Two Wayfarers Sail to Denmark
July 1998
Ralph Roberts and Cedric Clarke (W9885 - Spree Lady)   
with Bob and Clare Harland (W9933 - Sea Rocket)
Part 2 of a Log
written and illustrated by Ralph Roberts
Part 2 - Den Helder to Borkum

We had arrived at Den Helder in a state of extreme tiredness, particularly Clare, who had helmed continuously for around 28 hours, and been awake for a further 15 hours prior to that. Unfortunately we had arrived on the very day the local naval base was putting on a sea and air display to entertain thousands of visitors. It was almost mid-morning by the time we had sorted out the formalities of a berth to stay for the following night, and made good use of the superb facilities of the nearby Naval YC for a welcome shower. We had then just finished clearing most of the gear from the boats, and putting up our boat tents to get our heads down to sleep, when the loud background music started up for the naval display. But we were far too tired for anything to keep us awake - well nearly anything: I did wake up in the early afternoon when a four-engined aircraft started making very low level sorties directly overhead, but I'm not sure even that woke Clare.

The strong gale force winds which had been forecast, duly arrived late on Sunday afternoon. We were only too happy to retreat into our boat tents and go back to sleep again, the display now finished. The noise of the gale was almost relaxing in comparison to the previous racket, and we slept very soundly, warm and snug inside our tents and sleeping bags.

Monday 13th July

The gale blew steadily all through Sunday night, but had abated by next morning, though the winds were still very strong. It was marginal as to whether it would be sensible to run on jib only to our next proposed stop at Terschelling. In the end the decision not to venture out was made by Bob, who felt that it would be better to get the tear in the luff of his sail repaired properly by a local sailmaker, rather than carrying out a makeshift repair which might not last, particularly as there would be less chance of finding a sailmaker to do the job properly later on.
Tuesday 14th July
Tuesday was wet and miserable with continuing gale force winds. There was no alternative but stay where we were for yet another day. More than two days of gale force winds seemed almost unbelievable weather for mid-July, and meant that we were now way behind schedule. We had expected to lose some time through bad weather, but hadn't anticipated losing this amount of time almost straight away. The day was spent exploring the immediate area and making sure everything was fully prepared for our planned start the next day.
Wednesday 15th July
We woke early on the Wednesday, determined to get away and continue with our cruise, attempting to reach our differing destinations in Denmark in what time we had left. Bob and Clare aimed to complete their trip by staying inshore of the Friesian Islands, and sailing via the Kiel Canal all the way to Rantzausminde on the island of Fyn; whilst Cedric and I wished to try to get to Rantzausminde for the start of the International Rally, by sailing the more direct sea route to Esbjerg to meet up with our car and trailer, and then trail the boat overland to the event. We agreed however, to sail together along the Friesian Islands as far as Ameland.

    Bob and Clare enjoying the much more relaxed type of sailing in the Waddensea.

Bob in particular, was relieved to be able to sail without being laid low by sea-sickness.

The open space in the aft of the World allows for an extremely comfortable style of cruising, when sailing off the wind.
I also discarded my rear seats after seeing how much better it was without them.

Bob had been given a forecast of SW winds of F.4/5, so we set off under a reefed main and jib towards Terschelling. The Waddensea seemed so calm in comparison to our sea crossing, that we soon shook out the reef and changed to a genoa for a really exhilarating sail. With both the wind and a considerable flood tide assisting us, the GPS registered 8 to 10 knots. There were many other sailing boats around us for the first hour or so, but we were able to leave them in the distance as we sailed on a much more direct route over an area of shallow water towards Terschelling. We did overdo it a little in one place, and found ourselves skidding over the sandy bottom with both rudder and centreboard up, before retreating to deeper waters. West Terschelling was reached just after 1430 - a distance of 30 n.m. which we had achieved in less than 5 hours.

The channel buoys were frequently spaced quite widely apart, and It was often be easier to see
where the winding channels were by the various vessels using them.

It seemed possible that we might be able to get as far as Nes on the island of Ameland before stopping for the night, a distance we would never normally expect to achieve in one day. We were aware however, that we would be fighting an ebb tide on reaching the next island, and would need to keep to the main channels. These weren't always easy to find, even though we had detailed charts of the area, and often needed to use our depth sounder (centreboard!) to tell us when the water was getting rather too shallow for us. There were some working vessels and large pleasure craft around Ameland, and these were of great help in guiding us through the deeper channels. Though it was less than helpful when we needed to gybe in rather difficult wind over tide conditions, in order to keep out of the way on one occasion. I immediately put a reef in the main to make the sailing more comfortable. Achieving this quickly whilst continuing to sail, seemed to impress the skipper of the pleasure boat I had gybed to avoid, as I discovered he had told the harbourmaster when berthing at Nes, “There are some real sailors in small boats out there!”

The harbour at Nes. Our two Wayfarers are in the middle of the pontoon above the gangplank.
Bob still has his boat tent covering the rear half of the boat, with the front section folded back.

We eventually reached Nes just after1930, the channel into the marina becoming ever narrower with the falling tide. After mooring the boats at convenient berths, we called in to see the harbourmaster to complete the necessary formalities. We then set up our boat tents, and went to the marina restaurant for a meal just before it closed.
Thursday 16th July

Next morning the harbourmaster, another of those people like the sailmaker in Den Helder who couldn't have been more helpful, gave us a weather report of continuing southwesterly winds, F.3 to 5. It was a fine sunny morning, and the ideal sort of weather conditions we had been hoping for to complete our trip, so we made the decision to go our separate ways.

Bob and Clare would continue their trip along the Waddensea, whilst Cedric and I would go outside the islands to Borkum, our last stop, we had decided, before sailing directly to Esbjerg. Sailing to seaward of the islands seemed to be the surest way of getting as far as Borkum in one day, for around low water, the Waddensea became a virtual sea of mud, interspersed with a few narrow channels, and we thought it unlikely we would reach Borkum within one day by following the often tortuous routes of these channels.

Bob and Clare departing from Nes to sail inshore of the Friesian Islands through the
Kiel Canal, and then on to the International Rally at Rantzausminde.

Bob and Clare packed up in their usual efficient manner, and were away by 10.30, impressing the harbourmaster, who watched them sail out and negotiate their way on the rising tide until he could no longer see them through his binoculars. They were to report later that sailing the Waddensea at low water was an ‘interesting’ experience, since all that could be seen were the mud banks either side of the various channels.

Cedric and I packed up in a more leisurely manner, waiting for the tide to rise to give us a shorter route to the end of the island. There was a heavy cloudburst just before noon, as we were ready to depart. So we waited a little longer, until the worst of the rain had passed. Not quite the ‘ideal’ weather conditions we had hoped for! We set off a little while later in a light breeze and continuous drizzle, and quickly reached the end of the island. The clearly marked channel was an easy route to follow at first. Getting out to sea however, proved much more of a problem than I had expected.

The detailed charts and GPS (held in position under the foredeck by shockcord)
proved essential to navigate between the islands and out to sea.

    The outboard and ...

the asymmetric spinnaker gave us the best possible speed sailing
against the current, which proved very strong, even keeping close inshore.

Even with a detailed chart, the route soon became more difficult to interpret, and had it not been for the GPS, I am sure I would have ended up back inside the islands. Breaking water always seemed to keep appearing around us - quite often ahead or to seaward! - and it took an hour or more before we were able to break free of the shallow water and set our course for Borkum.

When we reached the next island, Schiermonnikoog, it soon became apparent the tide had turned, and our progress had slowed considerably by the time we passed the end of the island. With another 15 n.m. to go against the strong current, I used the outboard to increase our speed. It was also an excellent opportunity to try out my asymmetric spinnaker for the first time, and as this was much easier to manage downwind, I took down the mainsail to avoid it gybing.

    One of the many fine traditional Dutch sailing vessels we encountered on our sail through the Friesian Islands.

Approaching Borkum, the first of the German Friesian Islands, as the sun was setting -
though it still took us another 3 hours to reach the marina.

Borkum lighthouse eventually appeared on the horizon and we made easy progress until we reached the Ems estuary, which proved to be a very uncomfortable crossing, with another wind over tide situation. I did start to change over the courtesy flags from Dutch to German halfway across, but quickly decided that following the correct flag etiquette wasn't worth risking a capsize. We entered the marina on the  southernmost point of the island just after 2300, and set up our boat tent as quickly and quietly as we could. Unloading our gear quietly onto a rather creaky finger pontoon did prove somewhat difficult, but we were more than pleased to get our heads down for a well earned rest as soon as we had finished preparing the boat for the night.

Part 3