Saturday, 10 March 2018

MID WINTER CHANNEL DASH. 10th March

Leaving. Vlissingen Sea Lock.

Another Schengen quick step saw us having to make the dash across the English Channel from southern Netherlands to Ipswich, a mere 113nm, point to point. This wasn't actually because we had to leave the Netherlands, as we'd only been there 2 months and were allowed to stay 3, irrespective of our time in Belguim, thanks to an agreement between Australia and the Netherlands which predates Schengen and is upheld by the Dutch. Notwithstanding, we had to leave because we need to be out of the Schengen area for 3 months before we can return again. This means cooling out heels in the UK or Ireland. We wanted to return during summer so we can start making our way south for an Atlantic crossing later this year.


Anyway, believe me, if it wasn't necessary we wouldn't have done it. Crossed the channel in winter that is. Andrew and Christine had visited to spend a few days with us prior to commencing a summer job in Northumberland, and we had recently returned from a little jaunt in France and Switzerland, the boat was in good shape and we waited and waited and waited for a window.

Underway

We spied a promising window for the 27th of February. The morning dawned clear after weeks of dreary, cold, sleety, icy, windy, horrible weather. There was ice on the deck so great care was exercised as we crept out of the VVW Scheld at Vlissingen to the sea lock to get out into the Scheld with the right tide to make our way to sea. The locking business was accomplished with reasonable aplomb now that we are somewhat experienced with locks they pose less of a threat. Remember the ice though? So it was with great caution we moved around those decks.

Safely through the lock, the main was hoised, and Taipan nosed out into the busy shipping lane which passes close to shore here and with lines of huge inbound ships headed to Antwerp. Dodgems ensued as we crossed to shallower banks where the ships cant go, and we were off. 


The wind was a freezing number from somewhere in Siberia. North East at around 18 to 20 knots. Nice sailing but not much dodger protection from wind coming in from the stern quarter. Taipan was pretty frisky and by the time we got the headsail polled out and settled down, we were romping along in a sea of about a meter.

The day wore on, current went south, and current went north, and the wind steadily built. Several Traffic Separation Lanes were negotiated, with ships giving us plenty of room. One called and offered to change course to pass behind us as it was going to be close, just a couple of hundred meters, and as we were polled out, we didn't really want to have to make a big course change. He may have realized that. 


Should we reef or not... we were making great progress so elected to keep everything up and keep running. Our Genoa is only 95% so it's not a really big sail. We love our new one. It has a much better shape. 

We wanted this passage over with as soon as possible. Now we were getting more gusts around 25 with the occasional 30 and Taipan was thoroughly enjoying the frolic. Not so the crew who were, by mid-afternoon, thoroughly frozen. We had all our layers on, and our Fladen Suits on but even so, we struggled to stay warm.

As dusk approached we had Felixstowe and Harwich in our sites. We made it into sheltered waters just as the last light faded. Its just 10 nm up the River Orwell to Ipswich so we decided to keep going. As luck, or good planning, would have it we had a rising tide and were able to ride the current up. 13 hours, and 113 nautical miles since leaving the sea lock we were outside the Lock at Ipswich, at the entrance to the Ipswich Haven Marina our next encampment.


Taipan snowbound.

There was a delay at the lock because a ship nearby had a crane stuck on it and they were maneuvering so required us to stand off for a while. Brrrr. By the time we made it inside to be met by the teams off Red Roo and Sentijn we were pretty damn cold. Maree had salted the dock for us and we were tied off and very pleased to be here. Celebratory drinks or two were duly consumed and the heating was going flat out. Teams reunited and it was a good feeling to be back.

Snow on the decks and ice in the water. Sentijn. John and Kara Pennington and baby Dean below in the warm!

We had only been in Ipswich a week when the Beast from the East, a serious cold weather system, struck the UK and much of Europe. Snow again. Snowman on the roof and a week of white blanketing everything, It's following us!!  A week later we had another dose of snow and freezing conditions. We keep thinking spring must be coming but there is no sign.

The new Northern Lights 5kva Generator.

John and David. Mission completed.
The new Northern Lights Genset arrived at the beginning of the second week and in between showers and snow storms, it has made its way into the hole left by its predecessor. We removed the joiner between the dodger and bimini, used the boom to hoist it off the dock and over the rail, before lowering it into position. Now the captain is modifying the layout of exhaust and water inlet piping, fuel lines and electrical wiring to accommodate it. We hope it will be functional before Easter.

Midnight snowball fight on the way home from the quiz night

Socially, it has been a whirlwind of events. Wine and Cheese night, Deans first birthday party, a Quiz night, big family dinner with Sentijn's parents and James, Sally, and Audrey Tomlinson, at the Nelson. Several dinners aboard each other's boats and visits uptown to keep provisions in when weather permits.

There have been several sewing projects to while away some time below decks. 

Document bag for Sentijn.
Easter approaches and we've been back in Ipswich for 3 weeks, and in another couple of weeks we hope we will have the jobs done, all the mail received, and be ready to get out of here. The summer 
New life raft cover.
rates kick in on the 1st of April so we want to get moving.

The plan is still to head north to Scotland and then south down the Caledonian Canal. Maybe the west coast of Ireland. Stay tuned to find out!

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