We made it back to Dover on Friday evening 8th July at 7.45pm having set off from Oostende at 10.30 am. I'm now back in my office. I'll be updating the weblog with more details of the adventure and more photos as soon as I have caught up with my mail, emails, telephone message, accounts (no they can wait) etc. Lots to do!
If you are thinking of buying a CATRI 24 then please call me to arrange a demonstration. I intend to sail it with prospective customers along the south coast of England, eventually arriving at the Southampton Boat Show in September. Where we sail it to in between time is not really important as long as customers who are keen to make up their minds about the boat are able to get an adequate experience of it.
I shall travel by train to the boat each time. It only took me 5 hours to get home to Chester from Dover.
We had to be up early, 05.45, because our neighbours were off to Calais and there was a tidal lock there that they wanted to get through. It had been a windy, noisy and rough night so after they’d left we took a walk to the North Sea Sailing club for ablutions and then went to look at the sea state. It was still rough so we wandered back along the harbour frontage and poked our noses into a fisherman’s bar where they were drinking beer following a hard night’s work at sea. The atmosphere was thick with smoke and we bailed out before we inhaled too much.
We found a nice little café in front of the cathedral and with our croissants and coffee we listened to the weather forecast on channel 27 on the VHF radio. Or so we thought. I must have misread the almanac because all we got was navigational information.
At 9.30 I sent a text to Sue, "Leaving soon. Overnight gale passed. Fingers crossed. Love you."
At 10.45 we were ready for the final leg and let go.
It was on this final leg that I sustained my only injury of the whole trip from Latvia. I don't know what I banged my hand upon but it swelled up significantly. Funny how you do this on boats. You notice little red spots on your nice white boat and then discover that you are bleeding. You have absolutely no idea what you cut yourself on and it didn't hurt at the time but now you have a cut and you are staining your beautiful clean white boat. Bizarre. It's just one of those boat things.
We reached along the skyscraper clad coast of Belgium with the main and gennaker at about 10 knots passing Nieuport at 12.10. I had thought it would be nice to add another country to the list of those we’d visited on our journey from Latvia, France. But we were running out of time. Viv had to get home and I wanted to get home. We arrived at a waypoint where we were to alter course in the direction of Dunkirk, which we could see already and was clearly very industrial.
The plan had been to go to Dover via the Dyck buoy so we were never too far from the coast. As we turned that little bit to port we realised that we were changing from reaching to running and the speed dropped to 5 knots. Very boring. Whereas, if we altered course a little to starboard the speed picked up a little and we were heading directly for Dover. We altered course to 268°.
At 13.00 we were 45 miles from Dover and averaging 8 knots. ETA was thus approximately 19.00. At 15.00 we were 32 miles away from Dover. Still doing 8 knots. At 16.30 near the Sandettie light vessel with 20 miles to go we had to alter course to pass around the stern of a ship in a shipping lane and hit 15.3 knots. We really noticed how smooth the boat’s progress became at this sort of speed. TARDIS really did like to be sailing fast and to be sailing more on the foils instead of on the hulls.
16.45 sighted England 18.5 miles away.
With 10 miles to go I sent a text message to my fiancée, Sue, “10 miles from Dover. All sails up. Doing about 10 knots.”
Then I sent another message: “Crying!” The responsibility had weighed much heavier on me than I had realised and the relief I felt was palpable. Soon we would be home.
As it was we seemed to be one hour away for quite some time because we slowed in the approach owing to the tidal stream and the dropping wind.
At 19.45 we entered Dover Marina. It was raining. How typically English.
A final text message: “I am overcome with emotion. It’s been a huge strain. Miss you so much. Missed your love.”
6am forecast good, N to NE 3-5. Engine bad. Restart Yachtservice.nl were called and Kees was very helpful.
He diagnosed water in the fuel. We changed it all, including that in the carburettor, of course. But it later transpired that it was salt that was preventing the advance/retard mechanism from working properly and that the solution was to spray water repellant Rock Oil inside before every trip.
Then Kees had to take me into the village to get cash, as there was a problem with his card-reading machine. He did not have one!
We eventually got through the lock, in which we were entertained by this poor couple a little out of control, at noon.
We attained 19 knots with the gennaker after the wind rose. Then, when we sailed with a normal rig, we found that, with the wind on the quarter, the main sail had a tendency to push the nose down. We wanted to play safe with only the two of us on board so I persuaded Viv that with one reef in the main sail but using the larger headsail we could still go fast yet reduce the risk of pitch-poling to the bare minimum. He acquiesced and it worked. We had a fabulous sail between 12 and 16 knots into the sun.
We passed everybody, Viv steering nonchalantly as close as possible to every boat we caught up so that the occupants could get as close a look at us as possible.
As the afternoon wore on the waves inevitably became bigger and more confused so we put the gennaker away and set the genoa. Then, when the sky to the NW turned grey, we took a second reef, just in case. It was getting late and a bit threatening so we decided to put into Oostend in Belgium, the sixth country on our trip so far. As we approached and the water became shallower the sea became very much rougher. We did not have enough power in these conditions with just the engine, after we’d taken down the sails, so we let out half the genoa for the final approach and that was fine.
There were three red signals at the entrance barring our way and then a ship came out of the narrow entrance! Then we got the two green and one white lights and we thankfully entered the harbour. We’d covered 60 miles in 7 hours. Not bad for a small 24ft boat.
There was poor shelter and virtually no space at the North Sea Yacht Club. We raised Mercator on Channel 14 but they told us they’d put chains on the lock gates as a force 7 was anticipated tonight so we couldn’t go in.
We rafted up, for the first time in TARDIS, with two Dutch boats. This friendly couple Pete and Ellen and their daughter welcomed us aboard their boat and gave us some Friesland firewater to warm us up as we were wet and cold by now.
We went to a local Bistro. I had Penne Arabiata, which further warmed me, and 2 glasses of wine. Viv had Fruits de Mer and no wine as he’s almost teetotal.
We saw the harbourmaster zipping about in his little rib collecting mooring fees and hailed him. But we didn’t take to him. Not the friendliest harbourmaster we’d met on our trip but then I guess that is what you get in a busy place. No actually, there was no need for him to be curt.
However, Cris, who had caught a bus at 5am, unfamiliar with the symbols on the web site forecast he had been looking at last night, had read the symbols upside down. The barometer had fallen all night and in fact the forecast was actually another day of strong head winds and the risk of thunder storms. Eric from the zeilschoolHaringvliet.nl came over with his laptop and was very helpful assisting us with discerning the true meaning of the forecasts that he had access to on his computer. Several of them were saying the same thing and we did not fancy beating into a force 6 with a crew of only two so we stayed in Stellendam another day. We needed the rest anyway.
I sent an SMS to Sue, "I love you. Still stuck in Holland. Forecast not good yet."
We seemed to be having trouble with starting the engine so we swapped tanks and cleaned the plugs. Seemed OK. Then we cleaned the hull, which was beginning to get grubby. Viv, ever resourceful, used the remainder of the netting he had purchased to make nets under the main cabin settee for storing fenders and the like.
We test started the engine again and it seemed OK. Forecast for tomorrow looking better.
The Delta Sailing Centre at Stellendam marina had every modern convenience including free bicycles to take into the village to get supplies. There was the obligatory windmill. And the inevitable chandlery at which we bought everything necessary for Viv to make some pouches in which to store the offending gennaker sheet when not in use. It was he who had hung over the stern, after all, to cut it loose from the prop.
While we rested and waited for the wind to abate we took the opportunity to attempt folding the trimaran. Cris could not believe how easy it was. Two nuts to loosen and with somebody controlling the shroud on the side to be folded it was a simple, two-man job, taking a few minutes only.
This was our last evening with Chris. The forecast was not good enough to venture out the next day and he had to catch a flight from Heathrow so we made arrangements for him to fly from Rotterdam to London City airport and we had a farewell meal together in the marina restaurant. Viv and I thanked him sincerely for all that we had learned from this great sailor. We were really sorry to see him go. We’d had a laugh together listening to all his many stories and really bonded as a crew. He was sorry not to be sailing with us the next morning as the forecast seemed to be ideal for a fast sail.
There was a terrific thunderstorm in the night. We were all glad we were in harbour. It was still raining when we got up and listened to a fresh forecast. Wind Force 3-4 SE. Perfect. But warning of thunderstorms. Not so perfect. I sent a text message to Sue, “Leaving Scheveningen now. Just have to watch out for storms and reef as necessary.” Little did I know what lay ahead.
We were not sorry to leave the lack-lustre Scheveningen harbour at 11.00. We set a course of 240° and initially with all three sails set we were making 8-10kn. We were catching up with another yacht but she altered course into Rotterdam just before we caught her.
Rotterdam, at the Hook of Holland is an exceptionally busy Europort and off shore there is a roundabout in the sea to cope with all the traffic! Our course, close inshore, kept us well clear of this prohibited area.
The wind was more southerly now and we were able to beat. Then it freshened and veered so that it was coming from where we wanted to go. Cris and Viv came on watch after their lunch. The wind continued to increase and so we took a reef in the main. We found we were sailing almost north and almost south. It was difficult to make way to the west. We reefed the main again and reefed the genoa too. Cris asked for the engine and when Viv tried to start it out of gear it was OK but when in gear it wouldn’t start. Cris said to check the propeller and, sure enough, the gennaker sheet was caught around it. The sea was pretty lumpy now and we needed the engine to help make sure that we made it up the steepest waves.
Viv, clipped on of course, leaned over the stern, resting his chest on the cockpit seat, whilst I hung on to his harness so that he could reach the propeller without falling overboard. He could not unwind the rope but he was able to cut it free. We heaved a crew sigh of relief when the engine started. Then I discovered that I had not been clipped on myself when I was hanging onto Viv! Oops.
Now fully reefed and with the engine running we got half way to Zeebrugge but the wind, we estimated from the wave height and spume, was now at least force 7. And with it having veered recently there were confused wave patterns with some high waves, typically 2.5m from peak to trough, higher than the boat anyway. There appeared to be a terrific amount of leeway but the tide was against us too. The tightest tacks we could manage were about 150° so although we were making 6-7 knots on each tack we were only making about 1 knot in our intended direction. The principle hull lifted out of the water on one or two occasions and once Viv, at the helm, noticed that when heeled over significantly, about 20° was the most I ever noticed on the inclinometer, not that I was looking most of the time, the leeward dagger-board lost its grip on the water and TARDIS slipped, unalarmingly and quite safely sideways.
At this rate it would take us another day to cover the remaining distance and with the ceaseless buffeting we were getting tired already beating into this gale. Nevertheless we had pulled ahead of a 40ft ketch that was about a mile to starboard. Then she turned round to run for cover. After a brief discussion of the options I made the decision to bear away and run downwind till we too could reach a safe haven. Everything went reassuringly quiet, as expected, but, bearing in mind that we still had relatively little experience with this new boat, we felt that even with the main fully reefed we might be overpressed and risk a broach or a pitch pole so we took it down. Not quite as easy as it sounds because the boom was out to the side and as soon as we released the main halyard the top of the main sail spilled over the lazy jacks. But 69 year old Cris gamely leapt forward like a school boy and tugged at it till it was down and then lashed it.
So now, having started the day sailing with all three sails, we were running on just the genoa alone and that is reefed. We were well in control and I set about the task of finding somewhere safe to go. We were near the West Schouwen lighthouse and making good speed so wherever it was we could get there quickly. We were roughly level with the storm surge barrier at Oosterschelde and there was a lifeboat station there. Good. Outside the barrier was a refuge harbour. Ominous. But outside this there were warnings on the chart – “Passage Prohibited”, “Very Dangerous Tidal Streams”. This was after all the place where most of the water from the great River Rhine entered the North Sea. The sluices here are what prevent the Netherlands from flooding.
So I looked at the next estuary north. Lots of yacht harbours here but all on the landward side of the dyke and none on the seaward side and no way through the dyke. There was a refuge harbour but it was exposed to the SW so not any use at all in a very strong SW wind.
Next one looked good; an approach from the NW so we would gain shelter from the wind and waves before entering an outer harbour, which hosted another lifeboat station and then through a lock to gain access to a fair sized marina next to a little village called Stellendam.
Cris unfurled the reef in the genoa and we started to have fun again. Surfing down waves and able to steer wherever we liked. The faster we went the more lift we got from the dagger boards so there seemed no danger of tripping up on the next wave ahead. Indeed TARDIS loved it and leapt ahead onto the next wave. We were surfing at about 15 knots with just the jib. Viv managed to dip the bowsprit into one of the waves but I was unable to catch this on video. She just sliced into them like a knife through butter and any water that came up over the coach roof simply slipped over the side and made it neither into the cockpit nor into the cabin space below. We never had any water in the bilges the whole trip.
The sun came out and made a rainbow. The view astern looked like something one might see in the Southern Ocean! We avoided the Aardappelenbult sand bank where the sea looked really rough with lots of white horses and a couple of brave/mad windsurfers then we passed the lighthouse at Westhoofd. We had already passed the ketch again and in fact got into Stellendam some three hours before her.
We had to share the lock with a dredger that took up the whole width of the lock and a flock of black-headed gulls or terns, I can’t be sure, went berserk diving into the water after it stirred up all the delicacies therein.
By 18.45 we were alongside. The couple ashore who helped us tie up presumed we had had a rough experience in the “Force 8 gale” that had just gone through. They were not far wrong but at the time it was just simply a case of making a series of decisions based on the natural instinct to survive any given situation. We never really felt threatened or in great peril but of course at any time things could have gone horribly wrong. As it was we were OK and just brushed it off as a normal day at sea. TARDIS, the little 24 ft trimaran from Latvia, had been asked to prove whether she was sea worthy and had not been found wanting.
The marina was warm and welcoming after the sea and the showers were “better than at home”, as an exiting sailor described them when I was entering. It’s nice to be in any port in a storm but its nicer to end up in a place like Stellendam. Nobbie sent me a text message asking how we had got on and where we were and I wrote we were "glad to be safe" and in Berrisz with its "wonderful facilities". He replied “Where?” I checked and this turned out to be the name of the marina restaurant that we were eating in at the time!
0630 left the Oudeschild marina and sailed with the tide out of the estuary by Den Helder. We had somewhat carelessly furled the gennaker two nights before and the wind caught the untidiness so it unfurled itself. We ran downwind to furl it properly.
At first with the tide we were able to reach with the gennaker and main and managed to coax 17.4 knots out of TARDIS. Cris was like a child with a new toy. Really we were just having fun reaching to and fro but not making much progress towards our destination. When we started to point higher upwind we made adequate progress south at 8 kn and then also west, occasionally, when we got too close inshore and had to create some sea room. The coast was pretty boring as one might imagine. The sun came out and dried us off. We motor-sailed from about 14.00 passing the industrial area at Ijmuiden then sailed alongside another Red Ensign for a while.
Later a beautifully kept, elderly yacht with lots of tumblehome passed us, also motor-sailing. Then Cris got the helm and his racing instincts took over. Without touching the throttle he used the other yacht’s stern wave to catch it up and eventually pass it.
As we approached Scheveningen the wind blew enough for us to be able to dispense with the engine and use all three sails. They looked beautiful.
From the sea we observed that Scheveningen looked not unlike Brighton with its pier and fun fair and hotels and beach. It is the port for the Dutch capital, The Hague, a few miles inland. But we were disappointed by the yacht harbour.
Yes it was large and provided good shelter but the facilities consisted of a blue steel box for a shower block and the water was only tepid. It looked to be a bit of a building site so maybe there are some improvements on the way.
We set about repairing the starboard trampoline, whose bolt rope had come out of its slot. This did not phase the ever-practical Viv, who immediately set about reducing the size of the slot using just an adjustable spanner and a piece of cardboard (so as not to damage the surface of the aluminium extrusion). These running repairs, a fact of life at sea, were an revalation to me. It seems that all that is required is a bit of ingenuity and anything can be fixed.
A young couple came and collected our mooring fee and we took down the gennaker for the first time since TARDIS’s first day at sea and folded our bowsprit to fit into our allocated space.
Cris claimed to have been told about a good fish restaurant that involved our walking all around the massive yacht harbour to the fishing harbour. But when we got there it was closing. As we made our way back along our tracks we ended up eating, standing up, at a disappointing fish and chip bar serving a sauce with the fish so hot as to make it inedible. This, I guess, is one of the consequences of the Dutch connections established in colonial times with exotic eastern countries.
On our way back we passed this Heron. Either they have very good model makers in Scheveningen or good taxidermists because he never batted an eyelid! Also on our way back Cris harvested some lavender petals to improve the fragrance in his cabin!
It is a shame that this yacht harbour made such a poor impression because others have told me since that Scheveningen is actually a lovely place with much of interest to see.
Before dinner the forecast elicited from the sailing club seemed to be good for a night passage. After dinner we heard a forecast on the radio that warned of thunderstorms so we stayed put!
If you want to get round Texel on two wheels then you do not have to bring your own.
There are fleets of bikes to hire. Nobbie said that this is big business in Holland and truck loads of them are moved around the country for major events.
Texel also has a great fishing fleet. The boats are big and well maintained. It also has every necessary facility for the fleet including a floating dry dock. So it was not surprising to discover in the harbour a major fishing chandlery. Inside this Aladin’s cave everything was in jumbo sizes. Giant shackles, thick ropes, gallons of methylated spirit. We bought some for use in our spirit cooker.
The vodka we had purchased in Latvia had long since run out and we had made the mistake, once, of buying lamp oil, which burns with a yellow sooty flame. Hence the somewhat blackened kettle! Never again.
Next we found the yacht chandler in Texel run by a lady who is also a sail maker. She had everything we needed including a clamcleat with which we were going to terminate the rudder downhaul so that it would release properly.
Nobbie found us there and took us back to our trimaran pointing out the famous Texel sheep on the way. Their heads are very large and they all have to be born by Caesarean section!
We borrowed a bosun’s chair from a neighbouring vessel and I went up the mast, for the first time, where I was able to inspect everything atop and take some unusual photos of TARDIS.
Nobbie took the safety line, Cris was on the winch and Viv took some photos of me taking photos. This was the first time I’d been up any mast. Hats off to those who do this at sea.
Nobbie had brought his drill and Viv set about fixing the rudder downhaul.
Whilst he was doing this we fell into conversation with the neighbour who had lent us the bosun’s chair and he made a comment that I did not appreciate the significance of until my return home. He said, “I’m still trying to learn the riddle of the sands”. This was an allusion to a book “The Riddle of the Sands” written in about 1913. When I got home Stanley had kindly sent me a copy, writing inside the front cover that I would know all about this area now. The “Sands” were the shallow channels and sand banks between the Fresian Islands and the German mainland. This gripping book about amateur and professional spying in a small boat prior to the First World War had made this area famous and I never knew anything about it till I had passed through. I read the book eagerly as soon as I got it and made constant reference to my own charts to compare them with the ones in the book. It enriched the whole experiences of both the book and the trip for me. Thanks to Stanley Booth-Russell.
Then it was time for a brew and more photos of this memorable occasion before stepping ashore with the ultimate visitor guide for Texel.
First Nobbie showed us a map, which explained the natural history, topography and geography of the island and its creation. Then he took us around in his car.
But on the way to his car we were astonished to find an oystercatcher sitting on a couple of her well camouflaged eggs in the gravel. Nobbie explained that this is quite common. Meantime mummy was pretending to be injured in the hope that we would be drawn away from her eggs. This trick might work with a spaniel. We were not threatening hers eggs anyway but how was she to know that?
Next it was off to the Veronica’s chippy to eat the local delicacy, herring, in the local manner!
Then the grand tour. The thatched windmills would originally have been used as wind pumps to drain the land. This little meadow was beautiful. Poppies and cornflowers and other flowers each with an ecological purpose. But what simple beauty. These barns were a local feature as well. We saw quite a few of them all facing the same direction, naturally.
Nobbie explained how the dykes were made by the simple act of laying branches on the sand so that when the wind blew the sand it piled up behind them like snow drifts. No tractors, no JCBs, no bulldozers. He also took us to a lagoon that was formed naturally by the sea breaking through a dyke. Apparently others have tried but failed to replicate this phenomenon.
Then it was off for the once in a lifetime, never to be repeated opportunity of a guided tour around the brand new car ferry that will be linking Texel with Den Helder. It just happened to be the only open day on the day we turned up. And everybody in Texel had come to see it. The institute that Nobbie works for has some instrumentation on this boat so Nobbie already knew the boat inside out. He also seemed to know every person involved with it. The most staggering statistic about this car ferry was that they will be able to load 350 cars onto it in five minutes.
They used these lanes as a running track and held races on it to raise money.
But there were other interesting features like its 4 propellers, one at each corner, that can all swivel through 360 degrees enabling the boat to turn on a sixpence or manoeuvre precisely in any conditions and all operated from the bridge by a joystick. The propellers are powered by electricity that is generated by the power from four gigantic diesel engines.
On our return to the CATRI 24 we did a little laundry, supermarket shopping and then Viv set about whipping a short piece of shock cord into a loop to tidy up the rudder downhaul on the tiller. Whilst he was doing this he fell into a conversation with Cris where they discovered that they were both model-plane enthusiasts. They waxed lyrical about this for long enough for me to record some of it on video.
Next we had a visit from a couple we’d met on the ferry. They were no ordinary multihull enthusiasts. They were the organisers of the Round Texel race in which 700 multihulls take part. That is some race! We were invited to attend next year on June 17th. I’ll have to make myself free.
We dined in this restaurant at the harbourside and whilst we were waiting for our meal a French family seated on the next table witnessed somebody falling off the edge into the water by accident.
During dinner Cris regaled us with more stories. One was about the only Indian to sail around the world. He took his wife and his manservant with him. This man insisted that his wife serve his food on time, that she deliver it with grace and that it be hot. The servant, Tiffin, did all the sailing. When he got home, astonishingly, his wife divorced him! Cris also told us a good customs story that I’ll have to ask him about again as I’ve forgotten it.
After a busy, eventful and enjoyable day on Texel we turned in at a respectable hour looking forward to sailing to Scheveningen tomorrow.
Vlieland, despite its uninspiring yacht harbour, albeit with clean showers (0.5€) was a nice little place.
Once past the sea barrier there is a quaint little high street, where Viv did some shopping for us. There are regular ferries from the mainland and visitors’ baggage is taken to hotels by pony and trap.
There are plenty of bikes for hire, which is just as well because the roads are seemingly all narrow enough to justify having very narrow cars. This picture of one is not distorted in any way. Looks odd, doesn’t it?
The trouble with the Netherlands is that is all hiding behind dykes and thus impossible to appreciate from the sea.
There was a big van that served as a campers’ and sailors’ supermarket.
Also a reassuring (or not depending upon how you looked at it) Search And Rescue helicopter and it was a short walk around the harbour with a wheelbarrow to fetch fuel. It was these daily fuel stops that prevented us from sailing day and night. But I don’t regret that one bit.
The Dutch barges ideally suited to the shallow waters around here were in evidence. In this picture you can also see the narrow piled entrance on the right up which we had crept in the dark last night. Anything narrow always seems intimidating in a trimaran, especially in the dark.
As it wasn’t too far to Texel we cast off at 11.45 and set our sails as soon as we cleared the harbour entrance. We quickly rounded the tip of Vlieland and within a quarter of an hour had the sails down again and the engine started because the wind was on the nose yet again.
Cris complained that we could have hugged the coast more closely coming out of Vlieland harbour to save distance and time. Without an echo sounder I was reluctant to do this but he then showed me how to read the colour of the water and tell its depth or rather its shallowness. He said that this trick worked all over the world. Not just where it was sandy or muddy. Then in his enthusiasm he ran us over a groyne and the rudder popped up. This prompted the question, “Do you have groynes in South Africa, Cris?” We hove to and used the weight of the engine to push it back down again because the rudder downhaul system had broken. It should have released itself but there was a plate screwed onto the rudder that should have been bolted through the rudder and the screws were not up to the job.
We managed to beat our way to Texel, which from the sea was as boring as the other Dutch islands. We came to the end of it and turned left passing the ferry terminal and exploring the adjacent harbour, which we had assumed incorrectly to be the yacht harbour for Texel as it was near to the town. But it did not look right. So I phoned my friend Nobbie Dankers who told us we were in the wrong place. This was the harbour belonging to the institute for which he worked. He redirected us to the proper yacht harbour at Oudeschild clearly distinguishable by virtue of its three resident Wind Turbines.
Nobbie was there to greet us at 19.00 and made us very welcome. First he took us to a Chinese restaurant and then to his home for beer and tea. He gave Cris access to the Internet and we checked the weather and decided to leave early on Monday. Cris mentioned the Dutch barges and asked about one in particular that he had seen. At this Nobbie brought out an encyclopaedia of Dutch barges complete with detailed drawings. He turned out to be an authority, not only on Dutch barges but on just about everything Dutch and especially the islands and their ecology. This is his subject. He is a professor.
We are in for an interesting stay.