History Repeats Itself

When we first visited Enkhuizen in 1975 , our boat ( Undine , a 32 ft plank on edge racing cutter from 1889) was little changed from vessels which had called there for 300 years. Admittedly we had an engine of sorts , but it seldom worked. There were no electronics and lights were paraffin and if it took nearly an hour to fill , light and hoist the navigation lights at dusk , at least we had no batteries to worry about keeping charged. Water came from a jerry can, depth was measured by swinging a lead and by and large we could (and did!) mend most things with a lashing or caulking mallet. On the way over the North sea it was so rough we spent several hours hove to and the rudder developed a worrying wobble. The harbour master in Enkhuizen arranged for us to be hauled for next to nothing ( harbour dues were waived for vessels in need of repair) , the local blacksmith made us up a new iron pintle strap and we were soon on our way.

We grew very fond of this lovely little city which grew rich from the spice trade and herring fisheries until the Dutch were muscled out by the British East India company in the 18th century. Not only is the old city breathtakingly beautiful, latterly it has become the site of the marvellous Zuider Zee museum with its wonderful old boats and reconstructed fishing village preserving the cultural heritage of the area that would otherwise have been swept away when the wild Zuider Zee was transformed by the dykes and polders into the freshwater , non tidal Ijselmeer. Over the years we have kept coming back, latterly anchoring in the little bay off the museum and watching the phenomenal growth of yachting that might have swamped Enkhuizen’s attractions were it not for the plethora of traditional boats which also use it as their base.

Festina Lente may be old by today’s standards but she is light years away from Undine in complexity. She has more navigational and computing power than NASA’s moon probes, a heater, an engine that works and hot and cold running water. Or should I say, she did have hot and cold running water, because the calorifier has developed a terminal leak and needs replacing. That’s the problem with complexity, there is more to go wrong and modern cruising is as much about keeping all the systems running as it is sailing from A to B. However, if we have to fix something, what better place to come to than Enkhuizen whose very existence has for hundreds of years been based on servicing and being served by ships .Festina is not a simple ship and we can’t go to the blacksmith to repair the calorifier, but the local tradesmen are as friendly as ever and our replacement is on its way.

Even plan 32B was improved on as Jaap and Fre brought their boys to stay with us here and we introduced the children to the joys of living and sailing on a real boat. There is no doubt that foreign travel is immensely enlivened when you have friends in the country and it was lovely to catch up again. Now that they have gone, I have been promised the free run of the museum library and Lynda is off exploring the city centre so life is pretty good.

I suppose that in a while we will move off again, but just for the moment we are in no hurry , content to let history repeat itself in the delightful city of Enkhuizen.

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