Cruising Logs: 2006 - A Scandinavian Cruise
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  The final Passage

The little low that had  made their stay in Holland   so wet  posed a significant problem for our trip home from Vlissingen .  As it moved south its western flank squeezed up against the high over the UK to produce the risk of strong Northerlies. Depending on its exact track this might or might not be an issue  as the Belgian coast, with its myriad sandbanks sitting directly  across the course, is no place to be in a Northerly gale. Night after night I studied the weather charts and  by Friday it looked as if at least the first half of the trip would be safe as the low would be be passing overhead. There was the small issue of getting back to Holland   via a terrorist gridlocked Heathrow , but I managed it and we locked out of Vlissingen at midnight on Friday – hardly ideal given the punishing schedule that the others had had to get there , but it really was a case of now or never.

  Rather like our passage along the Friesian coast the wind started out light and in this case Southerly, so again we began under motor. Once more a large Northerly swell made life uncomfortable , and a huge tide ( taking us 0.2 below chart datum ) compounded the seas , and at one point we were making only 2 knots over the ground with 4  knots of foul tide.

  By 0400 the wind was in the NE and Oostende radio was forecasting   N – NW 5-7 , possibly 8 later.  I calculated that by 1600 we should be in the lee of the white cliffs of Dover , so we pressed on, and even hoisted the kite to get us closer to that lee.  By 0900 the wind was NNW and we were snugged down to our familiar rig of 2 reefs and the No 3, and beginning to feel the effects of the fair tide. Dunquerque flashed by with the GPS registering more than 10 knots over the ground,  and in no time we were on the edge of the Dover Straits  TSS and requesting permission to beat across at our best possible heading as the wind and sea conditions were  too bad to motor across at the correct angle . By now all four national meteorological organisations were agreed that a NW gale was imminent, so we snuck into Dover as the heavens opened , put up the cockpit tent  and turned in whilst the squalls howled overhead. Further north at least one boat was not so lucky with her timing , with 3 swept overboard and one drowned , but although we took a risk , it was with as full a set of weather information as was possible and Zeebrugge and Ooostende to fall back on if the timing had been less favourable.

 Once at Dover , the wind was to be offshore, so although it was still blowing a hefty 25 knots when we got going again at 0500, the seas were relatively flat and our timing was again good as the wind veered into the NE at Beachy Head allowing a kite for a while , before backing again  to the North. This allowed us to fetch home to the Hamble in style by dusk, with 2330 miles on the log and a lot of fun under our belts  since we left 6 weeks before.



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