Holland is Full

Our day off in Oostende had avoided the worst of the NE wind , and by dawn it had veered enough for us to just lay our course in a light to moderate breeze and a bright sun trying its best to penetrate the mist. By midday a sea breeze added its twopennyworth, from time to time managing to pull the wind round to the North, but there were sufficient shifts back and forwards that the beat was not too onerous. The forecast for the following day was for a veer to SE so it was an easy decision to slip into Scheveninge after 14 hours on the wind.
Blimey if we thought Oostende was crowded , we soon found out that Scheveninge was FULL! We eventually found a pontoon in the outer harbour which would have been untenable in any sort of onshore breeze , but passed the night quite comfortably whilst the wind swung round to the SE. It seemed that Holland was on holiday , most of the population had taken to the water and on top of that at least 60 extra boats were gathering for a race to Harwich the next day.
Another dawn start and a fresh and fast reach round the top of Holland took us to the Terschelling Zeegat and a decision.The forecast was for a thundery front to pass through and send the wind round to the SW , perfect for a passage along the Frisian island chain. However we have previous experience with thunderstorms along this coast – not to put too fine a point to it , they are frightening. A pit stop in Vlieland seemed in order and anchoring a bit dodgy given the unpredictable nature and direction of storm cell winds .
Holland was on holiday up here too, and the harbour at the E end of the island was full to bursting point. Somehow we squeezed in and instantly regretted it . It was far too hot inside the harbour walls and we had a sudden feeling of compassion for how sardines must feel when they are packed in a tin . Then the front came through, not with a bang, but a whimper and the hot sultry SE wind was instantly replaced by a splendid cool SW and altogether better visibility – perfect passage weather. Sadly the tide was completely wrong for getting out to sea and we would just have to wait til dawn.

Over the past 3 days we had begun to long for the peace and solitude of our usual Northern stamping grounds. Also the Dutch seem to go in for increasingly large and immaculately shiny boats , and Festina has for the first time seemed a bit dowdy and perhaps more suited to less civilised waters . In the section in Vlieland harbour reserved for traditional boat lay a significantly larger than usual botter. What really marked her out was her finish . Imaculately machined strips of stainless steel surrounded her gleaming oak leeboards and the black paint on her steel hull was so impossibly shiny that I could easily have shaved using her as a mirror ( if I hadnt given up such barbarous practices 40 years ago!) . She was the botter equivalent of a superyacht – and despite the fine workmanship that was so obviously on show – she was too bling.

Maybe I am just jealous , but for the first time am beginning to doubt the wisdom of coming this way. Hopefully the crowds will disperse as we get further North.

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