Thursday, July 30, 2009

Amsterdam at night....?

Our plan is to head down to the Delta on the standing mast route. This includes something which Sam has always wanted to do, going through Amsterdam in the midnight convoy because there are two rail bridges which only open once a night. The advantage of heading south is that the route back to the Orwell from Vlissingen, say, could mean a reasonable beam reach into a south-westerly, instead of being on the nose from Den Helder or painfully close-hauled from Ijmuiden. And we've had nothing but south-westerlies for weeks.

From Hindeloopen we headed to Stavoren, only five miles in a straight line but 10 beating into the south-westerly. Then on Monday back to the sheltered side of the Ijsselmeer, motoring in a calm to Enkhuizen, and on Tuesday close-hauled (with Ben complaining loudly about all the stuff falling on his head when we heeled to 30 degrees) down to Monnickendam, only 15km in a straight line from Amsterdam but rather further by water as it's tucked into a very sheltered spot behind the Marken island dam.

Here we faced a dilemma. A serious depression is crossing to the north of us bringing several hours of strong winds. It was due to hit around 3am onwards on Thursday, which meant that if we followed the original plan, just as we reached the end of the night transit through Amsterdam and emerged on to the pitch black Nieuwe Meer we would be hit by gusts up to 30 knots and pouring rain. The prospect was pretty awful but the risk was that if we stayed in Monnickendam, with the strong winds continuing into Thursday, we would be delayed two days because the south-westerlies would be too strong in the very shallow Markermeer. In the end we decided to stay. The wind arrived at 5am this morning, so we might have been OK, and the forecast is for F7 until this evening so we will lose another night here. Who knows, perhaps we should have done it differently.

Monnickendam is very sweet. On our first morning the havenmeester brought us three fruity buns with butter in a little basket, with the compliments of the marina. It's very much a holiday place, with slides, trampolines, boules, and free rowing boats which you can borrow to take you into town. For the first time on this trip we have used the folding bicycle and launched the inflatable kayak which has been great fun, making the most of the sticky, calm day we had yesterday.

Unlike the huge marinas in Stavoren and Hindeloopen there are some modest yachts here and when the wind gusts it howls less than usual because there are fewer yachts with in-mast reefing (the slot in the mast reverberates in strong winds). The downside is that in this very sheltered freshwater harbour there are zillions of mosquitoes, and they are all biting me.

Anyway, we still have 10 days before we absolutely have to be home...

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