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1st June 2007 - Ipswich to Vlissingen - The Full Account

Wendy drove me up to Ipswich Tuesday morning, stopping off at Tescos outside Ipswich to stock up on supplies for the trip. She had also prepared a beef caserole for Wednesday night, plus loads of cakes, so all in all, well stocked for the crossing. After getting all the gear on board, we took Emjaytoo round to the fuelling pontoon to top up her tank. Wendy then returned home leaving me to make final preparations, but perhaps more importantly to oversee Peters Opal in their last minute panic to sort out a number of problems that they had conveniently forgotten to do. In fairness to Andy the commissioning chappie, he had been on holiday and only returned to work that morning. He actually did a brilliant job to sort it all out. We will still need a length of toerail sent out to Kortgene for the marina to fit, but everything else got sorted.

Trevor & Kerry arrived about 6.00pm as arranged, but Peter had called up to report a breakdown. In the event he arrived just before 7.00pm. We all sat down to a hastily thrown together Spaghetti Bolognese (mince, a jar of sauce & some pasta).

After final preparations, we slipped the moorings just after 9.00pm and headed towards the lock. It was a bit different this time as they had removed the pontoon, so we had to secure to vertical wires. Out through the lock and down the Orwell in the fading light. It was a clear night with the moon and stars giving off quite a lot of light. We encountered a couple of smaller ships between Felixstowe & Harwich, but nevertheless exited out into the North Sea via the recommended yacht track without incident.

As we headed off down towards the Traffic Seperation Zone we unfurled some Genoa, but stayed under power. I figured there wasn't enough wind to better the 6.5 knots we getting from the engine and in any event I wasn't up to raising the main in the dark, figured we would wait until it was light.

We implemented a half hearted 2 hours on - 2 hours off, watch system working in pairs. When I came up around 5.30am we were half way across the south bound zone. The rest was was all very tame. Peter did the honours down below with the bacon rolls and coffee around 8.00am and thereafter we all stayed awake and on deck.

By this time the wind had started to increase and was very much moving onto the bow, we were still chugging along under engine at 6.5 knots, so I thought - "forget the sails, lets just keep going". After all we were there to deliver a boat - not have a good sail!

As lunchtime arrived the wind picked up and again Peter did the honours down below preparing lunch. In the afternoon the wind steadily built to 25, sometimes 27 knots and it was a very bouncy ride. Again all the time the wind was well forwards of the beam and often almost on the nose. So on we pushed with the engine.

As we started to push up the Belgian coast, we started to encounter the foul tide and by the time we entered the Westerschelde, we were battling 2 - 3 knots. We finally approached the lock at Vlissingen at about 5.00 pm and after circling for about 10 mins whilst sorting out the fenders, the lock keeper realised we wanted to enter, so opened up the gates without any request from us. Through the lock and up to the little marina. We had several attempts to get into the little berths between piles and finally were tied up snug and sound at 6.30pm.

Trevor had bought some Greek Beers - Mythos and these went down a treat. After washing down Emjaytoo and then ourselves we tucked into Wendy's beef caserole, consumed more beer, demolished two bottles of wine and hit the berths.

Thursday morning and a visit to the marina office to pay the 11.20 per night fee for the next 10 nights and to ask about immigration. The lady in the office said we only needed to submit the Schengan Crew List and we could give it to her, so that was simple enough.

After clearing and securing the boat, we walked down to the ferry and crossed over to Breskens where Wendy was waiting with the car. Down to Calais, through the tunnel, dropped Kerry off at Ashford Station for him to catch a train up to London and then took Peter and Trevor back up to Ipswich where they had left their cars. Wendy & I finally got home at 8.00pm

All in all it was a fun experience, we all got on well together and I did my first North Sea Crossing. I have to say I was pretty apprehensive beforehand, but in the event it was really very straight forward. It was a long passage - over 21 hours is hard going, but we got Emjaytoo to Holland.

Next stage, in a weeks time is for Wendy & I to move her from Vlissingen to The Veerse Meer.

3rd June 2007 - Picture of Emjaytoo in Vlissingen

There she is, tucked up nice and snug in the little marina at Vlissingen, inside the lock at the bottom of the Walchren Canal.

We have been reading some disturbing stories of the Dutch Customs attitude towards British Yachts with red diesel on board. Hopefully, since we are now inside the locked basin at the bottom of the canal, we will get away with not being stopped.

The plan is to head out next Saturday to Vlissingen and at least get to Veere by Saturday evening. We will leave the car at Vlissingen and then get the train back to Vlissingen on Sunday.

10th June 2007 - There at Last!

After leaving Folkestone on the 7.20 am shuttle, we arrived at Vlissingen at 10.30. Our original plan was to leave the car in Vlissingen, take Emjaytoo to The Veerse Meer and return by bus and train to Vlissingen on the Sunday. However, by the time we arrived at Vlissingen, the plan had changed. So, after unloading all our gear onto the boat and having cup of tea and a hot cross bun, we then jumped into the car and drove over to the marina. This journey took about half an hour by car. Having parked the car up at the marina, we were just in time to catch the once hourly bus to Goes at 12.09. Twenty minutes later we got off the bus and walked straight on to the next train to Vlissingen. The result was that we were back on board Emjaytoo by about 1.30, and had the engine on ready to leave at 2!

Having studied the charts and the Brian Navin book, we knew that we had 5 bridges to contend with between Vlissingen and Middelburg. We had to wait around for about 25 minutes for the first bridge to open, but thereafter the next two opened more or less on our approach, obviously synchronised to the passage of boats going up/down the canal.

This was bridge number 2 - the Sloebrug.

When we got to Middelburg, bridge no. 4 opened more or less immediately but bridge no. 5, which was no more than a few hundred yards further on, was another 20 minutes or so opening. Since both these bridges carry the town centre traffic across the canal, it's hardly surprising we had to wait!

Thereafter we had a leisurely trundle up the canal at 5.5 knots, watching cyclists whizz past us on the tow path. Also lots of herons, cows and sheep along the banks, all very peaceful. Arrived at Veere lock at 5.20 and had to wait for a very large barge to come out, before locking through with half a dozen other boats. Although it was rather murky, it was a great sense of achievement to eventually poke our nose out into the Veerse Meer.

We motored down to where we saw a likely looking pontoon to spend the night (where we had anchored in scorching weather this time last year!). Kim went in (a bit too) close to have a look and, despite the warnings of a friendly Dutch mobo, managed to run Emjaytoo aground!! After a few half-hearted attempts at trying to reverse out, friendly Dutch mobo suggested giving it full welly in reverse in order to dislodge the soft mud, and this worked. We then went round again and tied up to a section of the pontoon where there was an adequate depth of water!

Although it was still very murky this morning, this is what our Dutch weekends are all about (we're 2nd yacht in from the left).

After a leisurely breakfast, we finally moved off on the last leg at about 10. The wind instrument was recording all of 1 - 2 knots so we gave up any hope of sailing and poodled along at around 4 knots under power, arriving on the fuelling pontoon at the marina at around 12. Wendy brought us in alongside very nicely after aborting the first approach when an old boy in an inflatable insisted on attempting to run us down whilst resolutely looking at where had come from, rather than where he was going!

Twenty minutes later Emjaytoo was finally settled in at her new home on the first attempt (helped by the complete absence of any cross wind!).

We wandered over to the chandelry to get some bits and bobs and as expected, Jackie knew us immediately, all of which made us feel really at home. We gave the boat a good clean inside and out and got away by 3, walking back indoors at about 7.15.

14th June 2007 - Letter to Peters Opal

Yesterday we got round to writing to Peters Opal to follow up on our experience at Ipswich. Twofold really - one to complain about the poor aftersales service we got and two, to ask what they intended doing about the damaged toerail. We shall wait and see what happens.

On a different note, on the Monday after we got back from The Veerse Meer, I phoned the marina and arranged for them to carry out some work:-

  • First service for the Volvo
  • Check all the rigging following the bouncy ride over from Ipswich
  • Investigate the malfunction on the Autohelm

Hopefully the Dutch service will be better than the English.

Next trip is a long weekend 22nd to 25th June.

22nd June 2007 - What's The Weather Like For The Weekend?

Friday afternoon, looking at the weather forecast and it doesn't look great. We are off tonight on the 6.00pm ferry out of Dover for a long weekend - back Monday night. The plan is to do some familiarisation work with the boat - set up some systems for entering & leaving our berth, get to grips with emptying the holding tank at the pump out point and generally get used to handling the boat in the confines of the marina.

We will also have a look at some TVs in the Dutch shops. Will see if we can get one with a DVD player built in. If it is as wet as the weather forecast says we will be glad of a TV.

Fingers crossed the marina have done the work, or at least serviced the engine.

26th June 2007 - The Dutch Weekends Get Underway

Despite the less than encouraging weather forecast for the weekend and perhaps (more particularly) because we had already booked the crossing, we set off on Frday night on the 6 pm ferry out of Dover - Calais bound!

After the usual drive through France, Belgium and into Holland, we arrived on board Emjaytoo at 9.45 pm. Having already eaten on the ferry going over, all that remained was to unpack the few things we had taken, have a cup of tea and climb into our bunk.

Due to the rain on Saturday, we chose not to sail but wandered around the village to do some shopping and went over to the service centre to find out why the work previously requested hadn't been carried out. The answer: we hadn't specified when we wanted it doing and as soon as we mentioned it we were put on the worksheet for this coming week. We had a look at some TVs for sale in the chandlery, decided to head over to the very impressive Mediamarkt in Middelburg (think Comet but 4 times the size!) but finally went back to the chandlery and bought the one they had on sale there. Somehow Saturday had gone without us even noticing.

Sunday morning, after our usual leisurely start and oversized breakfast we headed off up the Veerse Meer. The only good thing you can say about the weather is that it didn't rain all the time (quite) and there was plenty of wind. We went the furthest up the lake than we've ever been, encountering the ferry, lots of windsurfers and a lot of traffic generally - all through the increasing drizzle. We finally ended up mooring at the same pontoon that we had used 2 weeks ago, but this time had it entirely to ourselves.

By the evening the rain had stopped and the wind had died away to nothing, leaving us to enjoy this idyllic mooring with nothing more than the seagulls for company. After reading various comments on Scuttlebut about the wonderful attributes of Fray Bentos pies, we finally succumbed and enjoyed a steak and kidney pie with oven roasted new potatoes and baby carrots, before falling asleep in front of a DVD! Needless to say, the latter had nothing to do with the excellent red wine consumed with our meal.

Monday morning dawned bright and windy but with some ominous cloud formations lurking around.

When it came to leaving the mooring, the wind was blowing us hard onto the pontoon, so we rigged a spring to reverse against and very, very slowly, with full astern and hard right lock, the bow started to spring away from the pontoon. It was very satisfying to see a textbook procedure work so well, given that it was probably the only way we were going to get off the pontoon. Unfortunately, it was slightly marred by Kim not releasing the spring in time, which resulted in us trying to drive away towing the pontoon behind us!

Brilliant sail back, with lots of gybing practice (including a couple of involuntary ones!) and even quite a lot of sunshine. The ominous black clouds spared us until we were safely tied up back at the Marina - then we were subjected to hailstones, thunder, lightning, howling winds and pouring rain. But by that time, we didn't care and sat back with a cup of tea. By the time we came to pack away, the rain had cleared again and we were able to load the car in brilliant sunshine, although we still encountered quite a lot of very heavy showers on the drive back.

After a meal on the ferry and a fairly bumpy crossing, we were back home about 9, ready to do it all again in a couple of weeks.

As far as the "objectives" for the weekend were concerned, we did sort out a mooring spring for holding the boat on the finger pontoon when arriving at the berth and this worked very well, we got the TV, we didn't sort out pumping out the holding tank, but we did get some more practice with handling the boat, so all in all a successful weekend.

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