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.


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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