Next it was off to Amsterdam on a quick flight, then a train to Weesp and Compagnon. We launched on July 4th (just another day in the Netherlands… no fireworks) and our youngest son, Austin joined us. We took the train to Amsterdam for a day at the Rjiks museum then stocked up on provisions and headed towards Friesland for the season. Friesland is a lovely province of the Netherlands on the north coast. To get to Friesland we went through Flevoland; which is mostly reclaimed land called Polders and the area much younger than the rest of Holland. It’s odd because when you enter Flevoland you start on at sea level and go through a lock that drops you down to around 15 feet below sea level to the land that was reclaimed from the sea. In true Dutch style everything in the polder was well planned and laid out. The polders were mostly farmland but there were also nature areas planted with trees and cities with large parks and sports facilities.
Friesland was our destination for the season. It’s the most popular region for boaters in the Netherlands because of the many canals and lakes and abundant marinas, almost free moorings in the lakes and historic towns with canal side moorings as reasonable prices. The Dutch are a boating culture and the vast majority of boats in the area are Dutch. They use the canals and lakes to get away and relax but we were just there soaking up the culture so we spent more time in town than out on the lakes. Nothing in the area disappointed us! The history and beauty was incredible. Part of the pleasure of having Compagnon is sharing our adventure with friends and we had a number of guests over the summer and the visits were enjoyed by all. We spent our days wandering through town, visiting museums, looking at the multitude of old, restored canal boats that were built for transporting cargo along the canals in the days when water transport was the main way of moving around but now refit as beautiful live aboards. We loved the larger towns like Leeuwarden and Gronigan but our favorites were the smaller places like Grou, Sneek and Stavoren. We mostly happened upon several local cultural events. In Stavoren we arrived just before a big festival celebrating their fishing heritage with loads of traditional fishing boats parading through town with everyone in traditional dress and singing old songs in Frisian. The more modern fishing vessels who trawl for small shrimp offshore were also in the harbor with pennants flying.
Later, we were heading for Grou but when we arrived the waterways were chocked with spectator boats out to see the skutsjessilen, an annual regatta where traditional, flat bottomed boats called skutsjes (pronounced scoot-cheese) duke it out in a series of races that move from town to town over a couple of weeks. Scutsjes were built to move goods from the farms to town and while they don’t look like what we would call a racing boat today, skutsje races started back in the early 1800s. Today, local towns sponsor an entry and the races are wildly popular in Friesland with thousands there to watch and cheer on their town’s boat and many more watching on television. Seeing that there was no way we were going to get a berth in Grou we moved on and watched the races on TV in a local pub.
The festivals were great but most days we spent sipping a beer and having bitterballen in a sidewalk cafe and watching the world go by. One evening we were serenaded by a group of local men who were singing traditional sailing shanties and drinking beerenburg, jenever that has been infused with herbs and aged in oak barrels.
When October rolled around the weather started to turn cold and buttoned up Compagnon ready for her winter rest and flew off to Texas to visit Jessamine, family and friends.