Having enjoyed our stay in Veere we set sail once again at 9am to sail back down the Veerse meer and lock out back onto the Oosterschelde and cruise over to Zierikzee. Forecast was for rain and strong South Westerly, strengthening for 6+ later in the afternoon and light rain, at least the direction was favourable! We had till now had predominantly SW winds and as we were travelling roughly SW it was always against us.
We had an invigorating run wind behind and clocked 6 knots at times, moored up with a little difficulty and a lot of reverse to stop the boat before entering the lock, seeing the gusty and apparent strengthening of the wind we all decided to add a reef before sticking our noses out onto the tidal Oosterschelde.
We had the tide against us on the Oosterschelde and the rain made visibility restricted, ideally you would time the tides to take the tide down to Zierikzee but that would have meant waiting at least till 3pm and then the strengthening wind against tide could have turned out rather unpleasant chop, not to mention the lee shore arrival at Zierikzee, anyway was no big deal and the wind turned out to be a lot less strong than the predictions and only strengthened significantly after we had arrived at our destination.
We sailed under the famed Zeeland bridge which at 14mtr was no concern, the tide does fairly rip through between the pillars under it, but once we were through it was easy to drop down to leeward and through a slight chop around the entrance to Zierikzee, there was a rather unfortunate mortorcruiser in the entrance on the starboard side, we did for a moment wonder whether to try and pass him on the starboard but in the end passed him to port, as it turned out he was anchored having had trouble with his engine and had called out the lifeboat to tow him back into port.
We had phoned ahead to reserve a place in the harbour and we had a spot immediately next to the facility’s, with directly behind the high bows of a couple of intimidating millionaires motor yachts, the wind was blowing directly down the harbour but we sat just behind the shower block and were remarkably sheltered.
Zierikzee was another unexpected delight, we did the walk round all the monuments of interest, museum , pony and trap ride through the town, went up the Lieve monster tower, ( sweet monster), fantastic view from the top over the Oosterschelde, in the evening we walked back to the mouth of the harbour to watch the sunset.
Next day we were planning to move on but the weather was predicted to bring still stronger winds and what was worse was the particularly strong nature of the gusts from time to time, on the same day in Friesland at the Sneek regatta a number of boat broke there masts, that’s pretty extreme, it’s also difficult to rig for because your either under canvassed for the standard strength or struggling with too much sail when the gusts come, I must add that the Vertue is a remarkably well-mannered boat in all conditions and her sail wardrobe has an answer for every wind strength, for example I have a working jib which I use in most conditions up to 25knts, the normal Genoa is best used up to only 15knts, for up to 10knts I have an oversize light weight genoa which works a treat, anywhere approaching 25knts and above the tiny foresail on the fractional forestay is a good combination with or without a reef, for above the 30knts you can first add a second reef, then later drop the main and use the trysail and maybe the storm foresail, I do tend to prefer to anticipate the stronger of the predicted winds and start off with the reef in as its easier to reef before it gets really windy, usually work on the basis that the wind peaks in strength around 3pm and before that is likely to be building up!!
Next day Friday, we were rapidly approaching the end of our holiday as I planned to be back at work on the Monday and we still had to get all the way back to the Westeinde, the rest of the group had a few more days so planned to head off to Bruinisse and onto the Grevelingenmeer, for a little island hopping.
So with regret we had to take advantage of a little weather window of two days of yet more strong SW wind before it blew a real hoolie on the Sunday, 9 am we said our goodbyes and took off under a moderate strength wind behind back through under the Zeeland bridge, against the tide again! Still made good progress 3-4 knots and was at the Volkerak lock a couple of hours later, straight through and a swift sail wind behind no tide through to the next lock and after that around 3pm we took a right and back into Willemstad, a good run Zierikzee to Willemstad including two locks in around six hours!
Next morning we left at 9am again in order sail the Hollands Diep before the wind strengthened as the tide runs in one direction only towards the sea, coupled with the SW wind make a surprising lumpiness which builds up over the whole length of the water, hour and half later we turned into the Dordtse kil and took the tide at great speed wind behind up to and through the hourly opening of the large railway bridge, with a rather large ship bearing down on us, not sure exactly how we managed it but the tide was with us all the way to Gouda which we entered the small sailing club berths for the night, had a delightful meal in the historic central square to celebrate such a good run in one day!
Next day it was as predicted pretty blustery but we had already done the open water stretches the day before so we tagged along on a chain of about 20 boats through the rail bridge at Gouda then later a succession of bridges through Alphen an de Rijn, was nesesarry to use nearly full throttle as the majority of the boats were motoring at just over 5knts at around 3000 revs that is just about ok on my boat but the Marieholm in the rear of the group on his slightly smaller powered engine was having great difficulty keeping up with the group can be a problem as the bridge keepers, can’t wait for you if your too far behind the rest.
Early afternoon saw us pulling onto the Westeinde and back into her berth and an adventure the richer!!