Friesian Cruising (or “Frysan” cruising as the Frisians would say)

 FYI:  The parentheses state the place name spelt in the Frisian dialect, which even most Dutch outside of this area don’t understand.


Friday-Thursday, July 15-21

We were back in familiar territory when we landed on Vlieland, one of the five Friesian Islands with the North Sea on one side and the Wadderzee on the other. We found a berth at the marina immediately, which was against all odds considering most summer boaters anchor outside the entrance, sometimes for several days, in hopes of replacing an exiting boat. The usual drill of cleaning bodies, boat, and clothes occurred along with a walk into the one-street town and a chance to sit on a wide open beach.

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Another reason we were lucky to get in was finding ourselves with two friendly neighbors, port- and starboard-side-to. We struck up a conversation with Nick, a Dutch sailor awaiting his family’s arrival; and, over the several days we stayed in the marina we had a pleasant time discussing boating and life in general.

Wanting to anchor out again, we left on Monday to head just to the west of the marina entrance. Calm waters and warm temperatures made for a smooth transition from berth to anchoring. Noticing that some boats used the sign of a black buoy raised at their bow to indicate they were anchored during the day (at night we use our anchor light locate atop our mast), we improvised with my sacrificing a black t’shirt over a round fender. It made for a humorous ‘buoy’.

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yet, it worked like a charm :)

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Over the next few days we caught up on some tasks and watched boats come and go. With Max reading the RIDDLE OF THE SAND based on this area of shoals created by wind and tide, we dinghyed close to one sandbar where the boats on the horizon appeared to be sitting on that sandbar.

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Wednesday we awoke to a forecasted wind of 20 knots causing us to now and then check our position relative to other boats and the channel. With high winds against the strong current flowing around this island, our chart plotter drew a picture of our twirling around.

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Thursday morning we set off on a rising tide to make the 20-mile trek across the Wadderzee and through the dyke to Hindeloopen, a small town on the east side of the Ijsselmeer, Netherlands’ large lake, which use to be the Zuiderzee (South Sea). The North Sea pushing itself over sandy land barriers caused this Zuiderzee to form, and after a major flood in 1916, the dream of reclaiming land and stopping the devastating floods became more of a reality. Between 1927 and 1932 the Zuiderzee was sealed off by the Afsluitdijk (Barrier Dyke) which allowed land to be reclaimed.

It was this dyke we had exited in mid-June and now we retraced our steps only to screech to a halt once we saw the line-up of boats. To enter the IJsselmeer requires first a bridge opening then transiting through a lock, each with their own waiting area. What a zoo! It was quite something to jockey for position, either rafting alongside a fellow boater who had arrived earlier or freewheeling around in the waiting area.

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Good practice, though, for how to spot an optimal rafting opportunity (which we did waiting for the bridge to open) and how to mill around while avoiding other milling-around boats (which is what we did waiting for the lock to open). Finally, our turn came for squeezing into the lock where you instantly make acquaintances as everyone holds onto everyone else’s boat to help out.

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In speaking with other boaters they said the crowds are primarily due to it being close to turn-over time for charters as well as being high season for summer vacations. A nice tidbit to stash away for planning future cruising.


Thursday-Monday, July 21-25

Pulling into Hindeloopen we were greeted by Danielle and Henk, a Dutch couple who had heard about an American boat coming into a slip next to them. When we started to slowly move into the slip Danielle all of a sudden said ‘you’ll need to gun it to get in’. Rightly so as we plowed through soft, silty mud the last ten feet coming to an easy stop. One of the easiest and calmest docking experiences we’ve had this summer. Nothing like planning on going gently aground.

And, what a treat to be here! Not only due to feeling we were sitting in the epitome of a quaint Dutch town, a perfect movie set for a Disney film,

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but also because we were hoping to have a reunion with our friends whom we had met last May when moored along side Hoorn’s town wall:  Thijs, Deborah, and Tika.

And, we happily did! Resulting in taking a biking trip to the next town north, Warkum (Workum). With perfect cycling weather, the five of us met at the marina office to pick up bikes. It’s also where I took a snapshot of Tika’s marvelous silver sneakers:

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Then we were off for the day, led by our Dutch friends who took us along the route through polders (reclaimed land now farmed) and past old markers indicating town lines no doubt established many centuries ago. And, how we enjoyed being out and about! I think the smiles are an accurate reflection of our spirtis :)

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A lovely cafe along the canal made for the perfect al fresco lunch

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included a much-needed lesson in how to pronounce some Dutch words thanks to Tika’s prompting.

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This was followed by a designated stop at the Jopie Huisman Museum, a local artist born in this Friesian town.

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Jopie Huisman (1922-2000) isn’t an artist I had heard of, but that’s not surprising considering my lack of background in art. What is surprising, though, is not having heard of this particular artist. What a wonderful gift Deborah, a talented artist herself, Thijs, and Tika gave us by bringing us to this museum. Eleven, small gallery rooms encapsulated the life of this Friesian artist, and by room two I couldn’t help but smile and wish I had had a chance to know such a human being.

Both Max and I were really moved by this artist’s art and philosophy. Reputedly he never sold any of his painting but gave some away to those he felt deserved them. He made enough of income from collecting and selling rags and metal to support his painting. By gazing at his work, though, one feels he so easily could have sold them. Just look at this amazingly detailed replicas of the Frisian ‘uniform’ of striped-blue overalls (1975).

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Jopie believed the tools and dress of one’s daily life become imbued with that person’s spirit; and in his paintings, he tenderly depicted the most mundane items with care and dignity. One was a pair of women’s wool undershirt and stockings (1983). Out of respect for this women’s knitting, he counted each stitch to ensure he accurately reflected the amount of work required to produce these garments.


Interestingly, the museum also held and displayed many of the actual items Jopie painted, this woman’s undergarments being one of them.

Some would call these still life paintings, but for Jopie, they were anything but ‘still’ life. And, as we wandered through this small museum, beautifully laid out, we were seduced by the artist’s skill and devotion to the person who wore those overalls or held that doll (1976).

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(Just a side note, Deborah, who herself is a very talented artist, told us her grandmother had had a similar doll, one made during the depression resulting in stones used for heads. On Sundays Deborah was allowed to play with it and now she has the very same doll for Tika.)

Jopie would always credit the individual whose items he was painting by including the owner’s name in each work’s title. He felt most at home with the hard-working locals, those described as ‘without status’ by our audio guides.

Jopie didn’t only paint man-made items. Some of his earlier and later works depict the landscapes in wonderful colors and simple lines such as this one from 1993.

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as well as portraits. This is one of his father painted in 1951 right after Jopie’s mother died, a woman loved dearly by both men. Jopie later recounted that this was the exact way his father stood for many minutes, trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife.


At the end of our tour I was left with the feeling of how I wish I could have sat in the presence of this man, watching him work or just listening to his conversations.

Back on our bikes we headed for a beverage break in the main square, followed by a grocery stop, and the sighting of some unusual tents

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before returning home to Hindeloopen. A wonderful day spent with wonderful friends.

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With biking in our system Max and I decided to do another day of touring on Sunday. Deciding on a counterclockwise route we followed the dyke south to Stavoren, the tip of a peninsula, then cut east to Mirns and north back to Hindeloopen. More opportunities presented themselves for ‘here-we-are-in-Holland’ shots, with Max managing to capture a perfect illustration of just how it looks along these canals.

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Tuesday & Thursday, July 26 & 28

With a 1-km walk to the train station (really a platform, shelter and ticket machine), we hopped the train for a 45-minute ride to Leeuwarden, the capital of the Friesian province we’ve been wandering through.

Now a large city with modern buildings there was an area featuring historical structures, one being the Oldehove, a tower built in 1529. After 30-feet of construction the building started a very noticeble tilt. They decided to continue building in spite of the leaning, finishing it off at roughly 130 feet in1533.

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Two museums interested us, one being just across this plaza from the leaning tower of Leeuwarden. The Kerimiekmuseum Princesshof (Princesshof National Museum of Ceramics) was housed in the small palace of Marie Louis, dowager Princess of Orange, who purchased her home in 1731.


Much beloved during her life, Marie Louise, called Marijke Meu or Aunt Mary, began collecting ceramics, which later became the foundation of this museum. Now, it includes an impressive array of eastern and western vases, pots, cups and saucers, platters and sculpted figures.

We couldn’t help but think of our ceramist friend Rebecca Esty wondering what she would think of this historical perspective. She also could have enlightened us on the importance of various glazes, etc., which would have enriched our viewing.

The next museum, the Fries Museum, a modern structure opened in 2013, required two days of touring (multiple visits is one of the benefits of holding a Museumkaart), which we realized after finding the exhibits much more interesting than originally anticipated.

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What was so appealing about the curating was the use of over 100 artifacts to tell the story of the area’s history. For instance, there was a large room with four different display areas, each one holding 15-30 items with detailed explanations available in a self-guided tour booklet.

At first glance both of us thought ‘ho-hum, here we go…’ only to be drawn into the individual stories per artifact.

For instance…

They believe they found proof of honor killing when a knife with a silver coins attached was discovered:  revenge was exacted in the biblical sense, including a murder-for-a-murder; if revenge occurred, the weapon would be left at the scene along with some silver coins to compensate for taking revenge.


Another artifact showcased pages from a book written by a minister, Francis Haverschmidt (1835-1894), in the mid-1800s. Wanting to teach the fundamentalists that the Bible shouldn’t be taken literally, Haverschmidt penned a make-believe story about Frisian culture. The book was supposed to be discovered as an ancient text, so he aged the paper and fabricated an ‘ancient’ Frisian language involving runic script.


He planned for the tale to reveal itself as a practical joke while being read, using this as a lesson for his parishioners not to take everything literally. However, Haverschmidt was such a good writer just the opposite happened:  it was taken as genuine after attracting a lot of attention. Since the joke had gone too far, Hamerschmidt felt it was best to remain silent, and it wasn’t until 2004 that a researcher reconstructed the chain of events and uncovered the truth.

History told through regional artifacts made for a fascinating walk through this room, which easily took us almost two hours. So, we ended up returning on Thursday to view the WWII exhibit.  Another exhibit was a brief glimpse of a local’s life:  Gertrud Margarete Zelle, better known as “Sun” in Malaysian or Mata Hari, the seductress who was shot for treason during WWI.

I also couldn’t help but take a photo of an exhibit featuring the history of knitting, with some interesting lanterns dangling over one of the wide staircases. Made me think of Irene whom we met in Bergen this summer and her lovely book, WORD BY WORD, ROW BY ROW.


But, before we returned to our second day of touring the Fries Museum we took the morning train to Frankeker (Frenjentsjer), a small Frisian town, where the world’s oldest working planetarium exits.

The genius who created this planetarium and the beauty in which he did so means you don’t need to know astronomy or even be interested in that science to appreciate his work.




Named for the man who constructed it, this planetarium was carefully and exactingly created by Eise Eisinga (1744 – 1828), a woolcomber by trade and a mathematician by hobby.


Beginning in 1774 and completed seven years later, Eisinga transformed his living room (and sleeping area as can be seen by the curtained, cupboard bed chamber) into a solar system. For over 235 years visitors have been coming come to gaze at this work, mesmerized, as were we, by the slowly ticking of the dials as planets accurately revolved around the sun and the sun and moon phases kept actual time with nature. Even Kings were impressed by this humble tradesman’s work:  after King Wilhelm I’s visit in 1817, he later purchased and donated it to the country.

Eisinga left a detailed handbook explaining how it all operated; and, above the living room we saw the behind-the-scences mechanisms controlling the wonder below. 10,000 hand-made nails formed the cogs…



What I also enjoyed was the reason why he created his planetarium:  it was to counter the 1774 doomsday prediction caused by planets colliding. And, that was the impetus for this marvelous work of art. Furthermore, very few adjustments need to be made it is that perfectly tuned to the universe. Hard to imagine in this day of planned obsolescence.

Another stop in Leeuwarden and the Fries Museum ended our day of touring.


Friday, July 29

The next morning we left Hindeloopen to cross back to the other side of the Ijsselmeer where we’d be ending our summer cruise. But, before I leave this blog, I want to let you know, once again, the best reasons for traveling are the wonderful folk we’ve been meeting.

In addition to our friends Thijs, Deborah and Tkia, we met Kitty & Paul with whom we had several wonderful conversations covering topics as diverse as the widow of the Shah of Iran to artificial intelligence and singularity; and, Lena and Henk who spent over an hour with us identifying highlights of cruising in Denmark and Sweden (augmented by some amazing photos Lena had taken). We only wish we had had more time with all of the above. Fortunately, they all reside in the Netherlands, which means reunions could take place.

AND, two more lovely reminders of just how much we enjoyed are stay in Friesland:

Deborah’s drawing of Hindeloopen

PSX_20160724_160756.jpgwhen perched just above where JUANONA was moored (riding a little high in the silty mud),


and Tika’s excellent instruction to aid my trying to speak Dutch.




Now, to practice. Just wish I had my teachers to correct me :)

Next… an early end to summer cruising.