There are certain things in life that you anticipate with such fear and anxiety, you feel quite surprised afterwards to have survived them. Things like the first day of school, driving test, first date, wedding day – and crossing the Bay of Biscay!
By now we were supposed to be in Galicia, Spain. But apparently the Bay of Biscay has decided not to even let us there. The spring winds have been very changeable, and in the notorious bay it means it doesn’t seem to stay in one direction for very long. It will be a 300-360 nautical mile crossing. We are hoping to point our bow towards A Coruña, but are open to other options according to what the weather decides for us. That means we will be out at sea for three, maybe three and a half days, and the weather window should be at least a couple of days longer than that, so we won’t be caught out in something terribly unexpected. So far such a window has not presented itself.
The spring in Brittany turned out to be long. Because of the blooming flowers and warm days we had experienced in February we had expected to be on our way much earlier, but it seems the phenomenon called the “second winter” is not entirely unknown beyond Scandinavia. April came and went before we felt ready to leave.
Our journey began in June this year. That means we have now sailed slowly, and not particularly surely, towards southerly latitudes for more than six months. Having reached such a milestone, many sailors like to draw a summary of the highlights, measure how well their expectations were met, publish statistics about their journey and so on. It’s a good idea, so why not give it a try.
The pretty fortress town of Willemstad was now behind us, as we were nearing our last opening bridge in the inland waters of Holland. We had gotten pretty good at this – once again our timing was perfect, the bridge opened and we just motored through without stopping. A few hours later we reached the last locks at Stellendam, and just like that, we were out in the North Sea again. The sun went down, and we could see the bright lights of Hoek van Holland’s large port behind us, to the north.
Hardships and setbacks will not discourage a Finnish sailor. Our first attempt to travel south along the canals from Amsterdam had bounced off a closed bridge south of Haarlem, and although our first reaction may have been ”let’s forget about the canals and go out to the sea!” we were pretty soon back on track with the original plan. Heavy winds predicted for the next few days may have played a small part in the decision.
Den Helder is one of the spots where you can easily get from the North Sea to Holland’s inland waterways – the lakes and canals. We wanted to know more about this peculiar country, and what would be a better way to do that, than boating along its canals!
We raised the sails as soon as we were out of the Helgoland harbour. Our destination, the island of Borkum, happened to be exactly where the wind was blowing from. The opposing current was right there to greet us. The current would naturally change direction every six hours or so, but even when flowing with us, it didn’t seem to affect our speed very much.
It was the weather gods of the North Sea that this time conveniently chose the next destination for us. And we obeyed: this late September Saturday seemed like the perfect day to sail to Helgoland instead of beating further southwest. For most sailors popping out of the Kiel canal the island of Helgoland is a natural stop along the way, being a tax free zone with cheap diesel and alcohol. We still had plenty of diesel and were not particularly thirsty either, so we had not planned to stop.
During the two months that we spent in Kiel we became very well acquainted with the town and its surroundings. We liked it there, and by this time it already felt almost like home. But now it was nearly the end of September – time to finally move on!