We had actually started to think we would be spending Christmas in Holland, and had left our run to the UK too late BUT finally, after two weeks in Vlissingen waiting for suitable weather to cross the North Sea to Ipswich (for winter) an appropriate window appeared (and for once remained and came through for us).
We set off just before change of tide just after lunch on Monday 18th passing out of the canal lock into the Westerschelde before pushing through a bit of confused water from current, tide and wind (being change of spring tide) into the North Sea with a full main sail and head sail making good speed.
We sailed well on a beam reach until midnight when we arrived at the shipping channel and to cross it at 90 degrees as required meant turning into the wind and it was then right on the nose so on with the motor it was and we motored slowly into a sloppy North sea swell for a few hours only once having to alter course slightly too avoid a large ship southbound.
It was a clear night with the stars shining bright – lovely, and the great news was it wasn’t even that cold. Don’t get me wrong we were dressed warm with thermals and full sailing foul weather gear but we were comfortable and didn’t even turn the heater on inside. It was dark by 17:00 that evening and it became light again the next morning around 8am.
We also encountered less traffic than previous North Sea crossings, which was a relief as at night it can be harder than one expects to keep a track of all the wind farm lights, ship lights, small traffic (yachts) as well as those dreaded fishing vessels that are just plain frustrating as they change direction constantly and have random lights (usually a flood light that negates the navigations lights) and are often unmanned at the helm.
It can also never be a straight line crossing the North Sea even when one does have a great angle on the wind (sigh) this is due to shipping channels, traffic separation zones as well as the wind farms and shallow sand bars.
So overall we were very happy with the last journey for the year, and I will admit I was rather dreading it as we had to wait out some pretty horrible weather to make the passage and I had visions of terrible rough seas or fog or having to motor the entire journey, and was extremely happy to be wrong on all counts. Although I had managed to work myself into quite a state about it before we departed and left with a real knot in my stomach which I couldn’t be sure was from stress, seasickness or hunger (as I hadn’t eaten due to worrying about being sick if it was rough).
The total journey was 110 nautical miles and we did 50 nm under sail, 25 nm motor-sailing and the 35 nm under motor (including the 10 nm up the River Orwell from the coast).
As land came into sight we tuned the FM radio into BBC Suffolk and heard our first English broadcast since departing in March, which took us a few minutes to process and realise we could understand the words as we listen to the radio everyday! The BBC radio weather reports were broadcasting thick fog and although visibility did drop a little around Felixstowe it was a great relief to not encounter fog at all.
The sun joined us for our trip up the lovely River Orwell, with frost on the rolling green hills and a very still water with no wind. It was quite exciting to be able to pronounce the Ipswich lock’s name without issue over the VHF announcing our arrival as we passed under the Orwell Bridge, although I very nearly brought myself undone by thanking the lock keeper in Dutch rather than English (just habit after the 201 Dutch bridges & locks we have spoken to). We timed it extremely well as it was high tide when we reached the Ipswich lock so passed through it on free-flow (bonus), making our arrival 11:30am exactly 24 hours after leaving The Netherlands.
We were both felt like we were coming home as we entering Ipswich Haven Marina (having spent an enjoyable 3 months here last winter). We tied ourselves up in the exact same berth we had last year and within moments were welcomed back by our neighbours on J pontoon – big smiles all around!
The next day we got right into the festive season and rigged up Red Roo in her Christmas lights to join in the wonderful display that is J Pontoon, with all the live-aboards boats lit up. Last year we won the best dressed boat competition, however this year we were extremely pleased for our good neighbours on Trimilia who took out the top prize, and we were surprised yet very happy to receive a bottle of bubbly from the marina team for our efforts on Red Roo.
We are now looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with some of Phil’s family (Auntie and Cousins) who live close by, catching up with sea faring friends we have met over the last few years who live around the region and even taking a trip south to Cornwall to see cousins down that end of the country.
Then there is no delaying it . . . we have a rather long and significant list of jobs both large and small, some requiring quite a bit of cash, other requiring a lot of plain hard work and elbow grease that all need to be done before we think about taking off again (hopefully around March) for our 2018 adventures.