Date: 17 September 1999
Subject: Sailing on the Waddensee
We got to Amsterdam at about 9 pm and got lost looking for the hostel, but that gave us a chance to see a little of the city. It seems pretty, but is just about the most touristy city I have ever been in. The canals are fascinating, and it is a very historic city, but when we go back we will really have to make an effort to get out from the truly gross touristy center of town. Besides, with all the connection to dope smoking, I kind of don't even really want to bother! The hostel was huge, but very attractive and comfortable -- very European feeling.

In the morning (Sept 17) we had to figure out how to get to this tiny town called Makkum.

After several train rides we spent the evening doing laundry at the hostel Sneek in Sneek. This is in Freisland - a province of The Netherlands that thinks of itself as a separate country. We saw more Freisland flags than Netherlands flags, They even speak a different language! Although the mosquitos were bad, the people were friendly and the hostel was a pleasant place to spend a quiet evening, despite being called Wigledam! Most of their traffic was bicyclists (and very few Americans come through there!) and we got some VERY strange looks walking with our backpacks from the train station that evening!

In the morning we took the bus to Makkum. Makkum is on the east coast of the Ijselmeer just south of the big dike. It is clearly a town centered around boats. There is a large harbor full of sailing boats, a huge building where they build yachts, and lots of grocery stores for supplying the boats. We got a really nice chocolate cake in one of the bakeries!

After walking the dike for a while, we found the ship, and soon after our friend Sonja and a big group of her friends showed up. After introductions, we set out for a full week on a 22 meter sailing ship in the Waddensee! This is a huge sea (from the middle you cannot see any land!) but much of it is less than 2 meters deep! The boat has a draught of only 90 cm!! The tide is 2.5 meters, so huge portions of the bottom are exposed at low tide (about 40% of the sea!). Most of the time we sailed in the deeper channels, but otherwise we had to be careful that the swales didn't scrape on the bottom of the sea!

The boat, the Niewue Zorg was built in 1898. (I hear there is a photo on the web, once I find it, I will email the address! It is somewhere at There are 450 of these sailing ships there in the seas Nieuwe Zorg of the Netherlands. We had to work setting the sails and so forth, which was fun, and there was still plenty of time for relaxing! We had 15 people on board, including 1 skipper, 1 crew. There the crewdude (and he was a DUDE!) was Dutch and everyone else was German -- It was a group of friends from Bonn and Munster, but not everyone knew everyone else. Everyone spoke German (us only a little) and all but 3 spoke at least a little English, but it was often quite difficult having orders shouted at me in German and trying to figure out just what I was supposed to do. The first couple of days we were pretty isolated because of the language, but by the end we had made friends with almost everyone. It was a fun group, some of the people I hope to keep in touch with! We all pitched in to cook the meals and we ate quite well, chilli, pasta and such as well as traditional Dutch and German meals.

The first day we sailed out to the middle of the Waddensee and threw anchor. It was a gorgeous night and just sitting on deck was wonderful. When we awoke, the boat was sitting on the sand with water only visible in the distance! We ran around (barefoot) looking at huge stranded jellyfish underfoot and seals sunning themselves in the distance. Then we stood next to the boat for a couple of hours until the water was up to our thighs!

From there we sailed to the Waddeneislanden - the barrier islands that separate the Waddensee from the North Sea. We spent time hiking and biking in the forests and hills and dunes and exploring the little villages on Terschilling and Vieland. At night there were one to two dozen similar boats docked in the harbor, often we would have to walk across 1 or 2 other boats to get to shore! On Terschilling (that's the middle of the 5 islands, for those of you following on a map) we took a 25 km hike through beach, prairie and forest to the North Sea beach! (And got lost in the forest!!) The evening on Vieland we dove into the Waddensee before our shower (first shower of the week!) - it felt GREAT!

Then we sailed across the Waddensee to Harligdam [sp?] on the mainland for a night and in the morning we used the motor (bad winds, not much time) to travel down to the locks, back UP (this is Holland after all!) into the fresh water and sailed across the Ijselmeer to Medemblik. You could tell we were in the Netherlands -- wind mill electrical generators everywhere! I really like the Netherlands, we will have to come back and spend some time there! It is a very comfortable place and the people are nice...

The next morning was Cheryln's birthday, we saw a rainbow on our sunrise walk to the castle near the harbor. Finally we sailed directly east back to Makkum - another gorgeous day laying around the deck and occasionally pulling some ropes. When we got to Makkum there were 300 or 400 wind surfers running around the beach! Then we all had to pitch in to clean up the boat and we caught a ride to Bonn. Whew. I'm tired from all that relaxing!

PRESENT PHYSICAL LOCATION: Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms Univ, Bonn 


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