This past weekend, I’ve had the opportunity to sail aboard the old traditional Klipperkraak Karin with one of our partner associations, Genosea. It was both frightening at times  and exhilarating, it having been my first time a board such a massive ship.

The ship is a 100 year old, 63 ton, and 23m long former sail freight ship, which was formerly used in the canals of Delft. Its front resembles the front of a Klipper mixed with the front of a Kraak, both traditional dutch ships of ye olden days. Over the years, the ship has had it’s sails taken down and removed, to be replaced by an engine, and then it was used as a Woonark (living boat) in Amsterdam, only to be refitted with it’s mast and sails and repurposed for sailing. We sailed aboard it for two days on the Ijsselmeer, with it’s captain Hugo, an experienced inland freight ship captain, who had bought the boat 30 years prior, only to refurbish it to it’s (quasi) original state (whilst leaving the engine and the living quarters in the hull).

We left port of Stavoren with a crew of ten, with five of us who were younger and, naturally, had to do some of the more physical work aboard the ship. At certain moments, everyone was involved. There are quite a few heavy ropes on a boat of this scale, and they all need their share of tugging and fastening. We sailed out close hauled on the first day, in what was quite an uneventful day in terms of manoeuvring, however on the return trip we had our work cut out. I had the opportunity to man the rudder, which required muscle and a peculiar sense of time/movement, as a ship of this size reacts has the reflexes of a rather large whale.

With large waves crashing on the massive hull, gray skies and a winds of Beaufort 6 on the immense sails, each tack was quite the combined effort. It is days like this that make sailing more like a sport. Not the usual quiet days on the Rhine of sipping beer and accidentally blocking the way of rowers.

To top it off, as we arrived in the port of Makkum, the weekend was accompanied by an enormous and delicious paella, scaled to the size of the group in attendance. Expectations were low on my part, as I would normally be quite minimalistic in my travels on a boat (with the few exceptions of lobster on board, a Canadian east coast tradition and delicacy), so I was even more impressed by the feast which was being festively prepared before my eyes, with a backdrop of a frisian sunset.

In all, it is experiences like this that make the sailing association worth all the while, and that will also leave a lasting impression on me for the years to come.

Anchors away!


-Benoît LeBlanc