This year, for our 3-week vacation, we chose to sail to the south coast of England. Our trip started at the IJmuiden marina. After re-fuelling, we took off at 11.00 am and set sail for Lowestoft, about 100 nm west of the Dutch coast. The weather forecast predicted Bft1-2, so indeed, after 2 hrs we had to rely on our engine to bring us to Britain.
Once in Lowestoft, our plan was to sail along the South East coast:
IJmuiden to Lowestoft
This was our first North Sea crossing with our own boat (only the skipper had sailed to England before, once) so this was a completely new experience for our family. During the first hours, the only thing to see was the offshore mooring site with 8 big ships that slowly got bigger and bigger. Lots of debris in the water, too! Wood (pallets?), plastic crates, rubber boots, bits of plastic, balloons; wherever you looked, something seemed to be floating around! It was actually quite a shock to see a ‘plastic soup’ so close to our own boat.
Despite the lack of wind, my attempt to serve dinner (tomato soup) was not a great succes. Nobody was feeling great as a result of the prominent swell, and even the soup was difficult to swallow. After a few hours of rest, I took the first night shift and then went to sleep again. I woke up because there was a discussion (which I couldn’t understand at first) between two ships on VHF 16, ending with “Moby-Dick” (our boat name). It turned out that a Stena-line passenger ship and another coaster had seen our AIS signal and informed each other that they would cross behind us. Having an AIS installed a few weeks before certainly proved to be a wise decision! Compared to sailing along the German coast, marine traffic seemed to be coming from all directions here, and was not only present in the Deep Water Routes or Traffic Separation Schemes. Quickly we learned that it is important to look in all directions and to unzoom the plotter regularly. These ships are big, so you can see them from a great distance, but they also move fast! Fifteen minutes later, a ship you didn’t see at first, can easily surprise you, if you fail to keep looking and unzooming…
At about 03.00am I took over the next shift and was surprised to see how much the boat drifted through the tide. The autopilot was steering but needed to be adjusted repeatedly. Skipper had switched the steaming lights to sailing toplight because he got blinded by the rear steaming light. As a noticed a border patrol vessel on the AIS receiver, I decided to change back to steaming lights. Also, a fog was coming up so visibility needed to be maximal. At some point, I noticed a very peculiar thing: the smell of land! It was familiar smell of mud, wood and reminded of dark cellars. When we got closer to the coast, skipper woke up and together we steered the final bit towards Lowestoft. Three red lights (or rather: red-white-red) were shown at the port entrance so we needed to call Lowestoft port control. It turned out to be a formality, though. They changed the lights to green after our call and we were allowed in. Shortly after, we found an empty mooring at the guest pontoon of the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Club and fell asleep, 20 hours after we had left IJmuiden.
Things to do: After crossing the North Sea, we needed to rest but entertain the kids in the meantime. So after too much ‘minecraft’ and a late savory breakfast, we set out to ‘discover Lowestoft’. The seaside promenade was a bit depressing since it was windy & cold, but we found a hotel where we could eat scones with cream and jam, just as the rain started to poor down.
Read all about the next part of our trip in Lowestoft – Southwold – River Deben – Ipswich