A holiday with challenging weather part 1

With the school term reaching an end at the end of July we had planned to take Virtue North through Amsterdam to be situated in Harlingen for the arrival of the Tall ships race from Stavanger Norway, in which my son was sailing on the Swedish ship Vega Gabley.

Vega Gabley

 

Leaving Aalsmeer for the second time at dawn!

6am on the Westeinde

motoring in convoy towards the Kaag, through the fields

The initial departure was a week earlier to get the boat through Amsterdam and leave it then in Enkhuizen for a few days before sailing to Harlingen. The weather had been week after week of lovely settled weather and was every day in the 30 degrees which proved to be a problem for our bridges in Amsterdam, having confirmed the opening of the night convoy through Amsterdam we duly moored up at the top of the Nieuwemeer ready for the transit only to hear that regrettably there was no way as six of the 16 bridges were stuck closed! Was a bit of a bummer as the only other way was to motor South 20 km back passed Aalmeer and across the Kaag lake and then motor in convoy through a number of villages via Haarlem   and Spaarndam, it’s not a bad route but is considerably further and emerges ten miles away from Amsterdam so really it is quite a long day to go round that way.

North sea canal, ship coming right at us out of a side berth !!

We did also have to go through the motorway bridge we had navigated the night before at 5am so we had a good early start which we were glad of as the heat in the days previous had been so oppressive that we were glad to be underway before the sun had too much chance to overheat us, my raymarine plotter proved unable to cope with the temperature and insisted in shutting down continually, just as well I didn’t really need it except for the speed reference. We emerged into the North sea canal around 2.30 pm which was an earlier than expected but motor sailing down to the bottom of the Markermeer to Durgerdam took us till 6pm by the time we had negotiated the lock and bridge by Schellingwoude.

Durgerdam

 

 

Durgerdam is a lovely spot to stop for a night, the harbour is much larger than it appears and they normally have enough berths for visitors, charge was around 12€ per night so was very reasonable, it’s full of interesting classic boats and that is all against the backdrop of the reed banks and charming village built on the dijk.

crew busy with the violin

just looking cool on the helm!

Next day we had a  southerly  light breeze so we hoisted the spinnaker briefly as unfortunately the weather did the dirty and rained on us ( first rain for 37 days !), and after that the wind turned Northerly and blew in inconsistent strengths all afternoon waiting till I had got my biggest sails up before it escalated to above the 20knts, anyway Enkhuizen was duly reached not without the considerable trials of our patience .

 Having put my son on the plane to Norway we returned the following week to depart on a leisurely cruise with a remarkably settled weather outlook planning to be in Harlingen five days later.


The weather was still incredibly warm the winds were light force 2 SW, but there was a few thunderstorms about, most of them very localized, having just had a very brief downpour we sailed off on expectation that there could be a small rain squall but likely it would remain fine during our crossing to the other side of the lake.

Just before the storm


 Was a lovely day we were with a number of boats having a lovely downwind sail in the sun, minutes later a large dark cloud seemed at first to be going to miss us and then it was over us and the rain hit, then the wind started to pick up and increased within a few minutes it was over 35knts and it was becoming apparent that reefing wasn’t going to be the option, I was downwind so I turned the boat onto the reach and let out the main completely, the boom and quite a lot of the main was in the water as we were still keeled over to the toerail only with the working jib sheeted in! by this point my wife was inside with the storm boards in so luckily I had the auto pilot set up so I left the helm and climbed along the healed cabin top and released the halyard and pulled down the main which was then all dragging in the water, back in the cockpit I pulled in the sheet and gathered up the main.

The waves had built up dramatically by this time and we were heading north on a reach so the sea was fairly side on, but I was aware that I needed enough northing to clear the sandbanks off Stavoren  which could be a problem if the waves pushed me too far to leeward so I started the engine and motor-sailed for Stavoren hoping to clear the sandbanks.

At this point I was asking myself which of the leeward harbours was going to be safe to approach in force 8+? tricky decision but I was fairly confident  of sailing straight into Stavoren although it might be a very rolly and wet in the entrance,  and I mustn’t mess up on my approach. At this point I was suddenly aware of a lot activity  on the VHF as many people seemed to be in a muddle and there was several inflatable rib lifeboats charging back and forth, and people on the radio were being told that they were going to have to wait as they had a number of other boats to help first, it was really a little surreal and to be honest a bit scary. The squall probably didn’t last much more than an hour and a half and by the time we entered Stavoren it had dropped to force 6 and although the swell was still uncomfortable we made the entrance without drama, followed by a lifeboat towing a couple of yachts in one of which had been pulled off the sandbank, there was also one boat on the rocks one sunk with two young guys who  were rescued by helicopter, apparently the approach to Urk was very difficult due to the swell and the lifeboat was very busy guiding boats into the harbour, so that would have not been a good option.

Happy to be in the harbour of Stavoren

 


 

I have had quite a lot of experience with squalls on the Ijsselmeer but never had one as severe as this, guess the extreme hot temperatures had contributed to the severity and quick escalation of the storm, but never the less was a warning to me to be better prepared and to watch the weather better.

lovely sunset after such a dramatic day !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pilot Cutters Regatta Falmouth

Agnes with me standing on the aft deck.

I have just returned from a week in Falmouth as chartterer crew on Agnes the Scilly islands pilot cutter, was a remarkable experience. Coming originally from the East coast of the UK and having spent many years now in Holland, Falmouth was a place I had long wanted to visit and Pilot cutters were boats I have a mild fascination with partly due to the reported relation in design that the Jolie Brise was partly the inspiration to Laurent Giles when he designed the Vertue class.

The famous Jolie Brise, very pretty boat and still fast!!

The week in question had three days of racing against other pilot boats in the 2018 Pilot Cutters Reveal, we got to race and actually beat the famous Jolie Brize, at the meet up on the river pontoon it was remarkable to see the differences between the Scilly island boats a design from around 1840 to the Bristol style boats mainly dating from the early 1900’s, the reality of the older boats was there wasn’t really much of the original left as pretty much every part had needed replacement at some time.

The two boats in the Scilly islands style were both built by Luke Powel who has built a respectable number of these types, currently there is a large 60ft boat called Pellew, a copy of the Vincent being built in their yard in Truro, I climbed all over it as a team of workers were busy sawing hammering etc. in a very traditional manner huge timbers in mainly oak, it seemed quite remarkable to see that going on in pretty much how it would happened hundred years ago, it is now easy to see the amount of thought and effort that goes into producing these most remarkable craft.

Agnes was a delight in as much as she was so beautifully put together, amazing attention to detail, with none of your immaculate polyurethane finishes, oil and tallow finished the bright work and spars, the cabins were lovely, masterpiece of cabinetry  and very cosy although we were with nine people, Joanna catered for us with finesse in quite a compact galley, I was amazed at the lovely home cooking that appeared constantly with coffees and teas and plenty of beers.

The rig has a complexity that I have not appreciated previously, you have a huge gaff mainsail topsail, staysail flying jib and  top flying jib and no winches to pull them in the sheets had a block on them but even still it was very hard to pull them in, the mainsail was something else I couldn’t pull it in without someone stronger helping, I learnt very quickly not to have my legs anywhere near the loose mainsheet when jibing!, the weight and force of that spar coming across the boat was quite intimidating, not to mention lethal!!

Having tacked her gently up the bay in Falmouth I was continually reminded by the similarity’s to how my boat handled and felt, yes she did kind of feel like a large Vertue, admittedly the hull form is not that similar she has a lovely deep forefoot and a full length straight keel, in light wind she takes a good amount of time to bring the nose through the wind, give her a good 10+ knots of wind and she a different experience altogether and charges a long at a very respectable speed for her waterline length and beamy jaunty form, remarkable steady on the helm, we did over the three days carry asmany sails as was possible, at one point there was some concern for the bend in the topmast as it was a little strong to be carrying still the topsail, and the flying jib attached to that spar, there are two sets of back stays which are being continually set up and removed to tack the boat, with all the different sheets etc.  it is a very full on job sailing her in the races.

 

Luffing match between Amelie Rose and Agnes

We sailed her form Truro through Falmouth out to sea and down to Helmond river for the first night, following morning we sailed back past Falmouth up the coast to Fowey where the other Pilot Cutters assembled to beginning the next day Friday with the passage race down to ST Mawes which we finished a respectable second after Jolie Brise, who is larger and faster  than Agnes.

The following two days we raced mainly around the Falmouth bay rounding a number of different buoys, memorable was the first race on Saturday having sailed down the coast a little we had to round a buoy quite close to the beach, the wind was exceptionally light here and we attempted to tack clear of the area by doubling back along the shore line instead of facing the slight swell, it was tricky to get her nose through the wind but eventually she turned and we escaped that pocket of no wind and the rest of the fleet remained there unable to get away from the shore, we had a good steady breeze so won with an embarrassing lead.

With two firsts a second and a third we were the overall winner of the Reveal, and Luke the builder owner was delighted to finally win the trophy with her after ten years of trying.

The full crew of Agnes with the Comodore presenting the trophy right.

 

All in all it was delightful experience and was very impressed by Falmouth area  as a cruising ground, it is however not an area I can get my Vertue down too in a hurry but who knows maybe I’ll find a way to get there some day.

Links:  https://workingsail.co.uk/

https://www.classic-sailing.co.uk/

 video made on Unity during the regatta : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjtOWKDkHCY

 

Documentry about building the Pilot Cutters:

 

 

 

 

 

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May holiday

With the arrival of our May school holidays the first week was cold and had rather extreme amounts of rain so play was prevented till things had perked up in the second week and a three day weather window way available, my son had made plans to meet up with countless friends on his Regina 1 on the Westeinde so we saw him leave with his mast down and the 4hp motor propelled him at about 7 knots off down the river in the direction of the Westeinde lake.

We duly shipped aboard Virtue and joined them for a sail on the lake where it was embarrassingly obvious that my sons craft was marginally faster than my rather heavier Vertue no matter how I tried to catch him .

Having determined to stay fairly local in case needed we had a night on the island, a different one to my son as our direct company was not desired and after a phone call we decided all was well with the campers on the Regina and we headed off to the Kagerplas for our second night, it was unfortunately rather full of rather well healed  youngsters in motor sloeps with loud music and perhaps one or two to many beers, I’m afraid the hot weather brings everyone out onto the water.

Next day having still not had any urgent phone calls we headed South and pulled into the council harbour in the centre of Leiden.

This is a stop I can recommend it is a lovely small harbour very central and we had our bow moored practically on the terrace of a very nice restaurant where we enjoyed our meal .

The mooring fees are roughly € 1.0 per mar + a couple of euros tourist tax so it under €10.00 a night which is pretty darn good considering what we had to pay further south in Zeeland last time at 20+.

It is an ideal spot to visit the many attractions and museums and is really a very pretty town to spend a couple of days relaxing in.

 

Friday saw us returning back up to Aalsmeer through the five or six bridges, the bridge keepers are very obliging some of the bridges open in succession and the others we didn’t have to wait more than ten minutes before being able to proceed with the journey.

Arriving back on the lake we had a glorious sail in the light variable 2kn to 18kn breeze, needles to say the Regina survived up to six hairy youths partying and camping on it and was returned to my home staging without a mark on it, considering how busy the water has been I guess I had better uprate my sons official sailing status, he was a little vague about how many beers were consumed over the three days, some things were better not knowing though!

 

 

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All shipshape again

After a fairly bleak and cold winter it was finally time to take off my winters covers, get on some final coats of varnish on the mast, spars etc. and put everything back together for the summer season, it always seems like a lot to do to be ready again on my Westeinde mooring. last year I did quite some major repaint out of the water so all the topside needed was a wash down and were smart again!

This crafty Led tricolour light has also an all white anchor light and can be installed with the two core feed wire and a special double switch on the control panel.

The mast was duly craned into place and the shrouds tensioned up, wow pleased with that, once the varnishing and setting up is done, they are lovely !

I have ticked a lot of small boxes this winter including some items that I needed to do for going to sea such as a liferaft and epirb, having looked earlier at the size of the modern liferafts had ruled out fixing such a monstrosity to my cabin top, I stumbled upon the lalizas rescue platforms with tent roof, these are really small 9kilos roughly for a four person one, the bag is really small and because it’s so light it tucks into a locker down below and easily lifted onto deck if needed, it is technically more a coastal thing but well I guess that actually what I do mostly! The other advantage of such a compact raft is that you tend to only take it to the boat when you go off shore and the rest of the time it’s kept dry in a corner of the attic out of the weather!

The epirbs are now actually so cheap it seemed silly not to have one on board, after all I want to get fished out of that minimal liferaft ASAP and there is always a small chance that it may be quicker than alerting the emergency services with the marine radio, so for € 300  and €750 for a raft I’m pretty well set up for an offshore cruise, now just got to find some uninterrupted time to do it!

I guess most of the well-voyaging Vertues had none of these contrivances that we now have kind have adopted as standard, yes life is more complicated and not necessarily safer .

All settled for the night

 

It’s still April and with the temperature climbing to 27 degrees time for a first sail and an  overnighting on the Westeinde, the wind was light and it was actually very therapeutic to bob up and down at anchor and take a lazy morning rest waiting for the light and variable wind to finally rise half a day late and lot less than the 27knt that my telephone aap had tried to convince me of?

How often to you wake up to such a sunrise!!

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On going maintenance and kayaking

The tempo of maintenance and upgrades has been a little slow this winter, mainly as there was not much in the way of essential work needed and secondly the weather has been so damp and through November and December that it was difficult to get paint or varnish to dry, having re painted the majority of the main saloon it took two and a half days to reach the touch dry stage!

It’s actually amazing how many little doors there are to re-varnish, I’m sure they had not been stripped since new so it was quite a considerable amount of work to get them back to bare wood.

On the deck I have had to re-bed the fairleads and have swapped the rear pair for a couple of Tufnell blocks on springs hopefully to take the effort out of hauling in my genoa sheets.

by placing the handle in the off centre hole with the central bearing release you can winch a line independently of the chain.

 

The foredeck is now equipped with a second-hand Simpson and Laurence anchor-man manual anchor winch, can also be used for winching in a line on the top independent of the chain pawl, the new cradle on the stem head for the Rocna took a lot fettling to get it fitted on the existing fitting.

There was a serious  storm in January which brought remarkable wind strength to my neighbourhood, it’s not normal for us to see gusts of 65 kts, my boat was bouncing up and down on the canal as waves came down with white horses! luckily my lines al held and there was no damage.

Wind meter from Schipol airport, 1km from my house !

There is now the slight sign of spring and the sun is beginning to break through the dark and short winter days, full steam ahead that’s get all that varnish over coated ready for a season in the Sun I hope.

Yesterday I took off with my kayak in the direction of Amsterdam some 6 km from my house intending to just pootle about for an hour or so, it was so nice that I went into Amsterdam and cut through to the Amstel where I paddled into the historic heart of the town,

I was able to remind myself of exactly why I put up with the sometimes grim dark days of the Dutch winter here, it is a remarkable magical place with incredible light and reflections with the busy canals through the old town, amazing variety of watercraft, from pretty to downright ridiculous all moored up tidily next to each other, the remarkable varied decorative architecture as magnificent backdrop, its ‘a quite unique place and amazing viewed from the water.

After a good many hours I eventually found my way back out of the maze of canals on the other side of town where I could take a right and through a park back in the direction of my house, there are at diverse place locks but before every one there is a special low staging especially for kayaks to be lifted out and carried over the lock, launching on a corresponding stage on the other side, all in all covered around 23km I guess and I can nearly touch my toes without bending down now !!

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Still raining !!

freshly undercoated cabin.

 With the close of the season, it is now time to tackle some boat projects during the winter. This winter the cabin re- paint was long overdue the original white gloss had gone quite yellow in places and had rather a lot of shrapnel wounds from various dropped or thrown articles, so I began with a good sanding, with the vacuum cleaner hooked up essential as otherwise it is really difficult to get the boat clean enough to paint!

Load of dents etc. to fill and re-sand then a rolled coat of undercoat, and that’s as far as I can get till the temperature rises slightly to put on the gloss again, don’t want to risk it all turning out pimply !

I came across a second hand Simpson and Laurence anchor winch which would be handy on the foredeck so preparing to remove the air vent which was not in use and was such a silly design as to be bound to let water in at every chance, so was therefore always closed.

There is a lesson to be learned here I thought to off-centre it to the left so the chain was routed to the left of the Samson post which seemed like the best way and I could cover the holes of the air vent also, so duly drilled the bolt holes for the winch, after thinking a little I checked if I had considered the gypsy direction, what a bugger !! it has to be rounded from the other side, all my holes are wrong !! Although not a huge problem can still route it to the right, just got to get some better temperatures to epoxy over the area and re-drill, while I was busy with anchors have fitted a more suitable roller carriage to take the new Rocna, so it can’t come back so far and chip my paint work, getting there slowly !!

exposed deck head with no nuts or back plates on the fairleads !!

a motley bunch of fairleads, two left ones are Original.

 

After removing the ceiling boards under the deck, there was not only no insulation, but you may expect to find a backplate and  a nut on a bolted on fairlead, nothing just a small brass bolt threaded through a 3mm steel deck, glad I didn’t discover that mid ocean !!

Just wish that bloody rain would stop for a day or two occasionally, been damp and cold, tricky for these jobs, I don’t remember having these problems in the last few winters which have been often quite mild and dry.

 Now approaching Christmas and has been quite a year if not the most exiting I feel it has been worth all the time and energy spent fixing and upgrading.

I have replaced the sails and all of the lines, stripped and re-varnished the mast, and also done a total re-paint to the topsides and antifouling, and when that was done I could get my sons Regina 1 also repainted and set up for him and his mates to go off cruising.

The proud skipper of the Regina 1

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Ready for winter

Before you know it it’s ready to pull everything apart and put the boat away for the winter, not been the easiest of seasons to plan a cruise in, we had roughly a week in May and struggled to find a suitable week in August to get away on the boat. The entire month of August and September have been pretty poor this year with huge amounts of rain and wind and very unstable conditions for planning a nice family cruise.


At the beginning of the season I had hoped to hop over to the UK or even Denmark or something challenging but fraught with unsettled weather and very little free time from my busy antiques business, absence of weather windows have limited my sea hours, the one dry free day I got out on the water in September the wind died and it rained and the one dry day in October I got out to be hit by a sudden nearly 30kt squall !! which sent me scurrying off back to my harbour, sometimes the weather Gods are just not on your side, I don’t mind a blow but my new sail is not quite ready set up for reefing yet and before I give it a good thrashing I’d like to break it in slowly!

Racing on Wednesday evening

Donald as crew

life jackets are compulsory in races!

far from the madding crowd, lovely!!

I must say it remains a most empowering and enlivening hobby, when it’s not tedious frustrating and anxiety ridden. it is remarkable what a reviving and invigorating effect it has on the soul, give me a bit of sun and a good breeze, I come back a new man full of positivity over the world and delighted by its rich creation.

Now I have the mast tucked up in the mast store at Aalsmeer and the boat back and covered in front of my house where I can nip out at every opportunity and work in it under the covers.

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Sailing the Randmeren

sunset on the Nieuwemeer

Captains log 7th Aug, left Aalsmeer 18.25, Aalsmeer bridge 19.00, A9 bosraand bridge 20.00, Nieuwemeer lock and night opening 00.50 till 2.40, sleep till  8.00, 9.18 departure, oranje lock 10.20, 11.15 off Durgerdam, 12.30 off Pampas, 13.18 sailing under the Hollands bridge, 14.30 mooring up on island the schelp. ( mooring charge  5.50)

It’s always quite a task getting away from the land locked Aalsmeer and up through Amsterdam through all the bridges, mostly it goes like clockwork, although night passage is sometimes a trial. The weather being predominantly unsettled with SW winds we had chosen to navigate the Randmeren which is the name of the route around the Flevo polder encompassing some lovely ports and a number of secluded wooden islands with small harbours.

The depths are shallow in places so we stick to the very wide buoyed channel, the islands have to be approached with care but are in theory all dredged to about 1.75, in reality my depth gauge dropped to virtually zero at one point approaching the Schelp, the bigger threat is the weed however as it clogs your water inlet and gets wound into the propeller shaft, we had no trouble as the patches are easily avoided and the buoyed channel is kept clear.

After a delightful quiet night on the Schelp we departed wind behind for Spakenburg, some 20 miles further up. Delightful run entering Spakenburg on a festival day with market stalls live music and all the fishing botters taking sightseers to and fro.

Lovely to see so many old botters together and the ladies in their traditional costume. ( mooring WV Eendracht 10.50)

Next day  the gale arrived with winds up to 45 kn SW, we stayed put, and were anyway waiting for our friends to arrive on there Dehler, needless to say they had quite a lively sail mainly under reefed genoa, wind behind.

Following day the wind had dropped to only 6-7 beufort from an 8  so we left in the direction of Hardewijk, was awe inspiring as we approached a top speed of 6kn under working jib alone, and the waves one these lakes were really quite remarkable, all went fine and we arrived in Elburg, having transversed the new aqueduct in Hardewijk, the only tricky moment was coming into a lock with this strong wind behind made it very hard to stop the boat, first time I’ve done 4kn forward with full reverse on!!

 

Elburg is a delightful place to stop, historic walled town extremely well preserved and very picturesque.

Next day we headed up through the ketelmeer, unfortunately we had come to face the strong SW wind we had had behind us till now so we motored till we were out on the Ijsselmeer where we had a fairly bumpy on the nose sail into Urk, which was somewhat exposed and windy destination, otherwise charming port, it used to be an island and still has quite its own character, very strict protestant population, we were there on Saturday night and it was remarkable that the population was all partying and quite extravagantly merry.  The next morning it was very quiet and only the church bells were to be heard!

Sunday headed off into a very bumpy swell from Urk  wind on the nose force 4-5 , unpleasant chop progress slow and difficult due to short sea, five hours later in Enkhuizen, shattered!!

Very pleasant stay moored in the old harbour in Enkhuizen, lots of lovely classic boat all around, great restaurants ate out in the old fish market delightful.

Leaving Enkhuizen the following morning unfortunately still had that infernal strong SW wind which meant fighting it of the shore and the whole length of the Markermeer, it is a very frustrating sail wind varied up to about force 6 then dropped to virtually nothing by the time we reached the bottom, due to the shape of the meer the wind gets quit distorted around any of the headlands, so despite effectively going round a corner it never makes the wind any more advantageous from direction, arrived back in Amsterdam around 7pm to discover the bridges were out of order for 24hrs bugger!! Had a rest day waiting for the next evening to return through to Aalsmeer.

Violin accompanyment at Durgerdam.

In reflection the Randmeren is a very pleasant trip with a lot of similarities to sailing in Zeeland, for us a lot closer though and with the eight islands if you just want to get away from it all for a few days it’s really to be recommended.

Was quite surprised at how cheap the moorings were last year in Zeeland we paid often in excess of 21 euros per night but the islands worked out at 5-6 euros and the other stops were all under 15 euros which was a lot more palatable!!

Fishermans monument at Urk.

 

 

 

 

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A day at the races?

Finaly my new foresails have arrived after 7 months!!

With the Summer weather turning more and more unsettled with loads of wind and heavy rain the weather stuck to its normal routine of being perfectly acceptable till the school holidays begin here in the last weeks of July, I’ve managed a little less sailing than desired, with an immanent weather window appearing in the coming days were heading up North to the IJsselmeer for a swift ten-day cruise, hopefully the weather holds but I have my doubts!

Harbour looking seaward

The other day I made an excursion to visit the Dutch Classics regatta in Helevoetsluis, it’s a bi yearly event that attracts a large number of the classic Dutch fleet and a few Brits.
It’s a four-day event where there are a couple of races a day on the Haringvliet, followed by a hearty meal in the evening.

Dog had the right idea here!

Wind was force 6 + rain squalls when I arrived to see the yachts that would have normally been out racing at that moment of the day, race postponed unfortunately above force 6, things can get out of hand very quickly with 50 classics all thrashing around in a relatively small area, would like to attend this event sometime but not in this weather!!

Sevaral of these boats are very similar to my Vertue.

http:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zzpq2lNYRzM&feature=youtu.be//www.dcyr.nl/

Helevoetsluis as a town is not so large but what makes a fascinating visit is the Ram ship Buffel, and the lightship Noord Hinder, both quite remarkable in their own way.


Both are now obsolete, this Ram ship was built for the Dutch in Glasgow Scotland, as the Dutch had not the technology then! It was designed to ram the timber hulled frigates of that day which were quickly replaced with iron clad craft within a few years so it never really saw much useful service.

These hanging tables were put away at night so the hammocks could be hung up!

Fantastic washroom in the bow.

I favour the Captains class over the Economy on the Buffel, he’s got a bath!

Rotating turret with enormous guns!

Light ship is also interesting, you have to all intense and purpose a ship, but on the bridge it has it’s compass binnacle but no steering wheel and no engine controls, got no engine!! Reckon the captain and helmsman had a pretty dull time!

Saloon with a radio for entertainment, reckon I would get pretty bored, especially after one month!!

The Bridge, anything missing?

These ships were permanently manned and were used for weather reporting as well as defending the shores for errant ships wandering over the sand banks, the men would live a rather solitary existence for up to a month when they would be swapped over with the next shift, if the sea was calm enough to exchange the crews by small boat. Apparently it was bloody frightening when there was fog as avoiding an oncoming ship was out of the question being permanently anchored with the mushroom anchor.

Reserve mushroom anchor

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Enchanted lands and new sails

I’ve just returned from a memorable four day trip round the Markermeer (bottom half of the Ijsselmeer) with it being our Ascension weekend holiday Thursday till Sunday. We left the Westeinde lake around 6pm to make the first bridge in Aalsmeer at 7pm, which times well with the next large viaduct opening A9 at 8pm, across the Nieuwemeer to wait out the late night opening around 2am, passing through Amsterdam is quite an experience as it starts with some large road viaducts and a rail bridge which brings you into a lock, that particular night there was 30+ boats to pass through and into the lock and a fifteen minute window when the rail bridge could be open and it was the only opening, because half hour later the bridge was going to be closed for a couple of days for maintenance. We were none of us sure that we would all fit into the lock, so come the appointed time we were all jockeying for position as the light turned to green it was charge !!needn’t have worried we all made it into the lock was a close thing though!

Busy night in the Nieuwemeer lock.

There follows a long convoy through 13 smaller road bridges and then to finish another rail bridge, before emerging into the Houthaven ( wood harbour) where we tied up to sleep out the few remaining hours of the night.

Huge liner Disney Queen

Schellingwoude bridge

The Vigilant just before she went aground!

Following day it’s an hour motor along the huge Ij to the oranjesluis and another large viaduct bridge (schellingwoude), then out onto the bottom of the Markermeer, we tacked lazily in the light wind up to Volendam for the night.

New marina and holiday village

Old town harbour

Volendam is quite different from how I remembered it there is now a huge marina complex next to the older town, we felt a little small on the millionaires pier and we were given the only free box mooring which was 18 metres long.

Shouldn’t we be sharing this box?

Volendam has three sub cultures going on, firstly the new yuppie marina complex with holiday village, then walking down to the old harbour there is a horrendous touristy busy street packed with shops restaurants and drinking houses, we were glad we didn’t pull into the old harbour, a few meters from this road in the old village it was dead quiet as the tranquil village life was remarkably preserved and carry’s on with total disregard to the water front mayhem!! Despite being quite an enigma it is a delightful place to stop.

Aproaching Hoorn.

The next day brought yet another day of blue skies and sea, and a delightful breeze we sailed a little close hauled up to Hoorn.I often dream of getting further but on days like this it’s hard to beat the Netherlands, not only the delightful places to visit but the huge amount of interesting old and historic craft sailing in these waters, the harbour of Hoorn is just a lovely place to sit for a day or two watching everyone come and go.

Virtue right and Tom’s Mason yacht is left.

Who should stick his head out when we arrived in the harbour but the very recognisable Tom Cunliffe( famous yachting correspondent and writer) and complimented me on my humble craft!, my day was made!, we later had a chance to have a yarn with him and his wife and was delighted to show them my boat.

We met TC’s aproval, I think?

Following day we back tracked and leisurely sailed close hauled down to Edam, and entered the tiny entrance which only becomes visible when your within 100mtrs, no worries it wide enough when your inside, we had to moor outside another boat so I picked one that probably has a deceased owner, so was very quiet! Was a come down from the millionaires row in Volendam.

Edam entrance

Neighbours deceased.

Edam is quite delightful unbelievable picturesque the old town and surrounding countryside is breath-taking, and at just over 10 euros a night it’s one of the cheapest spots I know.

Tranquility itself, from the shore at Edam

The next day saw us in 30 degrees and a light SW sailing back down to Amsterdam, in slight dissatisfaction with our progress I hoisted my extra-large Genoa and had us suddenly tearing along at a phenomenal speed as the wind piped up to around 18knts, at that time we were surrounded by a number of modern plastic fin keelers who were wallowing around making rather underwhelming progress, there was a few open mouths as we took off careening around at  speed with our side decks nearly awash, cameras were shooting footage and photos from all sides as I momentarily stole the show, would you believe it!!

Halvemaen replica ship, reckon he needs bigger sails.

I have been sailing my Vertue now for four years and this year have renewed my 30-year-old mainsail, I was under the impression that I wasn’t really very competitive with the lighter modern craft, not so though.

The rig of the Vertue is particularly well thought out, the mainsail is very large and if it is well cut it puts the majority of the power into the rig, the modern yacht usually gains the majority of it’s power from these large roller foresails which are often hopelessly out of shape. The foresail on the Vertue is the less important of the two often it makes little difference whether you fly a working jib or the normal genoa, beauty of having the three foresails and the staysail is that you have a good sail combination for the right wind strength, inevitably whenever you put your light weather sail up it blows a hoolly!!Bloody hell!

The Vertue hull is pretty heavy displacement and you would think that that deep long keel was quite a drag compared with a modern fibreglass fin keeler, not so where the more bulbous round forms of the modern yacht being very wide and flat to the water have an enormous wetted surface area the Vertue is narrow and therefore very slippery, she points very high and stays high on the wind as a larger rounded hull slips often to leeward, and downwind she’ll  outrun most larger craft especially if you pull up a spinnaker, being significantly narrower.

It’s no wonder then really as Laurent Giles is widely believed to have based his Vertue design on the lines he’d taken of the particularly fast pilot cutter of the day Jolie Brise which is still to this day regarded as exceptionally fast.

The new generation of yachting seems to revolve around light weight floating lifestyle  apartments with considerable luxury and  often regrettable consequences in sailing  performance( not true off all) and despite the size none too comfortable in a seaway.The Vertue is very much the pocket cruiser in size, and three is a crowd believe me, but her abilities are still remarkable , I’m inclined to still agree with Humfrey Barton that the Vertue is amongst the finest of small seagoing craft available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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