The Time Capsule brings us Home

We said goodbye to Mike and Louise in the charming southern Danish town of Svendborg, leaving them with their Danish friends whilst we threaded our way through the shallow waters and islands south of Fyn, prior to a dawn dash in rapidly increasing winds across to Kiel. It looked as if we needed to get South through the Kiel canal to be ready for a period of anticyclonic weather that was predicted to deliver a week of gentle easterlies which could help us home. It all seemed too good to be true , and in a sense it was . We got the Easterlies , but they were for 3 days only and certainly not gentle , making for fast but far from relaxing passage making. The longer term forecast was for the easterlies to be followed by a succession of westerly gales, so we made the decision to do the home run in one hit.
Passage making in the North Atlantic is a doddle compared with the North Sea, which has become phenomenally crowded. For once, leaving the Elbe and traversing the North German coast was easy, but once we had turned the corner out of German Bight into sea area Thames, the fun started. Every time we come this way there seems to be another couple of wind farms to avoid , a 50% increase in shipping , and just when you get to a (relatively ) uncrowded area , dozens of fishing boats materialise out of the ether and procede to play dodgems with each other right where you want to go. In previous passages this year I had been able to imagine ourselves following in the Vikings wake , but not here . Here we were definitely in the 21st century and life was BUSY!
Probably the busiest area of all is the Maas approach to Rotterdam where ships appear from all directions and flood in and out of Europort. We crossed this at midnight with both of us up to cope with the traffic, and all went well. Once safely to the South I handed over to Lynda, observing that there were a few fishing boats inshore of us, but we looked to be well clear and I wished her a peaceful watch. 20 minutes later I was awakened by a squawk of alarm. Presumably the fishermen were hoovering up a big shoal with the aid of their fish finders , but one of the fish thought this was far from fair ( I think I agree!) , and decided to lead his brethren on an escape attempt over to where “that British yacht” was trundling South. The result was that all ten of the fishing boats had done a hand break turn and had charged after the fish – straight for us. When I got on deck we were surrounded, and it would appear that the fishermen only had eyes for their fish finders as they were altering course in random kamikaze fashion , meaning we had to duck and weave to avoid being rammed . The whole situation was made even more hazardous by their numerous bright deck illuminations making it very hard to make out the navigation lights and thus their courses. Somehow we stayed clear, but soon were into the complex buoyage and shallows of the Belgian coast and another stream of traffic in and out of the Scheldt, so rest was scarcely an option. The Dover straits crossing by contrast seemed straightforward , and once in British coastal waters we heaved a sigh of relief , dropped the main and ran downwind sedately all night under a poled out genny, ticking off the headlands and catching up on sleep.
After 3 days at sea we were at Selsey Bill, once more under full sail and now within a few miles of home. The forecast suggested we still had just a few hours of our precious Easterly in hand , but we felt a general disinclination to finish the trip. Accordingly we shot through the entrance to Chichester harbour and dropped anchor at East Head, 75 hours out of Cuxhaven , and with the curiously symmetrical reading of 456.78 miles on the log! By coming straight home we had pushed ourselves at times and missed out on seeing friends in Holland and Kent , but there is no doubt that a week later, 456 miles upwind would have been much more of a slog .
48 hours at anchor in Chichester harbour allowed us to relax and begin to look back on what perhaps has been our easiest cruise ever. We didn’t have any definite plans or time constraints, and were thus to a large extent able to go where the winds blew us. Luckily for us they took us to some exciting, if rather cold, places and then came up trumps with a wonderful period of Indian summer weather for our meanderings around the Kattegat. I have a feeling that if you are prepared to wait, summer weather in the northern latitudes will eventually take you where you want to get to.
I suppose that’s how the Vikings planned their summer voyages too, as like us, they waited for favourable winds and made sure they were tucked up at home long before the winter storms. This year I have really enjoyed the sense of the boat being a kind of time capsule, offering us glimpses into the past of those incredible Northern voyagers.
The question is, where will it take us next year?

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