17 September 1999
In the morning we took the bus to Makkum. While waiting for the bus in Sneek a older woman came up to us and began talking. And talking and talking and talking -- all in Dutch. It was clear that she really liked Cheryln's two braids and kept complimenting her on them, but that was all that was clear. The bus was late, but we got onboard and were able to purchace a strippen kart, as we had hoped. The ride to Makkum was short.
Makkum is on the east coast of the Ijselmeer just south of the big long concrete dam that seperates the Ijselmeer (inland water) from the Waddensee (the offshore sea) which is HIGHER. Makkum 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!
We had to find the boat we would be on, AND our friend Sonja and her friends somehow. We were dropped off in an area that seemed unuseful, but we walked a bit, guessed where town was and walked towards it. We didn't find town, but soon found a dike with a chanell of water (not open water) on the other side. We walked along the dike until we saw boats and i even started guessing which we would be on. Cheryln went to check one pier, with no luck, then another, while i sat with the backpacks. This time she came back with good news. We had found the boat, and there was a cat on board! we were a bit early, and no one else had shown up -- so we walked into the small town (we had done a 3/4 circle around it!) and grabbed a bite to eat. They showed up a little late, but they were there when we got back to the boat.
We were introduced all around, me & Cheri and Sonja and Pierre, Anabel, Simon, Sandra, Catherine, Myrna, and Achim. Then Sonja turned to me and pointed at the three guys standing by the boat and said, this is Markus, Markus and Markus -- i laughed, i thought she was joking. She wasn't. 30% of the people on the boat had the same name -- including me!!
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. It is run by a travel agency called Hanzestad. There are 450 of these sailing ships there in the seas of the 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 Harlingen 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.
We drove home late at night from the Waddensee at the end of our sailboat adventure. Home, of course, being Bonn. This was the evening of Cheryln's birthday and we had had a very nice day. We were riding with our friend Sonja and a very strange, but nice guy from the boat... one of the few who spoke no English. Between Cologne and Bonn (so almost home after 4 hours) he pulled off the Autobahn and started driving on residential streets and finally dirt roads. He wouldn't tell us what he was doing. Finally he stopped in a field next to the Autobahn; across the freeway from us was a 10 story building... a huge hotel that was never completed. As a piece of art someone had placed Warholesque lit photos of famous people. Each portrait was 12 feet high and the building was covered entirely! It's called the HOTEL EUROPA and will stand until the building is torn down in two years. It was very bizarre and very cool.
Whew. I'm tired from all that relaxing!
© Copyright Mark Canizaro 1999
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