Een middagje varen met de Tjotter

Tijdens de Internationale Wayfarerrally van 2016 hebben we ook de gelegenheid gehad om een middagje te varen in de Tjotter, een originele Friese platbodem. Bill Harkings uit de USA heeft hierover voor ons een verslag geschreven:

An Afternoon Sailing the Tjotters
(by Bill Harkins, USA  W1069 and W2526)
Margie (McKelvey) and I had come to Friesland and Heeg for the 2016 international cruising rally and were immediately charmed by the architecture, the landscape, and the late evening light. Upon arrival, we strolled along the main street, followed the canal, and admired the buildings constructed in a traditional style as we made our way to the yacht harbor.  There we found the row of Wayfarers, some waiting to be launched the following day, and others ready to make the trip home from a week of racing.  We eagerly anticipated seeing their owners, to greet old friends and to make new acquaintances.  This was not the only attraction in the harbor, however.  There were many beautiful traditional boats of Dutch design there as well, and I took many photographs for my later enjoyment.
Imagine my surprise and pleasure when our Dutch hosts arranged for us all to have the chance to sail a traditional Frisian boat, the tjotter! In earlier times, it was used as an all-purpose boat to transport whatever the farmer or fisherman needed to carry — a kind of nautical pick up truck.  They are heavy, built solidly of oak, voluminous, and ideally suited for the shallow waters in Friesland.  This experience was the perfect introduction to  Dutch sailing on a Sunday afternoon.
We were met at the dock by Mr. Piersma, who I later learned, owns a yacht restoration yard in Heeg.  His parents started a sail training school for youth in Heeg after the war; and thousands of youth learned to sail in tjotters into the 1970s.  More recently, Mr Piersma and the many volunteers of the Stichting Friese Tjottervloot had lovingly restored the tjotters that were made available to us, and constructed the boathouse and clubhouse where they are stored.  Sailing tjotters  is part of  Dutch cultural heritage, and now will be enjoyed by the next generation as well.
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Wayfarer sailers were divided into crews of four, and given some brief instruction before heading out on the lake.  We were sailing the “Wilster,” built in 1926.  Mr. Piersma showed us the particular way the main halyard is made fast to the downward turned wooden cleat,  and how the leeboards are raised and lowered with each tack. We were shown how the helmsman should sit in the bottom astride the mainsheet, and how the mainsheet is held tight on the peculiar horn at the base of the wooden mainsheet block.  That was our short course, and the rest was for us to discover.  The trust Mr. Piersma had in us was amazing.  Up went the elegantly curved gaff and the mainsail, and then the jib, and then the topping lift was adjusted and made fast.  Fortunately the wind was light, so unfamiliar movements happened in slow motion.  But later in the afternoon the wind picked up and we had the chance to hike out a bit on the curved side rails to keep the boat on her feet.  We need not have worried, as the tjotter seemed to be solidly held in check by its weight and the water being pushed by her blunt bows.  As we traversed the lake back and forth, we saw all kinds of Dutch craft with families enjoying themselves.,  With the changing clouds  and light, it felt as if we were all part of a lovely Dutch painting from an earlier time.  It was such a special and lovely introduction to the Dutch way of sailing!