The 45th Anniversary Rally
Two years in the planning, the 45th Anniversary Rally in Middelburg, Holland, was a great success despite a run of bad weather which saw 7 boats having to pull out. Even so, 12 boats made it and 5 more crews arrived overland. Geoff Brown, FOA Rear Commodore Rallies, who masterminded the event, reports:
As yet another low rolled in off the Atlantic, Marie and I were worried that we might never get away from Guernsey, let alone fit in our planned shake-down trip before the Holland voyage. In the event, we started our first leg on 23 June and the shake-down was just the 20 nautical miles between Guernsey and Alderney.
After overnight stops in St Vaast and Fecamp we made Boulogne on the 25th, after a day of sunshine but no wind which meant motoring all day long. At Boulogne we met up with Steve and Barbara White and their F34 Wight Mistress. Drinks in the yacht club were followed by dinner aboard the 34, and very nice it was to.
We departed Boulogne in company at around midday to head the 45 or so miles to Dunkirk, with moderate to fresh south west winds, which gave us an opportunity to have a sail for a few hours. Next day we headed to Holland, arriving in Breskens after an exciting day in which we picked up a mayday, seemingly close by. It went unanswered so Wight Mistress attempted, unsuccessfully, to make contact before finally handing it over to Oostende radio. We never did find out what it was all about.
From Breskens it was a short trip under engine across the bay to the Vlissingen sea lock. On arrival, we had a half hour wait or so before we could enter the lock, but once in it didn’t take long and we were out into the Kanaal Door and with 5 bridges to get by before arriving on Middelburg visitor pontoon. F34 Sea Spirit 1, FNE30 Sea Otter, FW30 Panpipe and F30 Spindrift were already there, so a little later that day; it was drinks and a chat on board Sea Otter.
Next day, Monday 29th June, was Rally Day – the start of the festivities. Glorious sunshine was set to continue for most of the week, which was a great boost!
Marie and I set to on tidying Island Lady and then turning her about to face the right way on the pontoon which was towards the bridge. I am not sure why but we had been told of a sign on the wall that said so! With no wind we just used the ropes to turn the boat around and moved forward on the pontoon to make more room for the arriving fleet, which included FNE30 Tarquin, F37 Lady Jane, F34 P J Fisher, and F31 Sam Steel. Also arriving by car was Chris Morris (FOA Commodore) of F25 Blue Dolphin, who had driven non-stop from Cornwall. Also arriving by road were Geir and Mona Samuelsen of F37 Flanør who had driven all the way from Norway that day too.
At 1800 Marie and I hosted the welcome party for 28 Fisher enthusiasts on the pontoon next to Island Lady with drinks and nibbles. and a good time was had by all.
But first, around 9 of the Fisher party would head for the town centre and the Zeeuws Museum. Housed in the Abbey in the centre of Middelburg, this fascinating museum houses the largest collection of Zeeland heritage in the world. During the day two more Fishers arrived - these were F34 Watergeus, owned by the Dutch Fisher Club’s commodore, and Brigantyn, the former commodore’s F34. They would join us all later at the restaurant, the excellent Kemel on the waterfront, where our Commodore, Chris Morris, welcomed us all to the rally and the Fisher Club’s Commodore, Ruud Heruer, gave the FOA members a very warm greeting to Holland and wished us all a good time there.
On Wednesday 1st July, on the 0910 hr bridge lift, Island Lady, Sea Spirit 1, Tarquin, Panpipe, P J Fisher, Spindrift, and Lady Jane headed for the Verse Meere for the day in hope of a sail. It turned out there was not much in the way of wind but a few of us did still manage to sail. We had planned on mooring up at a small island in the south east of the Meere - it had mooring facilities which we hoped all could get on to, but after hearing on the VHF that the moorings were already full Spindrift found berths for all on another island, so we headed there for lunch.
After the excitement of watching a stranded yacht being rescued from a mud bank we headed back to the Verse Schutsluis lock (below), and managed to get a half decent sail. We just missed the inward locking and the wait was short and we were soon on
our way back to Middelburg and with plenty of time to spare for the last bridge lift. It was very, very hot - as high as 39 degrees during the day and it was around 28 degrees for most of the night.
The next day – Thursday – was another warm and sunny start. Lady Jane departed for Caen whilst a number of us went by car to Oosterschelde and the Watersnoodmuseum there which is dedicated as a National Monument to the victims of the food disaster in 1953. The museum tells the story the disastrous flood of 1 November 1953 with great loss of life and many square miles were flooded. The museum is made up of 4 caissons which Britain help dam the dikes at Oosterschelde. The caissons are the same type as the ones used on the D Day to make the harbours like at Arromanches. (http://www.watersnoodmuseum.nl/UK/)
After a rainy end to the day we went again to the very popular Kamel for our final dinner of the rally, with valedictory speeches from the FOA and Dutch group commodores followed by a prize giving. Prizes went to Panpipe (oldest Fisher, 1971), Tarquin (best presented Fisher), Island Lady (furthest distance by sea at 308 nm) and to Dany and Maurice of Fisher 30 Roch Briadis for their great determination to attend the rally - they had started out from their home port in southern Brittany but Dany injured her hand and arm very badly and they were unable to continue with their trip. Not to be beaten by this, they had driven all the way that day to be with us all for the Thursday evening and very well done to them.
That evening marked the end of a highly successful event with the Fishers all leaving for home over the course of the next couple of days. Only five years to go to the 50th ...............