Sunday 9th July. It is my birthday! We are heading towards Breskens in Holland today. It is about 27 nautical miles away and is a place to stay before entering the Dutch canals at Vlisingen.
Suddenly there is a sharp knock on the cabin roof, it is two policemen – we’ve been caught! If only we had made the lock out!
Wait but no! They wanted just to hand back a stamped copy of our Schengen area entry form! They wish us a safe trip and I mange not to confess to red diesel!
Our luck has changed, it is the harbour master on channel 14 to say we can go at 1130 if we get a move on! We do and have slipped our lines and are in the fairway in a couple of minutes.
There are 5 other yachts already there and we spend 10 minutes dodging each other. Somehow we bump our way to the front, even elbowing a Frenchman away who thought he had got the top slot!
Our route takes us east along the coast at the O3 &O4 Oostende channel markers. We track the south side of the Wenduine Bank on a bearing of 060, just keeping in the deep water. We have to motor, the wind is dead ahead and we need to get past the busy entrance to Zeebrugge. At the DC1 North Cardinal buoy we steer 035 to the SZ East Cardinal and cross the approach to Zeebrugge to the green deep water channel marker S7. We change on to a bearing of 090 and at last we can sail. We have a wonderfully easy beat, Grace is beautifully balanced sailing at 3 to 4 knots in a steady F3. We have timed our trip to benefit from a favourable tidal stream and our speed over the ground is about 5 to 6 knots.
At Blankenberge, a large official looking boat comes to take a look at us but soon loses interest! We are now on the Dutch border when 6 small Zodiac ribs appear astern – just when I thought my cunning Subtifuge of flying the EU flag had worked……..but safe again as we pass the W3 green buoy they peel away.
We are definitely in Holland and I unfurl my Red Ensign again. We decide to leave the EU flag flying as it has brought us luck!
We are loping along the inside edge of the shipping lane to Vlisingen, it really is very busy with lots of big ships more than we had seen crossing the English Channel!
I can confirm that when Reeds Almanac says an object is ‘conspic’ that it really is! The Niewe Sluis lighthouse is an easy mark to find and we know that Breskens is not far. We are greeted by some lovely traditional sailing boats as we reach the Songa Buoy and our turn into the Breskens Channel. Our course is 180 and we motor in, taking care to avoid both the ferry port to the west and the ferries themselves which fly in and out at 30 minute intervals!
Breskens is a modern marina with a long visitor pontoon behind a wave breaker. We use the intercom as they do not monitor vhf to get a berth. By 1750 Grace is safely on L11.
As a birthday celebration and to mark the end of our red diesel saga we book a table at the yacht club and have a great fish and chip supper followed by a Dame Blanche in honour of the large motor yacht we berthed next to at Oostende.