Canals and civilisation

We had a bit of a pause in IJmuiden whilst Tom went back to the UK to complete in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, and so skip and I chilled out at the beach.  He got back yesterday and this morning we set off again, motoring through the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam.

The weather’s been really hot and sunny which is amazing, though it brings with it easterly winds which don’t help the sailing. Still it was a pretty idyllic trip along the canal – refreshingly flat and calm after the North Sea ūüėÄ


Our first lock experience went okay as well.¬† We had been warned that the current ran into the locks at the beginning of the canal very strongly and this was a bit concerning as Lizzie doesn’t do reverse very well!!¬† But in actual fact it was fine, the only casualty our poor wind turbine that got a bit of a grinding against the pilings as we waited to lock in….¬† Now we know why we haven’t seen many Dutch boats with turbines on the back!


Across the North Sea!

We’ve made it to Holland!¬† It was a fairly tough crossing, beating up wind all the way and across some really busy shipping lands at night too.

We left Lowestoft in Suffolk on Tuesday morning and sailed through the day with a fresh force 4 from the northeast whipping up some lively waves.¬† There’s a short video that I’ll try and post here – shot while we still had a free hand to film it with!

By nightfall we were in the middle of the North Sea and we pretty quickly had to abandon our watch system as it needed both of us fully alert to keep a watch on all the shipping, radioing one big tanker who came up behind us.¬† Being close hauled takes quite a lot of effort steering to the wind and waves, and we got soaked by the occasional big wave crashing over the boat…¬† Salty and sleep deprived we set an approach course for Scheveningen – the closest port in holland.¬† Ideally we wanted to head further north but the wind was blowing from the north fairly strongly by now.¬† It came in sight at about 12 noon, so we’d been sailing for about 26 hours.¬† Everyone says that the Dutch are serious water enthusiasts, but even so i couldn’t believe the number of boats out for an afternoon sail on a wednesday afternoon, there were hundreds milling about the port entrance.¬† A rib sped over to us as we wove our way between them and using completely internationally unambiguous shouty tones and hand gestures told us that we’d better get out of the way of the racing.¬† Immediately.¬† We motored further in to the harbour, looking for any kind of harbour master/official who wasn’t solely concerned with whatever today’s race was.¬† It turns out it was actually the finish of the Volvo Round the World Ocean Yacht Race – apparently a big deal, and the entire harbour was completely full and we were denied entry – something we’ve never experienced in the UK!!¬† A bit shell shocked we were told that the only options were to sail south, to the hook of Holland, known for it’s ferry port, massive container ship terminal and, well, not much else, or we could beat into the wind for another 25 miles(!) to the north to IJmuiden.¬† I couldn’t believe it, I just wanted to be able to get some sleep but instead it looked like we’d got at least another 6 hours sailing to do.¬† Grrr.¬† As we were leaving, a police rib did its best to run us over, leaving me fuming, and Tom slightly concerned that I had just yelled at the local police.¬† (To do them justice they came after us to apologise and check we were okay).¬†¬†

So we headed off again into the waves and wind heading north along the coast (an unforgiving lee shore, of course) and did our best to use the bit of favourable tide that we had.  It took us until 10pm to reach the breakwaters of IJmuiden port.  With the new outboard close to underwater in some of the larger waves, we stutteringly motored in towards shelter, and finally, after 40 hours awake for both of us, some sleep.  I have never been more grateful for bed.





First stop, Lowestoft

Things don’t always go to plan – that could pretty much be the strapline of this blog, but it is true, a lot of things can force a change of plans when it comes to the sea.

We left our snug anchorage in the Stour, just up river from Harwich at high water, using the ebb tide, which sweeps north up the east coast, to take us on our way towards Holland.  We were aiming for Den Helder, 140 nautical miles away to the north east.  Lizzie can sail at anything  between 2 and 6 knots (nautical miles per hour) so it would take us between 36 and 48 hours in theory.  We were keen to get off before the wind veered  around to the east and the gentle south westerly wind to begin with was perfect.

Six hours later saw us off Orford Ness with its destinctive red and white stripey lighthouse.¬† At this point the tide turned making progress over the ground slower, and when combined with a now north easterly wind , we found ourselves basically sailing on the spot for the next 4 hours or so! The dome of¬† Sizewell B power station gently mocked us as we appeared to make exactly zero progress past it…¬† I am not a fan of nuclear power.

With limited forward progress and flukey wind, the motion of the boat in the north sea chop was pretty rolly at times.¬† My sea legs had clearly had the winter off and going below to cook was a bit of a struggle.¬† I was trying to stiffen my resolve to another 2 days of it when Tom made the suggestion that it might be sensible to stop in Lowestoft, get a good night’s sleep and head off from there to Texel / Den Helder with a better wind forecast and some slightly more sophisticated tidal planning.¬† P-Lan.¬† We headed north, with George (the new outboard) doing most of the leg work once the wind died at sunset.¬† At about midnight the lights of Lowestoft came into view and we both cheered up, focusing on the navigation between the banks to get into the harbour entrance.¬† The lovely Royal Norfolk and Suffolk yacht club gave us a berth which for once we managed to glide silently into, coming alongside and smooth dropping lines over the cleats with none of the usual yelling.¬† As it was 1am sadly no one else witnessed this prowess apart from the Saturday night revellers of Lowestoft town centre. Oh well.

  Skip checks out his new surroundings

Lizzie goes into the water!

On Thursday, after much badgering, and what seemed like endless painting, sanding, filling, sanding, coppercoating, more sanding….¬† finally everything on the hull of the boat was complete and lizzie was ready to go back in the water. The final few minutes before launching were a bit of manic check of everything Tom and I had taken to bits and put back together over the winter – a double check of the seacocks I’d serviced (no leaks! Definite improvement on my average mechanical skills).¬† The new outboard proved a bit temperamental to begin with so we took a tow from the yard boat, much to the relief of Tom and I who were still nervously during the extremely polished and expensive look of most of the yachts in the Marina. I’m not saying our manouvering skills in close quarters are anything to be ashamed of, but I will admit that Fox’s Marina, which rather resembles an Escher picture in its geometry, with an untested engine seemed pretty daunting after 8 months out of the water.

Tom quickly got the knack of the outboard remote controls, and on Friday morning, heavily provisioned up with food and water we headed out into the river – it was awesome to finally be afloat and life is good!

One step closer to the water…!

Lizzie finally comes out of the workshop at Fox’s boatyard Ipswich.¬† A few final touch ups required and hopefully we’ll be in the water in a couple of days time.

#fingers crossed#I trust boatyards about as much as estate agents…

Amended Plans

The osmosis treatment has overrun by several months, but hopefully now the end is in sight and we might have Lizzie back in the water in a few weeks time.

Because we have already missed a big chunk of the sailing season we have decided to postpone installing the exciting electric propulsion system until the winter.  Instead we are planning to buy a petrol outboard, which should be a lot quicker to install, meaning that we can set off as soon as possible.

Our new cruising chute from Kemp ( has arrived and looks great.  We are in the process of making a snuffer for it.

Dog Travel Rules

We are planning to take our dog with us on our sailing trip.  He has an EU (Irish) pet passport and is fully rabies vaccinated, so most of the border crossings should be simple.

Our intended route is something like:

  • UK
  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Back to the UK from one or more of the above countries.

This page summarises the rules as I understand them, and gives links to the information sources that I have used. ¬†Please don’t rely on this without checking on the official websites for yourself! ¬†In all cases, these rules apply to non-commercial transport of up to 5 dogs accompanied by their owner.


From another EU country this is simple: just need to have a passport and valid rabies vaccine.  The original vaccination must be at least 21 days ago, but it is ok if a booster was given more recently than that.


Seems like there are no rules other than the standard EU ones if you are moving between EU countries, except that there is a list of banned “dangerous dog breeds”. ¬†This list includes Staffies and Staffie crosses.


The same EU rules apply. ¬†You do not have to enter at an official “Traveller’s Point of Entry” unless you are coming from outside the EU.

If you stay longer than 4 weeks you must register your dog.  There is also a list of banned dog breeds, like Pit Bulls and American Staffies.


Usual within-EU rules apply.  If you are coming from Norway the rules are similar.

“The animal must enter Sweden at a customs station, where you must report to a customs officer that you are bringing a pet animal.” ¬†Note that this is not the same as having to enter at one of the two “Entry Points” (which are airports in Gothenburg and Stockholm).


You need all the usual passport and rabies stuff.  However, unless travelling direct from the UK you also need to have a certificate from a vet showing that the dog has recently had tapeworm treatment.  This can either be:

“given in the country of departure no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours before entering Norway”


“regular treatment every 28 days and the dog has been treated minimum two days before entering Norway”

This applies even for Norwegian dogs that have been on a day trip to Sweden!  The first option is the most common one.

If you are coming from Sweden and your papers are in order then you are allowed to use the green channel at customs.

As usual, there is a list of banned breeds.

Back to UK

This is the hard one.  The main problem is that you not only have to enter at one of a handful of official entry points, you also have to arrive on a registered carrier.  So you are definitely not allowed to sail back from Europe with your dog on board.

The general consensus seems to be that the lowest stress option is to fly to Paris and then cross the channel in a car on the Eurostar train.  There are companies which will come across the channel in a dog-transport van to collect you and the dog.

Preparing for a summer away

Catherine has handed in her notice and only has 2 weeks left at work.

We have sold our car, which was about to need lots of expensive work and insurance anyway.  Since then we needed a car for a couple of weekends, but managed to rent one for £25/day.

We are going to plant the allotment up with low maintenance crops which won’t be ready until the autumn, like potatoes. ¬†Hopefully that will keep the allotment inspectors happy and we won’t lose the plot (so to speak). ¬†We still might need to persuade someone to come and weed it occasionally.

We have got all the parts ready to convert Lizzie to electric propulsion, and built a wind-vane self steering gear. ¬†Now we are waiting for Fox’s (the boatyard) to finish the osmosis treatment on the hull so that we can start our work on the boat. ¬†They were supposed to have finished weeks ago, and have had the boat since November, but they took ages to get started and left her outside in the rain “drying” for several months before we found out and asked them to hot-vac the hull instead.

Self Steering Build

I’ve been working on the self steering system quite a lot over the last few weeks.¬† It is taking quite a lot of time to build!

I have built the adjustment dial and corresponding lever out of 10mm RG1000 (recycled ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) sheet.  This involved drilling 60 holes (giving 6-degree adjustment increments) and then finishing the slots with a knife:

I shaped the trim-tab rudder out of 18mm exterior plywood:

The wind vane is 3mm plywood on a hardwood stem.¬† The base of the stem is mounted in a block laminated from several sheets of plywood.¬† ¬†I have left the vane a lot larger than the original, but will probably have to trim it down to clear the transom and pushpit.¬† I don’t have access to the boat right now, so I’m not sure of the measurements.

I painted the whole wind vane assembly in white gloss.  The original Quartermaster vanes had  the stem part varnished, which would have looked better but would have taken a lot longer to make and would have been annoying to maintain because the vane is glued and pinned into a slot in the stem.

I started out using some water-based gloss paint but the brush marks were terrible so I switched to a spray can that I found in the shed.