Second Summer on the Baltic Sea, Pt. 3: Copenhagen to England's Winter Storage
September 1, 2011
North Sea 53'17.6N 4'28.0W
Yesterday at 13:00 we fueled up and left to bash our way out of the Elbe and into the wild North Sea. Three days of force 5-7 out of the west had built up seas. Our Dutch friends had opted to wait for the seas to moderate but the 48 hour forecast showed moderating winds that would turn favorable for reaching England. This could be our only chance to make it across.
We left on the turn of the tide and banked on the promise that each hour would be better than the last. And so it has turned out to be. The wind has dropped and we are now motoring off the coast of Holland just north of Amsterdam. Small craft and fishing boats are all around us. The freighters and tankers are just on the other side of the green buoys that mark the shipping lane. This requires constant attention. I am glad there are three of us. We are settling into a two hour on four off watch.
September 2, 2011
North Sea 52'37.1N 3'24.7E
It is midnight in the North Sea. We are mid way between Holland and England. The loom of Amsterdam is just visible to the east. Stars and the Milky Way glow in the sky. The sea is alive with gas flares from oil rigs, freighters, fishing boats and a mass of other vessels. I count seventeen separate light sources. My mind wonders how brutal it must be to live out here in January. My watch is over. Time to wake Helen and climb into a warm bunk.
September 3, 2011
English Channel 51'04N 1'21.5E
We arrived in Ramsgate exactly 48 hours after leaving Cuxhaven. I spent the last few hours pouring over the current charts, tide tables and weather reports for the Channel. Even though I am greatly relieved to be here in England the battle is not over. We still have to round Dover and sail into the same westerly winds to reach Lymington. This time we have to fight the traffic and tides of the English Channel. Time is a factor. We must fly out of Heathrow on the 13th.
As I checked in with the harbormaster I told him that we needed to clear customs and to talk to someone who knew the Channel. He offered help. "The best time to leave here is an hour before the tide turns. If you are lucky you can make it to Eastbourne before the current turns."
knew the tired crew was not going to like the news. After our two days and nights at sea we would have to be off before 7:00AM. I returned and delivered the news. I explained that there was a weather system coming and we must go. It was agreed. After customs came we headed to shore for showers and a meal.
We have just rounded Dover. The channel ferries make it one of the busiest ports in the world. I called to announce our approach and intention to stay a mile offshore.
"You may proceed. Keep watch for the ferries and two swimmers."
Conditions were quite good and apparently two attempts were being made to swim across. A discussion commenced as to how many successful crossing there have been. My guess is five hundred.
(Note: It is over 1,000 including 43 by Alison Streeter. It is 18 nautical miles but with the currents swimmers have had to swim as much as 65 miles to get across.)
September 6, 2011
We arrived three days ago. It was just after noon and the tide had just turned. The weather and currents were favorable for a four AM departure the next morning. It is run of the seventy three miles to Lymington. But, we were all tired after the long haul form Germany. I let our opportunity slip away. Helen has taken the train to London to stay with friends for a couple of days before her flight home to Washington DC.
We have rented a car while we wait for the winds to stop howling out of the west. We drove to Lymington and met Dave Street at Berthon's where Onora will winter. Driving in the gale and downpour was awful. Trees were down and traffic diverted. It might have been safer at sea. This reminded me of the cartoon of the two old salts in the dark and stormy night pulling on their pipes in the open cockpit, the waves and wind maelstrom about them. The one says to the other "It must be hell on shore".
September 12, 2011
Lymington, England 50'45N 1'31.5E
The wind dropped two days ago. We finally got out of Eastbourne. The wind was light but we were able to make good speed under motor. Lymington's harbor is entered from the Solent. The channel twists and turns through a very shallow river mouth. It is quite shallow at low tide. We did not want to come in at low tide or after dark but these things happen. The beautiful sunset was underappreciated as we approached our destination. We arrived after dark at low water. We were saved when a ferry boat from the Isle of Wight crossed in front of us and headed for home. It draws the same as we do and so we followed her safely into Onora's winter quarters.