Date of voyage start: 01/06/17
Date of voyage finish: 11/06/17
Destinations: Lowestoft – Den Helder – Enkhuizen – North Sea Canal (Amsterdam) – Lowestoft
After a short minibus journey from City Academy Norwich, Mr Reeve and 7 students arrived at Lowestoft not really knowing what they had signed up for!
As soon as Mr Reeve opened the minibus door and nearly got blown into the sea we soon realised that it was going to be a choppy maiden voyage. The Excelsior team wasted no time in getting the City Academy contingency to work, and after a couple of safety briefings we were out in the North Sea. The conditions were incredibly tough for both staff and students unfortunately for some this involved some severe motion sickness.
With three ‘watches’ the sailing continued through the night and it wasn’t until 1800hrs the next day that we had our first sight of land. Unluckily for us more challenges lay ahead for us, with a strong headwind we were going nowhere even with the assistance of the boat’s motor engine! The Skipper Gavin had to make the hard call on whether to weigh the anchor down and see out the storm or to call in help from the local Dutch Coastguard. He decided the latter was the safer option and in a matter of minutes the Dutch Coastguard were at our assistance. After an hour of struggling with the strength of the storm we managed to port up at Den Helder in the Ijsselmeer, North Holland.
The storm was raging through the night and so it was decided that we had the day off sailing the following day to the joy of the slightly weary students. The prospect of seeing Holland’s capital Amsterdam was too tempting. After a short train journey from Den Helder we had arrived in the capital. We enjoyed lunch in an international food market, much needed by the crew who hadn’t been able to stomach much in the last 24hrs. We were able to roam around the city as a group seeing all the beautiful sights such as the canals and oldy worldy buildings. The students were especially impressed by the array of sweet shops.
The next day we were straight back into sailing! Luckily the Ijsselmeer was infinitely more calm than the North Sea had been. The sun tried to come out and even the students were enjoying the sailing! After negotiating some difficult ‘locking’ (sailing term) and a full day of sailing we arrived at our second location Enkhuizen, a beautiful small town a little further down the Ijsselmeer. We were able to spend the evening chilling out in the local park getting to know some of the locals.
The next stage of the expedition took us down the North Sea Canal, where students were challenged to guide the vessel through busy waters avoiding other ships, buoys and shallow waters. This leg also saw us sail through Amsterdam. The sun was shining and we were able to see some of Amsterdam’s famous sights, this time from the water.
As we worked our way up the North Sea Canal, the students and staff were slightly apprehensive over the return crossing. The crew and students were put straight to work and managed to get 7 sails up in no time. Skipper Gavin was clearly impressed with how the students sailing efforts and knowledge had come along from day one.
The return crossing wasn’t as bad as the previous, however due to low winds the conditions made for difficult sailing. Eventually we got back to Lowestoft around 22.30; we had to stay sharp as negotiating Lowestoft shallow port is notoriously one of the hardest ports to do in Europe. But we successfully managed to get Excelsior back into her berth with no major dramas.
After a good night sleep and a deep clean of the boat Mr Reeve and the students made their way back to Norwich where the students were very pleased to see their parents after a long yet successful trip that the students will never forget!