North Sea Crossing

53°52.05’N 008°42.99’E Pantagruel, Micha and Jo, Cuxhaven, Germany

Pantagruel, Micha and I reunited in Cuxhaven at the entrance of the River Elbe. We’d been monitoring the weather in the north sea – a potentially formidable stretch of water, standing between us and our next destination port; Edinburgh. To reach the NE coast of England we needed to cover about 350nm, possible in 3 days of nonstop sailing if we had the right conditions. However with no safe anchorages in-between and with frequent low pressure systems blowing over carrying with them gale force winds, we had to pick the right weather window.

With our first guests due in 10 days and weather reports showing strong westerlies to hit the NE of England in 3-4 days, we decided to make a run for it and leave at first dawn. This meant setting off right after gale force winds, which had left behind a 2m swell and a wind direction which would leave us beating against for the first 24hours at least. It also meant we had only one day to finish the final boat preparations, stow the remaining gear, fill up with fuel and water and mount water tight hatches at the stern. This took place to the sound of rain pouring on the roof, wind whirling around the boat and hurricane warnings being announced from the VHF.

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We set off from Cuxhaven at 4am after 3 hours of sleep, manoeuvred out past the shipping lanes, and promptly both began heaving our guts out as the 2m swell was upon us. Despite this reaction, Micha managed to remain fairly together, but after 4 hours of these relentless conditions, I felt my body surrender and could only alternate between collapsing down below or numbly bracing myself on watch in the freezing cold wind and rain whilst decorating the cockpit with my stomach lining. But by the time the evening came, the wind and the swell were decreasing and we caught some brief glimpses of sunshine as we sat happily munching Haribo in the cockpit… before bringing them back up again a few hours later.

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After 22hours of sailing and one packet of Haribo we’d covered 160nm, and our spirits lifted with hope that we’d arrive before the strong(er) winds, and could rest our weary bodies in another 1.5 days.

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On our second day the north sea took mercy and brought out blue sky and sunshine, and we ate dinner in the cockpit with the fishing line out. By the third day I was so accustomed to the motion I was happily reading (my yacht master book!) and even writing this blog (in between pulling on some ropes of course).

Greeted with 25knots of wind, rain and grey skies (“welcome home” said England) on day 3, we scrapped our plans of finding a romantic anchorage and decided upon the shelter of a marina in Blyth with chance for our feet to touch land.

We are now looking forward to a relaxing sailing week hoping up the coast to Edinburgh.

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