Monday, August 23, 2010

The Maybe

We did it! We got on a boat! The day started out grey and rainy - inoffensive and unsurprising. Many boats were trying to leave the Amsterdam Sail area, it was a bit crazy to motor out of there, but we made it, bikes above deck in the drizzle. The day was supposed to be calm. We were heading towards the Ijsselmeer, an inland sea, and the water is shallow and surprisingly not salty. The plan was to go to Makkum that day and then make further decisions about where to sail next.

The crew:
Skipper - Steve
1st Mate - Louise
2 other full time goofballs - Emily & Fred
Trainees/Temp crew goofballs - Phil, Jan, Pascale, Edward, Ramona, Joshua

Steve was undecided about how far east to travel. They needed to get the Maybe back to Whitby, England by Aug 31st - west and a little north. Meanwhile Bremerhaven was having their big Sail 2010, just a little bit further east. Although there was enough time to go to Bremerhaven, they would need to get out of there a little early to get back to Whitby on time. And there was always the question of which way the wind would blow.

Back to the inland sea. The first part of the day was uneventful. Motoring through the weather, hoping for sun and even getting little tastes of it.

There was even some singing as Louise guided the boat across the shallow water.

l-r: Pascale, Emily's & Edward's heads, Fred, and Louise

A sail was raised, to help us along, because there was a bit of wind to use.

After a couple of very minor locks, where we tied up and almost immediately the gates opened on the other side, it started to blow. In fact, we were pushed around quite dramatically in the last lock, and the bigger sail boat coming in behind us scraped most uncomfortably against the side of the lock as it struggled with the sudden bluster. Joshua noticed that the wind gauge at the lock was recording an 8 on the Beaufort scale - something we did not understand yet but now have a pretty thorough sense for. But at the time, everyone just shrugged and kept on going.

As we were sitting down to a quiet lunch, one jib up (that's the sail), the boat started to buck a bit. Nothing crazy at first - then suddenly we were heaving. Crew ran above to take down the sail, and Joshua and I followed. We were quickly told to clip on and sit down, out of the way.

Waves were splashing up over the decks at this point. Already. Where are we again? Inland sea? The bikes were being washed quite well - boy were we relieved to taste fresh water as it splashed into our faces. Fred gallantly tied the bikes down a bit, so they didn't go flying overboard, meanwhile getting pounded by a few good waves and cursing like a... well... sailor.

Phil was at the helm, Jan seated next to Joshua on the deck nearby. Jan said to Phil at one point, 'What do you think, Phil? 7?8?' Phil responded, 'Yeah, maybe an 8,' and just then a wave splashed up straight into his face, to which he responded, 'Okay, a strong 8.'

Joshua and I weren't really ready for this, especially not our stomaches. All I wanted was more lunch, as eating helps me with sea sickness. But there was no way I was heading down below decks again, the way we were getting tossed about.

All in all, it was kind of gleeful. The sky was beautiful, sometimes we got spots of sun between rain, the water was very warm, warmer than the wind, so being splashed wasn't all that bad. Steve finally forced me to put on some proper gear, his one-piece foul weather gear, which was pretty amazing. I kept insisting I wasn't cold, but he knew that that was all I could become, sitting still up on the wet deck watching the weather.

But rolling over waves gets exhausting. The motion of seasickness bucks inconsistently. Not just a few of us were laid out, either below in bed or up on the deck, just barely staying awake. Fred told us the last thing we wanted on deck at a time like that was cold, tired, wet people, and then he and Emily promptly fell asleep curled up together next to Joshua and I.

Unexpected weather. Inland sea...

No tragedies. We didn't learn a whole lot more about sailing than we already knew, except to expect the unexpected and know your safety protocols no matter what is planned for the day. Nobody's life jacket inflated accidentally due to the water that was everywhere and the bikes got the washing they had needed since muddy Netherlands adventures the week before. And neither of us succumbed to the overwhelming urge to toss the contents of our stomaches. As it mellowed out a bit, Emily brought up tea even, and Joshua got a much needed piece of dry toast.

Meanwhile, Steve put me at the helm as a fantastic distraction to my wooziness. That really worked. And it was a lot of fun. I navigated along a channel, which was around 2.5 meters deeper than the keel at many points, and sometimes dropped to 1.5 meters. Scary. But I just kept aiming for the guide buoys and watching the heading. At one point a gigantic cargo ship was coming to the same buoys as the Maybe, at a place in the channel where we had to make a fairly sharp turn, and I think not a few members of the crew swallowed their fingernails while I managed to cruise just exactly where I needed to be and made the turn without smashing us into the other ship.

Full on - and better after a turn driving. Wish I could have kept that suit for Norwegian snow play.

Almost to the port at Makkum, the British flag and beautiful Dutch sky

Almost to the dock! How calm the water looks

Still windy and with a good amount of chop for an inland sea, we motored into Makkum at the end of the day. Exhausted. The dock felt good, and dry land felt even better. The weather report called for 9s, an even bigger day of wind, on Tuesday, and much of the coming week it was going to blow the wrong direction for them. Easy to get to Bremerhaven, perhaps, but a battle to get back to Whitby, for certain.

As we had a number of good laughs over dinner, and everyone started to relax over a beer or a bottle of wine, Steve announced that they would stay at the dock the following day. No sense in going out again to just get beat up some more. Whether they'd head further east was still undecided, but it wasn't looking like they'd bother. And although we were oh so tempted to stay on board - I mean, we'd only gotten on the water for one day! come on! - and we figured a couple of weeks in the UK would be awesome, we decided that we were not, in fact, heading west. Through the day at port we discussed our options, and finally we decided that we'd just have to leave our new friends and go with the wind across the Netherlands, through Germany again, and north through Denmark to the ferry at Hirtshals. After all, this is a bike trip.

We did stay on the boat one more night, and stayed out late having a good time with our new boat buddies. Steve got us to the bar early, and we just drank beer after beer - outrageous amounts, really, but luckily we were well practiced. Wednesday morning we got up fairly early and put all our bags and bikes on the dock. As we packed up, they shipped off, with just a couple of minor bumps as they tried to get out from between the ships in front and behind them - okay, maybe they lost a piece of rail to a stuck bumper and managed to snap a rope still tied to the dock. But they headed for home, their last sail at the end of a good long season for them, and we just hoped they didn't have to face too much rough weather to get back to England.

Untie the boat

Lookin' pretty fine - thanks Maybe

1 comment:

Allison said...

Good job Mates! Impressed you didn't throw up. I would have died from sea sickness!