During Spring/Summer 2011, Alan Wilson, Rex Davenport and I made an epic sailing voyage up into the Baltic, the furthest most point being the beautiful, Russian city of St. Petersburg. Our plan had been to sail directly to the Elbe estuary, and then motor through the Kiel Canal into the Baltic. However, the North Sea turned into a foul maelstrom as soon as we set off, and we resorted to sailing across to Vlissingen and then travelling up through the Dutch canals to Amsterdam. A sail up through the Markermeer and Ijsselmeer brought us out into the Waddenzee. We picked a course through these treacherous waters, passing between the Frisian Islands, Vlieland and Terschelling, and out into the North Sea, which had by now calmed down somewhat. We then skirted the West and East Frisian Islands and resumed our course into the Elbe estuary.
The low lying Frisian Islands struck a chord with Rex, a certain romantic appeal. This attraction was amplified by a book that Rex had read, The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. The book, based around the Waddenzee and Frisian Islands, is regarded by many critics as one of the best spy novels ever written. Certainly it was the first modern espionage story and remains a classic of the genre. Coupling this with the fact that Rex had explored southern Holland on previous sailing trips, but had never explored the north of the Netherlands, an idea crystallised in the back of his mind, which turned into a yearning to explore some of the Frisian Islands, the north-eastern region of the Netherlands known as Friesland, and the Ijsselmeer. In the Spring of 2013, this formulated into a rough plan, spurred on by the input from Yvonne, a Dutch lady who lived in a barge on the saltings where Rex kept his boat.
The trip would last the majority of June, a timescale dictated by a timeslot in Rex's consultancy work schedule. His wife, Meryl, was now retired, and so she would be joining him on the trip. However, Meryl is not a fan of bouncing about in the rough seas normally associated with a North Sea crossing, and preferred to fly out to Holland and meet up with the boat there. Thus, I was approached by Rex as to my interest in helping him sail his vessel, Duonita, across the North Sea to the Frisian Islands. "I'd love to," was my immediate response, "and I'll be available to sail her back too."
One thing led to another, and soon Rex and Meryl were inviting me to join them on their holiday. This was indeed a very kind offer, and a logical one since when it comes to negotiating locks and mooring boxes in Dutch marinas, three people are an optimum crew. This was an offer I did not readily accept, which may at first appear ungrateful of me. The problems I faced in my own mind were twofold. I have found over recent years that as a singleton, I do worry that I may be a spare part in a threesome; three's a crowd, two's company principle. In addition, having lived alone for several years, could I cope with living in close proximity with other people. Being cooped up in a small boat is close proximity on a big scale! This was a big personal challenge for me, which I discussed with Rex and Mery. On the plus side, we did get on well with each other and had similar interests over and above sailing. It was agreed that if I wanted to take time out in Holland and do my own thing for a while, then there would be no problem. It was on that basis that I agreed to join them on this new adventure for all of us.
In the month leading up to departure, we busied ourselves getting our craft ready and researching areas we wished to explore. We knew we couldn't possibly see it all, and would pick and choose our destinations as time and weather permitted. A week before the trip we had a dry-run weekend sail down into the Crouch Estuary, sailing up the Roach to Paglesham before dropping anchor for the night. We and Duonita were ready, and we all looked forward to our adventure.
The actual route taken can be examined on the route link. How the story unfolded can be revealed by following the diary link.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!