Sunday, 14. June 2015
The weather forecast for the next days was north-easterly winds which was now good to sail to Calais which is in a south-easterly direction. We had planned to stay one day in Dover and we took the chance to visit Canterbury for one day as Dover is not a very interesting city. Canterbury was just half an hour by bus from Dover. Originally my father and I were planning to visit the world famous cathedral of Canterbury. But when we arrived there we had to notice that they are charging 10 GBP per person to get into the cathedral precinct and the cathedral. We understood that they need a lot of money to maintain such a big historic building but we were not prepared to pay so much for what would have been just another cathedral. We have seen many others before.
Looking around the city for interesting things to see we stumbled upon a (free of charge!) exhibition on the Magna Carta. The exhibition was mostly about the political development towards it and compared former similar agreements. Our main conclusion we drew from the exhibition is well described in this Wikipedia-article: “The Magna Carta was as such not a new thing and by far not guaranteeing personal freedom for the ordinary people but for the noble men. The political myth of Magna Carta and its protection of ancient personal liberties persisted after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 until well into the 19th century. It influenced the early American colonists in the Thirteen Colonies and the formation of the American Constitution in 1787, which became the supreme law of the land in the new republic of the United States.[b] Research by Victorian historians showed that the original 1215 charter had concerned the medieval relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of ordinary people, but the charter remained a powerful, iconic document, even after almost all of its content was repealed from the statute books in the 19th and 20th centuries.”
Monday, 15. June 2015
The next day a strong north – easterly wind was blowing and we set sail to Calais, a distance of 23 nautical miles. The day we went to Canterbury the visibility on the English Channel had been very bad and I would not have left the harbour to mess around with the freight ships on the English Channel. But on our departure we had several miles of visibility and it improved during the day. With something of 5 and at times 6 Beaufort of wind the waves rolled our boat with the sails on broad reach (Raumschotskurs). Many ferries crossed the channel but because we were going the same direction as them they were no problem because they easily could just pass us. More important were the freight ships who´s course line we had to cross. Luckily there were not many, they were all well visible and there was always plenty of room between them to safely and without too close approach we could cross. Only in one case it was at the beginning a little bit questionable whether our course lines would keep us clear of each other but also this case turned out to be no problem.
The approach to Calais is a bit tricky because a sand bank blocks the direct access and an about one mile long passage between the sand bank and the beach has to be used and more worse to be shared with the busy ferry traffic. And on top of all we had to tack (kreuzen) up this channel. Of course during the half hour it took us to tack up this passage several ferries came or left Calais which forced us to tack more often than the wind and water depth would have required. One ferry captain go a bit nervous and blew his ships horn to chase us more to the side of the fairway.
After we had entered the big harbour basin to my great surprise I saw a sailing yacht coming directly over the sand bank (it was almost high water) into the harbour thereby avoiding all the trouble with the ferries.
In fact the first person we literally ran into was a young Englishman having been raised and educated in France living on his boat in the yacht harbour of Calais. I asked him about the possibilities to short cut across the sand bank. He assured me that if I am there around high water it would certainly be no problem. We met with him later the afternoon over a beer in our cockpit and later the evening we went with him to a pub and discussed many aspects of french-english-european life.
The next day Heyo and me went by bus to the neighbouring city of Gravelines which has still a fully intact defence fortification from the 17th century. It is a nice little town and you can walk all around the city on the defence lines.
The market square of Gravelines
The next day when leaving Calais for Oostende we took the short cut across the sand bank and it really was no problem. We always had between five and six metres of depth. Thanks to the westerly wind and the sun shining we had a nice and pleasant sail along the French and Belgian coast to Oostende. The navigation was challenging because there were several more sand banks to be navigated around so despite the flat coast consisting only of sand dunes and high rising blocks of flats it was an interesting sea piece.
In Oostende we were warmly welcomed by the harbour master and we spent the evening strolling around the city which unfortunately was not very interesting because sadly enough it had been considerably destroyed in the Second World War.
From Oostende the next day we sailed to the Dutch city Vlissingen at the estuary of the Schelde. Here we found a space in a little harbour inside the lock at the beginning of the Walcheren canal leading further north into the Netherlands.
Also this town is not very interesting, we only had a drink in one of the bars at the sea front and did not really regret that we were planning to move on the next day.
The next day we entered the canal system and it took us quite a long time to cover the first miles because we often had to wait at bridges to be opened, this involved several mooring manouvres so we got better and better at it.
At the end of the Walcheren Canal we first entered into the Veersemeer, which is shut off from the North Sea by a dam and therefore are now an inland water lake. This makes them a remarkably nice sailing area. It is calm water, no tidal streams, no differences in water level but yet still a big water area with many nice little places to explore. The draught of your boat should not be too much, around a metre would be ideal. SeaBelow with its 1,8m draught was not really suitable for such things but as this was not our intention it did not matter. The main fairways were always more than deep enough.
From the Veersemeer we got into the Oosterschelde which is still tidal a water but of which I had not been aware and only found out when we got there and experienced the current. Because the fairway was winding around a big shallow area we had to motor against wind and current for about one hour but afterwards we could continue almost until the next lock.
Because the end of the day was already approaching we decided to stop here. The harbour I originally wanted to go to, a Vluchthaven on the Zijpe, turned out to be a strictly only commercial harbour for fishing boats and barges. Luckily around the corner but through another lock and bridge was a proper marina in the little town of Bruinisse. Shortly before sun set we got there and simply moored next to the diesel pontoon as no harbour master was around any more.
In the nearby restaurant in the yacht harbour we had a beer and some bitter ballen (deep fried balls consisting of a mixture of meat and mashed potatoes) and most important and the actual purpose of us paying a visit to this place, we got information from the waitress where the bus to Rotterdam leaves and we got the telephone number of a taxi company and reserved a taxi for the next morning. This was needed because the next day my father had to travel back home.
Saturday, 20. June 2015
The next morning we had breakfast and we called the taxi company again to reassure the appointment. This turned out to have been a very good idea because it almost sounded as if the taxi driver had forgotten the appointment or more likely was about to forget it because it seemed as if he had a more lucrative tour at the same time. Finally the compromise was that he would show up 10 minutes earlier than originally agreed but this forced us to hurry up with the breakfast. So this morning was not as relaxed as we had planned it to be but it anyway was a nice morning, not only because of the sunshine. The taxi arrived on time and Heyo got his train home from Rotterdam.