Earlier this Spring, my family and me decided to make our very first sailing trip on the North Sea. Since it was the first time for me and the kids, we were happy to join a trip that was organized by a local yacht club. That way, someone might help us out if needed… you never know! Lots of different yacht clubs organize this trip yearly, that is also known by locals as Rondje Noord-Holland (Around North-Holland), and can be sailed either clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on the wind. This year, the route was planned in 4 sections, each covering a day’s sailing.
Day 1: Hoorn/Volendam across Amsterdam to IJmond
Since members of 2 different yacht clubs joined this trip, the first day started with a local parlay in each marina. Then the individual boats (about 25-30 yachts joined) left for the first waypoint, the Oranjesluizen (locks) at the east entrance of the IJ canal (Amsterdam). The direction of the wind was not optimal for sailing since it came from the South, but we were determined to sail as many miles as possible the first day. After some time, we had been overtaken by most of the other boats (motoring) and we were starting to hear excited chatter on the VHF. One of the yachts had passed the royal sailing vessel de Groene Draeck, owned by the former Dutch queen Beatrix. It is normally easily recognized since it is always flanked by a large police boat, so it generates a lot of attention that way.
After we too had passed the royal vessel (by that time it had anchored near the shore) we entered the IJ canal by engine power. On the IJ canal, sailing is allowed only if your engine is stand-by. You should keep starboard side of the canal and give way to all ferries and large ships. After passing the locks, we continued more or less as a group of yachts through the IJ canal. The children enjoyed this part of the journey very much; there were lots of things to see (the big central train station, cruise boats, large sea-ships). After some time we reached our destination for that day, the marina at Zijkanaal C: yacht club IJmond. This is a local marina with mostly smaller boats, with basic facilities and a kids playground. The place breathes a relaxed 90’s atmosphere and a bar + restaurant. Although there are many industrial harbors in this area, the only other option would be to go to marina Seaport IJmuiden, the next (salt-water) harbor.
Day 2: IJmond – Den Helder port (sea trip)
The next day we passed the bridge next to the marina with 30 yachts at once, which was a really nice sight! We continued on the Noordzee/ North Sea canal towards IJmuiden and into the locks. A cruise ship was just leaving the lock nearby and the children had great fun waving at its passengers on deck. Finally, we reached the North Sea…. to notice it was very calm. Sailing would be difficult, we nevertheless we tried our very new gennaker. After some trouble hoisting this very big sail, we were able to continue smoothly through the water. Not that fast though, because the tide had not shifted yet and we were experiencing some south tidal current. The other yachts, one by one, were starting their engines and after a while we started calculating. The wind had decreased even more and if we wanted to reach Den Helder by the next turn of the tide we had to start motoring as well. When we reached the Marsdiep near Den Helder, the wind increased again and was opposite the tidal current resulting in heavier waves. Through the dutch naval port of Den Helder we reached the small town locks and finally the boulevard where we could stay for the night. This trip took us about 9 hrs total, including a long wait for the Den Helder locks. There are no marinas on the coast between IJmuiden and Den Helder. So if you would like to have a shorter trip, you may sleep at Seaport IJmuiden and in Den Helder you can try the small Naval Yacht Club, KMJC. This will probably shorten your trip quite a bit.
Day 3: Den Helder – Makkum (trip on Wadden Sea, Unesco World Heritage tidal sea)
On the third day of the trip, we continued sailing on the Waddenzee. This tidal sea has some deeper natural channels and a very large part of water that can only be navigated by ships with a very shallow draught. The position of the channels and the depth of the water changes every year, so make sure you have a recent copy of the navigational charts. Take your time planning a trip on the Waddenzee and you will be rewarded with astonishing views and perhaps see a group of seals with babies, like we did!
After leaving the port of Den Helder, we followed the sea channel towards Oudeschild (Texel) and then continued East to the Kornwerderzand locks. This was a very lovely day, lots of sunshine; but again, not much wind. We did our very best to continue sailing as long as was reasonably possible, but in the end we too had to give up and start the engine. By late afternoon we reached Makkum Marina where we enjoyed the rest of the group in a splendid Italian buffet, that was organized by our trip committee.
Day 4: Makkum – Hoorn/Volendam
After a short night, all the group members were ‘free to go in their own time’ towards their marinas in either Hoorn or Volendam. Since the wind forecast predicted a shift from SE to NW, we decided to leave early (the kids had to go to school next day as well). We had to pass another lock (at Enkhuizen) and cover a total distance of about 40 Nm; such a long distance we did not sail many times before. So we anticipated a long day. But after the wind had dropped altogether and completely changed direction in a matter of minutes, we finally had lots of wind and even had to shorten sails a bit. With a speed of 7 knots (our record for this trip) we raced towards the marina and were home by supper!