Oostende … a wonderful Cruise

26th September

Me n ‘Talisker 1’ are berthed in the Royal North Sea YC, Oostende.

But first … I’ll back track a few days and weeks.

Brother William was home so I was ashore and despite the odd duty at the Sailing Club I was unable to get back on board ‘Talisker 1’ properly until the 21st September. ‘Talisker 1’ had been on her mooring, undisturbed for the thick end of three weeks.

On the 16th September Candy Masters moved ‘Endeavor’ from Orford to Ipswich Haven Marina. It was a lovely few hours for me spent with three master Mariners in Candy, Doc and James Robbie who had also come along for the ride.

16th September Three Master Mariners. Candy, James R and the Doc

The Orwell on a clear, still evening under the stars was at its most magical as we made are way up river in the dark. It is a memory to cherish.

16th September I’m not sure who talked the most

16th September James R at the helm of ‘Endeavor’

We motored all the way and I can’t say it bothered any of us. I’m not sure who talked the most, or the least. Candy was her usual generous self what with keeping us watered and fed. Candy and ‘Endeavor’ are good now for the winter. She hopes to sail ‘Endeavor’ home to the USA in 2022 so it will be a winter of planning for ‘Endeavor’ and her skipper. I feel privileged to be a very small part of ‘Endeavor’s’ long journey.

To the other end of the spectrum and a journey just beginning … I was flattered to be asked to help Hannah Kunert sail her Coribee round to the Deben and up to Larkman’s Ltd for the winter on Tuesday. I have loved watching Hannah operate as a first class dinghy Instructor and also taking her first tentative steps as a Cruising Sailor. She is a special person.

21st September Hannah approaching the entrance to the Deben for the first time

21st September Approaching Kyson Point, River Deben

It was also lovely to see Fred, Steve and James. Larkman’s Ltd have been, and remain, my favourite Boat Yard. The boys have generously shared an awful lot of wise knowledge with me over the years.

Later that afternoon Philip took me out to ‘Talisker 1’. Aaron at Suffolk Yacht Harbour had kindly found me a slot for a haul out and scrub the following day.

On Wednesday we had a lovely beat up to Languard from the Ore and we sailed through the port and up to SYH. Wonderful James took my lines by the travel hoist.

22nd September Orford to Suffolk YH for a scrub …

Soon after she was hauled out we had some fun and games with a power cut, which meant, … no pressure washer.

I think it would be more than fair to say that ‘some’ would have said “sorry mate … nothing we can do …” and wandered off for a cup of tea.

Not so … James, his brother Oliver and Ryan. By the time the power came back on, the boat had been practically scrubbed … by hand. They ARE a terrific team.

With the power back on, Ryan then gave the whole of the underneath a light pressure wash to finish.

22nd September & Five Star treatment at SYH

We were back in the water and allowed to stay alongside, below the Travel Hoist, for the night.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen ‘Talisker 1’ with a dirtier bottom. She was not sailing like the thoroughbred she is.

Time to take advantage.

2020 was the first year I did not sail to Oostende in many many years. Would 2021 be the same? I decided, with a good forecast to sail across the Southern North Sea, to do some research.

That evening I read up on all the Brexit and Covid formalities. Unfortunately everything is written by academics, for academics. When I went to bed that night I had more or less decided not to go.

The following morning we motored out of Suffolk Yacht Harbour early and dropped anchor off Shotley.

It took a tiring few hours on the computer to piece together roughly what was required and I will do another post to explain what I got right and what I got wrong.

The long and short of it was that I raised anchor at 1630 … next stop Oostende.

23rd & 24th September The Orwell to Oostende

23rd September underway and heading out towards The Naze

23rd September leaving the Port of Felixstowe

23rd September slowly making our way to Long Sand Head

23rd September … a little shipping in the Port of Felixstowe approaches

23rd September sunset over the Essex coast

The overnight cruise was without incident in good W and SW winds which briefly veered NW for a short while when half way across. It was the only uncomfortable part of the cruise and we slowed in an uncomfortable sea with the sails not filling.

It did not last. The wind backed and we flew. The night had been crystal clear and beautiful with a not quite full moon to illuminate the sea all around us. It was also warm for a late September night.

We passed through the Oostende Pier heads at 0515 BST, 0615 local time.

24th September 0630BST FV’s landing their catch Oostende Harbour

24th September arrival formalities

Marvelous Simon Munters, the Royal North Sea YC HM had told me to just come alongside, get some sleep and that he’d organize me a good berth after I’d rested. I woke later that morning and by midday Simon had helped me come alongside ‘Hagar’, a boat belonging to my friends Jan and Els.

Pieter came to check on me later that day.

27th September ‘Talisker 1’ centre picture in the RNSYC Oostende photographed from the Harbour Ferry

29th September A catch up with the best of friends. Mieke and Pieter’s grandson Reme

30th September The clipper ‘Stad Amsterdam’ in Oostende Harbour

30th September incredible wall art on the Architects Practice owned by my friends Greet & Johan.  At one time this building produced ice for the fishing industry

30th September a visit to Annouschka and Bart in Bruges

1st October

I’m in Oostende … still. The forecast is awful for another six days or so. There is not a glimmer of hope to sail home soon.

2nd October RNSYC basin. ‘Talisker 1’ mast 3rd in from right flying the RCC burgee from the masthead

4th October

We still have strong winds. Another depression is due over the UK tomorrow. Gusting over 40 knots later in the day.

4th October … don’t be fooled by the fine day

4th October Simon Munters is the very welcoming HM at the Royal North Sea YC

4th October ‘Talisker 1’ centre picture RNSYC basin

5th October rafted to ‘Plankzeil’ on our way in to Mercator Marina. “Hi mate, glad you enjoyed Ostend! I spotted your boat going through the lock to Mercator Marina! Cheers” Wouter Kiekens, a stranger, sent me this picture!  How kind is that?

Today MIGHT have been possible for the brave. South westerly winds gusting up to 36 knots. But it’s not for me.

On Wednesday morning it’s blowing west north west up to 50 knots as the centre of the depression moves east over the top of the Fresian Islands. By Wednesday afternoon the Royal North Sea YC Basin will be uncomfortable as the winds decrease a little but veer north west.

Thursday is looking more promising.

I did not expect to be here for so long. I’ve caught up with my Belgian friends. It was very good to catch up with them all.

Time passes fast.

Anne and Raymond Basteels have finally had to part with ‘Drunken Duck’. A sad decision for them both. They’ve swapped their fine, very business like, Jeanneau 36, for a Motor Boat in which they will now explore the canals and rivers. The inland waterways of Europe will be all the richer for their presence. And the name of their new ship … ‘Drunken Duck’.

Both Anne and Raymond were ‘Nurse Maids’ to me before I crossed from Shetland to Norway in 2016. Both knew / know the much unspoken anxieties of the sailor prior to departure. Raymond and Anne have got to be two of the most interesting sailors I’ve met over the years.

I must start working out what I have to do to get home regarding regulations. More of that later.

6th October and the reason for our move to Mercator Marina

6th October ‘Talisker 1’ safe in Mercator Marina

6th October … not a day to put to sea. View from the RNSYC before lunch with Pieter and Aster

6th October

8th October

I did move to Mercator Marina on Tuesday. Pieter texted me to say he’d received an email from Simon, the Harbour Master, warning of strong onshore winds. The RNSYC Basin would be extremely uncomfortable right through to late Wednesday night. Simon Munters arranged the whole move to Mercator.

5th October moving from the RNSYC to Mercator Marina

Marvellous Raymond was coming for a chat at 1400, which was the perfect time to shanghai him in to being my crew to go in to the lock. ‘Talisker 1’ joined ‘Hagar’ (Jan being helped by Simon) and Pieter and ‘Plankzeil’ in the lock. There were a couple of other boats too.

The wind then blew very hard indeed. On Wednesday it had veered north west. Gusts touched 50 knots.

I joined Pieter and Aster for some lunch in the RNSYC on Wednesday and the pontoons were rising well over a metre. Simon was occupied checking on the boats still in the basin, some with broken mooring lines. It is amazing how relaxed people are in the way they leave their boats. It’s not only at Orford, where a sail will flog to destruction in a gale.

Yesterday looked like the only option to sail home. The wind was going to be dying in the early hours and then there was a possibility of SOME south westerly and southerly winds. But, at what strength?

The lock did not open until 0900 local time (0800 BST).

I was up early to prepare my ship and to deal with departure formalities. The Federal Police in Oostende have been nothing but very very helpful.

I was able to lock in just a few minutes after 0900 local time. After a quick stop alongside in the RNSYC to say goodbye to Simon we were underway an hour later, just before 0900 BST.

7th October entering the lock on our departure from Mercator Marina

7th October Oostende to the Orwell

7th October outwardbound from Oostende Harbour

7th October and we are at sea

7th October getting a decent lift under full main and genoa with a very light southerly breeze

7th October anchored ships off the Belgian coast

By 0920 we were getting a decent lift under full main and genoa with a very light southerly breeze.

7th October I turn to port on the same heading as the ship.  MS ‘Independent Vision’ will pass before we resume our course and pass astern of her.  Communication on VHF v professional

At midday there was a brief moment of little wind but to my great pleasure at 1400, I was able to switch off the engine and sail in a SSW3. With her clean bottom ‘Talisker 1’ sailed superbly.

7th October passing astern of MS ‘Harbour Pioneer’ Noord Hinder S TSS.  Communication v professional on VHF

7th October Outside the TSS ‘Much appreciated if you would pass astern of us’. We heave to and MS ‘Celestine’ passes ahead of us. Communication v professional on VHF

7th October MS ‘Imke’ did not communicate despite having plenty of time to do so.  We were the stand on vessel in the approaches to Long Sand Head

In the approaches to Long Sand Head the wind had backed slightly and increased to a S4.

If I go to heaven I will be sailing in darkness, on a clear warm October night from Long Sand Head to The Naze with the lights of Felixstowe and the Essex coast, gradually getting brighter. A light southerly wind of 10 to 12 knots is caressing the sails and ‘Talisker 1’ is on a beam reach making 6.5 knots through the water. We are now free of large merchant ships as we have but a few metres beneath the keel. This is Thames Estuary sailing. Phosphoresce brightly illuminates our wake. God gives these treats to sailors, as for the most part, it can be deathly dull, at times miserable and at other times … very very hard work indeed.

The channel we are taking to the Naze from Long Sand Head is named after a frigate, the ‘Medusa’, that served as Nelson’s flagship. Moored in Harwich on the 10th August, 1801 the ‘Medusa’ was prevented from sailing due to easterly winds. Nelson was determined to leave but none of the pilots were prepared to take charge. Nelson forced a local maritime surveyor into piloting the ‘Medusa’. The daring sail out to the Swin led to the naming of this shallow entrance and exit from the Suffolk and Essex coasts, as the Medusa Channel.

Nelson’s Frigate, The ‘Medusa’

It’s roughly 20 nautical miles to the Port of Felixstowe from Long Sand Head.

The wind finally petered out and a strong flood tide put an end to sailing in the approaches to Stone Banks. We motored the last three miles in to the Port of Felixstowe. The surface of the water was like glass, the port aglow with lights. We dropped anchor at 2230 on the Shotley side in the lower reaches of the Orwell just inside Babergh PH.

7th October the port aglow with lights

7th October we dropped anchor at 2230 on the Shotley side

After a few formalities and a telephone call to the National Yacht Line I was told I could take down my Q flag.

This morning I woke early to fog and poor visibility in Felixstowe Harbour. By the time we got underway shortly before 0920 the fog had lifted.

8th October I woke early to fog and poor visibility in Felixstowe Harbour

8th October

8th October the Orwell to Orford

With more hope than expectation we rounded Languard and started to sail, making good progress, in a light SSW. It was not to last. We motored most of the way to Orford Haven and in to the river. There was hardly a breath of wind. Orford was at its most beautiful this afternoon. A few moorings have been vacated. ‘Tuesday’, always such a reassuring sight on her mooring next to ours, has also departed to her winter home in the Deben.

9th October Orford just after dawn

9th October my wonderful new neighbour and my oldest sailing buddy Simon Abley

One of the joys of 2021 was the arrival of my friend Simon Abley with ‘Time Flies’, a Sigma 362.  Simon is a veteran east coast sailor, has several trans Atlantic crossings plus a Sydney Hobart race to name but a few of his sailing achievements.

9th October view from my Orford mooring. I would not want to be anywhere else

Philip, our wonderful Orford HM, taxied me ashore.

9th October and being spoilt.  Philip, Orford’s Harbour Master, has come out to take me ashore

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