To the Baltics and Back; Homeward Bound; September 2013

Monday 02 September 2013
Early to bed last night at 21.00hrs, after a walk out past the old, very derelict ferry terminal to the beach and then ate on board; real Swedish meatballs from the freezer plate and pasta. Planned start at 05.00 tomorrow.
Just as well we had an early night, rafted onto just after 04.00 by solo Dutchman up from Dunkerque. So by 05.20 we were out of Scheveningen bouncing out towards the Maas Approach recommended small boat crossing northern buoy.
08.20 given permission to start our crossing by “Maas Approach” on VHF 03,
08.43 saw us reaching the S buoy of the Approach crossing route.
Further S of Europort, seas very rough, NW wind throwing some big beam breaking seas up as they hit the 10m and shallower contours.

Boat and crew very badly thrown around by these seas, until we could slip into the channels behind some shallows/banks and let them take some of the full sting out of the waves.
Took some big green ones right up over the bows and spray hood to soak R at the wheel while maneuvering into comparative shelter S of Europort.
Our IRIS hand bearing compass and it’s wooden holder were broken off the stbd half door during this time, and the cabins were a shambles. Both hatches leaked under the pressure and the two cockpit cove lockers were flooded once or twice.
12.45 Finally got into the Banjard Channel, meeting another, Dutch, Southerly, “Wind Rose” N bound out of it as we went in. ‘Good Luck’, we waved!

Things gradually calmed down as we threaded the channel towards the N side of Walcheren. Then the sun came out, the wind dropped, the drying banks to windward flattened the shining seas, and we had a nice downwind sail towards West Kappel. Threaded the inshore channel towards Vissilingen in brilliant sunshine, sea flat and shining, trying to count all the beach huts lining the dune bottoms.

Then we came round the narrow last bit, into the main channel by Vissilingen town and the ‘Het Arsenal” harbour where we had one of those “Oh S@£t” moments;to find a large cargo ship leaving at the N Edge of the VTS main channel, with two tugs fore and aft of a huge, wide ‘Schmidt’ cassion platform inshore of him, very close in shore and turning into our own very narrow channel entrance.

Oh well, turn to stbd and skim the edge of the covering Cardinal and it’s two wrecks, No chance, a small dredger which had been two nm behind us, had really cracked on while we had been slowing and watching the vessels to our front, and was now 200m off our stbd stern qtr!! AIS already jamming plotter screen with the two “Dangerous Target” in front, so couldn’t see him creeping up.
Every boat seemed to freeze in place. Not the sort of Mexican Standoff you want to be the smallest one in, for sure.

Fortunately, R quickly weighed things up and moved to port, right close inshore and slow, eased the main right out, and watched the depth like a hawk, while the tugs&tow and dredger do-si-do’d around each other and the ship ploughed on out to sea.
Fortunately they sorted themselves out before we hit the Harbour wall dead ahead!
Got across the rest of the estuary traffic very smooth and fast, despite wind and sea getting up from W again, thanks to listening on the VTS channel and into Breskens at 19.30. Baro rose 2.1 hpa in 14hrs today.
Booked in, ate excellent ‘ Hotbox’ chicken stew and collapsed into bed at 22.30 or so.
82.3nm travelled today per Log.

Tuesday 03 September 2013
09.00, Breskens; both woke after 10hrs straight sleep, still tired. No wind and early fog over the now completed harbour wall, which is like a brand new Hadrians Wall, shoulder high rampart and wide walkway, but with sturdy benches instead of ballistae and onagers. Shopped later and ate out at one of the posher harbourside restaurants. Another early night followed.

Wednesday 04 September 2013
Bunkered 57l. Diesel at 08.55, paid up and left harbour at 09.20.
10.55 approaching Cadsand Tide Gauge and the Dutch/ Belgian border, changed courtesy ensigns over. Cadsand was where the Black Prince won a famous medieval naval battle R thinks? Not much wind from N, so motor sailing to reach Dunkerque tonight.

We are afraid Belgium gets the miss in bulk until the red diesel dispute is resolved.
12.35 Cleared Zeebrugge entrance, 15.55 cleared Ostende entrance. Not much N/NW wind, hazy at first, then brilliant sunshine reflected off a smooth sea. Definitely sunglasses and sun cream time, very hard to spot lateral and cardinal inshore channel buoys into Dunkerque against the westering sun and a lot of wrecks off the evacuation beaches at Bray.
19.35 berthed Dunkerque YC, ate ‘Hotbox’ chicken and rice, and went to sleep.
Did 72.2nm per Log, and Baro dropped 6 full hpa in 10hrs 35min today.

Thursday 05 September 2013
Stayed in Dunkerque YC, as foggy, then no wind and very hot all day. Walked round town and dined at restaurant on N side of inner habour, after few drinks at cafe two down on corner- very cheery place. Lots of local young families meeting up with friends and grandparents. Reminded us of the Maypole at weekends in our village.
We really do want to get back home now, great experience though it’s all been.

Friday 06 September 2013
08.35 left Dunkerque, heading S.
13.00, after a grey morning, rounded Cap Gris Nez, pushing N tide hard, 2.2 kts SOG, and 3000 revs plus main and genoa to do it!
Down past the old WW2 big gun bunkers on the Cap, speed up to 4kts now, then the rain started, and the W or SW wind and sea picked up again. Heighho, here we go again.
16.10 Berthed in Boulogne YC and controlled by 5 Douaniers at 17.00!
They were quite impressed with our cruise!
54.6 nm per Log, but 46.3nm by calculation from GPS.
Baro rose 2.7hpa in 9hrs 25min today.
Helped a Younger Dutch couple who came in about 18.30 onto the next finger to us. They had locked out of Calais only about 2hrs behind us, but had a really hard wet and windy trip down and round the Cap.

Saturday 07 September 2013
Slept well and late, having checked weather last thing last night.
Sunny but very windy today, even here in inner harbour. F6 in forecasts, Dutch couple stayed in too. Shopped, ate our last French meal of the summer at the Cafe Restaurant overlooking our bassin, moules frites, of course.
Back to England tomorrow.

Sunday 08 September 2013
08.20 departed Boulougne, crossed French TSS, worked westwards in the Seperation Zone, crossed English TSS off Dungeness, but tide was turning, so it was a long slow slog into W wind and tide, working the shallows to find less tide. For 40mins about 17.00, it was into heavy rain as well.
18.40 we are about 10nm from Beachy Head, when we get a CG Strong Wind Warning for Gibraltar Point to Selsey Bill & SB to Lyme Regis.
A thick black cloud climbing up over Beachy Head and the Downs decided the matter. Plan A, Newhaven or Brighton overnight could wait.

Plan B ; We bore away for the Royal Soveriegn Safe Water buoy.
19.20 berthed, met by owners of Southerly ” Dutch Courage”, and a S110 owners son, who took our lines. Chatted for a while though very tired,family texts said Brighton had copped a huge electrical storm this evening. A paid berthing fees and had a shock; £ 31.60 for an over night- we are back in Southern England alright!
Supper from the ‘Hotbox’ and fell into bed.
58.3nm, Baro hardly dropped all day; 0.5hpa.

Monday 09 September 2013
09.15 R awoke, heavy rain again in the night. Changed money over in wallets and pockets. Showered, breakfasted, planned tides, etc, as lot less wind, but another grey day.
11.30 locked out,
13.00 passing Beachy Head Lt. Clouds on Downs, but sunshine out at 3nm off, highlighting the cliffs. W 9kts wind on nose.
14.00 off Cuckmere River mouth, very beautiful.
16.00 Wind backed to SSW, heavy rain now, but Brighton, Hove, Shoreham, have all disappeared under thick cloud and rain. Vis now 1.5nm to W And N, but 12 + to S out to sea.
17.10 rain has cleared, and wind has veered right round to N and is 17kts.
We reached past Lancing and Worthing, on a run past Littlehampton, everything up. Wheeee! favourable winds!!
19.10 we run the Looe Channel with the very last of the light, sun going down behind thick black clouds on the horizon and Boulder and Port buoy lights starting up as we past them.

Back in the Solent at last after a really great afternoon homeward leg and a great cruising experience.

21.50 passing the sands in the Chi Hbr entry.
22.45 waiting for water over EYH sill at the Emsworth Channel pontoon.
We ate our 2013 Cruise Last Supper of Dutch eggs,Swedish/ Danish bacon, and French mushrooms in the cockpit under the stars. R saw two meteors and made wishes.

Home waters at last.

Tuesday 10 September 2013
03.15 berthed on Dock pontoon in EYH. Home again. Baro has risen 4 hpa since 11.30 Monday.

Log reads 8219.7 and read 6012.3 when we left EYH at 23.30 Thursday night 25/04/2013.
So in 4+ months, we have travelled some 2207.4+nm, allowing for log impeller mud jams and under reads. It’s been a great experience and we’ve met some very nice people, but it’s great to be back.
It’s R’ s 65th Birthday tomorrow too!

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