Escape from Cuxhaven, Vlieland & Home

13th August

This morning our neighbour hit us hard while trying to reverse out of the berth next to us. Loud voices had me out on deck just in time to push the vessel away from most of our protected topsides but not from a great clout she administered to our anchor. He certainly bent one of his stanchions. Our CQR is tied up on the pulpit so my worry was our pulpit and bow roller.

To give him credit he did wait and ask if all was well which I think it is. But, me thinks, he’s not a boating man! I was rather graceless and cross. The poor chap is a clueless liability.

Then in the early afternoon a lovely Dutch, go anywhere, yacht arrived with not the youngest couple on board. I was pleased to see her at the helm beautifully manoeuvring their boat while he organised lines and fenders. They reversed in to the berth in the same conditions as this morning. We hardly kissed! I just held a fender.

‘An expert’ I said. ‘Lovely to see!’ The lady just shrugged her shoulders and smiled. No fuss at all.

‘I wouldn’t change her now’ he said.

15th August

Cuxhaven is over!

The two Cuxhaven lady HM’s were both absolutely lovely and the cleaning ladies were very helpful and keep the facilities looking like a new pin.

Late yesterday morning, having filled the diesel and water tanks, we bashed our way out of the mighty Elbe in to the last of the north westerly winds. We were not the only ones. Many other Dutch yachts had the same idea and some were struggling. We stayed fairly near the front, motor sailing with the main and beating out of the estuary in the narrow gap between the shallows to the west and the shipping channel.

Leaving Cuxhaven

Leaving Cuxhaven

Leaving the Elbe

Leaving the Elbe



Earlier in the day Andreas and Fynn knocked on our topsides.  They had brought the co owner of their small boat, which they were going to sail home to Brumahaven. I walked round to their boat with them.

Quite comically and referring to me, the co owner said to Andreas that “he doesn’t look an old man to me!” I was able to make that one last a bit. Talk about a mate letting you down.

I asked Fynn if he was still the reluctant sailor and he said today he had just driven his Dad and friend over to the boat. Fynn was going home by car.

Fifteen miles from Cuxhaven we were able to bare away west and just sail with the engine off. We then had a wonderful sailing day, just to the south of the main TSS that runs along the top of the islands. We left everyone behind, close hauled on starboard, apart from a large Bavaria that was slightly faster.

Baring away to the west...

Baring away to the west…

Heading west

Heading west

I did wonder how Andreas and his friend had got on! I think the wind had not been quite so strong when they left.

Much later in the day we were closing on Nordenay, with the Bavaria still just ahead, with just a very small chance of getting in before dark. I called the Bavaria on the VHF to ask if they were going in. They were!  They had been in to Nordenay three years before.

Darkness fell quickly and we did not arrive in time. The Bavaria went in. I was not prepared to risk a poorly marked channel.

The wind dropped in the night and we motored. There was a lot of traffic, fishing vessels and commercial activity. There were a few other yachts doing what we were doing in the narrow gap between the TSS and the land and it was quite tiring.  A catamaran silently crept passed us in the night. His red port light on his tricolour suddenly high above us off our starboard quarter.

Today there was a continuing lack of wind, which meant motor sailing and then just motoring. In a passage of over twenty-seven hours we still ran the engine for sixteen hours although about an hour and a half of this was waiting outside Vlieland harbour.



The entrance to Vlieland is to the south, which took us a further 10nm west before we could turn back up towards the eastern edge of the island. The waters between Vlieland and Terschelling are a nature reserve so no fishing or anchoring is allowed. On the charts it said the crossing of these shallow waters is also prohibited and to use the buoyed channel. Although others seemed to flout this regulation we kept to the buoyed channels.



The marina is just round the headland

The marina is just round the headland

Approaching the island the mainsheet shackle came apart when I was stowing the main sail on the boom. It was an elementary thing to miss in the daily checks I have been doing on the yacht. I am pleased it did not happen in a seaway. It’s a big boom and getting it under control was tricky in seas that were not completely flat.

Tonight we are berthed in KPN Marina, Vlieland. Inside the island at low water lots of drying banks are visible between the islands and the mainland. Later this evening it looked just like the sea although Texel and Den Helder with the Ijsselmeer to the east are not far away.

When we arrived many boats were anchored outside the marina waiting to go in.

Waiting to go in. The rib is the HM's.

Waiting to go in. The rib is the HM’s.

There were also some large historic sailing barges and small sailing ships.

Waiting to enter the harbour

Waiting to enter the harbour

I called the calmest HM on VHF and he efficiently told me to wait outside.  They would come and find us in due course. I passed another boat at anchor, who told me it could sometimes take a couple of hours to get in. The large barges and ships were being accommodated at the top of the marina, near the narrow entrance and the staff were busy berthing them first.

The HM I had spoken to on VHF works from a rib and visits each yacht quickly and efficiently. He started to advise boats to start moving in to the harbour in order of their sizes, starting with 9M and under.  The Dutch boats wasted no time in getting their anchors up. He kindly came over to us and said the 12M and under were not forgotten but there was another large vessel to berth first. He would be back. I contemplated the anchorage and then, more out of intrigue, waited.

Eventually he came back out to us and asked if I was alone. He had a great spot for us.

We then followed the rib in to a very narrow entrance with breakwaters on both sides.  Two way traffic would not work.

The Harbour

The Harbour

But youngsters were coming out in their ribs and small speed boats. Other sail boats followed us in to the harbour. In front of us was just a mass of colourful boats, many of them in harbour mode, their owners on holiday in the very warm sunshine. The harbour is long and narrow and all I could see was a bottle neck at the end. Behind us our exit had been blocked too.

There was another HM inside the harbour with an identical rib! So that’s how it’s done! We were first instructed to raft to a barge. Preparing to do this the two HM’s consulted and then said they had another better place and to follow the other HM’s rib. In the mean time I had been manoeuvring to make room for the other boats coming and going. If anyone was uncertain about boat handling they would have hated it.

Two other boats came in with nowhere to go. I backed up and moved forward just holding position in the smallest of spaces.

Then there was room to move forward and the other HM asked me to follow him. The spaces between the boats closed as we got further and deeper in to the harbour and then the rib turned to starboard with two packed pontoons with finger berths each side and a dead end of rafted boats. The space was well under ‘Talisker 1’s’ length! People seemed very relaxed.  A couple got off their boat to help.  I felt once IN one would never get out!!!

The berth was to port with not enough turning room and I asked the HM to gently nudge ‘Talisker’s bow in with his rib as a young Dutch couple came and helped from the pontoon and took our lines. We were in! It’s a great berth but getting out in less than banal conditions would require help. It’s ok everyone said. The staff are professionals.

I spoke to the HM’s and told them I wanted to stay another night but needed to leave early Wednesday. Could I have something easier to make a quiet getaway? No problem.

I spoke to the HM later this evening. He was just mooring his rib. I said how incredibly professional they had been.  With the wrong people it could have been chaos.  He was very happy to talk.  The fact he leads an extraordinarily busy summer and has the time to smile and be very pleasant, not to mention professional speaks volumes.

Our berth

Our berth

16th August

I slept very well the last time I missed a nights sleep crossing from Norway to Denmark. I thought it might by slightly noisy but it was very quiet and children are obviously packed off to bed reasonably early. It is a family marina.  I slept a straight twelve hours.

Lots of people bathe in the marina. The water is clear. I think holding tanks are strictly adhered to and I am pleased I have one. Lots of boats ‘wash up’ ashore too.





Harbour Entrance

Harbour Entrance

Tightly packed in. 'Talisker 1' 4th down right hand side

Tightly packed in. ‘Talisker 1’ 4th down right hand side

Our exit

Our exit

I have done a passage plan and we are leaving in time to be outside the islands as the tide turns to take us SW. We need to be outside the island at 0800BST.  Because of the later departure time there is no need to move from the berth.

I have a new neighbour. An elderly Dutch gentleman and his equally elderly Dutch male friend.  They were very talkative and wanted to know all about us.  I mentioned we were from Harwich! All sailors have heard of Harwich.

In the middle of the conversation my new friend said he used to own a house in Orford.  I asked him to look at our transom. He was very surprised to see our home port was Orford and also an Orford SC logo.  He had missed the burgee.

It’s a funny story. My new friend Gelders Sjoerd and his wife Ineke (maiden name Reinkeng) owned a house in Orford. He was a member of Orford SC from 1977 – 1980. His son sailed a Lapwing. Ineke took off and eventually married a Ken Heslop. They ended up in Woodbridge until Ken’s death. Ineke has now returned to Holland. Gelders is 89 and still sailing.

I texted Bill and James R with this story and Bill came straight back with the following exchange of texts.

BILL “I know him, I met him in St Katharines Dock years ago!”

ME “Seriously?”

BILL “Yes, lovely man! He’s been above the Arctic circle twice singlehanded in his little boat.  He invited me aboard for Geneva (Dutch Gin) and nibbles with him and his 2 mates.  They left to return home by train and he sailed home singlehanded.  From memory his son was a dentist and was in St Kats on his own boat at the same time.  He also knows Mike Spiers well so he was well plumbed in round these parts.”

ME “Right! I will tell him!”

BILL “His misses was cheating on him but he said the guy did him a great favour coz he was rid of her.”

I received a WhatsApp from Andreas with a photo of a sore head. He told me Sunday had been not so good. A blow on the head from the mast. Knowing it was the boom I asked him if the mast had come down!

Could have been worse

Could have been worse

He’s ok.  He was lucky to get away with it. Many years ago I felt ‘Wahine’s’ boom come within a whisker of taking me out completely. The crash jibe was so quick I am sure I would have been in a shocking state. From the position I was in I could have been hit and knocked either dead or unconscious in to the sea. NO doubt about it.

20th August

I am sitting in my office in Martlesham, Suffolk. I’m home.

Yesterday morning we sailed in to the River Ore crossing the river bar at half tide and ‘wiped our feet’ in the process. In May there was definitely more water where we touched the shingle yesterday.

Entering the River

Entering the River

We had sailed all the way from Lowestoft in an easterly 3-4 that became more southerly as we made our way down the coast.

Leaving Lowestoft

Leaving Lowestoft



We sailed in to the river and all the way up to the quay where Sally, Mum and Jessica were waiting with a photographer from a newspaper!

'Talisker 1' approaching Haversgate Island from the south

‘Talisker 1’ approaching Haversgate Island from the south

Coming up the river it was lovely to see first Doc and ‘Tuesday’ sailing down the river to meet us.

Doc & 'Tuesday of Ore'

Doc & ‘Tuesday of Ore’

Back home!

Back home!

Then Migs, Jonnie and James Robinson arrived just off Dove Point in a rib.

Pleased to be home!

Pleased to be home!

James R, Jonnie and Migs

James R, Jonnie and Migs


It was a generous and kind welcome home from four very very special friends. Doc had wanted to sail out to the Ness to meet us but the wind had died.

'Talisker 1' with Haversgate Island to port

‘Talisker 1’ with Haversgate Island to port

'Tuesday of Ore' & 'Talisker 1'

‘Tuesday of Ore’ & ‘Talisker 1’

'Tuesday' & Doc following us back up to the quay

‘Tuesday’ & Doc following us back up to the quay

We started the engine just off Orford quay, downed the main sail and berthed on the Orford SC pontoon. I was able to say hello to Sally, Mum and Jess.

It was some time chatting to family and friends before we motored to our mooring next to ‘Tuesday’s’ and then Doc came and helped me for a couple of hours to put the boat ‘away’ and chat. Philip then collected me in the harbour launch and ran me to the club pontoon.

Our wonderful Quay Warden & Harbour Master Philip aboard 'Chantry'

Our wonderful Quay Warden & Harbour Master Philip aboard the harbour launch ‘Chantry’

Home Port. Our mooring at Orford.

Home Port. Our mooring at Orford.

It was all a little surreal driving out of Orford for home. The whole day had been strange. Well! Ever since we crossed our outward track.

On the 17th we had left Vlieland at 0600 BST in easterly winds for the long 24 hour sail back across the North Sea. It was going to be the third longest passage of the summer. At times the wind weakened and we had to motor sail. There were quite a few boats leaving KPN Marina early and the HM, in his rib, was seeing us all off. He wished us a safe voyage back to the UK.

The HM in his rib, up bright and early, looking after his guests

Underway we pass the HM in his rib, up bright and early, looking after his guests

A very good man running a very busy summer marina in the most professional manner.

Although there are no shipping lanes of note after the TSS off Den Helder


Crossing the TSS off Den Helder

Crossing the TSS off Den Helder

A solitary Dutch Yacht heading north

A solitary Dutch Yacht heading north

it was a busy crossing to Lowestoft in gorgeous weather followed by a night with a full moon and perfect visibility.



Preparing for another night at sea

Preparing for another night at sea


As we made more west in the night there was lots of traffic both too and from Immingham as we closed on the east coast of England. There was enough wind in the twilight to furl the poled out genoa and sail just with the main and a ‘preventer’ still making 6 knots through the water. Any more wind and the boat would have been unbalanced. It was nice to have maximum visibility forward as I was beginning to feel the effect of no sleep at all on Sunday night passage Cuxhaven to Vlieland and no sleep again on this crossing three nights later.

Traffic & a full moon

Traffic & a full moon




The sky to the west was over cast as dawn became day. I made an elementary error leaving us too far to the north on our approaches to Lowestoft. The northerly set current was going to make the final few miles very hard work. By making this mistake we suffered an extra couple of hours at sea. I put it down to being tired. I was none too pleased.

Our outward track to the north came in to view on the chart plotter and at 0615 we crossed it to complete the round trip. It was a very strange feeling as the east coast of England had seemed at times, an awfully long way away during our voyage. Very soon afterwards we were safely moored in the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht basin.


I saw a sail boat leaving Lowestoft at 0600. I received a text from the Duckies. It was them! They had to get home before the low arrived so I missed them by a day.

I got a little sleep in the morning but the text messages welcoming us home were coming in thick and fast. I telephoned Mum and Sally. Sally said she would drive up to Lowestoft later that morning. Mum said she would come to Orford quay the following day.

Later we moved...

Later we moved…


Sally arrived and we had a lovely lunch in the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk YC and we spent a great afternoon in the sunshine catching up on eleven weeks apart. We loaded quite a lot from the boat in to Sally’s car that needed to go home which would leave less to do the following day.

Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Basin. 'Talisker 1's' mast in the foreground

Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Basin from the top of their beautiful building. ‘Talisker 1’s’ mast is in the foreground

Yesterday morning we left Lowestoft an hour earlier than planned. In the afternoon the winds were veering to the south. We called Harbour at 0500 for permission to leave and soon we were outside Lowestoft harbour setting the main and genoa and then switching the engine off. Dawn was not far away as we headed south.

The very peculiar feeling was being in familiar waters for the first time in eleven weeks. Latitude and longitude, depths, sea colour, a recognisable coastline and land marks. It was just knowing from thousands of miles in these waters what to expect in the conditions. I am not saying I was dropping my guard. On the contrary! The paper chart was on the chart table and the passage plan had been completed with no less preparation or double-checking. It was knowing THESE waters and a great feeling of contentment swept through me.

The boat was also in her element as though she knew too. Later I would have to furl the genoa and feather the main to slow us down off Aldeburgh so as not to arrive at the river entrance too early.   It was a lovely morning. Engine switched off outside Lowestoft and switched on again off Orford Quay.

My friend Barry Hitchcock had very sadly passed away earlier in the year. While Barry was in hospital late last year I mentioned doubts about whether I could go. “You MUST go” Barry had said with great animation. I was able to tell lovely Sheila, Barry’s widow and later their son Charles, how disappointed I was not to be able to share this small adventure with Barry on my return.  I can imagine his questions now!


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