There I lie, at the front of the net next to the bowsprit of the Twister, a schooner that will take me from Vlissingen to Scheveningen in about twelve hours today. Above me a threatening dark gray sky, below me a somewhat turbulent sea. I am secured in the net to loosen the front sail. Exciting, but at the same time it gives a huge kick.
This summer, the Twister sails the Dutch coast in stages on behalf of Fair Ferry: from Harlingen to Terschelling and then on to Den Helder, Scheveningen and Vlissingen and back again. My only sailing experience I had in a boat through the Amsterdam canals, on ferries and a cruise ship. An excellent opportunity to see if I have sea legs.
My sailing adventure started a day earlier in Vlissingen, a very pleasant, historic port that has been in different hands since the Middle Ages due to its strategic location. Thus it belonged to the house of Habsburg, the Spanish kingdom, England and the French Republic, to name a few.
Moreover, it is the birthplace of naval hero Michiel de Ruyter and trade in the port city flourished by the establishment of the United East India Company and the West India Company in the Golden Age. There are still buildings in Vlissingen that remind us of that period and you can arrange a city walk through the Zeeland maritime muZEEum, also paying attention to the slavery that was earned.
From Vlissingen station I walk along the Westerschelde towards the center. At the Orange Mill I encounter the war memorial Uncle Beach, the code name of the Allied landing that took place here in November 1944. We will remember. Each name is a cry for peace, it says in large letters on a wall near the surf. The nameplates below of killed soldiers – often barely adult – make an impression.
A few minutes later I am at the picturesque marina. I eat a snack at Brasserie Evertsen, where it is good to sit with the sun setting, the view of the floating gulls, the departing / arriving ferries from Belgium and the statue of Michiel de Ruyter.
After dinner I set course for the Twister, which is moored at Het Dok. The historic schooner is quite in contrast to the opposite superyachts that lie in front of the shipyard of Damen Yachting.
Mate Robert welcomes me and just like me all the guests come on board tonight, so that we can leave promptly at seven the next morning. “The Twister is originally a fishing vessel with a keel and rafter dating from 1902. In 1956 the wooden “skin” was replaced by steel. Much later, the ship was converted from a fishing vessel to a sailing passenger ship, ”says the helmsman proudly.
Naturally, corona has been taken into account. Above deck there is enough space to keep a meter and a half distance, below deck a mask is desirable. I am amazed at how much space there is in the schooner below.
My cabin with washbasin measures about 2 by 2 meters and there are two showers and two toilets for guests that are cleaned extra often. A drink with the guests follows on the upper deck and before we know it it is already eleven o’clock. High time to get into our basket.
The roaring generator serves as an alarm clock the next morning, when we first have to pass the locks on engine power. Quite an art because it only just fits, but for Captain Jans a piece of cake! We chug for another hour through the channel that leads us to the North Sea, while we have breakfast on the deck while the Zeeland coast passes.
It’s not just lounging. The gift of this trip is that you also get an introduction to sailing. That means bickering, I notice later when we have to lift the fork, the round wooden beam to which the top of the (schooner) sail is attached – with three men at the same time! Muscles are not an unnecessary luxury and a little callus on the hands, because some delicate desk hands almost bleed after pulling the ropes.
After hoisting the other sails we all have to hurry up the ropes: bundle each rope in neat loops so that they do not get tangled when the sails are lowered. Funny how many Dutch (proverb) words come directly from sailing.
While the gray sky breaks open completely, we get a beginner’s course from crew member Liv. We learn about longitude and latitude, the role of high and low tide in sailing, making a striking comparison to a bathtub in which you sit and what happens to the water when you move forward and back.
The symbols on the maritime maps are also discussed and we learn how – if all equipment fails – you can estimate where you are on the basis of observable objects. Liv explains it very nice. Then she brings out two navigation triangles, followed by a flashback to high school math.
Then a test follows. “I just told you how you can indicate on the map in which direction we are sailing. Now it’s your turn ”, she laughs sadly. But with some effort, the sailing vegetables manage to complete the task.
For the rest, it is mainly enjoying the wonderful weather and the calm sea that looks almost Mediterranean due to the blue color. “This doesn’t happen very often. You are lucky ”, I am assured. One guest reads a book, another takes a nap in the sun.
We have lunch with fresh tomato soup in the sun on the top deck. And that seasickness? Not bothered by anything! “But make no mistake, it can also happen to experienced sailors,” warns crew member Cathy.
Passing the Maas estuary near Rotterdam is quite exciting. Just as in air traffic, our captain also has contact with air traffic control, in this case the port of Rotterdam.
Our slow sailing ship is passed in front by an oversized container ship. But the fast ferry after that passes behind us. “The size of a ship does not determine who has right of way,” said Captain Jans. “There are rules for that.”
Later, the skyline of The Hague and the pier of Scheveningen appear on the horizon. I am also at the helm for a while. Quite tricky, but great! Two hours later – the wind drops a bit – we enter the harbor of Scheveningen, followed by a delicious dinner.
Sailing tastes like more.
That’s how you get there
We made this sailing stage from Vlissingen to Scheveningen with Fair Ferry. In August, September and October, the Twister visits several Dutch coastal towns. Look for a sailing schedule and to book on