The North Sea Crossing 2018 by Dimitri Vandepoele
 

The North Sea Crossing 2018

After my previous record back in 2015, I had no idea that I would go for a second attempt, but the past year the sea began to call again.

I waited together with a Spanish team last year (2017) on perfect weather, with no success.  It was only this summer, after waiting a few months, that I saw an opportunity.

I had also contact with Eddie and Jens, a German team that had the ambition to attempt to cross the North Sea. We shared information and knowledge.  We agreed to stay in contact and start together if possible.  They would make the same trajectory as I did in 2015.

So, we got together during the night in Nieuwpoort harbour on Wednesday 1st of August 2018. Both the German team and I had made practically the same navigational planning and we wished each other success.  I must say that it was an honour to depart together with them.  I said goodbye to my wife and children.  My wife Sylvie is my support team and keeps keep contact with Oostende Radio on the Belgian side, and Dover Coast Guard on the UK side.  Both services were informed properly about our intentions.

At 01 o’clock (local time), I started from the slipway at Nieuwpoort harbour, Belgium. I had some light from the full moon.  I started at a pace I could keep up for hours without stopping or resting.  When I left the safety of the harbour, all stress was away, I felt alive!  Although it was too dark to see a thing, I knew my way around.  This first part was a home run in my backyard so to speak.  I chose to leave at this hour because of the tidal stream.  I wanted the stream against me during the first six hours.  I rather have it along the Belgian coast where it less powerful (but not to be mistaken) than on the UK side, where it is almost double the speed.  I passed the Trapegeer buoy when the stream was still building up against me.  Between here and the next buoy, the DY1, is a real battle.  A battle against the tide, a battle against a shortage of sleep, and I must be alert for other ships who couldn’t see me.  During the night I had only a force 2 headwind.  I was relentlessly pushed back by the tidal stream and the wind during the very short breaks.  One of the things I enjoyed most was sunrise.  I took a very short break at that moment, so I could see the sun coming up.

When I finally arrived at the DY1 buoy it was almost slack water. Taking it easy now is not an option, since I need this advantage badly to reach the final section in time (also tidal stream related).  From the DY1 buoy, I hopped to the SE Ruytingen buoy and finally the NW Ruytingen buoy, where the international shipping lane starts.  I was there a bit too soon.  I set course to the WSW Sandettie buoy.  I saw that my speed was decreasing very much due to the stream that was still heading SW.  Soon I took the decision to deviate the planned route and head towards the Sandettie lightship.  The downside was that I crossed this part of the shipping lane at a sloping angle instead of as straight as possible.  I had no other choice, because my speed was almost gone too, which makes a straight crossing of the shipping lane in this case even more dangerous.  So, to the lightship it was!  Except for one sailing vessel, I did not pass any professional shipping on this section.  My speed increased and so I could take all the benefit I needed to go on.

When reaching the Sandettie lightship I was excited. I always had an interest in ships, beacons, buoys, and now this one was ticked off on my list.  The second thing I was excited about was that I could now see the white cliffs of Dover in the distance. The next buoy, SW Sandettie, was close and so was the second part of the shipping lane.  I was able to cross it straighter.  During the crossing of the shipping lane, I only saw two merchant ships, that was all.  Leaving the shipping lane behind it set course to the Goodwin lightship.  Also, not on my initial plan, but since I deviated I had to adapt.  There was very little tidal stream during this part, I could reach it without compensating a lot.  It was slack water, but a bit choppy due to the area I’m in, the Goodwin Sands.  I took a last break and I made a call with the VHF to the Dover Coast Guard to state my position and status.  In turn, they informed my wife (aka, the support team).

I knew from the previous time that the last section should be worse now due to the wind. The wind was increasing to force 3-4 from the side (WSW) and the current would soon pick up in the northerly direction.  So, I started heading to the harbour of Ramsgate, which I could not see at this point.  The waves were there all the time from this point on, due to the current pushing over the Goodwin Sands and the wind.  It decreases the much-needed speed to aim for the harbour.  The more I closed in on land, the harder the tidal stream was pushing from the port side.  With a lot of persistence, I reached Ramsgate harbour, finally!!  My wife and two children were there, waving and yelling.  I was relieved, happy, excited, exhausted and had a feeling that I could take on the whole world while being so tired that I could capsize in the blink of an eye, all at the same time.  Just to be correct, after greeting my family, I paddled on to the slipway.  It was only there that I switched off my GPS.  I had paddled 107 kilometres and spent 17hours and 48minutes doing so.  After taking a shower and eating a hot meal, we went back home by ferry.

My first time in 2015 was perfect, the weather was perfect, the sea was flat. This time the weather was good…  only good, not perfect. No kayaker talks about force 3 or 4 unless you’re on a mission like this one.  I could adapt, as I’m usually doing.  But the constant headwind in the first half and the portside wind on the last section took their toll.  I have no regrets, but I made it more difficult by crossing during these conditions.  Make no mistake, the sea is boss, you’re not.  Even with a lot of training and preparation, it’s the sea that will decide whether you’re ready for it, or not.

I wish to thank my family from all my heart for their continuously and unconditional support on all that I do or undertake! Were it not for them, I would not have done this.  Thank you, thank you!

Special thanks to the people from Ostend Radio (MRCC Oostende-Belgian Coast Guard) and Dover Coast Guard (UK) for virtually watching over me during the crossing, again!

The specifications:

Sea kayak: P&H Cetus MV (Expedition Kevlar/Carbon)

Paddles: VE Explorer (medium blades + spare paddle)

Full safety gear including VHF radio, PLB, pyrotechnical flare, ODEO flare, mobile phone, first aid kit, repair kit, paddle-float, pump…

The video report of this crossing:

 

Paddle safe and take care of each other on the water!

Dimitri Vandepoele

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018 at 3:59 pm and is filed under News, Trip Reports.


Search

Admin
Log in
Pages
Blog Home
  • Sample Page
  • Archives
  • September 2018
  • June 2018
  • March 2018
  • January 2018
  • December 2017
  • November 2017
  • August 2017
  • May 2017
  • April 2017
  • March 2017
  • February 2017
  • December 2016
  • November 2016
  • September 2016
  • August 2016
  • July 2016
  • April 2016
  • August 2015
  • October 2014
  • September 2014
  • August 2014
  • May 2014
  • April 2014
  • February 2014
  • November 2013
  • October 2013
  • August 2013
  • July 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2013
  • March 2013
  • February 2013
  • December 2012
  • November 2012
  • October 2012
  • September 2012
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • January 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • August 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009
  • February 2009
  • January 2009
  • November 2008
  • October 2008
  • August 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • April 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • November 2007
  • September 2007
  • August 2007
  • July 2007
  • June 2007
  • May 2007
  • April 2007
  • March 2007
  • February 2007
  • January 2007
  • January 1970
  • Categories
  • Expeditions (10)
  • News (22)
  • Reviews (10)
  • Technical (10)
  • Trip Reports (831)
  • Contributors
  • P&H Paddlers Admin
  • Björn Nehrhoff V. H.
  • Brian Day
  • Christopher Lockyer
  • Dimitri Vandepoele
  • Doug Cooper
  • Gethin Roberts
  • Jay Rose
  • Jim Krawiecki
  • Jonny Hawkins
  • Kate Duffus
  • Mark Kalch
  • Olly Sanders
  • P&H Sea Kayaks
  • P&H Custom Sea Kayaks
  • Paul Kuthe
  • Robert Moffatt
  • Roger Chandler
  • Sid Sinfield