Having neglected to regale you all with tales of the Channel Islands last year, it’s time to make amends. Here’s the tale of how Corumba, the crew and I made our way to Copenhagen and back again* this summer.
The general plan was to head across to The Netherlands, either going down the coast or straight across. Then we’d make our way to Germany via the standing mast route or the Frisian islands. The Kiel canal was next, and we had about 2 weeks to complete that.
The next three weeks was for the Baltic, heading in a loop around the islands of Odense and Sjaelland, calling at Aarhus and Copenhagen.
Finally, it was back through the Kiel canal and down to Bruges before making our way back up the east coast and home again*. Again, another three weeks to complete that.
Overall it was a pretty excellent trip, and a little less reliant on good fortune than last year. Hopefully you find this an interesting and entertaining account!
*well, most of the way back! The trip ended in the Netherlands as I got a job there ?
Heading Out To Sea
The first week of the trip was simple enough – get to the Netherlands, then enjoy Amsterdam. Joining me on this leg of hard work followed by no work were 4 crewmates. The first, Ben Morris was coming with me for the whole entire trip, and was a dinghy instructor. Saskia was another I had met through the university sailing club, though without experience on a yacht. Crew 4 and 5 were Miguel and Lisa with whom I had a computer science degree in common. Their sailing experience was practically nil, aside from a daytrip to Filey and back.
Given the lack of experience, I preference was to go down the coast, doing two 20-hour legs. But the weather wasn’t making allowances for that. The forecast around our intended date of departure (14/15th July) was a decent north westerly Friday through Sunday morning, then a lull in the breeze till Monday morning. Then a strong easterly was due. With only two days of favourable weather, that meant there was no time for a stop in Norfolk.
With that decision made for me, I cracked out the watch schedule, and the general safety / “wake me if in doubt” talk. I went with a 2 hour on 3 off watch. Two would sail at a time, mixing the sailors and non-sailors. The lack of navigational experience was accounted for by me sleeping in the quarter-berth, within foot-application range of the crew in the cockpit. Not that sailing in a straight line is a particularly complex concept, but one does have the odd poorly lit gas rig to contend with on the way across.
Come Saturday morning (15th July) we had provisioned enough for 3 days, gas, fuel and drink. We bade farewell to Scarborough at 7am, and found ourselves settling into a largely uneventful crossing. We passed Flamborough head with the tide and it was out to the land of oil rigs, with a F4-5 ish breeze on the port quarter. Plain sailing, and with a slightly reefed genoa we were averaging 6-7 knots on a broad reach helped by the surf. Overnight it strengthened to force 5-7, but being the early reefer I am, the boat and crew handled it nicely.
The swell did start to get to us over the course of first day and night, but fortunately the stomach failure rate could be counted on three fingers. So while we baptised the bucket several times we did acclimatise. Being drugged up to our ears helped too. Ironically, it was Lisa and Miguel who had absolutely no problems with the motion of the ocean – the two who had barely sailed before. They made up their weight in gold by being able to go below and cook, which the rest of us could not handle.
Anyhow, come 3am on Monday morning we motored into Ijmuiden. After some much needed removal of clothing and a few showers, we managed a quick sleep before heading to the funzone / Amsterdam, and come 8 am we were back out and chugging our way down the canal. Breakfast and Lisa’s 23rd birthday was had en-route – evidently her family/friends are incredibly well organised, as she had been sent birthday cards in advance to bring with her!
Once in Amsterdam we found ourselves a space in Sixhaven, which was easy to come by despite it being peak season1. We settled ourselves in for several days of “British tourism”. Unsurprisingly memory is a little hazy about what we got up to. However, of the things I do remember…
– Van-kerkwijk A restaurant where they never have a set menu. Instead, the waiter comes to your table and dictates the specials to you. However, they do have horrific taste in lollypops…
– Naked people in windows
– Chips + mayonnaise, Dutch staple
– Went to the bodyworks exhibition. This is a chain of very weird museums where they “plasticinate” human bodies and put them in a variety of poses, including rather explicit ones, before carving them up and revealing body’s interiors.
– Quayside BBQ at Sixhaven, courtesy of Saskia and her mad barbeque skills.
– A few of the crew had a bash on the suspended swings, which can be found on the top of the XXX tower on the north bank of the Ij (you’ll know the one if you’ve come through Amsterdam by boat + you can hear the screams from the marina)
Time flew by very quickly indeed, and 3 short nights later it was time to get on. Saskia was due to head home at the end of the week, so as a send-off I thought she should experience a more relaxed sail than the North Sea crossing. Hoorn was the next destination, and off we went down the canal, through the locks, and into the Ijsselmeer. Despite finding ourselves in a rainstorm, there’s nothing better than sailing in a good breeze without having to deal with the waves, and we had ourselves a swell(less!) sail through the inland sea to the pretty harbour town. We joined one of the rafts in the Hoorn’s Binnenhaven and found a bar for a goodbye pint. Saskia jumped on the train back to Amsterdam and 5 became 4. Next stop: Deutschland!
1 An 8m boat does have its advantages when it comes to finding marina spaces. At no point did I ring ahead to reserve a space. However, I will admit luck did play a part when mooring in Copenhagen – I would strongly recommend reserving a place there. More on that later though!
A quick marina guide
Marina Name, Place Tips? Facilities? Cost/night (8m boat)? Corumba rating
Scarborough – One of the better British sea-side towns. Eat fish and chips, go to the pub etc. Good beach too, though gets super crowded in summer. Facilities – They exist, but miles away from the pontoons. Also only one of the showers works well. £24 + showers :/ 3/5
Seaport, – Ijmuiden Continue all the way to the end of the visitor pontoon, as that takes you closest to the facilities. Little to do. Ok, but are walk away. Showers weak £20ish + showers. They do charge half days too 1/5
Sixhaven, – Amsterdam Fantastic location, good facilities. We never tried the bar, but it looks decent and super cheap. There’s one just around the corner too, by the waterfront, opposite the station which is pleasant and not very touristy. Supermarkets 10 minute walk, ferry to the station within 5 minute walk and are free, with one running 24hrs. Good stuff, good showers, clean. €15 + facility card (€1per shower, .5 for hose use)
Binnenhaven Expect to raft. Best place to park indicated on the map, as that’s nearest the facilities. Town is fairly quiet, not a huge amount to do but is extremely picturesque, and lively enough at the weekends with bars + besto’s. Supermarket is a bit of a walk however. Facilities – If well moored, nearby. Otherwise can be a walk. Good standard, free showers too though there can be a bit of a wait when busy. 1 water hose available close to entrance. There is also an excellent chandlery within the barge that also serves as the fuel station. Worth a visit, even if you don’t need anything. Owner is very helpful €14 4/5
Keep a good watch when crossing the North Sea – some decommissioned rigs are only marked by a single flashing white light, so bear that in mind. The ones that are lit up like Christmas trees are easier!
The other pro-tip is to have all your meals premade and in Tupperware, ready to grab and eat if you’re uncertain as to how you/your crew can handle the conditions. Otherwise you’ll be going hungry, and therefore getting even more tired, and in turn making bad decisions -> dying. Bad idea.
If in doubt, take sea sickness pills.
More to follow