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1st April 2008 - Our Easter (mis)Adventure

Easter in the snow on our boat in the Netherlands had been lovely,

we had a real snow fall as you can see

and on Easter Monday we cheerfully loaded everything into the car to come home. Having Tom (Wendy's 20 year old) made the whole process much quicker than normal, so we planned to stop for some chips and mayonnaise en route. Tom was just on his last trip from the car back to the boat, down the pontoon, when he put his hands into his pocket and ping, the car “key” (in reality an electronic card not much bigger than a thick credit card) fell out, bounced off the pontoon and into the water!

Although the water was clear and relatively shallow, we were unable to see the key. A magnet supposedly capable of carrying 64 kilos recovered nothing more than an old cigarette lighter. Meanwhile, Kim inflated the dinghy and leant out of it for ages at a very dangerous angle, even borrowing a face mask at one stage to get a clearer view of the bottom, but after more than an hour, and with the blizzard now starting again, we were forced to admit defeat. We had insurance for this type of event after all.

Wrong! A call to AA insurance confirmed that we were not covered for loss of keys, on the basis that we should carry a spare set. However, Kim had only ever been given one set of keys as the car is a lease car and we couldn’t contact the lease company until the Tuesday morning. Still, we could see the funny side and headed off into the village for another excellent meal, where it was decided that Wendy would leave very early the next day and get home in time to have the spare key sent by courier for her to drive back over with on Wednesday, if necessary.

Wrong again! She left the boat at 5.30 in the morning and got the first bus into Goes, only to find the ticket office closed. She bought a ticket from the machine to the first big town on the mainland 10 miles away. A month long programme of engineering works in the area, meant that buses were replacing all trains and being the first working day of the new arrangements, it was pandemonium. She was even interviewed about it by a Dutch radio reporter!

Things did not improve much after the 50 minute bus journey. Again the ticket office was shut and when she asked the Dutch “Can I help you” man how to get to Calais, his response was, “That’s a long way to go!” He advised her to go to the next big town, Roosendaal, which is on the InterCity routes, and ask there. By this time she had just missed one train, so had to wait 35 minutes for the next one.

Roosendaal was a large station and looked promising, but once again the information offices were shut and the best she could manage was a ticket to Brussels, with a train leaving in 4 minutes. She made a breathless dash across the station, only to find that the Brussels train was running 20 minutes late. By this time, Kim had contacted the lease company and it was agreed that the key would be sent by 24 hour courier to Holland, to arrive by 1 pm on Wednesday.

It was still barely 9 o’clock UK time when she got the train to Brussels, so she rang the kennels to say that she would be “a bit late” picking up the dog and settled back to enjoy the journey. At Brussels Midi station she immediately set about finding a functioning information office and was surprised to be greeted with the same disinterested shrugs and “booofs” as she knew from living in Paris. Eventually an only slightly more interested lady looked it up and told her that she had to go to Lille, change stations and get on a train at 11.57, arriving in Calais at 13.10. Excellent, she was going to be home by 4.30 latest.

Wrong again. She had changed stations at Lille before so knew her way, but whichever way you look at it, it is still a long way to walk in 12 minutes. She entered Lille Flandres station alongside platform 13 with 2 minutes to spare, only to see from the board that the 11.57 left from platform 0, right at the opposite side of the station. By the time she reached the train and jumped into the first carriage seconds before it pulled away, she was feeling quite ill but still chuffed that she would be in Calais by 1.10.

Yes.. wrong again! She soon had the feeling that this train was not going where she wanted to go. Eventually the ticket man came round, looked it up in his book and informed her that the only 11.57 from Lille goes to Amiens (not that far north of Paris), from where she could get a train to Boulogne at 14.35, arriving 16.00, and from there a train at 16.31 arriving in Calais at 17.15.

From this point on the journey ceased to be fun, but she did at least manage to just catch a train to Calais leaving 30 minutes earlier than planned and after a brisk walk to the ferry terminal, had bought her ticket by about 5.30. She was told that the next crossing was in 2½ hours, arriving in Dover at 21.10. She wasn’t happy but could do nothing about it. Whilst waiting she was accosted by a youngish chap of obviously non-UK origin wanting 20 euros for the crossing because his hotel room had been broken into (she later heard him recounting that he had been mugged!). She then realised that SeaFrance had a sailing an hour earlier, so she tried to get her money back from P&O but was stuck behind another “dodgy” but much older individual who claimed that he worked for “British Rail” and could get a reduced ticket. Ten minutes later and he stormed off shouting abuse, eventually buying a full-price ticket with SeaFrance.

The contingent of foot passengers in the laughingly named “departure lounge” for the crossing, consisted of her, the chap who had been mugged or whatever, another dubious looking chap with a black bin bag who took ages to get through immigration, the bolshy British Rail worker and another chap with a patch over one eye who looked like he hadn’t seen the inside of a shower for weeks! A motley crew indeed.

Fortunately they docked in Dover on time, but as foot passengers they had to hold back at the end until the footbridge was lowered. As she was standing waiting, she was accosted by an American lady who proceeded to tell her that her announcements were not loud enough and that her toilets were smelly - obviously mistaking the sailing jacket she was wearing for a SeaFrance uniform!

She eventually walked in the door at 8.50, only just over 15 hours since she had left the boat, jumped into her own car and went straight to the pub up the road where Lucy and her friend had been waiting for 3 hours because she didn’t have a key to get in. But if you think it ends there, then you are…

Wrong! After much chasing and complaining to Parcel Force, the “24 hour” delivery eventually arrived at the marina at 2.30 on Friday afternoon, almost exactly 72 hours after it was picked up, with Tom and Kim arriving home at 10 that evening. For a few hours, even Kim didn’t talk about going back to the boat!

11th April 2008 - Emjaytoo's First Lift Out

This was certainly a whirlwind visit! We got the shuttle at 6.20 on Thursday evening and were home again by 6.45 on Friday evening, but it was nevertheless a most enjoyable and productive 24 hours.

The boat was booked in for her lift out at 9 am Dutch time (8 am to us!) so there wasn't much time for the niceties of breakfast (though we still had our cup of tea in bed!). I popped into the village for some rolls to have later, then it was a case of motoring round to the other part of the marina.

Fortunately the wind conditions were excellent, albeit with the wind from the opposite direction to usual, and it proved to be a piece of cake to manoeuvre the boat into the right position for the lift. Watching our "baby" being manhandled was a bit nerve-racking, but as the morning progressed it became obvious that the marina people do this operation a dozen or more times every day, so it was very mundane for them.

Then it was time for her to have her bottom washed!

Inspection after jet washing showed virtually no damage to the bottom of the main hull from barnacles etc., though the keel, rudder and propeller were more badly affected, as was the anode mounted on the sail drive. All in all it was agreed that the marina will do the necessary anti-fouling and put the boat back in her berth within 2 weeks.

We then settled back to a few hours of life in a cradle 10 feet above the car park. Very strange at first, but ok once you got used to it. We were also blessed with a glorious day and I was able to sit up in the cockpit sewing, cup of tea beside me, keeping out of Kim's way below. Kim managed to shave the bit off the floor panel to make it sit flat and fit the catches to hold the forward cabin and heads doors open.

We then drove to Vrouwenpolder and bought lunch from the Lekkerbek cafe, which we took up onto the dam to eat in the sunshine, without a coat or fleece in sight! According to Metowallie, the maximum temperature in Vrouwenpolder today was 16 degrees, so no wonder it felt so lovely. Let's just hope that we are as lucky when we next go over in a couple of weeks so that we can actually sail.

23rd April 2008 - Ready For The Weekend

I 'phoned the Marina this morning and spoke to Peter. He said Emjaytoo had just been put back in the water and would be back in her box by lunchtime.

The weather for the weekend looks pretty good and the ferry is booked for Friday night, so we are looking forward to getting the season off to a good start. No real plans, other than to head off somewhere for a Saturday overnighter and maybe a bar-b-que on one of the islands in the Veerse Meer

29th April 2008 - Great Sail - Shame About The Belgians!

The weekend got off to a bit of a shakey start when we had to share the crossing (Seafrance) with 12 coachloads of unruly and very noisy French school children (Kim says they should be given a bottle of pop each and shut in their coaches for the duration of the crossing!). Thereafter things went very well and we were on the boat by 9.30 pm, though it took us a while to unpack everything.

On Saturday morning Wendy made the usual trip to the supermarket, then we tidied up and got ready to set off. By late morning the sun was shining and it was very warm, which was a pleasant contrast to the snow of only 5 weeks ago. We hoisted the main almost as soon as we got onto the Veerse Meer and lost count of the number of short tacks as we made our way up. We couldn't believe that we were getting 7.2 knots to windward off only 12 knots of wind. Hard work but fun and good practice.

We got to Zandkreekplaat and were thinking about a (late) lunch stop when we noticed there was space on the outer side of the jetty, so instead of anchoring we decided to creep up to the jetty and see how much water there was. We got to within 2 boat lengths of the jetty and there was still minimum 1.8 m so we rigged some fenders and lines and in we went. By the time we were tied up we were actually sitting in 2 m of water. Being fairly well acquainted with the island of Zandkreekplaat we didn't waste too much time exploring ! Instead we retired to the cockpit to soak up the sun and read our books. As the afternoon wore on, out came the barbecue and we had an excellent evening meal.

Unfortunately, during the night we were plagued by the slappers. The wind had shifted onto the stern and we heard every little wave slapping against the hull, resulting in us having to move into the forepeak at 3 am to stand any chance of getting some sleep.

Our departure the next day was hampered by a strong wind blowing us onto the jetty. We were quite happy about our technique of using a bow spring and springing the stern out, but a brief foray on deck to check things out was taken by the Belgians on the mobo next to us as a sign of weakness and they insisted on taking charge and imparting the benefit of their experience, even to the point of rearranging our fenders. Short of being extremely rude and then looking really stupid if something had gone wrong, we had no option but to grin and bear it. However, Wendy was fuming on the helm and the departure was not her greatest hour, partly as a result of being flustered but mainly as a result of having 3 conflicting sets of instructions yelled at her simultaneously.

We got back to the marina in just over an hour and used the time we had left to give the boat a good clean. It was pleasing to leave the boat looking "homely" again with cushions left out and beds made up, and also to only be taking a few things home with us. It's amazing how much stuff is loaded onto that boat in the summer. Roll on the next trip - we've got to do at least 11 miles to bring Wendy's total up to 1000!

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