Den Helder Naval Base
It is good when a passage goes according to the plan and that is what happened on our way from Amsterdam to Den Helder. We left the Scheepvartmuseum at 0120 on Monday morning and made our way to the approaches to the railway bridge. We went alongside the piles there to wait for the opening time, quoted as 0150, but we have been caught before. However this time it all happened on time, the 3 spans coming up and Duyfken making her way back out into the main harbour. The forecast for the morning was South to SW winds and I had decided to wait for daylight to continue. We went alongside the same berth that we waited at a week ago when the bridge failed to open and all hands got their heads down for a few hours. 0700 turn to again and we got underway. The forecast was right and with a fair breeze out of the south we got under topsails and stood west along the North Sea canal towards Ijmuiden. We made good time just under the two topsails and were down to the middle locks at 1200, locking through and standing to sea. Once clear of the breakwaters we set all sail, the ship seeming to give a sigh of relief as ashe shook the dampness out of her canvas and lifted her bows to the first of the North Sea swells. Our timing was excellent, we caught the first of the north going tide and with a fair tide and wind and everything set we stood north at a good speed for Den Helder. With the swell on the port quarter we rolled along, shaking off the shackles of the land and reminding us we are seamen - lash down that loose gear! Some of the volunteers made some trips to the lee rail to feed the fish but otherwise all enjoyed the sail along the coast and all too soon we were handing sail again as we approached the naval port of Den Helder. No worries about local knowledge here, no less than 3 of our volunteers are Naval officers and knew the port blindfolded. We have had so many Navy personnel aboard here in recent weeks that we could almost paint the ship grey and join the minehunter squadron. After all we are timber and with no machinery running are very silent - prerequisites for a mine hunter. Lack of sonar might slow us a bit though, not sure that a leadline is the best tool to be looking for mines with. Stood into the entrance under courses, the topsails, mizzen and spritsail having come in earlier, hove to just inside as the breeze drew ahead, handed all sail and made for the berth under power. Passing numerous grey warships - minehunters, frigates, submarines, amphibious assault vessels and fleet oilers we tucked ourselves into a corner of the base, going alongside a pontoon at 20 south berth. A good day - the bridge opened on time, a fair breeze the whole way, caught the fair tide, and got in early - we even had some of our Navy friends greet us with a cold beer. Plan came together nicely. We are in Den Helder for a week now, taking part in the big Navy Days celebrations, expecting big crowds.
Master - Duyfken