Big Brother is watching – (Little Sister too)


From holland

 The 30 odd mile trip north from Amsterdam to Eknhuizen certainly blew the city dust out of our hair . Beating into 25 knots is what Festina revels in , but her crew  are getting soft in their old age and were fairly relieved to put the anchor down ( and the heater on!) in our favourite spot off the museum, surely one of the  nicest and most secure anchorages in Holland.  There was a chance that if we could get out to sea by mid morning , we could have a fast passage to the Kiel canal , so we were off again at dawn the next morning.  This time the weather was not playing ball and a constant series of thunder squalls had us leaping for the reefing lines , and more importantly brought the wind ahead , making it a dead beat and ensuring we  missed our tide out of the Waddenzee. No matter , a few days exploring the Waddenzee was a very acceptable plan B , as was a snooze to wait at the lock for the next tide!

We have made several trips through the Wadden  over the years , and I have always wanted to come back and spend some time there in a vessel suited to the waters. There are deep water channels ( after all , all of Holland’s mercantile trade sailed in and out of here in days of old), but if you want to pass along the island chain on the INSIDE, you need to take the myriad twisting shallow channels immortalised in “Riddle of the Sands”, and the watersheds have a maximum of 1 metre at high tide ; so that’s a definite no no for a fixed keel like Festina.  Fortunately there is a considerable fleet of Platboems ( literally flat bottoms) ranging from smart Lemsteraaks  ( a cross between a yacht and a clog!) to the more workmanlike ( and genuinely ancient)  fishing Botters and cargo carrying two masted  Klipperaaks . They all look as if they should sail like – well , a clog –  but due to the remarkably efficient leeboards I have seen even the biggest of  them turn to windward up a narrow channel like a racing boat.

The land and islands surrounding the Wadden are of course very low , or even below sea level , so very soon all we could  see as we nervously stuck to the buoyed channel was perhaps the occasional far off church spire. Off in the distance , tantalisingly hidden behind a sand bank,  lines of perches beckoned  seductively ,  whispering in the breeze their promises of  adventure should you be brave enough to follow them. At high water , wherever you look ,there are platboems doing just that , and to add to the magic , they all seem to be lifted half out of the water by the mirage effect of this huge expanse of water without waves. It is a wonderful  place and I have (of course!) a cunning plan to return to do it all justice in a more suitable vessel. The last few days have been a  preliminary reconnaissance , visiting  and exploring the Islands of Vlieland and Terschelling and the adjacent waters , whilst the winds have howled out of the NW , effectively shutting the door on our escape to sea.

From holland

All winds come to an end , and our NW’erly ended halfway along the  Frisian coast so we motored through the night , before entering the Elbe in  thick fog. Off the Scharrhorn Riff ( where Davis was nearly  lured to his death in the “Riddle of the Sands” ) the radar showed a stationary target dead ahead, so we slowed down  and out of the murk appeared a British yacht , hard aground where the chart showed 15 metres! Shifting sands indeed ! We were able to turn her and help haul her off , a fairly protracted process as she was 56 ft and 65 tons , and had ploughed fairly far over this extension of the bank . Halfway through the process a patrol vessel appeared out of the fog , ( described on the AIS as a “law enforcement vessel “)  to come and  watch proceedings , but thankfully no enforcement or help was required of her and she raced off into the murk again.

Unbeknown to us , others have been observing our progress . Within minutes of tying up in Cuxhaven , the phone beeped with a text from Ben , and rang with a call  from  a young German friend who opened with  “Welcome to Germany!”. It appears that both have been signed on to an AIS monitoring site , and get e-mails whenever we leave or arrive at a new port. It also  explains why Bryony knew we had left Enkhuizen  at 0230 UT, and the Dutch customs officers in Terschelling knew our every movement since leaving the Solent. Spooky or what , but I guess as long as we are law abiding citizens it helps us feel safe.

The Kiel Canal has marked a definite transition in the weather. The surrounding fields and woods smelled of summer , and we are now berthed in the Kieler Fjord alongside Ingo , our German friend  . The sun is shining , the heater is off for the first time in 2 weeks and we are in shorts. Maybe summer is here?


One Comments

  1. Good to hear the Meaks are at sea again. Went for a pootle in the boat today with Fiona and Sarah. Our love and happysailing

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