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11th June 2009 - It’s Not Always Plain Sailing!

Having caught the 4.00pm ferry Friday night, our arrival at the boat around 9.00pm was very leisurely. However Saturday morning we were faced with quite a strong easterly wind which made the exit from our berth particularly difficult. We decided to warn our rather unfriendly neighbour on a Contessa 32 that our stern might come over towards him but, as with some Belgians a year or so back, he took it as an invitation to take over, shouting instructions, which Wendy does not appreciate! Having decided that we would go in a lull in the wind, Wendy was faced with Kim letting the bow line off and our neighbour pushing us. To make matters worse, she had forgotten to check that the wheel was unclamped so had no steerage for a second, by which time we had been blown over to the other side. In our neighbour’s defence, he was only trying to be helpful, but he only made matters worse and was very intimidating. He did, however, clamber over other people’s boats to fend us off and for that we were grateful. Eventually we exited the Landbouhaven but were both rather rattled so as the wind in the Veerse Meer was particularly gusty we abandoned our decision to go out into the Oosterschelde and head up to St Annaland, in favour of a more relaxing trip to Veere.

The sail up to Veere was brisk and we tied up to the visitor jetty outside the Kaai even though it was a bit bouncy. In the evening we went over to the Yacht Club and had an excellent meal – starters, main course and beers for €46.25. We didn’t sleep too well – Wendy was fretting over our departure that morning and a mild case of the “slappers” didn’t help.

Sunday we decided to head over to the Goudplaat – all of 1½ miles! Our departure from the visitor pontoon proved hairier than we would have liked, due to some lunatics in a dinghy hurtling in front of us onto the jetty just as we had let go all the lines! Wendy was on the bow and reported that their boom missed us by inches! There were two boats on the Goudplaat when we arrived, including a British Westerly Solway that had just come over from Eastbourne, but we soon had the place to ourselves. Within the space of a few hours, we saw the wind go through 180 degrees twice and experienced, complete calm & torrential rain:-

followed by beautiful sunshine:-

with some spectacular cloud formations as a storm approached. After some deliberation, Kim decided after the first wind shift to warp the boat round to face the other way so that we could get a quiet night’s sleep. Oh dear. By the time we went to bed, the wind had changed again and we “enjoyed” the worst night of the slappers ever – with the occasional thumper as well for good measure!

Monday dawned bright but not very breezy (or at least not in the right direction), so we came back under power, with Kim doing all the helming for a change and Wendy dealing with ropes and fenders. Our trepidation about returning proved unfounded as our neighbours weren’t there, but our resurrected system of using the clip on hook to make a centre spring worked well – at least once Wendy had untangled it from the genoa furling line and deployed it over the right side of the guard rail. Kim still wasn’t satisfied with the turn into our space but it’s always going to be tricky and we decided to spend some time practising sharp turns when we’re over again at the end of the month. A chat to our nice neighbour on the Nicholson was also reassuring.

All in all, a trying weekend at times but a good one and useful in terms of reversing roles and seeing things from the other’s point of view.


26th June 2009 - Will We Make It To Oostende?

Well this is it. We are off to the boat for a week's cruise and the destination is Oostende.

We are off tomorrow on the 8.00am ferry out of Dover and the plan is - Sunday, down the Veerse Meer to Veere, into the Walcheren Kanal and down to Vlissingen. Monday, out into the Westerschelde and down the coast to Oostende. Tuesday, sight seeing in Oostende. Wednesday, back up to Vlissingen. Thursday, back up to the Veerse Meer, with an overnight stop on an island, perhaps and back to the marina on Friday. Ferry back home Saturday.

The weather forecast is generally for no wind and possible thunder storms - so the whole plan is up in the air and entirely subject to weather. The fall back plan is to cruise up the Oosterschelde and go to Hellovetsluis, or something similar. Who knows?


28th June 2009 - Day 1 - Vlissingen

Very first thing this morning it was brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies. But by 08.00 hrs it had gone all murky and horrible! We headed round to the fueling pontoon, filled up with diesel and pumped out the holding tank. There was no wind to speak of and we motored all the way up to Veere.

By the time we entered the Kanaal door Walcheren the murk had cleared and it had turned into a rather oppressive afternoon. Uneventfull passage down the canal livened up only by the tedious wait for the last bridge at Vlissingen to open!

Found our way into the the VVW Schelde marina and tied up. By this time the temperature was 26C in the shade. We went for a walk into the town and inspected the Michel De Ruyter marina with a view to stopping there on the way back.

Michiel de Ruyter

Now back on board Emjaytoo and yes we have WiFi!. Fingers crossed for no fog/mist tomorrow morning. The forecast is for a scorcher tomorrow - with, maybe some wind in the afternoon.


29th June 2009 - Day 2 - Oostende

First thing it was quite foggy and so we waited 'til about 09.00 hrs before departing. Kim had worked out that we needed to be at our first waypoint on the south side of the Westerschelde for about 10.00 hrs. We then turned west and headed out down the estuary. The visibility, by now was several miles, but quite hazy. We hoped as the day wore on the haze would burn off. It didn't!

An hour later we were in thick fog and visibility was down to about four hundred meters.

F

We were about half a mile outside the channel on the shoreside, keeping in shallow water. There was no wind to speak of so it was full ahead under engine. On one occaision we saw a large container ship appear out of the fog on our starboard side, about a quarter of a mile away, going in the same direction as us, but it soon disappeared again.

By 12.30 hrs we were at Zeebrugge and called up Port Traffic Control for clearance to cross the harbour entrance. This was granted straight away and we hurtled across at full spead about 200m away from the harbour entrance. It was all a bit disconcerting, but as we cleared the entrance the port controller came on the radio to inform us we were clear of the entrance and to wish us a safe passage. Obviously they had been able to see us on their radar.

By 14.30 hrs we were approaching Oostende and the fog was still just as thick. Another radio call, this time to Oostende Port Control and we were given clearance to enter. Wendy got a bit of a shock as a largish tug appeared out of the fog and entered head of us. As we went in, close to the western breakwater we could see nothing on our port side, having to rely on our chartplotter and visual on the starboard side only.

Then came the real shock - as we progressed in to the harbour, the fog cleared. By the time we got to the RYCO marina, about half a mile from the harbour entrance, we were in blazing sunshine.

After tying up and having a celebratory beer, we went for a walk into the city centre to inspect the Mercator Dock and Montgomery Dock, which we had chosen to pass in favour of a quieter night at RYCO. Up at the Mercator the fog was still swirling around and it was fleece weather! So back to the boat and a serious rethink of our plans to stay two nights. It has to be said that at this point we had already paid for two nights.


30th June 2009 - Day 3 - Back to the Veerse Meer

The weather forecast last night had been for sea fog, on and off, all week, but suggested today might not be too bad. So given that we didn't like the marina - noisy gravel processing plant next door and smelly toilets/showers, we decided that we would consider leaving first thing provided we could see all the buildings on the seafront and it looked as if it would be okay. So we waited for the traffic sign to indicate the all clear to exit the port.

On the way down we had played the tide, getting speeds of eight and a half knots over the ground. In order to do so on the way back and to minimise the foul tide entering the Westerschelde, we needed to leave about 05.00 hrs. Waiting for the okay to exit the harbour delayed us by about half an hour. Nevertheless, we exited into the North Sea in clear visability, blue skies and sunshine.

An hour later we were entering the fog again, this time, really thick. At Zeebrugge we again radioed for clearance to cross the harbour entrance, but now we had to wait for a bulk carrier to exit the port and two container ships to enter. This meant circling in the thick fog, a couple of hundred meters off the western mole, bearly able to see it. We got a morale boost when we were joined by a similar sized Dutch yacht. Then the radio crackled into life and we were given the okay. Our Dutch companion gestured in our direction "full steam ahead" and we blindly charged across the entrance!

We were now considering contingency plans to spend the night in Breskens rather that try to cross the Westerschelde in the fog. But listening to the radio we heard several reports that visibility in the Westerschelde was over a kilometer and this was comforting news.

By the time we approached the Westerschelde the fog had cleared and it was turning into a really pleasant afternoon. Our early start had paid off and we still managed to keep up about 4 knots. We locked through into the Walcheren canal at about 13.00 hrs having decided to go all the way back to the Veerse Meer in one hit. We just wanted to get back to our home waters! At 17.00 hrs we were tied up on the Goudplaat.

So, we got to Oostende! Going, there was no wind and coming back what little there was, came from the North East, so we motored all the way back. Given that Emjaytoo was motored across to Vlissingen from Harwich two years ago, we still have not yet "sailed" in the North Sea. The whole experience was not particularly fun, but we coped with the appalling conditions, by doing the correct thing and keeping well out of the shipping channel and staying in shallow water. The GPS chartplotter was a saviour. Without it, we would not have been able to continue. We had, in total, four seprate chartplotters available to us. We used the main Garmin plotter, plus a Garmin handheld and a PC chart plotter. In reserve we had a PDA with it's own bluetooth GPS chartplotting software.

Overall it was an experience that was good to gain, but neither of us will be in a hurry to do it again!


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