Friesland 1 -Lemmer, Sloten, Heeg

We have been following the South Friesland network of canals and lakes. The lakes of varying sizes, or “mars” like they are called here, are mainly the result of peat retrieval which caused surrounding land to collapse and fill with water. But now they are a sailor’s paradise. Friesland has it’s own language and the Frisians are bilingual and speak both, Dutch and Frisian in their diverse local dialects.

People have said to us “You will love Friesland!”. We heard it so often, that I worried it might be a disappointment when we actually get there. But what we have seen so far has been anything but!

When looking across the lush green expanses one can see a trail of white sails and tall masts in the distance. They give away the next canal long before the actual waterway becomes visible. Small groves of trees and charming farmhouses, their roofs drawn deep over their small windows to keep the cold wind away and quaint one street towns complete the picture.

The town Lemmer is a little bigger than most. Laying right at the IJsselmeer and close to the smaller inland lakes it is a convenient stop for all kinds of yachting. The old lock, once leading to the southern part of the North Sea with its neo-renaissance lock keepers houses, is still in place.


There are three main mooring areas in Lemmer divided by three lift bridges. When we arrived around lunchtime on a Friday we got one of the last spots between bridges on the quay. By 4pm boats were double and triple parking. A group of 7 Germans on a sailing yacht tied up to us on the first day, and an extended Swiss family on a charter boat on the second. Initially the family had asked to moor to a boat in front of us, but was chased away by the owner. I have to admit that a short time later, we all watched with some glee as the previous not so friendly boat owner couldn’t refuse a persistent Dutch boat to tie up along side them. 

Overall it is such fun watching boats shuffling around each other and doing some tricky turning manoeuvres in a packed harbour. As Kenneth Grahame says in “Wind in the Willows”: 'There is nothing-absolutely nothing-half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’

Sadly we missed out on visiting the UNESCO Steam-Pumping- Station. This "Steam Cathedral", as it is also called, was opened in 1920 and, although rarely required, can still be put into action in extreme flood emergencies and pump away 4 million litres of water per minute into the IJsselmeer.

Just another “mar” away from Lemmer is Sloten, one of the eleven towns famous for the 11 town ice skating race. (More about that as we tick off another few of these towns on our way.) The little town had coherently grown outwards from it’s centre canal and was once an important thoroughfare to the North Sea. As merchant ships passed through town a toll was taken laying the foundation to the towns wealth.

Next we headed through the Hegemer Mar to Heeg and were quite astonished at the welcome we received! People were applauding us from the side of the road and a brass band was playing atop a large barge. 

Then we realised that we walked into another Ninja Challenge type competition as part of the towns Hay or Autumns Fest. This time the teams had to run right through town, slide through a water tube, conquer a wall of hay bales, cross a muddy ditch and climb up a steep slippery slope. Luckily Austin and I didn’t qualify as each team had to have 4 members. Nevertheless, we made our way to the finish and hovered for a while among the beer drinking crowd at the festival tent bopping to “Black Betty, Bam- e-lan” and the like.

We rested our eardrums at a quiet canal side café secretly congratulating ourselves that we had moored unknowingly in a harbour at the quiet side of town.

© Austin Robinson 2019