The end of the VOC tour is in sight. The passage from Rotterdam to Hellevoetsluis was our final sea passage (I intend to return to Rotterdam by inland waterways next Monday) although our quick overnight jaunt out into the North Sea could hardly be termed a voyage. Our period on display at Delfshaven had to be cut a little short because we had to catch the one and only lock out. Normally the bridges and locks do not operate on a Sunday but a special one had been put on for the traditional fleet that had gathered for the weekend festival. We were all ready to go at 1645 that afternoon and as soon as the bridge was open we let go and headed out. No room to turn the ship in the Achterhaven so I had to bring her out astern, but with only a light Nïly breeze, the ship handled well and we got out with no problems. A wait then in the Coolhaven while the rest of the vessels came out, then through the next bridge and into the locks. A trouble free lock out back into the Mass River where we went alongside again at the quay wall just past the locks to wait for the ebb tide. With the tide running up over 2 knots at time in the river, it makes no sense to push against it unless you have to and we used the time to finish getting ready the ship ready for sea, including the all important emergency muster and safety brief. With the ebb well away we let go and headed down river about 2030. I set topsails, hoping to use the Nïly breeze to push us along but it was light and fickle and we had a lot of trouble maintaining steerage way. The busiest harbour in the world is probably not the best place to be drifting around in a square rigger with no steerage and I reluctantly put her under power again and stood seawards - it is about 20 miles from the berth to the entrance so it is quite a few hours trip out. Plenty of passing traffic as usual, including a tug that couldnït believe what he was seeing and put a searchlight on us. The shadow that cast on the steep riverbank was quite remarkable, it looked like a cardboard cut out of 'Duyfken' sailing along. We cleared the entrance just on midnight and with the breeze now steady out of the North we were able to get under sail again. Topsails and the foresail were set and we stood away to the SW. Then came the big moment, with the yard finally finished and the new sail bent, we set the mizzen. What a success ú the discussions that Nick Burningham and I had way back on the first voyage have finally borne fruit. The new sail is about 20% smaller than the old one and sets really well ú doesnït foul the mizzen rigging, does not cause excessive weather helm and is much easier to handle. What a joy ú it is a shame the last crew had not got around to getting that yard made on the last voyage, the sail could have been in use much earlier, but we have it now and it looks good. The old mizzen, still with plenty of life left in it will get cut down to suit the new yard now and the old yard will be kept as a spare. It is long enough to be used at a pinch as a spare fore or main yard should we ever carry those away. We stood down towards the Goiree light tower and wore ship about 0300, standing back in towards the coast. The change of tide was later than predicted in the tables and I was forced to set the mainsail to ensure we made our at the fairway buoy. I wanted to be there at first light to catch high water at the Spellandam locks. We were a little late but not too bad, the ebb was just away as we sailed down the channel. The channel runs very close along the beach, a little disconcerting with breakers just under the lee. The breeze hauled ahead as we stood in and shortly before we reached the narrowest part of the channel, I hove to and we handed sail ú we would be unable to lay the last part of the channel even braced up sharp ú and we proceeded in under power. Another set of locks negotiated successfully and we found ourselves through to the Haringvliet ú the delta of the Rhine and Meuse rivers. We were not expected in Hellevoetsluis until 1600, so I was able to go alongside a spare berth near the locks and all hands turned in for a few hours to catch up on some sleep ú overnight passages like that invariably mean broken sleep for everyone. Turn to after lunch again and we get underway, setting just the two topsails to take us the last couple of miles. In the flat water of the estuary we made a good speed and were soon down to meet our escort, a restored ex-American inshore minesweeper called Paradijsvogel. Soon after the second escort vessel, cadet ship Seefakkel, made her appearance with the official party aboard and we headed in. We passed through the narrow entrance between the breakwaters, swung in the basin and went alongside the quay wall. The mayor was on hand to welcome the ship, presenting a big bunch of flowers to us, which have looked stunning in the main cabin over the past few days, and the passage was done. Hellevoetsluis is another interesting historic harbour, with a long naval history. It was here that the British flagship Royal Charles was brought back to in 1667 after being captured in the raid on Chatham and in 1688 William III left from here with 400 warships to become King of England. The records show the original 'Duyfken' visiting here in the early 1600ïs so it nice to think we have brought her back to another familiar place. Fortifications, a drydock and numerous old buildings still point to the towns past, most of the marine traffic now is mainly yachts. A couple of unfortunate incidents have marred our stay here a little ú a few days ago a steel barge who suffered an engine failure while berthing astern of us collided with our stern, taking a chunk out of the transom moulding ú no serious damage but somewhat unsightly ú and last night some low life got aboard the vessel without the shipkeeper hearing them and stole the big Australian red ensign. I hope the bastards get caught, the flag would be extremely noticeable if ever displayed, being some 6 yards in length. I think sailing in a traditional ship then we should be able to use traditional punishments ú the sword and halberds figure highly in my thinking. All of the crew are disappointed, we all work hard to keep the ship looking clean and seamanlike and an incident like this is very disappointing. Two more days on display here and then we head back to Rotterdam for the World Harbour Days celebrations and our final week on exhibition. Sailing 0600 on Monday.
Master - Duyfken