Uitgelicht

One month afloat

El Burro at anchor

We have been living aboard for one month now. At times it feels like we have just started our adventure while on other days our previous life seems so far away.

Sometimes I have the feeling that I can go back to our apartment in Belgium, that we still have a job waiting for us, that this is only a vacation. But whenever I think back to the month of July realisation kicks in. Saying goodbye to dear family, friends and colleagues, emptying our apartment, selling or giving away almost all our stuff, arranging the administration for our departure,.. Discovering the world by sailboat was something we fantasised about for years. Slowly and with every little step we completed on our to do list it became a reality.

We have been sailing in the Netherlands for a month now, visiting places we know so well from our weekend trips and our annual vacations. Anchorages, uninhabited islands and locks that are so familiar (mainly in Zeeland). This is also one of the reasons why we first stay in the Netherlands, to get used to sailing again and everything related to it and to get used to our new life.

I have to be honest, it was not easy to adapt and leave my restless mindset behind. The first week we moved our boat daily to a different place until we both said that this is not what we had in mind. The month of July was so busy that all we wanted was relax but on the contrary we gave ourselves unnecessary obligations. So we listen more to our body and mind and anchor for a couple of days to just relax and reflect.

Happy to say that our little floating house is doing well and the more days pass by, the easier it goes. We really created a routine in the meantime. Getting the boat ready for departure, anchoring, doing locks, hoisting the sails,… Even stupid things like cleaning our boat after dinner (a small space gets messy quite quickly). Doing the dishes, putting away things we don’t need anymore, vacuuming, … having a routine makes it so much easier to live aboard.

Somewhere on my cell phone there is still a refit to do list that is not 100% finished but for now I try to ignore it. The biggest things are installed and ready to use, the rest will come by itself. And we have time, nothing has to be in order right away. That may be the best part of the whole story, the ability to schedule that time how we want it to be. Every day I am so grateful that we get to experience this.

The Netherlands – Travel Blog (EN)

This is a recap of all the blogs posted on our Polarsteps account during our journey in The Netherlands . For more accurate updates of our sailing trip please go to Polarsteps directly.


Terneuzen
03 August 2022

We left Antwerp around 08.30 AM along with my brother and cousin who sailed with us on the first day. The plan was to anchor at the Grevelingenmeer, our boat’s previous home base, but the bridge at Hansweert was blocked so we had to divert to the marina at Terneuzen. No punishment either and you anyway have to be flexible when travelling by sailing boat.

We sailed 35 nautical miles in 6 hours. The sun was burning heavily today. It was a beautiful trip through the Antwerp industry (well… beautiful… let’s just say it’s quite an experience). Along the way we passed giant container ships and saw a total of three seals. I mostly enjoyed having my family aboard and sharing the sailing life with them.

In Terneuzen, my brother treated us to pizza (thanks!) and we mostly let it sink in that our nomadic existence has now really begun.

Veerse Meer
04 August 2022

We’ve left Terneuzen early morning and went via the Westerschelde to Vlissingen. Along the way the drift almost made us hit a buoy (anticipated on time so no worries) and a bit tugboat wasn’t paying attention as they had their autopilot on and almost hit us (luckily we paid attention and changed our course on time).

In the lock from Vlissingen to Middelburg a French sailor who mentioned to us it’s his first time doing locks hit our boat when he tried to leave the lock. Luckily no damage but we were not happy as this is our home now and we worked really hard the last year to get her in shape.

So let’s say it was quite an eventful morning. 😅

Afterwards we stopped at Jos Boone to get some boat supplies and continued our way to Veerse Meer via the canal (Kanaal door Walcheren).

Now we’re at anchor on the Veerse Meer. It’s quite busy during the summer season and many boats our anchored to go for a swim or to have diner later today.

18,5 miles travelled today!

Veerse Meer
05 August 2022

We’re still at anchor at the Veerse Meer.

Quite a lazy day today, for me (Julie) at least. I slept in, read a bit, done a routine check of all bolts and seals on deck and that’s basically it. Greg finished some boat chores. He installed the deck wash pump, our extra bilge pump, bilge alarm and the SSB antenna.

There was quite some wind but we have a lot of trust in our anchor (we anchored in worse conditions in the past).

Tomorrow I think we’re going to visit Veere, a fishing village nearby. I remember it from the small cosy streets and historic houses. But all depends on how busy it’s going to be during the weekend else we’ll visit it another time. We can already see Veere from our anchor spot. Every hour the church bell rings a beautiful sound. They also have a small beach which we want to explore with our dinghy tomorrow.

Wolphaartsdijk
06 August 2022

What a great morning! We both slept in and Julie went for a morning swim. The water was 23 degrees but full of moon jellies or ‘oorkwallen’. So you have to accept the feeling that something touches your leg every second 😬. Luckily they are not poisonous.

We afterwards went for an attempt to go grocery shopping. We searched for our shopping bags, made a shopping list and jumped in our dingy. After a couple of days our fresh food ran out. All we have left are lemons, leftovers and dry food. We sailed our dingy to Veere only to find out they don’t have any grocery shops nearby. Bummer… but happy that we found a little market stall with strawberries and red berries so we bought loads of them.

Back on our El Burro we hoisted our sails and sailed to Wolphaartsdijk. They have a shop that is (according to the internet) open tomorrow. We’re also going to meet the family of our boat’s previous owner so looking forward to that.

8 miles travelled today.

Oosterschelde
07 August 2022

This morning we received a visit from the son of the previous owner of our boat along with his wife. Very special to hear how the previous owner carpentered everything himself in our boat making our El Burro quite unique. I can imagine that it must be quite emotional for his son to see what the boat looks like now and to think back to all the sailing memories he had with his father.

I myself was quite emotional today as well. The memories I had with Noodle on our El Burro also came up. The moments when she came to me are now unanswered and this sometimes gives an empty feeling. I also miss Noortje very much. I wanted to give her this unique adventure and it sometimes seems like I am only now in the grieving process. The past few weeks were so busy that I pushed the sadness away. They were both full of love and I miss that love so much. Blessed that we still have Nelly. Every day she becomes more self-confident. She sits on deck in the morning, sleeps when we sail and plays on deck in the evening.

Today we sailed from Wolphaartsdijk via the Zandkreeksluis to the concrete harbor on the Oosterschelde. Here we are at anchor and I am doing the laundry in the evening sun. In the background I can hear the whooshing sound of the windturbines. Tomorrow we will go out to sea in the direction of Vlissingen. Our trip may look strange but if you have time it doesn’t really matter where you go.

Today we sailed 20 miles. 81,5 miles in total since we left Antwerp!

Vlissingen
08 August 2022

En route to Vlissingen and the first time at sea since we started our sailing journey.

Also the first time we saw the compass jellyfish with its long, thin tentacles. The name is given due to the fact that its drawing resembles a compass rose.

After noon we pulled up anchor. We remembered that at the Betonhaven this is always accompanied by dirty, black sludge so we had the deck wash pump ready. As the chain goes into our windlass and in our anchor locker we wanted to avoid that our forecabin where we sleep smells nasty.

Afterwards we went through the lock and we were finally sailing at sea. What a beautiful, sunny trip with an average speed of 7.5 knots. The weather conditions were favorable and so it was a quiet, not too bumpy sail towards Vlissingen.

We sailed along the coast of the island of Walcheren past Westkapelle, Zoutelande etc. and were charmed by the many colorful beach cabins.

Around 7PM we arrived at Vlissingen. Vlissingen was an important historical harbour and in the 17th century a main harbour for ships of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). We are moored in the Michiel de Ruyterhaven (Michiel de Ruyter was a Dutch Admiral) and went for a bite to eat nearby and had a nice evening walk next to the water at sunset.

23,1 nautical miles sailed today.

Vlissingen
09 August 2022

A real vacation day.

Getting up. Morning stroll to the bakery. Doing laundry in the marina’s washing machine. Having a nice lunch in our cockpit. Stocking up on food at the supermarket. Long walk on the beach with our feet in the water. Seen a sanderling (a small wading bird). Read some more in the cockpit, ate dinner, filled the water tank, showered and went to bed early.

Veerse Meer
10 August 2022

The morning started with a rescue operation. A pigeon fell off the jetty and was drowning. I came to the rescue with my fishing net and saved the poor thing. People who know me well know that I’m like a pigeon queen. I’ve already saved/helped numerous pigeons in my life. Somehow they always know where to find me.

It was time to depart at the Michiel de Ruyter harbor in Vlissingen. Greg puts himself in reverse to sail out of the box and suddenly I feel the slight panic. ‘The boat isn’t doing anything, I think we’ve lost the propeller!’ A second try… nothing. Until the man from the boat next to us says that we are still tied up at the front with a line and is kind enough to untie us. Fortunately, we are now going backwards. Lessons learned: always check that all our lines have been untied properly. 😅

We left the harbour and headed for the lock in Vlissingen. Commercial shipping has priority so we have waited for quite a long time. After the lock we have to take five bridges . When we could finally enter and leave the lock, we see that the first bridge is already closing. That means we have to wait for two hours at the jetty. We make something to eat for lunch, Greg chats with our German neighbor and I lie on the bed cuddling Nelly until Greg calls out that I have to get out quickly. Behind our boat swims a grey seal who is just devouring an eel. He continues to provide entertainment while we wait. As the bridge opens, we see him swimming toward the canal we need to go too.

Five bridges later and a brief stop in Middelburg (we had run out of sunscreen) we were on the canal towards Veere. We had to go through one more lock before we get to the Veerse Meer. Once we arrived at the lock, I see something big lying there. Something is swimming in the lock! Apparently this grey seal has taken the same trip as us and we are in the lock at the same time. He goes under and the lock doors close. Several times we ask ourselves if he is already on the Veerse Meer or if he is still in the lock. After a few minutes he comes up in a corner of the lock and impatiently swims at the lock doors to get out. Once the doors open we see him swimming towards the Veerse Meer.

We anchor on the Veerse Meer and Greg lights the barbecue. The next few days will be fairly sunny, so we will stay here until the weekend to swim and to explore land using our dinghy. This weekend Greg would like to participate in the mussel race in Yerseke with his old crew so only then we will lift our anchor again.

7 miles sailed today.

Veerse Meer
11 August 2022

I wake up with the sun on my head and a light breeze through the shutter of our bedroom. Nelly greets me with her typical grunt. My mind feels peacefully and happy.

It is above 30 degrees today but thanks to our DIY sun protection curtains it stays reasonably cool inside.

We eat our breakfast, put on our swimsuits and apply sunscreen (very important on a boat – make sure it’s ocean-life friendly!). While I brush my teeth, Greg moves our dinghy from the deck to the water. Today, we are going to explore the many outlets of the Veerse Meer. It is already quite busy on the water. Windsurfers, people on a SUP, small motorboats, dinghies, canoes, kayaks, sailing boats, large motorboats … everyone clearly wants to enjoy the good weather. Also the many camper vans are already parked along the waterfront.

In our dinghy we regularly get the salty spray over us as we pound into the waves. Cold! But the water itself doesn’t feel cold, it’s even very tempting to take a dip later. But first we set out to explore. With our dinghy and outboard motor, we explore several outlets on the Veerse Meer. The trees along the water’s edge are beautifully green and I enjoy moving my feet through the water. Everything looks so idyllic and everyone looks so relaxed. Underneath our dinghy we see small fish swimming and even shrimp. In front of us, two kingfishers pass by and an egret is fishing along the shore. I feel intensely happy.

Once we get back to our boat, I can’t resist jumping into the salt water. From the swimming ladder we jump into the water several times. Very refreshing! We then immediately rinse ourselves with a bucket of fresh water. Since we have to be fairly economical with our fresh water and we can’t shower every day, we sometimes have to be creative.

We light the barbecue again and while I do the dishes (washing with salt water, rinsing with a little fresh water) Greg relaxes in the hammock.

What a beautiful day!

Grevelingenmeer
12 August 2022

Greg is going to skip the mussel race in Yerseke so today we are sailing to the Grevelingenmeer to anchor there for a few days. The Grevelingenmeer, where I fell in love with sailing and where our former home port was, Herkingen. Also the many memories we share here with friends and family make this place something special.

It feels a bit strange to be back here. Because normally after a weekend we would sail into our box, clean up and drive the car back home. But we don’t have a house or an apartment anymore, this is our house. There is no car waiting, this is our means of transportation. Sometimes it all still feels like vacation but this is our life now. The realization is not quite there yet.

We both feel tired today and after anchoring after 5 hours of sailing, we crawl into our bed and lay down next to Nelly for a nap. After dinner we enjoy the beautiful summer evening and we even spotted several shooting stars at night.

We are now on our way for 10 days and sailed 139,1 nautical miles in total.

Grevelingenmeer
13 August 2022

We just enjoy what the water and nature has to offer us. Swimming, SUPPING, observing birds, jellyfish and fish, spotting seals, reading in the hanging chair above the water,… Even our trip to the marina of Herkingen with our dinghy to take a shower and stock up on water feels like an adventure. We really enjoy every moment together and are blessed our days are filled with these unique moments.

Grevelingenmeer
14 August 2022

Despite several requests for quotations and even two suppliers who came to take measurements (and then didn’t let us know anything), we still don’t have a new spray hood and bimini. As a result, our old spray hood gave up yesterday. The seams came loose from the ten year old thing. Sun and salt water are not a good combination and stuff gets a lot of wear and tear. So today I was mainly busy with sewing the hood back on. We don’t have a sewing machine on board so everything had to be done manually with the speedy stitcher. The spray hood can hold out for a while now but we will have to contact other suppliers.

We also miss a bimini (sunshade). It is sometimes difficult to find a shady spot on our boat. Fortunately we have beach umbrellas that help us out. ⛱

This afternoon I spent an hour on the SUP. Some floating around and watching the sea life below me. Meanwhile, a curious seal was watching me from the water.

The days pass more slowly and I enjoy everything I see, experience and feel. Boat life feeds my soul.

Grevelingenmeer
16 August 2022

We lift our anchor. Time to move to another place. We hoist the headsail and slowly move forward. It is gray and cloudy outside.

We make a stop at the Veermansplaat, an uninhabited island on the Grevelingenmeer. Only dozens of horses and some cows live on the island.

Time to stretch our legs. We walk down the waterfront and collect washed-up garbage along the way. Fishing nets, caps, a ball, glasses and some smaller plastic. Under our feet a crunching sound of oyster shells and crab carcasses.

After 7 km of walking we decide to go back to our boat. We put the harness on Nelly and let her discover the island on a leash. After ten minutes she has had enough.

We detach ourselves from the jetty and decide to anchor a little further away. It’s starting to rain outside. Lovely to cool down after all those hot days.

Grevelingenmeer
18 August 2022

Yesterday we did some chores inside while it was raining outside almost all day.

Today we have been more active. Under a bright sun we sailed in our dinghy to Hompelvoet, one of the many islands on the Grevelingenmeer. Fjord horses stay there almost all year round and cows can also be found there during a certain period. We moor our dinghy and step ashore. We enjoy a nice walk between the just-cut grassy plains and along the wildlife trail. Traveling with a sailboat is not only on the water, we like to discover islands and new villages or towns and therefore we like to go ashore.

It’s a lazy afternoon. I make a blanket fort on the deck and lay sprawled out together with Nelly under the patch of shade this creates. Greg prepares lunch and does some chores and afterwards relaxes with a book.

At sunset, the water is like a mirror and I grab the dinghy to do some rowing. A few seals accompany me and I get a very serene feeling. The days are slower, the evenings more magical. I can’t get enough of it.

Den Osse
19 August 2022

Busy day today.

If we dock in a marina it is only because we have run out of fresh food and the dirty laundry is piling up. Today we are moored in WSV Den Osse, a cozy marina on the Grevelingenmeer with all the necessary amenities. They have a large supermarket nearby in Scharendijke and fortunately they have bicycles that we can borrow here so we can easily do our shopping. It was also nice to cycle again after almost three weeks. You should have seen us carrying all our stuff on the bicycles. People even wished us good luck. Once back aboard (yes, we made it. Even the eggs were still intact 🥚), it’s always a challenge to store everything in a proper way.

Doing the laundry is another thing, we really have to plan this now. Nothing beats the feeling of having freshly washed clothes 😌. Shopping and doing the laundry takes almost half a day but luckily we have time now.

The advantage of a marina is that we have WiFi and I make eager use of that to video call with my beloved friends or family. I can get intensely happy to see my godchild, brother and sister-in-law again. Even though we are only three weeks away, my family is very dear to me and I always look forward to spending time with them, whether it is virtual or in real life.

Grevelingenmeer
20 August 2022

Our first visit since we live aboard. Our ex-colleagues and good friends Isabelle and Daan are coming to join us on board for the day. It is nice to see familiar faces again after three weeks.

Unfortunately, the promised swimming weather does not materialize, but after a nice cup of coffee, we hoist the sails and sail around. We anchor in the lee of the Stampersplaat and enjoy a nice lunch. Afterwards we sit in the cockpit and chat while the seals entertain us from the water. We drop our friends off at the jetty in Den Osse marina and sail a little further towards the setting sun to anchor behind an ‘island’ which on closer inspection is nothing more than a couple of rocks.

Grevelingenmeer
22 August 2022

Today we hoisted anchor to have a bite at our favourite surf and beach club Natural High and to stretch our legs once more.It is busy at the jetty but luckily we find an empty spot and tie up.

We walk for a while past the many campervans parked here to windsurf, SUP or just to soak up the sun. Good weather brings good vibes.

At Natural High, Greg takes the kibbeling with fries and I enjoy tasty sashimi and a poké bowl. It does good to get out among civilisation sometimes.

In the evening, I video call my family. It’s good to see everyone together again, my mom, two brothers and my awesome sister.

Quiet evening aboard El Burro until we found the rotten carrots under our floorboard…

Grevelingenmeer
25 August 2022

We haven’t done much the last few days, which is why it’s been a bit quieter here on Polarsteps.

The day before yesterday we took Nelly for a walk on Dwars door de Weg, one of the many uninhabited islands on the Grevelingenmeer. Nelly has had a garden for years, which she fully enjoyed every day, so she was very happy to feel grass under her paws again. She looked for a shady spot and lay down next to a bush from which all kinds of noises came (I think she heard mice). We sat down for about an hour with bees, butterflies and birds all around us. Afterwards we sailed for two hours at 2 knots to our anchorage at the Schelpenhoek.

And there we were until today. Yesterday it was very sunny and warm so we went snorkeling. Fish, snails, crabs, jellyfish, oysters, mussels… always fascinating to see the underwater world up close. Afterwards, Greg explained to me how to drive the dinghy’s outboard motor. Also important to master this myself.

And so today we moved to an anchorage close to Herkingen. Now we are lying here being bumped by a front passing by with 20 knots of wind. Tomorrow we go back on the more active tour as we have visitors this weekend! That means two locks and the Oosterschelde and Volkerak. Our El Burro was almost associated with the Grevelingenmeer so it’s good to discover other places. That is the advantage of a floating home. Our home is where the anchor drops.

Volkerak
26 August 2022

The wind has been blowing quite heavy all night and even now there is a 15 knot wind with gusts to 20 knots. We raise the anchor and soon see green, large spots in the water. With every meter of anchor I raise, I see that plants have established themselves around the chain. I try to make our chain plant-free by hand but it just keeps coming so I quickly connect the deck pump and rinse the chain and anchor clean. Lesson learned for next time: always ensure the deck pump is ready before we lift the anchor.

Afterwards we sail towards the lock but it takes longer than expected. For an hour or so we do a dance with other boats in front of the lock gates. Once the gates open, many boats gather quickly in the lock with a strong wind coming from behind. People often get stressed in a lock so also this time I hear the shouting around me. We always try to keep calm, stress is needed for nothing and the calmer you are the better. So we secretly laugh at the shouting around us. 😁

The second lock (Oosterschelde to Volkerak) is a smooth passage and we soon hoist our mainsail. This is rather difficult because it is a new sail and we still have to learn how to adjust it correctly. Soon our headsail follows and at 5-6 knots we sail directly towards the anchorage. The conditions are great and it’s a wonderful sail. ⛵️

After anchor Greg makes fresh pizza 🍕and we make it a quiet evening for the rest. Tomorrow we will have visitors!

Dinteloord, Willemstad, de Heen (+ Hollands Diep) 
28 August 2022

SATURDAY
We are walking back to our boat after checking in at the Dinteloord harbor office until suddenly someone calls our name. Our good friends Gwenny and Jorn have arrived and we are spending a weekend together. We on our boat in Jachthaven de Waterkant in Dinteloord and they in a hotel a little further away. Gwenny quickly let us know that she wants to go sailing today. After an overcast morning, the sun has come through so it is the ideal time. We detach the boat, sail through the lock and make a trip on the Volkerak. There is no wind at first so we almost float on the spot. Jorn is behind the steering wheel and enjoys it to the fullest. The wind gradually increases so we finally reach 3 knots. On the way back to the harbor we have to tack frequently and Captain Greg takes over the wheel.

Once in the harbor, we leave the boat behind to take the car to Willemstad. First we go shopping (thank you Gwenny, that saves us a lot of time and dragging with groceries 😉 ) and afterwards we walk and eat in the beautiful establishment city Willemstad. In Cuarto Ocho we enjoy Spanish cuisine (highly recommended!) and then back in the boat we play a board game together.

SUNDAY
We get up early to go for a walk in the Vlietpolder at De Heen. We had found a brochure in the harbor office which sounded promising but the walk is somewhat monotonous. That’s why we finally decide to shorten this walk and to go for a walk in the Dintelse Gorzen at Benedensas. This nature reserve and unique piece of nature pleases us more because of the variety of forests, meadows, open plains and water features. Also the numerous presence of horses, Scottish highlanders and various birds and insects make us feel completely at one with nature after this walk. We reward ourselves after almost 19000 steps with a pancake in the pancake farm De Uitwijk where you can choose from more than 100 different kinds.

It was great to have our friends so close for the weekend. Gwenny and I go way back (almost 15 years of friendship) so we’ve already made many great memories together. Forever grateful to have met her. ❤️

Now we are moored at a mooring buoy just after the Volkerak lock.

Haringvliet
29 August 2022

It is half past ten. In half an hour the Haringvliet Bridge will open and we can sail through with the dozens of other boats. We float around on the spot until we suddenly see the many cars and trucks stop. The bridge opens and we sail through as quickly as possible. We then hoist the mainsail. The wind is difficult, alternating between no wind and gusts of 15 knots. We pass the nature island of Tiengemeten, which we have visited in the past because of the harvest festivals. Nelly decides to sit on the spray hood and enjoy the view. Just after noon the wind increases, we roll out the headsail and we reach a nice speed of 5.5 knots.

After a 5-hour trip, we arrive at our final destination for today at the Hellevoetsluis. We have arranged to meet someone who has a storm jib for sale. With our dinghy we pick it up just before sunset. We spend the rest of the evening at anchor.

Volkerak
30 August 2022

Today we visited Hellevoetsluis during noon. Mainly looking for a store to stock up on fresh fruit as we were running out.

After an hour of walking and shopping, we hoist both sails to sail to the Haringvliet Bridge with a 15-20 knots North East wind. We sail close-hauled so our boat heels heavily to starboard. We even achieve a speed record with our El Burro of 7.5 knots. Nelly jumps out of bed, comes to me and utters her panic meow. Because of the heeling boat, she has trouble walking straight. I pick her up and put her in a safe place. There she eventually falls asleep.

We speed up quickly and end up having to wait another 3 hours at anchor until the bridge opens. As soon as it opens, we go through as quickly as possible in a traffic jam with other boats.

In the Volkerak lock after the bridge we are the first to arrive, but we have to wait a while for a large ship that also wants to go through the lock. After the lock we immediately drop anchor.

This weekend we have to be in Middelburg because my wonderful sister, brother-in-law and niece are coming to visit us, so we sail all the way back. As we have no destination and a lot of time on our hands, sailing back and forth doesn’t really matter.

Veerse Meer
01 September 2022

We woke up with a queasy Nelly yesterday. Some fresh air fortunately did her good and soon she began to be more active again. The whole day I felt a little worried and kept a close eye on her. In the evening she had to throw up again but the boat was moving heavily at anchor so I cannot blame her.

Today it is fortunately better. Nelly is feeling as usual and is her happy self. Phew! The weather is calmer, so we sail for 7 hours from the Volkerak to the Veerse Meer. Nelly lies stretched out on the bed sleeping during the whole trip. We test our Aries windvane gear. It still needs some adjustment but it does its job and is already steering the boat. On the Oosterschelde we pass a sandbank full of seals and in the evening we anchor close to an island full of grazing deer (Haringvreter). Everyday I’m so grateful for being so close to nature 🙏🏻.

Middelburg
02 September 2022

This weekend I was reunited with my sister. ❤️ She, my brother-in-law and my niece stayed in a hotel in Middelburg so we moored our boat for two days in the WV Arne marina. It felt so great to see them and to spend some quality time together.

Middelburg is the capital city of the province of Zeeland and it’s known for its pretty old buildings and small alleyways. The buildings look like they have just been painted and we were really impressed with how clean the city was (even the windows of each house were spotless!). Middelburg has a very cultural background with beautiful monuments which are absolutely stunning. You can easily spend a day just wandering through the city.

And that’s basically what we did on Saturday, exploring Middelburg while the sun was shining brightly. From the shopping streets to the city hall, just walking, talking and spending time together. In the late evening after we had some dinner and while we were strolling through the city, we stumbled upon a festival in the abbey. What a cool place to organise a festivity here!

On Sunday we decided to sail a bit on the Veerse Meer. We picked up my family at the jetty just before the lock and headed straight to the Haringvreter, the island where we saw so many deers earlier this week. We moored at the jetty and in less than five minutes of walking we already saw several deers with large antlers. You could walk really close to them, they are probably used of the many people visiting the island by boat. Afterwards my little niece enjoyed catching crabs 🦀 and seeing the many jellyfish float by. It melted my heart to see how happy she was being here.

It was difficult saying goodbye. My sister and my niece have a very special place in my heart and I love them so much. I cannot wait to show them more of boatlife in other places and to explore the many beautiful countries on earth together when they visit us again in future. Now it’s just the three of us again for a while. 👫🏻🐈⛵️

Veerse Meer – through the eye of the storm 
05 September 2022

Slowly the colours of the sky changed. It was becoming darker, big clouds were forming and coming towards us. It started raining and the wind was picking up quickly. Not long after, we saw the first flash. Thunder! Seconds later we heard the rumble, it was still far away. I opened my weather app and saw that the thunder was still 10 kms away from us. Nothing to worry about.

It was getting darker and darker, Nelly was staring with big scary eyes at the windows. The strikes followed by the loud sound scared her. She started to become nervous but eventually found a perfect hiding spot that gave her shelter and a safe feeling.

Suddenly the rain stopped and the sky turned pink. A double rainbow popped-up. We went outside and were amazed by how peaceful and quiet it is. The thunder was still there, looking at the many lightning strikes we see around us, but it didn’t bother us. The sky was beautiful and mesmerising!

Not long after this interim beautiful scene, the rainbow disappeared and lightning strikes were hitting closer to us. I opened my weather app again and it mentioned that the closest strike in the last 30 minutes was 0.6 km away from us. I was starting to become nervous, what if it hits us? To add to the drama, our dinghy was smashing loudly to our windvane. Greg went outside to have a look and to make sure everything was secured safely. Big raindrops poured out of the sky. The combination of all the different sounds was really impressive.

After 10 minutes the rain stopped. We survived the storm! Nelly returned from her hiding space and greeted us happily. How things can change fast. 😅

Steenbergsche Vliet 
11 September 2022

Rain pours down while the scent of freshly baked apple cake is spreading in our boat. Coots, grebes, ducks, geese and many other marsh birds are in the meantime singing, calling, chattering and screeching. By now we are able to easily identify the unique sound of each bird.

The last couple of days we were moored at the Steenbergsche Vliet, a small river that flows into the Volkerak. To get there we had to enter a small lock, dated from 1824 and built to protect the land behind in case the water rises. The pittoresque little village called Benedensas never stops to amaze me. We were already here two weeks ago with our friends to have a walk in the Dintelse Gorzen but really wanted to stay here for a while with our boat. As it was quite rainy outside it was the perfect moment to read, watch a serie, bake a cake and do some boat chores inside while we were surrounded by beautiful nature and quietness.

When the sun came through we took Nelly for a walk. The first time she actually joined us in our dinghy. We rowed to the side, had a short walk until Nelly insisted that it was enough for today and that she wanted to go back. We are so proud of her, everyday she’s getting braver and becoming more confident. When I see her laying on deck, enjoying the sun, it really melts my heart. We have the feeling she is quite happy aboard except when there’s a storm or if the boat is heeling too much to one side but I must admit that these are also my least favourite moments.

So that’s how the days pass by on our El Burro. When the sun is out and the sailing conditions are good, we move our tiny house to another location. If not, we just anchor or moor somewhere and do some boat chores or relax. On a sailing boat it’s important to live close to nature, understand the weather elements and plan accordingly. As we don’t know what life might bring us, we try to enjoy each day to the fullest and appreciate the beauty we see around us.

Dordrecht
15 September 2022

We’ve spend the last two days in Dordrecht, one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands. We stayed in one of the historic ports (K.D.R. & Z.V.) with several old warehouses that are located along the docks. Many of those old warehouses have been there since the 17th century and were used to store wine, sugar, grain and many other goods.The big church in Dordrecht welcomed us as soon as we sailed closer to the city but there are actually more than 1000 monuments located here. You can always follow the ‘Rondje Dordt’ signs if you want to see the highlights. Dordrecht also has a lot of art- and antique shops (you even have a ‘Kunstrondje Dordt’ walk) charming facades, music stores and good places to eat or drink.

The first day we had to look for a doctor as I was suffering from a UTI. I wasn’t sure how much it would cost as I didn’t have any health insurance in The Netherlands. Luckily they are working with a fixed rate for foreign visitors so I only had to pay 30 euros and was redirected to a pharmacy nearby to get my medication. The rest of the day we just strolled through the city exploring the small alleyways and visiting the beautiful Merwestein Parc with large grassy areas, many trees and some water features. In the afternoon we drank coffee at cat café Stripe where eight cute cats were ruling the place.

On the second day we went to the store to restock our food supply and discovered some of the local shops with authentic products. We ate poffertjes at Visser’s poffertjes. Poffertjes are a traditional Dutch sweet snack. You can compare them with mini pancakes but fluffier with a slight crunch on the outside and served with butter and a lot of powder sugar. If you are in The Netherlands, you definitely have to try these! For dinner we ate pizza at Otto e Mezzo. They have a beautiful terrace under an old fish market and serve authentic Italian pizza’s and pasta.

We enjoyed staying here in Dordrecht. If you want to visit a big, charming city without getting overwhelmed by tourists then Dordrecht is the place to be!

Tiengemeten
20 September 2022

We visited Tiengemeten for a day. Tiengemeten is a nature island on the Haringvliet. The name of the island refers to an ancient area measurement. According to Wikipedia one gemet is comparable with one acre. The island is actually more or less 7 kms long and 2 kms wide. Ten habitants are still living here.

We already visited the island twice in the past when the harvest festival took place and even tried a goose burger then which was quite tasty. So we wanted to visit the island again and have a walk in nature.

We weren’t sure if our depth allowed us to moor at the recreational port. We’ve read that the maximum draft was 1.5 meters but we didn’t have any issue lying there with our 1.65 meters draft. There are no facilities at the jetty and you have to walk approximately 2 kilometers to get to the visitor centre. You can also take a ferry to get to the island.

We were here on a Monday so everything is basically closed on the island. But next to the visitor centre you can find two museums here. Rien Poortvliet (a painter known for its gnomes) and an agricultural museum. They also have a place to eat something, an inn where you can sleep and a nature play area for kids.

Flowers fields, open plains, marshy reedlands,… this used to be an agricultural area but is now a nature island. It’s so quiet and peaceful on Tiengemeten. It often felt like being on a deserted island. We followed a marked trail but you can easily just wander of and walk around freely. Along the way we were surrounded by birds, we even spotted the sea eagle with its impressive wingspan. You can also spot beavers here (we unfortunately didn’t see any) and Scottish Highlanders (we actually did see them from up real close!). The clouds were starting to become grey and drops were already pouring from the sky so it was time to end our walk and return to the boat.

Back at our boat, the sun was shining again so we took Nelly for a walk before the next rain showers arrived. It was quite exciting to leave the small recreational port as the exit was surrounded by rocks, there were of gusts of 20 knots and we had to manoeuvre backwards (our El Burro hates doing this). But Captain Greg did it! We left the port safely and continued our way.

Grevelingenmeer
02 October 2022

It’s our final week in the Netherlands before we go back to Belgium to have the mast removed and to continue our journey. The last two months were great to get back into sailing and to adjust to our new life but it’s time to move on. Meanwhile autumn has arrived and we traded in our swimwear, t-shirts and shorts for hats, sweaters and long pants.

Although we only travelled in Zeeland and South Holland, we’ve already seen so many beautiful things. Kingfishers, cormorants, sea eagles, deer, porpoises, seals, hundreds of moon jellies, sea buckthorn berries growing here wildly along the riverbanks and dunes, the most beautiful sunsets, impressive lightning strikes, mesmerising rainbows and charming cities like Dordrecht and Middelburg. Just to list a few things that immediately come to my mind… I honestly cannot wait to discover more places throughout the world!

In the last two months we have really found our routine on board, been able to test our new sails and get used to living on the water in general with all its limitations. One of the biggest challenges is waste management. Everything you buy is packaged so waste soon piles up. We already try to throw away as much packaging as possible when we put away our groceries but we still need to find a better system for this. Furthermore, we are still figuring out how long exactly we can be self-sufficient with our 300 liter water supply. But we really love living aboard. The freedom to move our house where we want it, the amount of time we have to do whatever we want and the deep connection with nature we encounter daily. We are really blessed that we are able to live this life. Boat life will not always be sunshine and rainbows but it’s the challenges we face together as a couple that makes this life so interesting.

So what’s next? Well, we are spending the last week on the Grevelingenmeer as good friends are visiting us this weekend. Next week we’ll go to Antwerp if weather allows and we intend to stay there for two weeks. From there on we’ll travel through Belgium (with some stops to visit our family) to end up in France somewhere in December. And so the adventure continues…

Curious to read how our sailing journey continued? Go to Polarsteps ;).

Awaiting Freedom

It wasn’t before I saw my first humpback whale in Iceland that I became (let’s say) ‘obsessed’ with marine mammals. How those big creatures move around in that enormous pool of water is quite mesmerizing.

After Iceland, my first encounter with orcas happened in Canada. Those three big fins sticking out, a family swimming freely together, made me even more mad of the fact that we, humans, keep those animals in captivity. The so called stars at sea parks and aquariums throughout the world. Our own short-time entertainment resulting in a lifetime suffering of a beautiful creature.

Why should we, humans , even have the right to tear families apart? It’s know that orcas are highly intelligent, social animals with strong family bonds. They also need a great distance in the ocean to live, migrate and feed. In small tanks (even smaller than the parks parking lot) they just cannot thrive.

Most of us saw Blackfish, a documentary film, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, that tells the story of Tilikum. After three decades of misery and spending most of his live at SeaWorld Orlando, he died. He was involved in the deaths of three people mainly caused by stress of living in an unnatural condition. Some people say Tilikum was a murderer but let’s be honest, how would you act if you have no freedom at all?

The Covid-19 lockdown brought up a lot of mental issues for some people and that’s not even a life sentence. Wether it’s a bird locked in a cage, a gorilla staring behind glass in the zoo or a human not able to meet with his/her friends and family, we all want our freedom and make our own choice in our movements. It must be strange… swimming freely in the ocean until one day you are taken away from your family and home and kept in a small tank hoping that one day you’ll be taken back to that big endless salty pool.

So what can we actually do?

In my opinion it all starts with education. Don’t take your kids to those shows but make them aware it’s not OK for humans to steal marine mammals from their habitat. As a kid I too saw these shows and didn’t see any harm in it. Only by getting older and wiser you realize this is wrong in all ways.

Spread the message. Whether it’s via your Instagram page, a YouTube channel, word of mouth communication or any other way. MAKE PEOPLE AWARE!

Support organizations. Sea Shepherd, The International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP), WWF and many more of those wonderful organization are bravely fighting for marine conservation. In below video, Sir David Attenborough will explain you why this is so important:

Be a responsible tourist. Don’t go swimming with dolphins or attend orca shows. Just don’t participate in anything that involves the exploitation of marine mammals.

So as you can see, YOU can make an example. Unfortunately, the reason why those parks still exist is profit and not education. So if you want to see a humpback whale, orca or dolphin, book a whale watching expedition with a responsible company or simply take your binoculars and spot whales from shore.

Cheers,
The El Burro Crew