As I look at the videos I shot with my phone conditions don’t look that bad. Monday morning unfolded into seas that were still less than 6 feet.
With a “normal” day cruising, we should be in Vlissingen in 12 hours.
The https://share.delorme.com/dauntless site is pretty nifty. You can click on each circle and it tells you the time. I can also see that I made the decision to abort and head for Oostende at 21:20 Monday night. Only 12 nm away, it still took 4 and half hours to get here.
And those were the must miserable 4 hours.
The winds having built to 25 gusting to 33 knots, had built very steep, choppy waves. Only 4 to 6 ft. early in the evening, due to the proximity of land, about 10 miles off our starboard beam, the waves were coming from a multitude of directions, having bounced off the close by land.
Pierre-Jean liked hand steering; he really liked the Krogen and I let him for the most part, though as the evening progressed, I preferred being on the ComNav Autopilot because it does really well in the worst conditions. At a certain point it dawned on me that for PJ, this was a test drive. He got to drive a Krogen in conditions that 90% will never see. He was as sick as a dog, but I give him credit, he found a boat far tougher than he was. He left happy.
Me too. PJ had left me with a bunch of wonderful French wine. And if we have one rule on Dauntless it is all sins are forgiven with wine.
With the mixed up seas, Dauntless was being hit by the tops of waves periodically. So I not fixing the two problem areas, the warped pilot house doors needed new thicker gaskets. The center pilot house window, that flips open, had a rubber flap, to stop water from directly hitting the gasket on the hinge.
I had removed that months ago, with the intent to replace it. I hadn’t. Why, because I was looking for a white rubber mat, that would fit, be inexpensive and look good. So periodically, as the pilot house got bath, water would splash down onto the helm. Only a half a cup at a time, and looking on the bright side, I was happy that the water did not stay in the ceiling, but immediately drained down to the helm!
But still, a half assed oversight on my part. So the helm was covered in wet towels.
The pilot house doors were another issue. A lot of water was coming in, maybe a quart at a time. There were a lot of times.
So for the last few hours that side of the pilot house floor was covered in soaked towels, mats and other materials so the water would not make a waterfall into the salon.
As there was no reason to move around, not so bad of a problem. But as we were minutes away from the harbor entrance, I got soaked just moving around the pilot house.
Then to add misery to discomfort, I needed the pilot house doors to see what was where and get the lines ready. So we had a 30 knot wind blowing through the pilot house it was cold, wet wind. The Krogen has a tendency to stay at whatever the water temperature is. Thus, a 55°F water temperature meant at night the pilot house was about the same. Add wind and being wet, just set the stage for a true disaster.
OK let’s set the stage. I’m a mile from the entrance to Oostende harbor. I see the red and green lights marking the channel, I also see two green lights, on the red side of the channel. I see numerous Sodium vapor lights and the orange glow they produce. With all those lights, I see no channel; only darkness and shadow.
But I have no choice. I am in 20 feet of water, winds are up to 35 knots, waves are crashing into us from all directions, and there are all sorts of sand banks close to shore with all sorts of names, meaning they have a history, i.e. “remember when poor Jacques floundered on the Grote bank?”
The wind is pushing us fiercely to the south, to the right (green in Europe) side of the channel. I am trying to keep the boat on the red side, but clearly still not seeing the entrance.
Finally, I trust to the charts, C-Maps by Jeppesen, (did I ever tell you I was a Product Manager at Jeppesen?? you’d think I could get a discount on their charts!), aim for blackness just to the right of the last red marker and as soon as I enter the shadow, I can see the rest of the channel straight ahead and the seas flatten.
But this is big commercial channel. I need to get the paravanes in. Pierre-Jean has never done that before, so I must leave him in the pilot house, while I go to the fly bridge and winch them up. It only takes two minutes and I am thankful that all the tweaking I have done on that system works so well.
I race back down, and aim for the right channel which will bring us to one of three marinas in the harbor.
I am cold, wet and miserable. I’ve gotten only a couple hours sleep in the last 24; but this is where I am pleased with my decisions.
As we motor slowing down the channel, maybe a mile, I am conscious of the wind pushing us along. I want to reconnoiter the marina, but not get us in a position I cannot get out of.
Sure enough, as we get to the slips, mostly short (30’) finger piers, there are no “T”s and the left side of the marina which has longer docks is filled with small ferries. I am adept at making the Krogen do a circle in about a 50’ diameter without using the bow thruster. While docking I turn on the bow thruster, an electric Vetrus, but try not to use it as my experience has been bow thrusters are like banks. If you need it, it won’t be there.
So on a calm day, no current, bow thrusters work great. But this is not that kind of day.
I decide there is no room here. Though I keep in the back of my mind the possibility of rafting to one of the ferries.
We then proceed back to the other marinas, right near the entrance to the harbor. It is a narrow entrance that widens after the opening.
The one long dock is occupied by one of those new plastic, three story, small penis boat. Clearly American, though it says Bikini on the back and flies no flag.
Turns out there was room on the opposite side of the same dock, but that would have meant I had to go around the end of the dock to an uncertain fate and after all I went through I was not about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
So we proceeded towards the third marina and a set of locks, which while closed did have a waiting dock that I could use. We looked around and did see a spot, along the inner dock, maybe 55’ long, between two sailboats. It was in cul de sac and just opposite the waiting dock.
We prepared a midships line and I tied to the waiting dock to think about what to do. The bow is facing the lock and southward, the empty 55’ spot is 100 on our left beam and the wind is coming from the stern at 20 knots.
I figured I could stay at the waiting dock until early morning, but my problem in situations like this, is that I do not sleep, anticipating the knock on the hull telling me in a foreign language that I cannot do whatever I am doing
There was also a seaweed covered wall, 50’ high, but we saw nothing to tie to.
So, I decided the spot between the two boats was feasible. But with one caveat, Pierre-Jean had to be on the dock. I would then throw him the midships line we had prepared. That way, once a line was on the dock, he could control my movement to the sailboat behind.
He was a bit dubious, maybe he thought I was going to leave him, but I liked it and it was the only way I would attempt that spot. (The waiting dock was connected to the other dock, like three sides of a box.
And it was a box I was going into to.
My first attempt was halfhearted. The boat was facing south, wind from our stern and I thought just maybe if I put her in reverse, I could use the bow thruster to push the bow around 180°. At about 90°, abeam the dock and piling I had just left, the wind was pushing the boat so hard, this was not going to work in a million years. I gave it full left rudder, full throttle forward to kick the stern away from the pole and pier. No problem, just a little too close.
Let with wind take me in forward, I’d through the line to PJ, out her in reverse and PJ could pull us into the slip. With the wind behind us, I was going too fast from the beginning. When I slowed, I had no way and no control. I backed up and got out, just narrowly missing that same f…ing pillar.
Just like in NY, I would parallel park. After all the above shenanigans, this turned out to be easy.
I backed into the box at an angle aiming for the empty spot but wanting to keep the bow close to the sailboat that would end up in front of us.
When I was abeam the stern of the sailboat, I threw PJ the line and he put it on a middle cleat. I yelled at him to watch the stern and I would watch the bow. He would control how far back to let the boat go.
Worked as planned as and with less drama than anything else I had attempted that night.
Dauntless on the other hand looked at me when it was all over, yawned and thought, “All in a day’s work”.
And as I thought about it, happy to be lying in my warm bed, with no new scars to deal with, I realized though the worst of it, while I was certainly unhappy; there was no noise from below. The salon, the staterooms, the engine room, nothing was banging, rolling around or otherwise out of place. Books stayed on the shelves in all three rooms, and pother than the second monitor in the pilot house that I had to re-secure, everything was battened down.
A great boat is a sea way.
I hung up all the wet things and at 3:00 a.m. took a hot shower, crawled into bed and was ever grateful that I had remember to turn on the 12 v heating pad a few hours earlier.
With that, All’s Well that Ends Well.