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Punterweekend 6,7,8 May

may be submitted to Dinghy Cruising Journal

This years' Punter weekend by the Dutch sails and oars foundation 'Natuurlijk Varen' was held for the first time since the Covid pandemic.
The actual purpose of the Punter weekend was not to have endless conversations between the punters but to actually sail with 'punters'!
These are flat-bottomed boats native to the peat lakes at the mouth of the Ijssel river (which gives the IJsselmeer its name). Punters were used by locals for fishing and transporting people, produce and livestock.
The weekend was held at the Punter island which was rented from the Zeilpunter association for the weekend. The island with its teepees, clubhouse, harbour and sailing punters provided a welcome refuge from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. The youngsters fried pancakes, pizzas, marshmallows on the camp fire while their parents relaxed from the hardship of sailing. Inge, Frank and Sybren organized the weekend and catering and household duties were shared by all 50 participants.


Klarie and I arrived at the Beulaekehaven around lunchtime. Herman and Eliane had just launched their Welsford Pathfinder Blue Noddy and the 'Weerlicht' of Hans and Margreet Arends was already afloat.
After launching Hatseflats for the first sail of the year we rowed towards the Beulakerwiede against a very light northeasterly breeze. We hoisted sail and sailed up and down the Beulakerwiede for a while. We saw Herman and Eliane in the distance sailing at the same speed. Every now and then we saw Hans and Margreet zooming against the horizon.
Since it was quite sunny and we were not expected before the end of the afternoon we chose the longest possible route to the Punter island. First we crossed the Beulakerwiede, lowered the rig to pass the bridge at Ronduite and sailed south on the western Belterwiede. We lowered the rig to duck under the bridge in the road to Zwartsluis and rowed into the Beukersgracht. There we hoisted sail again and sailed up the eastern Belterwiede towards the Punter island followed by Berrie and Corine. Their brand new Welsford Pathfinder looked very nice, especially the dacron sails which resembled Egyption cotton.
On arrival at the Punter island we put the fisherman anchor over the stern, tied the painter to the jetty, and met up with the other folks.
We saw some of the sturdy punters, built from oak, with lee boards hanging over the side and short sprit rigs. Someone told me that the famous Royal Huisman Yard were building punters in Ronduite until well after WWII.
Many years ago, the Punter weekend started out as a get-together for Oughtred-designed boats. This time there were an Elf sailed by Bart and Peter, and an Artic Tern sailed by Henk and Heike.
Not an Oughtred boat but very Scandinavian-looking was Gerben-Jan's Viking Raider. The smallest boat was 'Ijsvogel', a 8ft dinghy designed by Dudley Dix. Followed by Anna's Klepper folding canoe with sailing rig. The flagship of the fleet was an iron sailing barge called 'Wabberwyn' and owned by organizers Inge and Jan.
Meanwhile the air had cooled off. Time for drinks and vegetarian courgette soup cooked by Inge with generous helpings of cream cheese and baguettes. Klarie and I were lined up for dishwashing duty so we were quite busy for awhile after dinner. There were midges around in the evening air so we adjourned to the warmth of the clubhouse.


After breakfast in the clubhouse, Sybren talked us through today's itenerary: sail from the eastern Belterwiede to the western Belterwiede, and continue through the narrow canal to the Boswiede after lunch. The faster boats should keep an eye on the slowest boats: wherever they stopped we would have lunch.
Klarie and I were the last to leave and followed the fleet. After the bridge we overtook the slow punters sailing upwind. When everybody had reached the western part of the Belterwiede, the fleet split into two groups for lunch. We beached our boats to the shore with big Wabberwyn anchored nearby. The sprit rigs of the punters were scandalized rather than taken down. As we were eating our sandwiches on the grass, one of the locals arrived and warned that it was forbidden to come ashore.
After lunch we made our way through the narrow and shallow canal to the Boswiede. At times it was even too narrow for rowing, so the quickest way was to use the one of the oars as a pole. Once we reached the Boswiede the wind increased to a force 3-4.
We were travelling at over 4 knots when we very literally ran aground. There was a crashing noise but both the daggerboard and its case had survived. We broad reached back through the canal to the Belterwiede and waited for a bit while Anna in her Klepper canoe put in a reef.
Then we returned to the Belterwiede and sailed side by side for a while with brothers Joost and Eric Engelen and their flock of little angels. The sprit-sailed punters were never design to sail upwind quickly but since they weren't pinching they made quite good progress. We ended our daysail with a very nice reach back to the Punter camp.
During dinner, Eric Wybenga praised the past day, the food, the friendly atmosphere, but above all the beautiful simplicity of the punter boats.


We had breakfast as a group and had cleaned up the clubhouse and the camp ground when Sybren announced today's plan: sail through the Kerkgracht and into the Westelijke Schutsloot before re-entering the Belterwiede and making our way home.
It was quite sunny with a very light easterly wind. During the upwind leg to the entrance of the Kerksloot the wind turned back and forth a lot. As we reached the eastern shore I dropped the rig and rowed between the gardens of the local residents until we turned into the Kerksloot. Here it was very quiet in the brilliant sunday morning sunshine. I raised the rig but it was nearly windstill in the narrow canal lined with abundant green foliage. There were no houses around and just a few boats in the distance. Bart and Peter were far ahead in their Elf. It could have been Africa but we were still in punter-land.
As we turned into the Westelijke Schutsloot we slowly closed in on the Wabberwyn and sailed side by side for a while. Then we got a puff of wind and passed. The silence was only broken by bird cries or the occasional putt-putt of an approaching motor launch. We passed a cormorant sanctuary but saw no birds.
Finally we got back into the Beukergracht, the main channel leading to Beulaekehaven. After saying our goodbyes at the Punter island we sailed and rowed to the Beulaekehaven to pull Hatseflats out. It was busy at the slip.
After Hatseflats was safely on its trailer we had drinks with Bart and Peter and Berrie and Corine. Then it was time to hit the road. We trailed Berrie and Corine with their Pathfinder for a long time before we turned north to our home.

Map of the Beulakerwiede and Belterwiede - photo Klarie
Small boats ashore, big Wabberwyn at anchor - photo Klarie
Hatseflats surrounded by scandalized punters - photo Klarie
Artic Tern Magnes and Wabberwyn - photo Klarie
Eric, Joost and their flock of angels
Breakfast in the clubhouse
Punter sailing is heavy work
Parade of sails
Small canal, big smile