Wednesday, 13th August - Ijsselmonde to Willemstadt (22 Nm)The jungle telegraph (in the from of text messages) suggests that Willemstadt is a likely rendezvous point for several of the dispersed gaffers heading south, which fits in well as the next destination from Ijsselmond. The route will be east then south east on the Noord, negotiating the Ablasserdam bridge (opening 2 hourly at 15 mins past), then on to Dordrecht. From here we bear south west on the Oude Maas via the Dordrecht rail bridge (opening hourly at 12 mins past) then on the Dordtse Kil and Hollandsdiep to Willemstadt.
The Noord canal has a strong tide determined flow which is favourable from late morning, East Breeze and Moon River depart ahead of me to take full advantage of it whilst I do my usual faffing around and eventually cast off at 12:15. Whilst preparing to leave I notice Bonify passing the marina entrance probably heading for the same destination. Later, when following the right hand bend on the Noord at Slikkerveer I come across an incident where a barge has lost control and taken out some shoreside gantrys and piles and is jammed at an angle partly out into the canal. A police patrol boat is on scene with blue lights and code flags showing so I pass at a safe distance and continue. Shortly after the police launch pulls alongside me and indicate they wish to talk to me. Hum, I am motorsailing with no cone up, however, this omission is ignored by the police and they instruct me to keep well into the edge of the canal (where I had been and was returning to after avoiding them) as if to make a point of their presence. I had noticed on the cruise though that Brit skippers have a habit of running mid-channel so perhaps some precedence for the police. I press on for the Ablasserdam bridge and get the 13:12 opening.
I had passed under this on my trip north but turned back on my attempt this time and waited for the next timed opening. The crew on a Dutch motor boat alongside me during the bridge approach looked decidely concerned as I edged closer to the span!
The remainder of the passage goes goes without incident and during the wait for the Dordrecht bridge I am joined by High Barbaree and one of the other Belgian gaffers. The trip through Hollandsdiep proves to be a wet one with the still strong SW wind kicking up a chop and some spray. I arrive at the Willemstadt harbour at 18:30 and join what is turning into a gaffer rally with several of the fleet present.
The harbour at Willemstadt
Gaffers rafted out equals a social gathering.
A beautifully presented windmill overlooking the harbour.
The town is very attractive and a popular tourist location. A place I would certainly visit again on any return.
Thursday 14th, August - Willemstadt to Kortgene (32 Nm)Decision time again for the skippers on the best route from here. Some of the larger boats elect to head for the Roompotsluis and then into the North Sea as the winds are expected to abate enough to allow coastal passage making. As a single-hander on a small boat I choose to stay inland and make my exit to the sea at Vlissingen with the next enroute stop at Kortgene or nearby.
From Willemstadt we exit east directly to the Volkerak lock (2) and SW along the Volkerak to the Krammer lock (16). Exiting this lock we retrace our earlier northbound route along the Mastgat and Keeten waterways then continue on to the dominant Zeelandbrug (21) which spans the Oosterschelde. At this point boats heading for the North Sea will continue west via the Roompot and Oosterschelde waterways, I will turn south and into the Zandkreek (23) through the lock (27) and on to the Veerse Meer. East Breeze and Moon River will be taking the same route as Hyrst of Eremue.
I depart Willemstadt marina at 08:00 and stop at their fuel barge for diesel, then on my way by 08:15 for the Volkerak lock in company with Moon River and East Breeze. The day had started with fine weather but as we exit the Volkerak lock torrential rain sets in. The wind is still strong F5 and from the SW making for a cool and splashy passage but we press on and reach the Krammer lock at 11:30. After clearing this lock the rain stops and we just have the head wind to contend with, although on turning into the Zandkreek I set the foresails for a while and give the engine some respite.
Three Solent boats, Moon River, Hyrst of Eremue and East Breeze on the wait pontoon at the Zandkreeksluis.
Yours truly on Hyrst contemplating the mooring options in the Zandkreek lock.
Transit through the Zandkreek lock goes smoothly and we arrive at the Kortgene marina late afternoon. Moon River experiences an engine-not-starting problem whilst we are on the arrivals pontoon but all is soon resolved and we are given moorings in the Landbouw haven with easy access to the town.
The marina is on the expensive side at €15 plus extras but with good facilities. It has been another long and tiring day so I am not going to complain. I make an offer to provide dinner for the evening which is taken up by Barbara, Marion and Amanda (crew on EB) so make an evening shop for provisions then press my Polish galley slave (Remoska) into action, concocting what turns out to be reasonable fare helped down with the last of the OGA beer and some wine from the cellar (bilge).
Friday, 15th August - Kortgene to Vlissingen to Breskens (20 Nm)Today will see us out of the inland waterways and coastal once again, although the crossing from Vlissingen to Breskens is dependent on the sea state we encounter when we get there, there is still a F5 SW wind blowing and the strong tidal stream in the Westerschelde needs factoring in. The route is straightforward sailing on the Veerse Meer to Veere then taking the lock into the Kanaal door Walcheren, on past Middelburg to Vlissingen then following the small boat passage across to Breskens. Four bridges and three locks to pass through today.
All three boats set off from Kortgene at midday in fine weather although over-suits are initially required to combat the wind and spray. Our departure time is intended to get us to the Westerchelde for slack water. In comparison to my novice arrival sail here I can appreciate the Veerse Meer far more now and wish there were more time to spend in the area - for another trip perhaps. We reach the Veere lock at 14:15 and have to hold for around 15 minutes until we can lock through into the canal. A good passage down the canal ensues and we reach the Vlissingen lock at 16:15. During our passage through the bridges and locks at Vlissingen we have the pleasure of Erik Frenks (one of our hosts) and his daughter cycling the canal path to keep us company (he had been following my AIS track).
Not stopping today!
Passing the harbour entrance at Middelburg with the temptation of the floating chandlery at the entrance being resisted.
Hyrst of Eremue and East Breeze holding for a bridge opening at Middelburg
(pics. Barbara Runnels).
The passage through the Vlissingen lock results in a few stressfull moments as the wind causes some difficulties but we emerge intact into the Westerschelde. It only takes a moment to ascertain that the crossing to Breskens is going to be a rough one, the wind in open water is around F6 and there is still significant tidal ebb running creating some unpleasant conditions. After a wet and bumpy crossing in convoy we arrive at the Breskens Marina arrivals pontoon, a somewhat exposed spot in the conditions. There is a phone box on the pontoon for use in contacting the office, however, getting alongside the pontoon is risky so I call the marina on VHF and request berthing information. In the meantime Marion and Amanda have managed to get East Breeze alongside the pontoon and Marion concludes the berthing details by phone. The marina layout is unclear but we eventually find our allocated berthing and moor up by 19:00. The marina fee is €13.75 including electric. Good food and beer are found ashore and I turn in for the night with the sound of the wind howling in the rigging and contemplating being harbour bound for the next three days as the wind is forecast to increase. I also noticed that I had exchanged ducks for gulls as local water inhabitants!