Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Through the window

Well, we made it to Ijmuiden with almost no problems apart from a nasty, choppy sea with short, steep waves for the first half of the journey. We left Suffolk Yacht Harbour at 0445 on Monday and reached Ijmuiden almost exactly 24 hours later, having sailed (without engine) for most of the daylight hours and covered 130 miles.

We got a personal forecast from before we left, as we usually do for long passages, and it was pretty accurate. Although it was very windy on Sunday night it died away as promised and the dawn in the Orwell was peaceful and beautiful with the winds gradually increasing to a peak of about 12-16 knots from the south-west. John at weathwerweb mentioned that we should aim to get in before Wednesday as that looked less pleasant, and indeed he was right – it's pretty windy here today, maybe F5-6 on the beach; great for kite surfers, of which there are dozens, but hard work for sailing. It's interesting that we have seen quite a few yachts going out. In the Med in these conditions you'd hardly see one.

On the English side the sea was fairly empty but just before halfway we crossed the first of the deep water routes and after that there was always shipping in sight. Avoiding it stopped us from getting bored. It took us a while to get our sea-legs but around teatime when things calmed down we were able to avoid a couple of bowls of the now-traditional “crossing stew”, made with pork, new potatoes, and all the vegetables at home that I needed to finish off before we left. For most of the way the sun shone and the sky was blue, which was a real bonus.

During the night we passed dozens of oil and gas platforms. Most are lit up like more than Christmas trees, some have additional flashing lights and horns every few seconds, they are bigger than most container vessels, yet even so we heard frequent warnings on the VHF to ships (and one yacht) apparently heading straight for a rig without being able to see it. Heading along between them felt like driving down Eastern Avenue at Christmas, with all those brightly decorated houses on each side, yet you don't have any contact with them or they with you.

Ijmuiden is not highly rated on the tourist stakes but it has a comfortable marina and a great sandy beach, with lots of bars and cafes and a small supermarket. We were hoping for a decent chandlery as we managed to forget all our spare oilies which Ben usually wears, but unfortunately the nearest chandlery is 15 min bike ride away (we only have one bike) or two stops on the bus and then a 1km walk. Both seem like a lot of hassle bearing in mind that this is the Netherlands, which is full of chandleries. Let's hope it doesn't rain too much before we pass the next one.

Tomorrow we plan to head down the Nordzee canal, 13.5 miles to Amsterdam. While I've been typing this the wind has increased from the high end of F4 (16 knots) to around F6 (22 knots plus). And we're in a sheltered marina. Our North Sea weather window is now definitely closed.

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