I'm back in The Netherlands after my short sojourn in Berlin. It was nice to see everyone and say goodbye, and in a sense also hard to leave - Living in Berlin was not always easy, but I had built up a network of friends, and over the past year and a half it's been the closest thing to home. I arrived at 5:30am in Amsterdam, slept for most of the day, paid to stay for another night and left on Sunday with my new found Swedish friends Paul and Lisa to Monnickendam, a four hour motor north in the Markermeer. It wasn't without mishap when my engine overheated, which I suspect was caused by a blockage in the cooling system from the day of motoring through green algae on the canals. I wasn't prepared to sail, but Constellation hove-to perfectly under poles which allowed me to get things setup and hank on the foresail. I opened the engine compartment and sailed for a couple of hours, and thankfully the engine was cool enough to motor into the marina.
It's a very nice marina here, however the primary difference to the Sixhaven, in Amsterdam and here, is that it's a commercial marina. A lot of marina's along the canals are actually sailing clubs, so the prices are always cheap. I am currently in negotiations to offer my cleaning services in exchange for a berth, which is actually showing some promise, as I am now playing the waiting game and cannot really move about.
A lot of people have asked why I wanted to go to Hamburg, because if you look at a map, you'll notice that it's actually the wrong direction. Back in the heyday of this project, I envisioned I would have more money, more time, and I would have been back in Hamburg in July, and left for Australia soon after. The point of Hamburg was to sail with Johannes, and to also start my trip from Germany. Unfortunately I couldn't get things together quick enough, and the honest truth was that Hamburg had become the place to sit for winter, therefore delaying my trip by almost a year. I was fixed in my mind there was no other option, which was also why I didn't mind dawdling in the Dutch canals for so long - It's almost been a month since I left England.
When I arrived in Rotterdam, I changed plans again: Rotterdam was as nice as city as any, and they had work for English speakers. I was coerced (rather easily, I really wanted to keep sailing!) to move to Amsterdam, where I even went for a job interview. I felt sick at the thought of living as I have for another year, and working at a desk through a cold winter. Amsterdam seemingly had decent work opportunities, and in my head it was the right thing to do - Stay and work. But in my heart, all I've wanted to do is keep going.
Thanks to the extreme generosity of my friend Nathan, who called last week out of the blue, I gained some financial hope and decided I could do it. He was sitting in an Internet cafe in Thailand, on his very own holiday, telling me I could do it, and what was my bank account number, because he was going to send some money through. I couldn't believe my luck, because his call was on the deepest day of my depression over the whole situation - I couldn't leave the cabin of the boat, and I stopped answering pestering calls from recruiters. One of the pieces of equipment I required was self-steering - There was absolutely no way I could sail singlehanded without some kind of steering equipment. How would I go down below to navigate, to sleep, and to eat? I decided I would simply buy an electronic tiller pilot and leave.
Later in the day, I told my friend Marty, who is both a good friend and also a business partner - Together we run Serversaurus.com, yet the reality is, I'm always flittering about, and he does all the work. Already Marty has donated personal funds to this mad project, and once he heard I was leaving, he decided Serversaurus.com should sponsor me, and promptly sent the funds to purchase an EPIRB, which is now hopefully on route in the mail.
I also must thank Paul and Lisa, who donated the inverter which is now powering my laptop to make this post. Soon to be world sailors themselves, they've taken me out for drinks, fed me dinner and been great company while in Holland. For my Amsterdam stay, thank you also to Peter, a fellow sailor who has helped me out with transport cards, dinner, beer, a place to send mail, and incredible hospitality. The Netherlands has been very good to me.
Back on to technical matters, I've been trying to decide over the past week about which tillerpilot to buy, and the reality is, I might get a ways down the coast on it, but it's not a viable solution in the long run. So I've gone out and sold my final valuable asset, which I have been avoiding for an exceptionally long time: My beloved camera. At the end of the day, it is a replaceable object, and in a sense, this project isn't - It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, with enormous amounts of energy behind it.
With some help from Peter at Windpilot, I have purchased a Windvane for Constellation. I have been pestering Peter for almost a year about Windvanes, and finally something has happened. It has taken almost every last Euro I have, and dealing with the cost of having a stainless mounting bracket made for the transom, I will almost completely deplete my remaining funds. I have nothing left to sell, and no hidden stores of money... I'll be leaving with a fully equipped boat, and literally not a penny! But the moral of the story is, I'm going, and that's all that matters. If you live in Holland, and can tig weld, I need you!
Time is now of the essence, the trees are beginning to change colour, the mornings are definitely colder, and I still need to barrel back down the North Sea to wait for a weather window for Biscay, who's ideal crossing period was at least a month ago. It's through the generosity of long time friends and new ones, that has meant I will actually be departing. Thank you all.