Category Archives: english

The old can and the sea

Recently I voluntarily payed double prize for a bottle of dishwashing detergent of the same environment-friendly pretending Belgium based company just because of nicely designed bottle and a label attached that was saying ‘This bottle is produced from plastic waste found in the canals of Amsterdam before it could reach the North Sea’. The limited edition bottle is the eye catcher for the company’s Ocean Plastic Project and attracted me even more after having read the truth about the bio-degradable potential of different kinds of waste that is continuously thrown into the sea, check out the article about Aluminiumcans in the ocean! What I did not know – waste_DKNorthseaCoast1hence not playing the environmentalist on board and rebuking my captain and friend for throwing beer cans into the North Sea – that these metal cans are not just oxidising quickly and decomposed after a short while lying on the sea ground, but taking around 200 years for that process! The reason is a plastic layer put onto the Aluminium to keep the beer from turning into a foul taste due to its metal turbidity character when canned. After that I hope my GFK boat will never sink, and That I can still use the content of the ocean-waste-recycled bottle for washing up onboard and from board with a quiet conscience.

The time it takes to put on nail polish

One month. And it is not really that I am so stressed with work that i cannot even finish some cosmetics on my toes to let them look like as shiny rebel blue as my company car. nailpolish-8502

I do nothing. Nothing but sleeping, checking the weather, paying harbour fees, getting a hungry stomach filled, and starting to put on nail polish. Just to make use of the things I brought with my luggage for a 12 weeks vacation using a so-called work time account.

The word itself seems to be misleading, as I bought time from a yearly bonus added to my salary to just do not what the word is expressing: work.

milva18-8802Instead, I am literally hanging around on my 18 feet measuring sail yacht, as the size of this apparently fast racing ‘mini cruiser’ does not even allow a 1.60m person to stand inside (with the sprayhood attached, it almost does), but is giving indeed more comfort than a similar sized tent for two. Especially in the occasion of rain falling. In addition to that, staying in a harbour on a boat of that size in the Netherlands is much cheaper than staying on a camp site. The most expensive marina charged 15€ per night with free parking of my car outside, while the camping close to the harbour charged 41€ for a tent, two persons and a car.

Besides the partially used nail polish, i brought with me an Ukulele, a Guitarlele, the GarageBand app on my IPad for amateur music recordings, DVDs, a race bike, my Carver longboard, 7 novels to read plus the obligatory two bibles of Belgian-Dutch waterways -the Wateralmanak, two books about sailing and one to get a better understanding about the weather. According to my efficiency in putting on nail polish, now guess the equipment I could have left at home.

The Oosterschelde and its underestimated tidal streams

N 51° 36.173  E 003° 50.686′  | Marina WSV Noord Beveland . Colijnsplaat

After a month hanging around at Delta Marina on the Veerse Meer, MILVA is excited to enter new seas. The weather forecast looked reasonable to go out at 3 Beaufort with less wind expected towards the evening. MILVAs former owner Jogi joined me on the trip, as i didn’t dare to mess up the manoeuvre alone in Zandkreeksluis lock, and felt enough challenged after having again touched the ground two days before and being unable to reef the main sail. So, this time more preparation.oosterschelde 1 Beaufort

My last night’s lecture about reefing in Steve Sleight’s Complete Sailing Manual gave me some idea, that the yellow rope coming out of the boom’s end might be the solution. For the first time I prepared life jackets and life buoy to be at hands immediately in case of an emergency situation, the line bound to the bath ladder (just to avoid the crew searching for it, and finally found – throw it out without having tied the rescue line somewhere on the boat) and the main sail prepared to hoist in a reefed state. The black cloud over Kortgene made me asking the harbour master for any weather warnings, which he assured being no problem, so finally we left Kortgene at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, two hours already after low tide at the lock, which I knew would be suboptimal, but having enough wind should work out, as I only saw a difference of half a knot in speed going out the Zandkreekpassage one week before at a similar point of time. This however turned out to be a misconception. 

It is always a question in front of the locks to decide to berth on the available berths, or to make some turnarounds until the bridge and lock are going to open. As the comfortable berth was already occupied by three boats, and four more boats more or less optimally bound to the dolphins plus a big tank vessel waiting in front of the lock, the decision was easy to make, but cost in the end 20 minutes of waiting and 25 minutes to get inside and out of the lock.

It is always a good advice to keep some distance to big vessels, as the water masses moved by a starting ship’s engine make quite some turbulence, thus difficult to hold a small boat and its spreader away from the lock’s wall.

ZeelandsbrugWe left the lock and set sails to get out of the small passage with the wind coming from behind in run and broad reach direction. The maximum speed of 5.2 knots over ground we made just during this short trip, competing against bigger yachts and regretting that we had reefed the main sail. At green buoy #Z1 we turned to beam reach towards Zeelandbrug, intending to take the path on the left side of the channel along the green buoys. Zeelandsbrug zeelandbrug-8462Until a red buoy appeared and wind and boat speed decreased rapidly. After a while we reached the green buoy again but still didn’t make any progress into the intended direction towards Zeelandbrug. Checking the Navionics app on the IPad showed 2.5 knots less speed over ground than what the log instrument displayed, and revealed to us having sailed a big circle instead keeping a straight course  towards the final destination. As Freddy – le vibrateur is meanwhile running without any issue, that was finally the solution to reach Colijnsplaat harbour within the expected time around 7 p.m.

Lola Bodum Diver

N 51° 33.242′   E 003° 48.530′ | Delta Marina .  Kortgene

The initial plan was a good one. To get up early, have a quick breakfast and start sailing when other sailors start sailing: in the morning. The point is, that during the passed three weeks of having MILVA swimming in saltwater, we never managed to get out of the harbour before 3 in the afternoon. It was a cloudy day, Windfinder gave a forecast with wind from north-west of 4 beaufort. Our idea was to sail to Veere for a coffee. We started with coffee from my specifically for MILVA acquired Bodum french press (like all other dishes actually too fancy to use on a boat with the kitchen utilities stored in four wooden wine boxes) on the day after having met Roxani, Greg and the twins in Woluwe shopping mall. A special french press so to say. Even though I prefer espresso and Lola under circumstances of yachting the quick instant coffee solution. And the breakfast took longer, as I normally can spend hours sipping on a black tea, kind of meditation, and Lola went through some state of nostalgy telling Argentinian stories.VA18breakfast-8412

Around ten Lola started washing the dishes, the quick way – with cold water from the water hose attached to the berth. Everything was clean but during rinsing the french press filter attached to the metal stick on the pot’s lock the three metal pieces making out the filter went into the sea. underground. we could hardly see the three pieces due to the cloudy weather. “OK – I jump!” – Lola announced, Astonishing me, as i didn’t feel for swimming today. It took some time, some legs in the water, until I took initiative to make use of the scuba diving equipment and the thought that any sailor should be able to dive underneath her boat. I hate diving. It scares me. in several tries diving in 2m deep dark water, which was harder than what my memory gave of accomplishing the silver swimming badge at the age of 10, I could rescue two of the three metal pieces. the third one stayed on the ground, hidden under the dust, seaweed and oysters I dispersed during my panicking dives. We gave up. Seeing a french press some days later in a shop, the diving was totally useless anyway, as with the three metal pieces the most important part, a tiny screw, went underground too. And MILVA is just no submarine.va18-8414
In the end, we departed at 1 p.m. and realizing at the corner towards Veere that the wind coming from the front is with 5 Beaufort just too strong to get there. So we turned and went back for two unnecessary Kiss & Rides 😦   

Kiss & Ride

N 51° 31.846′   E 003° 43.518′ | Veerse Meer around red buoy S4

In Belgium there’s an expression for a car dropping a person and continue onwards: Kiss and ride.  MILVA under command of her all female crew seems to be a gooder kisser and rider as well – especially in narrow-shallow Veerse Meer at stronger wind forces losing speed in failing tacks and drifting onshore. Kiss the ground with 1.15 metres draught of her keel and get herself floating again without external aid! Just the five horse power outboard engine, the crew hanging on the sidestay to get the boat tilt a bit, in extreme cases pushing with a paddle, and MILVA with her 800kg and keel is in maneouvrable state again. Our neighbours with their 22 feet longkeel boat and 6HP engine reported never having been able to get out of the mostly sandy ground by own forces. And just recently saw a far to big yacht for this area getting stuck in the middle of the fairway. Which brings me to my other observation sailing in Zeeland: never ever navigate and trust fancy navigation apps! Use a recently updated paper nautical chart. Following screenshot of Navionics app shows my track doing the two times kissing & riding by drifting too far starbards of the imaginary line marked by the red buoys. Considering the paper chart during sailing (as on the IPad with daylight beaming  on its surface you cannot see any dot on the digital chart) I knew that the depth was around 1.3m – 1.1m. The echolot showed 0.8-0.9 when the boat got stuck on ground. There is almost no tidal range in Veerse Meer. But Navionics showing 2.4m depth is just wrong and proofs that it should only be used for planning, tracking and checking the current position with where you think you are pointing on the paper chart.

Distance: 13 nm
Duration: 3h 48min
Max./Avg.Speed: 5.6 / 3.4 kts
Wind Speed: 4-5 Beaufort

MILVA, the Veerse Meer and its shallow shoreline

N 51° 32.728′   E 003° 48.341′ | Red Buoy Number VM22

After a day of craning, setting up the mast, sprayhood and preparing the main drop system, MILVA went on her first cruise in the Veerse Meer. Two sweet Belgian ladies in the harbour, with a lifetime experience in sailing doing an afternoon tea time in the sun, commented our departure with ‘next time you should prepare that just a bit better’.

kortgene_vm22At wind speed of 17 knots in peaks, lots of motor boats and sail yachts around (due to the public holiday in Belgium) in the narrow channel just in front of Delta Marina in Kortgene, it was a quite demanding first time cruise and ended up in drifting to shore due to an unnecessary giving way to a motorboat. It is to blame La capitana who let MILVA pass red buoy VM22 starboard side trying to tack at almost no speed and wind gusts. The tack didn’t work, so MILVA slowly drifted on shore and slightly got stuck with its 1.15m keel in the ground. Two sailors in a dinghie offered their help, people onshore trying to give advice, but in the end Lala-lala-Lola managed to get the engine running backwards and La capitana could push the boat with the rudder standing at the bow and donating her (for sailing apparently unsuitable) green Rayban sunglasses to the Veerse Meer. Another reason to finally get the fancy polarized Polaroid sunglasses!

my boat – a sensitive creature

People who do not know that a sailboat is a living creature will never understand anything about boats and the sea.

states one of the greatest ocean voyagers Bernard Moitessier in ‘The long way’.
With the coincidence of my dinghy’s centerboard getting stuck the other day without any indication I get the sense of his statement. The boat feels my sadness and reacts. While starting a therapy sail to get my emotional landscape out of its disorder, my boat refused the centerboard to fall downwards. Now for the second time since I’m sailing this boat and being in some shitty mental state, the boat drifted away into the wrong direction, and so did I. On the river and in my mind.
Once the waves of my emotions get back into some normal state, the self-healing mechanism of my boat turn into action. The next day, sitting on the boats outer edge with my goggles on willing to dive beneath the hull, the centerboard issue solved itself 🙂

Vanilla and chili-glazed pineapple with cardamom yoghurt


1 fresh pineapple
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
red pepper, chilies
1 vanilla pod
juice of 1 orange

1 cup of (fat greek) yoghurt
1 tablespoon sugar powder
1-2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Peel the pineapple, cut out the stem and divide into 4 chunks.
Melt the sugar in a pan until caramelised, stir and add some water.
Remove the seeds from the chili and cut into fine pieces.
Cut the vanilla pod in halve, length wise with a paring knife.
Put the pineapple chunks, chili and the vanilla pod by scraping out all of the oily seeds from the inside into the caramelised sugar. Add the orange juice. Keep the mixture in the pan boiling at low temperature 10-15 minutes.

Mix Yoghurt with sugar powder and cardamom.

Serve the pineapple with the cardamom yoghurt cold or tepid.

Business trip #4 – Lessons learned

prefer the standard room to the business room
Just in this case of hotel it’s the smaller but cosier room, and it’s got a bathtub – at the lower rate (saves your customer money)

take tea candles (and matches, if you don’t smoke) with you ( preferably those which do not trigger the fire alarm! But my experience with fire alarms is that candle lights don’t do harm, while frying German Leberkäs does ) so that the evening in the bathtub gets romantic even without inviting your colleagues of the different sex.

antiStressBad antiStressBadesalz

Get tipsy in the evening (red wine if you want to sleep more, or french coffee, for less than four hours of sleep)
Makes you, your colleagues and clients more conversational, and if you are even in a foreign country, you’ll unrestraintly speak Dutch without ever having learned it. Plus, the solitary languishing in the bathtub feels like a candlelight dinner of two.

have a bottle of water
Drinking a liter of water after having gotten tipsy makes your presentation at the client the next morning at 8 a.m. bearable

S/M yogis: Take your yantra mat with you
Some people can only relax after a long working day when suffering pain.

get you a new hair coloring prior to the business trip
You should really balance reasons for or against a new hair color before you start your trip to the customer and using innocent hotel towels. Will you meet the dress code agreed with your client? Does the hair color fit to your outfit? Or to the corporate identity? Timing might also have a certain relevance. In my specific case, I knew before that it will be looking good, it was even necessary, because my one and a half week old ‘poppy red’ was already fading, my clients logo type has the same color, Belgium seems in general being a very open-minded country, plus we arrived in the week of carnival and it turned out that the IT-manager recently dressed up as a woman with a wig in the same poppy red. The hotel i’ve been staying however will probably ask for my planned hair color prior to confirming my next reservation. ( p.s. i looked different to this freak)