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OCC Roving Rear Commodore report from NW Europe

by Bill & Laurie Balme 28 Oct 10:12 UTC
Bill and Laurie at Pulpit Rock © Bill & Laurie Balme

Toodle-oo! had a full and interesting summer sailing season this year, leaving Whitehaven, Cumbria and heading to Caernarfon to host the Celtic Cruise.

We had nine boats participate in the month-long cruise which concluded in Islay for their Feis Isle 'Malts and Music' festival.

After that, we headed further north to the Outer Hebrides but the weather was pretty bleak, and we ran the heater far more than we thought we would have to. We spent a lovely week in the Shetland Islands where we had very brief meetings with Patrick and Amanda on Egret (managed to say hello just as they cast off their lines!) and then Beth and Bone on Sprinter's Apprentice showed up just as we were casting off ours!

Our plans for Norway were to go straight to the Lofoten islands, but the cold temperatures we'd endured throughout June, had us rethinking the idea of now heading into the Arctic - I guess we really are just wimps! That coupled with a developing abscess on one of my molars suggested the prudent course would be a trip to one of the major conurbations, so we headed towards Stavanger where we got to meet properly with Egret and enlisted the marvellous help of Port Officer Eoin Robson, whose recommendation of a dentist, along with super directions as to how to get there, turned up trumps - though sadly resulted in the loss of a tooth! While in Stavanger we got to take the hike up to Pulpit Rock - a spectacular cliff dropping some 2,000 feet to the fjord below and we enjoyed some cruising around the nearby fjords.

We then turned south along the Norwegian coast stopping in numerous excellent anchorages along the way but encountered very few non-Scandinavian boats and none from the OCC. In Flekkefjord, they see so few American boats that the local newspaper sent a reporter out to interview us! (Unfortunately, the article written was of course in Norwegian!) The south coast of Norway was very interesting - but quiet as we had arrived there in August after their busy season of July - though finding mooring spaces was made considerably easier!

It took two attempts to leave Norway - the first, we headed off towards Denmark in what was supposed to be 15 gusting 25 but turned out to 25 gusting 35, and with 2 reefs in the main and no jib we were making 10 knots! The seas were lumpy and we couldn't face the overnight sail in those conditions, so we turned downwind and headed back to Norway's Grimstadt - which turned out to be a nice spot where we spent another week or so!

Attempt two was successful - this time we headed towards Sweden and had a very gentle time of it - right up until we snagged a fishing trap about 5 miles off the coast of Sweden! Fortunately, we able to extricate ourselves and after anchoring for the night, moved on to a delightful anchorage on a small island off Gothenburg, where Linda and Ian aboard Ocean Hobo were waiting to greet us. It was lovely to be with friends again!

We only stayed in Sweden for a week or so before heading off to the Danish island of Laeso with Ocean Hobo. Sadly, they said goodbye to us there as they headed for the Limfjord while our plans took us south towards the groups of islands south and east of Jutland. Once again, plans got changed and the following day saw us beating towards the Limfjord - and we caught up with Ocean Hobo again in Aalborg.

We finally did say goodbye to Ocean Hobo as we both emerged onto the North Sea - they headed for Scotland and we to Amsterdam.

The Netherlands have proven to be the highlight of our cruising year - partly because we were able to meet old friends: Ineke Heyselaar on Lily, Bas and Agnes from Tisento - which is currently parked in Australia, Baudine from Bojangles (which Rob was currently sailing down New York's East River) - and made new friends in Odette and Fransico aboard Peligrinus. We really enjoyed Amsterdam's vibrancy and at Bas and Agnes' suggestion, we took the Standing Mast Route through Amsterdam (in a convoy during the night) south towards Gouda and Dordrecht, stopping at numerous free curbside mooring spots along the way.

We've enjoyed Holland so much that we are still here in Dordrecht - and have just secured a winter berth here - in favour of our reserved spot in Southampton.

This will be our last report as RoRCs - our term is up. It's been fun and we look forward to meeting up with many more OCC playmates as we continue our voyages to the Spanish Rias and into the Mediterranean in 2020.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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