Sailing Saetta: summer holidays in Zeeland, Part 2

Now we are at our first destination, Stellendam. What should we do? We decided to stick around Stellendam for a few days. This gave Saskia time to go on an interview and for me to have a look at the furler and engine. Easy checks, and no damage to equipment. Great news! The day after, the weather was still playing up, so we decided to walk around Stellandam’s, especially through its seaside. It is no Portugal, but it is nice!

The next day we woke up to a glorious sunshine and a very mild breeze. It is time to go, destination: Willemstad. There was not enough wind to sail, so we motored the entire 4 hours trip. Arriving at Willemstad we cleared with port control and made our way through the fortification and right into the centre of town. We moored right next to the main road, with the help of the staff from the Gemeentehaven Willemstad. What a darling little town! We went to discover it on foot, and it just got better. We absolutely recommend it, but make sure you arrive early, otherwise you will have to moor 3 boats deep. Regardless, you can expect the staff to be most kind and helpful. Even when I ask them how to berth in a box (in the middle of poles instead of a pontoon) their answer was: we are busy, but if you practice berthing in front of the office, we will give you a hand. Above and beyond!

Although a beautiful place, Willemstad is quite small, so we wanted to leave to Herkelingen in Grevelingen. A long way to go, with 3 bridges and 3 locks on its path. Two of the bridges were 18 meters high, while Saetta is 17 meters, at least originally. People are ok guessing horizontal distances but not vertical. And going under the bridge with so little possible clearance was nerve-wracking. It looked that you would not be able to fit a sheet of paper between the mast and the bridge. But nothing happened and we passed unscathed.

Last lock, leading to Grevelingen. It was one of the messiest locks I have ever been to. Boats were racing into the lock like their lives depended on it! I was on the back of the “queue”, if you can call it that, since I would not mind waiting for the next lock, if I had to. Luckily it was not needed and I found a nice spot. Once we passed to the other side, the “race” restarted. As for us, we went a slightly different course and slowly made our way to W.S.V. Herkingen. There we called them on the radio and asked for a berth with a pontoon, and not in a box with poles, since I am not used to moor in those nor is the boat prepared for them. None were available, so we had to give it a go. Luckily the marina staff was on the spot to give us a hand; a much-appreciated hand! Then it is back to the usual: moor up, switch off the equipment, lock up sails and lines, complete the log, connect the boat to the marina, wash the salt from the deck, check-in the marina and back aboard for a drink. 

We spent the rest of the day playing board games and eating since there was nothing interesting to do around the marina. With that in mind, the next day we left to Den Osse. Finally, we had some nice wind to sail. 

We spend the rest of the day making our way against the wind and avoiding other boats. In these situations I find boats going in the same direction and tend to race against them, either with their knowledge or not. Unfortunately, I often lose! Still, it spices things up. Saskia shakes her head at me and goes back to reading her book. Sooner or later we are in front of Den Osse  Marina, so we both need to jump into action: engine on, roll in sails, get fenders out, contact marina on radio, enter marina and berth. Once moored securely, we do the same as always.

We arrived at Den Osse just after lunch, so we had time to explore. We end up walking to Brouwershaven. Yet another nice little town. Best of it were their ice-creams! But like other places, we go around town in a matter of hours. Time to head back for showers and dinner. When we arrive back to Saetta something seems wrong with the power; we do not seem to have any. I see what seems like a kink in the wire, so I spend the next 1h disassembling the connectors and check for continuity. All was fine. Then it dawned on me, maybe it was not connected correctly. So I try it again and voila, power is back. “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras”. I could have saved myself so much pain if I would only troubleshoot more carefully.

The forecast for the next days is of thunderstorms. So we make ourselves comfortable, playing cards and enjoying the scenery. We also take the time to plan our next days. We need to start planning the return to Amsterdam. We decided to go back closer to Stellendam, that way when we find a nice weather window, we can safely return north.

When the weather cleared, we set off to Stellendam. It was another 13h day trip, with 3 locks and 4 bridges to clear. Very tiring, but with such a reward waiting for us. Instead of heading to a marina we decided to anchor just off a natural reserve. Such a quiet spot with a gorgeous scenery. We stayed there for the next 2 days, just swimming, swinging on the hammock, and enjoying life at anchor. A fitting end to our time in Zeeland!

All that is good must come to an end, and at 5:00 in the morning we were up and setting off to Amsterdam. We had to work with the weather and tide. We could choose to go against these, but it wouldn’t be as enjoyable. At the lock, to pass to the North Sea, we were joined by 6 other yachts, all going the same way.

The lock open and we were off. I was a bit apprehensive. The experience coming down was not great, so I was not sure what to expect. And what I got was not what I expected. We had one of the nicest sails ever. Beautiful sunshine, clear sky, a steady breeze, gentle seas and a tide going the same direction. The only way we could have made it better was if there were dolphins. We had to contend with a seal popping its head out instead. We got to Amsterdam without any incidents and on time. Incredible to think of the difference between the two experiences.

We were back to Amsterdam and it was roasting! 35 degrees inside the boat and heat records were being broken elsewhere in the Netherlands. ‘We cannot handle this’. The next day we headed off to Markermeer, found a nice quiet spot and threw the anchor out, and I got in soon after that. For the next days, it was all about cooling swims, chilling in the hammock, board games and chilled white wine. It felt great! 

Then the weather cooled down. It was time to go back to civilization and working life.