Some crews on the homeward leg of the Motor Boats Monthly Club cruise to the Netherlands have taken to ferries and watched from a lofty height the effects of a 30-knot wind promoted by a low versus high squeeze; others are hedging bets for a return on own bottoms via various routes.
It’s probably only around one in 10 MBM cruises that get badly hit by weather at the end of events to the extent that boats become spread, or left behind, in various venues. But this cruise is one of them and for the control boat crews it has proven a tricky but familiar task to make sense of often conflicting forecast information and the various wishes and priorities of participants. Fortunately there is a very fair smattering of good humour and shoulder shrugging amongst those holed up waiting for a weather break and those who have opted to leave boats behind for fairer days.
One lesson immediately hits home here at True Blue’s temporary base of Breskens: if you have to leave a boat anywhere, the Netherlands is as good a place as anywhere. Back-up services are often excellent and the prices encourage a layover with the prospect of a second later season cruise before returning home. It is also good to see extra features such as playgrounds for children, sensible and usually woefully absent in the UK.
Over the border in Belgium, the KYCN club in Nieuwpoort has also provided a very welcome haven, hosting five boats that managed to punch through the weather on Saturday and holding berths for the rest of us up until tonight, just in case we managed to follow on. As if to round off matters there today, MBM Club members were delighted to see a very familiar blue hull turn up on the fuel berth. MBM Club stalwart Paul Berger had surfed all the way from Dover in his Aqua Bell 33 at the start of a 4-6 week cruise of the Netherlands running solo. It seems strange to think of control boat Castaway running loose without a flock but we wish Paul the most relaxing cruise he will have enjoyed in Dutch waters for many a year.
Speaking of relaxing, the four slowest and smallest boats of our fleet accompanied by the Broom 10/70 control boat White Rabbit decided to take advantage of their size by working through the canal system from Ternuezen on the Westerschelde down through Gent and Brugges to either Oostende, Nieuwpoort, or Calais, depending on anticipated weather windows and, in the latter case particularly, air draught. Tonight White Rabbit, the Seamaster 8m Barrier Reef, Colvic 26 Amalfi, Nimbus 26 Tanuche and Birchwood Viceroy Pheran are on the outskirts of Gent, secure in a yacht harbour with crews ashore enjoying a restaurant meal.
In similar vein, the Bayliner 2855 Gwensley Four, a solitary MBM delegate in Zeebrugge, locked through into the canal system at 1200 today and made the KYCN moorings at Nieuwpoort by 2100 tonight. Some ‘local experts’ at Zeebrugge had tried to put skipper David Tansley off with tales of delays and low bridges amongst other difficulties, but the experience was a good one with the only delay being a one hour wait for the Zeebrugge lock and friendly assistance being offered along the way.
Here in Breskens it’s been a busy day for us on our Sealine 410 control boat True Blue. Following a morning of assisting with berthing and travel arrangements, studying weather reports and clearing up some office work, we then escorted the slow boat fleet to Terneuzen before running to seaward along the north side of the Westerschelde to get a real feel of the strength of the south-westerly. By the time we reached Vlissingen, the holes had started to open up and the short waves were touching 2m height in places with spume blowing off them. When the first green water hit the foredeck we had all the evidence required to scrub any thought of a late afternoon wind with tide escape for the remainder of our fleet here.