To the Baltics: Mon 6th May – Tue 14th May

Monday 06 May
Got 14E refund for handing the “e-key” to club back, slipped mooring lines and set off at about 0930 french summer time. A sunny day but a light  wind from the north kept us cool to frozen.
Got a nice surprise in that tide was in favour for an extra hour than first calculations. So not only v fast sail from Dunkerque to Blankenberg (first destination if slow running) in Belgium but in very good time to aim for the Dutch coast.

Although tide turned we were able to get 4 to 4.5 knots and proceeded up the S coast of the Westerschelde, at one time playing dodgems in the same half nm circle just outside the main ship channel with the ebb tide, a V large but not AIS squeaking dredger, rotating strangely at TSS South edge,the TSS starboard hand buoy, a N cardinal covering a wreck on the side nearest to our track,and another  wreck marked on the chart but unmarked on surface.

Got into Breskens, dodging round a barge unloading stone onto the very battered looking seawall in the entrance, at 19.05hrs only to find the HM gone home. Stayed attached to the reception pontoon, had supper, chile con carne and pilau rice and so to bed after seeing a lovely sun set.  Will it rain tomorrow?

Tuesday 07 May
07.15 Woken to a red dawn by the sound of tank tracks in the morning!
Welcome to Holland, the Dutch do start  their day early. The Texel cement works crushers greeted their Visitor pontoon noisily in 1998 just as early.

The two tracked diggers , parked yesterday  way down the sea wall to the east, are taking up position to shift all the stone unloaded by their mates last night right opposite us.
Same Company as the Dieppe dredger, too. How have we offended???

09.00 Very hazy/misty/foggy still out in Westerschelde. Alice departs in search of toilet/shower block and HM ,probably in that order, if she can. Local facilities info from our fellow  visitors. 100ft+ high Silo in harbour has ’5 small loaves and two fishes’ painted/moulded on the whole of the Town side!
10.30 no wind at all, flags limp, still foggy over the seawall.

Wednesday 8 May
Well the tonka toys woke us up at 07 00 this morning, again!  Hope it all looks nice when finished.  The sea wall is being raised so Prinz I, a 50 metre long barge,  has the grab crane, another even longer barge had the great big stones in it: Prinz I crane would grab a load of rocks and heave them ashore onto a motorway sized dump lorry, which move about 100 meters along the sea wall to dump the stones, then two Caterpillar tracked  diggers then arranged the stones in a more spread out way.  The noise is just bearable in small doses, so off we went heading Northwards.

We had to head to Vlissingen (Flushing) in order to take the coastal channel n, Tringa obviously did not want to go, so she dug her keel in the tail of the shallow mud bank off Berskens and stayed there until the rising hydraulics lifted it out, then  a v v large Mearsk container ship with Pilot boarding it decided not to stop so we gave way gracefully.

at about 1100 we notice a Coastguard cutter coming up behind us,  she passed  at speed, with  quite a bit of wash, then abut a nm ahead, slipped her rib,which came back and put a Customs and an  Immigration Officer aboard, both of Dick’s vintage.
A very professional but friendly Control followed, particularly when they found out who Dick had worked for, and the paperwork was in order, and neatly presented, as we motored gently up the channel, attended by their rib.

Even more so when the IO checked the HM’ noticeboad’s Immigration phone no we had tried  to ring in Breskens, and got an ansaphone too!
He rang his base to get it updated asap, clearly pleased to catch his local shore office colleagues out. Only two more days till their crew change, too.

We wound our way up towards Europort through the offshore channels in the Voor delta nature reserve, in poor vis, and showers, meeting 2/3 yachts coming the other way. We called up Maas  Entrance on Ch 03, who saw us safely across on the  small boat channel course.
You think the Solent is busy, Europort is like Hyde Park Corner rush hour pumped up  on adrenalin-huge ships, tug/oil-platform tows over a mile long, pilot boats, coasters. “MRHB3, the very large fast  ship will pass close astern of you….”. Real clenching buttons off cushions time.
Sailing down the coast to  Scheveningen, another CG cutter shadowed us out to seawards, while thunders storms broke over Europort and Scheveningen, then a beautiful double rainbow came out.
Cleared in by Port Radio on ch21, then a “very old tyres, lots all over the bows r us”fishing boat (actually a tourist/tripper boat) met us at the mouth of the v narrow entrance channel to second inner harbour and marina, we did a prompt sharp turn to port followed by two circles, to allow ‘old tyres’ to charge past us, then turned into  next basin and marina; accompanied on radio with some VERY sharp words from Port Radio to ‘very old tyres r us’ about getting permission to exit before moving!!

Thursday 09 May
F/cast SW F5/7, swell to 2m along this coast. Decided to sit tight, no Dutch yachts going out, only coming in!
Walked out to the beaches, then around harbour area, no shops, lots of cafe/restaurants, stopped for coffee and beer near an old Town class mine -hunter now  a  museum.

Got back to T2 just in time to be Controlled by a Coastguard rib with a younger crew of blokes, and a female Customs team walking the pontoons. All very friendly, professional, and good humoured, esp when Alice warned them that Dick was what they’d look like after 36.5 yrs govt. service.

Sunny but windy day, had drinks in the YC, then a nice sea bass each in the Belgian resturant on the other side of the harbour to it.
Very cool once the sun went, walked back round the harbour dodging the dog poo!

Friday 10 May
Navtex Gale warning 23.03UTC Netherlands CG; Dover, Thames, Humber, SW7.
09.30hrs, gusting 25kts inside inner harbour. Decided against an early start. Shifted position to  very end of pontoon, as 70+ fleet of racers due in from Harwich,starting with the Volvo 60′s at 02.00 or so, Sat am, then rest of fleet in pm.
May leave for Ijmuinden at 16.00 if wind eases. if not, 04.00 start Sat am?
Walked up to ‘Jumbo’ supermarket, then to Frankenslag to card/Post Office shop, posted card to  AWPC and a business letter. Alice then took a nap

16.30hrs, still steadily gusting 22+ kts in lee of row of 6 storey apartment buildings, decided to stay another night. Friendly Dutch neighbour yacht left, but the two blokes had to get back to Ijmuinden for work as their two week holiday was nearly over. Now or 04.00 Sat am are the options.
They expected a very rough but fast heavily reefed 24nm trip in wind and heavy swell.
They  suggested to Dick that Alice might prefer Saturday’s smoother seas, even with the rain that’s due. Dick thought he might do so too!

18.00hrs, behind the  apartments lee, our lulls are SW15-16+kts, wind gusting constantly at 21- 25+kts, and two large(46′) Dutch yachts have lurched in. Two very tired looking blokes on board each. They look pleased to be in. Two more on board each being seasick, apparently, who emerged to help moor up. They cheered up once on pontoons.

19.05hrs, after T2 rolling gently all day to the  wind,even with full keel down, it may be dying down a  bit at last?  Alice awake, and we are to eat on board tonight, maybe a drink(s) in the YC, then an early night.

Saturday 11 May
05.00, Up, checked f/casts, SW4/5, increasing F5/6.
first Nordzee Race boat already in, 12hrs+/- elapsed time, a Volvo 60, dumping it’s local race crew, then moving off to it’s next Regatta, with it’s full time crew of 3.

06.00 left Scheveningen,2nd and 3rd yachts seen beating in on way Northwards. Quartering seas again, wet, grey skies, Alice queasy at once,  despite Stugeron, lying down. Motorsailing again, to get the nm in before tide turns.

09.10 5nm S of Ijmuiden, checked in with ITC on Ch 61. Wet, grey, cold, miserable day, slogging up coast, E of wind farms N of Ijmuiden,

12.00, Alice now awake and ‘operating’.
Gale Warning on Navtex and VHF; Dover/Thames SW F7, no firing on ranges to N today, but tide/wind  pushing us into Pettemer Polder, so tacked out towards Q8-A oil platform to get  some offing, then surfed downwind into Den Helder Safe Water Mark  and into buoyed channel, moved to W and windward side of channel, just outside it, to gain more sea room to bear away, as surfing 1.5-2.5m waves, Dick hand steering all the way to the Oudeschild entrance buoys  in regular 28-33kt gusts.

18.30 tied up in new Wadden haven Texel, after a bit of an  exciting entry into the main entrance.
This  involved a strong cross current across entry, following a Dutch barge in, in the strong gusts, and both of us meeting a 6m Ben/Jen/ Chav young couple determined to motorsail? out under full main, without waiting for the incoming boats to clear the tight channel, but not  holding the W or windward side of the narrow entrance channel, or a steady course.

Think the barge, a local tourist trip boat, and therefore Commercial Priority, which is why we were behind him,said something, and we both managed to avoid the 6m, but it was tight.
Just  like in 1998, when Bob and I had to dodge a trawler at the inland end, charging out of the fishing section as we turned for the then V pontoons  behind it. Plus ca change, c’est le meme chose!

Tired, ate on board, we slept despite the wind, rain and sheep in the night. 74.7nm run today1

 Sunday 12 May
07.01 Woke, checked f/cast, W to NW 4/5, Humber, cloudy, but too late to start for W-Terschelling today. Glad to rest up, dry out charts(Sorry, Tony B) etc, after yesterday’s wet and windy long run.

Showers, Banking, Blog, and lunch at cafe overlooking marina, walked out around harbour to it’s entrance, and back to marina on land side of the dyke. Alice counted the sheep mowing the dyke grass.

Then as rain came in again, ate light supper on board,passage planning, read books, slept. Forecasts for next few days don’t look good, except for Tuesday.

Monday 13 May
07.01 Woke up to cold F6 wind and rain,exactly as forecast, and big illuminated sign on haven wall. Humber/Thames f/casts identical; SW5-7, sea mod or rough, Rain, then shwrs, vis;mod or poor, becoming good.
So, paid HM for another night, cooked breakfast, did two machine loads of laundry, Blog.
Also Passage planning for W-Terschelling again-need to leave here Texel HW-2hr, 09.24hrs Tuesday, very civilised hour for a change. My reading of Dutch improving, at least, technical navigational terms. On a scale of 1-10, i’m about 0.75 now!
Once laundry dry and put away, sun came out, so we walked to the old harbour and had some curried mussels, cod/pollack fillet, egg salade and chips @ Cafe Kombuis, watching a very sharply defined weather front climb the horizon from the SW.
Talked to retired Welsh teacher off one of the ‘brown armarda’ gaffers now in port, riding shotgun on a Cardiff special needs group from his  old school.
Watched the large NCG ship returned to floating dry dock-it had only just left it yesterday!
21.25 cafe by marina closed, so we forwent a nightcap, and strolled back to the boat. Just as well, because the rain started as we boarded, and Alice decided to go  to bed.
21.55, Good call, Alice, the temperature has dropped from a balmy 10* to 4*,there’s a howling F4(?), raining stair rods, plus thunder and the odd flash of lightning as well.  I think that occluded front  has arrived?
Storm rolled away towards mainland, rain stopped, ewes calling for  their lambs can be heard again, so time for bed.

Tuesday 14 May
Shipping forecast and gale warnings
The general synopsis at 0600 UTC
Low Shannon 999 expected England 985 by 0600 tomorrow. Low Fair Isle 982 slow-moving, filling 994 by same time
Sea area; Forecast type; Humber
Gale warnings – Issued: 0932 UTC Tue 14 May
Southerly gale force 8 expected later
Shipping Forecast – Issued: 1030 UTC Tue 14 May
Wind; Southwest, backing southeast for a time, 4 or 5 increasing 6 to gale 8.
Sea state; Moderate becoming rough.
Weather: Rain or showers.
Visibility: Good, occasionally poor.

We wondered why they left us out of yesterday’s f/cast of gales / f6/7s all round for a change.
So that we could leave the Texel @ 09.25 DST, have a smashing cold but sunny motorsail up the twisty channels, have pleasant exchange of hand gestures with trawler skipper about how sunny, but cold it was, instead of the usual yottie/fisherman two finger dialogues when the nets are down.

Up the Slent(Snake) channel, dodging two slow moving members of the ‘brown armada’, a suction dredger working in the channel,  a ferry leaving the island, then the police ship, complete with panda car on the back.

Like the ‘brown armada’ barges springing to and fro further up the harbour, it was a hard job coming alongside on leeward side of pontoon in the steady 18kts of wind.
Dick  felt he’d let the side down when only the help of two Dutchmen finally got Tringa berthed snugly. Then the next 6 Dutch boats in had exactly the same problems and needed a shore party helping with their warps, etc. Tringa Skippers ego felt less bruised!

Tidied boat, visited HM office, then Alice went shopping, while Dick pottered a bit. Alice found a hot rotisserie chicken and some veg from the shops in Terschelling and a pleasant easy supper was had.
Plan for tomorrow,;
weather F6 -gale 8 in sea areas Humber & Thames: German bight Wind: Southwest backing southeast 4 or 5, increasing 6 or 7, perhaps gale 8 later.  Sea state: Moderate.  Weather: Showers then rain. Visibility: Good, occasionally poor later.
Perhaps it’s time to hire bikes or a tandem and explore the island properly.

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