A week has gone by since the ordeal by Ramsgate (in truth, there are worse places to be stuck), and we find ourselves in north eastern Holland; but first, back to Ramsgate. Since our previous visit here, 3 years ago, the place seems to have taken a bit of a knock. The ferry service to Ostend finished last year, the airport is due to close at any time and the whole town has a bit of a subdued atmosphere.
We have learned that mooring line compensators are an essential part of a yachts cruising equipment when you are cowering from the elements in this harbour; life is much comfier.
During our stay we visited Sandwich, in an effort to see if it triggered any childhood memories for Louise, but sadly nothing stirred! The place is quite quaint and picturesque; and the surviving medieval architecture is stunning. I just got the impression we were intruding, but maybe I was just having a bad day.
On the Monday morning, the weather was more settled, so we made our way through the shipping lanes, and sandbars up to Harwich, where we re-modelled our ensign. The vogue for large ensigns is all very well, as long as you can keep them clear of the heater exhaust! We are now sporting the new ‘yard and three eighths’ – good job we didn’t have a blue one, as I’m sure there would be some aspect of flag etiquette we would be infringing!
We rose early the following day to cross to Holland, and I have to say it was a slog. This was our first North Sea crossing, so we didn’t really know what to expect. Accordingly, I had planned to avoid as many defined shipping lanes as possible, but even so the place was like a motorway, lit up at frequent intervals by enormous gas/oil rigs – just like motorway service stations.
We started in a gentle north easterly, which built to 14 knots during the day; and with one reef, we were cracking along, but as night approached the wind backed round to the north west, and fell to around eight knots. Sailing downwind, in light airs and a horribly disturbed sea, with the main slamming every 2 minutes isn’t much fun. So it was an unpleasant time for the remainder of the voyage to IJmuiden.
This is the perfect place to cross to. There’s a marina, with 24 hour access, just inside the harbour; which (at this time of year) is very quiet. The town is a short bike ride away, so re-stocking is easy; and most important of all, there is internet access!
After a day sleeping, we were off again; spinnaker up, all the way to Den Helder – a Naval port, with a brilliant area for yachts, tucked up just inside the entrance. Then on north, and east to the Frisian island of Vlieland – and our first experience of shifting sands, with shallow, narrow channels. The harbour there was a jolly place; packed with boats, lots of them traditional barges. It had a real buzz – amazing what a nice weekend’s weather can do!
Monday was another early start, as we were heading for the port of Lauwersoog, on the south coast of the Wadensee, below the island of Schiermonnikoog. All was going swimmingly till we arrived at the approach buoy for the channel between the islands of Ameland and Schiermonnikoog; but that was it; no more buoys. Mmmmmm. I checked the GPS (newly updated with this years chart), checked the iPad, checked the (new) paper chart, checked Reeds, and the Dutch pilot. By this time we were well into what I believed to be the channel; but what’s that I see in the distance? A set of buoys – must be another channel; it’s bound to join up! Only when we were scraping along the bottom, and called by the local traffic centre did we realise that they had completely moved all the channel markers – good job it had been high water – boy, did I feel stupid! It transpired that the old channel had been closed in April – so the moral of the story – look for the channel markers; they’re there for a reason.
Holland has been good to us; good harbours and friendly people. Tomorrow it’s on to Germany, and more shifting sands!