Day 84  Thursday  24 August 2017

Jachthaven Bruinisse on Schouwen to Jachthaven Strijensas, Binnenmaas

We are travelling from Vlissingen on the Mast-Up Route in a ENE direction through the inland waterways between those large islands south of Rotterdam.  Our final destination is about 20 kms SW of Dordrecht.

Today we have two locks in succession and are fortunate not to have to wait for more than 5 minutes.  The locks are very busy as you can see, and we have to tie up to two boats – one of which is called ‘Maiden’.  I tell the Dutch yachtie about ‘Maiden’ and the radio programme , ‘The Reunion’.  She’s quite impressed as they named their boat after the ‘Maidens of the Mist’ after a visit to  Niagara Falls!! 

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Maiden took a photo of us!

 

We goosewing down the Krammer Volkerak to our final lock of the day. 

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Our Navionics programme has us going through the lock where all the huge barges are heading, so we follow the yachts  to the left.  This is the right one, we are pleased to say.  Just tie up on the waiting pontoon and the lock opens, disgorging its contents and we have to join the queue to enter.  Amazing how it all works -people patiently queue up and moor or raft up, and there’s an orderly leaving procedure too. 

 

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Car transporter barge in Hollands Diep

 

 

We are now in Hollands Diep, our final waterway before the marina, and can sail along, avoiding the many, many barges ploughing up and down the main channel. 

 

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The narrow, shallow entrance to Jachthaven Strijensas

 

On our final approach into the Jachthaven Strijensas, the engine fades and, despite many restarts, it continues to fade as we went down the narrow, shallow channel (depth 2 m) into the marina.  Searching for a visitors’ berth (we think they’re green but can’t understand the notice at the entrance as it’s in Dutch) is a very nerve-wracking experience.  No-one comes out to greet us – in spite of all the emails changing the date!  We find a green berth and hope it’s OK, and it has a finger pontoon AND a post.  It is OK and we can relax.  (Subsequently a change of fuel filters solves the problem.)

Jachthaven Strijensas has proved to be ideal except for the lack of shop and laundry – the nearest small town is 5 km away by bus.  But it does have a good restaurant where we eat tonight to celebrate our swift and safe passage here over the last few days. 

 

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The office below with restaurant above

 

The yard has a fantastic rig for taking masts off but also allows the rigger to remove the anonometer and Windex for the winter – saves having to hoist me up the mast!  This is going to happen on Monday afternoon.

Plenty of jobs to do over the next couple of days, including catching up with the Blog, so I’m going to sign off today (Saturday) and focus on helping Malcolm to get the boat ready for the lift-out on Tuesday morning.  Thank you all very much for reading this year’s Blog – next year we’re heading to the Baltic.  Watch this space!

 

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And it’s goodbye from him – Malcolm on the old bridge over the lock, next to the marina

 

 

 

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Day 83 Wednesday 23 August 2017

Vlissingen to Jachthaven Bruinisse (on Schouen)

We are joining the Blue Wave convoy to proceed up the Walcheren Canal to Middelburg, which takes just sort of an hour.  There are 6 convoys a day so that they only have to open the bridges at set times.  We’re on the first Blue Wave at 8.42 am.  As we leave ‘Schelde’ Vlissingen Marina we’re confronted by a large ship which is joining our convoy.  Only two yachts and a big ship!  We try to keep up with the ship which is doing 6 knots down the canal so that we make the bridge openings – poor Lady Hamilton, going like the clappers.  The Belgian guy on the other yacht keeps his yacht at Breskens, opposite Vlissingen on the south shore of the Scheldt, so has done this journey many times.  We follow him.

At Middelburg we spot these houses, just like our KLM tiles at home.

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Middelburg by the canal

 

 

I’ve been before to the island of Walcheren, on a family camping holiday to Belgium and Holland in 1964 (!) and remember Middelburg for seeing large carthorses with their riders tilting at rings.  It was like jousting in the Middle Ages.   No time to stop today to see if they still do it as we’re off, trying to keep up with the ship and our Belgian friends, to the lock at Veere.  Our new friends tell us to turn left and go to Veere, a very attractive medieval town, but we are on a mission to get to our winter base and have to decline. 

 

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With the ship in the Veere lock

 

Now we are in the Veerse Meer, which is like the Golfe du Morbihan with islands and lots of yachts out sailing in a leisurely fashion.  We join them by putting out the foresail. 

 

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Tiny traditional boat with lee board on the Veerse Meer

 

Leaving  the Veerse Meer we have to turn northwards towards the Zeelandbrug bridge over the Oosterschelde before turning  eastwards and eventually the next lock.  A German yacht we are tied up to in the lock tells us to follow him to the marina close by,  Jachthaven Bruinisse.  It’s a superb marina with a supermarket , restaurant and excellent enormous showers, with a long bench, many hooks and its own washbasin.  After French showers you could hardly turn round in, this is pure luxury.  

Eat on board and discuss my options for going home early.  In the end we book evening flights after the changed lift-out on Tuesday (the boatyard only do lift-outs on Tuesday and Thursday) as Mum has rallied a little.  Once at the marina I can go earlier if necessary.

Day 82  Tuesday 22nd August 2017

Ostend to Vlissingen (Flushing)

Three countries in 2 days!  A sunny morning but no wind and a flat calm sea.  We leave at 10 am to get the fair tide from Zeebrugge to Vlissingen, sometimes we have up to 4 knots.  Follow the buoys again but it’s quite shallow along the coast – 6-9 m depth.

We notice that the Dutch – Belgian border goes across after Zeebrugge, although the Scheldt Estuary leads to Antwerp in Belgium.  Time to change the courtesy flag AGAIN!

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We’re a little nervous about crossing the major waterway to Antwerp as there are many fast ships around and you have to avoid them, but we cross at right angles in a gap in the traffic.  Phew!

 

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Crossing the Scheldt

 

A Dutch windmill greets us in Vlissingen.

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Did you ever read ‘We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea’ by Arthur Ransome , of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ fame?  The children (the Swallows)  accidentally  cross the North Sea from Pin Mill on the River Orwell to Flushing (Vlissingen) on their boat.  I read it to my class when I was teaching and we all loved it.

We have arrived at the very start of the Mast Up Route through Holland.  First there’s a sea lock to navigate.  Radio up the lock to find there’s an opening in 5 minutes.  A French yacht comes in behind us and, as usual, they have a bunch of spaghetti not attached to the boat on the bow so the boat is only attached at the stern and swings out wildly.  We, of course, have a perfect landing with a line from a central cleat, followed by bow and stern lines!

The next challenge is in the Schelde marina.  In Holland, as all you sailors know, they have two posts which you have to lasso as you enter your berth, then you have to go over the bow to tie off.  We thought we’d cracked this one by going into a corner with a pontoon but the harbourmaster was having none of it and sent us to no.13 berth.  Fortunately he took our bowlines and patiently held the boat whilst we attempted to lasso the posts.  Success eventually and just have to climb over the bow every time you want to go ashore.  The new yellow bowsprit for the cruising chute is very useful!

Walk round to the station , the nearest restaurant, a brisk walk of twenty minutes, for something to eat but it’s 8 o’clock and they’re closing and can only do mussels.  Forgotten about Dutch opening times after so long in France.  Anyway they can do fish and chips for me so we both get to eat after all.

Day 81  Monday 21st August 2017

Dunkerque to Oostende

We sailed all the way again today – so two good days of sailing!  A close reach with SE 10 – 15 knots of wind and 2 – 3 knots of tide with us.  Brilliant!

Time to change the courtesy flag from France to Belgium for our trip up the coast.

 

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Au revoir la belle France – hello Belgium!

 

The coastline is very uninspiring: block after block of flats all along the coast.  We think every Belgian must own one!  There are lots of sandbanks so we follow a buoyed channel.  There are quite a few Dutch yachts going home, but no ships. The Dutch Toerzeilors, who visit Whitby Yacht Club every year, set off on Saturday from Holland but had to turn back because of bad weather so their visit is cancelled.  When you look at the sea in the photo of Le Touquet you can see why they made that decision.

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Enter Ostend and take the first marina on the right – Royal North Sea Yacht Club – which gets backwash from ships entering and leaving the port, fishing boats and trip boats.  Fortunately they seem to stop during the night as all is calm.

 

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Us in the Royal North Sea Yacht Club Marina – many more boats follow us in

 

 

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A fishing boat leaving the port of Ostend with his nets already down

 

We go to the shop for supplies as we’re going to cook on board and do some laundry this evening – and we’ve nearly finished Season Four of ‘House of Cards’.  It’s so addictive with all that’s going on with Trump!

Day 80  Sunday 20th August 2017

Boulogne to Dunkerque

All Malcolm’s passage planning pays off – we have 2 – 4 knots of tide with us all the way! 

 

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The tide ripping past a North cardinal buoy

 

With a brisk Westerly wind to start with, we sail on a close reach to Cap Gris Nez. 

 

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Cap Gris Nez

 

After turning the corner we have to goosewing, over the Channel Tunnel and past Calais with its busy ferries.  The sea is lumpy so all my photos are rather blurred.

 

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23 ferries a day between Dover and Calais

 

 

We can see the white cliffs of Dover and the Seven Sisters in the distance.  They seem so near and yet so far away, and disappear as we approach Dunkerque.  I feel cheated somehow – our home country and being able to see it but not to able to go there! 

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We’ve decided to go as quickly as possible to the marina near Dordrecht where we’re leaving the boat over the winter.   Mum is increasingly frail and I’m intending to go home earlier than planned, which was Friday 1st September.  We’ll be coming out to the boat in the Autumn and the Spring, so we’ll visit my Dad’s uncles’ graves and Ypres then.

It’s 44 miles from Boulogne to Dunkerque and it’s taken us  from 9.20 am to 4.30 pm.  Our last port in France for the next couple of years, we choose the Yacht Club De La Mer Du Nord as we don’t have to go through any locks.  The problem is that it’s quite a hike round all the docks to find somewhere that’s open to eat on a Sunday evening.  On our way we pass the Stad Amsterdam and the Duchesse Anne , both tall ships.  We think Stad Amsterdam came and anchored off Whitby a couple of years ago – does anyone remember?

 

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Stad Amsterdam and the biggest ensign in the world

 

Next to the Brasserie where we eat, we can see the Princess Elizabeth,  a paddlesteamer which was used in the Dunkirk evacuation and rescued 1,673 soldiers.  This year’s blockbuster film, ‘Dunkirk’, was filmed here so there are lots of walking trails and tours to the beaches.  Between 27 May and 4 June, 338,226 soldiers were evacuated, including 100,000 French soldiers.  We haven’t seen the film yet, but I bet you have!

Day 79  Saturday 19th August 2017

Boulogne

We had a day out in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage today because we couldn’t sail again. Went on the train to Etaples, south of Boulogne, and then got a bus across the River Canche to Le Touquet.

Le Touquet was an area of wild sand dunes and forest but once the railway arrived in Etaples, and a tram linked Etaples to Le Touquet, the resort was founded in the late 19th century. Developed further in the early 20th century, it became known as ‘Paris by the sea’.  Strict building regulations encouraged the most talented architects to create imaginative and innovative developments. There are some beautiful thatched houses in the woods as we enter Le Touquet – and some very over–the-top ones in the middle of town!  Noel Coward and P.J. Wodehouse were residents here.

Have a coffee on the beach where it’s very windy.  This doesn’t daunt the French holiday-makers as they swim in the sea, carefully patrolled by lifeguards, and sit in huddles on the beach – just like the English!  Take a walk to the mouth of the estuary through the Parc de Nature, and watch some kitesurfers on the sea.  Too many white horses today!

 

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Too many white horses for sailing today

 

Find a café serving everything with chips but no sandwiches, so we just have to eat fish and chips.

 

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Fish and chips – French style

 

Watch a kite surfer rescue his kite and walk back across the sands – the tide is going out at a huge rate.  Etaples has a marina but you really need to know your tides!

 

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Kitesurfing at the mouth of the Canche

 

 

Etaples was the principal depot and transit camp for the British Expeditionary Force in France during WW1 and also the point to which the wounded were transported.  There were at least a dozen hospitals here, behind the fishing port, and, as I said in an earlier post, Vera Brittain was a VAD nurse at Etaples.  In 1917 the field hospital received forty thousand wounded and sick soldiers every month.  There’s also the largest military cemetery in France, the resting place for some 11,500 soldiers who came to Europe from throughout the British Commonwealth to fight in the Great War and who died as a result of their wounds or of disease.  We can see two of the monuments in the cemetery across the estuary from the café.

Back to the bus – we seem to be on an excursion from Paris as the buses are free both ways.  When in Etaples we don’t have time to get to the cemetery and back, but find a Remembrance Trail board on a nearby bridge, informing us of all the extra railway sidings – still visible today.

 

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Without memory, no future

 

Another windy night on the boat.  Boulogne has been very bumpy and creaky, noisy with gulls and fishing boats, but we did see a murmuration of starlings and had nice next door neighbours from Rye.  Tomorrow we’re going to Dunkerque, our last stop in France.

Day 78  Friday  18 August 2017

Boulogne

The fridge isn’t cooling as well as it should so we’re not going to Etaples and le Touquet today as planned so that Malcolm can fix it.  He checks that the fans are working – replaced last year you may recall – so it might be the fridge controller unit.  This will involve ordering a new one and fitting it when we come out in the autumn.

We listened to ‘The Reunion’ on Radio 4 this morning.  Tracey Edwards and some of her all female crew from ‘Maiden’ were talking about their Whitbread Round the World race 30 years ago.  When I started teaching at Wilberfoss I did an assembly on their wonderful achievement – even took in my own oilies for the girls to try on!  Our headmaster was always coming into my class and asking for ‘two strong boys’ to lift chairs or benches, so I was eager to show what women (and girls) could achieve on their own.

In the afternoon we walk up to the 13th century walled town.  Last year we visited the museum in the castle (very impressive) and the 19th century cathedral, built after the previous one was laid waste in the Terror of the French Revolution.  A much sunnier day than our last visit so we can enjoy the gardens outside the Hotel de Ville – more ‘installations’, this time Edward Scissorhands, M. Hulot’s Holiday and Alice in Wonderland, complete with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

 

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‘Alice in Wonderland’ installation

 

We also visit the Crypt of Notre Dame Cathedral, which is the largest crypt in France, built over the remains of the Roman fort.  Julius Caesar invaded Britain from Boulogne (Napoleon thought he would invade us from here too, but didn’t).  I rather liked this carving of Louis XIV who was a benefactor of the original cathedral.  And Notre Dame in a boat.

Emerge from the Crypt and mount the steps to complete the circuit of the city walls.  Peer over the walls to find another huge funfair just outside.  This one seems to be following us around!

Malcolm doesn’t need much persuading to go back into the square for a beer, before we walk downhill and back to the boat.  We pass the statue of the inventor of the first steamship’s propeller – M. Savage.

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And the tide is out, revealing even more of the ‘no-go’ area before the barrage gates!

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