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Published in Dinghy Cruising Journal 260

DCA Rally on Lauwersmeer

The third and last DCA rally of the 2023 sailing season was held on 30 September and 1 October on the Lauwersmeer in the extreme north of the Netherlands.

  • Carl and Luc from Belgium with Ilur
  • Vincent with home-built Ilur 'Aries'
  • Hubert en Klarie with norwegian pram 'Hatseflats'
  • Koos with Artemis sailing canoe 'Wolf'
  • Marten-Jan with Bolger Chebacco 'Alskar'
  • Rene and Monique with Micro Challenger 'Suus'
  • Albert with Post Boat 'Sassy Lassie'

Saturday 30 September

The third DCA Rally in the Netherlands began on a cloudy Saturday morning in the marina of Oostmahorn. On the previous day, Hubert had sailed Hatseflats in a record 4.5 hours from Dokkum in 20 knots of wind.
Albert, Rene and Monique had sailed over from Lauwersgat, a little harbour near Lauwersoog. Vincent launched his Ilur from the trailer slip at nearby Esonstad and was already sailing. Marten-Jan, Koos, Carl and Luc were getting ready at Jachthaven Lauwersmeer.
The modest W3 was ideal for a little trip around the Schoenerbult island (counterclockwise) and lunch on one of the little islands.
Since most boats had matching speeds we were sailing in close company, until Marten-Jan sailed his faster Chebacco through the fleet to lead the way.
After an hour we reached the southern tip of the Schoenerbult and sailed up the little channel between the island and the mainland. We were careful to stay inside the lateral markers because immediately outside the buoys there was less than 80cm depth.

We landed at the northernmost islet off the Schoenerbult for lunch. The grass was still wet so we had a standing lunch in the sunshine. We admired the Carl's round-bilge Ilur and Vincent's clinker-ply 'Aries' which he had built beautifully from plans the year before. After lunch we decided to sail towards Lauwersoog and stop at a restaurant called 'het Booze Wijf' off the Lauwersmeer for drinks. Meanwhile Marten-Jan would return home to fire up the pizza oven in his back yard and prepare our evening meal.
Short-tacking up the narrow channel to the main lake without running aground kept us busy for a while. We were rewarded with an easy sail downwind towards Lauwersoog. Soon we reached the 'Schoolplein' and the Booze Wijf. Note that the name 'Booze Wijf' means 'angry wife', nothing to do with alcohol! In old times the 'Booze Wijf' was a dangerous trough where the former Lauwerszee met the Wadden sea.
Albert, Rene and Monique returned their boats to their nearby home port and walked back to the restaurant. The rest of us moored inside the museum harbour.
During drinks on the terrace the wind had increased to a W4 so Vincent, Koos and Hubert put in a reef before sailing back. We left the Booze Wijf at the 'Schoolplein' and worked our way towards the channel and the main lake.
Hubert did not fancy short-tacking up the canal and rowed Hatseflats towards the main lake. The breeze died away almost as soon as it had arrived. We shook out the reefs and gently floated to Oostmahorn.

We moored our boats and drove to Marten-Jan's place for a pizza-fest. Marten-Jan had prepared the dough well in advance and the wood-fired oven in his back yard was already blazing. He had built the oven himself from welded steel plates. With the oven going at 400 degrees Celsius it took less than two minutes to bake a sizzling hot pizza. The pizza slices were delicious: amazing what simple and good ingredients and a crackling hot oven can do. Hubert had brought some back issues of the Dinghy Cruising Journal for non-DCA members. The DCA rally inspired Koos and Marten-Jan to become members of the DCA.
Semaine du Golfe veterans Ronald and Ineke also came along. We had met them in Brittany when they were sailing with Carl on his Ilur. After the pizza-fest we reminisiced about the Semaine du Golfe and enjoyed the videos in Marten-Jans gazebo.

Sunday 1 October

The day started wet with a drizzle and a none too promising SW3. Carl and Luc decided not to go sailing and returned home to Belgium. Monique, Klarie and Albert also had other plans, so we were down to three boats: Koos with 'Wolf', Hubert with 'Hatseflats' and Rene crewing on Marten Jan's 'Alskar'.
Hubert proposed to sail to Zoutkamp and back and raise our spirits afterwards with gin and tonic on the 'Gin and Tonic' island (this is Raid Exterme terminology for the southernmost islet off the Schoonerbult). Rene, Marten-Jan and Koos suggested a shortcut to the gin and tonic and proposed to sail round the Schoenerbult again and lunch at the Gin and Tonic island.
As we sailed south along the Schoenerbult the wind quickly increased to a SW4 with gusts. Sailing singlehanded on unreefed Hatseflats Hubert hiked out and enjoyed the ride, occassionally touching 6 knots. After a while, Hatseflats was passed by Marten-Jan and Rene sailing the powerful Chebacco with a full rig. They did not lead for long because Koos was on a roll on his Artemis sailing canoe topping at 10 knots. Meanwhile the waves were quickly building up. Koos tripped over a breaking wave and capsized. Thanks to the capsize drills during the International Canoe Week in Stralsund, Koos righted and re-entered his canoe within a miminute and started bailing. Fortunately, Koos was wearing his wetsuit and the water was still warm. Hatseflats and Alskar were standing by while Koos used his self-bailer to empty his boat.

Soon we were mooring our boats alongside the jetty on 'Gin and Tonic' island. We sat in the cockpit of Alskar, Marten-Jan's Chebacco. Lunch was an eclectic affair with sandwiches, rolls, cookies, crisps, 'kruidnoten', coffee and chocolate milk. Since we were on 'Gin and Tonic' island we celebrated with some G&T during lunch. From our sheltered position in the cockpit it appeared that the wind had died down. It was only by looking at sailing boats in the distance that we could see that there was still wind.
When it was time to go, we sailed through the narrow channel between Schoenerbult and the mainland. The trees on the Schoenerbult sheltered us from too much wind, so the going was easy. Once we turned into the channel towards the main lake, the wind came towards us over open water bringing strong gusts and breaking waves. Koos and Marten-Jan had already reefed their sails and coped well. On Hatseflats I hiked fully out under full sail but could keep Hatsfeflats on its feet. Short-tacking up the narrow channel was hard going. Further away I could see Koos sheltering in the reeds and taking in another reef.
I decided to stick it out without reefing because I could just hold the boat upright in the lulls and I expected the wind to decrease soon. I was very keen to stay within the lateral markers but even so I ran aground a couple of times. When the daggerboard hit a shallow at full speed the boat suddenly stopped in its tracked and bucked forwards. The second time I was too slow to raise the centerboard so I decided to stop to take two reefs as well. When I resumed the wind was piping up with steep rollers. I guess it was now a force 6 gusting to 7. I decided against a third reef because I needed speed to get to open water as quickly as possible. By hiking out hard I kept Hatseflats going. In the distance I could see Koos and Marten-Jan sailing on the main lake. The waves on the main lake longer waves and easier to deal with. Occassionally the bow slammed into a wave and spray crashed over the foredeck. My shirt and shorts were soaked and there was water sloshing under the floorboards but I enjoyed the sailing. After a short while the wind moderated. Near the windward shore the water was flat again. When I sailed into the marina, Koos, Marten-Jan and Rene were already waiting.
As we were all wet and tired, we decided to call it a day. We loaded Hatseflats on the trailer and put the Artemis on top of Hatseflats.
Our next destination: the autumn meeting of the French dinghy cruisers at the Lac du Der in the first weekend of October.

Afterthought: does the DCA rally concept work in the Netherlands?

This was the third DCA rally in the Netherlands. The idea of the Dutch DCA rallies was heavily inspired by the UK rallies, ie. to sail together in total autonomy. The first two rallies attracted 3-4 boats each and suggested that in the Netherlands, 'sailing (camping and eating) together' seems more important than 'sailing in total autonomy'.
The rally at the Beulakerwiede was a big success thanks to local guides Tineke and Sybren.
The closing event demonstrated that attracting 6-7 boats is possible especially if there enough boats are already in the area. The feedback on all three rallies has been very positive so we will continue along this route in 2024.
Carl hinted that he might set up a DCA rally on the Veerse Meer in the southern part of the Netherlands. I am hoping for another rally with local guides on the Beulakerwiede and will be happy to create rallies on the Lauwersmeer at the start and end of the season.
If anyone has suggestions for DCA rallies (venues/dates), just let me know through the DCA Netherlands forum.

Marten-Jan's Chebacco seen from Albert's Post Boat. Photo Albert
Vincents Ilur seen from Marten-Jan's Chebacco. Photo Marten-Jan
Standing lunch on Saturday. Photo Hubert
Walking lunch on Saturday. Photo Hubert
Sunny sailing on Saturday afternoon. Photo Hubert
Landed at the Booze Wijf for drinks on Saturday afternoon. Photo Hubert
Marten-Jan and the home-built pizza oven in his back yard. Photo Hubert
Apres-sail with Dinghy Cruising journals on the table. Photo Hubert
Koos plowing the Lauwersmeer on Sunday morning. Photo Marten-Jan
Sunday lunch in Alskar's cockpit. Photo Marten-Jan
Sunday lunch. Photo Hubert
A quiet ending of a boisterous afternoon. Photo Marten-Jan