All at Sea

Stavoren Travel Blog

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Stavoren harbour
At twenty to eight on Sunday morning, therefore, we had a rendezvous at the Campanile Hotel to sort out how we were going to get to Stavoren, the harbour where our clipper, the Lena Adriana, was berthed: some of the Eden Oranje crew were going by train as the train station is right opposite their hotel. I tucked myself into Wendy's car, along with Grace and Mickey, while Suat and Onur, who didn't have SatNav and didn't know the way, followed us. Edwin and Femke, who were also staying at the Campanile, were to set off a little later when they had checked out at eight o'clock. Everything was geared around the necessity of being in Stavoren by nine o'clock because .
Ket tries out his sea legs
.. well, because it was by then that Wendy said we had to be in Stavoren.

SatNav makes everything so simple, even when it's Wendy's steam-driven system (patents pending). It works superbly when you know where you are going, and the route is straight ahead for about twenty kilometres. However, it seems to need a little tweaking when it comes to dealing with more complex situations, and at one point it started going completely bonkers, issuing instructions that, if taken literally, would have had us drive into the concrete wall of a tunnel, someone's front garden, a farmer's field and a canal. This was, of course, on a part of the route with which Wendy was unfamiliar, and there was the additional curiosity that Stavoren, which is by no means an insignificant conurbation in this part of the world, appeared on no signpost whatsoever.
The business end of the Lena Adriana
Of course, as this was Sunday morning, there was no-one about to ask, and it was almost as if mischievous elves had been at work, deliberately trying to lead us astray. Eventually, however, we came to a bit of road that Wendy recognised, and at that point the SatNav started issuing rational instructions again. I think it works by telepathy.

Eventually we arrived in the car park at Stavoren to find the others just arrived or arriving, and we walked down to the harbour while Wendy and Rowena organised the transfer of food and drink onto the boat. We had been told to make for the orange houses, and my goodness! they were orange: an interesting new harbourside development that, I must say, I rather liked - but then, I like orange. We had to negotiate two other ships to reach the Lena Adriana, and there was quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to get all the supplies on board.
The captain's-eye view
The professional crew were the captain, his two female assistant sailors, and the ship's dog; and one of the assistants gave everyone a briefing in Dutch, which of course I could not follow, but from which I gathered that we could not expect an entirely slothful day, but might be expected to assist with some of the more strenuous nautical operations. This turned out to be very true.

Shortly after ten we cast off and left the harbour under engine power; but as soon as we reached open water the assistants started raising the sails and enlisted help from the nearest unsuspecting TBs. At first I was reluctant to get involved, since I thought that it was unreasonable to expect instructions to be given in English as well as Dutch, but later I became more confident when it became clear that understanding Dutch did not guarantee that one wouldn't make a hash of things.
The orange houses of Stavoren
The weather was beautiful - sunny and warm, but not too warm, and with sufficient breeze to fill the sails so that we bowled along at about five knots. The early start meant that many of us had not had time for breakfast, and so the supplies were soon breached, and I started feeling a little smug at how well I felt, with no hint of seasickness and a limitless ability to enjoy Wendy's Frisian jummies.

The Ijselmeer, where we were sailing, was originally a part of the Zuider Zee, which was itself connected to the North Sea, but in the 1920s, as part of a massive reclamation project, a long dyke - the Afsluitdijk - was built across the mouth of the Zuider Zee, effectively converting it into two huge freshwater lakes, of which Ijselmeer is one. However, it is so big that to think of it as a lake is misleading, since the weather and sea conditions are just as they would have been if the Afsluitdijk had never been built.
A sailor-girl and three TBs prepare to hoist sail
The Ijselmeer is certainly not, as I had rather imagined it to be, a big pond.

For a couple of hours we just stood, sat or lay on deck, enjoying to the full the sensation of being totally relaxed and having absolutely nothing to do. I think that Wendy was enjoying herself particularly, because it was dawning on her just what a great success her meet-up had become, and the extent to which all her hard work and planning had paid off; for with the meet-up dinner successfully concluded, and everyone safely aboard the Lena Adriana on a beautiful sailing day, there wasn't much that could now go wrong.

When there was a call for assistance in the galley to help prepare lunch I was happy to go below and start buttering some rolls, but very soon a strange thing happened: I started to feel decidedly ill, so ill in fact that after fifteen minutes I had to excuse myself and dash for one of the ship's toilets.
Going up ...
I wasn't actually sick, but retched mightily and had to return to the deck feeling decidedly wimpish. I'm convinced that what made the difference was that on deck one was able to keep one's eyes fixed on the horizon, which of course was not possible in the galley. I soon began to feel better, and a glass of Berenberger certainly helped too - this is an extremely potent but very agreeable Frisian alcoholic concoction, made from I've no idea what. And my self-esteem was slightly restored when I discovered that Wendy - who as a Frisian born and bred should have had sailing in her veins - felt similarly unwell, and had vowed not to go below again while the ship was under way.

By then it was time for lunch: the sails came down, and under engine power we entered the little harbour at Koudum.
... and finally there!
Here we tied up and were able to go ashore to stretch our legs. I ate many, many rolls and this completed the rehabilitaion of my stomach; I particularly liked the raisin buns with a cheese filling - it sounds an unlikely combination, but I couldn't get enough of them. Then it was all aboard again, and back to sea. But anyone who thought that it would just be a re-run of the morning's activities was in for a shock.

As we left the harbour the conditions started to look a little squally; the clouds darkened, the breeze freshened, and the distant coastline became obscured. One lesson I was about to learn was how quickly and dramatically the weather can change at sea. The sails went up, but it was a decidedly more difficult operation than it had been in the morning as the sea was far more choppy and spray was breaking over the bows, making everyone and everything sopping wet.
I hope we looked as elegant as this craft
At some point it started to rain, but it was impossible to tell when as the spray itself was drenching. By ones and twos TBs retreated below deck where, judging by subsequent pictorial evidence, some of them began to feel rather ill. However, I had already donned my wet-weather gear, such as it was, and determined not to go below come hell or high water, as I had no intention of being seasick again.

Instead I retreated to the stern of the boat - the business end - where I could join the captain, his assistants and a couple of other TBs who had decided to brave the elements. It was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, in spite of getting wetter than I've ever been before, my supposedly wet-weather gear letting in water like a sieve.
At one point the business end took on the character of a social club
The ship was pitching and rolling, and visibility was down to a few hundred metres, with no sign of the shore. I don't know how the captain knew where we were; although the ship was equipped with SatNav I didn't notice him consulting it, and anyway after our morning's experience my faith in that technology was at rock bottom. He said that the wind was at the upper limit of force six, which is almost a near gale; and our speed was about seven knots. It was good to be able to talk to him and his assistants, who were clearly loving it - as one of them, who was also a postwoman, remarked, this was "real sailing". It's a great comfort when the crew don't look worried, but just to be on the safe side I asked the captain what was the strongest wind that he had been out in, and he said force nine, which made me feel a lot better, as did the knowledge that the Lena Adriana had been built to carry cargo across the North Sea, and so would presumably cope well with a fair degree of inclement weather.
Rowena taking a well-earned rest
All this time my stomach felt in perfect working order whatever the motion of the ship, as I made sure I didn't look down but just gazed at the horizon - or where I supposed the horizon would be if only it were visible. Unfortunately by this time the rain and spray had penetrated the delicate mechanism of my camera, which thereupon ceased taking usable pictures, and not until the next day, when it had dried out, was its functionality restored.

Although this was really the experience of a lifetime, at least as far as I was concerned, it probably wasn't the gentle cruise that Wendy had expected, for although this kind of weather is not unusual on Ijselmeer it is unusual in August. The few hardy TBs left on deck learned how physically demanding dealing with a sailing vessel can be, especially when they have little idea of what they are supposed to be doing.
Kite-surfing on the approach to Koudum
Rather earlier than planned we were heading back to Stavoren, and as the engines started up we took down the sails for the second time, discovering just how heavy and unwieldy they are when wet and billowing about all over the place. Soon the orange houses loomed out of the rain, and as we entered the harbour the wind dropped and condtions became somewhat calmer.

It was necessary then to have a massive clean-up of the galley, to dispose of all the rubbish, and to pack up unused food and drink, of which there was a lot, since it had all been mostly ignored during the afternoon. At this point some people had to say goodbye as they needed to drive home ready for work on Monday. But that still left more than a dozen of us with a whole evening to fill. Originally Wendy had proposed having a meal in Stavoren, but we were all so wet that what we most wanted was to change into dry clothes.
The Lena Adriana tied up at Koudum
So we determined to head back to Leeuwarden in the cars and meet later for a meal at a Mexican-cum-Argentinian restaurant which Wendy was keen for us to try out.
pms70 says:
Love your style of writing John!
Posted on: Aug 10, 2008
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Stavoren harbour
Stavoren harbour
Ket tries out his sea legs
Ket tries out his sea legs
The business end of the Lena Adria…
The business end of the Lena Adri…
The captains-eye view
The captain's-eye view
The orange houses of Stavoren
The orange houses of Stavoren
A sailor-girl and three TBs prepar…
A sailor-girl and three TBs prepa…
Going up ...
Going up ...
... and finally there!
... and finally there!
I hope we looked as elegant as thi…
I hope we looked as elegant as th…
At one point the business end took…
At one point the business end too…
Rowena taking a well-earned rest
Rowena taking a well-earned rest
Kite-surfing on the approach to Ko…
Kite-surfing on the approach to K…
The Lena Adriana tied up at Koudum
The Lena Adriana tied up at Koudum
Lunch-time
Lunch-time
The day wouldnt be complete witho…
The day wouldn't be complete with…
Matt seems to have a good idea of …
Matt seems to have a good idea of…
Leaving Koudum harbour
Leaving Koudum harbour
Hoisting the sails again
Hoisting the sails again
Beginning to get interestingly cho…
Beginning to get interestingly ch…
Sailor-girl at the helm
Sailor-girl at the helm
The captain having a nice sit-down
The captain having a nice sit-down
As conditions worsened the captain…
As conditions worsened the captai…
I was worried that those brooms mi…
I was worried that those brooms m…
Me
Me
Its alright for some - sensible s…
It's alright for some - sensible …
This really starts to be fun
This really starts to be fun
Even more fun; but at this point m…
Even more fun; but at this point …
Curiously, my camera relented just…
Curiously, my camera relented jus…
Stavoren
photo by: Jamarek