A total of 28 boats are taking part in Motor Boats Monthly's cruise in company to the Zeeland region over the next two weeks.

It was a first…28 boats booked on an MBM event, 28 boats arriving fit and healthy at Ramsgate for a Motor Boats Monthly cruise in company to the Netherlands.

It might have been 27 out of 28 because for one boat, MBM’s own Sealine F37Calm Voyager, there had been some difficulties the day before – firstly a late Friday departure due to some missing crew paperwork, then a slow stint from Selsey Bill to Beachy Head in 100m visibility that turned the second-half of the run from Port Solent to Ramsgate into a 10-knot night passage.

Then came an incident with a chunk of abandoned fishing net, which wrapped around both props, immobilising the boat 14nm away from Dover at 2300. The Spurs Cutters could not cope but fortunately there was plenty of sea room, the water was glassy and magically phosphorescent, it was close to slack tide and the right gear was carried aboard to tackle a clearance effort. The starboard prop was freed easily, but the port side had bunched tightly and sheared two of the three bolts holding the cutter’s holding block for the captive blade. Two-and-a-half hours later all of the net except a small amount jammed between the cutter and the P-bracket had been freed andCalm Voyagercontinued on passage, finally arriving at Ramsgate at 0500 Saturday.

Later that morning the Spurs Cutter was removed from the port side along with the remaining strands of polyprop net and the remainder of the sterngear was inspected and found to be okay with the exception of a mysterious nibble out of the outer edge of one blade on the port prop. Fortunately the day held no troubles for anyone else and it was a full house at the Royal Temple Yacht Club that evening for the inaugural briefing.

Equally fortunate was Sunday’s weather which gave very light winds but also improved visibility compared to the previous couple of days, with never less than three miles, perfect for a run to Nieuwpoort but especially so for several first-time Channel crossers. The passage plan took the last of the south-going tide from Ramsgate through The Downs to the South Goodwin light vessel before heading across the TSS and then up the French and Belgian coasts on an east-going tide.

With a speed range of 8 knots to 34 knots and a size range between 22ft and 60ft among the fleet all factors need to be carefully considered on this cruise but the day was near perfect with the displacement boats making efficient passages and the faster boats saving some fuel. The only problem occurred aboard the Shetland 355Maria Elizabeth, which had ongoing difficulties with her starboard engine that eventually saw the completion of the passage under escort on one engine.

Once alongside at the Koninklijke Yacht Club Nieuwpoort moorings it was found that the Mercruiser 4.2 had diesel in its sump and there was no choice but to call an engineer for the morning. The eventual diagnosis was not good and the boat is currently ashore having warranty work undertaken on the engine’s number three cylinder. John, Svetlana and Masha Danton-Rees have continued their holiday ashore and hope to rejoin the fleet on its return to Belgium.

That incident aside, everyone made safe passage with no faults to report and it was a happy group of 70 people, faces glowing from sun and wind exposure, that gathered at the KYCN that evening for a barbecue.

The following day (Monday) was to prove a little trickier. Despite predominantly settled pressure a mini low crept across Belgium and threw an unexpected north-westerly that accelerated from 0-20 knots in a time that would have done a sports car credit. To compound the problem the visibility started very poor, although it had later improved by lunchtime. First the fleet was held and then, after exploratory trips by the MBM control boatsCalm Voyagerand the Humber RIBTime Flies, the day was suspended. For a solo boat an evening passage looked viable, but securing berths for 27 boats somewhere short of our intended destination was unlikely.

A few boats did decide to make passage. Alain and Edith Tiquet’s Stevens 1300 VletMarie Jeanshouldered aside the bad-tempered wind against tide seas to make her way up to Middelburg; Dave and Sarah Stewart took their Princess Riviera 46Odysseaup the coast, found it heavy going, paused in Oostende for lunch and then moved to Breskens once the wind veered to the south-east later in the day. The Princess 37U Floozy, owned by Steve and Sally Ann Harris, joinedOdysseain a calmer late evening passage after two attempts earlier in the day.

Adrian and Tracy Allworth’s Van de Valk Royal 45Our Worldand William and Carolynne Smethurst’s Broom 35CLSamphireopted to duck into the Belgian canals for a two-day run through to Terneuzen on the Westerschelde. The former had concerns about water in diesel tanks and the latter were on their first serious sea passage so the option, though longer, seemed favourable.

Considerable weather watching was the lot of the MBM crew over the next few hours and the decision was taken to push all boats out early the following morning, even though that might mean taking a south-westerly wind against tide and punching the tide into the bargain; the wind was later to move into the north again and if it happened sooner rather than later the head seas generated by the turning tide might have once again proven too much.

The strategy worked, with slower boats leaving at the crack of dawn and enjoying a flame red sunrise over slight seas. Approaching Zeebrugge, always a sloppy area if any wind is blowing, the south-westerly had picked up its pace, as had the adverse tide and a quartering sea developed that posed no problem for planing craft but made life a little more difficult for some of the semi-displacement and displacement participants.

Having heard of our early sea moveOur WorldandSamphirediverted to Oostende to join us, only to find the lock there closed for unscheduled maintenance. The promised 0915 opening never transpired and the decision was made to head inland again.

By 1300 all boats were locked into the Kanaal door Walchren at Vlissingen and making their way through slow-to-open swing and lift bridges in hot sunshine. For some aboard the fleet it was a very uncomfortable few hours as a random selection had contracted a case of food poisoning or some kind of bug that gave the full gambit of expected symptoms and results, plus an overriding sense of weariness and muscle aches. With the exception of two early cases, no-one was aware that they had a problem until well into the passage, so it was something of a relief to stop that day. A couple of boats stayed at Middelburg, some managed to wriggle their way into the attractive town moorings at Veere and the remainder meandered their way around the idyllic non-tidal Veersemeer to the designated stop at Delta Marina near Kortgene.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a rest day; fortunately by the end of it the sufferers all reported various stages of recovery. The theorising about cause continues, but no-one is unhappy to see the back of the effect. Delightfully unaffected were all of the children (and would-be children) on the fleet who spent most of the day in the water or rushing about on it in a nearby allocated sportsboating area.

Our WorldandSamphirehave caught up with us now after two long days inland and we are a fleet of 27 again, the largest ever taken by MBM into Netherlands waters, both in terms of numbers and overall sizes.

All of the night stays around the Veersemeer, the friendly marina and engineering staff here at Delta and the marina’s restaurant have received a thumbs-up. Today we take a run around the Oosterschelde and into the Grevelingenmeer, first stop Herkingen Marina. It is overcast at the moment, a brief reach-for-the-slightly-warmer-clothes moment, but sun is once again expected.

More news later in the week.

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