YES! We finally did it, we left the Netherlands!
It wasn’t at all how we imagined it. In our heads it would be proper summer with lots of sun, feeling excited and everyone in Amsterdam Marina coming out to see us leave our berth. Well, we did not expect that last part, but we definitely expected sun. But when we left there wasn’t any. It was cold, grey and rainy.
First, we had to get from Amsterdam to the North Sea. That means motoring up the channel until IJmuiden, where we passed the lock to the open sea. After the lock the sea state was wavy! Nice strong winds were pushing Saetta fast but also making enough waves to make us slightly sick. As the day continues, the wind subsided, and with it the sea state. Wobbly seas became comfortable swings and a nice steady breeze to keep us going. Perfect conditions! Off we were! As the night is starting, the wind died down and became very erratic (or variable). To continue we had to turn on the engine, and that’s what we did. It was at this point we started our shifts. Up until now, I don’t think the reality of the trip had really set in. Although we were doing it, it felt like we might turn around… Back to the shifts, we each did 3h shifts and soon settled in the routine. The next days and nights went without incidents, and we were presented with beautiful sunsets and amazing starry skies! During this time we had to do a mix of sailing and motoring, especially to pass or get around commercial transport ships, or to cross their lanes.
In the afternoon of day two, we pass Dover. We’re not even halfway, but our attitude was that we were about to arrive! Have no idea why that happened. But once we crossed Dover and saw the next waypoint (next, not last!!) being ~300km away (I remind you we do an average of 9km/h) reality set in… And as it did, the wind died down, again. That means on come the engine, again! Now and then we tried to sail when the wind allowed for it, but really, we went almost 12 hours with the engine on. (thinking about changing our name to Motorsailing Saetta).
Now we’re on day 4. We are almost there! About 50nm (~90km) to Falmouth. The day started very calmly (no wind in fact). Then, in the afternoon the wind started to pick up. Finally, we get to sail again!! These were gorgeous conditions to sail!! Then the wind started to change to the direction we wanted to go, and as the wind increased, so did the waves. A good few hours into this and the sea state changed completely! We had to sail in a zig-zag pattern (tack) into the wind and 1,5 meter waves, and on one of the tacks we had the lee shore dangerously close. Not comfortable at all!! We didn’t want to quit so close to the destination, so we powered through. Unfortunately, the weather got me (Saskia) sick and Miguel was getting very tired hand steering through the bad weather, fishing boats and traps, and even military vessels! Our initial plan was Falmouth, but seeing that the weather wouldn’t change, we decided to go to Plymouth instead, since it was close to the heading of one of the tacks. Arriving at an unknown destination with so many channels and buoys in the middle of the night, with strong weather and without having studied the course, is very nerve-racking. But we had to! A few charts consultations, and with the radar on, we managed to motor into Plymouth. We arrived at 01.00 am and a friendly night harbour master was waiting for us. We checked in with him (read: exchange some boat information) and went to bed, being very tired, but happy that the first part of our trip was done.
We know ourselves well enough to know we struggle to cook when the weather gets “rough”. Even when it’s wobbly it’s enough to make us not wanting to cook! However, not eating properly would be a terrible mistake. We would tire ourselves even more. So, before we left, we prepared a bunch of meals: noodles, curry and pasta. This way, for dinner we only had to warm up when we got hungry. For lunch we prefer to keep it lighter with a sandwich or wrap. Our usual one has lettuce, egg (which we also boiled before leaving), cucumber, paprika and whatever we had laying around. If it’s “rough” during lumch, or when we don’t feel we can’t be bothered making lunch, we will have bread, even just plain bread. For snacks we had fruit (apples, bananas, peaches), nuts, raisins and chocolate. This worked pretty well for us. On our last trip (to Norway) we took a massive amount of muesli bars and chocolate bars. We still had some with us this time, but we didn’t have any. We much preferred fruit and nuts!
Yes, I (Saskia) do get seasick. Luckily Miguel not as much, so if I feel really bad, he can take over. I found that waves coming from the bow of the boat with wind force above 5 does not work for me. A guy at a coffee place in Plymouth asked me about seasickness and when I told him I do get sick, he asked me why I would go sailing then?! The answer: we sailed for 4 days, 3 days where amazing and I only was sick for 1 day. Definitely worth it! And I still hope I’ll get better sealegs soon!
I tried seasickness pills, but I found they make me really sleepy. I do think if I take them and I get sleepy I regret it, but if I don’t take them and I get seasick I regret is as well! I also heard ginger might help, so I bought some ginger pills and drank ginger tea. No idea if it works, but I am sure it won’t hurt! So I haven’t found the perfect solution yet. For now, it is powering through and kindly ask Miguel to take over if it is really bad. I also keep on eating regularly, usually a little snack at the beginning and end of my watch.
We started with 3 hour shifts. Soon Miguel found out that the 3-6am shift is horrible! He could barely stay awake. So we changed our pattern and between 00.00h and 06.00h we did do 2 hour shifts. This worked much better. This way you don’t have the same shift every day and the night watches are easier. Still, the night and dawn shifts can be brutal. On the other hand, they can offer amazing starry skies!! It’s a battle between keeping awake and enjoying the scenery! Whatever shift we came out from, we would go straight to sleep. And at times not even leaving the cockpit (Miguel was a mess then! )
Motoring or sailing
Sadly, we have motored an obscene amount of hours on our way to Plymouth. Mostly because there wasn’t enough wind to sail, but also when entering unfamiliar locations, crossing traffic separation schemes (TSS, where the commercial vessels go and have priority). I think we need to learn to let go of our plan a bit more. So far we want to keep to the route we have planned. I hope this is because we just really wanted to get going and to arrive in Portugal. Hopefully, in the future we will be a bit more flexible and instead of wanting to go fast and straight, be able to enjoy tacking along our course and slowly getting somewhere. It’s not about the destination about the journey, isn’t that what they say?
We did talk about what we have learned from this trip.
*Waves from the bow and wind from another direction is very uncomfortable!
*It is good to evaluate the trip during the trip, to adjust our plan if needed.
*Saetta holds on very well. Although we had very uncomfortable seas, we never felt unsafe.
*We knew this already, but it got confirmed again: we like sailing with good weather so much better. The sun makes a huge difference in our state of mind.
*We should make more photos, we keep on forgetting this.
On and all we are very happy with the start of our trip. We spent 2 days in Plymouth, to wash Saetta, rest, going out for a coffee and walk around. But as soon as the weather improved we were off to France! More of that in our next blog!