Have you ever sailed on the Wadden Sea? If it was up to Captain Joris de Wit, everyone should be able to experience this. During the Sail & Bike Wadden Sea you’ll sail across the IJsselmeer and the Wadden Sea, you’ll visit the islands of Texel and Terschelling and harbor towns such as Harlingen, Makkum and Hindeloopen. “The Wadden Sea is a fantastically beautiful nature reserve. When do you ever get to sail on a three-masted ship? It’s super cool.”

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Atmospheric three-masted ships

If you think of sailing ships, you may envision the great ships that conquered the oceans in past centuries. Although our sailing ships are of much more recent date, they are not inferior when it comes to sails and appearance. When you step aboard the three-master Mare fan Fryslân or the Leafde fan Fryslân, you’ll immediately feel a pleasant, cozy feeling. Joris: “We try to make all our guests feel at home fairly quickly.”

A mighty and beautiful ship

Since 2009, Joris has owned the Mare fan Fryslân. He himself converted it – together with its former owner – from a freighter into a luxury sailing ship. “It was an inland vessel that we converted into what it is today. I worked as a sailor on it for two years. Then a buyer came for the boat, and I thought, wait a minute, it’s mine! My name is on every electrical cable, I’m the one who walked all over the ship, connecting everything neatly.” And because Joris always wanted to have his own company, he seized the opportunity and managed to buy the Mare himself. “I realized: this is very beautiful, such a ship. If you have to invest anyway, then invest in something like that.”

Life on the water

He obtained his papers as skipper and in 2010 the collaboration with Boat Bike Tours started. After the Mare, the Leafde fan Fryslân joined in 2018. “It started with six weeks. Now we sail 23 to 24 weeks per season. Boat Bike Tours is a stable partner. I’ve always sailed with Rinske, my wife. We lived on the ship at the time: she was a sailor, I skippered and we sailed throughout the Netherlands. Very nice. But when we had children in 2015, we decided to look for something on land. We bought a house where our children can now grow up.” Six months away from home was reduced to two weeks on, two weeks off. Joris: “As a skipper you’re quite busy with sailing, but you also have to run your company: things like bookkeeping. When I get home, I can work in the office for a while.”

On board the Mare

During the Sail & Bike Wadden Sea there’s a friendly atmosphere on board; a maximum of 25 guests travel with the Leafde and 41 with the Mare. “That small scale is great fun,” says Joris. “I see it as an active and yet luxurious sailing trip. The luxury is that you’re part of a small group. There’s a lot of individual attention. We as crew always want to radiate that homey, not too formal tone. So there’s no bartender behind the bar and I don’t wear my captain’s suit. There’s a simple honor system list for drinks. We just want the guests to feel at home: a bit active, but also a bit luxurious.”

Help with sailing

One of the reasons that guests book this trip is that they can help with sailing the ship. The crew explains the necessary sailing terms and gives directions while sailing. “The sails have to be set, of course, so they have to be raised”, says Joris. “Almost everything is done with winches and guests can help crank them. The sheets (ropes) have to be operated, to set the sails, tighten them or lower them. And guests can help during maneuvers too: for example when the sail is folded down for tacking.” Helping is much appreciated by the crew, but it is not an obligation. “If you don’t want to do anything, that’s fine too. If only six or seven guests want to lend a hand, that’s enough to set sail. It’s helpful, because with just the crew alone we don’t have enough strength.”

Safe ship

Safety was a consideration during the construction of the ship. That is why it was decided to make the 30-meter-high masts out of steel and the booms are also steel. “Steel doesn’t just break. The booms are all high, for safety. At most, a sail will tear. You can walk under the booms without bending over.” But a sailing race would not be possible for the Mare or the Leafde. “We’re too heavy for that: we have 250 tons of counterweight. But if the wind is right, we’ll go pretty fast. We really try to sail as much as possible.”

Beautiful harbor towns

It starts on day two, when the first leg of the tour, from Medemblik to Texel, is on the program. Joris: “Sailing is just really beautiful. The first time, guests find it exciting and take a lot of photos. But at some point we’re sailing along and you just see them enjoying themselves. Very beautiful. I mean, when do you ever have the opportunity to sail on a boat like this? It’s super cool. There are perhaps only three ships of this size in the Netherlands.” Every day the ship moors in a different harbor and a new day’s bicycle tour departs. “Like the last cycling day of the journey, you have a beautiful route to Workum and Hindeloopen; very beautiful harbor towns. You just really shouldn’t miss it: that’s Friesland through and through.”

Sailing over the Wadden Sea

More sailing trips happen in the week-long tour, culminating in the crossing from Texel to Terschelling, across the Wadden Sea. Sailing across the Wadden Sea is very precise, with every ship having to stay exactly within the buoys. “And we’re going over a lot of shallows, so we have to plan that a bit. Where we sail, from Texel to Terschelling, is impossible to do if the water is too shallow. Sometimes we only have 40 cm (16 inches) under the boat. Sometimes we leave very early. That’s fantastic, because then the guests get up very early and see the sun rise. Those are the best moments. The Wadden Sea is a fantastically beautiful nature reserve.”

It’s also a great journey in the context of sustainability, says Joris. “This is, of course, the future. No engine, or at least use the engine as little as possible and the wind as much as possible. I believe that this has a real future. It’s restful: turn the motor off and sail along. That is unique, all the way across the Wadden Sea and with such a boat too.”

Go sailing on the Wadden Sea

Do you want to come along on a sailing ship? Great! Find out everything about Sail & Bike Wadden Sea right away. Or read about all our Sail & Bike trips and choose the trip that suits you best. Who knows: maybe we’ll see you on one of our fantastic sailing trips!

 

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