Monday, 17 September 2012

Two Councillors In A Boat Set Sail For Conference

Two Cambridgeshire councillors have chosen a novel way to travel to their party conference.

Susan van de Ven and Tim Stone are weighing anchor and setting sail from Suffolk for the journey to the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton which takes place between September 22 and 26.

The pair will skippered by Susan’s husband, Hans, in his 35-year-old boat, Andax, on a journey which could take up to three days depending on the weather.

Their 120 mile trip will start from the River Orwell near Ipswich, Suffolk and head for Dover where they hope to drop anchor for the first night before going on to Brighton.

Once they reach their destination, American-born Susan who represents Melbourn on Cambridgeshire County Council and is the Lib Dem County Transport Spokesperson, will unfold her bike to cycle to the conference centre. Tim, who represents Duxford, will use his pensioner’s bus pass to travel into the city.

The pair’s journey will be fraught with danger as they negotiate busy shipping lanes in the North Sea.

Susan said: “To get out of the River Orwell, we will sail within a few metres of massive container ships at Felixstowe,  and coming out of Harwich Haven, across the Thames Estuary, around Ramsgate and along the south coast of England we will have to negotiate very busy shipping lanes.  

“There is an enormous amount to learn about what goes on in the North Sea, which can seem a very crowded place. We will pass vast off-shore wind farms, that look like airport runways at night, oil rigs, fishing boats of all sizes and huge passenger ferries.  The diesel station that supplies small boats in the River Orwell is the same one that supplies service boats for off-shore wind farm maintenance.

“The trip will take two to three days depending on the weather. The forecast is OK going out but the tides are most difficult in the outward direction.

“Spending time on a small boat as a means of transport means you must completely recalculate the time you need to get anywhere. There is no way you can go on rushing around in 21st century style. It puts you right in the face of nature and you must learn to work with it, not in spite of it.”

Susan’s Dutch-born husband, Hans is a professor of Chinese history and has just written a book about the Chinese maritime customs service and its imitation of the British civil service from 1850 to 1950.

He bought his English-made boat two and a half years ago and the family now use it regularly to cross the North Sea to visit relatives in Holland.

“I am planning to keep up with my casework by taking my phone and laptop with me and using internet access in Brighton,” added Susan.

“Tim has a meeting in Cambridge on Monday so will be travelling to Cambridge and back by train in the middle of the conference.”