Saturday, 3 March 2018

MAPS AND PHOTOS


Taipans Photo Albums 

Vessel Finder also has Taipans current possition. 

 Link to Taipans Anchorages and Map.

I will update our position on the map and produce an icon showing our latest anchorage position. The link to Vessel Finder will also be pretty accurate. 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

FESTIVITIES IN EUROPE. January 3rd 2018


Well, its that crazy time of year again and as usual, between boat jobs, we fit in the obligatory eating, drinking and making merry. Commencing the silly season with birthdays, this time in cahoots with "Red Roo's" Maree, and moving right along into the Xmas Market season. It would seem that a European traditional Xmas Market is erected in every City. British tourists are sold package holidays to visit Christmas Markets in Europe. In Antwerp it was in the Groet Market, a central space presided over by the Antwerp City Hall and surrounded by spectacular Flemish architecture. Gilded Galleons, fish, and famous figures adorn the surrounding rooftops. Every evening, to the accompaniment of Christmas carols, the local inhabitants, and tourist, promenade the square, eating seasonal delicacies and sipping on Glugwein and hot chocolate. Restaurants surround the square and they are always full. The life-size nativity scene in front of the wondrous Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady has an empty cradle. Skaters skim around the ice rink which is erected near by at Groenplaats. On opening night a spectacular light and sound show was projected on the City Hall.The atmosphere is one of fun and expectation and is not dampened by the ever-present sight of armed guards, their fingers always on the trigger of their automatic weapons.

Xmas Market Antwerp.

Our lead up to Xmas included some visits to local restaurants for a course here or there. Xmas day itself was a quiet one aboard Taipan but not a hungry one. We experimented with a Dukigeon. David ordered a duck and a wild pigeon from the local meat boutique and he boned them out and I stuffed them with, chicken mince, prunes, orange, and walnut stuffing and resewed it together. Pressure cooked for 15 minutes, bagged in the Wonderbag for 5 hours then BBQ to finish and crisp for 45 minutes. It was sensational, served with roast veg, cauliflower cheese and gravy. Preceded by prawn cocktail and followed by plum pudding cream and brandy sauce.


On Boxing Day everything is open so we strolled and we visited the Rubens House. This baroque master had a stunning house in the center of Antwerp. Built and expanded over a number of years it is a masterpiece of the era. The house is full of beautiful art and furniture from the period. Definitely worth a visit. 



On the 27th of December, we left Willemdock marina once again and headed down river towards Vlissingen. This was not one of our better-planned trips. Total about 40nm. It is easy to become complacent when tied up securely in the marina. There is very little wind as the surrounding buildings deflect it. We left with a forecast of southwesterly maybe up to about 25knots. Shouldn't be a problem. Wrong! We had a fairly pleasant trip for the first day with the current and in sunshine. 

Harbour Building

The overnight forecast was for increasing wind and the forecast strength was higher. We had anchored about 18 miles downriver at our previous anchorage on the change of tide. Several hours later we dropped out some more chain and waited. The wind built and the tide rose, we had less protection as the water rose over the banks to windward. Just before high tide we had several gusts over 50knots. The waves occasionally broke over the bow and we actually decided to sleep in the aft cabin. Something we usually only do on passage!. The wind settled after several hours and we were awoken by loud banging on the deck around dawn by a police boat. 

Canal barge with telescopic bridge. So he can pass under low bridges.

Thinking he wanted to check our papers we scurried around, getting presentable and opened the hatch. No! All they  wanted to know was.... "are you OK?" Satisfied that all was well they went happily off on other business. We learned from local friends that it is unusual for boats to anchor in the river. It is true. Most European boaters don't anchor, its marinas every night.

Fladen suites to the fore!

The leg to Vlissingen the following day was into 30 knots and the temperature was around 5 degrees out of the wind. Not altogether pleasant, and we were relieved to arrive, with friends Dick and Anita off "Kind of Blue" to greet us alongside at VVW Scheld inside the lock at Vlissingen.

Train to Central Station Rotterdam.

On the 29th we boarded a train to Rotterdam. Evert and Janny, ”Moby Dick”, had invited us to spend New Year with them. The train trip is only one and three-quarter hours to central Rotterdam. Here we met some English friends, Jeananne and Ray, also on a visit to Rotterdam. We lunched together and exchanged news and greetings at Nostra, a particularly nice wine bar, and then wandered to the MarktHal where we were picked up by Evert.


Evert and Janny have a lovely home overlooking the river and city and we were totally spoiled by them during our three-day visit. A visit to The Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, an ethnographic museum, where we saw a fabulous Mask Exhibition amongst other things. Being an amateur mask collector I particularly enjoyed this one. 

Happy New Year.
The fireworks on New Year's Eve commenced around 7pm with private crackers going off everywhere. It is legal in Holland to buy fireworks several days before New Year and the Dutch spent €74 million on fireworks this year!! They continued to light the entire horizon until around 2am. The city fireworks, fired from the Swan Bridge in central Rotterdam, were spectacular and the weather was clear, with an almost full moon overhead. Enjoyed in great company, accompanied by Oliebollen and Appelflappen and many other traditional delights.


Delfshaven. The Coat of Arms is Herring and Grain
A trip to Delfshaven, founded in 1389, when a canal was dug to give the city of Delft a connection with the Meuse and the world.   The Distilleerketel or malt mill and grain mill is a windmill built in 1986 to replace a mill which was demolished after a fire. There's a lot of lovely old architecture and of course the inevitable Dutch Barges in the canals offering such photographic opportunities. We did a tour of the Euromast, which at 185 meters offers fantastic views over the city and has extra good hot chocolate and muffins!


Our hosts. Taken at the Euromast.
After a wonderful three days of Dutch hospitality, we packed up and set off back to Taipan. It was a mixed day and one of lock failures. We put our luggage in the locker at the train station so we could do a little strolling before our departure and when we returned the mechanism controlling the locks had failed. It took some time for Railway staff to unlock the locker and return our luggage. Then, already late, when we arrived at Vlissingen, the Marina was totally locked up and we had no gate code. Luckily "Red Roo" were online and were able to supply the code as it was dark, about 2 degrees, raining, and blowing about 35knots!!!  Regardless of the day of locks, we had a fabulous New Year and look forward to 2018 adventures.

Delfshaven on a winters day.


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

SNOW WHITE BIRTHDAYS IN ANTWERP December 2017


It's been all go here in Antwerp as we gear up for Birthdays and everyone else is gearing up for Christmas.


Red Roo's crew, Phil, and Maree, fellow Australians, jumped a couple of trains from Vlissingen in the southern Netherlands to come and see us in Antwerp. We hadn't met prior to their arrival but hit it off instantly. Antwerp turned on an excellent few days of weather for their visit. 

The city's Skating rink was in the final stage of installation, along with a Mistletoe house for kissing under. There are Pop-up Xmas stalls in the Groet Market preparing for the Christmas Fair, selling steaming Gluhwein, Chocolate, Waffles and loads of other irresistible delicacies.

The Groet Market getting ready for the Xmas Fair. City Hall in the back.

The Cathedral of Our Lady has dominated the skyline for 5 centuries and no visitor to Antwerp could miss it. The spire, at 123 meters, soars skyward in all its Gothic splendor. 

Cathedral of Our Lady

The Fortress Gatehouse is Antwerp's oldest building and dates from around the 9th Century. The famous Semini statue, regarded as a folk symbol of fertility can be seen in a front alcove but he had his penis hacked off by the clergy who were abhorred by his manifest virility!



Castle Gate The little statue with the missing penis is above Davids' head!

The former Butchers Hall was initiated in 1250. This larger, late Gothic building, of red and white brick with sandstone columns, was inaugurated in 1504. The French abolished Guilds during the Revolution and the building served as wine storage, Theatre and painters Studio.

Butchers Hall

Maree and Kris celebrate birthdays one day apart and like to spread it over a few weeks so combining them allowed plenty of excuses to ignore any restrictive eating practices they may have been subjected to by their captains. We all had a special birthday dinner at LUX, a beautiful Michelin star restaurant just a short walk from the dock. The food, wine, and service were excellent and the venue, a 17 Century  Ship owners house, retains many original features including the beautiful parquet flooring and Belgium marble fireplaces. 



Dinner was followed by an evening strolling the streets.The highlight was the opening night for the light and sound show with an impressive projection screened on the City Hall.

Skaters were skating but we didn't participate in deference to our hips, shoulders, bums, and shins! 






On the final day of Red Roo's visit it snowed. Very pretty, and a novelty for us Ozzies. Taipans first ever coat of snow.
Thanks to Maree and Phil for the memories. See you in Ipswich!




Sorry.. I couldn't resist. So many nice snow pictures!!


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

ANTWERP. SLOW DOWN. WINTER IS COMING. December 4th 2017

Ghent. On a misty cold day.

Its been a little over a month since I last posted. We have been fairly busy with jobs and a bit of sightseeing between socializing.


I stole this photo of us all from James Tomlinson Talisker 1 site
One weekend we hired a car and took a run up to Sutton Hoo,  an ancient Anglo Saxon burial site near Woodbridge Suffolk. 
There is an excellent exhibition of original and replica artifacts found during excavations including a replica of the actual ship burial. This site dates from the early



7th century and was excavated in 1939, It is one of the best archaeological finds in England for its size, and for the fact that it was very intact. Discovered on private property and initially excavated by the landholder it has been turned over to the British Museum. There are numerous other mounds and many exciting discoveries have been made here. 
Woodbridge Tide Mill.

We visited the famous Woodbridge Tide Mill. The first tide mill on the site was 1170.  This is a working mill, which as the name suggests. is driven by the rise and fall of the tide. The range here is around 6 meters so its pretty effective power supply. It fell into disrepair and was derelict for a time before being restored and reopened in 2012. One of only two operating in the UK today, it produces flour for sale. From here we took a run up to Snape for lunch then wended our way back to Taipan for the night. 

Pretty around Newmarket.
The following day our destination was the University town of Cambridge about 2 hours away to the northeast. We decided to detour through Newmarket the famous horse racing center of Britain. So picturesque and peaceful. Not a horse in sight though as they had all done their gallops early in the morning. The National Stud was closed for winter but we enjoyed the coffee shop and a break from the drive.


Cambridge turned on a lovely fine day and the university buildings were absolutely gorgeous. The place was buzzing with crowds of people about. We strolled about took in a gallery or two and then made for home via a number of backroads. The countryside is very much in its winter cladding. Leaves are mostly gone, and a lot of fallow lands and short days.

Taipan departs Ipswich. Thanks, John Pennington.
Leaving Harrich early morning...  3.30am

Looking for a departure to Belguim, our time in Ipswich came to an abrupt end when a sudden weather window opened and we could see 3 days in a for the passage across the English Channel to Belgium. The trip doesn't take three days but you have to get down the Orwell river on the right tide and then anchor for the night to get the tides right for the crossing. That's the first day. The crossing itself is 80 miles. It took 12 hours with very little wind and a lot of motoring. Not that we minded as it was very cold and the motor and our new Fladen Suits kept us nice and warm! We didn't see a lot of traffic and had no difficulty crossing the shipping lanes. Visibility was good and with the AIS, life among big ships is much simplified. 

Our arrival in Oostend was too late for the marina lock. We couldn't get off the dock so had an early night and headed out on dawn the following morning to catch the tide up the Westerschelde towards Antwerp. he new sail didn't get much of a work out the previous day but we had a great sail with it along the coast. We traveled very close to shore and enjoyed the scenery. There were quite a few small fishing boats to keep us on our toes.

Those groyns are totally underwater at high tide.





Its 76 miles to Antwerp from Oostend and we couldn't make it in one tide so we found a good little anchorage tucked out of the traffic at Zeedijk. 



Beautiful anchorage in the Scheld
The tide goes out exposing a vast sandbank which offers great protection from the wake of so many very large ships using this waterway as access to the port of Antwerp and to the many canals which run north and south off it, on through Europe. Note the groynes which run out from the shore. The ends were marked with a green drum but it was not very clear why until the tide went out!


A very busy shipping waterway. Lots of barges too.
Lots of Industry on the Scheld
Petrochemical on the Scheld

The following morning still in the sunshine we made the last 20 miles to the Jachthaven Linkerover on the west bank of the river. The weather turned foul for a few days so we made a good decision to leave when we did. Fine weather all the way. Short days with sunrise at around 8.30 and sunset at 4.30 mean some dark starts but arrivals in the daylight.

Linkerover Marina Antwerp West Bank
Just before the marina, on the west bank, there is a large park which was the Top Cat camp where the troops from the second WW decamped at the end of hostilities. It has all manner of buried tanks and armaments and now there's a bit of a quandary on how to dig it up to make a new tunnel under the river!!


New Port Building. Glitters like a diamond. Antwerp was a big diamond center.
The trip to town from Linkerover was not an insurmountable one and a half kilometers to the Sint Anna tunnel under the river and then another kilometer on to town, so much as the freezing cold wind into which one has to ride to get to the tunnel. There is very little on the west bank as it is mostly residential with a  couple of small grocery stores. We did have a superb meal at the Royal Yacht Club Belgie on our first evening but there was little else to entice us to stay.


Port  Building another angle.
We moved across the river the following Saturday The Willemsdock Marina has good floating docks and is very secure. The amenities are pretty average for the price though. This marina has the most expensive winter rates. At €1400+ electricity for 5 months. The monthly rate is €490 plus electricity at 27c per kW. That's 100€ dearer than across the river. All that aside its a much better position for winter. We have made good use of the bikes here and are doing lots of exploring.


MAS Museum
The MAS Museum is just at the head of the dock and houses 6 floors of exhibits. This consumed most of one day. The exhibits are not terribly well lit and all the signage is in French and Dutch. Reading the little books in English was difficult in the lighting. It snowed on Taipan while we were in there though and we had a great vantage point overlooking her out in the harbor. The cafe downstairs is great.


Overlooking the dock from MAS Museum. Taipan in the middle!
Antwerp is a bustling small city of 520,000 city residents with the largest city population in Belgium. Brussels has a larger population in its greater city area. There are lots of great shops and the lovely old cobbled streets are attractive, if bumpy on the bike! Beautiful old Flemish architecture and my new favorite building in the whole world is the Harbor Building. Zaha Hadid's beautiful landmark building has put Antwerp on the world Architectural map.


Grote Market Square. On a sunny day. Beautiful old Flemish Architecture.

Last weekend we visited Ghent by train. It had snowed two days before and it's been so cold the snow was still lying about. Ghent started as just a settlement on the confluence of two rivers in the late middle ages and by the 1300s was the largest and richest city in northern Europe. Castle and Cathedrals and plenty of lovely old architecture. A busy tourist venue even on a cold winters day.


Beautiful Antwerp Central Station and the main shopping street.

We are planning an excursion by train to Brugges and we will stay a night there, meanwhile, we are finding enough small jobs to keep busy and the heater is working a treat so we are warm. Snow is in the forecast again this weekend. A white birthday!!



Ghent. On a cold day in December!
Yes! I am not in many pictures because I'm usually at the business end of the camera 


More photos from this blog.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

LONDON TIME. TAMING THE THAMES. 24th October 2017


My favourite view of London!

Ipswich Haven Marina is a locked marina very centrally located in the city of Ipswich on the River Orwell Suffolk UK. On the 12th of September we moved from the River Deben anchorage to Ipswich to organise surveys of the hull and rig for our new Insurers. Hauling out at Fox’s Marina nearby for the underwater examination all went without a hitch and we returned to the Haven with Adrian, our surveyor aboard.  We are now fitted with new fire extinguishers and flares and are all set to go again. The rig report was also handled smoothly with the replacement of the back stay, including insulators, being the major part of the job. The surveyors were thorough and professional.
Quick haul at Fox's Ipswich
Socially its been pretty busy with John and Kara and baby Dean aboard “Sentjin”  (ex Orca) in the harbour, together with Davids brother Andrew and his wife Christine aboard their Postpub Van (aka. Taipan support vehicle). 

John and Kara at work and baby Dean practices in the Bosuns Chair.

Chris Smither ex “Akwaaba” and long time friend from the UK who we met in Phuket years ago visited and spent a night aboard. David and Candy Masters, Canadians aboard “Endeavour” were also in the harbour and it was a brief but fun introduction before they left for London to spend the winter in St Katherines dock. We met James Tomlinson of “Talisker”, in Bergen, Norway, and he lives here and visited us aboard, One evening last week he picked us all up and we drove to his lovely home in Orford for dinner. We met some of his sailing mates and had a fantastic night swapping stories.


Christine Pollers great shot of Taipan in the Ditch! Check her work out on Instagram.

We interrupted our Ipswich experience one weekend with a 55nm sail north to Southwold. A narrow brown ditch leads between some pretty dodgy breakwater structures. Its not an all weather entrance by any stretch and we did choose fair offshore winds and medium tide for our entrance. Surprisingly there was plenty of water at all tides but this entrance fuels and drains a vast marsh inshore. Current can be ferocious and even in average current turning inside the river is challenging. This tiny community on the north side of the river and its quaint sister-town Walberswick on the south attracted us because some old family friends live there. David is immortalised in the Adnams Bell Tavern for his failure to  hold his Broardside many decades ago. A plaque marks the spot. 
Family photo!

Our new Genoa, a Tri-Radial, Hi cut, Dimension Polyant cruising laminate sail from Kemp sails was on order and we arranged to pick it up in London. Now we had to take on the mighty Thames and get there. 

Sailing south from Ipswich down the River Orwell its a good plan to make sure the tide is going out but as you sail south down the coast to the Thames over or between an impressive number of shallow sand bars its good to have a rising tide or the current will be against you. So the plan was to sail 10nm out to the mouth of the Orwell to Felixstowe then strike out south 45nm the following morning on the incoming tide. The plan didn’t quite work as the following morning when we should have left to go south, the wind was very strong and gusty and altogether unpleasant so we moved just 5nm down into the Walton Backwaters where we found a good hole and were very comfortable for another night. We had another yacht pull in late and found out next morning it  was James Tomlinson’s good friend Doc, on “Tuesday of Ore”. We had been shadowing each other since the Deben River so next morning we were finally able to meet, ever so briefly, with a promise to catch up properly when we returned from London.

Heading up the Thames crossing 00.00.00E.

The morning was fine and sunny and we stuck south to the River Medway. As it was a rising spring tide we were able to cross the Gunfleet Sand and shorten the passage a little. We had current with us the whole way and made it into the Dead Mans Hole well before dark after and extremely pleasant day on the water.

View of the Tower Bridge from the St Katharines lock

Next morning the weather was horrible but current was in our favour so after pushing current for about an hour leaving the anchorage we were in the Thames Estuary and riding the current upstream for almost 40 miles. 
St Pauls Cathedral.

Leaving the Medway there is the very well marked Dangerous Wreck of the Richard Montgomery  still loaded with 1400 tons of TNT, so unstable that they cant touch it, and it could very well go off spontaneously. If it explodes it will amongst other things…. break windows in London about 30miles away. We were glad to slip quietly past that! 

Thames Barrier

The trip up the Thames was pretty uninteresting, flat, and fairly industrial for most of the way. There was some shipping but nothing alarming. As we got closer to the city itself there was some tourist traffic and the Thames Barrier to negotiate. The route is covered by London VTS Radio and we monitored 3 frequencies during the trip. Calling the Barrier for permission to pass was just a formality but the Barrier is closed to all traffic at times so it pays to check the website for closures when planning a trip up the Thames.

Thats the Skygarden.

Once in sight of the beautiful Tower Bridge we were almost at our destination. St Katharine’s Dock. By now the river was fairly narrow and as a consequence of fast moving tourist boats, fairly rough with wind against tide. It being nearly high tide we didn’t have long to wait for the lock to open to provide entrance to the Dock. Inside the lock with the door closed, things were less frenetic and we registered at the office and were issued a berth. This happened to be alongside “De  Verleiding” with Ron and Joce, friends from Enkhiuzen Netherlands, aboard. 
St Katharines Dock. Taipan and De Verleiding.

St Katherine’s Dock is situated beside the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. It’s not cheap at £470 per week but has to be cheaper than the adjacent hotels. The marina entrance Lock is easy to see but dries out on lower tides so timing is critical. Current in the Thames runs at up to 3 or 4 knots depending on the tide. There is a bit of a cross current at the lock. Facilities are good and security excellent. 


An Icon
With an underground station at Tower Hill just nearby, it was amazingly simple to see London.  Highlights included the Tate Modern, Skygarden, Natural History Museum, Soane houses, Damien Hurst Gallery and Borough Market. Mostly we just walked and walked in lovely weather. There is just so much to see we will go back again but it gets to the point where you just get overload! We had planned a week and it was enough for one trip.
Burough Market. Food lovers.
Ray and Jeananne Wells, old friends from Australia, now resident in the UK, met us on arrival and we spent two days exploring with them, and also enjoyed a fabulous evening at their home.  Andrew and Christine joined us aboard Taipan for a few days so we checked out lots of fun sites with them also. 

View from the Sky Garden.

Bit of silliness at Somerset House with Ray and Jeananne

Retracing our steps back down the Thames on a falling tide couldn’t have been easier with the change of tide at 830am we left the marina in daylight and coasted out on the current to River Medway in brilliant sunshine. A much more enjoyable ride in sunshine than the inbound trip. We had planned to explore Chatham Historic Dockyards and Ropeworks the next day but the forecast was not looking too sharp for later in the week so we overnighted in Dead Mans Hole again and caught the current all the way back to Ipswich the following day. We managed to ride the rising tide up the Orwell into the marina as well and all in lovely weather. 

Tower of London across the Thames
And on the opposite side of the Thames.

Back in Ipswich now and counting down until we can once again cross the Channel to France or Belgium to spend some time waiting for the winter to go away! The new Eberspacher heater the Captain has promised the Admiral is proving elusive. After nearly a year of tinkering with a second hand Webasto, only to have it work for one day, he has retired defeated!. The suppliers are all saying there is a wait of up to a month on delivery and the back orders haven’t been filled for 6 weeks. There are always other projects, running repairs, varnish, and maintenance to take care of so we are not just sitting sipping gin!

Taipan with my new favourite bridge.
The new Kemp sail was hoisted in the first light weather and although not as big as we were expecting, I’m sure it will be an improvement on the 30 year old Hood we have been using. Looking forward to the test sail and I hope it lasts as long!

Where are we going on the continent? Not sure yet. One of the problems with Schengen is that we can’t avail ourselves of the winter rates offered by marinas because we can only stay in Schengen for 3 months. This will mean paying for a full 5 or 6 months twice. We have yet to confirm the most cost effective place to stop. Or we could just keep moving and pay the monthly rate!