#1 2020-07-13 14:19:29

Marc_Langbroek
Member
From: Den Helder, Netherlands
Registered: 2019-03-04
Posts: 11

Fair winds for Grace Darling

Fair winds and following seas.

An ancient saying that is still a heartfelt wish you make to the one who is going on a journey over sea. Whether it be a small trip or a long journey, fair winds makes things easy.

Therefore, planning a trip from Den Helder (the Netherlands) to Helgoland (German Bight) fair winds is the element to plan with, especially when there is the ever present argument of being back in time again.

Globally Helgoland lies east of Den Helder, so getting there with mostly westerly winds isn’t that much of a problem. Getting back however is the challenge. When following the coastal route, you are bounded by the shipping lane Rotterdam Hamburg and the shoal waters of the Frisian Islands. The route width is roughly between 3.5 and 5.5 miles wide.  The area is heavily frequented by fishing vessels, and a windfarm and some special areas are making up the scene. Due to the heavy traffic in the shipping lane, staying away from it is rule.
Another option is to make use of the corridor between the above mentioned shipping lane and the Hamburg west approach which is positioned more north. That area is littered with oilfield platforms and windfarms. Decision was made to use to the coastal route, which gives also the opportunity to make landfall on one of the Frisian Islands.

The forecast for week 26 said globally Sun Mon and Tue westerly winds, Wed VARIABLE, Thu Fri Sat easterly winds. The ideal conditions for a trip to Helgoland.

Therefore, Sunday at noon off we went, leaving the Den Helder sea roads via het Molengat with a swift SW4. Decided was that a 4 on 4 off watch system was effective as from 16:00.

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The main goal for the trip was to see the island of Helgoland, while the underlying purpose was to get knowing the Grace Darling more in detail. She is a fine Frances 26, bought last year in Portsmouth, with her home waters nowadays in the northern part of the Netherlands. As being a member of the Royal Netherlands Navy Yacht Club (KMJC) her homeport is Den Helder.

Going out to sea to learn your boat better also brings forward the opportunity to start scrutinizing ones own level of competence. Going out to sea means being out on your own, you make the decisions and you’ll be confronted with the results of your choices. So getting to know Grace better and being critical to oneself was the task at hand. A good friend of mine with many a thousands of sailing miles on the log was happy to come along, and was willing to give a critical look at the performance of boat and skipper.

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Two days of flying with the proverbial fair wind from the west brought us smoothly along the coast of the Dutch Frisian islands followed by the German islands, deep into the German Bight where on the end of the Frisian German bight shipping lane we had to cross and steer North heading for Helgoland. The wind seemed to veer a little SW so we only had to gybe and proceed again. On the afternoon of Tuesday the wind died, so we decided to make the last miles on the iron jib. While passing a large anchorage SW of Helgoland, the full impact of the Corona crisis became visible. Lots of empty cargo vessels, tankers and three very large passenger liners were at anchor, waiting for better times to come. Before passing through the anchorage, the AIS showed all ships at anchor, all quiet. While passing through the anchorage, my eye detected movement of one of the big freighters.  Slowly it started gaining speed, while crossing 150 meters behind us. That somehow surprised me! So a sharp lookout is key, at all times. We made landfall just before midnight, and after a victorious gin tonic we took a good night’s rest.

The port visit at Helgoland was used for a good cleanup, some small adjustments and replenish some stock. Potable water is a commodity that’s hard to get, the water works are making it out of seawater by Reversed Osmosis, and comes at 15 euro/metric ton. After doing the small jobs and enjoying a shower we went out to have a taste of the local habits. That was found in local beer from the cask enriched with a shot of red berry genever. An excellent combo to spent de afternoon with, while doing some travel planning for the future and ending with recalling stories from the past about voyages made. After that back on board for a proper ship made meal.

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Thursday showed the predicted easterly wind, to be precise a light NE. So off we went, not before we solved the itself presenting electric black out situation. Long story short, someone stepped on the both/1/2/off switch that went to undefined. So full batteries, but no system. A quick fix. Leaving Helgoland behind, a lovely island with friendly people and a rich history, back into the direction of the Jade Elbe entrance to make the shipping lane crossing back to the coastal waters of the Frisian Islands.

Again, with the wind full in the back we passed the crossing point buoy TR 9 and veered SB to steer to the TR7, a 7-mile stretch that makes most of the crossing. Again, very few shipping was met what made the crossing a more comfortable experience. The wind seemed to be in good spirit, it followed us to a comfortable E3 to 4. So flat out again before the wind, Jib boomed out, main secured with a rope from the end of the boom to the front, thus preventing for a unwanted gybe.

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One of the problems when sailing singlehanded, or better call it dangers is getting seriously hurt when handling the rig. Breaking a finger, or getting a concussion really could ruin your sailing day. So to keep these risks at a minimum, one has to identify all the common actions and come up with standard procedures for it. A most common operation is gybing. The great strain on the sheets become visible when the jib starts flapping while handling the sheet becomes a tour de force. When also the jib is boomed out by a pole of some sort, the procedure has to be done in a safe way. Thus we parsed the operation in separated parts that when executed can be done in a safe way.
So situation is before wind, SE4, mainsail over SB, secured by the preventer, jib on port, on a 3 position (full out) spinnaker pole, sheet outside the safety rail, while SB jib sheet used as a downhaul to a bow mooring cleat.
First: Gybing starts at first taking away the preventer from the main, then in a controlled way gybe the main to Port, then set the preventer on Port side. Main secure. Jib in the leewind of the main.
Second: Take away the downhaul of the spinnaker pole. Go aft and release the jib sheet until the pole nearly touches the front stay, while at the same time rolling in the jib.
Now you have a comfortable situation: main gybed and secured, jib mostly taken away.
Third: Retract the pole, undo the jib and bring pole to the other side of the forestay. Bring it out again, while attaching the jib again.
Forth: Go aft, start hauling the jib sheet, while letting go the roller line of the jib. When jib is fully out, secure the jib sheet, and go forward to set the jib boom downhaul. All be done by one person, in a controlled way. End of procedure.

Working with standard procedures gives you confidence and control over the situation. It will in the end never prevent you from getting surprises but at least it gives you a routine to stick to.

The easterly winds brought us in good time back to the Netherlands Frisian Islands. While running smooth we made the decision to sail on to IJmuiden to have a rendez vous with my brother, who is captain on a cargo vessel.  Again a lovely sailing day, although we were now infested with black flies. A nuisance of the first category, while the whole afternoon was used to swat these little critters away. In the morning we made landfall at IJmuiden, and had a chat with my brother, for the time lying alongside his ship. After having a chat, doing a photo shoot and some filming and accepting a little bottled gift of the captain we parted, back to sea again, heading for Den Helder.

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The wind was now east four, so again we had a smooth sail along the coast. While passing the historic waters of Camperdown (1797, Adm. Duncan gave us a good old ramming), and the Anglo Russian landing beaches at Grootekeeten(1799, Dutch French combination gave you a good old ramming) we slowly got sight of the fair water buoy of the Schulpengat, the leading channel to the port of Den Helder. At 1700 the ships logbook noted between the harbor lights, while a welcome party was ready to get us in our berth. Again, a good beer was there to celebrate our return of a great sailing week!

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The main goal of reaching the destination of Helgoland was made as well as getting to know the boat even better, and make serious work from defining some procedures. Personal gains in trying and improving some handling aspects as well as sailing in busy waters was met as well. But above all, it was a great sailing trip!

Marc Langbroek
S/Y Grace Darling

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