POP! Goes The Fender

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Our next adventure aboard the beautiful Bon Bini started with a wonderful and quiet Saturday morning in Amsterdam marina. We stayed the previous night on the boat, and were eager to leave on our first solo sail aboard Bon Bini. The forecast promised an enjoyable 10-15 knots of breeze on the Markermeer, so we were itching to take the boat out on what would be our first weekend sailing.

First things first, breakfast. We didn’t have a kettle, since the one we bought the day before at an outdoor shop gave away it’s handle on the very first attempt to “unfold it” (it was a foldable one used for camping). It’s a sad day when you can’t even trust the build of a simple thing such as as a pot to heat water, and we were just thankful the handle didn’t give up whilst someone was lifting half a liter of boiling hot water from the stove. Luckily enough there is a Hema shop right next to the marina, so off we went to buy some breakfast. Next to the delicious fresh bread, we found a sturdy cheap kettle and some other breakfast supplies. Back on the boat I made us a nice cup of café latte while Cam was busy making us jam sandwiches. With our tummies filled we cast off to head down the IJ channel heading eastwards. We passed a massive cruising boat, the “Celebrity Silhouette”, moored next to the Mövenpick Hotel. This huge ship measures over a 1000 feet on the waterline, and believe it or not has an half-acre real grass golf course on her top deck. Passing this huge feat of engineering in a 36 foot sailboat is a truly humbling experience.

Next up was squeezing into a lock with what seemed fifty other boats. We came in late and moored up next to a worried looking chap in a beautiful classic wooden sloop. Bouncing off the varnish on his boat, the shine burned in our eyes and nearly made me miss as I passed our lines to moor up next to him. His wife, sitting on the front desk hawk-eying our bow couldn’t wait for us to get away. The lock had barely opened an inch when rather panicked and without warning she launched our bowline clean into the water.
Out on the Markermeer we found the wind favourable with a bft 3 blowing from NNE. This was the first time we got Bon Bini’s sail up since we brought her to Amsterdam, and we admired her easy ways once more.

As the sun settled west for what promised to become a beautiful late summer evening we turned west to sail into Volendam. Coming into Volendam we planned to quickly tie up next to a hammerhead pontoon and see the harbour master about a berth for the night. A friendly Dutchman on the pontoon came to take our bowline, which didn’t however stop us bouncing into the pontoon a bit harder than we had planned. I setup the fenders on pontoon height, but unfortunately had forgotten to change them to the slightly taller height of the hammerhead. A brave fender that was tied to our mid-ship cleat quit his sorry existence with a audible “POP” followed by a prolonged “Pfffft”, as Bin Bini’s hull and the hammerhead squeezed the last bit of air out of the poor old rubber guy, much to our horror and the amusement of friendly Dutchman helper. We quickly moored up, pretending none of just happened, and off to the harbour master I went to secure a berth for the night. Wouldn’t be a problem, I thought as I walked past numerous empty slips along the pontoon. At the harbour master office the lady behind the counter looked at me with a mixture of pity and bewildered amusement as she bluntly told me there was absolutely no such thing as a free berth in this harbour, or any harbour, ever by the sounds of it.

Back on the boat we decided to try our luck in the Volendam classic marina, which is just a hop north. Coming into the picturesque harbour the loud music coming from the yachts rafted up four deep next to one other made it clear that we were out of luck. It seemed that all of Holland had conspired to make sure that we had to spend the night bopping up and down the Markermeer while everybody else would be enjoying a glass of wine in their cockpits.

On our way to Lelystad in the hope of finding a spot for the night, we found that the much closer Monickendam would still have room for us. With that we turned back southward, through the tiny little channel past Marken then directly west toward the setting late summer sunset. In Monickendam marina I proved once more my absolute inability to judge distances as I directed us into a berth that was suitable for boats 10 feet shorter than us. It was a tight fit and Bon Bini’s bum stuck out from between the piles. After paying the officials we had the choice to either stay the night in a very snug mooring with our rear hanging out, or squeezing between a bunch of charter boats with people partying in their cockpits. We decided to stay put in the hope of a much quieter nights sleep, and a non retuning berth owner.

The next project was to find some dinner. The harbour restaurant looked extremely cozy and my hopes were rising as we walked in and saw fellow seaman shovelling in freshly grilled steak only then to be destroyed by being informed the kitchen had just closed. My mood was taking a serious dive as we asked the helpful bar tender if there would be any other place that would serve food at the ungodly hour of 10pm on a summer Saturday (would you believe it!). He replied with a thoughtful “hmmm” as lines of deep thought formed on his forehead. I had already resigned myself to the fact our dinner would consist of a a small pile of crumply cookies that had survived last nights drawer raid when the bar man proudly announced “I know! Ijlat still has food!”, followed by elaborate and long winded instructions on how to find this mystical place, which we both were way too hungry to digest. Anyway, after some searching and asking around we found the place, a tiny little pizzeria cross donna kebab place hidden in the backstreets of Monickendam. We both scored a delicious pizza and made our way back to the harbour, happy and satisfied about the outcome of our late evening food hunt.

After a deep and relaxing night’s sleep, broken only by the clanking of a mystery and unidentifiable line in the mast, we woke up to a beautiful Sunday in the marina. We shared our breakfast with a paddling of ducks, who started out peacefully sharing the bread we gave them. Soon more and more ducks flew in, and the once harmonious breakfast turned into what only can be described as absolute duck carnage. Who would have thought these usually chilled little birds can turn into vicious feathered monsters?

We quickly made our way to the local chandlers to replace our much bemoaned loss of the previous evening, and had the rest of our fenders pumped up a bit, before we squeezed out of our slip and left the serene marina for another day of adventurous sailing on the Markermeer. The winds had dropped significantly, and we trimmed the sails to squeeze the last ounce of performance out of Bon Bini’s somewhat “matured” rig. Still, we were making 3.5 knots in 7 knots of light air, which we were quite happy with. After much faffing around with the sails we decided it was time to head south and make our way back to Amsterdam. This meant sailing straight downwind, giving us the opportunity to try out “goose wing” downwind sailing. We rigged up the pole, shoved out the mainsail, preventer and all, only to have our heroic efforts rewarded by a vanished wind. Quickly the decision was made that sitting there and bobbing about was just not worth it and we stowed away the sails to motor back to Amsterdam.

Again, amazed by how the Dutch can squeeze “just one more” boat into a tiny lock we made our way back through the IJ channel to our home marina. Coming in to the marina we found a young boy who helpfully accepted our bowlines. This made us forget to stop the boat in time, resulting in a little bump of Bon Bini’s nose on the pontoon, and a boatload of the child’s family chuckling to themselves from their cockpit. We finished our first weekend sailing with a delicious dinner in Loetje, matching a wonderful sunset with a couple of well deserved glasses of wine, recounting the lessons learned and reminiscing the wonderful experiences of the past two days.

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