Sailing Saetta: summer holidays in Zeeland, Part 1

Summer is here! And I am tired of boatwork! It is time for a nice long sail, put to test all that has been updated, and try to get some colour on our skin. The thing is, it does not feel very summery; 18 degrees and forecast of rain. Hey, it is the Netherlands. Plus, “bad” weather will not keep us from going. It is 7:30 in the morning on Sunday 14th July. The passage plan is complete, tanks are full, hatches are closed, food is stocked and stored, and off we go to Zeeland! Passage plan is just under 70nm (130km) to be complete in about 13h. It was going to be long, but we were excited about it. It had been over 1 year since we had been out in the open waters of the North Sea, with one side of the horizon clear from land.

The passage from Amsterdam to IJmuiden was uneventful, if wet. Passing the locks was done pretty quickly especially since they were waiting for us. And with this, the easy part ended. After the lock the waves started to build, and by the time we passed the entrance of the port, we were dealing with 2m waves and wind coming just behind us. On the horizon there were four other sailing yachts and a sea of white horses (broken white wave tops).

Due to the direction of the waves and direction, the boat was going fast but very wobbly. So sea sickness set-in very quickly. Saskia finds sea sickness pills are quite helpful, but this time, they did not work their usual charm; she was able to function, but feeling very uncomfortable. Plus, the downside of these pills is that they make you drowsy, and Saskia was definitely feeling it! An unwritten rule to fight off sea sickness is to keep eating. Sounds counterintuitive but it works pretty well. So every now and then we had a sandwich or a cracker.

Halfway point on the voyage is passing the entrance of the Maas, which gives entrance to Rotterdam’s harbour, the busiest port in Europe. Crossing the entrance can be scary, especially when you see massive container ships sandwiching you and approaching fast. Still with some guidance from port control and talking to the other vessels, we navigated past it fairly uneventfully but very uncomfortably. 

We still had the waves coming from North but also had to deal with waves returning from hitting the shore and the wake of the container ships. At a point the right (or very wrong) combination of these created a very steep wave. After we crossed it, it felt that the sea disappeared under the boat. And it did. The front of the boat just came down and submerged onto the next wave. Not good to see the front of the boat underwater!

Now we are a third of the way through, approaching Goereesesluizen. Suddenly I started noticing a lot of breaking waves and the depth gauge beeping. This means: we are going to hit the ground and get stuck, if not worse! Some quick maneuvering and we are out of danger. But in all the confusion the furler (the system that allows the front sail to roll in and out) got jammed. There is only one solution, go to the front of the boat, and try to untangle 32 meters of rope while it and a 10m2 of sail flog in your face. All the while the wind was blowing +30km/h and the boat was crashing in the waves. 30min of fighting and shouting back to the cockpit to help guide Saskia at the helm and we  were back to smooth sailing. The only thing left to do was to follow up the channel to the lock. One quick check-up on the engine and I notice oil on the floor. Then I see it, the oil filter is coming undone! Luckily this is a quick and easy fix; just need to tighten it. Times like this really show how important it is to check on the equipment even if everything seems to be working ok. If the filter would come off, we would need to stop the engine straight away and would be in big trouble drifting towards the shore. On top of that, we did not have 10 liters of oil necessary to fix the issue. Lesson learned! Luckily the checkups saved us, and Stellendam marina is just on the other side of the lock. Finally we are here and we can relax. Time for a shower, a nice stiff drink and dinner.