We've now finished the North Sea part of our journey to Finland
The North Sea coasts of France
, Belgium, Netherlands
, and Germany
are more beautiful and interesting than I expected. We were making miles and didn't stop much, which I regret, as this area is worth spending some time getting to know.
First of all, an important note to non-European cruisers -- when you enter the Schengen Zone, get your passport stamped at all costs!!! The port captains generally have no idea how to do it and will generally tell you not to worry about it -- don't listen to them!!! It can be incredibly hard to find someone to do it -- offices closed for lunch, offices open only several hours a day, no one apparently interested in you. But if you fail to get your passport stamped immediately at the first port of entry you have committed a serious violation!! I didn't manage to do it until the second port (although I honestly spent hours trying to find someone to do it at the first port), and was lucky that the Belgian official who eventually stamped my passport overlooked what I had done. The consquences can be worse than just a fine -- you can be banned from the Schengen zone!!!
I had a couple of pilot books
and the massive Reed's Almanac, but the information about ports
and pilotage was not very comprehensive. Fuel
can be hard to find -- not sold at all to leisure sailors in a port the size of Oostende!!
Dunkerque is an eerie place. The Grande Large marina is silted up with much less than the charted depth
-- don't ask me how I know. Be careful at LWS. No provisions within any short walking distance; best place is the Monoprix in the center of town, but quite a slog with grocery bags. No chandlery
that I was able to find; the one mentioned in the pilot books
is long closed.
The North Sea Yacht Club in Oostende is very nice with decent wifi
; almost directly in the center of the interesting town. This is a great place for changing crew as the Brussels airport
is just 1:30 away by high speed train, and the train station is a short walk from the port.
Ijmuiden would seem to be a good way to visit Amsterdam
without slogging 10 miles up the canal, but it is surprisingly hard to get there -- an hour and a half by two busses. There was a high speed ferry service
using Russian raketa
hydrofoils -- none of the books mention that this was closed in January. If you want to visit Amsterdam
, better to take your boat down there. Good brand new marina but relatively expensive and without decent wifi
Avoid Borkum as a passage
port -- you have to sail 10 miles down one of the gats and can't continue your journey without sailing 10 miles back again before turning over Borkum Riff. I had no choice because I had lost
all my water
Avoid Borkum Riff in F6 and above with any West in it on the ebb -- don't ask me how I know. In a Westerly F7 (don't ask) it is really hairy.
The books are all wrong about berthing in Borkum -- there is no berthing in the public port, yet the yacht club, which the books say has no visitor berths, in fact welcomes visitors. Run by a jolly Scottish lady and it's quite nice. There is a yacht port but the books say it is silted up, so with my draft
I avoided it. The yacht club visitor berths are very cheap
, but as I was to discover, berthing gets cheaper and cheaper the further you go up the North Sea.
Helgoland is a fabulous place to replenish the rum
stores. Export strength Beefeaters gin costs 9.50 a liter!! I have never seen such liquor prices anywhere. Fuel
is cheaper than anywhere on the continent -- 1.05 euros per liter, so a good place for bunkering as well. Helgoland is a strange and wonderful place, worth a few days of exploring if one has time. Important: There is no water
anywhere for yachts, so come with a full water tank! If you have to water, you have to tie up to a 10 meter high wall after waiting in line behind all the ships going out, then pay 0.50 euros per 70 liters in the automatic machine -- a PITA.
There is a very small yacht club -- actually a berthing cooperative -- in Cuxhaven in the Amerikahaven. They offer an outstanding deal for anyone who wants to leave his boat there for a while before or after the Kiel Canal -- 0.60 per meter per day for boats without crew on board!!! I think that may be the cheapest berthing I've ever seen anywhere -- about 10 euros a day for a 54' boat, if you can imagine. If you are on board, it's still only 1 euro per meter (or 16.40 a day for me), plus 1 euro for unmetered electricity. And it's a nice facility not far from town. A hot tip. It's called LCF marina; the nice harbormaster is Herr Klaus Rettmer. It's strategically located for staging in or out of the Kiel Canal and with good rail connection to Hamburg Airport
for crew changes.