Trip on Freyja starting 2018-07-10 in BSAAug18
Enkhuisen to Enkhuisen via Waddensee and Frisian Islands 10 – 20 July 2018 – report by Peter Wakeling
Boat: Najad 380 ‘Freyja’
I had sailed in much of the Netherlands in the past but never in the Waddensee, perhaps most known as the location for that first spy novel The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. Required reading for all yachtsmen and women as it beautifully describes how to sail a small yacht in the challenging shifting shallow channels of the Waddensee.
We were to take over Freyja in Enkhuisen, a very attractive harbour town on the Ijsselmeer north of Amsterdam. For me a city hopper flight from Bristol to Amsterdam then a train to Enkhuisen. Travelling through the Dutch countryside reminded me how much of the Netherlands resembles a giant marina. Almost every house has a canal at the end of the garden with mooring for a boat. Met rest of crew at the berth and after usual shopping etc. had dinner in the harbour restaurant. Excellent food and professional service you seldom find in UK. But wine in the Netherlands is expensive – think £20 or more for a bottle of house wine. But excellent, mostly Belgian, beers are reasonable price.
Weather fine and sunny, almost as hot as in UK, wind around F3/4 for most of our trip. This meant pleasant sailing plus motor-sailing at times.
Freyja has undergone a £30,000 refit over the winter and had a complete new set of instruments and new touchscreen plotters. A significant upgrade.
Next day set off north towards the Afsluitdijk dam between the non-tidal Ijsslmeer and the tidal Waddensee, heading towards the large island of Texel. Assessment of the time and distance involved decided us to stop off for the night at the remote fishing harbour of Marina Den Oever located by the large lock which gives access through the dam into the Waddensee. This used to be a remote island before the dam was built and new polders created. Pleasant dinner on board in peaceful surroundings. In morning transited the large lock and sailed through the buoyed channels towards the large modern marina at Oudeschild entered through a narrow cut off the fishing harbour. Dinner in restaurant by the old harbour after usual drinks on board, followed by more drinks on board.
The next day’s sail to the much smaller island of Vlieland required careful planning as the narrow twisting channels are very shallow and require sufficient tide height to cross the ‘hump’ in the Waddensee. This meant a 06.00 departure and we successfully crossed the ‘hump’ and made our way to the harbour on Vlieland. Time to explore the village and arrange dinner in a restaurant by the harbour. Vlieland is a popular holiday spot and there are several small hotels and 17 restaurants plus various camping options. Visitors cannot bring cars so it is largely traffic-free. We decided to spend the following day hiring mountain bikes to explore the island. This was a pleasant 20 miles despite a hot sunny day. All of the northern coast facing the North Sea consists of sand dunes and fine sandy beaches. Naturism is the order of the day across most of the island so we duly indulged in a delightful skinny-dip, and found the sea surprisingly warm. After seeking local advice as to the best restaurants we had booked dinner in a hotel restaurant in the village. We ate this in the garden in evening sunshine and found food and service to be truly outstanding and excellent value.
From Vlieland we sailed to the next island of Terschelling. Although we could easily see this from Vlieland, our route involved a much longer passage round Jacobsruggen through buoyed narrow channels to the harbour at West Terchelling. Another away from it all holiday island.
Leaving the Frisian islands behind we then sailed across the Waddensee to the major town of Harlingen. All over the Waddensee you see the typical old Dutch sailing barges, generally now chartered for sailing by groups, and here we could see as many as a dozen at one time – a lovely sight. Another common sight is the fishing trawlers which hand out large trawl nets on each side and scoop up the fish in the shallow water. We berthed alongside the harbour wall in the centre of Harlingen, using the boards to protect the boat and taking care to allow for the fall of the tide. After exploring, enjoying yet another Dutch apple cake with whipped cream, we headed off to dinner at a noted fish restaurant just along the canal having taken the precaution again to book. This turned out to be another memorable meal. Some of crew opted for the ‘Chef’s Surprise’ menu, all fish and reported as excellent. Perhaps unusually for a fish restaurant the tenderloin steaks were also truly excellent. Overall highly recommended and great value.
From Harlingen we planned to go to through the eastern lock back into the Ijsselmeer and head for the small town of Hindeloopen. On exiting the lock, the wind increased to F5 gusting 6 and though this was not itself a problem it caused a swell to build up across the Ijsselmeer of more than 2 ft. The part of the Ijsselmeer approaching Hindeloopen involves a narrow channel and a minimum charted depth of 2m. This meant a distinct possibility of hitting the bottom in the troughs. We prudently opted to carry on further to the harbour of Stavoren a small holiday village with a number of marinas off the canals. Found convenient berth and, after exploring, had pleasant evening on board.
We sailed on to the pretty town of Lemmer, We had to negotiate the lock into the canals and then thread our way through the centre of the very attractive and bustling holiday town. Seeing a free berth ideally situated in the centre we tied up, but shortly after were loudly shooed away by a very large canal tripper boat that obviously regarded this as his berth though there was no visible sign to that effect. The canal was very full with moored boats but we eventually found a berth in a small marina on the edge of town. So a 15 minute walk back into town for dinner where a bit of persuasion and a short wait resulted in a lovely table right on the edge of the canal to watch the world go by. Another good meal and more drinks back on the boat.
From Lemmer we made our way back across the Ijsselmeer to Enkhuisen where we were to handover the boat next day. Plenty of time to explore the pretty town, beers and yet another Dutch apple cake with whipped cream, and organise dinner. Now one of my memories of the Netherlands was the Indonesian Rijsttafel or rice table, a multi-course speciality of the former Dutch East Indies. Researching the internet revealed a not very authentic Asian restaurant in town or a very highly rated takeaway run by an Indonesian mother and her daughter. The takeaway was duly ordered in person and collected later to take back to the boat. This turned out to be an exceptionally good meal, about a dozen courses, all for only €10 each.
We had used little diesel so did not need to re-fuel. After cleaning the boat ready for handover, departed back via train and flight to Bristol.
Our trip totalled 159 miles in a very attractive area with excellent opportunities to exercise pilotage skills in negotiating the maze of channels. At high water it looks like a wide open sea but at low water you see most of it covered by drying sandbanks. I now better appreciate ‘the Riddle of the Sands’