Skipper: Urs and Dominique
Crew: Susanne, Adrian, Matthias and Robert
Offshore under wind or engine power? One begins to understand.
It is often heard amongst skippers their desire, at least once, to travel through Paris, London and Berlin under their own steam, (normally followed by a sigh). CCS Rolling Swiss II makes that possible, in just one year, the crews of Rolling Swiss II have done that through Paris and London. Berlin is not on the schedule, so stays in the realms of the Sigh.
Each trip begins with the acquisition of the vessel, the training and provisioning. So far, nothing new. Shopping at TESCO in Imperial Wharf went well due to the well prepared and thorough calculations of the finance manager. Our four shopping trolleys in this small TESCO always stood in other customer’s way. And the seemingly unending blocking of one of the registers brought on frowns from the locals. But in the end, everything was ok
and we stowed everything on RSII.
The trip from London to Brighton began with one of the highlights. Passing Big Ben, London Eye, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Pursued, obstructed and harassed by passenger ships, high-speed RIBs and other curious ships. The crew – (of course as instructed by the CCS to wear life jackets on the foredeck) – could not stop taking pictures, admire and enjoy.
Look to the right! And there: you can already see Tower Bridge. Rolling Swiss trip through London was all over too quick. In one moment Tower Bridge was in front of us, above us then behind us and with it the centre of London. After Tower Bridge it was abruptly silent, empty, with the occasional RIB taking tourists towards the centre. The idea of stopping just before Tower Bridge and taking the perfect photo is an illusion, So many tourist and other boats in front of, under and around the bridge performing strange manoeuvres. Stopping would have caused confusion. So, quickly take the photo, put RSII on the correct course, dodge the boat and head off down the middle of the channel.
After Tower Bridge, it was quieter and emptier. And so RSII headed towards its first goal: Gravesend. The Thames is a very unexciting stretch of waters for motor boaters. The buildings on the shore are predominantly industrial, with little variety; there was little traffic, so the crew kept more or less on course. The chat regarding holding “more or less”
the course was a fun, recurring theme for the crew, associated with apparently different outlook of sailors and motor boaters. But more on this later. Gravesend is a small town with about 60,000 inhabitants. On Wikipedia you can read that in 1617 Pocahontas died here on her journey home. The sights of Gravesend remains hidden from the crew at first,
in particular because the crew used the first evening together to have dinner on the RSII, lashed to the floating dock, on the other hand the crew got know the ferry well . The motor boater on board realized that his passion was not really shared by the rest of the crew: all sailors. One of which had already had a circumnavigation behind him, another who will tackle the world tour next year. With the exception of the motor boat driver all others are seasoned and very experienced skippers. Forced into this corner, the motor boat driver had to cope with the question of what actually separates and unites sailors and power
Firstly, the one thing motor boaters have over yachties is that they take the currents very, very seriously. To avoid travelling against the current, currents of 0,3-0,5kn (it could have been even more) would have slowed down RSII, wake up time 5:00, briefing time 5:45 and cast off 6:00. That this was not the exception but the rule, the motor boat driver was not
entirely sure . But you do do everything to avoid being slowed down to 0,3kn (it may also have been more).
Out of the river Thames, and into the river Crouch. Passing sandbanks and seals, towards wind farms, sailors (you could see the sad eyes of some of the crew members – “Crap, on the wrong boat”), watch out for commercial shipping and follow the navigation marks. And already, in this section, in which we drove more or less in a straight line, the motor boat driver said he recognized differences. The sailors seem to have the urge to hold the steering wheel – even if one has to hold the course for 2 hours. One can, and even the sailors got this in the end, turn on the autopilot, sit back, fold your arms in front of your belly and just enjoy the ride. The sailors where struggling. They insist on holding the rudder. They are happy to do it, even though they are unable to hold a straight course.
A course of roughly 160 to 170 Degrees, you can’t hold an exact course“. “Of course you
can, turn the autopilot on and punch in 163 degrees”, “But that’s no fun”, “What’s so fun about steering?”. “You don’t understand, you are a motor boater”.
It was anticipated, already, at this point that the sailors would be caught at the end of the trip asking the helmsman “1 degrees starboard”. To which the motor boat driver would collapse laughing. Try that on a sailboat!
Another thing that sailors enjoy, like holding the rudder, is visual navigation. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that sailors like to hold and steer plus or minus 5 degrees. But sailors want to “feel the boat, the sea and the waves.” take a glance at the horizon every now and then and then make a decision.
The second night we stayed in Burnham-on-Crouch, a village of about 7,000 inhabitants,
with a beautiful port facility. It was actually quite sweet, with a beautiful waterfront and an unexpected variety of smart looking yacht clubs. Here, the crew had their first Pub crawl and drank ale in the sun. A beautiful afternoon.
The next day we left early, this time to Ramsgate. The term “tidal waters” became
a taboo word for the motor boater during this tour. And in fact the trip planning, done the night before, was a little more complicated. It turned out namely that tidal current timing was advantageous, but meant that we arrived at a sand bar at low water. Tricky. But the navigators managed to plan a course that meant that we went with the flow all the way, on the other hand at the sand banks we always had at least 3 feet of water under RSII. That was also the moment when the map navigation took the upper hand over the sight navigation. But only conditionally, because it is precisely in this area where one must be very carefully where one goes. The problem with sandbanks is that they are not usually were they are supposed to be. Sand tends to migrate. They are displayed on the plotter but their mark had disappeared or was added or replaced by a cardinal mark.
On arriving in Ramsgate the crew did some maneuvers before finally tying RSII up. When
registering with the harbor master, he greeted us with “Oh, Rolling Swiss. Did you finally find a place that you like?”. It was clear that not every observer of the maneuvers was clear that the crew basically knows what they are doing. Those unfamiliar with the CCS might well observe and think that the crew were a collection of confused princesses who can not really decide where to go with the ship.
Of course, the crew had to try the local pubs in Ramsgate and settled on the recommendation of the harbor master, namely The Churchill Tavern. After two ales the mood was getting better. It could be just because of The Churchill Tavern that, the motor boat driver found his peace with the soul of the sailor and developed the idea of going on a sailing boat sometime. Not only this, but also, The Churchill Tavern will go down in history as the place another crew member developed his idea of writing a book, and in the sense of good group spirit, the other crew members gave impetus for this book. It is hoped that this book is written and published. And is dedicated to us.
United, the crew went on to a famous “Fish & Chip shop” -Local in Ramsgate, award-winning for its chips. From the outside this local establishment resembled more of a mission station for stranded Skippers, but it tasted great to all. And the portions were intolerably large. Even for the stouter crew members.
The next day, everyone was still relaxed at 7 o’clock in the morning, the crew planned a
short crossing to Dover, about 15sm, nothing exciting. Departure should be around 11 o’clock, thus far the mood onboard was calm and quiet. At 7:30 the current weather report landed on the table in the salon and you saw the experienced sailors deep in thought. The weather was deteriorating. According to the prediction, Friday was already extremely unlikely as a travel day. In this respect the spontaneous decision: Dover is not to be approached, instead we shall proceed directly to Eastbourne, Sovereign Harbour, a little more than 60sm, almost 9 hour drive. The preparing of the ship felt like on a warship,
good job distribution, concentrated work, with the exception of one crew member, who had disappeared before the weather information for a relaxing shower and freshen up in the port facility. The moment when he too, with wet hair and towel over his shoulders came on board, realized that we were already ready to cast off and realized that the plans had changed. At 8 o’clock we left Ramsgate.
The waves increased. At the beginning the waves were still small, but in the afternoon
the wave height was already at 1m-1.5m. No problem for the RSII, but the sailors set about clearly establishing that a motorboat bounces significantly harder in the waves than as a sailboat that (as the motor boat driver understood) rather “cuddles the waves and gently slides over the hills “. On a powerboat there are only short hard waves, End of story.
On the way, the motor boat driver was surprised by another peculiarity of the sailors. Tacking. Sailors love to tack.
“By the way, why are you always tacking, if someone followed us on the yellow brick
road, they would think we are Dreaming Swiss”. “oh yes, and how would a motor boat drive”. “Straight on”.
Dover. Man associates Dover with the most famous Ferry between Britain and continental
Europe. The expectation was that there would be lively boat traffic, but when we approached Dover, it looked all very relaxed. Suddenly, on the radio, Dover Harbour called us and asked what our intentions were. We named our final destination and got instruction to sail past at 1 nautical mile away from the harbor, but other than that, the Port Authority was relaxed. As soon as we were at the centre of the exit of the Port of Dover, so far no real danger, then, more commercial shipping. We saw the appearance of three ferries from the harbor fog on a fast self confident course to continental Europe.
The Way to Eastbourne was getting bumpier and bumpier. RSII fell down the waves, was pulled up by the next wave which washed over the ship, the wipers struggled to get at least a bit of visibility. It was at that moment that the motor boat driver had to mentally go on bended knee before the other crew members who were completely left in the salon and reading, making coffee, and spreading butter on bread. And looking up annoyed when the boat came down particularly hard.
Sovereign Harbour was a settlement which was quite nice. Even with a lock, the port is
well protected from the outside, but was actually quite soulless and not close to any pubs. The sailors and motor boaters spent a relaxing evening, but where already focused on the upcoming weather change. And it was confirmed that one of the crew members had “a skin full” already. The weather was getting bad faster than predicted, even on the previous day.
Rolling Swiss II left Sovereign Harbour with destination Brighton, but with a plan B in
our luggage: should the weather allow it, we would carry on and drive to Brighton on Thursday. The weather, however, did not let up the whole day and that was just as well. After some 3 hours drive at wind force 6-7 Bft and 2.5m – 3m high waves, we moored up, the crew shaken, in the port of Brighton. During this trip the motor boat driver realized that the tacking at a certain wave height can be quite a pleasant idea, so as not to feel the full force of the waves.
It was right to reach Brighton on Wednesday: the weather deteriorated, the wind speed
increased, the waves were higher. That decision was the right one, you could also recognize the fact that we saw no ships on Wednesday leave the marina nor any enter it. Even a group of Norwegian sailors, who looked as if they could defeat any wave, stayed in the harbor. For us, that meant being able to enjoy Brighton. The center of Brighton was about a half-hour walk from the marina and was lively entirely due to the annual Brighton Fringe Festival. Buskers, full pubs, people dressed up strangely in the streets (especially surprising was a fat old Super man sitting in his dirty and worn costume with cape on, on a park bench drinking Cola). But that’s probably the nature of a Fringe festivals.
Our second living room for the storm days was the WestQuay, a pub in the marina with a
nice selection of real ales and good food. There were crew members who took advantage of the free Wi-Fi in WestQuay to work. In the morning they homed in for breakfast, coffee up until 12 o’clock and then onto ale (although it remains unclear whether the switch from coffee to Ale really took place at 12 o’clock ). For others, this meant always having a relaxing corner in WestQuay, somewhere to sit after a visit into town, somewhere to chat and eat.
The trip ended on a rainy Saturday. The motor boat driver has the sailors and their
worldview in his heart and is looking, at unobserved moments, on the CCS website for interesting sailing tours. The sailors are keeping MY Rolling Swiss II in memory and remember the strengths that seem to have the advantage over many a sail boat. The comfort and size of the ship, right down to the little details that make life on the RSII enjoyable. That it’s sometimes boring on the helm, more than on a sailing boat (ie if you drive straight ahead without waves for two hours), you have to compensate that by choosing areas that better suit RSII, areas crew would want to see and experience. Just like Scandinavia last year, The Channel, Brittany and even Paris this year. Somehow I have the feeling that the Rolling Swiss II will be in waters on the go in areas that are exciting enough to make you forget the occasional boredom at the wheel. And with a crew like this, a motor boat driver is certainly and without hesitation going to go “On Stranger Tides”.