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.
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??”
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.