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The Midnight Sun Page 1/2
by Jim & Yvonne Mackintosh. Having been awarded the prestigious RIBexpeditions 'Puffin Trophy' (below) for a third time in the past five years, this is the story of their latest voyage.
BOUND - Day 1
The journey began as we cruised down the River Itchen past the home of the elegant Q.E.II at Southampton. We have a Delta 9.5M Rigid Inflatable Boat, which has twin diesel 240HP turbo charged engines and full electronic gear - Radar/Chart Plotter, GPS/Echo Sounder, Fluxgate Compass, Card Compass, commercial EPIRB.
We carried 30 Admiralty Charts - routes, destinations and chart plotting was done
|during the cold
winter months at home. Our final destination was to view the midnight
sun in Helsinki, Finland.
We have cruised the Baltic Sea in previous years and were well aware of the waters that we would encounter on this long trip. Cruising along the south coast in the English Channel, past the famous Beachy Head, Dungeness Nuclear Power Station and the busy ports of Folkestone and Dover, to overnight in Ramsgate. A very pleasant trip in F3 seas with plenty of sunshine, giving us beautiful offshore views of the passing scenery.
Todays Distance - 160NM
Ramsgate Harbour Master furnished us with the day's Weather Forecast, not good news, F5 to F6 gusting, this would be a heavy crossing. Leaving the harbour behind, the sea was calm and the sun was still shining as we sailed across the shipping lanes past all the heavy morning traffic, taking care to avoid the large sandbanks, to pick-up the southern buoy of Middeldiep and sighting the Dutch coast at Europoort. A beautiful cruise complimented by a very pleasant lunch from our ship's galley, where was the forecast F6?
up to its name as a constant stream of traffic plies to and fro from the
port, making it very difficult to cross the approach channel. Sailing
up the coast of the Netherlands we were stopped by the Dutch Customs RIB,
and was asked to standby for the Dutch Customs hard boat, which was by
now cutting a fast passage towards us.
We were ordered to make way longside, and on gathering speed I had to jump aboard the Customs boat. This move was accomplished by 'Interaction'.
Two vessels making way, the smaller
into the larger over the stern wave, moves into mid-ship position and
the two vessels will stay steady together while making way.To break off,
the smaller vessel powers over the bow wave. A very exciting manoeuvre!!
We never thought while training at Seafever
School that we would ever have need of this move.
|The large upturned
bow of a Delta did much to assist me over the high-sided gunnels, as well
as two burly Customs men hauling me over the grab rails with all our paperwork
ready for inspection.
All in order!! We waved the Dutch Customs goodbye and travelled in a north easterly direction into a rising North Sea. The Weather Forecasters had not been mistaken ..... we were beginning to realise that the weather was steadily deteriorating.
Should we change from our two piece Simpson Lawrence breathable suits into our dry suits? ........ no, only 36 miles to our destination, Den Helder.
|As in the sailing
term, if you are thinking of reefing, it's already too late!! This covered
the suit decision completely. We continued to wear our two piece suits
into the jaws of the storm.
The seas grew steadily bigger, with two metre waves rising in front of us onto a plateau, never dropping down. We could not make sense of the sea at all, and maybe just as well, as suddenly the sea seemed to rise all around us, high standing dark grey waves on all sides, like being at the bottom of a whirlpool (not that we have been at the bottom of a whirlpool imagination can work wonders)! These conditions did not last too long, but long enough to break our
stainless steel flagpole and our radio whip aerial. This mayhem was followed by two loud bangs, Jim thought the engines had disintegrated ..... no, we had just crossed the Dutch Naval Firing Line, two destroyers being fired upon from a ship on the shoreline.
|The crew gave
us cheery waves as we made our way up a very rough Schulpengat toward
Den Helder harbour.
We had a very warm welcome from the Harbour Staff whom we had met on previous trips. The Harbour Master informed us that the coastline had been hit all day by mini tornadoes, and unfortunately the tornadoes were following the same course as Still Deep One. That night we sat in the restaurant and watched the sea rage, just grateful we were viewing from the land.
Todays Distance - 177NM
We kitted up in our dry suits as there
|was a good F5
to F6 blowing, gusting F7, it was going to be a rough run up the German
Bight, on an open sea passage with no shelter at all. A very long haul!
We set off in big seas around the shallow waters of Texel, the first island of the Dutch chain, which has five islands stretching in an arc for approximately 65NM.
Lady Luck was on our side today as there were two low fronts moving in side by side, and we were able to maintain a course of some 30kts between the two fronts. We saw a mini tornado over the Friesian Islands which was fascinating to watch from a distance, however it did not affect us as we were too far away.
We had two Luftwaffe jets, paying us
attention - obviously curious, then using us as target practise for
a bit of fun, instead of the usual oil exploration towers which we had
just sailed past. We saw no traffic other than the large cargo ships
plying the shipping lanes into the ports of Germany.