As usual the days have slipped by and I find myself behind with these journal entries. After a week of being on display in Vlissingen, we made our preparations for departure last Sunday. I planned to take advantage of the ebb tide to carry us to sea which meant leaving at midnight. The forecast was for a favourable SE'ly breeze and I had hopes of a quick passage up the coast to Rotterdam. A few hours before departure however, a line of thunderstorms passed through, bringing driving rain and a NW'ly wind. As we began to prepare for sea, the rain and wind eased, leaving us with a flat calm and in addition the entire Vlissingen fishing fleet also decded that they would have a midnight departure and the resultant congestion in the locks looked like delaying us. I was not too worried about this, the Navy weather station was predicting a return of the SE'ly breeze as the storms moved on, so we took the opportunity to get the ship completely ready and do the emergency muster and safety brief for the volunteer crew that have joined us. Fnally we got a call from the harbour authorities that we could have the small lock at 0045, so we departed the berth and manoeuvred across into the lock. We haven't used this one before and it was a tight fit for Duyfken but we managed alright, got through and cleared the breakwaters soon after 0100, outward bound. While we were in the locks, the breeze began to fill in again, and we got under sail once clear, setting topsails and foresail. A fair breeze and favourable tide, brings a joy to your heart, and we made good time down the Oostgat channel, rushing past the buoys at a great rate of knots. The usual traffic passing by, including one bloody ignorant sandsucker who insisting on putting a great searchlight on us for what seemed an eternity, blinding every one aboard. Bloody rude and against the Collision regulations as well, makes you wish our cannon were operational. Once clear of the channel we set the mainsail as well and stood north along the coast, the sandbanks are well marked with buoys here, making navigation fairly straightforward, at least in clear weather. The mainsail is really on its last legs, some sizeable hole in the bunt now, but it is the original mainsail and has done some sterling work and continues to pull us along, hopefully it will stand up for theses last couple of passages and see us to the end of the season. Continued to make good time through the rest of the night, pleasant sailing, although we slowed somewhat as the tide turned against us. The morning saw the film crew get to work, They had embarked in Vlissingen to do some filming for a TV period show and had all sorts of costumes for the crew to wear. I declined to put on the "Captains uniform" and Phil stepped into the breach, looking just the part in cocked hat, ruffled shirt and coat dripping with gold lace. After lunch, with the weather remaining fine, we even got the rescue boat over for the cameras to get some shots of the ship under sail. The breeze eased through the afternoon , but the tide was helping us again at this stage and our progress remained slow but steady in the right direction. This changed as the afternoon wore on, the breeze gegan to back to the north and the tide turned again. We were set inshore, wore ship and stood out to get searoom again but the elements were against us now and we began to lose ground again to the south. The correct seamanlike response would have been to anchor and wait for the next tide but as ever we have a timetable to consider and reluctantly I ordered the engines on and sails handed. Carrying on under power we were off the entrance to the Maas at midnight and stood in, dodging the traffic continually passing both ways and stood up the river towards Rotterdam. The tide again in our favour and we made 5 knots with the engines at slow speed only, no wind at all now, and we managed the timing just right, arriving at the Erasmus bridge right on high water slack. This was important, the tide really rips through in this area and with some tight manoeuvring to do, I wanted everything in my favour. We got around the corners though and into the Leuvehaven, berthing at the Maritime museum's wharf right on 0500. Just in time too, soon after, down came the rain, and this remained with us, off and on for the next few days here. An interesting place to be, in company with other museum vessels, including a big steam crane that our crew were billeted in, coasters, tugs, launches and a big naval ram type vessel from the late 1800's. We were here for 4 days and yesterday morning was a shift ship around to Delfshaven to take part in the VOC weekend there. This is another part of the huge sprawling expanse that makes up Rotterdam harbour and it meant another passage through the Erasmus bridge - the big distinctive bridge that crosses the river in the centre of the city. For people reading this in Sydney, it is not dissimilar to our Anzac bridge. We departed at 0700 to catch slack water again and proceeded down and locked in at the Parksluizen - the same place we went in a few months ago for the run up to Delft. Once in there we had a wait for a couple of hours before meeting the large fleet of traditional boats that came down that canal. This was spectacular sight, marred somewhat by the rain that was teeming down. Once the fleet had formed up we carried on the short remaining distance into Delfshaven, berthing at a pontoon just a short walk from the old VOC warehouse. The rain continued all day, marring the festival a little, although we still got plenty of visitors. Better weather today for the final day, we depart tonight for another run down the river and a passage towards Hellevoitsluis, another historic town where we will spend next week. With only 2 weeks of being on exhibition now, our preparations for the shipment back to Australia are going ahead, I think a lot of people are now looking forward to our return to Fremantle.
Master - Duyfken