Jonty heads for a holiday in Holland finds an attractive and sheltered cruising grounds, where, unlike the more familiar Hebrides, he doesn't need his anchor, and the gin and tonics are always within easy reach

Sailing in Holland is a far cry from navigating the coasts of Wales. The marinas here are full of strange posts and boxes ready to trap the unwary – berthing on finger pontoons is not the Dutch fashion. New techniques have to be learned, and when they go wrong they can be a spectacular source of marina entertainment. My friend Ian endured this yesterday when, with an adverse wind, a left handed prop, and a lack of comprehension from a crew not used to the necessary manoeuvres, he ended up pinned by a Force 5 against the ends of three finger berths. Fair play, he extricated himself without any damage, but it was a confidence sapping moment.

Carol and I are enjoying a two week charter holiday in Holland. The first week is being spent cruising the IJsselmeer and the Markermeer – part of the old Zuiderzee until its rebadging – where the depth averages a mere 3 to 5 metres. Although protected by dykes that separate this body of water from the sea and its waves, the recent Force 6 winds certainly whipped up a fierce chop. The second week will be spent in the Waddenzee, enclosed by the Frisian Islands which keep out the worst of the ravages of the North Sea. Although a little to the west of The Riddle of the Sands territory, we counted four copies of the 1903 classic spy novel on board and I’m sure Carruthers, Davies, and Clara will be in our minds as navigate the channels to the islands. Our Penguin Cruising Club has chartered two boats for this first week, adding a third yacht for the second, and possibly more interesting, week though the inland sea has been fascinating. Friend Ian is the skipper of our companion boat, allowing friendly deniable competition as we zig-zag across the Zuiderzee. (Apologies, I couldn’t resist that many Z’s so close together).

Our club is more used to chartering in Western Scotland and cruising the Hebrides where anchoring in wild places is the norm and marinas are an endangered species. Good ground tackle is essential there; here in Holland the anchor seems to be an afterthought and has not yet left its locker. Our 36′ yacht does not even boast an anchor windlass, which, along with the charterer’s attitude, gave us a good clue that even lunch stops spent at anchor would be unusual here. Having experienced the quality and economy of the marinas, it is indeed hard to see why anyone would not choose to stay inside their safe confinement. Except Ian, maybe – those posts still haunt him. In general there are well-marked visitor’s reception berths from which yachts will be directed to an overnight box mooring. We have not been charged more than €50 for two boats and a total of 13 crew – there are separate charges for boats and people. Water, electricity, and showers are included, so we are all unusually clean. In the Hebrides few supermarkets abound, and we are used to an initial massive victualling session. We need not have bothered here – while shops may not be commonplace, anything we need is easily available.

After a morning’s visit to the Zuiderzee museum, we plan to brave the southward locks to explore the Markermeer during the afternoon. Yesterday’s rain and bluster has departed and clear blue skies and gentle breezes are forecast, a welcome change after the afternoon’s double-reefed 8-knot charge across a rain-lashed IJsselmeer. And after our anticipated gentle sun-soaked cruise we can look forwards to exploring yet another pretty Dutch village after a refreshing gin and tonic. This is the life – and another week and a half to go!

Jonty Pearce

Jonty Pearce: Racing about

The Olympics are upon us – and eager competitors are chasing each other about on the water after years of…