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Holland 2014 - Wil Pretty & Bryan Wright

Holland 2014

Wil Pretty & Bryan Wright

In 2010 we went to Holland in our trimarans. We were aiming for Friesland but got no further than the Veerse Meer due to storms. This year we set off in Spice Cat - Wil’s Sailcraft Comanche Catamaran, and we got there.

About 300 Iroquois and 30 Comanche catamarans were built at Brightlingsea up till 1980. The Iroquois and the Comanche catamans have roughly the same footprint but the Comanche has a much higher freeboard and headroom, but is about twice the weight! They were designed to be easily sailed and so generally are fitted with outboards.

A couple of Iroquois owners in Friesland decided to organise a rally for Sailcraft boats in the Lauwersmeer, a large inland lake next to the Waddenzee, a shallow sea behind the Friesland islands. (Similar to the Swale in terms of depth but much larger) We set off to join this Rally.

We left from Hoo at 16:30 on Thursday 31st July aiming to go directly across the North Sea to Den Helder. The crossing was largely uneventful, we had to motor for a few hours off Harwich when the wind dropped and again on Saturday morning going past Den Helder. We found the shipping lanes near to Holland to be the busiest and the AIS on my VHF was invaluable in separating those ships that were at anchor from those that were bearing down on us at a great rate of knots.

From Den Helder we set off across the Waddenzee, we were headed for Harlingen where we could take the canal route to the Lauwersmeer. The sky got blacker and blacker, then a large cloud, rolling horizontally like a steam roller started heading towards us. We dropped sails and swiftly anchored in a shallow area in the lee of the Ijsselmeer dam. We were glad we had found a safe place to hide. However this delayed us and we were not going to make Harlingen before the lock closed for the night so we went into the nearby lock entrance to the Ijsselmeer and found a sheltered spot to overnight on a waiting pontoon.

We had decided to take the canal route to our destination as we were ahead of schedule and winds were strong and it would be a beat. (You can get right through Holland via canals with sufficient clearances such that masts do not have to be lowered).  We went from Harlingen to Leeuwarden then Dokkum and Lauwersmeer. Friesland is an interesting place. They have their own language and flag (which you see everywhere). The British do not get there, we saw only one other Red Ensign all the time we were there. The menus are in Dutch and German, never English. British credit/debit Cards (Master card and Visa) are not generally accepted. You need plenty of Euros. We saw several leaning buildings, guess they were built before the reclaimed land was fully stable. The area is famous for the Friesian Cow. Virtually every farm had a full sized replica plastic cow!

Leaning church in Leeuwarden

11 boats made it to the rally, 2 from the UK, 2 from Belgium and 7 from the Netherlands. One other set off from Chichester in the UK but because of the weather made slow progress. He ended up having to turn back when he was only 30 miles from the destination, even then he only got back as far as Dover before he had to go back to work.

7 Iroquois Cats + 2 Comanche     Camera drone that took the pic.

Anyway we made it and met up with lovely people of like boats and minds. We partied, drank and ate together for 5 days.  Each day we had a planning briefing that they called a 'palava'.  Even though there were only four of us who were English these meetings were always held in English. However the race organisation and start was held in Dutch! Funny that!

We went one day and anchored and dried out on the Waddenzee. We were joined by a Sail Training boat that inadvertently ran aground next to us.

Refuge if cut off by the tide on the Waddenzee.      Aground!

One day we had a race, I was pleased that Spice Cat finished in the middle of the field. The Iroquois owners were surprised as they did not expect a Comanche to keep up with them. We finished ahead of the other UK boat, Star Guider from Southend. They had previously beaten me in the Nore Race.

The rally ended with a party with lovely food and a little bit of drink.  Bryan gave a thank you speech to the organisers on behalf of the delegates.  He started off in half his usual language (single Dutch). We had a great time, made many friends who we hope to see again.

We returned via the canals as there were still strong winds, we went via Dokkum, Leeuwarden and Stavoren and then across the Ijsselmeer and the Markermeer to Amsterdam.

Lighthouse on the Markermeer – now an inland lake.

We bumped into several of our new friends on the way, which was great.  We ended up staying in Amsterdam for 4 days whilst we waited a weather window for our return, it was hard but we coped.

Once there was a weather window in sight we set off for Ijmuiden in good time so we could stock up on provisions there and have a good nights sleep before our trip across the North Sea. However once we had entered the lock at Ijmuiden at 15:00 it packed up and they could not close the lock properly. They eventually sorted it at 03:00 and we were released into strong head winds in the outer harbour and made our way to the marina.

The winds were due to drop overnight, however they did not till 09:00 and when we set off it was into a 2 metre swell that slowly subsided but made us both feel queasy. The wind then became variable and so we motored through the evening and night. In the morning the wind picked up from the SW. We had planned to stay at Harwich, however the wind increased to a F7 on the nose. We beat into this for a few hours. Our nearest bolt hole was the River Ore and by now it was 2hs after Low Tide so we headed in and anchored. (Min depth at entrance 1.3M)

Next day we had a brilliant sail down the coast to Brightlingsea and arrived in good time for the Club Brightlingsea Rally



Date Published 3rd Oct 2014