It was a near perfect day for our first 'crossing' of the season: sunny, light winds, just a bit cool but overall still pleasant enough to have the back doors open. We got through the Tjerk Hiddes locks with little delay and as we had planned the tide nicely it was just a 3 hour easy trip to Vlieland once through the lock. Here are two pictures, one leaving the port of Harlingen, which is quite busy, and one of one of the buoys in the Vlieland approach:
Vlieland is still relatively quiet although it will certainly get more busy over Easter. We plan to stay here until after Easter (so probably no daily blog posts).
From now on, there will be another possibility to follow us. We have installed a 'gadget' called AIS (Automatic Identification System). Without going into the detail of this (Google is your friend if you are interested), it is a bit of equipment which sends a ship's details concerning position, speed, course and some other stuff through the VHF. At the same time it also receives this information from other ships that are equipped with AIS. All big ships have a legal obligation to operate AIS and more and more smaller ships have it as well. With some wires and software, the AIS information can be included on the plotter on our laptop so we can now 'see' a lot of ships around us. Of course when you see them with your eyes this is a bit superfluous (well, not really as it also predicts collisions or close calls), but the real benefit comes in poor visibility. We got the idea to install AIS when we were surprised in the fog between Bagenkop and Laboe last year. You could hear lots of people talking on the VHF, wondering if they were on a collision course with a big ship they could not see. The plotter gives us the name and the call sign of the 'target', so you can call them on the VHF when required. Or they can call you. So the real purpose is safety.
But there is more: the AIS signal is also picked up by shore stations and there is a website that shows the AIS vessels on a map in (almost) real time. So in theory you can 'see' us on that map. Now there are a few ifs and buts: 1. We need to be within VHF reach of a shore station (if we are not, we can see other vessels fine, but you can't see us) and 2. Our AIS must be active. When we are 'en route' it should be active, but once we have no speed, the shore system 'looses interest' and you can't see us. And if we are tied up and want to conserve power, the AIS is one of the items to get switched off. So there you have it: you might be able to see us.
The website concerned is www.marinetraffic.com. In the right top corner is a search box, type in 'onbekommerd' which should take you to our 'homepage' (I am going to upload a picture of Onbekommerd tomorrow). Sean tried it earlier today and it worked for him, but a while ago I could not 'find' us...... So please try and let us know!
There is also an 'app' showing the same thing for iOS (and very likely for Android too).
So far for now, more later!