Into the Great Wide Open

  Monday, September 14, 2015 / Stephanie / Sailing  

Now that we're ready for sailing again, we needed some wide open spaces to set sail!  That wouldn't be a problem in the Netherlands...the real problem, however, was that our own wide open spaces seemed a bit cramped; what to do with all these fenders!?   Oh yea, and the BIG, bow fender too!  It was time to reorganize our storage spaces, namely the cockpit locker and the forward locker, after a bit of sailing of course. We set out toward the Markermeer, raising the genoa en-route while in the entrance/exit channel.  Since the genoa had not yet been rigged, we had to raise the sail while feeding it into the roller-furler.  And then, we kicked back to enjoy a nice downwind sail with 8-10 knots of breeze and low waves beneath a sunny sky.   In every direction around us, sailboats were enjoying the Markermeer and in-between them commercial ships cut through along marked shipping channels.  This shallow, freshwater lake was like a sailor's playground!  A few motor yachts were spotted, and at least two regattas were underway.    We had not yet selected an end destination that afternoon when we'd reached the Paard van Marken lighthouse.  Still navigating via the ANWB iPad app, we were able to investigate harbors while en-route.  We thought maybe we'd visit the town of Edam, just beyond the lighthouse.  You're thinking, "Edam, like the cheese?"  Yup, the very place!  Edam sounded touristy and inviting.  The harbor fees were also a bit cheaper than those at neighboring Volendam.  But, if you can even believe it, the cheese was not as tempting as what was just around the next corner.More open water!  Through one lock in the Houtribdijk would bring us into the next body of water, the Ijsselmeer.  Good thing all those fenders weren't yet stowed because we were going for it! The Markermeer and Ijsselmeer combined were once a saltwater inlet of the North Sea known as the Zuiderzee (south sea).  The Dutch built a dike, Afsluitdijk during 1932, to block the sea; one of many, massive and ongoing efforts to manage water thus protecting and reclaiming land in the Netherlands.  Afsluitdijk formed the Ijsselmeer and then a second dike, Houtribdijk during 1976, split the Ijsselmeer to create the Markermeer.  Both bodies of water are freshwater and both are fairly shallow.  Each dike has locks at either end of the lakes to enable commercial and pleasure vessels passage between the lakes and beyond the Ijsselmeer into the North Sea.  After transiting the lock, our daylight was rapidly fading and so we stopped at the town of Enkhuizen.  The harbor was jam-packed and we had to raft to another sailboat.  It turned out that we'd landed ourselves at one of the starting locations for the Delta Lloyd 24 uurs Zeilrace.  This annual regatta was about to begin at 7:00pm that evening and continue until 7:00pm the following evening when it would end at nearby Medemblik on the Ijsselmeer.  Apparently 600 sailboats were registered to race and the objective was to acquire the most distance over a 24-hour period.  Sailors could begin from various locations on the Ijsselmeer, Markermeer, and even in the North Sea; sailing for 24-hours they would achieve distance by rounding specific bouys, but could round each buoy only once along their intended routes.  As 7:00pm approached that evening, boats filtered out of the harbor and raft-ups were continually rearranging.  We'd moved as well, and stayed for the evening rafted to a large motor yacht that was along the quayside.