Back In Bruges
Posted on the 17th May at 10:58 a.m.
All in all a great long weekend trip to Bruges with a tough passage on the way out there, and a rewarding overnight sail on the way back.
Last year I skippered a trip to Bruges called In Bruges. It turned out to be one of the best Club trips I'd ever been on for a variety of reasons; the weather in Bruges was fantastic, my crew was great, and the passages there and back were challenging, giving us plenty to remember and talk about in the weeks after we got back.
Since that trip was such a success I decide to put on another similar trip this year, although this time at a much earlier time in the year, over what turned out to be a rather chilly May Bank Holiday in the North Sea.
The passage to Bruges is rather simple, although there are a few wind farms, sand banks, and shipping lanes to keep an eye out for. On the way out there, we set off from Fox's at around 9am. By the time we had been to Woolverstone to refuel, we got to Landguard just outside Harwich for about 11am.
Landguard is a northerly cardinal which marks the turn of the deep water channel into Harwich. It's the starting place for passage out into the North Sea from Harwich. The weather was reasonably nice in the morning and early afternoon. We made our way out along the edge of the deep water channel, out past Cork Sand and Sealand, and down towards Long Sand Head to pass round the south side of the Sunk TSS roundabout.
The forecast for most of the day was for a 15 to 20 knot southwesterly wind, veering later on to west-southwesterly with the wind speed decreasing, with a slight to moderate sea state. We were riding the southern flank of a low pressure system a few hundred miles north of us passing over the UK and into the North Sea. This would mean pretty much broad reaching all the way which would make for a very fast passage!
The forecasted wind angle was correct, but as I have experienced in the North Sea several times now, there was a little more wind! As the day progressed we were sailing in pretty much a sustained 20 knots of wind, with 25 and a little more at times, especially as some showery squalls came through. Early in the day we had one reef in the main and a full jib, but this amount of sail started to become a little hard to handle and we reefed down to two reefs in the main and one reef in the jib. As the squalls came through we would roll away some more jib down to the second reefing point and ride the gusts downwind.
The slight to moderate sea state turned out to be much more like moderate to rough, and was definitely rough at times as we saw what's probably the biggest sea state I have seen whilest sailing on Puffin. Luckily we weren't sailing into it, and instead it was following us on our starboard quarter. Puffin dealt with it surprising well and kept her boat speed up even whilest there was plenty of water braking over the bow and the occasional wave braking into the cockpit.
This made for a very fast passage indeed. We arrived on the Belgium coastline for around midnight, and got tucked up in the Royal North Sea Yacht Club marina in Ostend for about 2am. The sea state had subsided by this point and we enjoy a rather nice couple of hours sailing into Ostend under a clear sky.
The next day we spent seeing the sights in Bruges, sampling the local cuisine and enjoy the Belgian beer. Everybody was glad to have a good meal and a day on dry land after the tough passage on the way there. The weather was great with clear skies and sunshine.
The passage back was absolutely fantastic. We had a stable 15 to 20 knot wind right on the beam with a calm gently rolling swell. We set off at 6pm on Sunday local time and sailed right through the night towards home. The sky was almost completely clear which gave us an amazing view of the stars. In the early hours of the morning we were treated to the most amazing red cresent moon I have ever seen (we were right on neaps). It was so good we woke up all the sleeping crew so they didn't miss it.
Reaching and close reaching all the way, it was another fast passage, and as the sun rose in the morning on Monday we were all but back in Harwich. All in all it was a great trip and I think all of my crew got a lot out of it. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and relish in the fealing that we had triumphed over some tough weather on the way out there.
Another great trip and I'm already looking forward to the next one. I can only hope for some warmer weather and for the sea to be a little kinder. Thanks for reading.