Follow MV Northern Exposure on  Follow MV Northern Exposure on Twitter or  Instagram @NorthrnExpo

We'll post whenever the website changes.

The IJsselmeer (pronounced ICE-sil-mere) is the body of water that you see in the northern center of a map of the Netherlands. This sea, once called the Zuiderzee (ZY-der-zee), has been transformed through dyke-building over a period of nearly a thousand years. 

A dyke is a sea-wall that prevents water from moving in its own natural pattern, and dykes enable land to be "reclaimed" from swamp. Dyke building began here in the 10th and 11th centuries and some of the newest polders (reclaimed land) were created as late as 1967. The Afsluitdijk, the dyke that cuts off the northern end of the IJsselmeer, is 30 kilometers long (about 21 miles.) Much of the land that once was waterfront (or just water) is now only bordered by canals, due to reclamation projects.

The Dutch government has postponed plans to continue this project, which would involve draining the lower part of the sea, the Markermeer. Besides its anticipated high cost, people that now have waterfront homes on the Markermeer would become canal-dwellers on the polder instead, so they are not eager for the project to proceed. Still, the amount of development in the existing land areas is creating pressure to find land for farmers and others.

We went through the Kornwerdersand lock on the eastern side of the long Afsluitdijk. On a Sunday afternoon, the lock is busy all day with returning vacationers.

After two days crossing the North Sea, we were grateful to be in the relative protection of the IJsselmeer. Like our old sailing grounds the Chesapeake, it's rather shallow and not too wide, making for small waves. And, like the Chesapeake, there are many places to go, so you can check the weather and just sail in the most comfortable direction for that day.

You see these boats everywhere. These old, flat-bottomed boats were once cargo carriers, but now the very big ones take out charter groups. They are very wide and very shallow, so they can navigate the canal systems. Notice the large paddle alongside (there's one on each side.) The captain can choose to drop the paddle on the downwind side while underway to offer more stability and to prevent the wind from blowing the boat sideways (a benefit our deeper keel provides for us.) We've seen these boats sitting upright in a harbor at low tide (we'd be over on our side, which is not a good thing.) We also watched the skippers on these boats maneuver in very small harbors by dropping one board and pivoting around it, or dropping both temporarily and stopping.

While we were in Oost Vlieland, there was a music festival in progress. About thirty of these boats came in during the afternoon. It was amazing to watch them dock as the available space in the harbor became smaller and smaller. They would come very close to the boats on both sides of the harbor and magically turn around and tie up alongside another.

This is the cruising version of the flat-bottomed boat. We think that about ten percent or so of the pleasure boats on the IJsselmeer look like this. Besides their ability to handle the shallow canals, the boats are wide almost from bow to stern, so there is undoubtedly lots of living space below and on deck. We saw about ten people sitting comfortably in the cockpit of a boat about this size. Besides, the boat has a very traditional look, if you don't mind having to varnish it constantly.