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by Hans van der Zijpp - Amsterdam - Netherlands

When I was younger I used to do solo coastal sailing on the Dutch Waddensea with all kinds of smallish sailboats ranging from a Norwegian Folkboat to a Windrider 16.

The Dutch Waddensea is a beautiful shallow part of the North Sea, lying between a string of islands and the Dutch coast. There's a distinct tidal effect - the sandbanks dry out at low water and the remaining water rushes to the sea in the deeper channels. I like sailing on "the Wad" because you can often seek shelter or fool the tide on shallow parts, or use the current to make amazing progress.

Sailing wise things changed when I got lucky in love, married and family life came in the way of solo sailing. But I kept dreaming of sail adventures, reading my favourite "dinghy cruising" book over and over.

And then I saw a video of Bernd Kohler sailing his prototype Little Tri. This boat looked like exactly the right boat for me: simple, self-bailing, retractable board and rudder, easy to rig and unrig, probably reasonably fast and last but not least it looks kind of 'special'. I contacted Bernd and bought the first set of plans.

Building took a few months. I launched the boat in the winter and started test sailing. While pottering around my home waters in Amsterdam I made some arrangements for longer trips (anchor, zipper reef in the lateen sail, special AD-sculling oar etc.)

So when the summer came I was all set to finally revisit the Wad.

I had 7 days. First day was a fast and brisk sail on a reach from Amsterdam to the former Zuiderzee harbour Enkhuizen. I sailed 12 knots max (surfing from a wave?) and suspect that my mast got bent a bit on this trip (I only noticed it recently).

Next days the weather was much friendlier and I sailed (and motored) to Texel, the first island. Harbours are full in summer, and the boats have become much bigger since my last sailing trips! But for a small boat there always is a space somewhere.

Little Tri and Bigger Tri
Little Tri Camp Cruising
Little Tri near West Terschelling
Little Tri was the smallest boat in the harbour

I sailed on to the island Terschelling, and anchored on the sandbank next to the harbour entrance. On this beach there are always multihulls and historic type flat bottomed boats anchored. Several multihullers came to inspect the Little Tri. It's already a bit famous through internet exposure. My brother was also anchoring there with his Farrier 22. The F22 is considered a small trimaran but next to my boat it looks huge. I stayed at Terschelling for another day, doing touristy things, barbecued on the sandbank, and then unfortunately it was time to start the return trip to Amsterdam in order to be there in time.

The sailing home was relaxed and uneventful in a good way. I hopped south via a few beautiful Frisian harbour towns. Most sailors I met were interested and amused. One time I was handed coffee and cakes in a shopping bag on a pole from a passing yacht at mid sea.

Some things I (re)learned this trip:

  • small boat sailing is fun and relatively stress free.
  • an outboard motor is very practical in places with lots of current. Also people have come to expect that you have one. 2 HP seems to be sufficient for this boat.
  • motorsailing Little Tri works good (for instance to get the boat just a bit higher to get around a corner) with a sculling oar it is easier to manoeuver at locks/docks than with the motor.
  • I overloaded the boat a bit with my camping things and outboard. It was not as fast as when day sailing. Next time I have to think as a backpacker while packing my gear.
  • with the right wind and wave condition I can sail quite fast, but overall my speed is probably comparable to a 25 ft cruising yacht.
  • I cannot point very high. I think that's a drawback of having the lateen sail.
  • I have to make something like the Huntingfords helm impeder, to have more hands free time on long sailing days.
  • people like strange little boats. I was invited for drinks more often than ever. Or maybe I just looked helpless?
  • sleeping on the trampoline is very comfortable. I pitched a dome tent over most of the trampoline area. When it rained I had to sleep in the cockpit - that was more cramped and a bit noisy because of the sound board effect of little waves slapping the thin hull, but still I slept well after a day sailing.

All in all my little boat did great and proved to be the nice camp cruising dinghy that I hoped it would be. Next year I'll take it for new trips, and it would be great to meet more small boats. So if there are Dutch people reading: start building and go have fun on the water!

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