Monthly Archives: June 2016

PART I: Starting our Norwegian summer adventure

SKUDENESHAVN

Thursday-Monday, June 23-27

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Egersund offered an easy harbor to recoup from three days at sea, which Dolly Doughnut also appreciated. Being tied to the main town quay, it was easy to hop off and on as we took care of the usual errands of cleaning bodies, clothes and boat as well as replenishing some fresh provisions.

Max had discovered a hint of “diesel bug” in our reserve fuel tank, and went in search of a more powerful anti-dote than the additive he’d been using. There was none available in the local shops, but when he asked the friendly guys on the rescue boat (the large white boat to the right of JUANONA in the picture)  they immediately poured him a bottle from their supply of what they consider the best product available. Many of the countries in Europe have maritime rescue services that are highly trained and widely respected, and we’re glad to know the “Redningsselskapet” as it’s called here in Norway is available if needed. Even if it’s not an emergency, these life savers come to a boater’s aid!

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After 36 hours of enjoying land, we left Egersund but not before Max had started to track down potential relatives. Since his great-great grandfather was born on the island next to Egersund, we inquired at the town hall where we could locate any of his kin. We ended up at a local church office where a kind lady entered into the search with gusto, printing out an address list of all in the area with the last name Assersen. Four postcards later,

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we left the harbor passing the naked woman statue’s back…

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and front…

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then turned north for a 50-mile sail to Skudneeshavn, a town on the southern tip of Karmoy Island.

What we’re discovering as we cruise around southern Norway is how different it is from the Lofotens, last summer’s north-of-the-Arctic sailing. There, when we landed in a town or at an anchorage, we often were the only souls exploring the shoreline. Our adventures entailed wandering through the natural landscape, like our anchorage in Gullvika,

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as opposed to delving into the cultural sites found around here. This summer we’re immersing ourselves in the history of this magnificent part of the world.

For instance, we actually sailed on the waters that gave this country its name:  Nordvegen (the “Northern Passage”) from which “Norge” or North Way comes. Kamroy Island sitting like a shield between the North Sea and the mainland comes from karmr (protection) and we sailed on Karmsundet, a shipping channel between Kamroy and the mainland, which is part of this ancient Nordvegen. Pretty cool.

It was an easy sail to Skudeneshavn, described as one of the best-kept small towns in Norway and an award-winning Summer Town. It’s also known for over 130 original timber homes and seafront wharves, which blossomed thanks to successful herring harvests in the early 19th century.

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The entry into the small harbor was stunning as we motored past brilliant white houses into the innermost harbor. We nestled into a space right in the town’s center, nudging aside a beautiful wooden rowboat at our bow while carefully avoiding the long bowsprit at our stern. Then we gazed around at the “White Empire Town”, a term often used to describe Skudeneshavn. (Interestingly, the city we left–Egersund–became known for homes painted a variety of different colors because soot from the porcelain factory, the town’s historical industry, wouldn’t show as much as it did on white.). Below is the view looking aft from our tie-up.

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Because we know the feeling of trying to find a spot when mooring space is limited, we welcome rafters when we see another yacht heading in with the captain peering around for a tie-up; and, that’s just what happened. A Norwegian boat came in and we invited them to raft with us. Which is how we met Lars and Asbjorn (and, Asbjorn, if you’re reading this, I apologize for I know I’m misspelling your name, which I hate doing!), friends who met when skiing in Utah in the mid-1990s and who also share a passion for mountain climbing.

Lars had purchased his boat two years ago and had lived on it with his wife and young son. Then they moved into a home ashore, which enabled him to start prepping his boat for a tour to Greenland, a climbing destination of his. I look forward to reading about this adventure as I have no doubt it’ll occur.

Lars’ pursuit of sailing in conjunction with climbing led to a discussion of the feats of Bill Tillman, another climber-sailor, then flowed into  Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to Antarctica followed by the importance of liberal arts (Asbjorn is a teacher in Stavanger and had initiated the school’s music band; he also just happens to look like Max’s son Chris who’s also a teacher).

While tossing thoughts back and forth, another boat came along with the captain looking for a mooring. The end result being three boats rafted side-by-side

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with Brits Judy and James joining in on the evening’s discussions. As I’ve surely mentioned before, this is definitely one of the joys of traveling.

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With Lars and Asbjorn leaving the next morning, the usual choreography occurred with captains and first mates doing the dance of releasing one boat while keeping hold of another.

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As you can see from the photo above it was a rainy day as forecast but this was offset by another wonderful evening of being with Judy and James.

By Saturday morning, though, we were once again neighborless as they, too, set off for another destination, heading south while we were planning on making our way further north.

After the grayness of Friday, this day sparkled and we used it to bus up to Avaldsnes, Norway’s oldest royal seat and the site of a medieval church and Viking Museum. But, more of that later. For now I’ll continue with current affairs, the next one proving just how small the world is. For what occurred almost defies belief.

After our day’s activities, we settled in for the evening. As he was cooking dinner, Max glanced out the galley window and noticed someone securing a business card to our rigging. He jumps up and shouts, “Paul!”.

Well, the abbreviated version of this you-won’t-believe-what-happened story begins with Max hoping to locate a friend from Maine who used to race with Max and his family. Max knew this childhood friend lived some where in Norway but, not knowing his address, email or phone number, didn’t have a way to contact him; so, we thought that was that.

But that wasn’t that. Paul, who lives in Stavanger, a city on the mainland, had just purchased his 23-foot sailboat. He had taken her out for a maiden cruise and thought he’d pop into Skudeneshavn having always wanting to sail here. (Afterwards, Max realized he had seen Paul enter the harbor.)

After docking he walked around town and then noticed the American flag. Coming up to the boat he saw it was from Orr’s Island and figured perhaps he might know the owners; and, it was in the process of leaving his card that the surprise connection was made. Another evening of celebration began. Paul mentioned that he had been thinking about Abbot (Max’s father) that very day, and the sailing lessons he had learned from racing with him.

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Once aboard we discovered we both had been at Bayeux (France) and both had been mesmerized by the 11th-century taspesty, enough so the scene on his ball cap matched the one on our pillow.

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One thing led to another and the three of us ended up at a local piano bar where live entertainment kept the place hopping.

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The next morning was a bit of a slow one for all. We waved a farewell as Paul left, planning on meeting up in Stavanger in a few weeks.

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With the sky now drizzling rain we set off on a self-guided tour of the town (after Max stopped communing with the local swans, which always reminds us of our friend Gracie who befriended a swan in Ipswich and upon whom she bestowed the name Frankie)

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using a route mapped out by the Tourist Office.

As we strolled down narrow, highly-piggly streets

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we admired the well-maintained homes in the old section of town… most of them white but not all…

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with some built into right onto the stone landscape.

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A standing bust and building, now a cafe, honors the father of the fog horn, Ole Christian Hansen (1850-1935). I had to have a photo of that since my Dad always said my nose blowing sounded like one. Must admit I couldn’t argue with him about that.

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Our last stop was seeing the mounted figurehead

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close to the entrance of a pretty little park where a moon stone,

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later discovered to be not from the moon but still notable being 800 million years old and most likely deposited here 10,000 years ago by ice.

On Monday it was time to leave. Wanting to top up our diesel we found a pump in the outer harbor, but no one was around. I hopped off JUANONA to see if anyone was in another building down the way only to find someone who kindly called another guy on his phone. In a few minutes someone came striding up to help us. He mentioned we could probably use our credit card to pay (as in the Netherlands, our credit card doesn’t always work here) but, if it didn’t, he offered to use his and have us reimburse him in cash. Now, this is hospitality.

Figuring it was safer to use his, we did just that and then settled up. Not only was this guy friendly and helpful, he also had a great sense of humor:  as the photo was being taken with me in it, he said he’d better not have the money out; and, if you don’t get it, don’t worry. But, it was a good joke on me!

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And, with that we left Skudeneshavn but not without wonderful memories of the town and the people we met.

Have I said how much I love this country? :)

Flashback to our Road Trip with Shirley

Chatsworth House

Wednesday-Friday, March 9-11

Knowing how much we enjoyed history, our friends Anne and Peter had planned an early spring road trip for us. The adventure would be a combination of visiting Anne’s mum, Shirley, and touring one of Britain’s most imposing homes, Chatsworth House.

Off we zipped with Peter, a former motorcycle racer, at the wheel to Derbyshire where both Shirley and the the Duke of Devonshire resided.

In spite of a gray day of chilly drizzle we couldn’t help but be impressed by the size and magnificence of the ‘house’ of 297 rooms and a mere 35,000 acres as we neared our destination. Anne had grown up in this area, so she and her mum were well-versed in the history of the Chatsworth House; and, they filled us in a bit as we began our long winding drive up to the parking lot.

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But, first things first, which meant a spot of tea and some coffee to warm ourselves.

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The cafeteria and shop were located in the former stables;

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and, if were a horse, I’d want to live here. Even if I weren’t a horse, I’d still want to live here. There not too many ‘stables’ with views like this out their front gate where one pretty much owns everything as far as the eye can easily see.

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Fortified with our British libations we decided to begin our drive of the estate. We were fortunate in that we were ahead of the usual crowds because the main house was closed; yet, it didn’t matter. Just seeing the exterior fueled our imagination. Plus, there’s an excellent documentary on the BBC with the current Duke serving as the tour guide. Quite an endearing chap, I might add.

The history of this house began in the 16th century when Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608)

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married her second husband, Sir William Cavendish (1505-1557). Cavendish became wealthy due to the lands he had acquired helping King Henry VIII dissolve (read plunder) all of England’s monasteries in the mid-1500s. With Bess’ urging her husband sold the monks’  lands and stockpiled a ton of money. In 1549 they purchased the Chatsworth manor for £600, and the fun begins.

Thanks to Bess’ business acumen and excellent husband-picking (she married twice more after Cavendish bit the dust), she amassed a fortune, which subsequent generations used to generate even more wealth.

But, it’s not just fortune that defines Chatsworth House. Which brings us to another influential woman, Lady Georgiana Spencer (1737-1806).

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You may recognize her name from the bio-pic THE DUCHESS starring Kiera Knightley. The beautiful socialite Lady Spencer married William Cavendish, now the 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811). The marriage was a disaster with Spencer running up huge gambling debts and Cavendish making one of his wife’s best friends his mistress. (To this day people compare this 18th-century marriage to that of the 20th-century one between Prince Charles and Lady Diana, whose ancestor was Georgiana. At least Camilla wasn’t Di’s confidante.)

By the 20th century Chatsworth House was becoming more of a burden than a luxury due to some poor business decisions by earlier dukes and the instituting of England’s death duties.

Once again Chatsworth House becomes associated with yet another famous woman, the Honorable Deborah Mitford (1920-2014).

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Some years ago I had read a biography about the glamorous Mitford sisters known for their beauty and outlandish behavior.

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Growing up in the rarefied air of England’s aristocracy, these six sisters captivated and entertained the world with their antics and relationships, some of the latter falling into the seriously ugly type. You may recall the life of Diana Mitford who married Britain’s leader of the fascist party, Sir Oswald Mosley? Their wedding was in Joseph Goebbels’ house with the couple’s friend, Adolf Hitler, in attendance.

Yet, Deborah seemed the most normal of them all. Maybe most of the quirkiness had been depleted by the time she came along. Whatever the reason, it’s due to Deborah’s vision and hard work that enabled the Cavendish family to retain their family home.

Another famous female was associated with Chatsworth:  Kathleen Kennedy who married the oldest son who was heir apparent. Tragically, he died in WWII soon after their marriage and she, in a plane crash in 1948. So, back to the second son who now had Chatsworth with his Mitford wife.

Over the years Deborah, or Debo as she was known to family, converted the aging property into a successful entrepreneurial venture with a farm shop, historical tours, and event rentals. Operating as a charitable trust since 1981, Chatsworth House now welcomes over half-a-million visitors a year, five of whom were us as we looked in awe at the expansive fields and gardens and buildings, all of this possible  because of one determined woman who refused to stand by and let a piece of Britain’s history crumble into oblivion.

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Ending our tour with a stop at the farm shop, we purchased some goodies then headed for a delicious lunch at an old pub Anne and her mum use to frequent.

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The next morning brought a promise of spring as we said our farewells to Anne’s mum and started the trek back to the marina.

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On the way home we made a bit of a detour to another estate located in Sherwood Forest in Nottingham. I’m not kidding. There is such a place only I didn’t see any men running around in green tights and a feather in their hats. Although, that would have been nice.

Welbeck dates from the 12th century when it was a Premonstratensian monastery (a Catholic religious order which combined the contemplative life with a more socializing one–I had to look that up) to a Cavalier residence in the 17th century to a working farm in the 21st century. This registered historic park (originally designed in 1748) is chock-a-block full of ventures:  organic food items, a tasty cafe menu (where we ate lunch), small craft shops, artist studios, offices, a School of Artisan Food, and residences both for sale and rent.

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And, it’s mesmerizingly lovely, just like Chatsworth, only on a more manageable scale.

As we drove around the various buildings, including the stables and natatorium complex, Anne shared her childhood memories. Her parents had rented one of the homes on these forested grounds, and Anne pointed out where she waited for the school bus and how she would take off on her bike to meet up with her friend Jane in the next village over. To have grown up in these surroundings would have been like living in a wonderful storybook setting.

 

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I have to say JUANONA felt a bit smaller after our road trip with Anne and Peter. And, the history! I loved how the unfamiliar sites touched on the familiar knowledge of what little I had known about Lady Georgiana Spencer and Deborah Mitford.

Best of all we a brilliant road trip with Shirlee and our good friends off of SACRE BLEU :)

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A future reunion is a must! But, now back to Norway…

Fourth Time’s a charm

Sunday – Tuesday, June 19-21

With a favorable forecast we departed Vlieland at 11:00a to begin our three-day passage to Norway.

Outfitted with my faithful scopolamine patch to offset any seasickness, I only felt a wee bit queasy viewing the breaking waves ahead.

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As we rounded the eastern tip of the island JUANONA quickly began gyrating as the wind against current did its thing. Fortunately it only lasted an hour and then smoothed out enough where we didn’t feel we were riding a bucking bronco. My knuckles turned to red from white and we were happily on our way.

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With a single-reefed main sail we settled into a routine.

As the day turned to night we began our alternating watches. Generally, this means a schedule of three hours on, three hours off; however, we practice a lot of leeway depending on how tired or awake one of us is. I have to say I believe this is the first, two-person passage where I got plenty of sleep, as did Max, which was heavenly. It also meant I wasn’t as grouchy as I easily could be.

Another first is using the aft berth for our off-watch time. Even when it’s just the two of us Max and I typically sleep in the main cabin with lee cloths (like on previous passages).

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So, it was a nice change to not have to do a contortionist act to enter and exit one’s berth.

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Late evening, Max added a second reef to the main (which means we shortened the main sail to a third of its full-size; this was due to a forecast of up to 30 knots of wind).

The winds did pick up on Monday at midnight as predicted, and poor visibility made our AIS and radar helpful crewmates as we avoided the usual North Sea obstacles of wind farms and gas/oil rigs.

To me it’s always eerie to come upon those structures out in the middle of the sea looking like some stalking, alien preying mantis ready to pounce on some poor vessel who gets too close.

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Of course, there’s a very good reason for steering clear of these manmade apparitions as one chart warned us:
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For those of you who wonder what the heck we do all day when on watch, the following will give you an idea of what it’s like to be hooked in…

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and keeping an eye out for something, ANY thing that would provide a diversion from seeing waves go up and down and you with them.

So, here’s looking forward…

and, here’s looking aft…

Our preparations for 30 knots of wind proved to be overly conservative since they didn’t really get much above 25 as we coasted through our second day of passage-making. We took out the reefs and added the motor to augment Mother Nature’s lessening wind.

A rare sighting of a fellow sailboat provided a moment of kinship as we hailed one another across the water. They were also heading to Norway only a bit further north.

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As the day moved into night we benefited from being this far north on the eve of the Summer Solstice.  At 10:00 pm it was easy to spot more rigs and buoys arising out of nowhere in the middle of our passage.

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My Tuesday early-morning watch was accompanied by dolphins feeding under and around JUANONA.

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And, as we neared the coast of southern Norway fishing boats began to appear more regularly.

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With the sun out the temperatures rose and we began to shed the woolies we had donned early Sunday. (Yes, we had both been wearing the same items ever since we left three days earlier…)

My long johns, having been a gift from my husband for Christmast 2013, are something you’d find on a Dr. Seuss creature

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while Max’s were a bit more sedate.

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With relatively quiet shipping lanes (unlike heading to Ijmuiden) and a calm cockpit day, Max enjoyed a book given to him by my brother

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then hoisted our flags:  one for the country in which we’re cruising (called a courtesy flag); and a yellow one (called a Q flag, which, in the olden days identified a ship as under quarantine until the authorities visited and deemed the ship and crew healthy enough to enter port).

I love seeing this as it means I can stop silently asking my childhood question ‘are we there yet’ and begin to salivate at the thought of some fresh-baked goods being part of my future.

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Finally in the early evening we sailed into the protected harbor of Egersund, one of Norway’s southern cities.

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Our fourth passage of the North Sea had felt seamless as we sailed and motored through three days of easy weather. Maybe I’m getting use to this, who knows? But, I do know as we both switched from passage-making to exploring, we were eagerly awaiting the formal beginning of our 2016 summer cruising.

Norway here we are!

Island Escape

HARLINGEN

Thursday, June 16

Within 36 hours of Max arriving back in Enkhuizen (having extended his trip home to attend a funeral) we began staging for a passage to southern Norway. All winter we’d been planning to head into the Baltic (East Sweden and Denmark) and had studied those areas extensively.  But in the past few weeks, largely due to customs and immigration considerations, we changed our plans entirely and decided to head to southwest Norway instead. The change of plans forced us to do a crash course to figure out the tides, routes, harbors, and “harbors of refuge” (places to duck into in severe weather) for our new itinerary.

Our original plan of exiting to the North Sea via Den Helder changed after some excellent advice from Henk and Kiki, cruisers we had met in Hoorne. They suggested crossing the inland lake, the Ijseelmeer, for Harlingen, a port on the North Sea, then heading for Vlieland, one of the Frisian Islands. Not only did it make better sailing sense, it also provided the opportunity to explore another fun cruising destination in the Netherlands. Harlingen it was.

It felt great to be moving again even if it was via motor and even though there were tons of itsy bits gnats. Within an hour they covered JUANONA. Fortunately, they weren’t biters, just minor annoyances as we swatted them away from faces and necks and, in one instance, swallowed a few.

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We went through a lock at the eastern end of the enormous dike, called the Afsluitdijk, which ran across Northwest Holland and keeps the North Sea out. The 20-mile-long dike was built over five years from 1927 to 1932 and is an engineering marvel.

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We sailed on to Harlingen where a pair of bridges opened and led us into a narrow harbor full of cruisers, mainly from the Netherlands. And, was it packed! We wondered how on earth boats maneuver during the busy months of July and August if this was how the harbor looked in June; yet, the Dutch ability to navigate such crowded harbors never ceased to amaze me and, once again, I was in awe of their docking skills.

Spotting a good-size boat tied to the wall we asked if we could raft with them (a common event in this populous country). No problem as they took our lines then helped us spin JUANONA so our bow was facing the exit (we always try to position ourselves for the easiest exit as wind and current can play havoc when endeavoring to steer a 39’-long vessel with one propeller pushing from the last few feet).

Thanking them with a bottle of wine they asked where we were going, etc., and in discussing possible winter harbors they suggested their small club marina in Amsterdam (just east of the one we had used when moored in that city). Always wonderful to have fellow cruisers provide good advice, and we’ve found the Dutch to be extremely helpful in this regard.

With JUANONA tied off we went to the harbor office to pay our one-night fee. Here, we found another friendly helper in the form of the harbor master, and she smilingly filled us in on the details we always request:  shower block codes? garbage disposal? grocery store?

Hearing we had at least an hour before the store closed we strolled through Harlingen’s cobble-stone streets threaded by canals and bordered by stunningly well-kept, 16th- to 18th-century homes.

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This Frisian port gained fame and prosperity during the 1700s due to the whaling industry. Today the town maintains its connection to the sea as a transportation hub for ferries darting to and from the islands as well as a convenient harbor for cruise ships and recreational boats.

VLIELAND

Friday, June 17

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to explore the rich heritage of this lovely, mainland town because we wanted to reach Vlieland, one of the less-inhabited Frisian islands, on a favorable current. So, freshly showered and with a few more provisions we left with a flotilla of other boaters to head across the Wadden Sea (the south-eastern part of the North Sea).

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During our brief, 15-mile crossing we watched as boats, small and large, criss-crossed our wake or motored parallel to and from our heading.  Gazing around us we could truly see how these waters must have looked when covered with trading and military ships of yore. I finally understood that the centuries-old paintings depicting a bustling array of sailing vessels didn’t lie but were true representation of those times.

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One magnificent boat, s/v ADELE, passed us with friendly waves. Max later discovered this yacht has sailed all over the world including South Georgia, Antarctica and Cape Horn. As a friend of his wrote even I might enjoy cruising the Southern Ocean on a boat like this :)

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Reaching the carefully buoyed entrance to Vlieland’s one harbor we exited from the main channel and entered into a marina chock full of sail and motor boats alike.

We were fairly confident we’d find a place to dock because we had heard from other boaters, including a friendly cruising couple, Ineke and Willem, whom I had met in Enkhuizen, that most weekenders were headed to the larger, more populated island, Terschelling, for its Oerol Festival. “Oerol” translates to “everywhere” due to farmers letting their cows go free one day each year (why, I don’t know). This annual, ten-day event sounded wonderful with live performances in dance, theater and art but not something we could manage this year. Which meant, hopefully, more space on Vlieland, Terschelling’s quieter neighbor.

Sure enough we located a convenient hammerhead where we quickly docked then did our usual pivoting of JUANONA for a future exit.

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This marina was alive with weekenders enjoying the summery sun with kids crabbing, adults relaxing, and lots of people bike riding (the island doesn’t allow automobiles unless you’re one of the few 1,200 residents). And, if there was ever any doubt about where we were cruising one glance down a pontoon solved that as the Netherlands’ flag streamed off of majority of the sterns.

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Our friends Henk and Kiki, whom we had met in Hoorne and who have provided us with invaluable information along our most recent sails, mentioned their son Michiel, daughter-in-law Barbara and children were aboard their boat s/v POPCORN in Harlingen and also were headed to Vlieland. We managed to locate them and enjoyed meeting this sailing family who gave us tips on what to see and do. Renting bikes seemed to be a no-brainer, one echoed by POPCORN, which became our plan for the next day.

Saturday, June 18

In Vlieland we’d be waiting for a weather window to cross to southern Norway, and it appeared Sunday, June 19, would offer decent winds for the short 340-mile passage. Knowing we had a free day to enjoy this beautiful, wind-swept island we rented bikes and began our tour. Passing through the pretty, one-street town of Oost-Vlieland.

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Heading west I got a jolt of nostalgia, all brought on by seeing a dream house sitting atop a small hill and tucked into a verdant landscape. It reminded me so much of my Douglas Bruce cousins’ home in Corning, I had to take a photo. Boy, did that bring back wonderful and powerful memories.

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Continuing on our way we cycled along a beautiful (flat :) ) road with the wide-open sea on one side

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and forested dunes on the other.IMG 8042

Stopping to take in the sights such as the local horses

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and clever counterweights on fence gates,

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we understood why this coastal area is part of the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage Site, the world’s largest, unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats.

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On the north side of the island we climbed the dunes and spotted sailing dune buggies. I saw Max keenly eyeing these sand vessels and knew we’d be on them if we had had more time.

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But, prepping for Norway beckoned, and we returned back to JUANONA to finalize our passage planning.

Our Netherlands cruising was coming to an end. We knew we’d be back. How could we not return?

But, first, a return to another land whose people and natural beauty seduced us the first time we saw it…

 

AMSTERDAM

Monday, May 9

Rudy arrived and we introduce him to the quick ferry ride across to Sixhaven Marina then whisk him back across the river for a walk-about, which ended at the Van Gogh Museum covering this artist’s life (1853-90).

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Renovated in 2014-15 this museum provides an easy to digest biography of this artist’s life, beginning with his childhood in the mid-1800s.

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The space was crowded but not overwhelmingly, so it was easy to stroll from one floor to the next. Some of the most fascinating tidbits to me were how he interacted with his fellow artists, many of whom being his friends, and how much of a craftsman he was in relation to learning his art. I had always assumed he was an impulsive artist, splashing and coloring his canvases without much preparation. I quickly understood this guy practiced and practiced and honed his skill, experimenting with various techniques and subject matter, one being a japanese interest.

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What was truly wonderful was the love he had for his brother, Theodore, a successful art seller who supported Vincent financially and, even more importantly, emotionally.

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With beautiful weather beckoning us we finished our fairly quick review of Van Gogh then strolled to our ferry and home to JUANONA.

HOORN

Tuesday, May 10

We had been keeping an eye on weather for heading to another historical site further north. Hoorn, once a port of the Dutch East India Company (the West India Company was created in 1621) , sits on the Markermeer, a lake due to the dyke built in 1932.

It was an easy sail involving an initial lock out of Amsterdam. Within six hours we were approaching the narrow opening to Hoorn’s 13th century harbor under the watchful gaze of the Hoofdtoren, dating from 1532. This tower served not only as one of Hoorn’s defenses but also as the home of the Northern Company (a cartel founded in 1614 and operated until 1642) focused on whaling.

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Entering this historical harbor was magical with a lovely park on one side and the old buildings on the other. We love tieing up to town walls because you simply step off the boat and immediately become part of the local landscape. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to meet people walking along the water’s edge.

We found the Tourist Information Office, purchased a walking tour map for the next day’s exploring, then settled into an easy night ending with the obligatory OH HELL game, something Max and I had been missing since the last time a third crew was aboard.

Wednesday, May 11

Another lovely day dawned and off we went matching our route with noted sites listed in two tourist brochures. With my two companions willing to dramatize the brochures’ descriptions I was thoroughly entertained as we traipsed through this beautiful town.

We walked to the oldest house in Hoorn constructed in 1593 only to read it burnt down in 1945 and was rebuilt two years later. Hmmm.

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As Max likes to recount, this falls in the same category as the sign we had heard about:  Antiques made to order.

You can’t walk down these streets without noticing the decidedly forward tilt to the buildings. Several theories have arisen for these ‘in flight’ houses, from rainwater drainage to gain more space above to presenting a more imposing appearance, the latter supposedly being one reason why they weren’t straightened.

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Then, a puzzling description about plaques like a ‘comic strip’ atop three joined houses or Bossuhuizen dating from the 17th century). Comic Strip? Well, that turned out to be a bas-relief frieze depicting the October 12th 1573 historic Battle on the Zuiderzee between the Dutch and the Spanish led by Count Bossu with the Dutch as victors. Not too comical. What was intriguing was identifying the harbor entrance (check out the second panel) that we passed through the day before.

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Another stop placed us in the main square opposite the Waag (Weigh House from 1609) and next to a statue of a prominent resident, J.P. Coen (1587-1629), a Dutch merchant and governor-general of the Dutch East India Company. Yet, then the brochure continued saying the guy wasn’t liked very much due to his use of violence to achieve his goal of a trade monopoly. Sounds like a great opportunity for replacement while stowing him in a museum.

Jan Pieterszoon Coen statue

Another historical building showcased a coat-and-arms facade,

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while an elaborate entrance provided the perfect spot for two men in repose:

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I mean how lucky can a women get?! :)

And, then there was the aviary we stumbled upon where my husband further endeared himself to me when he tried to get a little birdie to join him in whistling…

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while one nearby displayed her distaste in ruffled pink plumage.

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Of course, when in the Netherlands one must try on wooden shoes; and, my fellow walkers obliged me by doing just that.
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At times we felt the tourist bureau had been really searching for tourist sites such as listing the 18th century wallpaper one could see. This was hung in the antiquities room located at the Dutch Cape Horners Foundation. (Captain Willem Schouten who, with Jacob Le Maire, named that part of South America having sailed from here in 1615. We couldn’t help but think of our friends Rob and Shawn due to Rob having rounded the horn with Max in 1985).

We did end up seeing the wallpaper and, I must admit, it was pretty spectacular; plus, the two members who greeted us made us feel very welcomed. Definitely a return visit is warranted.

All antics aside, Hoorn is a lovely port to visit. We strolled by an old gate topped by a residence

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and a remnant (the 1508 defense tower called the Mary Tower due to the Mary Convent, which helped pay for the defense of the city) from when the city was rimmed by a wall.

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One of the most puzzling and sobering sites we saw was a sculpture depicting two hands in chains clasping one another. We tried to read the bronze plaque written in Dutch but to no avail.

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Later we inquired about this as well as similar sculptures we had seen around town. A local recounted the atrocity, which occurred during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. On January 4th, 1944, five POWs were taken from their prison, walked through the streets to the Grote Kerk (church) and executed. The killings were in retaliation for the assassination of a Nazi collaborator by the resistance. In 1990 four, hand sculptures representing departure, anger, despair, and support were placed along this route of remembrance where it ended at an earlier monument of a bound man mounted in 1947 at the place of execution.

Gazing at those held hands in chains one can only imagine the feeling of helplessness and the men’s poignant determination to share this tragic destiny as one. Astonishingly, neither of the two tourist brochure bothered to mention this event. Would be well worth adding.

We ended with asking our boat neighbors, Kiki and Henk, aboard and had another wonderful time sharing cockpit conversations. They also gave us some pointers regarding marinas and places to cruise.

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Friday, May 13

Tied to a town’s quay provides one of the best ways to become immersed in the local habitat, which is what occurred when Thijs, a local sailor, stopped by after spotting our American flag. He had cruised the South Pacific in the early 2000s and was eager to talk with fellow cruisers.

Thijs told us about his marina just on the other side of the park from us. Mentioning it could be a possible winter berth, he took us over there and kindly introduced us to the harbor master.

Wanting to spend more time with Thijs, we asked him and his family to join us after his wife returned from work; and, later that day Thijs, his wife Debra and young daughter Tika came aboard with some traditional Dutch fare and a lively exchange began.

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I have to say these conversations typically beginning with cruising then meandering through a range of topics become one of the gems of cruising. I can never get enough of hearing how others live their lives, many with fascinating episodes.

Saturday-Monday, May 14-16

The next morning we awoke anticipating a reunion long overdue. Our friends known to us as our Belgian family–Ta, Koen and their three children, Seppe, Frieke, and Wannes–were visiting for the weekend. Not having seen them since 2009 we eagerly awaited their arrival.

Because JUANONA couldn’t offer enough berths they had booked rooms on Oostreiland (Eastern Island), a short walk across a bridge to the main harbor. The hotel previously served as 17th-century residences and warehouses, which were converted to a poorhouse (1817-28) and later a prison until 2003 (Seppe’s basement-level room still had the bars on the window and original cell door.).

They arrived around noon, and the celebrations began after Max and I got over the shock of seeing now three teenagers who were small children the last time we had set eyes on them seven years ago…

Frieke Wannes Seppe NOV 2009

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After a walk around town we headed back to JUANONA for some card games and Max’s famous (and only) card trick.

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We discovered it was Ta and Koen’s wedding anniversary, which enhanced the festivities and toasts with the bottle of champagne brought by Koen. (FYI:  this is one of the few appearances Ta made below due to getting extremely seasick; she normally is perched on the top step of the hatchway.)

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A Belgian team hat was presented to Max who quickly donned it yet realized wearing it off the boat may not be appreciated by our Dutch hosts.

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The next day was cloudy but another stroll around town and through the park offered a chance to catch up. We learned about Seppe’s fascination with astronomy, Frieke’s interest in art and history, and Wannes’ eagerness to travel US Route 66. Ta was continuing her photography degree with an upcoming trip to Peru on a paid assignment while Koen was working towards a pilot’s license. To say we were thrilled to be with them doesn’t do their visit justice.

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Although there were many memories shared one anecdote does stand out:  this family has been traveling all over the world since Seppe was less than two months old; and, they were telling us about one of their more recent trips, this time to Sicily. One of the kids was flipping through a book in a museum shop and finally called Ta over. With a puzzled expression the child asked who was this guy? Followed by, ‘whoever he was he must have been really popular’ because he was featured in so many paintings. Ta peered over the shoulder, then quietly mentioned he was Jesus… Got to love it.

On Monday we were sailing up to Enkuizen (about 11 miles north of Hoorn) in order to leave JUANONA at a marina for an upcoming trip home. Steppe, Frieke, and Wannes joined us, and we arranged to meet Ta and Koen there after they made a quick trip to Amsterdam. We had just left the harbor when Seppe’s cell phone rang. It was his parents calling asking for the car keys. Good timing!

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A wind kicked up enough for a wonderful sail, and the six of us enjoyed a morning out on the water with some hot chocolate to take the chill out.

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Captain Max shared the helm with Rudy

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with the sail ending in a group portrait:

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A spectacular ending to a memorable visit with some Belgian chocolate labeled ‘Norway’  and ‘FOBF’ (from our Belgian family) (they had been a bit stunned when I told them I had separated our provisioning last summer between non-Norway & Norway)…   IMG_7995

and a thoughtful gift from Seppe as a reminder of time spent with our Belgian Family.

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ENKHUIZEN

Wednesday, May 18

We had heard from several other cruisers about Zuiderzee, a must-see, living museum located in Enkhuizen. We decided to visit this site while here, which we did under another warm blue sky.

First, just a bit of background on the history of the Zuiderzee… Enkuizen once sat on an inland sea due to salt water constantly breaching flimsy land barriers creating the Zuiderzee (literally ‘South Sea’). Today, this town straddles the waters of two, large lakes, the Ijseelmeer in the north and Markermeer in the south, created by two dykes: one in 1932 following a devastating flood in 1916;

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the other in 1976 to reclaim more arable land.

This immense watery engineering saved the Netherlands but at a price of the Zuider Zee fishing fleet; yet, these fresh water lakes provide a lovely playground for vessels and waterfowl alike.

A short stroll from the marina brought us to the entrance of the Binnenmuseum (indoor museum) housed in a former Dutch shipping merchant’s residence and warehouse and Peperhuis (where pepper was stored). The rooms featured customs and costumes of various fishing villages on the shores of the Zuiderzee.

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It was here I learned that the women’s stiff-winged bonnet symbolizing all of Holland to many actually is from just one small region whose village is Volendam (just south of Enkhuizen and next to Edam).

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Exhibits provided examples and information about residents’  lives and the various forms of commerce, such as herring fishing, harvesting of rush–documented by a short feature film, which I think could have used better editing,…

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tile factories, and merchant trading.

Like many small villages, prosperity ebbed and flowed with the times. Yet, the human spirit survived as witnessed by a poem, which captured both Rudy’s and my attention:

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Continuing in the spirit of levity, we took advantage of some exhibits begging for visitors’ particiipation, which Rudy and I jumped at:

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Max, however, showed more reserve.

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Exiting the Bennenmuseum we headed to the Buitenmuseum. This outdoor site opened in 1983 and is composed of a collection of transported buildings placed in a re-created village to show life as it was from 1880-1932. Here, we could travel back in time as we walked along the streets stopping to explore various shops and homes.

It’s also where we found more ways to entertain ourselves, beginning with the display on the lifesaving crews…

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followed by an impressive demonstration on creating a fishing net…

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obtaining sustenance in company of wandering ducks

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(where some patrons had yet to learn the danger of feeding spare crumbs to feathered friends)…

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mailing a card to Max’s mom from a former post office…

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and ending with my two manly cohorts trying their hand at bailing water the way windmills did,

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One manly man tried to outdo the other manly man…

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I’d say it was a draw.

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Our tour of the Zuiderzee Museum had come to a close but not before one visual captured our attention by summing up the challenge facing the Netherlands. Here, truly, a picture is a 1,000 words:

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Next up:  Well, who knows? We keep adjusting our plans. Welcome to cruising life :)