Which Way Holland? LHYC Club Trip May 2019
Which Way Holland?
At 04.30 on Friday 10th May, the clattering of anchor chains could be heard in Stangate Creek. Lethera, Daydream and Tikki Bird could see Jeddo’s steaming light coming out to meet us.
Via the Princess Channel was the preferred route, more tide, less pots. By 11 am we were at NE Spit, an hour later we turned on to our track at NS47 Waypoint, approximately 30 mins ahead of schedule.
Crossing the TSS was pretty routine, the Channel was calm with a little swell from the previous 2 days blow. Some Dolphins, Porpoise, Garfish and the odd pallet were about all we saw, apart from some shipping of course.
Converging onto West Hinder with barely 30 minutes between us, the light now beginning to fade, Lethera and Daydream crossed before the waypoint, followed by Jeddo and Tikki Bird. The NE breeze now had a crisp chill to it. We bore away on to an Easterly heading to navigate through the Oustendyke Anchorage. At least 16 anchored vessels in total, we picked the Southern end of the anchorage and cleared it line astern, mastheads visual.
A solitary car transporter boat appeared out of the murk and clutter of lights at the entrance to Zeebrugge harbour, it passed us from Port to Starboard causing us to slow and take avoiding action. Another appeared from Zeebrugge and crossed in front of us before we proceeded. Much colder now, we took it in turns on the helm/watch with the other getting out of the wind chill behind the spray hood.
At 06.30, off the Breskins Cardinal mark we started our final leg into Vlissingen, another pizza was put in the oven, trouble was it got busy, turn to port, go about, slowdown, cargo boats, ferries, Pilot boats all contributed to prolonging the journey. Still by 08.00 we were through the lock and waiting on the pontoon for the first bridge lift at 08.37.
Finally, after roughly 30 hours we had filled up with diesel and we were all moored alongside the inner marina at Middelburg.
We spent a very pleasant 3 days exploring Middelburg and a brisk 10mile walk to Veere for a much-needed stretch of the legs, some seafood and of course some beers. The Yacht Club bar and bistro made us very welcome, typical Dutch hospitality.
Cadzand or Blankenburge, Oh, make it Oostende
Tuesday 14th May, the 1st bridge lifted at 10.15. We slipped quietly out into the canal, you must keep to 6kts to get to the last bridge at Vlissingen otherwise, “tough” you wait.
At 12.30 the flotilla turned to starboard outside Vlissingen, hoisted sails and headed for yes, Oostende.
With tide and a fair wind, we reckoned around 6hrs. At last an increase in the wind, still from the NE, saw us at Zeebrugge, “nothing in or out,” we cracked on and turned on a more Southerly course towards Oostende. Tide helped us make good progress.
Suddenly the radio burst into life, Jeddo, having made the most of the conditions hitting speeds of over 10kts SOG, was making her approach and had instructions from Oostende Port and marina.
All vessels to give way to Wind Farm traffic who were either late for tiffin or on a shift change, we were late for G&T!!
Naturally, once into the approach channel the wind picked up a bit more, the WF traffic came thick and fast and the water became very disturbed. We kept well over to the right-hand side, and around 5.30pm we were greeted by a very loud Haven Meester at the Royal North Sea Yacht Club. A night in Oostende and a meal on board. The following day Jeddo and Lethera were visited by Belgium Customs. All very jovial, a full paperwork check, passports, ships documents, radio licenses etc, but with everything in order, no fuel dip as mentioned when they asked permission to come aboard.
We departed 2pm, destination Gravelines.
2hours before or 2 hours after
Had we kept to our original track everything would have gone so much better! The radio broadcast kept saying Yeddo, Yeddo, nobody took any notice until suddenly a different voice came over the radio saying Jeddo. Jeddo replied immediately with “station calling Jeddo, please say again.” The lady on the radio announced herself as “Firing Range” and Jeddo was in their live firing area, “immediately alter course to three zero zero degrees.” Jeddo was the only boat of the group with an AIS transponder, the rest of us were just blips (targets is probably the wrong term in this case) on the radar. A scramble below to the chart table to check. Not one chart on any of our boats had any firing range marked. We couldn’t reach Daydream as Nick had decided to go on the inside route, the remainder hot footed towards a marker buoy, from memory it looked very much like a Cardinal Mark. Just after passing the mark Ken attempted to contact the Firing range on CHL 67 where we had been communicating with them previously to check if we were now out of their range. There was no response from the range, but Dover Coast Guard picked up the call and questioned “which range are you calling?” Almost immediately the Belgium Coast Guard came on effectively telling them to butt out, the situation was under control and in their water. 20 minutes later we were thanked for our co-operation and informed all firing had ended for the day. Lethera made radio contact with Lou, ex Lower Halstow village Post Master, who was crewing on Jeddo and asked him if had any postage stamps, we could use to make temporary repairs to the holes we had in the Genoa, LOL. A detailed look at the Chart Plotter revealed a note mentioning the shooting range. Oostende Radio had a list as long as your arm from 298 down to 235, taking over an hour to get through, “bet it was there somewhere,” but none of us had heard any mention of a shooting range.
Anyway, conversing over G&Ts later on, the whole flotilla agreed that it was the fault of the Belgium Coast Guard, and no blame could be put on us, case closed.
A very steady plod down to Gravelines saw us arrive 2hrs 30mins ahead of schedule. HW was 23.10hrs, it is recommended that crossing the bar should be between 2hrs before and 2hrs after HW. A few quick calculations indicated enough water, 0.5 of a metre, Daydream followed, then Jeddo and Tikki Bird. 2 miles later we reached the sluice which was open, indicating 2.7m. However, we ran aground about 2m from the pontoon. 15 minutes later Lethera ploughed through the mud and we moored up. The evidence of our efforts all too clear at the next LW the following morning.
The crews did their own thing Thursday and Friday deciding to meet up in the Square on Friday evening for a last hoorah, a very nice meal and a beer in the Yacht Club on the way back. A last dash to Lidl’s for boxes of wine, chocolate, pate and sailing trousers. The gate opened at 11.30 on Saturday morning, we departed as soon as everyone was afloat.
Saturday was quite a nice day, all the usual suspects, Ruytingen, Sandettie, Goodwin Knoll and Ramsgate approach. No major shipping problems. The decision was taken to eat on board, prior to an early start at 05.30. Every vessel was secured by about 18.30, safely in at Ramsgate Marina. Barely tied up and we had a visit from UK Border Force. “Where have you come from?” It seemed to make their day as all the boats that had come in up to that point had come from the Medway and East Coast. All they wanted was to see was our passports and we were allowed to stay!
05.00 Alarm. After coffee and more coffee, and “eyes wide open,” (back in the room!), at dead on 05.30 we departed Ramsgate for LHYC.
We were down to our last pizza, saved for the trip back to LHYC. Once again, we all chose via Longnose and the Princess Channel, except for Tikki Bird who suddenly found some extra revs and shot off towards PanSand Hole and the Queens Channel.
The distance between the last 3 boats got bigger and bigger. Sheppey Yacht Club were having a dinghy race, we kept clear of the marker buoy. Tikki Bird, Daydream and Jeddo had already passed Garrison Point and were heading towards Stangate Creek. Time to start tidying up and packing one’s belongings.
Whilst the wind was mainly North Easterly for the whole trip and a little chilly it didn’t rain, until a little drizzle on Sunday morning.
A very enjoyable time, good company, no major foul ups (not our fault anyhow). Mileage was 278 round trip, we visited Middelburg Holland, The Royal North Sea Yacht Club, Oostende Belgium, Gravelines France and finally Ramsgate.
Thanks for the invite.
The boats and crew:
Lethera: Ken Milburn, first mate – Roger Bromley
Daydream: Nick Funnel, Crew Robert – AKA Rupert
Tiki Bird: Steve Simmons, Crew – Nick the Sparks
Jeddo AKA Yeddo: Dave Metcalfe, Crew Michael (Griff) Griffin, Lou Milstead -Williamson.
Additional Comment from the skipper of Jeddo:
You may have noticed Roger’s comment about sailing trousers from Lidl. Well, there’s a little story about that. Knowing my dinghy was completely covered in Seagull mess from being left on my mooring over Easter, I took an “old” pair of trousers to go out to the boat in. Anyway, I didn’t get too dirty and ended up leaving them on for the evening whilst moored to the hammer head of the jetty, whilst we waited for Lou to join us when he returned from previous arrangements, that prevented him catching the afternoon tide. When the alarm went off at 03.45 I grabbed the same pair of trousers I had been wearing the day before and thought no more of it. Arriving in Middelburg I was a little self-conscious wearing an old pair of “work” trousers, but they were tucked into quite smart sailing boots. On the next two parts of the trip whilst sailing I again wore the same “old” trousers as they were comfortable and had reinforced knees that makes them quite good kneeling looking around the spray hood and for some reason was a little less self-conscious.
The first day in Gravelines, some of the group decided they wanted to visit Dunkerque and I decided to go too. On returning I was passing Lethera and pleasantries were passed and I was informed that they had been to Lidl’s who were selling sailing trousers. A pair were brought out to show me. I was shown a pair of matching “sailing” trousers to my Lidl’s Work Trousers that I had been a little embarrassed wearing going in to smart marinas and the Royal North Sea Yacht Club in Oostende. I think it had been assumed I was wearing an expensive pair of sailing trousers to go with my Dubarry boots and Lidl’s were selling a copy. By the time we left Gravelines, I think most of the group were proud owners of Lidl’s Sailing (I mean Work) trousers at 12.99 Euros a pair. I think there was a little disappointment Lidl’s didn’t have any sailing boots.