Yes, we are back in Holland (Stavoren) again with the catamaran! Until about the end of March and then we continue our sailtrip again. We want to start sailing south along the coast of Belgium and France to spend the summer at the coast of Portugal. And to do so, we had to make the crossing from the UK to the mainland of Europe. When we were in Newcastle, the harbormaster told us that he had a lot of Dutch sailors visiting every year from Ijmuiden. That triggered us: how long does a crossing actually take from New Castle to Holland….? It turned out to be 33 hours, which is ideal: when you start sailing at 7.30u in morning, you can be in Den Helder the next day about 17.30u, just before dark. With ‘only’ 1 night of sailing included, you get the most out of daylight in that time frame!
So we started checking the weather forecast and we found out that 3+4 February were good days to sail: wind about 25 knots coming from West/South West. So we did it, we went sailing on those days and at 17.30u on Thursday 4th of February we sailed into the harbor of Den Helder!
It was a pleasant trip, sunny even and constant wind during the 33 hours. But the 14 hours of nightsailing is not one of my hobbies: it is absolutely pitch dark. When it start getting dark around 18.00u, we turn on the autopilot (cruise control) which follows the route that we carefully planned and programmed into the navigation system, the day before. And then we put on an extra layer to our screen, the radar, so we can see objects on the water. When it is dark, we start checking all the lights that we spot around us, if those are the objects we expect to pass by in the dark. Because the North Sea is crowded with:
- Oil drill platforms
- Gas fields
- Military practice zones
- Shipping lanes
- Fishing boats
- Shallow area and sandbanks
Really busy! So when you look at the complete track you are going to sail across the North Sea, from the coast of the UK to the coast of the Netherlands, you see your screen filled with all these obstacles and you know it’s going to be pitch dark. It feels like being asked to drive a car through a minefield while being blindfolded. So good luck to you! Well, it’s not as bad as that 😊, because the radar shows every obstacle on the water above 1 meter. So it even shows waves, but fishing nets or pieces of wood floating on the water, you don’t notice and that can be a problem when it hits your stir or engines when they are running. So you have to be alert all the time, keep on checking if what you are approaching in the dark showing as an object on your radar, is actually an object you were expecting when you plotted the route!
I made a 25 second movie during night sailing, (see below) so you have an idea how the 14 hours were like and what you see. Or better: don’t see 😊. The red light is the left front of the boat and the green light is the right side of the boat. Also listen to the sound of the ship sailing in the dark! I send this movie to one of my uncles via WhatsApp and he replied: ‘I thought my phone was broken when I played the movie, because my screen turned so dark!’.
At 7.00u the sun comes up, beautiful to see (and we were a little relieved and thankful for clear view again!). When we arrived in Den Helder, it was a happy feeling: we did it and so nice to recognize the architectural style of the houses or the familiar products in the supermarkets! Now it’s 6 weeks of meeting with friends and family, continue my online training sessions, but also a few trainings are planned live in the classroom at the request of the client! And in March we receive a group of trainers on board, who booked a day of sailing in Dutch waters, so looking forward to that as well! And at the end of March, we sail on again, heading towards Portugal in the summer!