Antipole cruises

Dunkerque to Brugge

The gales were expected to blow themselves out by Saturday, and, according to the French forecast, would be down to south-west force 6-7 and then reducing – a bit more than comfortable at first but workable. So we left Dunkerque early and set off eastward along the Flemish coast. But moderate the winds did not, climbing back to Gale Force 8 and at times Severe Gale 9. Being out in this was a first for us, but the boat was just fine. We ran before it with only a ‘pocket handkerchief’ of a genoa set. Most of the passage was in shallowish water, just 6-7 metres, so we had steep seas too.  It was a fast passage, and by lunch time we were into Zeebrugge, which is a vast harbour.

Visiting Belgium is problematic for British boats, as the Belgian authorities have taken to boarding them and testing for traces of red diesel, as used by British boats, and fining them heavily (€1,700) as red diesel is not allowed in pleasure craft in Belgium. This is contrary to the Istanbul Convention on visiting ships, to which Belgium is a signatory. British boats, it seems, are supposed to empty and rinse out their tanks mid-channel before visiting, and Belgian boats cannot re-fuel in the UK and return to Belgium. So much for European harmonisation! We have managed to obtain a letter from Belgian Marine Customs saying they will not check British boats again until the end of June.  This is to allow Britain time to adapt to the new law, presumably by converting thousands of small ports to dual red and white diesel supplies and for boats to rinse out their tanks – ha! ha! Anyhow, this does give us a window of opportunity to visit.

Our plan was to lock through into the Bouderwijnkanaal, by which we could travel further inland to Brugge. We expected a small lock, but were directed to an absolutely vast lock  0.5km long that takes ocean-going ships into the extended docks and through which it is possible to enter the canal. It took over two hours to pack the lock with various ships, including their tugs, during which time we clung to a hook in the lock wall and hoped for the best.  This photo was taken in the lock as we were leaving. Once through the docks we had 6 nm of canal to travel, and passed through a railway and road bridge, which we had to get lifted for us.

The approach to Brugge docks is lined with industrial units, mounts of sand, gravel, scrap metal and wood, together with dozens of wind turbines. But close to town it is used recreationally and we found the Brugge Zeel en Yacht Club, with its new clubhouse and pontoons. We were made welcome and soon settled in. Hot showers after the sail! On Sunday morning lots of members were out sailing various dinghies and there seems to be active teaching of children.

We strolled into the city and spent the afternoon exploring the maze of medieval streets and canals. It really is incredible and a couple of snaps cannot do it justice.

It looks like the strong winds will return on Friday, so our present plan is to stay here Monday to Wednesday, get out our folding bikes, risk the Belgian drivers, and explore some more.  On Wednesday we hope to make an excursion to Ghent by train.

Then on Thursday we will return to the sea and make passage to Vliessingen, Holland, before the gales come back.

We have updated the blog entry ‘Passage from Dover to Dunkerque‘ to include some video taken on the approach to Dunkerque.

much love as ever

Y&T xx

2 thoughts on “Dunkerque to Brugge

  1. Susan Bloom

    All sounds a bit overwhelming to me, especially seeing the giant ship in the lock, and the gale force winds you encountered. You’re obviously good sailors by now though with all these experiences.
    Love to you both,

  2. Alison

    So glad to hear you have survived all the hazards, natural & man made. Especially the Belgian port authorities’ actions, sounds a bit like Spain at times!! The lock sounded really hairy. Brugge looks fascinating.
    Went riding twice last week in National Park, such stunning scenery.

    Much love to you both, Alison & David.

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