Finally the weather calmed enough for me to leave Ijmuiden, granting the first opportunity to dip my toe into the North Sea alone. There was still uncomfortable swell outside of the breakwater, and the wind continuously heavy on the nose, yet Constellation moved slowly toward Den Haag. Four hours into the leg, the already choppy waters became worse, leaving me cold, wet, and having lost what sea legs I had in the placid canals, vomiting over the side of the boat. I tried hard to tack further away from the coastline to increase the water depth and reduce the swell, but it seemed to make little difference. I set back on the original course, increased the RPM's of 'August' the diesel engine, and stood in the cockpit with cold hands, clutching the cabin roof winches, watching Den Haag slowly become larger on the horizon. I left with a favourable tide, meaning I would need to sail in the dark in the last 8nm to port, however the entry lights were relatively easy to pickup, as I watched a large triple masted charter schooner enter first. Here is a short video made up of terrible clips from my digital camera... It has nothing to do with the work of the DNR-Productions video (you can tell!).
The port of Scheveningin is still a working fishing port, which is nice because the marina is simple and original - So many of the marinas are newly built and highly commercial, so it was nice to be near the North Sea trawlers and be in a harbour with normal boats, instead of being moored up with 62ft Hallberg Rassys, that rarely go outside of the canals. Special thanks to Mira for having an address for me to forward mail to, as well as for the extra funds and vitamins to fight off scurvy!
I left Scheveningin for Stellandam, with my plan to re-enter the canal system due to poor weather over the following few days. It seemed I could sit in a marina waiting for the right weather, or I could just keep moving regardless through the canals - The choice was simple. I sat at anchor in Stellandam after a beautiful day of sailing with all the canvas up with sunny weather.
I successfully made it past Europort, which I think may be the busiest port in the world - I radioed for permission to cross, and was radioed back with confirmation, and then radioed again 30mins later stating that I was making slow progress! After passing through, I made a tack back towards the separation scheme, which Europort control was not particularly happy about, being told in a friendly manner that I should probably change tack relatively soon.
Picking up the channel into Stellandam, I was approached by Dutch Customs. They boarded Constellation, checked my paperwork (bill of sale, SSR, diesel purchase receipts, radio call sign and passports) and searched the boat. They asked where I was going, and I said 'Australia' with a straight face, and they didn't seem particularly suprised, which I thought amusing - One of them simply asked which route I was taking. Having finished up, the speed boat returned to pick up the two Customs officers, and bumped the toe rail of Constellation fairly hard - I am now annoyed to see half of the rail is now disconnected from the hull, meaning I will need to remove it all, epoxy the screw holes and re-mount it. Not only that, but the officers insist on wearing big black boots, therefore putting dark scuff marks all over my deck! Constellation is not exactly in the best cosmetic condition, but black marks and broken toe rails certainly don't help...
From Stellandam I battled Force 6 winds, fog, minimal visibility and rain to Willemstad, a curious little town shaped like a star (click here for evidence!). The town was heavily fortified, however I'm not entirely sure of it's true history as all the information and museum displays were in Dutch...
As of today, I'm sitting in a harbour in Bruinisse, about to leave for Vlissingen. By the weekend I will be back in the North Sea, which will quickly turn into the Dover Straight, and then finally the English channel. I'm considering going on an extra long tack to Dover to fill up my gas tanks, and then tacking back to France - We'll see how the winds are.