North Sea Passage (07.07. – 16.07.2019) – updated

The estuary of river Elbe is not easy to sail. Since the currents are very strong, one should avoid to sail out in strong winds from the W, NW or N. Since the forecast until Wednesday predicts North-Westerly winds of 20kn, we are waiting. Together with me are Robert and Michael.

The crew

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Even though there are only light winds inside the harbour, all ships are waiting for favourable winds.

Wednesday morning it rains. It is very uncomfortable and cold and the sky is cloudy and grey. We start at 07:30h to the gas station to fill up the tanks, and sail out under engine into the river. Since many ships were waiting for that weather window, there is literally a rush out of the harbour now. The waves are not very high except for one… A wave from a tanker is so high that it breaks right in front of us with such a force that the starboard lamp is teard off the pulpit. The wave breaks over the whole ship and Robert on the helm is completely wet.

At the end of the traffic lane we can set sails. But three hours later we have to start the engine again, because the wind turns to the West. It turns more and more against us and increases. In addition to that it rains, which makes the situation even more uncomfortable. The old waves from the last days are still present, so that we have again wind and waves against us. During the night we give up. The wind had turned to SSW and increased. Not everyone on board could escape sea sickness. We decide to go into Borkum harbour were we arrive at 02:30h after 103nm and moor on the commercial ships dock.

Borkum

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The yacht harbour itself is full, but too small for us, anyway. All in all, Borkum harbour is only a stop-over in case of real need. The harbour area is really ugly and mooring is only allowed on old, rotted docks for commercial ships. The harbour master “chases” us finally on Friday morning from the new docks where we have moored on during the night.

Michael has to leave on Friday since he has to work again from Monday on. I continue together with Robert. We untie the lines on Friday morning at 10h and have more luck with the weather. There is no more wind, no waves and the sun is shining.

Passage nach Holland

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We are running under engine and at 17h we get some light winds. It changes all the time, sometimes wind, sometimes not, and after 24 hours we arrive on Saturday morning at 09:30h in Ijmuiden after 131nm. Finally we have reached our first goal to pass the chain of islands, and therefore have the most difficult part of the North Sea behind us.  

In Ijmuiden we have to wait for the delivery of our new tender. We profit from the weekend with a visit of the beautiful town of Haarlem.  

Haarlem

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The “Staande Mastroute” passes through Haarlem – a long canal system, which allows passage making with standing mast in the East-West direction of the Netherlands in all weather conditions. This is particularly interesting when you have time or unfavorable weather conditions. The canal system passes through plenty of nice towns and regions and is really worth to travel.

In Ijmuiden we have some visitors on board. Volker and Regina, the previous owners of Cocon. I am very happy about that visit since we were in very good contact since we have bought Cocon from them.

Volker und Regina visit us on board Cocon

Our dinghy (the new tender) should arrive on Monday until 14h, and finally arrives at 16h. We quickly fasten it on our davits and leave the harbour the same day at 17h.

New dinghy

We want to sail as far as possible to finally leave the North Sea behind us. During the last days the winds were really favourable – Northerly winds of 10 to15kn – but due to the waiting time for the delivery of the new dinghy we miss that period. We profit from the remaining couple of hours of northerly winds until it turns back to westerly.

The new dinghy nicely fixed

The northerly winds help us to go West, but during the morning it dies down and we have to use the engine again. We finally arrive on Tuesday after 121nm at 14:45h in Dunkerque.

Alongside in Dunkerque

The passage of the exit of Rotterdam was actually very exciting. We pass in the middle of the night and it is very stressful for us. The traffic is very intense and without AIS (Automatic Identification System), where you can see all ships and they can see you, a passage would be almost impossible or at least somehow dangerous.

Situation of the heavy traffic during our passage at the exit of Rotterdam

The North Sea lies finally behind us, but it took much longer than expected. Even by making several long passages we could not catch up. We had to wait in Cuxhaven for several days due to the strong westerly winds, and in Ijmuiden for the delivery of the dinghy. So we have lost plenty of time. We hope that this will be better in the English Channel, which will be the next passage.

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