Spring 2003 and the first beautiful summer weekend of the year. My girlfriend has announced a full weekend of gardening. Rooting wrist deep into the sticky soil. Planting truckloads of new greens and shrubberies. Countless hours pulling weeds only for them to pop back up the next week. This gloomy perspective leaves me no other option. Escape Plan A has to be put into action: A nice, relaxing weekend of singlehanded sailing ‘Blue Baron’.
Saturday morning around nine o’clock I arrive aboard ’Blue Baron’, my 30 foot Comet 910, and prepare everything. The wind is blowing around 3 Beaufort, so no need to stow things overly stormproof. I will come to regret that decision later. Out on Ketel Lake traffic is already quite busy with weekend sailers. And as usual we have to tack against the wind to reach the bridge. No matter what the wind is in the rest of the country, on Ketel Lake the wind is West-Northwest. A good opportunity to get used to the boat again. After four tacks sailing close to the wind I arrive at the bridge, and decide to pass underneath on engine. The bridge is exactly 30 centimeters higher than my mast, so with calm weather I’ll risk it instead of waiting in line for the moveable part to be opened. Out on the IJsselmeer the wind picks up nicely, and I enjoy the wind and freedom of sailing. With a big smirk I see conifers, geraniums and ligustrum slowly disappearing behind the horizon and set the jib sheet a little tighter still. Another half knot gets added to the boat speed, leaving the guy in his new Bavaria next to me wondering what he’s doing wrong as he falls behind in our wake.
Somewhere in the afternoon the wind drops to a small breeze. Sailing becomes impossible and I start the engine. Different options present themselves. Overnight in Lemmer Marina ? Enkhuizen? Or spend the night in solitude behind the anchor? I decide on the latter. The remaining wind is blowing from the north, so I’ll go a mile north of the SB4 buoy towards the coast and throw out the anchor. With the engine switched off it is now time for doing the odd jobs that are always readily available on a thirty year old boat. With both my arms covered up to the elbows in fresh paint the evening falls with a beautiful sunset. I enjoy the peace and quiet during this time of the year, with no other boats in sight. The only thing that annoys me is the wind constantly yawing the boat back and forth behind the anchor. The perfect opportunity to try out my brand new (and very expensive) second anchor that I bought last week. So I ready up the small dinghy and load the anchor in it. The 50 meter weighted anchor line, also brand new and also very expensive, is neatly rolled up in a large white bucket. I consider whether it is necessary to take the whole 50 meters out of the bucket (running the risk of the whole thing turning into spaghetti Bolognese) and secure the loose end to the boat. I decide that this is not necessary. I am not going to go further than 10 meters from the boat, which will leave enough rope in the bucket. In good spirits I row away from the boat and throw the shiny anchor overboard. Turning back to the boat, I can just see the last part of the anchor line disappearing from the bucket into the sea. I stop rowing for a moment and use the paddle to give myself a well deserved chastening. The full 50 meters of rope has of course started to siphon down under its own weight, and is now lying in its entirety on a nice little pile at the bottom of the sea about four meters below me. Wonderful. Well done Hans. Very clever. Three unsuccessful dives later I have a headache and throw the now empty bucket overboard in rage. I also decide that none of the above has ever happened. To this day the whole event remains a well-kept secret in the annals of the ‘Blue Baron’.
September 2003 (four months later). After a nice vacation with girlfriend and boat, I decide to end the sailing season with a solo weekend. The prediction for this weekend is great so on Saturday morning Blue Baron and me tack our way towards Ketelbrug again to have some french fries in Makkum. Or Enkhuizen. Or Hoorn, whichever way the wind blows. But also this time around the wind stops prematurely. After an afternoon of just floating around, I look for another spot on the coast to spend the night. And also this time I steer the boat north of the SB4 buoy, about a mile towards the shore and throw out the anchor. It is completely windless now. After doing the odd job on board, I pour myself a well deserved glass of red wine, toast Blue Baron to her health and mine and turn in for the night. And that’s where bliss ends. During the night the wind turns south-west, and picks up to around twenty knots. Coming from the south the waves are also building up and turn the boat into a mardi gras cakewalk ride. Loose equipment and kitchen ware in the boat rattles around, making me get out of bed to stow them at least fifteen times. More wind is picking up and around three o’clock in the morning I haven’t slept a wink yet. With the wind to the south the nearest coast has now become a dangerous lee shore. Should the anchor fail while I’m sleeping I will be blown onto the shallows of the coast, signalling the end of Blue Baron and possibly me. This is not gonna work. Grumpy as hell I get dressed into full gear including lifejacket and lifeline and decide to sail back to Ketel Lake. “You have to catch wind when it is blowing” , I strengthen myself. Under the deck’s flood lights I see how the boat buckles and dives, pulling on a horizontally stretched anchor line. I spit in my hands and start taking in the anchor line. After some hearty work I can finally lift the muddy anchor on deck. And more. A muddy white anchor line runs down into the water from my anchor. I look at the strange line, remember the event that never happened last spring and think “No…..No, this is not possible.”
From reading various sailing adventures I already know that solo sailors on large crossings sometimes suffer hallucinations. In light of evidence presented I decide that this can also happen on somewhat shorter crossings. Nevertheless, I start to pull up the imaginary anchor line, and after about 20 meters my own brand new anchor surfaces, the price tag still attached to it. Sadly I don’t have much time to gaze into the distance with that stupid look on my face. I have to get away from the rapidly approaching shallows. But as I am finally underway, sailing home at six knots under a beautifully moonlit starry sky it dawns on me how impossible this actually is. Yesterday I put ‘Blue Baron’ up for sale and ordered a Farr 50 for her replacement. I signed a provisional contract on the condition that financing will be settled satisfactory but that should be no problem . On the advice of a good friend, I shall buy a lottery ticket later this afternoon to take care of that.