Sunday, March 14, 2010

'Apple Charlotte', part 4

Veere by the Welcheren Canal

Friday, 31st July

The early morning forecast predicted an easterly force 4, increasing to 5 or 6, veering to the south later, plus thundery rain. At the time, there wasn’t much wind at Veere. The first thing we did after breakfast was to shop for a few items of food. This gave us another opportunity for looking at the town. When we returned to the boat for morning coffee, the sky was looking a bit watery, which didn’t inspire us for getting out on the water. Nevertheless we had come to Holland, and we hadn’t fully explored the Veerse Meer. We overcame our inertia, and made sail. As we progressed, we noted that the low-lying flat landscape was similar to that of our own east coast, but the Dutch inland waterway had no rise or fall of tide. We had to keep a close eye on the chart to make sure we didn’t stray off course, as we wanted to avoid the deep fin keel of ‘Apple Charlotte’ from coming into contact with the muddy bottom of the lake.

Early in the afternoon we pulled alongside a jetty on the north side of the small island of Ondiep. There we had lunch. Drizzly rain confined us to the cabin for a full hour. Afterwards it was time to make our way back towards Veere, but we strayed out of the channel south of Haringvreter and became stuck on the mud. By using the outboard and punting with an oar, plus rocking the boat, we succeeded in breaking free. Much relieved, we sailed to Schutteplaat Island where we met a Dutch man who lived on a boat no bigger than ‘AC’. He was a keen radio ham, but remarkably he only had one leg. This did not prevent him from sailing because he managed quite well with his artificial leg. I was a bit disconcerted when I saw his leg in the cockpit, because I hadn’t realised he had a disability.

Saturday, 1st August

We were greeted by a dull drizzly morning which somehow encouraged my brother to don his oilskins and scrub the decks. Just as we got underway, our Dutch friend popped his head out of the companionway and waved goodbye. It was only a short run to Veere Lock, and as soon as we were beyond the open gate on the far side, we made sail. Sailing was much more pleasant than motoring, and as we drifted along at a leisurely pace with the wind from astern, we had time to take in the scenery. There wasn’t a great deal of note on the northeast stretch of the Welcheren Canal where the rural landscape was flat and there were few buildings, but in Middelburg I delighted in the tapestry of colour and pattern seen in the variety of buildings. At 1115 we encountered the swinging bridge and from thereon we downed sail and had to suffer the outboard. With the wind coming from astern we had to be careful, because the engine did not have a reverse. Trailing a bucket was surprisingly effective at slowing the yacht. Anchoring was not feasible, neither was it is legal.

Swinging Bridge

Vlissengen Lock

At 1300 the sea lock at Vlissingen was opened for the Up River contingent, including, ‘Apple Charlotte’, ‘Lamorna 11’, ‘Umande’ and the Atalanta 26. The crew of ‘Dinky Too’ had remained at Veere with the intention of exploring other Dutch waterways before returning to Burnham. The afternoon forecast was mainly good, because the wind was expected to come from the southeast, which would be offshore. On the other hand, the prospect of fog banks was not so encouraging; neither was the possibility of local winds reaching force 6. In fact, as we sailed along the coast towards Zeebrugge the wind came from our starboard quarter at about force 5, to give us brisk sailing so that we were off the entrance of the Harbour at 1800. We had to keep clear because a very large ferry was on her way out to sea. At the edge of the fairway the water was rather shallow, and the onshore wind caused the sea to kick up. A quarter-of-an-hour later, all of us were berthed at the Yacht Harbour where hardly a breath of wind could be felt. That evening my brother and I took a postprandial walk, but we were unimpressed with what we thought was a rather dull, functional transit town. The sole purpose of the place was to receive and despatch people, vehicles and goods via the ferries.

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