A day on the lake

Dear Bloggers,

Last friday I had a day off and the neighbors of my inlaws asked if we would join them on a boat trip on the Frisian lakes and watch the final of Skûtsjesilen on the lake (Sneekermeer). Of course as an old sailor I said yes that would be great eventhough the weather forecast predicted rainshowers, my wife was panicking a bit as our youngest daughter should wear a lifejacket. I did not see any problem there as she has her swimming diploma A and the waters are quite shallow in this area.

A skûtsje (pronounced 'skootshuh') is a Frisian sailing boat of the tjalk type, originally an ordinary cargo boat, but today a prized ship and one of the icons of Frisia (Friesland, or Fryslân in Frisian). Skûtsjes were built from the 18th century until about 1930, 12 to 20 m long and on average 3.5 m wide, with a maximum of 4 m (based on the standard dimensions of Frisian bridges and locks).

Originally an old tradition between cargo skippers, skûtsjesilen has now become a sport. Every Summer the skûtsjes meet to race each other, and much store is set by winning, as the victor will be famous all over Fryslân. Many skûtsjes are supported by villages or municipalities (financially as well, for this is not a cheap hobby!) and sail for the honour of their home town.

The regatta season was opened this year, on one of the smaller Frisian lakes. More to find in Dutch on http://www.skutsjesilen.nl/ Eventhough it was not that gorgeous weather loads of rain and pretty strong wind gusts – during the contest some of the days had to be cancelled. Some were to windy others whitout any wind at all. The race on the Sneekermeer promised a good game as the winds were shifting all the time and a windforce 3 to 5 was there. Although some wished for stronger winds - a splendid time was what we had by all. Neighbor Klaas explained a lot about wind and how you should sail in thes circumstances to my oldest daughter. (she really learned a lot and found the game even more interesting than before.) His wife Jeltje served coffee, soup and breadrolls, we had a very relaxed day.

The Eurokotter 9.50 picture used from http://www.vofhelfferich.nl/

When we got on board, I felt as if I’m the only one chartering an unknown destination. (Yeah, right.) With the cool breeze enveloping me, I close my eyes, grip the sides of the boat and wish that the destination is worth all the troubles that I have at the moment anyway. It is hard for me to except that I am from now on a diabetic and that I should lead a regular life. It is hard to change your life without any stress as everything in your life is turned upside down. I try to enjoy the boat trip as much as I can and after half an hour I start to relax and enjoy the unpredicted beauty of todays weather, nature is gorgeous anyway and the water is pretty calm.

By the time the boat reaches the calm portion of the lake, I thought a smooth ride would finally start. But then the engine starts to power up. The skipper hands the wheel to one of the people that never sailed before and teaches them how to manouvre on the lake between the other boats and what the rules are. Even my wife took the wheel on the return journey and sailed us back into calmer waters. Not all of them are skilled skippers. I felt pretty scared as we ran pretty close to the shore and I had no influence on the steering skills as i was not the skipper, but the reminder to relax gave me an assurance that the situation is under control.

After few adjustments of the skipper, it finally got better. My fear dissipated and I went back to closing my eyes and gripping the side of the boat. A few minutes later, I got a cup of coffee and a good conversation with the skippers wife, now I was sitting comfortably. My eyes were widely open and my hands were loosely positioned at the sides. I started to enjoy the ride. We talked about the boat as it is a lovely little ship with plenty of space. Klaas and his companion are building these ships themselves as it is his daytime job. To give an impression have a look on their website Eurokotter.nl If I had the money I absolutely would have bought one. Maybe in the near future when we have sold our house and I would have a more steady job I can do this. I totally fell in love with the steady sailing and the spacious envirnment of this ship.

I tried to do what the others do; I opened my eyes and loosen up a bit, but my mind is playing games with me. Relaxing is hard work at the moment. Then I saw the beautiful clear line that divides the muddy brown and dark bluish color. I started seeing other boats of different sizes manned by brave men or women. I saw on the shore a few fishing man who caught a big fish, the numerous fans that man the shores to watch the final day of the competition, all the other boats that are anchorred that we are passing by and the crashing of waves against the shoreside.

After an hour of rolling with the waves, we were finally closing in on the spot were we should anchor. The skipper gave me instruction to hold on as he will drop the anchor his wife mans the wheel and I have the lookout position for the other boats at our stern. The skipper has a lot of knowledge about the grounds underneath the ship when he drops the anchor it only takes a few minutes to put the boat in position. As we are only layin on one anchor point the boat drifts around on the wind. When our neighbors behind us run a few metres of extra anchor chain we have nothing that is in our way. After the Skutsjesilen is done we have another cup of coffee and get ready to go on our home journey, after an hour we arrive in the harbour and lay the boat in it’s dock. We say goodbye and thank them for the wonderful trip and drive home. I had a splendid day out and my kids enjoyed the sailing as well.

The Old Sailor,


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