We left Cuxhaven as planned at 4pm on Tuesday to take on the North Sea for a night passage to The Netherlands. After much data crunching on tides, wind, waves and conditions it was comforting to see 3 other boats heading out at the same time in the same direction as us (meaning all their numbers were adding up to the same as ours).
It was a 119 nautical miles out of the Elbe river Germany to the North Sea, north of the Frisian Islands and then into the River Ems finally docking at Delfzijl – The Netherlands.
We estimated around 24 hours for the passage and were actually tied up after 23 which was nice as for a while out on the ocean we were travelling much slower than predicted (pushing the tide) and were worried we would miss the tide coming into the Ems (30 nautical miles up river, which can run at 7 knots so useless to go against it) but once the tide turned it added great speed for us and we timed it perfectly.
24 hours isn’t a partially long passage and definitely not the longest we have done, however after a year in the Baltic Sea without tides, currents and all day sailing of about 6 – 8 hours in duration, so short passages except for the one overnight passage from Poland to Lithuania (where we had to pass Russia without stopping), so it was an effort to “switch back on” to the real sailing deal.
The two things we were fretting over was crossing the 3 mile shipping lane in the dark and secondly with the light winds the possibility of fog (the ABSOLUTE worst of weather for sailing in busy waters) especially around that channel. Anyway things went well with both of us on deck for the shipping channel, Phil on the helm and myself on ship lights/moving watch, green (starboard) and red (port) for which direction the ships are travelling in in relation to us.
There were a about 20 ships on anchor outside the channel waiting for the tide to enter (meaning lots of confusing lights) but only a few moving and we got through easily enough. Furthermore despite a couple of times of reduced visibility in a light mist we didn’t get any fog and we actually both got a few hours sleep during the night as well as both doing our share up on deck on watch.
Therefore I am pleased to say the trip was uneventful and actually really quite comfortable. We didn’t even get wet until the last 30 minutes as we came into berth when the sky opened and drenched us. The temperature was also very mild, I guess the cloud cover helped keep the cold away.
Our only complaint was that about half the trip was under engine which can be frustrating when you have a sail boat, but with either zero wind or wind right on the nose we used the engine for a while.
Now it’s time to switch off “sailing” mode and enter “canal” mode, meaning no sailing (except in the few lakes – which they call meers), but lots of motoring and lots of locks (which they call schleuses) and opening bridges. So again the challenges change, to helming and securing in locks (usually ok but can be tricky in strong winds which we have predicted) and then my personal challenge being radio communications officer is the bridge openings – my Dutch pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired and tomorrow we have no less that 16 bridges I have to call and and arrange to get opened for us to pass through 🙂 Yes, there will most likely be some Dutch folk cursing Red Roo tomorrow having to wait whilst the bridges open for us!
Being back in Holland (sorry The Netherlands, but the locals still call it Holland) even only for a day so far is great, we both feel comfortable having been here before and really like the country and the people and the unique sights along the canals.