We were soon amongst very busy shipping areas and were almost constantly making decisions on how to avoid getting in the way of ships both underway and anchored. Having the two experienced captains was really reassuring as they watched and assessed every contact. The AIS and radar were great for checking what every ship was up to and whether we would get too close for comfort with any of them.
There was plenty of buoyage to check against our position since there are numerous shallow sand banks across the whole of the southern North Sea.
We expected the crossing to take about 24 hours at 4 knots so we were always going to spend some of the trip at sea at night. There was little point pushing faster since the high tide that would allow us to go up the River Deben would be about 24 hours after high tide at Nieuwpoort. Also, Waterdog’s engine would use much more diesel at higher speeds with fuel consumption more than doubling to go from 4 knots to 5.5 knots. At 4 knots we used 165 litres over 28 hours equalling 5.9 litres an hour. When cruising the canals at 3.5 knots we generally used 4 litres an hour.
As darkness fell we kept track of ships and buoys by their lights. To the right is a picture of a buoy which flashed once in 10 seconds. Lorna managed to catch a flash on camera after several tries (move the cursor over the photo).