Traditional sailing in The Netherlands 2015-16
It all started in 2002 when the four of us got in contact via Friends Reunited. We had last been in touch when we left school in 1968
And in 2015
We decided on a reunion which involved camping in Keswick and visiting our old climbing and drinking haunts. This then became an annual event and we started sailing a couple of years later. After a long weekend on Loch Ness we graduated to the Clyde Estuary and then the West Coast of Scotland and the Med.
By 2012 we were bored with sailing white plastic boats and fancied something different. Two years on the Norfolk Broads on a gaff sloop ‘America’ followed.
It was the largest sailing hire boat available with the boom sticking out behind the transom and a huge bowsprit out front. The bungalows at Potter Heigham were not safe from us. It was great fun having full sail up in a narrow cut, if anything was coming the opposite way the only way we could stop would have been to put it up the bank! After two years we thought our luck might run out so looked for something with more of a challenge.
We settled on a traditional Dutch flat bottomed boat called Reichshoot and so enjoyed it that we went back this year in a similar boat, Roschok. The rest of this narrative is a combination of events from the two years.
Alan and I drove to Oakham were we transferred to Peters car then off to board the Stenna ferry at Harwich. We docked at Hook of Holland next morning and collected Ian from Shipol Airport then on to Makkum where we picked up the boat.
We had a comprehensive handover, made much easier by our collective lack of any Dutch.
That evening as we were preparing to go into town to eat I heard what sounded like a pump running continuously. It turned out to be two pumps! A freshwater hose had become disconnected so the water pressure pump was pumping all our freshwater into the bilges, the bilge pump was fighting a loosing battle trying to pump it overboard.
We phoned the charter company and their rep arrived promptly, found the broken pipe, fixed it and used a separate pump to clear the bilges. We filled the water tanks but wondered if this was a portent of things to come.
The website described Rosshouck as – The Frisian Lemsteraak type is a traditional sailing ship type with a flat bottom. The Lemsteraak is perfectly adapted to the requirements of shallow waters and flat coast, such as the Wadden Sea. The flattened keel of the Lemsteraak makes it possible to fall dry on Wadden sea.
Built in 1902 in steel, the Lemsteraak was a fishing boat and fish transport ship.
The ship was known as a fast sailer, and used to bring caught fish on land. After the barge was confiscated during the war, it was then back to 1955 is hereby established in the fishery until it was rebuilt in 1957 on a yacht.
Length 13 m (plus long bowsprit)
Draft 1.10 m
Beam 4.40 m
Rig – gaff cutter
2 foresails, one hanked on to the forestay (the staysail) and a jib flown from the bowsprit. The bowsprit could be raised when the jib was not needed. The bowsprit was controlled by an up haul a down haul and two side stays,all block and tackle. The jib tack was attached to a traveller that could be hauled out to the end of the bowsprit.
Unlike a plastic yacht none of the halyards were led back to the cockpit. The main was hoisted by a throat halyard on a wonderful winch with gears, a clutch and a brake mounted by the mast. The peak halyard was a very clever closed loop system which worked very well. The jib and staysail halyards, bowsprit halyard, topping lift, luff downhaul (cunningham) and clew outhaul were all block and tackles made off to belaying pins at the mast and on the shrouds. The jib sheets were led forward, the staysail sheets back to the cockpit.
All reefing was done at the mast, no slab or roller reefing for wimps.
We had a compass in a brass binnacle with a spirit lamp to illuminate it, that was it for navigation aids other than we had the luxury of a depth indicator on this years boat.
The first sail was interesting, reversing out of the trot I put 2 turns on the wheel (full lock on a plastic boat) their was no change in direction and the rudder was only about 5 degrees from centre, we soon discovered that it took 8 turns to put full lock on!
Once we were out of Makkum we got the main and staysail up, that took some time, we then put down the leeboard and off we went. Everything was fine till the first tack.
The leeboard became detached from the hull and was in danger of coming completely off its hinge mechanism. It turned out the a retaining stainless steel collar was either missing or loose. We quickly dropped the main and put the engine on while we retrieved the board and lashed it alongside. While this was happening the staysail was flogging and a sheet came through the fairlead and ended up round the prop shaft. So, down with the staysail and out with the anchor using another complicated winch. The anchor had a tripping line spliced on, it was only about 4 metres long and the anchor was not holding so we let it loose, yet another rope in the water to cause problems. Once we were securely anchored we decided that without an engine or leeboard we could not sail back to Makkum and dock safely so we phoned Fritz and explained our predicament.
Fritz said he would come out to us so we settled down to a leisurely lunch. Fritz arrived in a sister ship to Reichshoot and once I’d warned him about the tripping line he lashed us alongside and off we went to Makkum. He dropped us off at a boatyard that hauled the boat out on a lift. They quickly sorted out both the leeboard and fouled prop and off we went. They also replaced the staysail sheets and gave us a new full length tripping line.It was a brilliant service, we have never had anything like it in Scotland.
So off we went again and ended up in Medemblik via a night in Workum. We moored by the castle rather than the marina.
Next day we set out for Stavoren and sailed through the Delta Lloyd pre olympic regatta. We manoeuvred between the windward mark for the 49er fleet and the start line for the Nacra catamarans and got a grandstand view of the racing.
As we approached Stavoren it began to blow quite hard and our next incident occurred. The retaining strop for the gaff collar came loose showering wooden balls on the deck. We dropped the sails but with hindsight I am sure we could have left them up. The collar would have been ok and the balls are only to make raising and lowering the main easier by reducing friction. Once the sail is up they serve no purpose. The wind got stronger and we motored into Stavoren. The forecast for the next two days was not good so after a discussion with the people in the marina we decided to take to the canals to return to Makkum via Workum.
Motoring through the Dutch countryside was interesting. Boats have priority over cars, as we approached bridges they were raised and we rarely had to wait. We got to Workum and moored close to the centre of the town. Next day back to Makkum with no further incidents. We topped up the diesel and returned to our mooring.
Having enjoyed it so much we decided to go again this year, we felt we still had lots to learn and places we hadn’t got to first time around.
The crew were the same but we had a different boat though very similar to last years.
We had two incidents this year. The first when setting sail on the second day, we had the main up and two of us were on the foredeck putting the staysail up. Their was a sharp crack and the main came down with a bit of a rush. The gaff was restrained by the lazy jacks and the topping lift stopped the boom from crushing the helmsman otherwise it could have ended in disaster. It turned out that the metal lug connecting the mast collar to the gaff had broken, our resident metallurgist diagnosed metal fatigue. So a phone call to Fritz and agreement to meet him in Workum. A couple of hours later Fritz was on board with his portable welding kit plugged in to the toilet block and we were as good as new.
The second incident was on the last day, we hoisted the main and found the foot of the sail had no tension, a bolt that held the clew to the outhaul slider on the boom had disappeared. This was no problem, we have had similar problems before with in mast furling systems on white boats, the trick is to lash the clew round the boom – just like a laser.
So we survived two trips to The Netherlands. The sailing was really interesting. The sail handling was much more physical than we were used to. We would have struggled if their had been fewer of us. The boat displaced 15 tons, thats over twice that of the the same length white boat so it carried its momentum and you had to be careful manoeuvring under engine. Surprisingly the boats were very stable despite their draft and lack of keel. The only uncomfortable sail we had was broad reaching in a sharp chop with little wind, it did tend to roll a bit then.
The charter company were great, very helpful specially when we had problems. We visited Makkum, Workum, Medemblik, Stavoren and Urk. They were all interesting places with a good variety of restaurants (not like Scotland!) Our favourite was Stadscafe de Smidte in Workum, we managed to eat there three times.
We are not sure what we will do next year. I would like to have another trip, this time to the Wadden Sea to re-enact the voyage in The Riddle of the Sands.
Video of Ian trying a 3 point turn under power.