A Long Way Home

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Finally it was the day we had been waiting for so long – the day where we go and pick up our own boat! The last two weeks rushed by like a 5 knot current at the entrance to Depoe Bay. After spending months searching the internet up and down, we finally made the decision to buy the boat of our dreams. Come aboard and follow us on this epic journey to deliver the beautiful Bon Bini to her new home.

Still a bit unsure as to whether this was all a dream we left home in the early hours of Saturday to catch the bus to Amsterdam Central. The excitement we felt about our upcoming adventure made us ignore the weight of the oversized bags sitting on our shoulders. As usual, I packed for every eventuality; spending the better part of the last few weeks making lists and lists of things to bring on the trip. Still anxiously waiting for something to go wrong, or the dream to end abruptly, I was relieved to see the bus turning into our street slightly ahead of schedule. A pleasant bus ride and a delicious (much needed!) café latte later we met with Emily and Taras, who were kind enough to join us on our epic adventure. My heart skipped a beat when we heard the crackling voice over the station speaker announcing that the service to Breda would not be running from Amsterdam Centraal, but from Schiphol instead. On the verge of jumping up and running to wherever the next transport to Schiphol would be leaving, I was lucky enough to have Cam with me who pointed out the train we were planning on taking was leaving as planned.

The train journey itself was pretty unspectacular, and we mostly spent the time catching up with Emily and Taras. That is, until we heard an unnerving announcement over the crackly train speakers: “Due to problems with the engine, this train can not operate any further”. Crap! I thought, amongst a number of other expletives that I will leave up to the imagination of the reader. Luckily enough the train people had their act together and soon enough we all piled into a replacement train that brought us safely to Breda. The plan was to take a cab from Breda towards Willemstad where we would finally pick up our dream boat. It turns out the cab ride between Breda and Willemstad is longer than I had anticipated, and at some point during the long drive I thought we’d be spending the little cash we’d brought with us on the taxi’s drivers next Caribbean vacation.

Eventually we made it to Willemstad where we met with Tim the broker who showed us around the boat. Finally the big moment– we signed the papers, and Bon Bini officially became our boat! It is hard to describe the excitement I felt when we said goodbye to Tim on our way to the chandelier to buy a few bits and pieces for our journey ahead.

A friend told me once that owning a boat feels like standing under a shower and ripping up 50 Euro notes – I never really understood what was meant by that until we “quickly” popped into the chandelier for some minor supplies. With a credit card so hot it burned a hole in my pocket we left the chandelier, carrying bags and bags of stuff including a brand new life raft so heavy its hard to believe this thing could ever float. After we managed to drag all the goodies back on board it was time to cast off the lines, hop over to the fuel pontoon and start heading west through Hollands Diep as the Saturday afternoon sun settled in for a cozy summer afternoon. We passed Haringvlietbrug without any issues, partly due to Taras giving me a crash course on the Dutch interpretation of international marine radio operational guidance. We kept motoring west with practically to no wind, admiring Bon Bini’s lines and the way she holds herself in the water. To make it to the North Sea we had to pass through the Goedereede sluis, a small lock that keeps the sea at bay, gated by two drawbridges. We made it to the lock on time, only to find ourselves trapped by a drawbridge that had decided to stop working, as the friendly voice on the VHF announced. No big deal, we moored up and started preparing delicious sweet & sour chicken. Two hours later the bridge finally opened and we watched the seemingly endless stream of ships emerging from what had been their prison for the last two hours before heading into the North Sea. Our patience was rewarded by the sight of a tiny little sea lion enjoying a swim in the late afternoon sun.

After squeezing through the tiny channel leading from the lock into the sea we decided on 3 hour watch-keeping shifts as we started motoring north towards Amsterdam. The hours passed, the sun set slowly behind a small band of clouds in the west, and we enjoyed a favorable tide pushing us along. The serenity of this experience is hard to describe, and it was only interrupted by the large ships keeping a constant bearing as we passed the channel of Hoek of Holland. I remember one particularly colossal looking monster that seemed to be glued in its relative position just off our port stern,. We decided to take evasive action just as Cam was able to read the letters on the hull. Turning her around hard to port we managed to squeeze the humongous container (hog?), only to find ourselves heading for a large fishing vessel approaching at light speed to starboard. Zigzagging through the channel we drew a sigh of relief as the monstrous silhouettes shrunk on the horizon.

After a refreshing three hours of sleep it was our turn again to command the helm. We were still motoring north towards Ijuiden, as a swell kept coming and Bon Bini surfed up and down the waves in a rolling motion. Coming into Ijmuiden at night proved to be a mathematical challenge . The amount of lights jumping out at you as you approach from the seaside is mind blowing, and making out the difference between a green ISO4 and ISO6 determines whether you go into a small cozy lock all by yourself or whether you need to compete with a big old dredger for some space in the lock.

Luckily we made it through the lock, and Emily and Taras brought Bon Bini safely into her new berth while Cam and I were snoozing down below. Even though we motored the 90 miles from Willemstad to Amsterdam in one big leg, we loved the trip and the time we spent with Taras and Emily aboard the wonderful Bon Bini. She is now snuggly tucked away in her new berth in Amsterdam and is eagerly awaiting the adventures which lie ahead.

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