A North Sea Crossing in Spring

By |Published On: May 20, 2023|Categories: Europe, Netherlands, Norway|1068 words|2 Comments|

Today is the departure day. We are off to Norway. The plan is to cross the North Sea again. There aren’t a lot of other choices but this time it is south to north rather than west to east. We are fuelled up, watered, provisioned, the windvane is set up, the Jordan drogue is on the sugarscoop, and the staysail is on the foredeck. Everything is ready to go.

The wind, of course, is on the nose as we motor out of the harbour and along the channel between Vlieland and Terschelling. Once clear of the islands though we are able to bear away west and hoist the sails. Close hauled we headed somewhat north, headed for somewhere in the general vicinity of the Shetland islands (we must remember to go a bit more east at some point before we end up there).

The sailing was fine and easy all the first day. Winds ranged in the 8-15kt range and at 40-50˚ apparent we made 5-7kts the whole day. In the late afternoon the wind started to pick up a bit, so at 1730 we threw in the first reef without any speed penalty. At 1845, we threw in the 2nd, again no speed penalty. We crossed a few shipping channels and sailed passed countless oil and gas rigs, then it got strangely empty on the North Sea.

We settled into our 3hr watches for the night. Similar to the first North Sea crossing, David did most of the first night while Frederieke was trying to find her sea legs.


Just before sunrise a Turkse Tortelduif landed, exhausted on the solar panels and stayed with us for the next few hours. Every time we had to do something in the cockpit she would fly off, do a few laps of the boat and then come back to rest. By 1030 however we needed to drop a reef and our Turkse Tortelduif decided that this was too much and flew off. I don’t think that story has a happy ending, poor dear.

Late that afternoon the wind had dropped and on the horizon appeared a rolling wave of fog. It took about half an hour to reach us but soon we were enveloped in cold, wet air and the visibility dropped down to less than 100m at times. While we have AIS (Automatic Identification System) on the boat, we figured that this was probably a good time to also turn on our radar to be able to ‘see’ those ships or structures that did not have AIS. A fishing boat, with which we had been on a long-term collision course, was somewhere ahead of us. While we could see them on AIS and on the radar, we didn’t know what sort of fishing they were doing nor how long their nets were, so we started the motor and tried to head around well behind them. Of course, they promptly changed their course to maintain a collision course so we radioed in to ask them what they wanted us to do. “Stay 1 nm away from us”, which we did and gradually left them behind.


After a brief respite in the evening the fog returned and stayed with us until 1430 the next day. With very light winds we motored most of this time but by the time the fog cleared there was no wind at all and we were motoring over a rolling glass out sea with a gentle Atlantic swell coming in from the west. During the night, we could see fluorescence in our wake, and funnily enough, also in our toilet when we flushed it! At this point, the wind and weather looked suitable for an entry into Norway at Florø, a declared entry port for foreign boats. So, we slowly turned a bit more northeast towards the Norwegian coast.

When I (D) was in high school our required reading at some point included a novel called The Cruel Sea. It’s a story of life in the merchant marine during World War II and is set on the North Sea. That book’s tales of life in freezing cold ships, rolling through North Sea storms in no way corresponded with the beautiful calm, pink and gold-tinged seas that we were traversing. Our journey was accompanied by fulmars and the occasional pair of guillemots, with nary a single U-boat seen along the way. I spent all of my watches watching the long swells rolling toward and then under us in the golden glow that passes for night at this latitude. All very lovely.


By 0500 the next morning we could kill the engine and haul up the sails, but a look at the weather forecasts for the rest of the trip to Florø convinced us that, unless we were keen on gale force 9 then a diversion to Bergen was probably a good idea. And so, with a bit more east in our course, we made for the coast.

As we got in closer to Bergen the wind picked up and the rain started to get heavier. We were soon close hauled in 24kts and avoiding our first skerries heading into the channel. Hello Norway!


Almost immediately on entering the Krossfjord, on the northern side, is the Kleppholmen marina. It was 2330 and raining and blowing hard, we decided that staying the night there would be our preferred option rather than continuing on for a couple more hours to Bergen. So, we tentatively motored into our first Norwegian marina, tied up for the night, and after four days at sea slept like logs.

So what were our main impressions of this North Sea crossing? How very busy it is in some parts, and how surprisingly empty it is in others. The weather was rather variable, and surprise-surprise, didn’t always follow the forecast. And the smell of the sea was definitely odd at times, it smelled like synthetic plastic, something we had not smelled before while out on the oceans. Not sure where that came from. However, most surprising of all to us was the almost complete lack of any wildlife during the four days we sailed across. Aside from a few birds here and there, we did not see flocks or rafts of sea birds, not a single fish swimming or jumping, and no dolphins or whales. Hopefully we’ll see more while in Norway!


  1. Meaghan June 21, 2023 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Love your description of the crossing. It is a shame about the lack of wild life – any thoughts as to why?
    Thinking that the unexpected diversion to Bergen has turned out to be a good thing afterall…. Looks like such a neat place and clearly coffee & buns are damn fine

  2. Caro Imming June 21, 2023 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    Prachtige foto’s.

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From De Kreupel to Vlieland
Klepperholmen to Bergen