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July 21 to July 27, 2005: Leaving England for Mainland Europe

July 21, 2005 (Thursday)

We got up early, had a quick breakfast, filled our Diesel tank - Diesel is a lot cheaper in England than on the mainland, because England permits the use of "agricultural" Diesel for maritime use. Most other European countries don't. We were off to an early start around 0830, got permission to exit the harbor and began our way to buoy South Goodwin (many of the buoys have names in Europe, rather than numbers), which was approximately 5 nm northeast of the western entry to Dover. From there, we turned to an exact 90-degree angle to the TSS and were amazed, how easy it was. The number of ships in the vicinity was not unmanageable, visibility was terrific, the sun was shining, so we had a very easy crossing of the Channel. We can imagine though that in fog and rain and little to no visibility, that would have been an entirely different story.

Once on the other side of the Dover straight, we turned northeast to a number of buoys that would in the end lead us to Zeebrugge, a huge port facility for commercial (mostly ferry), military and smaller yacht harbor. We made it around 1930, went straight for the Visitors' berth, actually the fuel dock, and tied up. Directly behind us was a British sailboat. We offered them to tie up to us. That is very common practice in Europe, and from our experience in Horta, we saw no fault in this. As they had tied up and we started talking, a sailor (obviously because he was still wearing his foul weather gear and a life vest - very typical for most European sailors, it seems) asked whether we would mind moving just a little further forward so he could come in with his boat (because he had a handicapped child that needed immediate dock access). We measured, were somewhat unsure about the additional 10 m he needed for his boat but of course moved as much forward as we possibly could. He came back with his boat, wife and three kids, and they maneuvered their boat perfectly into this very tight spot. The next thing was that their friends, with an identical boat, tied up to them - we were amazed, but also they made it. We then started talking - about them, about our trip. The father of the handicapped child obviously knew a lot about sailing, had done a lot of sailing as he had met Christoph Rassy, owner of Hallberg-Rassy, in the Caribbean approximately 10 years ago.

I was hungry and wanted some local color, so we excused ourselves and tried to find a small unimpressive restaurant with "local fare". Well, we found "de Korrebolle" the fisherman's ball (which is used to keep nets afloat). The food was great, the fish very fresh, the ambiance terrific (I wished I had my camera with me as the place was just adorable - if somewhat tacky - you should have seen the enormous wood burning stove in midst of the restaurant - great to look at and, I am certain, very cozy on cold winter (or summer) nights).

After dinner, we invited the British couple (Trevor and Alva) to join us for a bottle of wine, which they did.

July 22, 2005 (Friday) / July 23, 2005 (Saturday)

It was a very dreary morning, drizzling, windy and cold. We got up very late, much later than we had planned. However, the fuel tank manager had not chased us off the fuel dock yet. I started looking around for the person to sell us the last "cheap" Diesel we would find in Europe while Juergen was beginning formally to navigate (i.e., measure distances, the course to be taken, etc.). I found the harbormaster who also seemed to be an official of the Royal Belgian Yacht Club. He sold us fuel, charged us for the night and provided me with some information as to weather.

Well, we left the inner harbor (the yacht harbor) to exit the Zeebrugge harbor - with their permission. It was NOT granted. The lights turned red just as I was trying to move my way out, so I circled in the harbor in heavy winds while Juergen was continuing his navigation work. I crisscrossed the harbor many times. A big ferry entered with a pilot boat, a military ship with lots of people on board, accompanied by a pilot boat, then the lights finally turned green and I began moving. By then, I had taken the main back in because I was going directly against the wind and the sail was flapping too much. This is how we had broken a shackle a few weeks ago, also on this trip...

I tried to move straight out of the harbor and increased the RPMs ever more. Still, we did not move any faster than between 2.5 and 2.8 knots, and it felt as if we were never going to make it out of the harbor. It was frightening (a little), very frustrating at least. It took a good two hours before we finally were out of the harbor and out to see for about 7 miles, crazy I thought. The wind and the waves reminded me of our ocean experience, and the constant bouncing around made me feel dizzy, nauseous and miserable, and I sure wished this was all over. Why did I go on this crazy trip? It is no fun so why on earth am I / are we on this trip? It got a little better once we gained sea space and definitely, once the tide turned in our favor. We knew that it would be against us for a while. On a 55 plus nm trip you cannot expect anything else, but it was painful and highly unpleasant. We also still had to cross the Rotterdam harbor, one of the busiest in Europe. Some writer had equated it to crossing Interstate 95 (a major highway in the northeast corridor of the US) during rush hour. We did not experience any of this, got permission to cross immediately, and preceded in the typical 90-degree angle as per rules and regulations and made it in no time. We continued the next 8 or so nm to get to Scheveningen harbor. Again, we had to call to obtain permission to enter. The harbor entrances are very narrow and ferry and large ship traffic is very active. Therefore, everyone entering and exiting must call the respective authorities. Their responses are immediate and usually favorable, or they will give you permission "subject to" an outbound ferry having priority and an inbound ferry arriving first.

That is what happened today as we were leaving Scheveningen. The outbound ferry had priority. Then we waited for the inbound ferry, which did not come. another sailboat passed us. I shouted over whether they had gotten permission to leave. As they affirmed, we just followed and exited the harbor just as the inbound ferry was arriving. We had a terrific sail all the way to Ijmuiden, the harbor of Amsterdam. We had been here for a boat show, which in the end confirmed to us our choice of buying the HR 46.

We checked in at the office, left our German phone there to be charged (needs 220V - we only have 110V) and went back to the boat for happy hour, which included three games of Backgammon.

Scheveningen was not the greatest place for us yesterday, but it turned out to be very good for us today. Last night, as the winds were blowing, we had a very difficult time maneuvering in the harbor. In the end, we got into the slip, tied up and were safe. It was freezing cold; I started cooking dinner when the gas stopped. Juergen went to change from the empty to the full bottle, only to notice that this was empty as well. I had a fit. After this rather miserable day, I could not even cook a decent meal and get us warm again? It had been drizzling as were we entering the harbor, and we were both ready for some nice warm food and a cozy evening onboard. We checked into the marina, obtained a phone number for immigration - a requirement which we ignored in Zeebrugge, Belgium, but did not dare ignore in the Netherlands. We were told that the immigration official would be coming to the boat. Thus we could not even go for dinner ....

Well, two young men arrived eventually, checked out our passports, stamped them and disappeared. We decided to go to the local yacht club for some warm food and drink and went back onboard around 2300. In the morning, we looked for another chandlery to find more detailed charts than the ones we had bought before. There, I finally managed to get our German handy working again on a different plan with direct debit to my German checking account. What luxury not to have to worry about the minutes we could phone to family and friends!!! We also found a terrific supermarket not far from the marina and went to buy lots of great goodies including more wine (we had not brought a lot from home as we did not drink any on the actually crossing).

But we had not found a way to refill our propane tanks yet. There is a different scale thus we would need an adapter. So, right now, we make coffee in the microwave and heat up whatever we have in food that can be heated. We hope to receive propane again once we are in Germany, if we can find the proper adapter. The Europeans generally use butane for cooking on boats. If we were to use that, we would have to change burners and lots of other parts on our oven - which we don't really want to do. So please keep your fingers crossed that we will find a solution that is easier than changing our entire system.

Tomorrow morning, we are planning to leave around 0700 to go to Vlieland, an island in the Netherlands, approximately 60nm away from here. The next stop thereafter would be an island in Germany, Borkum. If the weather is nice, we could try for another island called Norderney, and from there it is another 60 nm to Cuxhaven, our destination for this coming week.

July 24, 2005 (Sunday)

We got up at 0600 to leave around 0630, obtaining permission to leave the harbor and went east, sort of, under engine. A lot of boats exited the harbor but went west, causing us to wonder why. In the end, however, we enjoyed a great run to Vlieland, one of the West Fresian Islands. Are we glad we picked this harbor rather than Den Helder which is supposedly a very large harbor operation and not very nice (though someone later on insisted that it was a "cute" harbor with a lot of charm. We wonder who is right). We followed the channel buoys towards the entrance, which was extremely narrow. As the current was pushing us to starboard, Juergen steered all the way to port as if he wanted to ram the port jetty, just to get in. I sure was glad when this maneuver was over. The harbor was very small crowded. The harbor master told us that they were expecting many boats and that, if we wanted to leave early the next morning, the best bet to tie up to was some old coastal freighter, rather decrepit just like its owner who we met later on.

The ten minute walk to town was rather beautiful and the town, if we want to call it that, rather picturesque with small houses, some restaurants and hotels but all one or two-story only and in typical Dutch style. We picked an attractive fish restaurant, had typical Dutch herring, followed by mussels and fish, all very delicious. Of course, the food was accompanied by some nice wine. We were very happy walking back to the boat. It started raining. A very small sailboat arrived, pointing to our boat asking whether they could tie up to us. Of course we said yes and invited the skipper and crew (his wife or girl friend) to come over. They came after eating spaghetti and brought a bottle of "cidre". We had a nice time with them.

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Typical Dutch Street
Dutch sense for Cleanliness

I very much liked the Dutch sense for cleanliness and wished we would have such signs on our building in Manhattan.... Maybe, our super or the staff who check out this website from time to time copy it and paste it on the building walls... (hint, hint, hint).

July 25, 2005 (Monday)

By the time we woke up around 0600, the young couple had left already. We don't know whether they went on their way to Borkum (a very long stretch for them) or whether they went deeper into the harbor to find fuel.

Our trip further east - we still had not decided whether we would stop in Borkum, the first East Fresian island (German), or go further to the next possible port on the island of Norderney. We had spoken with Sigi who informed us that he and Antonia, his daughter, were on yet another island, Helgoland and had planned a land day. We tried to discourage him to meet us shortly before Cuxhaven because we knew that Juergen's family would require 100% of our attention at the time.

The day was rather gray, rainy, the wind from the wrong direction - the story of our European lives - but we made good speed as the current was in our favor. There was an SMS message on our cell phone reading, "in Norderney tonight, Sigi". We were wondering whether this meant that he and Antonia had decided to meet with us in Norderney or whether he just wanted us to call him at night. Well, by the time we were approximately 5 nm away from the island the phone rang, Sigi, who was about the same distance away from another channel leading to the island of Norderney.

The approach of the island was amazing. The Reed's, the maritime bible for any European and excellent in terms of quality and quantity of information for almost any European port, no matter which country, including information on tides, current, regulation, custom/immigration information, repair and marina services, weather stations etc., states that "it is dangerous to use the Schluchter channel, the one we were taking, in strong winds and opposing seas as the seas are moving cross-wise". They sure were correct, we followed buoy to buoy and had huge breakers right three or four feet next to us, swerving the bow around with every wave. Juergen steered unbelievably well, and while it was nerve-wrecking, it was a great feeling to move through this narrow channel, sort of squeezing by the red buoys (port side of course - we are in Europe!!!).

By the time we entered the channel, we saw Sigi's boat "Moulin-a-Vent". With some shuffling around (the owner of the boat closes to the pier did not want a third boat - ours - to tie up. We Sigi and we tied up at a fishing boat and had a little welcoming party.

It was nice to see him and Antonia who we had met in New York last year around Christmas time when she and her sister Hannah visited New York.

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Juergen, Sigi, Antonia

We had champagne, cheese and crackers and talked and talked and talked. Since we have no propane, we went into town to have dinner. By coincidence we found a very attractive restaurant with exquisite food and wine - my favorite sole (the entire fish, no head), vegetables etc. It will be difficult to match the experience. We were seated at a table right next to the bar. It felt as if we had had our own private dining room. The restaurant had a very modern yet warm decor and the service was just as excellent as the food. Sigi insisted on treating us as this was our first German port.

July 26, 2005 (Tuesday)

Because we were tied up to a tanker which wanted to depart around 0700 in the morning we had to get up and untie our lines. We also had to find another boat which we could tie up to. In the end, Sigi had found one, a Dutch shrimp fisher who had no plans of departing any time today. Unfortunately, another Dutch boat was tied to this fishing boat. Thus, while we could stay there all day, we still had to stay on the boat until after 1200 when the Dutch motor sailor wanted to depart. After the early morning maneuver we all decided to sleep for another hour or so, particularly since the previous evening had turned into early this morning (0100).

Breakfast was a very long and leisurely affair. Once we were finally tied up with no more changes necessary, we took another walk into town to enjoy our first "Italian ice cream" - very different from what we in the US know as Italian ices. It is made with cream and has flavors we generally do not get in the US (tiramisu, hazelnut, lemon, "tutti frutti" etc. My favorite flavor is hazelnut. It was woooonderful!). We also took a walk to the "boardwalk" which was a very fancy promenade, very wide with enough room for pedestrians, bicyclists, baby carriages, etc. There were not too many people in the water except up to their ankles. Most people were wearing long pants, but the sky was an amazing blue with lots of fair weather clouds.

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On the beach of the German Island of Juist

Further to the beach there were lots of people, some in the water, mostly kids who don't know what "cold" means.
Now we are back on the boat, Juergen is plotting our course for tomorrow, unfortunately the trip will be mostly against the current.

We just spoke to Johanna who informed us that she will be giving a speech tomorrow and that there will be champagne to celebrate our arrival. She also said that she cannot wait to give us both a big hug.... You can imagine the scene...

We are all starving and Antonia and I cannot wait until Sigi and Juergen are finished plotting tomorrow's trip so we can finally go to dinner.

July 27, 2005 (Wednesday)

We had a nice dinner in town last night, not as nice as the one the night before, but it was decent food and wine. By 2300 we got back to our boats to find yet another boat tied to the Dutch boat next to Sigi's. We went to bed as we needed to get up early again - the incoming tide at the river Elbe forced us to leave at 0600 again - what else is new??? We got off ok and were at the end of the channel to Norderney by 0700. Thus we made good time despite the tide against us and set course towards Cuxhaven (well, not quite, there were a bunch of waypoints in between). Of course, the wind was very light and on the nose. We unfurled the mainsail in the hope that the rollers would not bother us quite as much but motored the entire way, upside-down cone displayed.

North Sea Shrimp Fisher on his Way Home
While anchored here, Container Ships have been around us on our entire Voyage, visible and invisible

We saw an enormous number of ships at anchor in front of Bremerhaven but also in front of the river Elbe , we assume either to await their turn for dock time in the various harbors or to wait for a pilot to take them into the respective harbors (see photos).