Friday 25th July, booking in day for the Cross Country Tour.
In the guides and pilot books it mentions that Middelburg is a port of entry and Schengen forms can be submitted there rather than stop at Vlissingen, so I duly take my form to the HM where I am advised that he is not interested, nobody is interested, haven't been for ages and to just keep the form with my boat documents in case a jobsworth does a check. Seems an efficient method of dealing with bureaucracy. Middelburg is an attractive town and worthy of more time but not on this trip, one to keep for the future.
Today is registration day for the OGA (NL) Cross Country Tour 2014 and the reception party starts at 17:00. With 19Nm of inland waterway to cover plus a sluis (lock) or two to negotiate Hyrst and Alice set off in company at 9 a.m., a time dictated by the fact that Alice is moored on an inner "harbour" in the town and has to await a bridge opening to escape. This stretch of the canal is free of bridges so it is possible to settle down and take in the new experience of motoring along (still head to wind) on a wide canal, with yachts sailing downwind towards us, sheep and cattle on the banks and folk cycling merrily along the tracks alongside the canal. My CEVNI knowledge is getting a rapid check out, and I have to admit to needing a reference handy.
Kanaal door Walchereen heading for Veere
The trip to Veere at the northern end of the canal is soon covered and we negotiate the lock and exit into the Veerse Meer, a tideless salt water lake. At this point I am trying to get my head around what waterways are salt or fresh water, if they are tidal or subject to river flows (or both) and if so what direction when! However this soon becomes a secondary activity when faced with an array of buoyage liberally sprinkled with preferred channel marks, stripey port and starboard marks, standard cardinal and channel marks and no certainty of flow direction. There also seems to be a complete absence of identifiable landmarks. The chart plotter is not overly helpful and the ANWB charts on my Nexus 7 Tablet come to the rescue. Once I have adjusted to the proliferation of buoys and channels all is well. The Veerse Meer is a popular cruising water and I note there are plenty of informal landing points and overnight stops, some with pontoons and on shore water supplies and toilet facilities (think Thunderbox).
The Zandkreek Sluis is reached at midday and we pass through into the Oosterschelde for the final leg of the day to Wemeldinge. The tour opening event is hosted in Wemeldinge Marina which turns out to be a large, modern, well equipped marina and waiting on the arrivals pontoon is a Dutch OGA welcoming team ready with berthing information. For the final twist to the days sailing we have to negotiate a tight channel to an inner marina accessed via an opening pedestrian bridge - great for some more boat handling practice.
The lock into the Oosterschelde was a tad busy.
I moor Hyrst rafted out with the smaller gaffers in the fleet and acquaint myself with the reception committee in the marquee, where to my delight a Belgian lady produces my goody bag marked with boat name and perfectly pronounces Hyrst of Eremue as it should be done with a hard "H" and the "y" in Hyrst emphasised. Quite natural to her and great to hear.
The evening starts with a formal welcome then moves onto the social activities with a great international atmosphere developing amongst the Dutch, Belgian and British crews present. The comperes, all OGA members, hop between languages quite naturally and carry the sense of humour across well. A great band makes for the icing on the cake - a very good welcome event and party.
Gaffers making their own music in band down time.