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This is my first solo trip out of the protected inner waters of the Netherlands

September – October 2017


When I realised that sailing on the open sea easier was then first thought, I decided to make an even bigger jump in the unknown: make a long trip along the coast. I had three choices: to head North to Texel, or South to France, or South and West to the UK. Life helps you if you let her do. I was still thinking when my friend Roel asked me to be his crew, a few days later, to bring his boat back from Amsterdam along the outside route along the coast. It was a great opportunity for me to check the route without the skipper’s responsibility.


My choice was made: I would go to North Netherland by the North Sea.


Sailing with Roel was great because I could see how he managed to go through the locks from Ijmuiden. He called always before, a habit that I overtook. But the trip brought me a surprise. Seasick on the passage from Scheveningen to the Roompot I had to take the commands of his boat as he was knocked down. And it went well. He relived once on the Oosterschelde. I was proud I brought us safely there. It helped me gain self-confidence for my own trip.

Arriving Neeltjes Jan after a choppy trip
and enjoying the sun the next day in Zierikzee

Back in Kortgene, I took the opportunity of a week of gales to prepare my trip to the North. Originally, I wanted to go to Den Helder and back. I spent my days reading the nautical instructions noting in my notebook the right time to leave, considering the tidal currents, how to leave and arrive to the marinas, the plan B’s and C’s in case of trouble… This is a good way I still use to visualise the trip in advance and be ready to handle if conditions get worse. I then just need to grab my notebook to read what I need to do.

At the end of the week, the weather forecast was favourable for my adventure. The best hours to leave were early morning. This was reassuring I would have all day to sail from place to place.

Off we go for a new adventure!

The big day arrived to cast off. I sailed towards the locks, full of fears as the last time, a wind gust on the side of Giulia put me into trouble. I couldn’t tie me well, and Giulia ended up pointing her bow in the wrong direction. I had to make a big U-turn to exit the lock, hoping nobody had seen me. This time, when I arrived at the lock, there was a sailing yacht waiting to enter it. I was relieved when they accepted to take my lines once they were tied. They offered me a coffee. We started chatting and laughing of our errors. The doors opened on my regained self-confidence. They soon disappeared wishing me a safe trip.

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I enjoy the sailing on the Oosterschelde, every time the light is different. And this time too. Glad all went well for my first day, I moored in the Roompot with the help of my neighbors. I was happy to hear they were heading in the same direction than me the next day, and accepted to help me should I need it.

In the early morning, the Neeltjes Jan locks opened to a new challenge, a trip at sea. The wind and tidal current pushed Giulia to the North. We stayed in contact with my neighbors on channel 77 but they were faster, and I lost their sight. A heavy rainfall started just as I had to cross the traffic lane to the harbor of Rotterdam and the contact on the radio with the control tower was poor. I knew I was at the right buoy on the right course but couldn’t see the cargos. A bit stressed, because I was alone, I started the engine. I then called the port control of Rotterdam to explain my problem. They accepted to take over and guide me to cross safely. The rain stopped as I was North of the channel. I relaxed, when I was out of danger, the wind pushing me then in the right direction under a shining sun. I arrived proud in Scheveningen, helped by my neighbors to moor. The harbourmaster welcomed me with a smile, surprised to have a solo woman sailor in his marina, as it didn’t often happen.

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For the passage to Ijmuiden I was beginning to really enjoy being on my own at sea. The sun shined, a 15 knots wind pushing Giulia smoothly. I would try different ways to trim the sail, just take a nap and even could paint. It was pure bliss.

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Then next stage of the trip was a big one. It was the first time I would set sail longer in unknown waters to Den Helder. The wind blew stronger than the previous days. I decided to leave anyway because it was downwind. Giulia glided at good speed and smoothly on the waves. I enjoyed even more this little victory over my fears. An anthracite grey sky, highlighted by fuschia to purple clouds, and the turquoise water rewarded me. I was full of awe and felt thankful to nature to give me such a beautiful scenery for my arrival in the Texel gat. The wind veered to the east, making it easy to let the sails down. In Den Helder, the neighbors met in Ijmuiden took my lines, and invited me for a drink to celebrate. The perfect day!

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A nice welcome in Den Helder!
Looking at Texel from in Den Helder!

All was going better than expected. I was enjoying the places I arrived to, taking the time to visit and paint. I had no reason not to go on, and try new challenges. I decided to sail to Texel a few miles away from Den Helder. I would have to leave just before dawn. It would be a good first short night navigation.

In the early morning, we silently left the protection of Den Helder. Excited, I recognized easily the lights of buoys. After an hour the sun rose, it felt as bliss. Texel was a good surprise. I stayed a few days to visit.

Texel was a nice surprise!

From there I sailed over the Wadden well-known for the difficulty of navigation through their intricate channels separating shallow waters and sand banks, with strong currents. Seen at high tide, it seemed you could sail everywhere. A close look to the chart would change your mind. It is better to stay in the marked channels. As I left, the skies colored in a bright orange and carmine red, giving way to a summer blue sky. My preparation was good. We arrived on sail to the locks of Kornwerderzand and then safely to Makkum. Arriving by boat gives a special dimension to the discovery of the cities and places.

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Makkum, another sight of the Wadden
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I didn’t like the passage on the Ijsselmeer to Enkhuizen as the waters are shallow, and a poor visibility felt as being emprisoned.

Enkhuizen was a nice surprise though.

It was a funny sail strictly following the channels on the choppy Markemeer towards Volendam, but at the same time more reassuring to avoid bad surprises.

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Then I sailed to Amsterdam, passing by the Paard van Marken. I left with a bright sun, and less than an hour later I was progressing slowly in thick fog. It wasn’t comfortable. I went on as I could see the other boats, and now cargos, on the screen of the Ipad connected to AIS. I was glad though that the mist dissolved as I entered the Ij, where the cargo traffic to the North Sea channel is intense. A huge hello from the lock’s guardian helped me get over my fears, and an hour later I arrived safely in the Marina of Amsterdam. It was a luxury to have Giulia as a hotel to visit this beautiful city in the Indian summer. 

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Arriving in Amsterdam!

Coming back to Kortgene happened on, by the time, known waters. However, I had a few surprises. The first when the police asked me to come to the side before the Ijmuiden locks. I asked them to help me. Their control was quick when they realised I was on my own. They also helped me to cast off. In the locks, I had to prop in front, the bow almost touching the doors to let enough space for a huge barge.


It felt as freedom to be back at sea. I decided though to enter the inner water sooner, in Stellendam instead of Neeltjes Jan,as bad weather was expected. It caught me just as I was in the narrow waters of the Spijkergat. I was very proud to succeed letting the sails down with little space and strong winds. 

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Last miles at sea with special welcome by seals!

I rested in Hellevoetsluis until the wind would go down. It still was strong as we were flying on the waters of the Haringvliet, with just a little jib. Passing the locks was challenging. However I was glad a boat anticipated I would need help, and waited for me to take my lines. Tacking back the Volkerak was exciting. On these inner waters, you have the wind but not the waves. I was relieved though that the wind died when I had to moor Giulia alone in Beneden-sas. The calm night sleep soothed the ache of my muscles.

Sailing the Haringvliet downwind
Tacking up the Volkerak 
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The last day became the most difficult. The wind was blowing 8 beaufort and I had to tack against it. The Oosterschelde – that is more open – was rough. I felt I couldn’t manage. For the first time I cried. Suddenly my lovely little voice reassured me: “At least you are not seasick and it doesn’t rain!” I started laughing wipping away my tears. A fishing trawler boat, that had seen I was having trouble, gave me way, while he had priority. This also gave me strength for the last challenge: to go through the Zandkreek locks alone with strong wind. I arrived with some speed to stay alongside the quay, and had just the time to stop Giulia by catching a boulder with two lines I had prepared at her beam. 


I called the harbourmaster of my marina asking him for help to go back in my box.

- You are incredible! You did it all alone, I did not need to help you. I don’t know many owners here that have done what you just did. Congratulations!


And right he was. My heart bouncing of joy, I started cleaning Giulia, my usual ritual to thank her.


 - If I can do this, I can sail to the Azores! Was my thought as I fell asleep in the tranquility of the marina.


Picture : Géry Beckers

I knew what to look forward: to prepare  Giulia for an Ocean passage!
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