Monday, May 25, 2009

Texel to Lowestoft

Departure from Texel Friday morning was at 1030am, much later than planned. We were feeling a little nervous in the morning. Taking on our first overnight crossing in one of the world’s busiest shipping channels would require careful planning and alertness. We intended to have a fairly early start and positioned ourselves bravely before the diesel station at 0745 only to be told that their tanks were as empty as ours. A very helpful harbour master in Oudeschild arranged for us to meet up with a diesel truck arriving on the 1000am ferry. At 1015am our (relatively) little boat was pumped full by a (relatively) massive tanker truck. We were one of the smallest direct customers he had ever serviced and we topped this off by having the nerve to ask him to fill two 10-liter jerry cans. This was a first for him but he agreed to maneuver the huge hose over each flimsy tank to drizzle 10 liters inside. And we were on our way, not feeling great about the delay but still full of vim and vigor. We motored out along the Marsdiep and entered the sea through the Schulpengat at 6 knots with 1 knot current with us.

The winds were light but directly against us so we headed as high as we could on a south-westerly course. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a wonderful sail along the coast of the Netherlands. Making very slow direct progress towards our destination of Lowestoft, in East England but enjoying ourselves immensely nonetheless. When we communicated our departure from the block channel area to the coast guard via VHF, Seb was cheeky enough to add a little extra information on the end “Netherlands Coast Guard, Netherlands Coast Guard, this is sail yacht the Pjotter departing the block channel area, see you in 15 months!”

Poor Emma was sick twice in the first 5 hours and timed it perfectly to cover her jacket, two of her own outfits, two of mine, a blanket and the newly upholstered cabin cushions. She rallied bravely however and was soon entertaining us with her usual positive playfulness. Macsen had a record breaking 4,5 hour nap and spent the rest of the day laughing loudly at Emma’s antics. Fortunately, neither Seb or I experienced any seasickness at all.

We settled in for the night at around 8pm. Macsen back to sleep in his bumpy berth and Emma in our cabin cuddled up with Seb. I had the first watch starting from 9pm. As it became dark I nervously scanned the horizon in all directions and studied the GPS intently. AIS is a wonderful invention! It gives you all sorts of useful information about the ships in the vicinity; size, position, speed over ground, course over ground etc. Once you see a ship you can immediately determine if there is any danger of collision without having to check the relative angle with the binoculars every few minutes. During the course of this 3,5 hour watch I saw several extremely large and intimidating boats but had to change course on only three occasions. For the rest of the time I sat and drank tea, ate bon bons and enjoyed the cushion of stillness around us and the lights reflecting on the water. I woke Seb at 1am and tumbled into bed and slept soundly until he woke me for my next shift at 6am.

Land in zicht! First sighting of the English coastline was at 0630am and our arrival in Lowestoft at 1030am (0930am local time) was exactly 24 hours from departure. All four crew members were in very good spirits as we pulled into the Lowestoft Haven Marina hoping for a shower and laundry facilities. All in all an enjoyable and blissfully uneventful crossing – the first of our Pjotter passages.

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