“The brave may not live forever – but the cautious do not live at all”

Catamaran
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nr 25. Night Sailing North Sea to Shetland islands

Our next adventure was to make the crossing from Norway to the UK! Because we plan to sail coming months through Scotland and England, that required 2 days non-stop sailing including 2 nights from Norway over the North Sea.

To prepare this trip we took the following 5 steps:

  • Pick the shortest crossingdistance from Norway to the UK, it turned out that the closest starting point in Norway for us would be the port of Honningsvåg (above Bergen) and then sailing to the Shetland islands (port of Lerwick). That would be take around 40-46 hours of sailing.
  • Pick a good weather period where there would be at least 3 days of calm weather on the North Sea. By calm weather we mean max 20-25 knots, from direction east, north or south, but not west. Because we are sailing west and headwind would slow us down and make the trip very choppy.
  • Prepare the boat for non-stop sailing: having enough diesel for the hours we could not benefit from wind, make sure the dinghy and all ‘loose’ items on the boat were tied up, checking if all lights during the night work (lights on the deck, in the mast, etc)
  • Plan our route in detail, check for instance the area in the North Sea with oildrillplatforms, check where the shipping lanes from Scotland to other countries are located exactly, making sure the radar in our navigationsystem works for nightsailing, etc
  • Prepare ourselves for max 48 hours of sailing: prepare good salty food for during the night, make a schedule for night watch for the 2 of us, life jackets ready, letting family and friends know the moment of departure and the route, emergency numbers for coast guards available, announcing our arrival by mail to the UK Border Force Control, etc.

On Wednesday 3 Nov at 17.00h we left for the North Sea Crossing! We prefer to arrive by daylight and since it would take maximum 48 hours, it would be wise to leave just before dark, because then we would arrive Friday 5 Nov before dark at the Shetland islands. After we started sailing from Norway, it became dark quickly. And by dark we mean very dark 😊. Because there was no moon, it really was pitch-black on the North Sea. You now have to rely 100% on your instruments on the boat, because you are sailing blindfolded….Lucky for us, the first night the Northern light came out. This was the 3rd time we have seen Northern light, and it was extra welcome this time! For a few hours during the night, we could at least see a little bit the sea and waves around us.

At daylight 8.00h on Thursday, after 14 hours of sailing in the dark, the sun rose, it became warmer and we would have 10 hours of daylight now! Unfortunately the wind made the seawaters very choppy, so both Gilles and I slept only 1 hour each during the night watch. But the sunshine and open sea view gave us new energy. We hardly saw any other boats, which made it relaxed to sail and the oildrillplatforms were interesting to see, around 15 platforms we passed at a distance.

The weather sometimes changed into rain and that showed beautiful rainbows in the sky. At 17.00h the second night would start, another 14 hours of sailing in the dark. Again the wind was not beneficial to us, it came from the northwest direction, so another bumpy ride with only 1 hour of sleep each. But the Top 100 Disco songs played on our iPad helped us through the night, singing out loud to stay awake while staring into the dark searching for boatlights. Favorite song: ‘Never too much’ by Luther Vandross!

At 10.00h on Friday 5 Nov we saw the coastline of the Shetland islands! Wonderful to see the mountains there and fishing boats sailing out from the Shetlands with their drag-nets behind their ships. At 13.00h we arrived at the port of Lerwick, there was plenty of space in the Albert Dock and a taxidriver on the pier kindly greets us (‘Hello there love, let me help you’. He really sounded like Sean Connery :). We were so happy: Welcome to Scotland!

We were very proud of making this journey the two of us: although it was exciting with the long nights and choppy seawaters, it was never dangerous, we were always in control and talked about our next steps during the way. It has been a valuable experience!

Coming days we are going to explore the Shetland islands where there is also some Dutch Seamen history! And coming months we hope to further enjoy Scotland, sailing through the Caledonian Canal, see Loch Ness, visiting Isle of Man and sail further south into England!

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