Gone with the wind - Hasselt & Meppel 

We were bound to cross the Zwarte Meer, Holland’s own Black See, getting it’s name from the peat ground darkening the water when we had to change plans. There is only a narrow buoyed channel that one can navigate, as the rest of the lake is a nature reserve for birds and very shallow. However, it was not meant to be! As the wind had picked up considerably to an excess of 50km per hour, we quickly realised that the only safe way was to follow the few other boats turning from the choppy waters of the Zwarte Meer into the Ijssel. Having the strong wind now behind us, going upstream was no problem at all, and with that extra push we managed a Freshwater record of 55.19 kms to the small town of Hasselt. We didn’t bother to go into the yacht harbour as the long quay on the side of the river provided an easy mooring in the windy conditions. "Safe Arrival” drinks were of course a must!

Entering through the 14th century “fish gate” from the quay we found ourselves only steps away from the old town centre where the next morning a small farmers market was held. Surrounding streets were festooned with light chains and odd decorations, part of the weeks hay festival, as we were told. We took a tour around town and found that each street had chosen a different theme for the occasion. There was a street full of hamsters, another with little plywood windmills, diverse clocks etc.

On our tour we passed the former lime kilns burning shells from the North Sea to produce mortar. Following the curved grachten and streets which gave the town the title “Little Amsterdam”, we ended up at the big festival lawn and party tent where in spite of the intermittent showers things were in full swing. The area was set up with huge inflated “Australian Ninja Warrior”- type obstacle courses. There was no need to water them down, just to add detergent and the rain did the rest to turn them into slippery challenges. Wrapped in our fleece jackets and rain coats we watched for a little while as teams competed being bombarded with giant balls by the opposition. A lot of the men were bare chested and all competitors were soaking wet, including the kids who jumped onto the equipment after the end of each session. 

Dutch kids seem to have very good balance, probably from learning to ride a bike at such an early age, some even in clogs, like this young country boy!

The giant tent was filling up rapidly and lots of beers were consumed to celebrate the hay having been brought in just before the serious Dutch rain set in.

The bands thumped until late into the night, while the paved streets in the old centre glistened quietly under hundreds of light bulbs. We slept well in spite of the youth converging to a pub on the quay. Some had obviously extra fun, as in the morning we found our fenders in odd positions! No harm done! We didn’t feel “Hasselt” at all!

The showers carried on as we made our way to Meppel. We learnt that there is no relying on the weather forecast! Unless full sunshine and 30 degrees are predicted there can be rain, then gusts of strong wind, followed by warm sunshine for about 10 minutes, when it reverts back to another shower and a seemingly 10 degrees temperature drop! I exaggerate, of course, but having grown up in similar conditions I have got re-accustomed to wearing layers and always, always taking a raincoat.

As we weren’t in Meppel for sight seeing but to sign the contract for our winter storage, and discuss possible improvements to be done to the already near perfect Freshwater, it didn’t bother us. It took no time at all to go through Austin’s wishlist with Marcel from Jachthaven Meppel. 

© Austin Robinson 2019