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Old 11-07-2013, 05:36   #1
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Question Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

Hello cruisers,

Need some sincere advice here.

We are a crew of 2 (2 lads in their 30's)
We have a small 21 foot bilge keeler Vivacity 650 based in Mersea Island region (Tollesbury). Perfect for sitting in the east coast mud


Our Experience
So far our experience was only short trips on the East Coast, in river Blackwater/river Crouch region between marinas and anchoring in the creeks. Sometimes some short daysails a bit further from the coast (10-15miles).

None of us have any real ocean/seas experience. One of us (me) did get a day skipper sertificate + ICC (theory and practice), which to be honest I don't value that much as it was quite easy to obtain imo.

We are reasonably fit and determined.

Our boat

21 foot bilge keeler Vivacity 650. Did lot's of upgrades to it (new rudder, autopilot, hull-through fittings, sails, standing/running rigging, new outboard). It is quite slow because it's so short, so we always have to work with tides, otherwise you might end up stationary. It's quite beamy boat for it's length so it slams a bit especially with wind against tide, which slows her down even more.

Plan
We both took 2 weeks off from work, and are considering a longer trip. So basically we have ~17 days.

2 options on the table are
- hopping to europe (holland, france?) via Ramsgate->Ostende, and then maybe north to Amsterdam? Would love doing that..
- doing extensive coastal cruising southwards (isle of wight area), or northwards.

Questions


- Is Europe side much more demanding than East Coast?
- Is documentation required to sail in Europe a lot of hassle? We do have radio license and ICC, but no registration documents as the boat is quite old, and it's not required in UK to have those.
- Do we have enough time (17 days) for that sort of trip, there and back(Europe, Amsterdam)
- are we asking too much from that sort of a boat?
- Do you _FEEL_ we would be better of with getting more experience along the coasts of UK?
- Any additional comments would be highly appreciated
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Old 11-07-2013, 06:01   #2
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I think you should do some coastal sailing first. The easiest way across is the Lowestoft -> IJmuiden crossing. Exactly 90deg East for exactly 100nm. The tides cancel each other out.

What we regularly sailed in two weeks is something like IJmuiden-Scheveningen-Vlissingen(Flushing)-Oostende-Harwich-Lowestoft-IJmuiden. But we used a 42' boat.

Flushing is the most difficult approach. The rest is similar to the UK, although I think Lowestoft approach is rather nasty in bad weather too. Fog can really ruin your day in the whole area.
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:16   #3
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

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Originally Posted by parito View Post


- Is Europe side much more demanding than East Coast?
- Is documentation required to sail in Europe a lot of hassle? We do have radio license and ICC, but no registration documents as the boat is quite old, and it's not required in UK to have those.
- Do we have enough time (17 days) for that sort of trip, there and back(Europe, Amsterdam)
- are we asking too much from that sort of a boat?
- Do you _FEEL_ we would be better of with getting more experience along the coasts of UK?
- Any additional comments would be highly appreciated
Nice to see someone else in a proper berth - made of mud .

The boat reg will be needed and is easy (Small Ships Registry - SSR) and also cheap - all online as well, I think also fairly quick (but don't quote me!).

No first hand experience of that locale (either side!) but I think the trip is doable and also on that boat (100 odd miles - maybe a day and a half?) - but nonetheless I would advise against it, mainly because due to the uncertainty of the weather over a prolonged period - a gamble that may pay off, but if not boat (and also you?) could find self weather bound in Europe as not the sort (size) of boat that would be best suited for choosing to plough through unpleasant weather for an extended period. and quite possible that in some weather conditions will become a very extended passage!......with boats most things are doable, just not always prudent or pleasant (or both!).

No idea what is in your locale or up (or down) the coast, but would be surprised if could not find plenty to have some adventures in (and / or for getting into or out of!), for 17 days - if not the summer .

Having said all that, if you do fancy a gamble (on not getting stuck in Europe), maybe a compromise would be to come back after a week at the next weather window, even if that is the next day and finish off the adventures in the UK.........boats is all about choices! Whether your experience to do date equips you for the adventure is an unknown, my gut says on the light side - but some folks are quicker learners (and better copers) than others. Won't be a suicide mission. Probably .

If you do set out accross to Holland, don't be shy about turning back half way (or less) - often enough the prudent decision is a "no" and a smart Skipper revises plans according to how things are. Having a Plan B (and C?!) is all part of the game..........If it is a lot harder work and less fun than anticipated, no point in buggering on just for the sake of it. Steely determination is a close relation of wishful thinking..........
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Old 11-07-2013, 08:33   #4
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

Go find "We didn't mean to go to sea" by Arthur Ransome in a second hand bookshop somewhere. Been out of print for a while, but it should give you an idea of the doability.
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Old 11-07-2013, 08:42   #5
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

Glad this thread popped back up!

Given my previous comments - just to make clear, whilst in the realms of doable this would be a major voyage for the boat size (and experience level) - plenty of scope to go very badly (night time / navigation / weather / shipping / time period - tiredness leads to bad judgements) - not to be taken lightly.
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Old 12-07-2013, 00:27   #6
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

Suggest Harwich - Oostende/Zebrugge (90 miles) then up the coat to Vlissigen then into the canal and Middelburg and the Verse Meer.

For further info ask on ybw's East Caost Forum where you'll find lots of helpful locals.
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Old 12-07-2013, 04:25   #7
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

I have just done the SSR for our boat. It is done online, is dirt cheap and the docs arrived about 10 days later.
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Old 14-07-2013, 01:47   #8
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Spend the time on the east coast, go up to suffolk and explore Walton backwaters, the Orwell and deben. Dutch coast is a long long trip in a small boat, doable certainly but your time there will be spoilt by thinking about the journey back. You'll find the nature of the sea takes a big change outside of the Thames estuary sand banks, waves get much bigger and just a small increase in wind can cause discomfort on a small boat
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Old 15-07-2013, 01:19   #9
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

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Originally Posted by parito View Post
- Any additional comments would be highly appreciated
Nobody has mentioned one of the bigger hazards in this area - the dense commercial traffic, Traffic Separation Schemes, and the rules about crossing these motorways of the sea.

In a small, slow sailboat, you must be sure you'll be seen, and that you can see and assess collision risks, before venturing across.
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Old 15-07-2013, 02:44   #10
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Originally Posted by jckb View Post
Nobody has mentioned one of the bigger hazards in this area - the dense commercial traffic, Traffic Separation Schemes, and the rules about crossing these motorways of the sea.

In a small, slow sailboat, you must be sure you'll be seen, and that you can see and assess collision risks, before venturing across.
Plus some fairly substantial changes to the northern Dutch part at the end of July

http://www.tollesburysc.com/2013/03/...-to-dutch-tss/
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Old 15-07-2013, 03:50   #11
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Studying the charts and the TSS is important. Also, you must be fluent in coastal navigation with timing tides and currents for approaching a harbour like Flushing.

Two things I need to mention here:

1. When crossing a shipping lane, you must do this as fast as possible and at right angles. Use the engine if needed. You also need a radar or binoculars with bearing compass to continuously check where you pass shipping (if you make it to pass in front).

2. When sailing along the Dutch coast, you will need to cross the tss at Hook of Holland. Study the procedure which include reporting to traffic controllers last time I did that. This is much like traffic control for air planes. They will tell you speed and course to maintain etc. so that you make it through. Also, the actual crossing must happen at an exact area, as does the radio check-in.

Sailing this area is challenging. I have spent most of my life sailing there and it is what makes me so confident everwhere else since. Tides are not the biggest but 20 feet at Flushing requires perfect timing like for the French coast or Nova Scotia. Same thing for currents and passing narrow channels between sand banks with breaking seas at each side and doing gybes while at it. Sobering experiences, you can't abort and try again.

The climate (weather and political) is what made me go away but I always enjoyed sailing there. Perfect training grounds.
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Old 19-07-2013, 10:18   #12
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

If you end up near the Isle of Wight do get in touch.
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Old 20-07-2013, 08:34   #13
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

Hello Parito,

Ya gotta remember these are all opinions--mine, too. With that caveat out of the way, I want to second what Jedi mentioned about the TSS and the fog. Being out on the ocean in the fog, the ships' fog horns resound around you and your normal ear direction finding is unable to accurately locate the direction of the deep thumping engines. And you can't (expletive deleted) see them, either!

In the comic opera, "Iolanthe", by Gilbert & Sullivan, the channel crossing from Harwich is described as "you are crossing the Channel and tossing about in a steamer from Harwich, which is something between a large bathing machine and a very small second class carriage." From that, I infer that you might have a lot rougher conditions than those you are used to. This could bring on seasickness even if you have not been seasick heretofore.

This is one point where DOJ's advice about the better part of valor and seamanship can be the decision to return to more sheltered waters; she is a very small boat.

And yet, if you haven't read A. J. Mackinnon's "The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow," you might find it inspirational relative to crossing the channel in a small boat.

If you have really thought out your backup plans, it can be done. I 'd feel better about it if you had one other crew, who is quite experienced because sometimes as a novice it's hard to tell you're in over your head till you're caught in the undertow, so to speak, and should bail out. You've grown up watching the protagonists win, and they don't always, especially as the sea doesn't care at all about you. It is an elemental force.

You've been given lots of feedback here. Come back and tell us what you've decided.

Ann
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Old 20-07-2013, 13:15   #14
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Re: Is Harwich to Amsterdam for beginners too much?

G'Day Parito,

I'll add this to Ann's excellent advice: My biggest concern for your proposed voyage is the immutable schedule that you will be operating under. When you must set your departure date far in advance (to keep employers happy) you automatically introduce a problem in that the wx may not be suitable for your small yacht. The urge to "give it a go" has lead to the downfall of many a yottie. If the wx is indeed favorable, then you spend your days on the other side worrying about the return voyage, with an angry boss's visage haunting your dreams.

So, my overall thought is to not attempt the crossing, but find a suitably challenging bit of the coast to explore. Then, if caught out by unexpected wx a bus ride gets you out of trouble at work! Should you be granted the luxury of a flexible schedule, then with good preparation the cross channel voyage is more approachable, and has certainly been done in similar boats in the past.

Good luck and happy sailing whatever you decide.

Jim
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