Six thousand miles of sailing from Key West to Oslo and back to Amsterdam – we were on our last leg with a slimming crew. Wendell had to jump off prior to the Kiel canal (again he allowed this work thing to interfere with a passion like sailing). Kristine, Dan Zarnstorff, his 16 year old daughter Hannah and I sailed on.
A stop in Cuxhaven, Germany – as the tide was running in providing a six knot current in the wrong direction – delayed our start. The Elbe river outlet of the Kiel canal to the North sea in Germany is a major shipping channel – again shipping lanes and mega cargo boats everywhere. As we turned West out of the Elbe river into the North sea the winds picked up to twenty plus from the West – rather then spend days tacking up wind in the North sea between shipping lanes we decided to motor. Added to the sauce were a number of larger storms – you know lightening, winds, rain and such. We used the radar to try to dodge the fronts and storms. After a night of storms, the sky cleared and the winds started to drop. By the time we arrived at the northwest corner of the Netherlands where we turn south towards Ijmuiden the winds were almost non existent, skies blue and we were out of diesel plus our plane home was leaving in less 48 hours …….. and we had a visitor!
At first a rather large impressive looking government boat circled around us a couple times from a distance. When you have neither wind nor any diesel circling is rather easy. Finally the Dutch ‘coast guard” sent out a smaller Zodiac with two personnel from the “mother” ship to board the Grateful Red.
We graciously accepted their invite to board our boat. The routine passport and paper check then the question I had been waiting on for the past two months …….. has anyone on board been certified for operation of the boat’s VHF radio? Ah ha, yes I have spent numerous wasted hours studying the rules of the global maritime distress safety system and taking the two FCC required exams to obtain a General Radio Operator License and be certified as a Section 7R operator. I immediately produced the license and certification – the two Dutch authorities check the box and ask if they can inspect the vessel. Of course – the crew never leaves the cockpit one individual does the vessel inspection. Checks some more boxes and declares that the Grateful Red and crew has passed the inspection. They offer us some diesel – we decline – why I am not sure. They return to the mother ship, we drift on.
Hannah kindly volunteers to drive in the low wind. As the day turns to evening the winds pick up from less then five knots to over ten knots. Hannah does a nice job driving as we move from drift to sail. By midnight the winds are good and rotating as we turn south, Kristine and I take over the night shift as we sail on to Den Helder – the former port for the Dutch navy – and diesel. Over 48 hours of sailing, two overnights from our last stop at Cuxhaven, Germany and less then six hours from Ijmuiden.
The last stretch gave us a early morning view of the Frisian Islands and Noord-Holland shorelines. We arrive in Ijmuiden at 3:30 Sunday afternoon. Dan and Hannah departed to Amsterdam early evening to be ready for their final leg (flight home to US) and Ken and Kristine made plans for the boats two week stay at the Seaport marina.