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2004 - 1
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The journey towards the Baltic Sea; via France, Belgium and Holland.

Hello I'm Mithril.  Don't I look clean and shiny
Hello I'm Mithril. Don't I look clean and shiny?


All ready to go . . .

That's it then, tomorrow we get launched and the dream begins. We hope to get to St Petersburg in Russia by mid summer and return to perhaps the Channel Islands for winter. Do read the travelogue below and see what we did and how we did it.

Happy reading

This first page deals with our journey from the point of our leaving the UK and sailing to France, then on past Belgium as far as Breskens in Holland.

Our progress is deliberately slow as we are still seeing ice warnings for the N. Baltic. You will see, within the following pages, that we regularly download weather info from Hamburg using our onboard HF radio installation. You will discover that the radio is both a weather tool and a hobby.

And by reading between the lines you wil find out which of our onboard systems work and those which do not and whether our 38 foot Endurance is the ideal liveabord yacht.

On this page:

France

Calais (27th to 30th April 29 miles from Ramsgate)

We left Ramsgate for Calais mid morning, all very civilised, especially following a splendid breakfast, as the trip did. The sun was shining but the mist had yet to clear so we had 1M visibility, enough. We went out side the Goodwin Sands and then down tide, arriving at the Traffic-Separation-Scheme (TSS) just upstream of Calais and so able to cross without being incessantly buzzed by kamikaze ferries. For once the shipping lanes were also quiet, maybe that's how it is on a Monday, and so we crossed easily to Calais and were allowed in promptly after Janet called Calais Port. 30 minutes of waiting on the buoys by the lock saw us through on the first lock opening at Calais HW-2 hours.

On the trip down the Goodwin's were high and dry and a playground for more seals than the average seaside beach has day trippers, we also saw a couple of porpoise.

The visit to Calais was mainly to stock up on ships stores as they are rather expensive further East and we wanted an economic supply for the next three months. Interestingly, although Tesco Calais stocks all the wines we Brits enjoy, going to the local wine merchants in Calais yields a far greater variety of cheap and excellent wines, so much so, it's the only place we shopped for wine. And they delivered to the boat without charge.

Calais Town Hall


I cannot imagine the cost to build this today.

I've seen this Town Hall many times but this year was the first time we went inside. And I can tell you, its just as impressive inside, particularly the stained glass windows overlooking the staircase. The stone is also superbly carved throughout. Its a shame to walk past it so next time you are in Calais do call in and see for yourself.


April's figures
Distance logged. (Miles) 267
Hours at Sea. (Hours) 58
Engine Hours. (hours) 38
Average distance per day. 33

Figures for April 2004.

These figures actually include our trip to the CA in Limehouse basin, London. So one day motoring into London and one day back to Ramsgate.

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Belgium

Oostende (31st � 2nd May, 50 miles from Calais)

The trip East began with us leaving Calais at 0800 into a NE 4/5 occ. 6. The sea was horrid and the wind right on the nose until midday when it backed to the North and we were able to turn off the engine for some peace and quiet. We then had a gentle sail as the wind dropped lighter, and backed a little more, allowing us to reach Oostende and the Royal North Sea Yacht Club for late afternoon. Robert the harbour master was as vocal as ever and welcomed us with his foghorn like voice from the top of the restaurant, he asked where the rest of the Shotley gang were as our previous visits have always been with them.

We stayed in Oostende 3 days over the first May bank holiday weekend and were pleased to see another Shotley pennant as the new and shiny power boat Wreckless and crew came over on their maiden voyage, champagne and all.

On the Sunday we cycled along the very busy bank holiday prom for about 10 miles. It was a lovely warm and sunny day and we could not miss the opportunity for a ride out and to burn a few calories.

Holland

Breskens (3rd � 4th May, 23 miles from Oostende)

Oostende

On the Monday we had an early start and headed for Breskens. Here we are waiting for the harbour master to allow us to leave. It started as a motoring session but quickly became an idyllic sail in warm sunshine past Zeebrugge and into the Westerschelde. We arrived at Breskens whilst being carried along on a 3 knot tide and we had to make a very speedy right turn behind the harbour mole to get into the Marina.

Breskens� Marina is immaculate and I think the average boat size is over 40 feet, some real smashers as well, although many looked as though they hadn�t moved in years, sad really. The town is also immaculate as are the new tower blocks of flats but it all seemed without any character, and the shops were all closed. We wont hurry back.


Ijmuiden (5th � 6th May, 79 miles from Breskens)

From Breskens we planned an 80 mile trip up to Ijmuiden and sadly had to rise at 0430 to catch the 0500 ebb tide out of the Westerschelde, but as it was still dark, even after breakfast, we had another half hour kip and left at first light. We crossed the estuary and on the N side found the NW tending channel out to sea. Some of the buoys were less than 50 metres from the beach but as the depths were 15m+ and used by sizable ships, we had no worries. We were carried along on a super 2.5kt tide.

Out in the open sea once again we had 1-2 kts against us for the next 4 hrs but by midday we were at the Hoek of Holland and waiting for a gap in the ports inbound traffic to let us past. Once past, full sail and a following tide took us on past Scheveningen at 9.9 kts COG. This had been our original destination but as the day was still young we carried on to the massive promontory of Ijmuiden�s huge harbour. We were granted immediate entrance and followed the huge leading lights through and then into the Marina. M-pontoon was for visitors, it was empty and had pontoons with huge posts for stern lines. The posts also carried a steel tube and invited us to tie into it before we approach the pontoon. We had 2 goes before realising that if we simply tied up on the pontoon we could then reach the, now superfluous, stern post.

Booking-in, paying and receiving the bar-coded ticket for re-entry to the marina was all by machine, and was very efficient once we realised we must use it or else we couldn�t return to our boat thro� the secure entrance gates. That had us going for a while and it�s a good job Janet had the cash on hand.

Great speed but no wake!

Ijmuiden has a very new town centre with all amenities and a splendid library with an internet centre right at the side of a wonderful coffee shop. From the marina it�s a 30 minute walk, a 10 minute cycle or a 15 min bus journey and worth visiting if only, for us that is, to find the ferry terminal for the following days trip on the hydrofoil to Amsterdam.

The speed the ferry travelled at (65 kph) might make power-boaters of us yet; well maybe! An excellent day out but what a strange culture, the C&A �naked� dummies in the shop window were covered with plastic bags but the live waitresses had far fewer clothes!


Den Helder (7th � 9th May, 37 miles from Ijmuiden)

From Ijmuiden Den Helder was 37 miles up the coast to the large navel harbour with its small marina in one corner, within the naval complex. We had a cracking sail in a free and easy F4 wind, passing a �square-rigger� out of Amsterdam on route.

Imagine tacking that lot

Imagine tacking that lot. Ready about . . . .

It looked a fantastic site but can you imagine tacking that lot? You will not be quite able to see but there are about 50 people on the aft deck. This ship is some size!

The marina is at the Koninklijke Yacht Club, and the harbour master is most friendly and welcoming. Showering involves a visit to the officers mess and so is a little daunting, we always had to carry our passports and our harbour receipt at all times in case we were challenged by security. We were never challenges but we did have our first visit from Customs officers who, in Janet�s words, were two very fit young men. I think it was the uniforms!


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