Day 9 – Part 1 – Conquering fears

Monday 1 July

Pinch, punch, first day of the month

Today is the day we face our biggest potential obstacle, and my biggest fear.  Entering the Kiel lock and canal, alongside the mighty container ships that dwarf our Crystelle Venture.  

Preparation

I spent the night before, catching up on the weekly Archers omnibus whilst prepping food for the journey.  I managed to cook two meals at the same time – to save on gas – roasting a butternut squash for a curry, while roasting aubergine for a gratin.  Both yummy Abel and Cole recipes I’ve doctored slightly to work around what we have on board – i.e substitute coconut milk for double cream in the curry, and leave out the missing olives for the gratin.  I do this while Andrew finally catches up on his sleep, after our overnight passage  from Borkum the night before.

After arrival in Cuxhaven, we schlepped to the only supermarket opening on a Sunday – about a mile’s hot and dusty walk to the Real supermarket, opening at 11am.  We walked through the monthly riverside market, buying some freshly made mini-donuts to munch.  We needed to stock up on basics such as fresh salad, fizzy water and bread, and our new found cockpit favourite, tortilla chips.  We joined the small queue of locals to wait for it to open, wondering whether the pretty Hansel and Gretel tower across the car park was the local ‘Schloss’.

Andrew had discovered an issue with the gooseneck on the boom, and we really needed a chandlery to buy some washers – but again, out of luck on a Sunday.  We didn’t really choose the best day to arrive – nowhere open, the hottest day of the year touching 40 degrees – but we’d sort of lost track of the days by then and you can’t choose the weather.

Cuxshaven marina

A large marina, constructed of broad avenues with finger berths – our favourite.  Still the wind had caught us out when berthing, and my lack of fendering on the back quarter, meant Cuxshaven has left a mark on Crystelle Venture.

We washed the salt off the boat, before going to pay at the office.  There we had to buy a swipe card to use the toilets and showers.  If they weren’t there, there was a self serve machine to buy the card, to add extra money on and to pay for berthing.

This meant having a 4 minute shower for 1 euro – which was an interesting activity – trying to work out how to get the most out of those 4 minutes.  I was annoyed that I spent 30 seconds just trying to get the temperature just right.  However it can’t be denied that it was probably the best shower of the trip so far – great shower head, great temperature control, decent size cubicle and just the right power.  So couldn’t grumble, apart from the lights going out while I was still getting dressed.  

Pay as you go berthing and showering

I know it must be annoying, my fixation with food and showers, but really when you are sailing, that’s all you think about!  

Morning of departure

Departing Cuxhaven

We wanted to hit the tide just right, so left the marina bang on 9am – after putting in more fuel.  We timed this to perfection for once and were soon motoring down the river Elbe towards the Keil canal – along with a number of other much larger container ships.

White to enter

We followed just outside of the green buoys marking the channel for those larger ships.  We came upon the lock entrance within a couple of hours.  While the large container ship that had been shadowing us for the last few miles took on board their pilot to take them further up the river to Hamburg, we took the opportunity to cut behind her and to the port side of the river to get ourselves lined up to enter the lock.  We waited with a number of other yachts for the light to change from red, to green for ships with pilots, and then to white – indicating that small yachts could now enter.

While we waited, we put out the fenders and our mooring lines ready.  It said in our book ‘The Baltic Sea and Approaches ‘that we should put our fenders out down low.  We didn’t realise quite how low.  The container ship went into the lock on the right, and the white light indicated that yachts should go into the lock on the left.  That was one of my fears immediately dispelled – being squashed by a large ship in the lock.  This was soon replaced by another!

Assault on the senses

Mooring was against low small floating wooden pontoons, held to the side by large chains.  No easy to lasso cleats – but hoops – meant having to climb down onto these swaying, wet and slippy pontoons.  I clambered down and put the stern line on, and Andrew ran down to sort the front mooring rope.  We walked the boat along the pontoons to leave room for the other yachts entering behind. 

As we moved along I realised that the next set of pontoons had swung apart, and the choppy waves were keeping them too far apart for me to jump safely.  Beside the surface was green and look ominously slippy.  I could see that Andrew was struggling as we hadn’t set the fenders low enough.  I waited what felt like an age for the pontoons to come together close enough for me to cross, to help rearrange the fenders.

Entering the Kiel canal is no easy feat. Crossing major shipping lanes, jostling the tide while waiting for entry, and then the harsh and slippy pontoons bashing against the boat below fender level. It is an assault on the senses.

Finally we were set – suitably moored and fendered, just in time to hear the siren indicating that the lock was about to fill.  I looked back and saw that the lock gate had closed behind us.  Big breathe, we were in and the next stage in our adventure was about to begin.

Read Day 9 Part 2 to see how we got on in the Kiel canal.

Day 8 – Bond, barometers and beating

Borkum to Cuxhaven

‘Goldeneye’ had moved in. As the yacht that had moored behind us in the night departed, so the large motor boat arrived and with bow thrusters working over time, not so silently taken its place.  Behind it lay a raft of about 4 yachts.  All blocking a quick and easy exit from our berth beside the jetty.

Leaving Borkum harbour

With a tactical bit of springing off, we glided out past all the boats, and made a smooth exit out of Borkum harbour.   Clearly this was the spot where German boats made to for the weekend.  We thanked our good fortune in arriving a day earlier, and not having to jostle for a berth.

Beating

Suzanne concentrating on the tell-tales

We put all three sails up, and beat in the light winds, under an azure cloudless sky.  Suzanne took the opportunity to practice her upwind sailing, using the tell-tales to guide her steering.  The going was slow, and the wind farm refused to be shrugged off.  Eventually, around 3pm, we put on the engine and stowed the gib and the stay sail.  

Fuel forensics

Knowing we were in for at least a 20 hour sail, Andrew took a rest around 5pm.  At 6.30pm we reviewed our situation.  We hadn’t been able to refuel in Borkum, as the nearest place was 8km by bus (or bike), and lugging two containers full of diesel all that way, hadn’t seemed like a great idea.  However the wind shift that had been forecast, had not yet materialised, and it looked like it might have gone back to 6am. We needed to decide what to do.18 gallons – did we have enough fuel to get to Cuxhaven if we needed to motor all the way?

We started to move towards the island of Norderney, where fuel would be available, and at that point was off to our starboard side.  Checking the chart more closely, we realised that the depth of water in the harbour was too close to our own depth – and the addition of tide still came up a little short.  None of the other islands in between had fuel – due in part to some being without cars.  We just had to hope that the westerly wind would come in due course.  We would never run out of fuel, but we were keen not to get caught with a close to empty tank and a rough sea.  We had experienced that once before, and the upshot had been a tow back into harbour by the inshore lifeboat….

On board dining

We dined on beetroot, onion and feta wraps – delicious.  Another great recipe tried and tested.   By 9.30pm we were crossing the river Jade estuary, the tide with us.  Around midnight we started to sail,  beating again, to save fuel and to let Suzanne get some shut eye! Around 1am the Jade tidal stream and sailing on a port tack wasn’t giving the progress needed.  Starboard tack gave us good progress, but we needed the engine to cross the Traffice Separation Scheme. Back on went the engine.

At around 1.45 am the engine was off and we were back to sailing, and Andrew was treated to a phosphoresence display around 2am before it started to get too light again around 3.  

Falling barometer

Sailing with just the main, to keep our speed down to make sure we hit the River Elbe at the right time. At 4am, Suzanne brought Andrew a hot chocolate.  The sky was glowing red with a crescent moon.  The barometer continued to fall, and it was still 18 degrees.  

At 4.15 were were on the edge of the Scharhorn Riff, just outside of the River Elbe – we put the engine on and followed the buoys.  By 7am we could see the city of Cuxhaven, with pristine green lawns leading down to beach huts and sandy beaches.  Nautical shaped blocks of flats, and new and old lighthouses.  We paralleled the large container ships in the main lane until we turned, at last, into Cuxhaven SVC marina.  We easily found a berth with a green sign, and were confident we would do, as we’d watched a stream of yachts exit as we approached – all heading towards the Kiel canal.

By 8.15 we were berthed, next to a Dutch ship with steering problems, and briefly to a British boat who took off not long after we arrived.  I’m sure it wasn’t anything we said! We again donated a scratch of gel coat to the berth side – a lack of fenders and a speedy windy entry being to blame.

Our daily stats

We were underway 19 hours and 30 minutes, and made 111 nautical miles, averaging 5.6 knots. We managed to sail for a total of 5 hours, with the remainder motor sailing, using 7 gallons of fuel, and 15 engine hours.

Day 7 – and it’s a hostage situation

Oudeschild to Borkum

If you’ve seen the Resistance to Interrogation phase of TV’s “SAS are you tough enough” you’re coming close to our journey from Oudeschild to Borkum.  It’s the part where they blindfold contestants, play white noise at them and occasionally give them a slap.  If you add a cold North sea, Northerly wind and occasional buckets of water being thrown at you that’s pretty much the story of this sail.

A clean exit


It all started well enough, a good clean exit of the box berth to the stunned admiration of the French boat opposite “sacre bleu” he was heard to utter “zat Rosbif, he knows how to drive ze bateau…” or maybe our reputation had got around. 

The infamous fuel pumps at Oudeschild – before the incident

We took on diesel and did a thirty point turn (Read Andrew’s upcoming book “simple things made to look difficult”) to get out of the marina to the amazement of two other British members of the Cruising Association “that bloke” he whispered “does he really knows how to drive that boat??”

Cloggie commandos


We’d had consistent Force 4-6 Northerly winds whipping up a North Sea frenzy and so the “sneaky shortcut” between the Islands was out of bounds, due to it being a foaming wall of white water and breaking waves.  So it was the long way round, adding an estimated 15 miles.  We saw Cloggie Commandos Careering around in inflatables, a landing craft and another submarine, quite entertaining.  

Nice day for a sail…


As we turned and emerged from behind the shelter of the island the seas got worse, much worse with short, steep, high waves.  Every time we climbed up one and fell onto the next we pretty much stopped, so even with a Force 5 powering the boat we made slow progress.  We resorted to the engine to maintain momentum.  Cue sixteen hours of droning diesel, water breaking over the decks and the boat pitching, rolling and slamming like a bucking bronco.  

Andrew’s account to Neptune


During early morning the waves slowly subsided and we could turn eastwards to our intended course and past each of the islands towards Borkum.  As we stopped slamming and started rolling Andrew was violently seasick, projecting his orange squash well clear of the spray dodgers, hull and deck and proclaiming it in fact made him feel better.


We arrived at 0630 the next day and parked on the commercial pontoon, moving later to a nice snug corner berth.

Borkum was OK, a commercial port with wind farm boats and (randomly) a New Orleans Jazz band paddle steamer complete with band and singer.  It was a comfortable haven while we prepared for the next leg, towards Cuxhaven.

Calm before the weekend onslaught – can you spot Crystelle Venture?

Our daily stats

We were underway for 20 hours, and made 119 nautical miles, averaging 6 knots. We sailed for an hour and motor sailed the rest, which meant we got through an eye watering 13 gallons of fuel. Only to arrive at a harbour with no fuel…

Oudeschild to Borkum – tough leg

A day off in Texel

We travelled to Texel, not because of its famed sheep, nor because it is a popular Dutch holiday destination. No we went because we could, and so far, despite sailing along almost the whole length of Dutch coastline, we had yet to really set foot in The Netherlands.

Oudeschild may be small but it is perfectly formed. It has all those things that you would want in a Dutch town – a dyke, a windmill, lots of cute cafes and restaurants, a fantastic chandlery, a couple of museums, a decent supermarket, a cash point – and lovely views.

We hired a bike from the marina for Andrew, and Suzanne pumped up the tyres on her pink Brompton and we were ready for our adventure. Of course, any adventure worth its salt has to include cheese. So we set off to visit the local dairy farm about a 7 kilometre ride away.

The cycle paths had more traffic than the roads. Embarrassingly, if you were to be the sort of person to be embarrassed, everyone, including old aged pensioners down to school kids out on some kind of treasure hunt, swept past Suzanne as she struggled to get used to the small number of gears on her bike. Well that was was her excuse.

Finally we arrived at the farm and enjoyed a three cheese fondue at the cafe, and then bought a pack to make our own fondue on board. We cycled back a different way, up towards the sea wall, and enjoyed the wild birds, oyster catchers, curlews, terns, and more in their marshy surroundings, plus lots and lots of sheep.

There was so much more to see and do in Texel – and for us it was the perfect refresher. A short but lovely stopover.

Where to now?

Day 6

Last time we wrote we’d had to put into Ijmuiden instead of Den Helder. So where to now?

Despite our late arrival into Ijmuiden we were up to catch the 8am tidal lift along the coast. We just had the small matter of paying for our overnight berth. That done, in very shallow water, we were off, along with a flotilla of other yachts, leaving the breakwater about 0840am.

Leaving Ijmuiden

Suzanne was very tired and grumpy, and went back to sleep out on deck for a few hours, in her fleece despite the temperature being 22 degrees that early in the morning. Clearly we were in for another hot day, so the bimini was raised once again to give some shade.

Unexpected visitors

As the temperature continued to rise, so the wind reduced. At around 1130 Suzanne spotted a very large rib approach and stop at a yacht behind us. After a few minutes it headed towards us. We were about to be boarded by the Dutch authorities!

Our friendly boarders

The rib held 4 men, 2 of whom stayed in the rib, while the other two came on board. They introduced themselves as representing customs, immigration, the police and the coastguard. One asked to see our passports and the other to see our boat registration papers. We offered them a drink, which they declined, but they were happy to chat and have their picture taken.

Excitement over we settled down to a lunch of freshly baked ciabatta rolls with cheddar, crisps and fruit. We spotted a shoal of fish making the sea boil with their movement, lots of terns and the odd solitary seal.

A change of plan – again

We reviewed our plan to go to Den Helder, a large naval base. Suzanne had looked through the various cruising guides – the highly recommended Cruising Association Almanac and Brian Navin’s Cruising Guide to the Netherlands – led her to suggest we tried Oudeschild on the island of Texel, opposite Den Helder, one of the Frisian Islands in the Waddenzee.

As we entered the channel between the two, we spotted our first submarine. It wasn’t hard to miss- it was surfaced and looked as if the crew were all standing on it! We also had to pass a commando vessel, Johan De Witt, a landing platform dock, partly submerged. Interesting story about Mr De Witt, murdered and eaten by his own Dutch people!

Spot the submarine

We also encountered our first of the Dutch sailing barges or dutch leeboard yachts. Beautiful wooden sailing vessels, with a leeboard, instead of keel, hanging on the outside of the boat, looking like a strange kind of oar.

As we entered the harbour we were greeted by a 3 masted tall ship, and as we swung to starboard (right) we noticed people jumping in from their barges into the water. Not something you see everyday in the UK.

Befuddled by box berthing

We passed lots of local boats with men sitting drinking, and as we approached the marina, we were pointed towards the far end. As in all the other Dutch marinas, the pontoons are divided by length of boat, and the 12 to 15 metres were right at the back. Except these weren’t pontoons, these were the dreaded box berths.

As we slowed down, the heat struck us. Still dressed in our cold weather gear, suddenly we were sweltering. Then we clocked that everyone else was in their bikinis and shorts. ‘Lassoo the post’ Andrew cried. Slightly bewildered Suzanne used her bowline tieing skills to create a large lassoo, and threw it at one of the posts as we past. It missed. Suzanne then thought getting onto the swim platform might make it easier to get the other side, as the stern of the boat drifted towards it. But by the time she got on it, the boat had moved away too far.

Crystelle Venture in the dreaded box berth

The boat shifted and moved and we ended up in the next berth – thankfully empty. No-one came to our aid – which was unusual. Finally we got her settled, but it was not our finest hour.

It turns out the heatwave had driven the Dutch mad, we were told when we checked in for two nights at Waddenhaven texel. (They also gave us a free cake, to compensate for any disturbance from the diggers busy working on the sea wall.) Unable to move in the heat, except to rollover and dive into the marina water to cool off.

never turn down free cake

What did we do? We went for a walk to find the nearest chandlery, our only concession to the heat being to buy an ice-cream en route. The first chandlery was newly fitted out and had air conditioning, which we wallowed in for a time. Andrew bought our missing German charts, but declined to buy the one that turned out to be over 80 euros.

For the first time our pre-loaded currency card, Caxton, didn’t work. Slightly embarrassing. But neither did any of our other UK bank cards. Luckily we had enough euros. We had the same issue later in the Spa supermarket. Turns out that Maestro is the thing in the Dutch islands. Without maestro you need cash.

We then found our perfect kind of chandlery, all sorts of useful items you never knew existed or you needed, and a really helpful knowledgable owner – Ferry Valk.

Andrew found a converter to use camping gaz bottles on our system so if we should run out of our UK bottles we could still buy local gaz. We also found the missing charts, at a better price – and a ladder to get on and off at the bow of the boat. Eyewateringly expensive – but needs must. We also bought a new handheld VHF radio with the missing and elusive channel 31. If you are ever in Oudeschild, checkout Watersport Texel, Watersport en camping-shop, Heemskerckstraat 2. Bet he has what you need!

Our daily stats

Today was a lovely sail, not too long, not too short, some decent wind and sailing and arriving in time to potter at our location. We sailed for 7 hours, made 40 nautical miles, and averaged speed of 5.5 hours. We added only 2 engine hours and used only a gallon of fuel.

Our sail from Ijmuiden to Oudschild, Texel

Podcast

You can hear more about this leg of our trip in Episode 11 of our podcast – ‘Submarines, boarders and concrete sheep’ which is available from 24 July. You can see previous episodes of ‘2 in a Boat’ and what’s coming up here.

2 in a boat – our podcast!

2 in a boat is our podcast that brings you the sailing and travel world of Suzanne and Andrew on their aged yacht Crystelle Venture.

Join us

You’ll join us along the way as we prepare for our longest sail yet, from Dartmouth, UK to St Petersburg, Russia. Our route takes us across the North Sea and around the Baltic this summer, a round trip of about 3000 nautical miles.

With a fab intro music written by our talented nephew, Joseph Turner, and artwork by our equally talented daughter, Jessica Caballero – it’s something of a family affair.

The novice and the old salt

The novice and the old salt. All the gear and no idea? What on earth (or on water) could go wrong…? You’ll have to tune in each week to find out how we’re getting on. It’s available from all good podcast sites, Apple Podcasts, Google podcasts, Anchor, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket casts, Overcast, and Radio Public, so hopefully one of those will do it for you!

Crystelle Venture at Darthaven Marina, Kingswear, Devon

We’ll link to each episode as it goes live here, and if there are any show notes, we’ll include them here too.

We’ve now decided to publish our podcasts on a Sunday and a Wednesday – around 6am. So don’t forget to check for new episodes!

Please let us know which is your favourite episode and if you have any questions you’d like us to answer in podcast.

Episode 1 A week to go

Live date: Sunday 16 June

Recorded: Saturday 10 June

Join us on a wet Saturday drive down to the boat – with a rather reluctant Andrew behind the wheel.

Episode 2 – The night before departure

Live Date: Thursday 20 June

Recorded: Sunday 16 June

Join us on a wet and windy Sunday evening in the saloon of Crystelle Venture – slightly tired after all our preparations, and excited too to be setting off next day.

Episode 3 – Dartmouth to Portland

Live Date: Sunday 23 June

Recorded: Monday 17 June

Finally, we are off! Not to France, but the first leg of our journey along the southern coast of England.

Bonus Episode -3a – In the boat from Dartmouth to Portland

Live Date: Tuesday 25 June

Recorded: Monday 17 June

Warts and all live recording of our time sailing across Lyme Bay to Portland. Ever wondered what goes on during those long hours in a small cockpit on a yacht? Now’s your chance to eavesdrop and find out what Andrew and Suzanne get up to!

Episode 4 – Enroute from Portland

Live Date: Friday 28 June

Recorded: Wednesday 19 June

Join Andrew and Suzanne as they podcast from Crystelle Venture as they sail from Portland towards Dunkirk. 

Episode 5 – Why we dove into Dover

Live Date: Monday 1 July

Recorded: Thursday 20 June

So last episode we were on our way to Dunkirk.  But did we get there? Find out in this episode of Two in a Boat.

Episode 6 – Departing Dover

Live Date: Wednesday 3 July

Recorded: Friday 21 June

Finally ‘Two in a Boat’ are set to sail to France.  Just where will they end up this time? 

Episode 7 – Footfall in France

Live Date: Sunday 7 July

Recorded: Friday 21 June

Finally Suzanne, Andrew and Crystelle Venture make footfall in France.  But how did the channel crossing go?  Was it all plain sailing?  Download this latest podcast to hear how it all went.

Bonus episode – 7a – Deceptive Dunkirk

Live Date: Wednesday 10 July

Recorded: Saturday 22 June

Enjoy this bonus episode with our sailors first morning off on the other side of the channel.  Join them as they discuss the delights of Dunkirk and bothersome Belgians.  

Episode 8 – Adieu Dunkirk

Live date: 14 July

Join Suzanne and Andrew in the cockpit of Crystelle Venture as they motor sail from Dunkirk.  Does what happened in Dunkirk stay in Dunkirk?  Listen in to find out.

Episode 9 – Chatting in Cadzand

Live date: 17 July

A week after setting off from Dartmouth, where have 2 in a Boat found themselves?  Find out as they chat in Cadzand.  

Episode 10 – Decisions, Decisions

Live date: 21 July

Wind shift not in your favour?  You have three options – which one are you going to choose?  Listen in as our 2 in a Boat, Suzanne and Andrew, sail up the Dutch coast.

Episode 11 – Submarines, boarders and concrete sheep

Live date: 24 July

Just where have our 2 in a boat washed up now?  They’ve spotted submarines, been boarded by the Dutch authorities, and now want to buy concrete sheep.  Listen in to find out what on earth/on sea, has been going on.

Episode 12 – Slow is pro

Live date: 28 July

Settled into their island berth Suzanne and Andrew discuss the various tactics to mooring up in a box berth, being the only Brits in the village and other such nonsense.  

Episode 13 – Casting my account to Neptune

Live date: 31 July

A hard day and night’s sail and our 2 in a boat are reliving the tale.  Just who gave their account to Neptune, and just what did it consist of?  Find out in today’s episode of 2 in a boat.

Episode 14 – Beating the boat from Borkum

Live date: 4 August

Learn about beating, VMG, and horny Borkum in today’s new podcast from 2 in a boat.

Episode 15 – Borkum, bikes and boys

Live date: 7 August

At last our 2 intrepid sailors have made their way to the gateway to the river Elbe and the prospect of the Kiel canal looms.  But what are our 2 in a boat talking about?  Borkum, bikes and boys! Listen in to hear about their journey from Borkum to Cuxhaven, and all manner of other discussions.

Episode 16 – Cracking the canal

Live date: 11 August

Today is the day our 2 in a boat face one of their biggest fears, and most anticipated parts of their journey to the Baltic – going into the Keil canal (NOK).  Find out how they got on in today’s episode.

Episode 17 – Happy in Heiligenhafen

Live date: 14 August

Join our two jolly sailors as they celebrate crossing the canal, and their tricky entry into heavenly Heiligenhaven.

Episode 18 – Fingers crossed (we don’t hit the bridge)

Live date: 18 August

Fearless?  I don’t think so.  Hear about Andrew’s fear of bridges and bears as they arrive into Warnemunde, the starting point for their Baltic rally.  

Episode 19 – Blowing old boots to Bornholm

Live date: 21 August

Today we find our 2 in a boat preparing for the first official leg in their Baltic rally – from Warnemunde, Germany to Bornholm, Denmark.  What have they done in the past few days and what are their thoughts on the rally?  Join them on Crystelle Venture to catch up with our 2 in a boat.

Episode 20 – Sunshine on a cloudy day

Live date: 25 August

Join Suzanne and Andrew, newly landed on the island of Bornholm in Denmark after their overnight sail from Germany.

Episode 21 – Bandidos, hoards and painted stones

Live date: 28 August

Our Baltic wanderers talk about the first two islands they’ve visited on their trip, Bornholm in Denmark and Gotland in Sweden.

Episode 22 – Loving Latvia

Live date: 1 September

Our 2 in a boat make an unscheduled stop in Lativa – and love it!  Find out how our intrepid Baltic explorers got on in one of the smallest Baltic countries.

Episode 23 – Talking in Tallinn

Live date: 8 September

This episode finds our 2 in a boat talking tales of travel in Estonia, as they find themselves in the capital city, Tallinn.

Episode 24 – Thoughts on Tallinn

Live Date: 11 September

Our 2 in a boat are all Tallinn’d out!  Hear them chat about their time in the Estonian capital – we’re talking showers, submarines, and chandleries of course!

Episode 25 – How we almost joined the Russian navy

Live date: 15 September

Our haphazard sailors almost join the Russian navy, are boarded by sniffer dogs and eventually find themselves in St Petersburg. 

Episode 26 – Tall tales of Russian sailing

Live date: 18 September

Talking fried egg sandwiches, touring St Petersburg and the terror of anchoring at night

Episode 27 – Where the devil does his washing up

Live date: 22 September

Time for our 2 in a boat to start recycling their Scandinavian jokes.  When and where will it finish?!

Episode 28 – In search of vikings

Live date: 25 September

Join our 2 in their cockpit as they’re under sail making 7 knots and looking for Vikings.

Episode 29 – Think we’ve found our viking!

Live date: 29 September

Our two touch bottom, again, visit the old capital Turku, and discuss cake gate. Find out how and why in today’s episode.

Day 5 – in the big boating house

Cadzand to Den Helder Ijmuiden

Andrew cleaning the cockpit

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt on our trip to far, it’s to be relaxed about where you’ll eventually end up! Aim far, but be prepared to rein it in, as the situation unfolds.

Den Helder on my mind

So it was on 24 June we left Cadzand’s pretty little harbour and beautiful sandy beaches, with our sails up heading up through the Scheldt Estuary, with Den Helder as our ultimate destination in mind.

They call it mellow yellow

We had light south/easterly winds, sunshine and calm seas. Idyllic. So out came our new bimini, which we put on back to front to start with! Easy mistake, believe us! With the new shade above us, we got out our cheese and pickle sandwiches, and then proceeded to fight off the plague of flies, dragonflies, butterflies and all manner of other flying insects that seemed to be attracted to anything yellow on the boat.

Our new bimini

Sunny, hazy, lazy days

The wind reduced, and our slowed pace gave us time to to read chapters aloud of ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, whilst keeping a weather eye on the numerous buoys we needed to follow. The sunny hazy skies cast a dreamlike quality over the horizon and shore line.

Our peace was soon broken, when the wind dropped entirely around 2pm. The engine was on for an hour, until we could sail again. We passed mile upon mile of container ships anchored in a long channel, like a giant lorry park, waiting for their turn to enter Rotterdam.

watching the boats go by

With the sea like a mill pond, Andrew took the opportunity to give the cockpit a good clean, and I had a go at cleaning the toe rail, with some handy face wipes. So much easier to get into those little gaps.

Another Abel and Cole mezze style picnic under the bimini at tea time, with little faces popping up out of the water to watch us go by. The first of a number of brown seal sightings.

Around 6.30pm we radioed ahead on channel 03 to the control area Maas Ent, to let them know that we would be entering the special small craft channel across the entrance to Rotterdam port. We were making 6 knots under sail at this stage, and were able to get across ahead of 2 large container ships exiting the port.

At 8pm, as the temperature dropped, we ate more cheese and pickle sandwiches and drank some tomato soup. Lush. We discussed whether to put into Scheveningen, the port close to Den Hague as we approached it. At this point we were still making 6 knots under sail, so chose to press on.

Around 10pm a sea fret started to come in, and we were back into our cold weather clothes with hats and jackets. The engine was now on to motor sail, and we took the decision that another 5 hours or so in these conditions wasn’t great. So we decided to put into the port of Ijmuedin (pronounced aymudin apparently).

Our night time entry into Ijmuedin was a text book lesson in knowing your lights at night! As we approached the channel to enter the harbour we could see three red lights, indicating the vessel was constrained by its draught, on top of a large container ship exiting, with the white over red lights of the pilot vessel in support. We waited until they were safely clear, and then proceeded in following the leading lights that took us safely into Seaport Marina.

There was no-one to raise by radio at the Marina so we chose a free berth and settled in for the night. And as it was dark, we didn’t take any pictures either, so you’ll just have to imagine it!

We didn’t have time to check out or use any of the facilities at Ijmuedin. What we do know is that there was very little water under the boat in our berth! And we could have downloaded an app to book and pay for the berth – which we’ve now downloaded but haven’t used as yet.

Our daily stats

We were under way for just over 15 hours, covering nautical miles, we motor sailed for around 8 hours, and sailed the rest. Our average speed was 5.6. We used 5 gallons of fuel. You can see our route on the AIS chart below. If you want to find out how you can track our progress live (most of the time), check out the chart on the Crystelle Venture page.

Podcast

Don’t forget you can not only read about our travels, but also listen to them on our podcast – Two in a Boat. We update our blog with details when new episodes are or will be available here. So why not subscribe and see how we are getting on? We’d love to have you on board.


3 countries, one day – Dunkirk to Cadzand

First things first – Day 4

Our first job in the morning was to top up our diesel at the fuel pump. Except it wasn’t.

Our first job was to get a drunk Frenchman out of the water… At about 3am, we were woken by the sound of people in the water in the marina, and then someone trying to climb onto our boat.

Andrew was out like a shot, and realised it was two of the young men from the French boat opposite, who had been partying hard earlier in the evening. Suffice to say they were skinny dipping and were attempting to get out using their own boat ladder, but failing miserably, so thought they’d try ours. It’s a lot harder than it looks. Andrew directed the chap to the marina ladder, strategically placed for just such eventualities, and finally he got himself out. No drama, but not what you’re wanting when you have a tide to catch early the next morning.

So it was that about 10am we finally slipped past that most poignant of breakwaters at Dunkerque.

Everywhere you go always take the weather with you

Have you ever listened to the shipping weather forecast? Heard all those strange sounding names and wondered what on earth or where they are? Well we are now in the shipping weather forecast area of German Bight. The weather we had today was hazy, mainly hazy – not sure that’s a term they use in forecasts. The haze was such that we didn’t really get to see too much of Belgium as we sailed past it. We acknowledged it by raising our Belgian courtesy flag, and then dutifully changing it over to the Dutch courtesy flag when we left their waters.

Another day, another country

It took us about 4 hours to sail the coast of Belgium. Say hello, wave goodbye. Wish we could have dropped in for some dark chocolate… another time maybe. The one bit of excitement it did give us , was the sighting of our first black seal – all shiny and sleek, like a lady in a black rubber dress.

Water, water everywhere

At Zeebrugge we saw a Spanish naval ship turn into port, as we sped past making 8 knots. We monitored channel 71, just in case there was any traffic that we might impede or get taken out by!

The wind and tide were against us, and spray was covering the boat, front, side and back. This is heavy going. With shoals and banks all around, we have to keep a close track of all the buoys to keep us in safe water – and studiously colour them in on our chart as we pass them by.

Andrew went to check the bilges and realised that we had taken on water. One reason being, he’d forgotten to close the hatches, so water was getting in that way into the saloon. He cleared that, but could still hear water sloshing when he came back up to the cockpit. He checked the gas locker and it was full of water. With his arm deep in the locker, he dislodged the blockage with a wire coat hanger. More bailing out ensued – and would continue for sometime to come.

Michelin Star Cadzand

Our British and Moody-owning berthing neighbours at Dunkerque had very kindly recommended Cadzand marina to us. It is small, and new, and very pretty. We arrived around 7pm, and dropped onto a free pontoon. There was no one in the marina office, so Suzanne gave them a call. The very laid-back harbour master came to greet us on his scooter.

The marina was busy with families disembarking and heading back home. We moved berths to be closer to the facilities, which were very swish, with sliding glass doors and unisex showers.

Above the marina office was an achingly beautiful, stylish, hip looking restaurant, Air Republic, which we were reliably informed by the Belgian skipper of the boat in the berth next to us, has a Michelin star and is run by a famous Chef. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to try it out, as it was closed, and apparently you need to book up three months in advance. Oh well, something to plan for another visit sometime. I rather liked their planting – might need to borrow their pallet plant box idea….

Tired and hungry, we opted for a starry mezze of our own, using our Abel and Cole hummus, tapenade, olive and feta mix and french bread, with some dolmades and greek bean salad, finishing off with some of their brownies.

We watched as couples and families took their evening stroll along the breakwater surrounding the marina. A beautiful spot, which we’ll come back to again.

Our daily stats

We were underway for 9 hours, sailing for only 45 minutes and motor sailing for the remaining time, making 49 nautical miles, at an average speed of 5.4 knots. No wonder we used so much fuel, around 7 gallons.

At one point we had 2 reefs in the mainsail – as the going was that rough. Under sail our best speed was 8 knots.

You can see the course we steered below, taken from our AIS tracker, which you can also follow from the Crystelle Venture page.

Until next time – happy sailing!

France, Belgium and The Netherlands – all in one day

Finally, France

It’s taken a while.. Day 3

Ok, so we’re only a couple of days behind our original plan – but according to Andrew’s clever chart, we are in fact ahead of ourselves… go figure!undefined

So it was that on a bright and breezy Friday 21 June we slipped our berth at Dover Marina, called Port Control on channel 74, gave our intended destination as Dunkirk (Dunkerque) and were given permission to proceed out of the western channel. The entrance was now dominated by a large cruise ship, that towered over us as we tidied away the ropes and fenders.

Storm in a teacup

The exit out of Dover was almost as exciting as our entrance the day before. The wind was up and the sea state confused, added to which we were not alone when trying to hoist our main sail in these tricky conditions. There were other yachts too, who had chosen the same window of opportunity to slip out of Dover to continue their journeys too. Oh, and did we mention the numerous passenger ferries who ploughed their way in and out with monotonous regularity, bearing down on us at speed?

This sea state was soon over, like a storm in a teacup, Suzanne helmed, as Dover and the famous white cliffs slowly receded into the distance, and the far shores of France hove into view. The tide was with us, and the wind too, meaning we were making great progress at a steady 6 – 7 knots. However we did get hit by the occasional spray – the worst of which hit, just was we were tucking into our lunchtime baguettes – extra salt with that?

And so to France

We waved mid channel as we passed first a German and then a Dutch flagged yacht going in the opposite direction, also make fast progress. Clearly we’d all chosen the same waypoints, to make sure we crossed the traffic separation scheme at the right 90 degree angle. Another boat wasn’t and had Dover coast guard issue first a warning and then a penalty, and call them out as a warning to other shipping as they were failing to stick to this most basic of safety measures to avoid collisions at sea. Doh!

Raising our French courtesy flag

At 4pm, having raised our first courtesy flag, we sailed past Calais, and started to pick off the buoys that guided us through the safe water channel towards our destination. As the sun shone down, Andrew took off his sailing gear, and was down to t-shirt and sunscreen (ok and trousers). As we settled into the rhythm of sailing up the coast of France towards Dunkerque, we began to read ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ by Erskine Childers aloud. Clearly a book of its age, hence with some excrutiating sentences – but we still think will be a great read, as we near the coastal area in which it is set. It certainly helped to pass the time.

Arrival into Dunkerque/Dunkirk

In the distance we could see a pall of smog hanging in the air, and as we neared we realised that there was an industrial complex further up the coast, which then transpired was the main port of Dunkirk. This didn’t bode well. However, our minds were soon taken off that, when we realised that the yacht we had been following for several miles, was in fact within our reach, and then unbelievably, we passed – with only our main sail up – and they with both their main and gib up. How smug did we feel! We hadn’t even been trying to catch them up! We made the most of that feeling, as we’re sure that it wont happen again!

We dropped our mainsail outside the entrance to the harbour, and then followed the signs for the La Grande Large marina. There were no visitor berths left, but luckily, although the office was closed, we were pointed in the direction of a free resident’s berth. Although clearly for a smaller boat, we berthed, with the help of a neighbouring Moody 45 ‘Ginger Lily’, also a British couple, but travelling in the opposite direction. We were in and squared away by 1940 – with a dinner of red thai curry already bubbling in the wok!

We checked in the next day at the marina office on the first floor of a bright red building. Great facilities on the ground floor, with key card access. Friendliness and cleanliness can’t be faulted.

Marina office at La Grande Large

Daily stats

We sailed 45 nautical miles, and were underway for 7 hours and 40 minutes, with an average speed of 5.9 knots, with only 1.2 hours of engine, motoring out of and into the harbours, and used a gallon of fuel. You can see our route on the AIS map below.

Our route from Dover to Dunkirk/Dunkerque

Actually it’s alright

The original industrial appearance on our approach to Dunkirk by sea, and discovering that it is twinned with Middlesborough – meant our expectations weren’t too high.

However we spent the next day walking about 8 miles around the area, along the infamous breakwater where British, French and Belgian troops made their escape in 1940, into the old part of town, and out to the beach, to enjoy ice cream and the free music festival. Of course, our very first stop was the nearest boulangerie to buy french bread and pastries for breakfast.

It is a town of many contrasts, that celebrates its past and the future, has an interesting mix of architecture, shops, restaurants and an open and welcoming population. Plus they have free buses, which we took advantage of, when all the walking finally got too much. This would be a great place to bring a bike – but as Andrew’s wouldn’t fit into the car, we’ve only brought mine…. Unlike our berth mate Belgian, who managed to ram into the back of our boat when berthing, without fenders – because he had chosen to put bikes in his locker and had left the fenders behind…. as you do… if you’re Belgian…

Portland to Dunkirk/Dover

Day 2

Little did I think that today’s sail would take up almost two whole pages in our log book – without even getting to our intended destination – Dunkirk.

Starting out

Things started out well. Andrew’s birthday presents and cooked breakfast done, showered and changed, we had a pleasurable and leisurely start to the day. Even the low cloud, muggy air and occasional spot of rain couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. Finally we were setting off for France.

Our midday departure timed to get us the best out of the east bound tide to get us up the channel. And just as we left the harbour, a big bee came buzzing onto the boat – I’m convinced it was our stowaway come to see us off.

Slowing down

Progress was slow, with little wind. We gave a wide berth to the Lulworth Firing Range. The range safety officers on the radio were kept busy, constantly asking other yachts and boats to move out of the firing area, which was in use that day. As a result we ended up motor sailing for the first 5 hours or so.

Yes – dolphins!

Andrew spotted the dolphin leaping and travelling backwards first – perhaps it was giving him a birthday display! A pod of around 5 dolphins then came and played around the boat for about 5 minutes. We managed to get some footage – and yes, I did the dolphin squeal – and yes we can now say the word dolphin and not ‘d’ as this was one of our best and closest encounters to date.

Dolphin display for Andrew’s birthday

And we are sailing

Finally the wind picked up, around 5.45pm, and we could turn the engine off and sail. Slowly but surely we started to pick off St Albans’ Head, Poole Bay and harbour, the Isle of Wight (in the dark) with St Catherine’s lighthouse shining her light on us as we past, and the lights of Portsmouth in the distance. And the never ending wind farm off Brighton, that took literally hours and hours to pass.

Birthday dinner was cooked on the move, another tasty Abel and Cole receipe of mushroom, pepper and feta fajitas. Andrew took the night shift, while I put in the earplugs and a pillow over my head to get some sleep. Andrew reefed the main, as the wind picked up, and the seas grew bigger. At around 4am he saw the false dawn, and when I joined him at 5am – the sun really had come up!! He then took himself to bed.

Past Brighton, in the early morning daylight, and then Beachy Head around 9am. A weird mirage seemed to appear of a large city in the middle of the sea, an illusion that turned out to be Dungeness nuclear power station. A huge complex which took an age to get to and to recede into the distance. At this point we were up to just under 10 knots and the wind and the seas increased.

From about 2pm the wind and the seas continued to increase, and our speed maxed out around 11.8 knots at 3.15pm. At this point we made the decision to err on the side of caution, and not press on and cross the channel to Dunkirk – which would have been at least another 5 hours and with the wind pushing us dangerously.

Seeking refuge

And so it was that we sought refuge in Dover harbour. With its heavy ferry traffic we had to call ahead from 2 miles out to get clearance to enter, and then again 200 metres out. We struggled to lower the main sail, in a confused sea state outside the harbour entrance. It was the closest we’ve ever come to white water rafting in Crystelle Venture. It reminded me of our white water rafting days in the Ganges, except if I fell out this time, there was no river bank to be washed up onto.

Shelter from the storm

As the near gale raged on outside the harbour walls, we found peace and calm within the inner harbour at Dover marina. After checking in, and having showers, we had a short stroll to the nearest supermarket (in a petrol station). I had forgotten to stock up with brown sauce for Andrew (!) and the orange squash rations also seemed to be running very low very quickly. Strange place Dover.

Our daily stats

We were both so exhausted by the end of our passage, that we couldn’t agree on exactly how far and how long but the following is more or less right. We were under way for just over 28 hours, covering 160 nautical miles, we motor sailed for just under 6 hours, and sailed the rest. Our average speed on the first day was around 5.2 knots and on the second 6.6 knots. We used 4 gallons of fuel. You can see our route on the AIS chart below. If you want to find out how you can track live, check out the chart on the Crystelle Venture page.

Updated AIS image (as it only covered 24 not the full 28 hours) showing our route from Portland to Dover

Podcast

Don’t forget you can not only read about our travels, but also listen to them on our podcast – Two in a Boat. We update our blog with details when new episodes are or will be available here. So why not subscribe and see how we are getting on? We’d love to have you on board.