Sunday 16th July.
It’s our wedding anniversary…..30 years ago we really did not think we would be doing this! By 1130 we are in the fairway, I have radioed the Sluis and we are good to go! We soon pass into the Volerak and over to the red/green HG1 mark at the far end of the channel. We now follow the green HG buoys until we reach HG13 where we turn to starboard and into the waiting area of the lock. There are three boats waiting. An English yacht turns up and warns us that it will be a chaotic free for all in a moment. Then suddenly as the lock lights change from red to red/green dozens of yachts appear around us! There is no orderly British queuing here just one big scrum! Fortunately the lock is really big and the lock keeper is there on the side encouraging people to move up closer!
1330, the big lock gates slowly open and somehow Grace has managed to wiggle her way to the front. Not bad considering we were almost last to enter! I think scars she now carries makes people think before getting in her way! We are finally now in Hollandse Diep Noord. It is in fact one huge Shell chemical factory that stretches for miles and the waterway is essentially on large motorway with barges shooting up and down it at 15 knots!
We make our way across to Numansdorp (where there is apparently a very good golf course as we were advised by someone who we nudged in the lock. I think they thought that we would be better at golf than sailing…..no wrong we are even worse golfers than sailors!) and the NMD1 buoy. With the wind almost astern we run down the margin of the shipping channel between the 2 m shore line markers and the big red HD channel buoys. We are keeping well clear of the barges today!
We carry on like this for about 8 to 10 miles until we reach the turn for Dordrecht and the Dordtshe Kil. Sails in and motor on it is time to do some more darge bodging! Sod’s Law! Just as we wanted to cross to the far side of the Kil, two barges and a ferry turn up. This is the main route towards Rotterdam and so is very busy.
Before Dordrecht we plan to make the 1712 opening of the railway and road bridges. Sunday is a great day to travel as they open every hour, during the week day it is every two, so if you miss it you have a very long wait!
Our timing is impeccable, there is a strong 2 knot current sweeping us a long up the Kil at 6 knots, it flows north about 2 hours after high water. If we had got this wrong then it would have a miserable slog up at 3 knots!
At Rotterdam we turn to starboard and Dordrecht following the the Oud Maas. At quick time check and it is1555 with a mile to run before the bridges. They will open at 1612 so I give Grace more revs and arrive at the bridge in time to see yachts leaving the waiting area and head towards the bridges. Ahead the bridge lights are showing red/green. We’ve made it and with a few minutes to spare I push Grace into the queue. It is an amazing bridge to watch as it lifts the railway tracks into air which moments earlier has trains running over! We can see a train waiting at the station and no sooner are we through than the tracks start to lower – they won’t wait for stragglers here!
Dordrecht is now on our starboard side and we look out for our turning into the new marina. We have gone for the new one as it is moderner with better facilities than the older wine harbour. When they say ‘new’ they mean 1460 as opposed to 1310 of the old one! The sailing directions are a bit vague to say the least! ‘Take the second turning in by the police boat and ring they bell’ . They are however perfectly accurate and we do just that! We slip through a gap in a wall, avoid the police boat and tie up to a couple of posts and ring the bell!
About 10 minutes later the bridge opens and we are greeted to the sight of boats packed wall to wall, we follow another boat towards a man stood on a small visitors pontoon, he yells at them ‘box17’ we sidle up and he yells ‘box17’ we say it is the same as the one he has just given to the other boat and he says you have to share it! We do and squeeze in beside the surprised leading yacht! We probably don’t need mooring lines as we are so tightly packed but everyone shuffles down a bit and we all fit!
We rig a precarious ladder at the bows to reach a particularly wobbly bit of pontoon which Anne insists on using as it is ‘much easier ‘ than just walking across the foredeck of our neighbours. Needless to say I break the ladder and almost fall in!
Dordrecht is beautiful and where we are moored is especially pretty. We are in the heart of town and there is a music festival so we go out to drink beer, eat very nice burgers and listen to music!