-making to exploring, we were eagerly awaiting the formal beginning of our 2016 summer cruising.

Norway here we are!

Crossing the North Sea… Again

But, this time it was only 24 hours from our winter berth in Ipswich to a transient one in Ijmuiden, Netherlands.

We said our good-byes the night before and rose early to catch free-flow out of Ipswich lock (meaning we didn’t have to stop, tie up, wait for water to rise/fall, then exit). Aboard we had a third crew member, Dolly Doughnut, given to us by our seven-year-old friend Gracie (she’s the daughter of Angie and James who, along with Anne and Peter, we were fortunate to have as wonderful neighbors and friends during our stay in Ipswich).

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Although it was gray and chilly it still felt wonderful to be starting our summer cruising mid-April.

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Along the route we passed friends Sandra and Barry from Vancouver Island. Their boat s/v PASSAT was moored off of Royal Harwich Yacht Club while awaiting weather to head down towards Portugal.

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Soon, we were passing Felixstowe’s huge container operation and heading out of the mouth of Orwell.

All of a sudden we saw an official-looking zodiac bombing our way. Our first hopeful thought was they couldn’t be interested in us; yet, the second thought soon followed that yes, they were interested in us.

Last spring on our way to Lowestoft we’d been stopped by the Border Force. We knew the drill:  grant permission to come aboard; be polite; answer questions succinctly; be thankful we had nothing to hide; be even more thankful to wave them off and continue on our way.

Their powerful zodiac carried four persons with two requesting permission to board JUANONA. Just a few questions were asked:  how many aboard… what was our destination… where and how long did we stay in England…. We showed them our passports and mentioned how many times we’d travelled out of the British Isles in the past six months.

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FYI:  Unlike Schengen countries (Scandinavia and the rest of Europe) only allowing foreigners three months out of six, currently we’re allowed six months in the British Isles. Then we need to reset our time, which can be done by simply exiting the British Isles for 24+ hours, getting our passports stamped elsewhere, and returning for another six months. Adding to this complication for cruising is ensuring we don’t have to pay a hefty Value-Added-Tax (VAT) on our non-EU registered boat. We accomplish that feat by simply taking JUANONA to a non-EU country (such as Norway) for a day or two once every 18 months.

The Border Force visit lasted a mere ten minutes at most before leaving us to continue our passage across the southern North Sea.

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We’d been waiting for the right wind direction for two weeks. Just recently we experienced a storm giving us lightening, thunder and hail, which pebbled the water ferociously

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and left the marina and JUANONA covered in ice balls.

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Now, though, we had our chance to sail across a notorious nasty sea with 10 to 20 knots of wind and fairly decent weather. In spite of not appearing too inviting, it was still a good day to finally have a weather window to cross.

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With the North Sea’s shallow seabed and high winds JUANONA became a washing machine with us being the washed clothes:  It was bouncy, something our crew, Dick Stevens and later Steve Palmer, had experienced during our 2014 passages when crossing to Azores then England. This time, though, I made sure to keep the hatch closed so no unwanted salt water would splash its way down to the main cabin; and, our nephew Rudy, who got spanked by a large wave last summer, would appreciate that both Max and I tried to stay under the dodger (a canvas cover over the hatchway) as much as possible.

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Mid-April was still early in the season for starting our summer cruising, and the temperatures reflected that as the day got a bit chillier and the night loomed ahead. Before too long Max was lighting our diesel heater. We had tested it just a week ago and it worked wonderfully, just like it had last summer when cruising in Norway.

But, this time it turned fickle, which meant after lighting and relighting it four times we realized we’d be without heat. A fallback position was a small heating system generated only when using the engine. We ran the engine for about 30 minutes then turned it off and said to each other it wouldn’t be too bad. I lied…. Night passage with tons of ships to watch out for along with oil rigs and no heat…  Oh joy.

Yet, we were so bundled up (long johns, shirts, sweaters, down jackets all covered by foul weather gear and black beanie hats) the below-deck temp of 51º wasn’t too bad. When off watch and lying in the main cabin, two down comforters provided us a cocoon of self-generating warmth.

And, then the wind kicked up even more (forecasted to possibly hit 25 knots). At one point with the wind and tide we were moving at 8+ knots, so by about 10 PM we had totally furled in the jib (reducing sail, which always slows the boat down) leaving only the mainsail up, which we generally have reefed (shortened). Even then we were sailing at a decent cruising speed of 5-6 knots.

And, boy, were there ships. This is when our Automatic identification System (AIS) really proves its worth as a crew member. We knew we wanted to cross the Deep Water Route (DWR as noted on the chart and used by ships) as close to right angles as possible thus shortening our exposure to the heavy commercial traffic running up and down this area; plus, we had to steer clear of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS, also noted on the chart) to avoid getting too close to the shipping lanes into Rotterdam.

Our watches were flexible, and I didn’t hesitate to rouse the captain to assist in fending off a multitude of ships. Their speed through the water is deceptive. Before you know it you’re looking at some bright lights less than .3M away. Not a good sight.

To provide as much buffer zone as possible we’d hail the ships when they were about 20 minutes away from our path. We’d ask if they could see us on their AIS, which was really our way of saying ‘we’re just a little bitty boat, big guy, and we don’t want to get squished’.

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(definitions in the screen above refer to the bracketed ship approaching us:  RNG = Range, CPA = Closest Point of Approach, SOG = Speed Over Ground, TCPA = Time to Closest Point of Approach. Each triangle represents a ship, and a black triangle represents a ship that may be coming dangerously close. The four black ships approaching from the upper left and the one immediately ahead of us pointing our way were especially worrisome.)

The ships all responded to our radio call, and in many instances adjusted their course to ensure our paths would not cross. One even seemed chatty leaving us with the kind message of have a nice watch.

Interestingly, we weren’t the only boat calling another to avoid a collision. One poor cable-laying ship was constantly asking other ships to stay out of his path. Most did, yet there was a bit of a discussion between the cable guy and another ship when the latter said the cable guy’s requested course adjustment was too extreme. They worked it out, but it did provide a welcome distraction from our navigating.

Rotating watches with two-three hours on, two-three hours off, we each managed to get some sleep. However, sleep for me means a nice cozy berth and no-wakee in the late night hours or wee hours of the morning. Add in my husband bringing me coffee in bed and I’m in heaven. This, not so much. BUT, it was only 24 hours and we were safe, fed by canned chili on carne for dinner (it warmed us up), and we knew some wonderful cruising lay ahead.

The wind died way down by 4am and we slowed down to 4 knots as we closed in on our destination of Ijmuiden. As the sun came up we had reached the outer edges of the largest fishing port in the Netherlands. We turned on the engine (heat again :), lowered the main sail, and entered the port and a convenient marina just inside the jetty.

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We smiled at one another and laughed out loud as the joy of finishing a passage and stepping into another adventure spread throughout our minds and limbs.

We had arrived in Dutch land. And, showers,

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sleep, and tulips were in our future :)   Hans Brinker, here we come.

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