I’ve just returned from a memorable four day trip round the Markermeer (bottom half of the Ijsselmeer) with it being our Ascension weekend holiday Thursday till Sunday. We left the Westeinde lake around 6pm to make the first bridge in Aalsmeer at 7pm, which times well with the next large viaduct opening A9 at 8pm, across the Nieuwemeer to wait out the late night opening around 2am, passing through Amsterdam is quite an experience as it starts with some large road viaducts and a rail bridge which brings you into a lock, that particular night there was 30+ boats to pass through and into the lock and a fifteen minute window when the rail bridge could be open and it was the only opening, because half hour later the bridge was going to be closed for a couple of days for maintenance. We were none of us sure that we would all fit into the lock, so come the appointed time we were all jockeying for position as the light turned to green it was charge !!needn’t have worried we all made it into the lock was a close thing though!
There follows a long convoy through 13 smaller road bridges and then to finish another rail bridge, before emerging into the Houthaven ( wood harbour) where we tied up to sleep out the few remaining hours of the night.
Following day it’s an hour motor along the huge Ij to the oranjesluis and another large viaduct bridge (schellingwoude), then out onto the bottom of the Markermeer, we tacked lazily in the light wind up to Volendam for the night.
Volendam is quite different from how I remembered it there is now a huge marina complex next to the older town, we felt a little small on the millionaires pier and we were given the only free box mooring which was 18 metres long.
Volendam has three sub cultures going on, firstly the new yuppie marina complex with holiday village, then walking down to the old harbour there is a horrendous touristy busy street packed with shops restaurants and drinking houses, we were glad we didn’t pull into the old harbour, a few meters from this road in the old village it was dead quiet as the tranquil village life was remarkably preserved and carry’s on with total disregard to the water front mayhem!! Despite being quite an enigma it is a delightful place to stop.
The next day brought yet another day of blue skies and sea, and a delightful breeze we sailed a little close hauled up to Hoorn.I often dream of getting further but on days like this it’s hard to beat the Netherlands, not only the delightful places to visit but the huge amount of interesting old and historic craft sailing in these waters, the harbour of Hoorn is just a lovely place to sit for a day or two watching everyone come and go.
Who should stick his head out when we arrived in the harbour but the very recognisable Tom Cunliffe( famous yachting correspondent and writer) and complimented me on my humble craft!, my day was made!, we later had a chance to have a yarn with him and his wife and was delighted to show them my boat.
Following day we back tracked and leisurely sailed close hauled down to Edam, and entered the tiny entrance which only becomes visible when your within 100mtrs, no worries it wide enough when your inside, we had to moor outside another boat so I picked one that probably has a deceased owner, so was very quiet! Was a come down from the millionaires row in Volendam.
Edam is quite delightful unbelievable picturesque the old town and surrounding countryside is breath-taking, and at just over 10 euros a night it’s one of the cheapest spots I know.
The next day saw us in 30 degrees and a light SW sailing back down to Amsterdam, in slight dissatisfaction with our progress I hoisted my extra-large Genoa and had us suddenly tearing along at a phenomenal speed as the wind piped up to around 18knts, at that time we were surrounded by a number of modern plastic fin keelers who were wallowing around making rather underwhelming progress, there was a few open mouths as we took off careening around at speed with our side decks nearly awash, cameras were shooting footage and photos from all sides as I momentarily stole the show, would you believe it!!
I have been sailing my Vertue now for four years and this year have renewed my 30-year-old mainsail, I was under the impression that I wasn’t really very competitive with the lighter modern craft, not so though.
The rig of the Vertue is particularly well thought out, the mainsail is very large and if it is well cut it puts the majority of the power into the rig, the modern yacht usually gains the majority of it’s power from these large roller foresails which are often hopelessly out of shape. The foresail on the Vertue is the less important of the two often it makes little difference whether you fly a working jib or the normal genoa, beauty of having the three foresails and the staysail is that you have a good sail combination for the right wind strength, inevitably whenever you put your light weather sail up it blows a hoolly!!Bloody hell!
The Vertue hull is pretty heavy displacement and you would think that that deep long keel was quite a drag compared with a modern fibreglass fin keeler, not so where the more bulbous round forms of the modern yacht being very wide and flat to the water have an enormous wetted surface area the Vertue is narrow and therefore very slippery, she points very high and stays high on the wind as a larger rounded hull slips often to leeward, and downwind she’ll outrun most larger craft especially if you pull up a spinnaker, being significantly narrower.
It’s no wonder then really as Laurent Giles is widely believed to have based his Vertue design on the lines he’d taken of the particularly fast pilot cutter of the day Jolie Brise which is still to this day regarded as exceptionally fast.
The new generation of yachting seems to revolve around light weight floating lifestyle apartments with considerable luxury and often regrettable consequences in sailing performance( not true off all) and despite the size none too comfortable in a seaway.The Vertue is very much the pocket cruiser in size, and three is a crowd believe me, but her abilities are still remarkable , I’m inclined to still agree with Humfrey Barton that the Vertue is amongst the finest of small seagoing craft available.