To Hellevoetsluis and back again

For months my husband was excited about ‘trying out’ living on a boat for a long weekend. He had found an unsuspecting couple to take us along on one of their trips.

Friday September 10th

We stepped on the train at Naarden/Bussum around 1:34. I had unearthed our convert-a-packs from our 1985 backpacking trip. We took several trains until we were in Rotterdam. From there we continued on with a tram to Spikenisse. At the end of the line we boarded a bus for Hellevoetsluis.

About halfway I realized that I was living a recurrent nightmare. And that I hadn’t brought a case or saline for my contacts.

The bus driver showed us where to get off. We walked one way for a little bit. Allan said it didn’t look right so we walked the other way for a long time. I was very glad that I had sprung for the super lightweight frame in my backpack. It was hot. It was sunny. I was thirsty, sweaty, tired and hungry. And I had to pee.

Andy dawdled, blowing the seeds off of dried dandelions. He paused to watch the lift bridge lift and come back down again.

Finally I collapsed on a park bench, ate my sandwich and apple while Al called our hosts to find out where the heck we were. We were in the wrong harbor. Instead of traipsing west we had gone east and then north. So not only did we have to go back the way we came we had to trudge beyond to our destination.

Al found a Dutch newspaper from 1989 in his pack when he was searching for his phone.

There are no words to describe how vile I felt towards my husband at this point. He takes his hand held GPS on bike trips for heavens sake. Where was it now with it’s detailed maps of Holland? Grrrrrrr! I was also quite angry at myself for not doing more research.

A very short walk later found us in a beautiful square of an old fortified city. I self-medicated with white chocolate ice cream.

The kind owners of the Elixir greeted us onto their beautiful boat. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was the guest of a ‘feeder’. In the book, the Sweet Potato Queens she describes her father as someone who HAS TO FEED any guest who happens to come along. Most everyone in my family are feeders. I was suffering such terrible brain fog at this point that I had to write the code to open the door to the bathroom on my hand. I was horrified to find out that at some point I had trod in dog-poo. So I wiped my clog on the grass and pried the rest out of the grooves with a piece of wood.

The self-medication continued. I added alcohol to list

Andy was content to watch the tiny fish that hang out around docks. There was also quite a good selection of spiders in their webs to keep him entertained. When he tired of that he remarked that there were no computer games. So I taught him how to play, ‘I spy with my little eye…”

I gave Al some money to go buy my contact lens solution and case. I took a shower and noticed that I had acquired a very strange ‘golf tan’ from wearing my capris. It was like tan socks. Not attractive.

The closest restaurant was a Greek one. Why aren’t all Europeans fat if they always eat all evening long? It’s puzzling. I enjoyed a mountain of lamb chops washed down with a very nice red wine.

Sleeping in the forepeak I decided I would either need a smaller husband or bigger boat.


I have never in my life come across recreational sailors before. All of my previous experience has been with competition sailors. How refreshing to lay the competitiveness aside and sail for the sheer joy of it.

We executed a few hours of ‘water ballet’ like maneuvers as the sun played pee-a-boo. Then we came back into the harbor to decorate our boats as it was the 25th anniversary of this particular sailing club.

People began to wander by dressed up in 17th century costumes on their way to the champagne party on shore. The champagne was served in reject light bulb glass. This was the Philips Sailing Club, after all. How surreal. Then a powder blue Bonneville drove up and the band jumped out of it. The drummer stayed in the car and played his kit from the back seat. When the music became too bouncy someone had to keep the speakers perched on the rear of the car from falling over.

This was a party of unabashed nerds really getting down.

I showered and put on some war paint. Al and I had brought half hearted costumes. Enthusiasm ran high.

The night’s festivities were held in the local fireman’s museum. I’ve never before seen a building with quite that many fire extinguishers. The mayor of Hellevoetsluis gave us a not so short local history and then the club put on a very fine cabaret. These people really could sing! Parodies abounded. Poking fun at yourselves was de rigueur. I realized that this was a drinking group with a sailing problem.


The next morning we enjoyed a buffet and some really strong coffee and then headed into the wind. Sailing into the wind is the worst possible way to go. But we had no choice. I was not prepared. Usually I bring Dramamine, candied ginger and gevulde koek. We had a huge breakfast at 10 am and then really didn’t get to eat again until 7 or 8 at night. This is a bit like the Warrior diet where you only eat once a day. All I can say is that the Warrior diet and the North sea DO NOT MIX!!!

I’m afraid the rest comes out in bad verse, sorry!

The wind it did blow.

The boat it did sway.

The sea it did churn.

All that cold, cold, wet day.

I laid there with Andy.

We laid there we two.

And I thought, “How I wish

We didn’t need to spew!”

My son on the bench

And me by his side.

The tide, swell and wind

Made for one bumpy ride.

So all we could do was be





And we did not like it.

Not one little bit.

We docked!

Then we saw our way out!

We docked!

And we saw it!

The tram to the train!

And I said to my son,

“Let’s bail from this boat and thus end our pain!”

With cries of glad glee

We bailed from the boat

From the boat we did flee

My dear son and me.

In dry comfort we rode

On the tram to the train

In plush comfort we road

Shared a Kitkat or ten

And thought we never want to sail the North Sea again.