The chase is on...
Oh yes, being chased on the North Sea by a massive vessel called Victory G. But more on that a bit later.
We had a relaxed start in the morning, and after clearance from the harbour authorities we were good to leave Scheveningen and enjoy the space of the North Sea.
The wind was still strong with a good 22 knots, the seas were rough and the rain keeping us hydrated. With a nice reefed main sail and the jib out, Ocean Deva was once more in her element.
Not long after swaying on the waves, we lost some wind and Peter changed the jib for the larger genoa and gave the main some extra sail as well.
We were approaching Europort and this is one of the largest harbours in the world (or at least the Dutch like to think so). It is for Rotterdam what Schiphol is for Amsterdam as every 5 minutes a larges vessel leaves the harbour of Rotterdam.
For us small pleasure vessels they have created a special lane to cross this motorway on the water. Just like mum taught us back in the days when we were kids and we had to cross the road: “First you look right, then you look left, and then right again, and you can cross.”
Basically, we had it all sorted out. Or so we thought… If it was not for a very irritating large vessel called Victory G. This white and blue striped vessel with a length of over 50 meters was in our path. As we were sailing and she was under engine, we normally would have had right of way. But our right of way was not given and in fact this boat seemed to ignore our presence and remained on a “collision course” with us. SOLAS (Safetu of Life at Sea) rules says that all vessels are responsible to avoid collision, no matter who has “right of way” so we decided to adapt our direction slightly by a couple of degrees. Guess what? Yep, Victory G did the same. On top of that she had a speed of over 12 knots. We got more and more anxious, and didn’t really know what to do to get rid of her. After a couple of more direction changes, we decided to bite the bullet and call them over the VHF system.
I see you guys thinking: “Has she got their phone number?”. Nope, but on our chart plotter screen I can see little boats. If I press on these little boats, I get lots of information, including the full name of the ship. Depending on the area where you are, a designated VHF channel is allocated for that area and voila here we go.
“Victory G, this is Ocean Deva, over”.
“Ocean Deva, this is Victory G, over”.
“Victory G, this is Ocean Deva, we are a sailing vessel and like to know your intentions, over”.
“You have to stay away from MPI, keep a distance from at least 500 meters, out.”.
Utterly confused. The name of his vessel is Victory G; what on earth does he mean with MPI? So, I get back onto the radio again and the same guy tells me to get away from MPI.
After talking with Peter and this blue/white vessel once again coming after us, we decided to turn on the engines and turn to a totally different direction. Of course, we still would like to cross the road at Europort, but somehow that seems to be the least of our problems.
Engines on, a good speed of 9 knots and trying to get away from this boat as soon as we can. Being so confused I call the Europort port authorities over the VHF radio and the answer is simple: “Lady, this boat is protecting the big platform in the middle. Three boats are circling around it to ensure that not a single vessel will come nearer than 500 meters. This boat will keep chasing you until she is happy with the distance between your vessel and the platform.”
WOW… there you got it. We hadn’t got a clue, but it all started to make sense now. We just wished that we would have known this earlier. But lesson learned for the future: “Stay away from platforms as much as you can and be aware that there are vessels protecting them and willing to chase you away!
So much for a relaxing start. Back on track and crossing the road. Just amazing how fast these huge vessels are. The majority is between 200 and 300 meters long. One minute you think they are miles away, and the next minute you can read the letters on the containers… Pretty impressive and daunting.
Once we crossed the channel we enjoyed an hour of good sailing and we reached the entrance of the buoyed channel towards our final destination: Stellendam, a sleepy village on the other side of the water of the port of Rotterdam.
As the water depth changed quickly and there were many shallows around us the swell was quite significant. The buoyed channel itself was pretty narrow and on our port side (= left) the waves we braking onto an only 2 meters deep sandbank. Very impressive to watch, and let me tell you I didn’t feel very happy watching these braking waves... Luckily Peter was at the helm and he mastered his way through this for about an hour and a bit.
Whilst manoeuvring this channel the Dutch Rescue Services were out with many boats. They did all sorts of exercises to show off to their passengers. We had the impression that they were having an open day for new (voluntary) recruits. Well, they picked the right day for it, as it definitely wasn’t for the faint hearted.
One more last bend in the channel and, finally, the locks were in our sight. I had read on-line that these locks could be tricky as there is quite a current when the doors open up and boats could go in all directions – even ending up in the opposite direction - when not properly tied up. Quite honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought and besides that we always tie up correctly.
Doors open, current came in, all well. A couple of minutes later we thought to early prepare for leaving the locks. In other words, I released the bow line (the rope at the front). Oh boy, that was a mistake. Before we knew it, the bow was leaving the left-hand wall and turning towards the opposite wall. At that moment I realized what I had read earlier on…
Peter used his bow thruster over and over again until he finally managed to get the bow of the boat back to its original left-hand wall and I quickly tied her back up again. Pfff…that was close.
Safely out of the locks, a quick turn to the left and right and we were moored in the marina of Stellendam.
We were done and dusted for the day, and were looking forward to a shower, some aperitifs, a warm meal and a soft bed!