Wednesday morning, 1015. We have got Grace ready to depart in record time, less than 15 minutes earlier we were still having breakfast, now we are all togged up in our oilies, life jackets on and we are motoring through the open bridge and out towards the canal. It is here that the real strength of the wind hits us! But it can’t be too bad, we are on a canal after all and there are no waves, but the cross wind is strong and it can be quite difficult to keep Grace on track. There is 20 knots of wind, sometimes gusting 30 plus. We are not going back and what could possibly go wrong?
Well what could go wrong was Veere Lock at the end of the Kanaal door Welcherin! We tie up to the waiting pontoon and call the lock keeper on channel 22. It is a bit of a relief to be out of the wind and rain for a few moments.
We get the green light and are off! There are three boats going through the lock and we are last in. Everyone else leaves without drama. I have tied up on the windward side of the lock , my logic is that the wind will blow our bows out to leewards, I just need to give her a bit of gas and punch her out through the opened gates and into the Veerse Meer and freedom. Disaster strikes almost immediately, as I bring the bows pass the open lock gates a strong gust catches them, spins them round and bounces us about the inside of a very hard stone lined lock. I lose control of Grace but Anne secures a line to the lock wall and we are under control again but facing the wrong way! A bit shaken up I radio the lock keeper to say that we are stuck in the lock. He calmly says;” yes, I can see that! What do I want to do?” I resist the temptation to say go home and never come back! And merely reply with remarkable sangfroid “oh, I will exit back into the canal and then have another go.” All said in tones of Just William.
We skulk out of the lock and tie up again. We make tea and eat some windmill biscuits, but all too soon more boats arrive and the lock is opened again. Feeling not very confident and now in a less than immaculate looking Grace we enter the lock again! Fortunately a big blue motor yacht squeezes in next to us and I reckon that it will make a good fender and stop us from getting in too much of a mess.
It all goes fine but when I push the engine revs up beyond 1500 there is a terrible vibration and shaking in the steering binnacle, reducing the revs we limp along sometimes barely making 2 knots against the strong headwind. We slowly make our way around to Kortegene where there are three marinas to choose from. We pick the biggest and easiest one to get in to and tie up to the nearest free pontoon. Phew, we are pleased to stop!
We have been through 3 locks (admittedly the same one three times!) and tied up 7 times. It is 1530 and weather is improving, the Marina staff are really helpful and they happen to have a Volvo Penta agency on site with a boat lift! They say no problem, pop back at 0830 and they will arrange to get her lifted. They smile and nod heads sagely and say that I might have lost a propeller blade. I have a folding prop and I am convinced that once in Chichester it failed to open allowing me to bump the lock gates there…….ummm a pattern is emerging! Anyway I carry a spare propeller, so for once I am quite chilled.
The once pristine Grace is looking a bit sad! Her bows bear the marks of the lock wall, the fibreglass is smashed and broken beneath the anchor bow roller.
This will respond well to someone who is good with GRP. It is above the chain locker so I don’t think will leak into the boat. The aluminium trim covering the port stern deck joint is crunched and bent but responds well to my lump hammer as does the plastic trim protecting the stern.
Oh and as I discovered later, a chunk out of the rudder!
We have no food on the boat and go to the Spar in the nearby town. Too late it is closed so we wander back and have a lovely large local beer and a burger at the marina’s own restaurant…..top marks again! It was huge and we waddle home to Grace and bed.
We learnt something today….Holland is well known for windmills for a good reason! Trust the weather forecast. Be prepared to turn back. Be prepared to press on too. Have another go.