Mare fan Fryslan sailing boat – 203′ long, 23′ wide, five sails, main mast 97′ high, four crew members, one tour guide, 25 bikes, 23 guests, a hot tub and a galley full of Dutch beer. Our floating home for a week in northern Holland.
Spirits and expectations were high as we set out from Amsterdam and motored north on an expedition that would include boatloads of new friendships, amazing food and drink, stellar biking and beautiful scenery. In spite of a strong side wind that made it difficult to maneuver the huge sailboat (at one point we ended up perpendicular in the narrow canal as we waited for the drawbridge to raise,) Captain Jon expertly threaded it through small passages under the drawbridges and up the canal before finally pulling into our first port – Alkmaar.
A quiet fishing village in the 10th century, Alkmaar made history in 1573 when it withstood a Spanish siege and became the symbol for Dutch resistance. Today it is famous for its traditional cheese market. Alkmaar is also popular settlement for families because it is a short 35 minute commute on transit from the bustling city of Amsterdam. A night walk around the lively town center was our first taste of the northern Holland lifestyle (and beer) outside of Amsterdam.
Later that night on the boat, the topic of discussion centered around our much anticipated first day of biking as we poured over maps, compared notes and fussed over what clothing to wear for the damp and chilly weather. The forecast was for rain off and on, but in Holland it’s mostly on, so we prepared for the worst by adapting the “onion look” – dressing in layers.
The next morning after breakfast on the boat, we headed out as a group to bike ~32 km loop and back to Alkmaar. Most of us were on typical Dutch bikes (sturdy seven-gear machines) while a few elected to go electric (smart move – more on that later.) The designated bike path was smooth, wide and completely car-free (what a concept!) Passing tulip fields, an old monastery, more tulip fields and the random trail-blazing Highland cattle, we eventually ended up at the shore of the North Sea where we stopped at a local cafe for hot cocoa and Apple tart.
Our first day out on the bikes was easy, interesting and exciting especially when the sun peeked out. We were all pretty pumped up about how well we did and figured it would be smooth sailing from here on.
That is until the next day.
But that’s for another blogpost….