Classic boats embrace an unplugged lifestyle
ENKHUIZEN _ They are roomy, stable, up to 16-m long and sport tan or cream-tinted sails. When it blows out there, you’ll have to lean into that helm. Lacking keels, they keep a course thanks to sideboards. To lower one, you may have to stand on it. Running close-hauled can be a chore, but on broader reaches they really haul butt. Running aground is 100% on purpose! And 100% fun! The next high tide will set you free. Lunch anyone?
Welcome to traditional round and flat-bottom boating which is no small hobby in the Netherlands. Sailing classic craft _ instead of “plastic,” as flat-bottom boaters disdainfully call keel boats _ is a year-round celebration of the country’s rich maritime history. Every November, this northern Dutch town hosts Europe’s only boat show for classical and traditional yachts _ vessels that used to haul all manner of cargo across the Netherlands. It is Europe’s only boat fair grouped around building, maintaining, restoring and conserving classic boats. The 2012 edition, the 16th to date, was held Nov. 2-4 in Enkhuizen. On display: more than 100 yachts. Organizers count on 5,000 visitors from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Scandinavia and Britain. The 160 exhibitors include shipbuilders, restorers, shipyards, brokers, skippers and organizations, offering yachts, materials and services.
The annual show has become a knowledge center for ship-owners, a forum for professionals and a beacon for those who have tired of ‘plastic.’ Nationwide, the number of round and flat-bottomed sailboats is growing. The National Registry of Round and Flatbottom boats recognizes 3 dozen types of such craft. The Enkhuizen fair shows the solid popularity of flat-bottomed boats with their trademark sideboards (“swords” in Dutch) that replace the keel function.
Flat-bottom yachting evokes simpler days and an unplugged lifestyle. None have tapped into that appeal more successfully than Jan Koekkebakker and his sons Martin and Harry. They run Heech by de Mar, a charter company in Friesland province that started out with 6 boats in 1984 but today run 40-odd traditional yachts. Most have been built by their yard in the town of Heeg to today’s standards of comfort and safety. The yachts they make, market and rent are roomier than equivalent-length keel yachts, have excellent sailing qualities and are comfortable and easy to sail. Above all, they are a feast for the eyes with spectacular hand-crafted deck ware.