After two days of basking in the sun with temperatures close to 30 degrees and no wind, it was time to move on. The wind forecast was great; between 15 and 23 knots and coming from the north/north east. Perfect to go south!
Originally, we had planned to go to Zeebrugge, but as we had such a good wind forecast we decided to go all the way to Dieppe instead. After all, we wanted to catch up on some of our lost time in sunny Scheveningen. This meant that we had to sail through the night and sail through one of the busiest water ways in the world. And oh boy, let me tell you, it was busy, real busy.
We are now starting to understand what impact currents in generally have. Say you have a speed through the water of 6 knots per hour. This is a great speed when you are sailing. Now it happens that you have the current against you and the strength of that current is 2,5 knots per hour. No longer happy smiles as the speed over ground (SOG) is now only 3,5 knots per hour… On top of that you may have a drift of both the wind and the current and you cannot get into the direction that you want to go.
You could say that all of this happened to us. In the beginning we were elated as the current and wind pushed us nicely in one and the same direction. We were speeding with 8 knots per hour and the current gave us an extra push into the right direction of 2 knots à our speed over ground (SOG) was 10 knots per hour. Wow, we were flying and if we continued like this we would be in Dieppe by 9 o’clock the next morning.
While we were flying with the current behind us we still had our beloved Europoort to pass. Guess what? Yes, for those of you who read our previous blog “the hunt is on”, you guessed it right! A beautiful large platform was in front of our crossing junction and two guard vessels were protecting it.
As we had learned our lesson from last time, we made sure that we stayed well away from the platform and we contacted the port authorities that we were aware of the rules of the game.
With that out of the way we only had to concentrate on the vessels in the shipping lane. One of them got really close and now that I feel more comfortable with the VHF radio I gave “Lady Serra” a call and asked their intentions.
Their response was superb: “Would you like to go in front of us or behind us.”. “Well, in front of you would be great.”.
And so in front it was; the 400 meter long container ship changed its course for us and we courageously passed in front of her.
Europoort: check! Let’s move on to Antwerp and Zeebrugge. A never-ending lane of container ships, gas & oil tankers, cargo boats, fishing vessels, dredging boats. You name it, we had it… Anchor areas, which looked empty on the charts and safe to cross through, were packed with cruise ships and many gas & oil tankers. All due to Covid-19. This made our life somewhat more complicated as we had to change our course to avoid them.
Leaving Zeebrugge behind us, we thought that traffic would quiet down now. Not really as the shipping lane to Oostende was very lively for this time of year.
Evening was setting in and Peter retreated for the night as he was back on at midnight. I was supposed to do from eight to midnight. Stuart – our extra set of hands and eyes on this trip – was keeping me company. I was very pleased with his experienced company and to be true I would not have liked to be on my own during this watch.
During the watch the wind increased more and more and we were averaging 25-30 knots. The wind was fully behind us and the current dead against us, on top of that we had to zig zag in between the shallows of Dunkerque. All these factors resulted in a very lumpy sea state with little space to manoeuvre. Before we knew it, we approached Calais where, once again, we encountered a very busy anchoring area. The wind further picked up and we decided to wake up Peter a little earlier to see how to sail through this anchoring area, and how avoid the ferries from Dunkerque + all the traffic coming in and out of Calais at the same time.
Quite honestly, my anxiety levels increased heavily and I felt pretty uncomfortable. But both Peter & Stuart kept their heads cool and steered Ocean Deva safely through this difficult patch of the North Sea.
By two o’clock in the morning both Stuart and I retreated for some well-deserved rest and left Peter on his own to fight off the ferries between Calais and Dover. He said that every 15 minutes another ferry came by, and he was both impressed and pleased that some of them even changed their course to avoid him. I really don’t know where Peter got this natural sailing instinct from, but all I can say is that I am so proud of him. Needless to say, that Stuart and his many, many years of sailing experience was of great help as well.
Getting up at dawn, Peter was in his element in the cockpit as we had rounded Cap Gris-Nez around five in the night and we were finally in calmer waters and lighter winds.
By one o’clock in the afternoon Dieppe was in sight. Big swells and a very strong current made sure that Peter had to super helm (= to steer) the boat. Once in the safety of the harbour walls, Stuart and I quickly prepared the boat for mooring (mooring lines & fenders) and a friendly French harbour master was at the floating jetty to welcome us.
Thirty hours of sailing and exactly 200 nm…. What a sail we had. Before we could relax we first had to take care of our Ocean Deva. We hosed her down with fresh water, gave her a nice soapy scrub to get rid of all the salt. Now that she was ready to relax it was our turn. Showers, beers, a glass of wine, some nibbles and dinner. Our beds were calling us early and we were all gone by nine thirty.