Antipole cruises

Groningen to Norderney across the watt channels

Having said goodbye to Dan, we sailed from Groningen on Sunday.  With a fair wind we were able to sail the length of the Eems canal under genoa, apart from negotiating the five bridges and the lock out into the tidal harbour at Delfzijl.  Thanks to Jan for the fine photo of us leaving Groningen, taken from their apartment high above the water.

Antipole Groningen 6 15-05-2016

As we motored to the marina in Delfzijl harbour we noted vibration from the stern gear which rapidly worsened until we limped onto a berth there.  The most likely cause would be a fouled propellor and the next day we engaged a diver to check it out.  He reported nothing wrong.  We began to worry about the cutless bearing, suspect the engine mounting or, worst of all, the gear box.  We engaged the services of Scheepswerf Hunfeld who came aboard to check the engine and gear box which they declared all OK.  HunfeldWe were then towed alongside a tug back through the sea lock and the 3nm to their yard off the Oude Eemskaanal [old Eems Canal].  Their yard handles all manor of craft and they slide slip long barges in and out.  Antipole is on the weight limit for the crane available and it was the next day before they managed to lift her out.  It was immediately apparent that one of the blades of our feathering propellor was no longer engaged with its gear mechanism.  Fortunately, we had on board the original fixed propellor and a prop puller Tony had had made up.  He was able to remove the damaged prop and re-install the fixed one and we were soon back in the water.

This all delayed us four days and we missed the good winds for the passage to Norderney, in the German Friesian Islands, so we did not depart until Friday 20th.  This passage involves crossing two drying stretches where you have to have sufficient rise of tide to pass the first and still have sufficient water for the second.  The second watt channel twisted and turned and was marked by withies (branches stuck into the mud).  Our shallow draft with the keel up came into its own.

This is Riddle of the Sands territory.  For those not familiar with this novel, in 1903 Erskine Childers wrote about an  English yachtsman cruising the Friesian islands who suspected that the Germans were making preparations for an invasion of England.  He sent for a friend and together they spied upon the operations – a process which involved much sneaking about in the watt channels under cover of darkness and fog.  This is said to have been the first modern spy thriller.  Childers’ motive was to alert the British government to what he believed was an impending threat from Germany.  In this he was successful as the novel raised so much public concern in Britain that the Royal Navy was obliged to start building up its fleet – which did indeed turn out to be needed during WW1.  During the war, Childers was tasked with planning an invasion of Germany through the watt channels he knew so well.  Later he married an Irish woman and became involved in Irish matters during the events that led to the establishment of the Irish Free State , including gun running from Germany.  As an Englishman working for the Irish cause he was under suspicion and was eventually executed by Free State forces.

NorderneyWe made it through the watt channels and came to Norderney.  Like all the Friesian islands its northern coast is one long sandy beach and access is via the southern shore.  Norderney claims to be Germany’s oldest spa and was a 19th century royal holiday centre.  Today it is not so ‘up market’ as it once was, although traditional sun chairs abound everywhere.  In these, health-conscious holiday makers take the sun.  Each chair has pull out foot rests and  fold-out flaps on which to stand drinks, sun cream and cigarettes.

Between each island is a narrow passage out to the sea where off-shore sand banks make it hazardous for yachts in even moderate on-shore winds.  So we have the choice between continuing eastwards inside the islands or choosing the right moment to escape into the North Sea.  We are expecting at least a week of strong easterly winds from next Wednesday and, as we have already lost five days with the propellor troubles, we have decided to skip the rest of the Friesian island and head out to sea.

That’s our news for now.

Love from Ynskje & Tony

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