Ursula from Germany participated in the Sail & Bike Wadden Sea Tour with her husband and two friends. It was a wet trip with many sunny highlights:
Saturday – The departure
“We got up at 6.30 am and left on our bikes at 7.30 am for the German town of Viersen. After crossing the Niers river it started to rain. On Friday we’d searched intensively for my rain pants but couldn’t find them. So we just had our raincoats. The rain stopped shortly before we reached Viersen. We waited on Platform 3 for our train to Venlo, which left at 8.33 am.
In Venlo we changed trains for Utrecht Central Station. The sun was shining again from Eindhoven. In Utrecht we didn’t have to change platforms because the train to Enkhuizen arrived on the same track. We could even take an earlier train, to arrive in Enkhuizen half an hour earlier. So we had all the time we needed to eat our provisions. At 12.52 pm the train arrived in Enkhuizen and we walked over the platform towards the harbor. Here we were welcomed by two waving people who greeted us with joy: our friends Antje and Fritz! They picked us up and accompanied us to the sailing ship, Leafde fan Fryslân.
We were amazed by the size of the ship and its very tall masts. We put our luggage on the deck and our bicycles in line next to the other two-wheelers already parked in front of it. As we couldn’t board before 2 pm, we returned to the town center where we ate our first tasty fries and fried shrimp by IJsselmeer lake.
Then it was back to the ship to check in and take our bags to the cabins. Antje and Fritz had Cabin Three and we had Cabin Five. We unpacked our luggage and agreed to meet in front of the ship at 3 pm to explore Enkhuizen. The harbor alone was very interesting and I made some videos. The architecture of the houses was also special and we took some very nice pictures. The first highlight was the big thick tower, the Drommedaris (the Dromedary).
The Drommedaris is the most famous building in Enkhuizen. The gate served as a defense for a long time and protected the entrance to the harbor. The building, which dates from 1540, features cannon holes intended to guard the harbor. Nowadays it has a café.
We took a look around the center of the city and recounted our attempt to find my rain pants at home. We discovered a bike store, but unfortunately they didn’t sell rainwear. Fritz didn’t give up. The saleswoman tipped us off about another store, so the search continued. The church we wanted to visit was closed anyway. Not far from another church, the Zuiderkerk, with a floor consisting of old tombstones, we got lucky: the HEMA sold rain suits! Let it rain…
We returned to the ship where we were met by the crew, who the captain introduced us to in Dutch and bumpy German. On board were three Belgians, four Dutch and nineteen Germans. There was also Captain Matthijs, skipper Leon, host Vincent and cook Anita. Dinner was served for all guests at 6 pm: dividing us into two groups turned out not to be practicable. Considering the relatively small number of guests this seemed to go well. After some chatting, we went to our cabins. Around two in the morning we woke up because we heard footsteps on deck and it was also raining heavily.
It was only at breakfast the next morning we heard that 8 to 10 cm of water had penetrated into the rear cabins. Antje and Fritz had also woken up and found their feet in water. The crew spent the whole night trying to get the cabins dry with water pumps. The water was pushed up through the shower drains. Sleep was no longer an option.
The captain apologized for the inconvenience and said they would not be able to dry the cabins in a short time. All cabins in this part of the ship were affected. The floor was covered with towels, which had to be constantly changed. Antje and Fritz stayed calm and admired the crew, who kept trying to get the floor in the cabins dry. They succeeded only after a few days.
Sunday– 39.5 km from Enkhuizen to Medemblik on a rainy day
We had breakfast at 8 am and prepared ourselves for the day’s cycling tour from Enkhuizen to Medemblik. All bicycles were in front of the ship and tied together with thick ropes. We were expecting it: the rain started so we could put on our new raingear. We got as far as the tourist information center where we sought shelter.
When the rain stopped, we rode through Enkhuizen and noticed that on the other side of town there was a much larger harbor area for smaller boats. We rode through beautiful villages, always along the water. We saw dark clouds approaching. In the town of Wervershoof Antje noticed that Fritz’s pants had sagged. He hadn’t even noticed! We stopped and couldn’t help laughing! The pants were raised and we rode on.
We rode through the Twiske, a historic area with many beautifully restored thatch-covered farmhouses, historic houses and churches. None of these farms were affected by modernization, so we were able to get a glimpse of the living environment of that era. Again and again we were soaked by the many rain showers. At a small camping site we took shelter in a barn. Two big dogs and two horses welcomed us. After another six kilometers we made our next stop in Opperdoes.
We didn’t stop long, but rode further through the rain so we could reach the ship in time. We passed Medemblik and cycled directly to the harbor where our ship was anchored. The captain and the sailor picked up our bicycles and put them on board. In the cabin we peeled off our wet clothes. I was pretty frozen and took a nice hot shower. When I went back on deck, the skipper asked if I wanted to help with the sails. It was raining again, so I said no. Besides, I’d just come out of the shower! Meanwhile some others had started hoisting the sails. On engine power we sailed through a lock on the 32 km-long Afsluitdijk. This main dam structure of the Zuiderzee Works provided land reclamation and coastal protection: it transformed the open Zuiderzee into IJsselmeer lake. The western end of the dam wall is near the village of Den Oever and the eastern end by the village of Zurich, near Harlingen. Its construction was completed in 1932 and provided two large tidal barriers to drain the inflowing fresh water. A highway, a bike path and a footpath run along the dike. When ships pass through the locks, the swing bridges have to be opened and all car traffic on the Afsluitdijk is stopped by barriers.
Our ship anchored on the island of Texel. We loved seeing the port of Oudeschild with its historic windmill museum. After dinner we went for a walk and showed Antje and Fritz Oudeschild’s small harbor. To get ashore, we had to cross two other ships via narrow gangways. Careful!
Monday – 49 km cycled on Texel Island – Sunny with a little cloud cover
After breakfast we disembarked and left the harbor cycling to Den Burg. Günther suggested adjusting the route a bit. We reached Den Burg pretty quickly and found the weekly market in action. So we continued on foot with bikes in hand. We came across a photo store with atmospheric pictures of the island on display. Through the houses we also spotted Candy King, a sweet store. I went inside and bought a big bag of my favorite peppermint candies.
We left Den Burg and cycled on to Den Hoorn. The small protestant church was already a familiar highlight for us. We cycled further through the Dunes of Texel National Park and a pine forest. We stopped at Catharinahoeve, a busy pancake house with a large fireplace in the middle of the restaurant. Of course we ate pancakes! We each chose a different topping.
A little further on we showed Antje and Fritz Gortersmient Bungalow Park, where we used to spend our vacations. Günther asked if there were still houses available in April 2021 and got five options. We planned to think about that in peace and quiet back at home. We cycled further through the forest and soon reached Ecomare, the seal sanctuary. Fritz and Antje wanted to see the beach, so we rode on. We parked our bikes opposite Paal 17 beach pavilion, where a long concrete path had been laid down that almost reached the water. So we hardly had to walk on the sand. There were mainly families on the beach, all with a sufficient distance from each other. Fritz lay down on his back in the soft sand, fully clothed.
We enjoyed a few sunrays and rode via the town of De Koog further to De Slufter café. The restaurant was busy, but Antje still found a table for four. We ordered ice cream with fruit and I took a cup of hot chocolate. Then we climbed the stairs to the top of the dune and looked out over Texel’s most famous nature reserve. This large salt marsh sits between two high sand dunes and the special thing is that because it lies on the North Sea coast, salt water flows into the area. During a northwestern storm it can even completely fill with water. So only plants that tolerate salt water grow here. In the summer the flowering plants turn it purple. Eider ducks and skylarks breed also here.
We cycled back to the ship. First with side winds and then a very tiring headwind. We had to switch back quite a bit to survive the battle with the wind. We reached our ship in the harbor and parked our bikes in front of it. A few friendly sailors later carried them over the three gangways for us.
Today we regularly heard the FC Arminia Bielefeld anthem, the ringtone on Günther’s cell phone. Of course I knew, but Antje and Fritz didn’t: it was Günther’s birthday! After dinner, the cook appeared singing happy birthday with a radiant smile and put a cake with eight candles down in front of Günther. He was very surprised and blew out the candles, followed by applause from all the guests. Unfortunately, no one could shake his hand, but it was no less festive. Our evening ended with champagne and gin. The captain, the cook and two of the crew also joined our table. It was a nice evening.
Tuesday– Boat trip to Terschelling – 18 degrees, cloudy but no rain
We left at 9 am and were scheduled to arrive at 3.30 pm. Today the sails were hoisted! We were crossing the Wadden Sea with its many sandbanks. The exact route and duration depend on wind and tidal current.
Terschelling is a 30 km-long island. From our mooring place we went into the village of West-Terschelling. On the captain’s advice we first looked for a restaurant to reserve a table. During the walk Fritz and I saw a fenced area with many different colorful buoys. And before that some very old and rusty screws and anchors. We ate in restaurant Flaman, right next to the 400-year-old lighthouse.
The impressive Brandaris lighthouse dates back to 1594, the year in which Willem Barentsz began his first voyage. The lighthouse is 52.2 meters high and is usually called ‘The Tower’ by the islanders. The Brandaris is the oldest working lighthouse in the Netherlands. The first fire station on Terschelling dates back to 1323 and was the forerunner of the Brandaris, which took its present form in 1594. The name is a reference to St. Brandarius, a saint after whom West-Terschelling was named in the Middle Ages. According to another legend the name can be traced back to St. Brendan, a sailor, but this has not been proven.
The first tower was built in 1323 to guide ships on their way to Amsterdam across the Zuiderzee, through the narrow opening between Vlieland and Terschelling. A good marking was necessary because many islands in the North Sea are very similar. Around 1570 the sea flooded Terschelling and the first lighthouse was completely destroyed. In 1592 the construction of a new tower was started, but it collapsed before it was finished, because of poor building materials.
In 1837, the Brandaris was the first lighthouse in the Netherlands to be equipped with a rotating Fresnel lens. Its electrification took place in 1907. In 1994 the tower’s 400th anniversary was celebrated. Today, the light from the tower is controlled fully automatically. The lighthouse keeper has a panoramic view and has already saved the lives of many a kitesurfer who fell into the strong current. The lighthouse has special lighting to prevent birds from flying into it. On the second floor there’s an official wedding venue, which is only accessible via a spiral stone staircase. No problem in your wedding dress!
Wednesday – 37.6 km around Terschelling, the ‘Pearl of the Wadden Sea’ – 17 degrees, rainy with wind
Terschelling is also called the bicycle island, because of its 70 kilometers of bike paths. From the harbor at Dellewâl, the road led us inland. We passed, among others, the villages of Halfweg, Baaiduinen and reached Midsland. In Formerum we stopped at the Coffee Mill, a pleasant café in an authentic mill. From here we rode to the Wadden Sea, where the tide was low.
With the wind at our backs we crossed the dike about 6 km from the easternmost point of our ride. Unfortunately we had to return to Oosterend with heavy rainfall and headwind, from where the route led us to a beautiful large dune area. The southern slopes of the Terschelling dunes have a real desert climate. There are many types of landscapes here: beach, forest, dunes, heather polders, mud flats or swamps – and fresh water. The island has the greatest variety of birds and butterflies and even new species of orchids. It was very impressive despite the heavy rainfall and the quite hilly bike path.
We then reached the Hoornbos, a large forested area. We cycled through beautiful tree-lined avenues to the town of Hoorn. Then we went along a wide gravel road, the Duinweg, via Midsland back to the town of West aan Zee. We actually wanted to continue to De Boschplaat nature reserve, characterized by heathlands, salt marshes, beaches and dunes where, with a bit of luck we would have seen many ducks, waders, large colonies of spoonbills and large black-backed gulls. But unfortunately, not in this weather.
After a 36 km ride we reached the westernmost point of West-Terschelling. After a short photo stop we rode the last kilometer back to the jetty of our ship. From here we sailed at 4 pm for Harlingen, where we arrived at 8 pm. Luckily it stopped raining at noon and the wind picked up, so the captain had the sails hoisted again. In the harbor of Harlingen we were surprised with a beautiful, dreamy sunset.
Thursday– 51.4 km Harlingen to Makkum – First sunshine, then partly cloudy, gentle wind and pleasant temperature
As usual we started with breakfast, but today Anita said goodbye. She did this with a breakfast pancake, which everyone was excited about, but of course it was a pity that she’s leaving because she has another job.
We cycled through small villages and past farms. Franeker is one of the eleven cities on the famous historic Dutch ice-skating tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t pass the Franeker town hall, which was definitely worth a visit. The landscape was beautiful, vast and dotted with picturesque villages. As there were roadworks along the way, we had to make a detour at Dongjum. The road led us past well-kept allotments with beautiful garden houses.
We rode on to Arum, a hilly village. Many of the villages in this region are built on hills to protect them from flooding. We passed the village of Pingjum, where we wanted to eat at the local pizzeria, but unfortunately it was closed. So we took our lunch break on a bench instead. We cycled the remaining 11 kilometers back to the ship, which was anchored in Makkum. We dropped off our bikes, had a drink and went for a walk through the town.
We passed the lock at the harbor entrance, admired the beautifully designed houses and then found a café where we ate apple pie with coffee and chocolate milk. We then returned to the ship and watched the handling of the drawbridge and lock system. The lock keeper stuck out a stick with a clog at the end in which the crew could drop the €5 lock fee. The ships were then allowed to continue sailing.
Back on board we sat in the sun on deck and enjoyed the harbor view. Meanwhile the new cook had arrived. He surprised us with a small snack as a welcome from the kitchen. Around 6 pm we went to the dining room, where our new cook, Raoul, was introduced by the captain. The dinner was a bit different: vegetarian, couscous with different vegetables. Günther took pictures of another fantastic sunset.
Friday– 32.7 km Makkum via Workum to Stavoren – cloudy, occasional sunshine, low wind, 17 degrees
Today was our last bike ride, from Makkum via Workum to Stavoren. We saw it from afar: Workum’s impressive 15th-century St Gertrude church, with its mighty detached tower. The route led us to the church, where we parked our bikes near the main door. While we were photographing the church, Fritz studied a plaque. He spoke to a gentleman who was about to open the church door: Jan Bremer, sexton of the church. He took us on a guided tour.
St Gertrude Church, whose construction began in 1480, is a Gothic cross church with an important choir, the largest and oldest in Friesland. The church has a massive freestanding bell tower, which is decorated with a lantern and chimes. And the sacristy is a real Frisian landmark. The stretchers on which coffins were transported are also special; the oldest dates from the 17th century and features special paintings. Twelve of these carriers have been preserved, and were all placed here.
All this time Antje stood outside guarding our two-wheelers. We hadn’t told her we would stay longer in the church. Sorry Antje! Before leaving the city we took pictures of the town hall and other interesting houses. We rode through the countryside until we reached the dike that led us to Hindeloopen.
Hindeloopen, a tip from our captain, only has a small number of inhabitants and still offers a lot of interesting things. For example, the first Frisian ice-skating museum is located here. In another museum you can see the world-famous traditional Hindeloopen paintings and costumes. The time was much too short for a visit, so we decided to head to the café in the old harbor and enjoy the sun, with a piece of apple pie, cherry pie and waffle with cherries and ice cream.
After a last 10 km we reached Stavoren, where the ship left at 3 pm to sail back to Enkhuizen. Here we arrived around 8 pm. For dinner Raoul served a rice dish and a yoghurt dessert with cereals, which we didn’t like very much. Afterwards Captain Matthijs held his farewell speech for this Sail & Bike Wadden Sea voyage and wished everyone a good trip home. Günther too brilliant shots of the sunset yet again! We went to our cabins and packed our bags. Then we met again for a farewell drink.
Saturday– Sunny and 22 degrees
At 8 am we went for breakfast. At our places we found yoghurt and muesli, which neither of us likes. We preferred a sandwich with cheese and cold meats! Skipper Matthijs had asked us to remove our bedding to help the crew, as everything had to be washed. We said goodbye to everyone and got on our bikes, which Günther had already taken off the boat.
Antje and Fritz already had their luggage in the car and bikes attached and also set out for home. At 9.09 am we boarded the train for Utrecht. We had a compartment all for ourselves again. In Utrecht we had 14 minutes to change trains for Venlo. This time we had to share the compartment with a woman with two very large suitcases. Closer to Eindhoven things became livelier. A lady got on with a medium-size brown dog, which apparently couldn’t stand the squeaking sound of the train. He barked in all tones, to which the lady tried to calm him by shouting ‘no’ again and again. This performance ended in Eindhoven, with an apology from the lady as they left the train.
One station before our destination in Venlo, the train stopped at Blerick. We suddenly noticed that we were going back to Utrecht. We hadn’t heard or understood the Dutch announcement that Blerick was the destination. Fortunately, we managed to get off at the next station, in Horst-Sevenum, and take the next train back to Venlo half an hour later. From here we still had 30 minutes before our international train to Viersen.
We had a spot of bad luck when we found the platform elevator was broken. Before we could carry our luggage and bicycles down, two young men asked if they could help. After our enthusiastic ‘Yes please’, they lifted our heavy e-bikes down the stairs with reasonable ease. We thanked them warmly and cycled to the bridge in the bright sunshine. About five kilometers from our house I invited Günther for a late birthday apple strudel with coffee and we finally reached home sweet home at 4 pm.
This ‘somewhat different cruise’ was just terrific and will remain an unforgettable memory!”