I am writing this final 2015 blog entry at home as we prepare for Christmas. We returned from Germany in late September by rail, and have now had a few weeks to reflect on the highs and lows of the past sailing season. Overall we achieved our goal of cruising to the Baltic this summer, and Grey Wanderer is now positioned to take us further next year. These are some thoughts on our 2015 season:
It wasn’t the greatest summer weather-wise in our corner of Europe, but by having plenty of time in-hand we were able to keep moving when we fancied the weather and stay put when we didn’t. Thankfully the weather was was kind for the trip up-channel and the critical German Bight leg. There were some unseasonably strong winds whilst we were in Holland in July, but we managed to tuck ourselves away in the inland waterways and sit them out. The biggest weather frustration was the wind direction. We encountered easterlies most of the time. (I doubt this will be repeated when we want to return home!) So we ended up motor-sailing more often than we would have wanted to make the various tidal gates in the Channel and North Sea.
Dover has good yacht facilities and is much more small-boat friendly than I imagined.
We’ve sailed to France many times before, but not to Dunkirk which we enjoyed and will hopefully return to again.
We had no issues in Belgium with the dreaded Red Diesel checks, and were made very welcome. It’s a shame that many British yachts are still giving Belgium a miss. Lets hope this all gets sorted out soon.
Holland has a fantastic inland infrastructure, and to have all those road and rail bridges open for you for free seems very generous. We missed out the IJsselmeer on our trip this year but hope to visit it on the way back.
The Friesian islands are beautiful and we regret passing through so quickly. We’d love to spend more time among them. Perhaps on the way back home….
The lay-up facilities we used in Germany were great value for money compared to UK south coast prices. The service was friendly and extremely helpful.
The Boat and her equipment.
The Ovni’s variable draught proved to be very useful on a number of occasions around the Friesian islands, and the tough aluminium hull was ideal for the inland waterways where locks and moorings are often shared with heavy steel vessels. The Ovni is a tough and versatile boat, and we look forward to putting more miles on her next year.
The many domestic items that Jane made or added to the inventory made our lives on board very comfortable. We are particularly pleased with our home-made “frameless bimini” which kept the sun off our heads when it did shine!
Our folding bikes were definitely worth the space they take up on-board.
Our new Arun Gennaker was a great success. It is quick and easy to deploy, and critically for such a powerful sail the Karver furler makes it easy to recover. In the past we have had cruising chutes and spinnakers on boats which only came out when we were fully crewed. But we have the confidence to fly this one even when we are short-handed. The ability to use it through a broad range of wind angles also makes it a much more versatile sail than a chute.
Our new holding tank system worked well, and remained mercifully odour-free throughout the cruise. (Thanks First Marine, great job!)
We are still ironing out teething problems with the boat. The fuel blockage at Brighton, whilst not at all welcome at the time, was possibly a blessing in disguise. It happened in a place where we had easy access to skilled diagnostic and engineering support who were able to positively identify and fix the problem. I’ve since had discussions with the manufacturer’s UK agent about the possible source of the silicone sealant pieces which restricted the fuel pick-up pipe. But as several other people have worked on the boat since it left the factory, installing heating etc. it’s impossible to be sure how this debris came to be in the tank. The gearbox oil leak was an annoyance on such a new boat, but it didn’t stop us from continuing and completing the trip, and the engine manufacturer has since fitted a new unit under warranty in Germany.
Grey Wanderer is now on the German Baltic island of Fehmarn waiting for our return in the spring. The winter lay-up process went very smoothly in Burgstaaken, and she is now tucked away for the winter in one of Baltic Koln’s huge boat sheds. The Cruising Association guide to laying up in the Baltic was invaluable, and we also got lots of friendly advice from other owners about how to winterise the various systems in preparation for the Baltic winter.
Next year we look forward to exploring in Denmark and Sweden.