We had reached Hardewijk (3) , moving along the coast of the old Zuider Zee between the mainland and the recently reclaimed province of Flevoland. At the northern entrance to this passage, the water is part of the Ijsselmeer; but, at its southern exit, the water is part of a separate entity, the Markermeer.
After the Zuider Zee had been separated from the North Sea by the great Afsluitdijk, there was a plan to reclaim another huge area of land in addition to Flevoland. This area, in the south-west of the Ijsselmeer, was to be called the Markerwaard. The construction of a raised road, the Houtribdijk, split the Ijsselmeer- but the land was not reclaimed, after all. Instead, the body of water is a shallow, tideless expanse: Markermeer.
Our coastal journey, then, was also moving from the Ijsselmeer to the Markermeer by nipping around the back of Flevoland. Turning left as we left Hardewijk, the vista widens and Flevoland is separated from the mainland by as much as two miles. The temptation to leave the buoyed and dredged channel should have been resisted, however. We started to worry as the depth under the keel fell below 1 metre, then began to panic as it dropped to 0.5m. We crept back to the channel with more than one eye on the depth gauge, aware that Lady Christina’s bilge keels make her more vulnerable to grounding on weed or mud.
The next port of call, on the starboard side, is Zeewolde. Like all towns on Flevoland, it was
created from scratch about 70 years ago. I imagined that it would be post-war and soul-less, a depressing brick and concrete creation without character.
But I was wrong (of course). Surrounding it was a huge deciduous forest, also created from scratch about 70 years ago and accessed by the wonderful Dutch cycle network. I imagined that it would be dull, dank and monotonous. But I was wrong (of course)! After 70 years, everything was simultaneously mature and in the peak of condition. The old mainland, and the new polder of Flevoland, were both interesting and rewarding.
Spakenburg (4) comes up on the mainland shore after a few more miles. The harbour is the centre of the collection of Dutch botters, traditional heavily-built fishing boats. There is still a working boatyard in the village. Although there is a marina, it is usually possible to tie up on the mole leading into the town- although this places you over one kilometre from the marina facilities. You still have to pay to moor up, however, although the stroll into the village does take you past all the interesting boats (which are the ones that don’t tie up in the marina). Arriving on a very busy racing weekend, we had no choice but to use modern moorings. It is a very interesting place and it is quite possible to see women wearing traditional dress in everyday situations like a supermarket.
Next day, to the concussion of a starting cannon, the racing started. Winds were very light and the enterprising skippers rigged a surprising array of sails.
As we moved off from Spakenburg we sailed through the fleet as it made its way back to the finish. By this time boats were using watersails below their already extensive suite.
Muiden (5) is the last port of call on this run and the place where boaters can turn into the slow-moving River Vecht. The approach to the town passes by a number of boatyards for
the well-heeled, including one that maintains the Royal Yacht (a pretty modest 15m Lemsteraak by royal standards). On reaching the middle of town, boaters have to pass through a lock under the gaze of cafe-based gongoozlers. There is a free mooring- don’t tell anyone- just on the right as you leave town. If you want to pass along the Vecht- well, that’s another journey, taking you to the city of Utrecht.