The Belgians love music no matter where you go – there is always a radio playing somewhere, even in the showers of the yacht club! And as in Hamburg, time has stopped musically and the playlists of the 70s, 80s and 90s run non-stop in the loop. It’s time for the sea … “enjoy the silence”.
The vision of the weather frogs: for 12 hours wind 3-4 from north-east, then turning to south-east 4 – that sounds almost like Christmas! Saturday morning 09 o’clock departure Oostende and indeed, we have the perfect wind – fantastic! For the first time since Hamburg relaxed sailing …
In the afternoon, across Dunkerk (France), the tide capsizes and 6 hours of countercurrent are on the program, in the frying pan delicious pork chops and the Expresso is already prepared too. Speed over ground 2 – 3 knots, we have time … all fine!
The wind begins to turn south, just as predicted. And he turns and turns … to southwest, right on our nose! Time for a quick weather update, it gets even better – westerly gale warning for the early morning! A short radio conversation with Blueberry and the new course to Dover is set.
Well, no time to be upset about the weather, here we go crossing the Strait of Dover – at a right angle through the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme). First, the 4 nautical miles west-east runway, then to relax the 1 nautical mile wide separation zone and finally again the same game only in reverse with steamers on our starboard side, moving from east to west. More than 400 merchant ships come here daily through the narrowness, as a bonus the ferries, well at least almost no yachts are on their way.
We reach the English coast southwest of the Godwin banks without sinking one merchant ship! We make radio contact with Dover Port Control 3 nautical miles from the harbor because there is an absolute registration requirement for all ships approaching the port.. We get green light for the western entrance and an hour later our lines are tight up in Dover Marina.
After a nap we hold a crisis meeting on Stardust. The weather charts look cruel to us, one low pressure after another for the next 9 days and no hope for a breeze in our direction – just hard to believe! Nobody is willing to sail against wind & waves with theese strong currents, not talking about the stress for our boats. Also the port fees in the kingdom are more than salted, for the small 28 footer Stardust between 25 to 50 British pounds per night, for Blueberry 30 to 60 pounds. The decision is retreat a 100 nautical miles back to Neeltje Jans in the Netherlands and wait there for better weather.
The return trip to Neeltje Jans was anything but good for Lutz on S.Y. Blueberry, just one hour after leaving Dover, incoming radio message: “Autopilot failed”. For 25 hours he sat uninterruptedly at the helm, the whole at aft wind – a gybe lurks at every slightest concentration weakness! A break was out of question because another radio message came in, this time from the Dutch Coast Guard: “gale warning for our sea area”, hurry up! We reached Neeltje Jans around 6 pm and passed through the lock immediately to set up a quiet overnight camp inlands. We just made it in time and the wind started blowing, unnoticed from Lutz who was in dreamland already 🙂
Well, after a simpel analysis of our situation the answer is: “October is far to late in the season to leave Hamburg going south”. Last year it worked out fine, but that was also a very special summer. Anyway, Lutz pulled the consequences, we laid down his mast and he drove over the beautiful Dutch canals to Maastricht to spend the winter there. Sensible! 🙂 And we on Stardust …. well, hope dies last and we are still waiting for a weather miracle. If nothing changes, then let’s have some fun again on the North Sea with perfect winds sailing back to Hamburg. Deadline is the end of October. Until then, we are on stand-by in Rotterdam – Yoohooo! 🙂