Oude Haven, Rotterdam
We are reaching the end of the tour of the Netherlands. With plenty of volunteers aboard eager to help with the final passage we departed Hellevoetsluis at first light last Monday. The early start was in order to make best use of the tides for the run back to Rotterdam, this time we went the inland route via the various rivers and waterways rather than via the North Sea again. Our wind luck has finally run out, we could have used wind from just about any direction except east for this passage and what did we get ú a bloody easterly. Under power then we cleared the harbour about 0630 and stood east up the Haringvliet. With the sun beginning to rise on a fine morning, I was determined to give everyone aboard at least some sailing, so we got under topsails, spritsail and mizzen and put her close hauled on a port tack, we have a few miles to make to the SSE that we should lay. Slow progress in the easterly airs, but as always, despite the short canvas, 'Duyfken' ghosted along nicely and it was a pleasant way to start the day, breakfast under sail as the sun came up. We could not afford to hang about too long though or we would miss the fair tide and at about 0830 we got under power again and stood up into the Spui ú one arm of this big estuary system we are in. This too quite a pleasant leg, as we motored serenely along past paddocks and cows, farmers stopping work to watch the rare sight of a VOC ship passing. With the tide under us we made good time and were soon out into the river, the Oude Maas, where a few miles of westerly course gave us the opportunity to get under sail again, foresail, topsails and mizzen. A lot of passing traffic here but the river was wide with plenty of room. Handed sail again as the tide began to turn against us and we passed through a couple of bridges to get into the Nieuwe Maas, leading to Rotterdam. Our timing was right, the last of the flood with us again and we passed through the Erasmus bridge at slack water at 1400. We then had to get into the Haringvliet and a narrow entrance combined with the first of the ebb and a freshening easterly meant some careful manoeuvring. I had to keep the ship at an angle across wind and tide while we waited for the bridge to open, edging in and straightening up at the last minute to get through. A sharp turn to port followed by another narrow bridge and we were in, letting the wind carry us down the narrow harbour past boats moored close aboard on each side to tie up at the pontoon outside the harbour masters office. The final passage was done and all hand had a little celebratory drink to mark the occasion. Not the end of the manoeuvring though, this was an overnight stay only while our berth in the Ouide Haven was prepared, and we will have to shift ship again next Monday when the exhibition period is over. However, to all intents and purposes, the Netherlands voyage is done and I think all hands are pleased with what we have achieved. The statistics will follow in future journal entries but I am pleased that, despite the predictions from all sorts of experts, we have sailed most of the season. In fact, we have not taken on any fuel since bunkering at Middleburg, way back on 13th May, and we still have about 700 litres aboard, about 1/3 capacity. Many expected us to motor everywhere but we have proved them wrong. A shift ship of only a few hundred metres the next day up to our pontoon berth went smoothly despite another narrow bridge to get through and then squeezing the ship between two piles with little room to spare. Another good berth though, one of the oldest parts of Rotterdam harbour, surrounded by numerous traditional barges. A fine, sunny afternoon gave us the opportunity to dry the sails and we then unbent them and sent them down, giving the ship a bit of a naked period aloft. Who knows when it will rain again and we would like the sails to be dry to stow them for shipping back. Just in time too, just as the last sail was stowed below, a series of thunderstorms swept through, bringing some heavy showers. We will be at this berth now until next Monday, as part of the World Harbour Days, festivities taking place in different parts of the harbour. We were invited to take part in one event, a pulling boat race in the Haringvliet yesterday. Crews of 7 were required and we put together a fine crew, ready to take on the world. Lead by Phil as coxswain, the oarsmen were James, Barney, Graeme (putting previous competitive rowing experience to good use), Kirk, Cian, and myself. Each heat consisted of three crews, in identical 6 oared steel boats and we watched the first two heats with interest. In the narrow waterway the boats often fell foul of each other, oars getting entangled, boats struggling to find clear water. The course was along the length of the Haringvliet, round a buoy and return, a distance of about 4 cables, the eventual result to be decided on times. The third heat arrives and we man our boat, only having a couple of minutes to practice our technique before the start. The gun goes, strong pulls from all gets us going but unfortunately in the congestion, we fell foul of the boat to starboard and had difficulty getting clear. The third boat pulled ahead and when we finally got into clear water we were in last place. Undaunted, with Phil at the tiller urging us on, we gained ground, overhauling the first of our rivals just before the turn. Down goes the helm, hold water port; pull strongly starboard and we spin round the buoy. Give way together shouts Phil, the boat leaps ahead again, and the chase was on. Slowly gaining on the leader, we settle into a good rhythm, pulling long and strong, until a Herculean effort from Kirk snaps his oar and he is forced to toss it upright to get it out of the way. Winged somewhat we redouble our efforts and we catch the leader and cross the line a boatlength or two ahead. 6 minutes 50 seconds ú the best time so far despite the poor start and broken oar. What a team ú Aussies on top again! A well earned couple of beers as we watched the remaining heats, seeing some teams, obviously having had much more practice than our couple of minutes, edge us out. We then had a request from the Maritime Museum team for assistance. They were one man short for their boat and wanted to shanghai one of us to help. Our crew, only too willing to help, all pointed to me and I found myself in another shirt at another oar. More congestion in this race but sadly this team didnït have the comeback the 'Duyfken' team did and we came in third in this heat. All good fun though. When the times were finalised we found the Dufken had managed a creditable 7th position out of 24 teams. I think I will try and get the broken oar as a souvenir for the ship. Rotterdam is our final port now, we remain here in the Oude Haven until Monday, when the decommissioning process begins in earnest.
Master - Duyfken