Sahula Cruising

14 May 2012 | England
25 October 2011 | Ipswic
13 September 2011 | Ipswich
13 September 2011 | Ipswich
25 June 2011 | Frankfurt
09 June 2011 | Frankfurt
25 May 2011 | Regensburg, Germany
18 May 2011 | Linz
12 May 2011 | Nova Sad
12 May 2011 | Vienna
05 May 2011 | Budapest
22 April 2011 | Viden
08 April 2011 | Constanta, Romania

Notice to Readers re: New blogsite

14 May 2012 | England
David Haigh
Notice to – Sahula blogs
Kindly note that I am no longer using the Sailblogs site.
A new site on called “Sahula Cruising” is now in operation.
Blogs from Sailblogs are on the new site plus latest updates to Report 71.
Sv Sahula
14th May 2012

Report 66 Ipswich

25 October 2011 | Ipswic
david Haigh
Passage Report No. 66

Ipswich One

Sept 2011

Ipswich, last year, seemed dowdy, bland. Perhaps it was the harbour forefront in transition. Now it impresses as vibrant. Pubs and restaurants crowd the foreshore, history lines busy Tudor streets. Ipswich Haven Marina's cost is reasonable, staff friendly and its modern facilities make for a pleasant "home" for Sahula till March next year.

It's Heritage Week. A heritage walk educates Skipper on the cities historical association with Cardinal Wolseley, Kings, Queens, artists: Constable and Gainsborough. Jazz, art galleries, theatre and an alternative film venue, inter alia, promise a different sailor's life.

"Pete, are you attending the Southampton Boat Show?" He and Felicity (English cruising friends met in Thailand) accommodate and endure Skipper's endless search for Zods replacement and outboard.

Skipper engages in "Turkish" price haggling. A Honda 2.5m inflatable dinghy and Honda 2.3 four stroke, outboard is purchased. With large tubes (increased buoyancy under load), longer length (fuel canisters, crew, guests); Zod is updated.

Tanya (engine) remains ill. The medicine is elusive. Consultant engineers hold diversified causal opinions - electrical, fuel, compression, hide the key.

It is fuel. A Yanmar recall on the manual fuel pump was missed. The pump diaphragm is prone to leak allowing air in the injectors. After replacement, Tanya smiles happily. Skipper exudes relief.

At 84, sharp as a tack, Barbara, watercolourist, met while she was painting Flatford of Constable country, offers to introduce Skipper to the Ipswich and Suffolk's art scene. Long memories of life as a boat builders daughter regale Skipper during drives into rural Suffolk, attendance at an art opening and a day class in historic Alderton, and Shingle Beach.

Andrew and Carrie's "Scarletts" estate epitomises country living. Nearby grouse shooting "range" shows the English penchant for deadly sports. Grouse are bred to be shot, at close range, (by paying shooters) when flushed out over a cornfield.

Lunch at Levington village's "Ship Inn," an Orwell River cruise, visit to a country house art gallery - another weekend at "Scarletts" - Suffolk hospitality.

A pre-slip four days "time out" on the Orwell. Skipper finishes two more of the ten "Turkey" paintings. Marketing to a local gallery, taxes confidence - "...go to art school" (true!), composition, colour mixing - colourful "fauve" art competes with the dominant subtle English light. Two others wax admiringly.

"Free flow" allows free transit of the Ipswich harbour lock (tidal water outside equates with inside).

English "Indian" summer spares Skipper the "arctic" winter. Sahula is lifted to a land berth for her first winter.

"Wintering" the motor (water out, antifreeze in), measures to avoid mould (dehumidifier, tube heaters, absorbent pads) vary and confuse. Skipper, cautious of dehumidifiers (reported cause of onboard fires), opts for absorbent chemical pads and two tube heaters.

Skipper turns blue sanding off antifouling. Online (Force 4 Chandlery) primer and antifoul provides less expensive paint. Antifreeze in, oil changed, cockpit covered, tied off mast halyards, radar reflector removed - storm, gale, tempest, snow, ice - is possible. Cushions, mattresses are stored in a Marina and friends shed.

Mo, white wisps askance, retired, man of the sea, (72 years) owner of a 50 foot, timber, North Sea fishing boat ("She rolls a bit when 50 miles out, fishing..." [in the North Sea]); retired mechanical engineer ("I've rebuilt it down to the last bolt"). Tale teller of an Atlantic seaman's, life.

On the Danube, a rope entwined the feathering propeller and wrenched off the anode and greasing mechanism. Mo offers to make the parts for repair.

Next season Norway cruise (UK east coast, Shetland Islands, above Arctic Circle to Lofoten in Norway) is considered and prepared. Vicki of "Dynamanie" (Cruising Association) offers the loan of a full set of charts of the much indented, island and fjord coast. "You'll need a magnifying glass to see amongst the charted rocks."

Andrew of "Child of the Sea" (38 foot, steel sloop), solo sailor, retired classical musician (Viola), opts to make up a "fleet" to Norway.

"Crew wanted to Norway" draws no response. Arctic Circle??

Suffolk's "Indian" summer - sunny, cool days - defies the inevitable, witches of winter.

A large suitcase contains Skipper's colourful art works, enroute to Australian "light."

Skipper flies to Australia on the 4th November, after time in London; returning on 16th March, 2012.

Norway cruise departure is end of April.

Next Report. Australia.
David Haigh
Sv Sahula
Ipswich, Suffolk
October, 2011

Passage Report 65 Holland to England

13 September 2011 | Ipswich
David Haigh
Passage Report No. 65

Sv Sahula

Holland to England

It is different in Europe. The planned cruise is subject to many variables. Skipper’s visa expires in two weeks. An exit plan for Europe is required. The English Channel and North Sea are prone to weather, changing winds, tides, sandbanks, shipping and transit lanes. A course, Holland to England is less prone, the further from the narrowing Channel. However, it is longer and includes sailing overnight. Skipper being solo and cautious opts to shorten the crossing. Sahula will exit at the southern port of Vlissingen. Sahula must again transit the “mast up route.”

Hans and Martine join as crew. Roy (marina manager) waves Sahula from the marina. Skipper leaves with some misgiving. Staying in Holland was always the preferred option. Skipper has enjoyed the welcoming, easy going people, the canals, historic towns, inland seas, focus on sailing and the bike riding.

Sahula farewells Amsterdam to enter the canal and wait for the convoy south. Sahula joins a fleet (15 yachts), berthed two and three abreast, awaiting the 0200 convoy south. The northern convoy (starting 2330) must first clear.

The major obstacle is a rail, highway, bridge. Fast trains shorten its opening time. Traffic is less in early morning. After passing this bridge another 7 bridges are opened consecutively.

However, bridges opening times are delayed and yachts mill about waiting. Progress is slow. After the convoy sector, further bridges await the fleet.

Eventually, canals give way to the Holland Diep, an inland sea. Sahula overnights at Willemstad, an old historical fort town.

Various locks, bridges and Sahula passes through the Volderak, Krammer, Mastgat, Oosterschelde, Veersemer – all inland lakes to the Walcheren canal to Middelburg. Crew disembark; Skipper solos the canal, bridges and lock to Vlissingen.

Sahula says goodbye to Holland. A final lock and a harbour swell heralds the sea. The Westerschelde is Sahula’s first saltwater since Romania (April).

The wind is a light westerly. The wind and tide are against. Sahula makes slow progress. Tanya pushes through. Skipper has miscalculated the tidal flow.

Shipping, Antwerp bound, is many. At dusk, the westerly increases to 18-20 knots. Seas build. Skipper decides long night in unknown waters is not an option. Sahula heads to Zeebrugge, Belgium, a few miles to port.

At the harbour entrance, Tanya turns and dies. Refusing to start, Sahula is unable to gain the port marina. Skipper radios port control and asks for a tow inside the harbour.

A “rib” (large inflatable) “RAR” (volunteer rescue) speeds alongside. Crew offer to take a line. Skipper explains that sails must first be lowered out of the harbour shipping channel. To no avail.

“A ship, a large ship is coming,” is yelled by RAR crew. A line is thrown and Sahula is violently, towed aside.

An engineer determines Tanya’s problem is electrical. All plugs are cleaned. Tanya starts – the problem passes. It is an expensive exercise. Tow: 500 euro. Engine: 260 euros.

Sahula departs for Ostende, a few hours south. Skipper has determined the channel crossing will be by a day passage from Dunkerque. A light northerly drives Sahula to the harbour. To port, a low, sand-dunned coast, interspersed with high rise apartments. It is here that many perished in past, endless wars. To starboard, a grey, cold, windblown sea, ships silhouetted, hides England.

At the harbour entrance, Tanya again refuses to start. A tidal current sweeps Sahula towards a dredge. Skipper gybes in a dying wind to avoid a near collision. Sahula sails to sea. Skipper informs the harbour authorities of an engineless Sahula. A tow will be needed to the marina. A police launch speeds alongside. Skipper works the emergency stop switch and Tanya bursts into life. Skipper cancels the tow. The police launch escorts to the marina berth. (Royal Prince Albert Yacht Club: 29 euros a night) Police make a report, check the passport and depart.

An engineer determines the problem is the emergency stop switch. It is sticking, preventing starting; a replacement will take ten days.

Sahula moves to the Mercator Marina (25 euros per day) and awaits the part.

Ostende is a mass tourism, mass apartments, seaside, resort city – grey, characterless, soul-less. Leopold II’s statue, gallops seaward. A memorial to Ostende’s Royal patronage. Crowds pack the shopping mall and restaurants. Blued striped wind breaks line the beach. No one swims. Children fly kites. A continual cycle of morning sunshine overcast giving way to passing rain, thunder and lightening.

Yachts come and go. Weekend sailing is along the coast to other ports.

Skipper hires a bicycle (5 euro per day) and follows the country canal to Brugge. There is no escape – tourists crowd the ancient streets. It is a picturesque maze of old buildings, palaces along winding canals.

After one night at a hostel (Dorm bed: 13 euro), Skipper pitches the tent (Camping: 14 euro). Overnight storm drenches the tent. Skipper retreats to Sahula to dry out.

Maintenance uses the time. A day trip by train to Gent. A beautiful “Dutch” architecture, canals, grand buildings, castle and art gallery.

“The part is here.” Cedric installs it and Sahula departs for Dunkerque in France. The passage to England is a day’s journey. Marina “pleasantly” charges 28 euros.

Tanya refuses to start. Skipper starts with increased revs. Tanya bursts into life. Skipper is relieved. Tanya will remain on the whole trip to Ramsgate. Skipper decides not to risk having no engine in shipping channels.

The forecast is favourable. Sahula departs running with the south flowing tide. Ruytingen beacon. The sandbanks are numerous. Seas well, swirl in a brown, green mass, waves are chaotic. Sahula under full sail with Tanya on sails through.

Channel rules require yachts to passage Separation Zones (dividing the north south passage of commercial shipping) at ninety degrees. Sahula passes Sandette light ship to Goodwin Sands light and is across. Shipping steams astern.

Wind increasing the seas mount in their confusion Waves break on deck. A rough passage. It is no wonder coastal Europe and England, breed the sailors to rule the waves of history.

At 1500 Sahula sails into Ramsgate to a calm berth.

David and Tina, English couple, met in Ostende, herald welcome. They were heading to the French canals but late season water levels meant they would return next season.

David is a retired marina owner. He checks Tanya. Tanya leaps into life showing none of her ailments. Adding confusion to uncertainty.

Day dawns fine and light easterly breezes. Sahula is heading to the Medway River – 30 nautical miles. Tanya motors out. Sahula is aground in the harbour channel. Always a risk to pass inside a channel marker. Free, sail up, an aft quarter Force 3 sends her along to sea off the coasts chalk cliffs.

A rising tide meant the charts shallows gave ample depth. A sea mist reduced visibility. GPS guided Sahula down the inside channel, huge ships out of London port, plied the outer.

Crowds enjoyed the beaches and brown water. Hotels, apartments, towns, mounted every headland of a crowded land.

Into the Medway the entrance guarded by a power stations high towers and commercial container port. Past into a tidal estuary nature reserve. Birds flocked and flew in the low mud and sand islands. Sahula anchored off the islands in Sharfleet Creek. Low tides sank Sahula off mud flats and banks.

A sunset subtled by the haze backgrounded the reeling birds and the many anchored yachts.

We’ll meet at Strood Pier up the Medway. Sahula motors past moored yachts, historic Chatham Docks (HMS Victory – Nelsons flagship), large ships to the Pier before Rochester Bridge.

Rochester is a historic village dominated by a Norman keep (England’s highest). Strood in contrast is a run down town of the downtrodden.

Skippers meets Graham who lives aboard a nearby yacht. “I just want you to know that the kids here likely to pinch your motor…”

Skipper, Graham and Dave leave the dinghy (outboard locked on) for a beer in the local pub.

“Its gone, the dinghy has gone.” There is no sign of it loose on the river banks. Zod and its outboard have been stolen. Skipper phones the Kent Police. A crime code is allocated. “Officers will be down in an hour.” Dave drives up river but to no avail.

“It’s probably Harry Lowe – the fat kid who lives in those low class town houses, they’re the areas toughest; I’ve seen him on our dinghies” (local yachtsman). The Police twice apologise for the slowness to attend. They do so the next day. They advise they have notified boating businesses along the river. Skipper thanks them for doing all possible.

Skipper feels emptiness – helpless vulnerability, frustration at not taking more precautions, concern at the cost of a replacement, a want to leave Strood. A hard lesson, testing faith in human nature.

Graham on a nearby yacht offers to take Skipper ashore. “I apologise for England, I am embarrassed.”

It is the first major theft of Sahula’s equipment since leaving Australia. A costly lesson. Replacement will dilute Skipper’s cruising funds to critical levels.

Dave’s phone calls to local marinas reveal little difference in cost to Ipswich. Skipper opts to winter there. Mariners Farm boat storage is least expensive but Sahula is too heavy for the lift out.

The weather breaks, Sahula must remain till it improves. A grey, rain driving, gale sweeps the mud bound river. It tests Sahula’s fenders.

Mary (Australian friend) crews Sahula. It is time to leave. Tanya pushes Sahula across the calm Thames Estuary avoiding sandbars, shipping and wind-farms. Gold breaks the heavy grey backgrounding sundowners of Chilean wine.

Green fields, villages and historic houses, welcome Sahula to the River Orwell. A lock and Sahula is in Ipswich Haven Marina in the cities midst.

Sahula will winter here (October to April) while Skipper flies to an Australian summer.

Next Blog No. 66 – Ipswich, Suffolk to Heathrow airport.

Ipswich, Suffolk, England
13th Sept., 2011

Passage Report 64 Schengen Visa Imbroglio

13 September 2011 | Ipswich
David Haigh
Passage Report No. 64

Schengen Visa – Australian Sailor’s Nemesis

July, 2011

Sailors dream of sailing the world as the finest form of freedom. It escapes the bureaucratic tangle that regulates shore life. Sadly, it used to be. It is a dream, not a reality. Nothing better exposes this fact than the Schengen visa required by non-Europeans entering the European Union.

The visa is determined by the Schengen Agreement. Signatories include all European countries west of Hungary. Signatories do not have to be a party to the European Union. Norway is a signatory but not in the EU. EU members do not have to be signatories. Romania and Bulgaria, EU members are not signatories. The United Kingdom is not an EU member or a signatory.

Designed to enhance cross border freedom for Europeans; for foreign sailors it has the opposite effect.

Sailor’s cruises take time. The Schengen visa provides three months with no extension till another three months has past (90 days in 180 days). Sailor’s cruises regularly extend over three months. Extensions are available for humanitarian reasons or on the basis of force majeure. Sailors cruising generally come under neither. “Force majeure” may apply where weather requires time in a safe haven.

Skipper’s experience is evidence of the visa problems for foreign sailors planning to cruise European waters.

Sahula’s Danube cruise exposed the Agreement’s interpretive problems. Sahula entered the Danube River in Romania (a non-signatory but EU state) in April, 2011. At the border of each non-signatory state (Romania, Bulgaria) Skipper’s passport was stamped with an entry permit. Skipper assumed that the relevant three months extended from the date of crossing into Hungary (a signatory state).

In Frankfurt, Germany, Skipper was told by Immigration that the date of crossing into a Schengen state (i.e. Hungary), triggered the Schengen visa process from the date of entry into the EU i.e. into Romania.

Skipper’s visa therefore expired in a few days rather than a month.

This interpretation would severely restrict a person travelling e.g. 10 weeks, in a non-signatory region within the EU. It would mean that on entry into the Schengen signatory state, there would only be two weeks to expiration of the 90 day visa.

A sailor cruising (against the current in a yacht – mast down) up the Danube River and down the Rhine to the North Sea could expect the trip to take more than three months. It is possible to complete the cruise from Hungary to the North Sea in 90 days. However, a cruise from Romania to the North Sea would most likely exceed this period.

In Skipper’s case, German immigration recognised this conundrum and granted a six week extension. The extension was provided on the basis of an inherent “reasonable discretion” or “humanitarian reasons.”

Skipper was later told that the German interpretation was contrary to that understood by Dutch immigration. Dutch immigration understood the three months Schengen visa commenced on entry to a Schengen signatory.

Skipper intended cruising to the Baltic via the German canals to Finland. While the duration of this trip may be possible it would require a further extension to cruise in Baltic waters and to winter in Finland.

Advice by Finland immigration was to consider a Residence Permit application. Cost: 350 Euros non-refundable if unsuccessful. Applications may take months or weeks. In this time a cruiser can remain in EU waters.

Skipper therefore opted to exit the EU from Holland and proceed to the UK. The UK grants a six month visa, renewable for a further six months.

Skipper received various advices. One was to leave Sahula in the EU and fly to the UK and expect on re-entry to the EU to receive a further three months. Another was to fly to the UK and apply at the embassy of an EU nation for a further three months.

Skipper flew to the UK from Holland and re-entered in Holland. This was done within the extension period provided by the German immigration. Dutch airport immigration refused another three months as contrary to the Schengen Agreement. Skipper had a few days to exit the EU.

Skipper appealed to an Amsterdam immigration office for a three months extension. Advice given was that another period was only possible if granted a Residence Permit. Application is on the basis of work or study or other limited grounds. An application requires evidence of health insurance, independent means among other grounds.

The office advised that an application based upon a proposed cruise or doing yacht maintenance would not be accepted for processing.

Skipper stated that it was not possible to leave in the short period of the visa because of poor weather i.e. “force majeure.” The official queried whether this was a valid application under “force majeure” but granted a two week extension under s. 20 of the Agreement i.e. “force majeure.”

An oft noted comment by officials was that Australian immigration similarly treated EU citizens.

It is noted that a reciprocal visa agreement with NZ provides NZ sailors with EU freedoms.

Skipper was also told that the stamp entered in the passport was not a Schengen visa. It is a permit to remain in the EU. A Schengen visa is only available upon application to a signatory EU state. It seems it is not possible to extend the “permit” as it is not a Schengen visa. A Schengen visa entry in a passport is a blue/silver sticker. Australia, NZ, Canada, USA et al, are exempted from applying for a visa. Their entry to the EU is processed at the border (of the EU or a Schengen signatory?) by entering a stamp.

Sahula departed the EU at Vlissingen, Holland. Officials stamped the passport. Unexpected gale conditions some way off the coast required Sahula to make for Zeebrugge, Belgium. Officials there were not concerned with the visa issue. Sahula cruised to Ostende and again officials were not concerned about the visa issue. Sahula’s engine required repairs in Ostende over a two week period. No issue was raised with this stopover.

Skipper has received advice that Sweden may grant a three month Schengen visa regardless of time spent in the EU. If so this would overcome the three months limit restricting cruising in the Scandinavian region.

At present a yacht wintering the UK, has two options to cruise to Norway:

1. Enter Holland and cruise the Dutch, German coast to Kiel Canal to Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
2. Cruise UK east coast to Scotland and cross North Sea to Norway.

A three month visa would not allow Option No. 1. It would not provide time within the three months for a Norway cruise. A foreign yacht is restricted to Option 2. This is a more challenging, weather prone, cruise in open North Sea waters. Option 1. provides a less weather prone cruise through Dutch and German islands.

What are the lessons from this experience?

1. Non EU sailors (except UK and NZ) have only three months to cruise EU waters – coastal and inland.
2. A cruise in EU waters is likely to extend past three months i.e. Baltic, Danube, European canals, Mediterranean.
3. Exceptions include “humanitarian” or “force majeure” or a Residence Permit.
4. Exceptions to the Agreement do not include cruising or ship maintenance.
5. Residence Permit applications are expensive i.e. some 350 -400 Euros.
6. Residence permit may be granted on grounds of study or work.
7. While waiting processing of a Residence Permit application, a cruiser can remain in the EU.
8. A “reasonable grounds” visa extension may exist but is limited to weeks.
9. Passport “stamp” is not a Schengen visa.
10. Interpretation of the Schengen Agreement is not consistent. Germany and Holland have a strict interpretation compared to some other EU member countries.

What is needed for a non EU yacht to cruise in EU waters?

1. A six month visa period.
2. Alternatively, a three month visa period renewable for another three months.
3. Application on basis of: registered yacht, health insurance, independent funds.

The Australian Government should enter a reciprocal rights agreement with the EU similar to NZ.

Skipper enjoyed Holland and wished to cruise from and winter in, Amsterdam. A strict interpretation by the Dutch immigration prevented this intention. Skipper sailed via Belgium and France to the UK.

Skipper would be interested in hearing from cruisers with experience of the Schengen Agreement issues for foreign yachts.

Sv Sahula
August, 2011.

Passage Report 63 Mast Up Route Holland

25 August 2011
Passage Report No. 63

Monnickendam to Standing Mast Route – Holland

July –August, 2011

A sea of sails converges on the lock. Young assistants make order of chaos. Yachts
pack in, and pour out into Amsterdam harbour.

Tanya shakes – the propeller is weed bound. “Don’t worry, it happens every year in
the Markenmeer, go back and forth and it will come off.” Skipper is relieved. Inland
“seas” are 2-4 meters. Weed grows to the surface in places.

Sahula is bound for the Ringvaart (standing mast, “ring” route) via Haarlem and
Leiden. The “ Standing Mast Route” extends the length of Holland.

Amsterdam’s “box” buildings and commercial harbour pass astern, Sahula turns into
the Zijkanaal, a bridge opens on request but a major highway delays the next till a set
opening time next morning.

Sahula waits at a marina wharf. A green and red light signals “bridge opening,” road
Gates lower, bridge rises, red light turns green, yachts file quickly through. Another
Fleet from the opposite direction passes then bridge lowers, bells ringing and a road

Sahula is to repeat the opening bridge and lock process “a hundred times.” There are
seven bridges in Haarlem town. Most are free. Occasionally, a fee (usually three euros)
is collected by (a most Dutch act)the lock master, dangling a clog from a fishing rod.

Harbour master ashore, rides past, “On starboard, behind flat bottom boat alongside
brick, town wall.” Sahula glides in - mast in a tree soon disengaged. Sahula
is berthed in the heart of historic, Haarlem. Facilities (shower, loo) are on the quay
(by token).

A Flemish, 16th century city, that wears well its historic, burgeoning past,. Its
prosperous burghers recorded by the artist Hals. A large cathedral dominates the
central square; streets cross canals. It is a lively, attractive, contemporary city.

A fleet gathers before the bridge. It is a turning bridge followed by a lifting bridge.
Bridge synchronisation is dependent on the lock master cycling to the next or
having control from one bridge, of a number of bridges. It is “Russian roulette”
whether arrival is in time.

Tanya is ill. Engine panel gauges fail. Engine stopped, Sahula glides to a wharf.
Skipper works the electrical plugs – it starts. Much relief.

Leiden, city of canals is explored in “Zod” (zodiac 2m dinghy). Passing errant youth
ensures a wet, cursing, crew.

Sahula anchors on the Kagerplassen (inland lake). Sundowner’s views include
windmills and rustic, rural, polder. Ben and Skipper swim in cold, brown water.

Sahula opts to return to Amsterdam (original plan was to exit Holland at the southern
port of Vlissingen). The “ringvaart” returns to Amsterdam via the “convoy” route.
Major highway and rail bridges open, consecutively, late at night.

Sahula sails (with a fleet) on the Westeinderplassen (inland lake). Kempers marina provides a base to visit the Aalsmeer flower market (Holland’s largest of five). Every morning, millions of flowers are auctioned, packaged and dispatched to vendors in towns across the world. The market is a seething mass of workers ensuring acres of seemingly infinite varieties, are cleared for the market.

“I’d let you through but bridge is out of order.” Sahula must reverse the Ringvaart through Haarlem to Amsterdam.

The Twellegea Nauticadam marina welcomes Sahula’s return. Ben and Di leave for Australia. Skippers decides to attempt to obtain a further three months visa extension.

Next Report: Schengen visa – an Australian sailor’s nemesis.


July, 2011

passage report 62 Frankfurt, Rhine, Holland

25 August 2011 | Ostende
David Haigh
Passage Report: No. 62

Frankfurt on Main, Rhine and Holland

“You’re at Offenbach. Offenbach, how did you get there? To Frankfurtians, Offenbach is low brow.

Price resolves everything. (marina: 12 Euro a night – 60 Euro in central Frankfurt), Sahula is there a month (180 Euro) awaiting the arrival of Ben (Australian friend) crew to Holland. The marina is “home” to broken dreams – large, unfinished, yachts unlikely to see the sea.

Flying the “boxing kangaroo,” ensures Skipper meets the locals. Dieter and Anke (voluntary crew of heritage boat, “Gaby” and sailors), Stefan and his parents, Christel and Juergen, invite Skipper to their homes, dinner and use of the washing machine.

Tours of the city and countryside, display the festivals, food, history, and culture – recent and ancient.

Medieval, metal armour, head to toe and hoof, encapsulates an ancient “human tank” mounted in Schloss Braunfel’s armour room – challenges the imagination – and the horse. Home to descendants, its towers rise, Disney like above the surrounding village and forest.

The madness of war devastated Frankfurt. City of Germany’s highest “Manhattans” it mixes the medieval and new. City of museums (previously riverside mansions) and art galleries.

“Bavarians always say no (in Passau immigration refused a visa extension), I will help with a visa, I know who knows who” – in immigration.

Skipper’s visa was assumed to expire on the 30th July – 90 days after entering Hungary – a Schengen Agreement signatory.

“There is good news and bad – your visa expires next Tuesday but an extension is possible” Sahula leaves on Sunday! Skipper receives 6 weeks. It is Hesse not Bavaria.

It seems the visa is three months from entry into the EU not into an Agreement signatory, even though a non signatory cannot grant a Schengen visa.

“In time, our population will drop from 80 to 60 million; couples are too busy to have children – our culture will die out.” Offenbach citizens (migrant workers families -Turk, Middle East, and African) reflect Europes ethnic changing,

Ben arrives. Frankfurt friends farewell Sahula. Four locks to the Rhine.

At Mainz wharf, Skipper and Ben farewell Christel and Juergen (“crew” for the day) with a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda (compensation for forgoing a classical music concert) – tourists are wide eyed.

Rhine speeds by carrying busy traffic. This is a different river. Barges march in convoy, passing three abreast plus a small yacht.

Overtaking, towering bows, chomp by, metres from Sahula’s stern. It is not for the feint hearted.

“If Lorelly (a blond maiden) sings, disaster is nigh.” Silence prevailed in the notorious, fast and narrow, Lorelly gorge. Reputed as the Rhine’s most picturesque; Castles occupy every hill. Tax collecting occupiers demanded the coffers of ancient, passing traffic to lift cross river chains.

Sahula raced with the swift current, making Bonn (160km) in a day; in time to visit the IUCN Environmental Law Centre and friends.

On the third day, passing Cologne, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Sahula crossed into Holland and quieter canals.

Veche Canal is reputedly one of the Holland’s finest. Sahula’s first bridge encounter passes, hesitantly, slowly, under, with centimetres to spare. Depth sounder drops to and remains at 1.7m and remains – Skipper’s learning curve begins. Passed massed colourful blooms, boats and traditional houses and mansions, windmills, lifting bridges, ducks and geese interspersed with green polder fields in a Dutch agrarian vista.

It is relying on fate (and a phone) to not book marina berths. Summer ensures the canals are busy with private boats. There was no berth in the marina. “You can find one in town.” Sahula passed through two bridges to berth with locals, against the historic Weesp centre, town wall.

Bridges operate on arrival or phone and outside tea and lunch breaks and time to bike between.

Canal “masters” wave cautious Sahula on, “Faster, faster” – a convoy, awaits on the opposite side, an ambulance is in the waiting traffic, he is required at the other bridge. Green/ Red prepare to go – locals pass through the lock gates or rising bridge before the final green.

A toll (1-3 Euros) is placed in a wooden clog lowered from a fishing rod.

Canals raise challenges: turning, 360 degrees, a 12m yacht, in a narrow canal lined by boats – some now adorned with Sahula’s red ; confronted by a motor boat, nonchantly, cutting the corner, with the option to ground alongside, hope for a course change or full astern with another close astern or all three at once (proclaiming “steel” is irrelevant – all boats are steel); depth sounder alarm shrilly sounding - 2m dropping to 1.6m causing an underwater agrarian plough, crew to stumble forward or softly steadying to 1.7 (Sahula is 1.6), repeated again and again.

“This is Amsterdam” on a fine, summer day– massed crowds, backpackers, tourists.

Sahula heads to Monnickendam (historic fishing village on Markermeer inland sea) marina (110 Euro/week), enters the canal (“you will be ok”) - 1.3 m per the Guide book.

Returning to Amsterdam, Twellegea Nauticadam Marina, (in historic Nieuwendam village harbour) provides a quiet berth (120 Euro/ week and mast up facilities (100 Euro).

Skipper replaces the mast light and wind indicator (Dekker chandlery) - victims of the first lock in the Constanta canal, Romania.

“Wednesday morning, raise the mast.” Tuesday is fine, Wednesday is rain, wind and recurring Atlantic lows till Sunday. First lesson in Europe’s nemesis: weather (and tides).

“In Holland you need an umbrella, sometimes for the sun, normally for the rain.”

Sahula’s mast remains reclining on deck. Lows sweeping in from the Atlantic end the sun, usher in grey days of rain and wind.

Wood on boats (decks, spars and bright work) is smeared in light green algae.

“Autumn is fine but cloudy – nothing dries (after a long winter).”

Between the lows, a sunny day. The mast goes up. A spindly crane slowly lifts. Don’t worry” says Roy (marina manager) grasping the heel, wrestling it to its deck pad, “attach the stays”, “don’t worry it will stay up” – Skipper looks unconvinced. It does.

Sahula is becoming a sailing boat. “Becoming” requires stays fixed, rig firm and mast aligned, boom on, sheets, halyards in, electrics attached. A working ship.

In come other low, delays. “Spring was a perfect “summer” but now…it is global warming.”

Ad, Amsterdam wood carver, yoga teacher and yacht owner (45 foot Van de stadt), Ad, invites Skipper on a city bike tour, seeing the parts not known to tourists.

Radar screen registers a blank. Geert, Amsterdam’s sole radar engineer (it is holiday time, Roy phones to answering machines) says change the junction box. It works – Skipper registers embarrassment – simple solution to a complex problem). Wind registers, lights bare brightly – Skipper is relieved (again).

Sun shines - pacific Nieuwendam to busy Amsterdam harbour. Sahula follows the locals to the lock (8 yachts inside) (locks role is to keep the water level in Amsterdam constant – it varies in centimetres) to Markermeer (originally seawater, the Zuider See is divided by two dykes creating freshwater, Ijsselmeer and Markermeer).

Marken is a small, 15th century fishing village, originally on an island, its mostly dark green wooden houses are built on mounds amid canals. Sahula in the marina, enjoys its evening beauty free of tourist crowds.

Sun gone, wind increases, rain – Sahula sails for Hoorn (20 euros a night) – headquarters of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) past a fleet of two or three masted, gaff rigged, blunt bowed, trading (now charted) barges.

These Dutch yacht sailors are hardy. In full stormy, wet weather, families (school holidays) – adorned in full wet weather rig – head out. Undeterred by grey lows rolling in; ever hopeful for the sunshine.

Sundowners looks to Hoorn’s 17th century Harbour Tower and gravity defying town facades, across resting trading (now charter) barges.

A re-enacted Cheese Market in the city centre recalls Holland’s dairies. Ben dons a shoulder bucket holder and joins the costumed parade.

Mainsail up, before a freshening Markermeer, Sahula speeds to Enkhuizen, second port of the VOC, accompanied by a fleet of yachts and barges. A lock transports the fleet into the Ijsselmeer and harbour marina (25 Euro a night). A soulless place, it does no justice to the VOC fleet and merchants that traded here.

From all over Holland, relocated buildings, representative of the past, recreate a culture otherwise lost. 15 acres of street scapes represent a hard life. Freshly smoked herring makes up for a rainy day.

Marina berths are a “box,” between two poles into which the yacht enters bow to the wharf.

Winds are forecast to lessen (from 75 knots!). Sahula departs -alone. The only occupant of the lock, Tanya punches, spray flying, into a freshening gale and short steep sea (depth 3m), for Monnickendam but opts for a closer peace at Hoorn. Crew nervousness noticeably decreases.

Ben “escapes” for a hotel and conference in Bonn.

Dawn is blue skies, yachts pour out, Sahula (Di skippering) also – for Monnickendam. A rigger is available to set the mast (113 euro). UV cover on staysail is replaced (400 euro).

Fundamental – when in Holland do as the Dutch sailors do (or don’t). Full cover wet weather gear is de rigour – for all the family. Nothing deters. Inland seas do not have swells or large waves. Sailing before the gale, fleets leave port.

Monnickendam – evening rain showers (Marina – 20 Euros a night). Rigger aligns the mast. Expertise is difficult to find in summer school holidays.

Crew bicycle (supplied by each marina) to ancient Volendam, site of massed tourism. Gratefully return to Monnickendam.

Sahula is here for three nights awaiting Ben’s return. Then it is onto Amsterdam and the Mast Up canals route to Rotterdam.

Next Report: Mast Up Route

Sv Sahula
July, 2011
Vessel Name: Sahula
Vessel Make/Model: van de stadt 36 extended to 40 feet
Hailing Port: Townsville
Crew: David - single hander
David is retired (60 ish young) academic who taught potential environmental radicals environmental law, law of the sea and coastal law. He's now setting out on a global cruise aboard Sahula. He's travelling solo except when potential crew take the plunge and join up. He welcomes worthy souls. [...]

About Sahula

Who: David - single hander
Port: Townsville