Vlieland - island in the sun

Wednesday 5th July - Harlingen to Vlieland 18.5 nm, lovely breeze, sailed all the way

The Wadden islands form a sort of plume along the north coast of the Netherlands in a long line. They are essentially just huge dry sandbanks and the water on the mainland side of them is a shallow sea. Wadden means mud or mud flat in Dutch and there are huge areas which dry out completely. A 'normal' map shows this as blue sea but the nautical charts show more green than blue.

We've had conflicting reports of visiting this area. It is one big nature reserve and there is no doubt about the beauty and the interest of the nature. It's a huge tourist draw but there are disadvantages which come with that. In the summer holiday season hundreds of visitors per day arrive on the regular ferry service, and of course it is very popular with yachtsmen. We've been told that the huge numbers of visiting Dutch and German yachts here mean that the island harbours can quickly fill up and you can be turned away. We generally prefer quiet places to being piled high in marinas so we are ready for this not to be quite the paradise it looks.

Marc and Carola showed us a really useful website for the Wadden harbours which takes some of the stress out of the moorings situation.
This has live information about the availability of berths for different sizes of vessel in all the harbours and at least reduces the likelihood of being turned away.

Leaving Harlingen, ahead of us a parade of yachts taking the same route. They will all be there first!

Variety of traffic: charter boats, commercial shipping and between the two a ferry coming our way

Fishing boats working here too, but not many.

Big gaffer, little gaffer

Anyone who has read their "Riddle of the Sands" will understand the navigation issues here. That novel is set further north in the German Wadden but it's the same deal: the shallow tidal sea between islands and coast with not quite so shallow channels out between the islands and along each island on the inside. Each "side" channel has a watershed in the middle which the tide rises to and falls back either side of - so you can only call at one island per tide. Not for the faint-hearted, and then only for shallow draft vessels. We are used to the east coast of England with sides and sandbanks so we are not intimidated. We think we are shallow draft as Bonify draws less than 1.4 m but even so there are parts where we would have to go out to sea to move north.

Approaching our first port of call: Vlieland

That's the entrance - sailing past we can only see the wooden masts of the "brown fleet" inside

Ah! The white fleet inside.

That's the way to do it, no need for an anchor if you dry out like this in the right place. In this case just past the harbour entrance where we stop and turn to take down the sails

We drop our sails and motor in to the harbour. There's plenty of room!

Brandaan is here, the blue one, so we moor alongside her thinking of the surprise Bouke and Aleid will get to find us here. In fact we find them first as we walk into the small town and have a look around. We'd like to go for a good long walk here and there are plenty of options for that, and about a million bikes for hire too of course, but Howard's back is still giving him grief so we can't go far. Gentle stroll is what we manage, and there's still plenty to see. It's delightful here.

Caption competition? One suggestion: Brass neck

We walked up to the lighthouse...

...and were rewarded with a fine view - looking back at the harbour. Ferry coming in.


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