Sailing from England to the Netherlands – Frisian Islands | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Sailing from England to the Netherlands – Frisian Islands

July 1, 2010

Faaborg, Fyn
Latitude: 55º 05'.6N
Longitude: 10º 14'.4E

First of all, a Happy Canada Day to all our family and friends back home! As Canadians, Paul and I are also celebrating our national day today but this year we are doing it in Denmark.

We arrived in Denmark last weekend aboard our new Southeryl 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II, and are experiencing hot summer weather at last! We were starting to get worried since, up until a few days ago, we were still in full foul weather gear as we made our way here from England to the Netherlands, through the Kiel Canal in Germany, and then north to Denmark. But allow me to back-track a bit and continue our story where I left off last time...

After our shake-down cruise in May to the Channel Islands which lie off the coast of France we returned to England to the Northshore Yachts in Chichester Harbour to say goodbye to everyone there and have a few minor adjustments made to the new boat before we set off on our summer voyage to countries of the Baltic. Thanks again to the entire Northshore Yachts team for building us another great boat!

While we were there, Paul converted our main winch, a Lewmar 46 manual winch, to an electric winch, to make it easier to raise the mainsail. (See his discussion on this in his New Boat Blog) It's a huge sail and we realized we weren't using it as often as we'd have liked nor were we reefing when we should have since it was so much effort manually. Not good. So installing the electric winch meant another delay but well worth it!

Then the old boat sold and there was lots of paperwork etc. to deal with and then FINALLY at the beginning of June we got away. In celebration we dressed the boat with all the courtesy flags of the countries and colonies we've visited during our 20 years of cruising.

Our good friend, Wanita Gray, flew in from Canada just before we left and joined us for the leg to the Dutch Frisian Islands. Wanita is a very experienced offshore cruising sailor, a friend of 20 years through the Port Credit Yacht Club, and we have also served together on the national committee for the Extended Cruising course of Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons for many years so we're all happy aboard a boat together.

It was great fun to have Wanita with us as we made tracks along the south coast of England stopping at Brighton Beach,

then sailing past the white cliffs of Dover dodging the incredible amount of ship and ferry traffic in this stretch of the English Channel

as we made our way to Ramsgate where thick fog rolled in just as we arrived. (Yay to our Raymarine chartplotter with radar and AIS displays. We have an AIS transmitter too on this boat so the ships are very aware of our presence and we could literally see them adjust course long in advance of approaching us.)

After a lay-day in Ramsgate we made a night passage across the North Sea to Holland where we cleared in to the Netherlands in the port of Den Helder. We exchanged our British pound notes for euros and enjoyed a day of browsing the town, relaxing in cafes, and getting a feel for the country and culture. The town was stereotypically Dutch – spotlessly clean and orderly and everyone was riding bicycles. Everywhere we were to go in Holland there were excellent bike paths.

Our favourite experience in Den Helder was a visit to the Maritime Museum where we were given an interesting tour aboard a submarine by a volunteer who had once served on that very sub during the cold war.

From Den Helder we made an afternoon sail to the island of Texel where we began our cruise of the Frisian Islands which are a string of shallow sandy barrier islands along the north coast of Holland and Germany. Lots of shallow water so great territory for using our swing-keel. Although Distant Shores II is 49 feet long she only draws 2' 10" with the keel up. If you have ever read the book "Riddle of the Sands" by Erskine Childers the story takes place on a small sailboat in these islands.

When we arrived in Texel at the harbour at Ouderschild it was filled with beautiful traditional sailing boats giving school children heritage weeks aboard. We counted almost 50 of these boats with about 20 young people aboard. What a great experience for these kids!

We had pretty strong winds the next few days but in the protection of the islands the seas are pretty flat so we had great fun short-tacking up the narrow channels. The boat has a small self-tacking jib which made this really easy and fun.

The next island we visited was Vlieland, a very natural place with lovely long golden beaches and sand dunes.

There are excellent walking and cycling trails here, even out in the wild spaces so we rented bikes. Wanita and I opted for traditional bike and since we're both small needed kids bikes which cost us 6 euros each per day. Paul went for the fancy electrically assisted pedalling bike which was 20 euros a day.

From Vlieland, Wanita took the ferry to the mainland where she caught a train to the airport in Amsterdam, flew back to London and made her transatlantic flight back to Toronto the following day. The 2 weeks that she was with us just flew by and we all had great time sailing together, catching up on news from home, cooking and eating delicious meals onboard, and generally having a great time. Thanks to her for all the great photos she took during her visit.

We had some bad weather the few days after Wanita left so we anchored in the protection of Richel Island on the south side where we could dry out at low tide. It was like a moonscape when the water went out and we cocooned here writing and editing til the winds calmed and the sun shone once again.

Our Rocna anchor was totally buried after the experience! Good to know we have a good anchor that really grabs in when the weather gets foul.

The lovely island of Ameland with it's picturesque villages was our last stop in the Dutch Frisian Islands where we celebrated mid-summer night. We saw lots of seals around this island. So cute.

Next day we sailed to Borkum in the German Frisian Islands. As a welcome the harbourmaster at the Port Henry sailing club raised the Canadian flag in our honour. This was a nice tradition that was continued as we travelled through Germany.

Since it's Canada Day I think this is a good place to end. I will continue the story next time telling you about our transit from the North Sea to the Baltic through Germany's Kiel Canal.

Until then,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard Distant Shores II

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