30 maart. 75 Jaar geleden in de “Hongerwinter” van 1944-45.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 1st, 2020

30 maart 2020. 75 jaar geleden. De Hongerwinter van 1944-1945.

Dit is uit het dagboek van mijn vader Dick van Ommen dat hij bijhield tijdens de gevangenschap van onze moeder van april 1944 tot haar thuiskomst van Dachau op 22 mei 1945. Gedeeltes van het dagboek zijn overgenomen in mijn boek “De Mastmakersdochters” (www.DeMastmakersdochters.nl)

Dominee Kunst van de Waalkerk, had tijdelijke onderdak gevonden voor 150 kinderen van zijn kerkgemeenschap bij families in de Wieringermeer. Mijn tweelingbroer Jan en ik (Jaap/Jacob/Jack) waren met onze vader bij onze opa en oma in de Watergraafsmeer eon onze drie jaar oudere zus, Karolien, was bij haar oom en tante in Alphen a/d Rijn.

29 maart 1945:

Vanmorgen kwam Saakje[1] bij me aan kantoor met de mededeling dat Jan en Jaap gisteravond om half 12 bij hun door een politieagent werden afgeleverd. Er waren bij die boer andere kinderen gekomen en nu hebben ze de jongens weggestuurd, een rare manier van doen.

Hoe het precies zit weet ik niet, ze hadden geen brief bij zich, er is wel door iemand die bij hun in de auto zat een brief aan Ds. Kunst meegegeven, morgenochtend ga ik direct daarheen. De jongens zagen er wel goed uit, echter wel onverzorgd, ze kwamen huilende op de Singel aan, hun dekens sleepten over de straat, een koffer bij zich plus hun nette waschgoed. Die auto heeft hun aan het politiebureau Adelaarsweg afgeleverd en zijn toen door een agent naar Amsterdam gebracht en deze wilde ze naar het bureau Centraal Station brengen. Maar Jaap zei, mijn oom woont hier, op Singel 2A, breng ons daar maar heen. We vinden het allen geen handelwijze[2].

30 Maart

Goede Vrijdag, naar Ds. Kunst gegaan, hij had wel een brief gekregen, maar die ter behandeling aan Mej. Grosheide gegeven, hij was ook niet te spreken over zoo’n wijze van doen. Hij had meer minder prettige ervaringen opgedaan over de menschen in de Wieringermeer.

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Ik ga nu weer terug naar het begin van het verhaal uit het dagboek:

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6 Februari 1945

Vanmorgen op weg naar kantoor sprak ik Ds. Kunst die ging naar de schipper, hij kon 150 kinderen naar de Wieringermeer plaatsen, ik zei dat wij de jongens ook wel daarheen wilde hebben, dit ging wel, dan moesten ze morgenochtend daar zijn (stijger). Ik heb Mieke[3] me laten opbellen en gezegd dat ze weg konden, zij moest dan naar de Waalkerk gaan daar was Juffrouw Grosheide die ze inschreef. Ze moesten ieder een deken, stam en bonkaart meenemen. Het is wel een werk geweest alles voor elkaar te krijgen, ik heb ‘s middags vast een koffer naar de Singel gebracht, om 7 uur ben ik met de jongens vertrokken en hebben op de Singel overnacht.

Om 4 uur opgestaan naar het Damrak, daar lag het schip, het was erg donker, een groote tjalk, stroo in het ruim, de kinderen plat op de vloer. Zuster Goede, Ds. Kunst en nog twee heren gingen mee. Ik kende ze allen, zoodat ze wel in goede handen zijn. Ze gaan naar Middenmeer en Slootdorp, de stemming was best, de jongens vonden het ook leuk. Jan zat er wel wat over in dat hij op zijn verjaardag niet thuis was. Een kind zag nog kans in het water te vallen, de vader sprong er ook in doch beiden waren spoedig op het droge. Mevr. Leibbrandt bracht Jan en Gottfried.

Van Vlaanderen[4] stond ook op de lijst maar was niet present, ze hebben het daar anders erg noodig. Om halfzeven vertrokken ze, getrokken door een sleepboot. Het is wel akelig dat ze nu weg zijn, maar voor de voeding is het wel noodzakelijk, ook werd het voor Pa en Moe wel te druk, het is hier vreemd stil.

 13 Februarie

 Er is een brief bezorgd van de pleegouders van de jongens uit Middenmeer, de familie Dekens, ze schrijven zoo aardig, het is een boerderij, 5 kinderen 18-4 jaar, ze zijn erg op schik, ik mag gerust op hun verjaardag komen, ze krijgen nog wel 2 baby’s uit Haarlem, maar het kan wel. Jan en Jaap schreven ook een brief, Jan kort, Jaap zeer uitvoerig, de reis viel niet mee van 6-5 uur in het ruim, toen ze aankwamen zijn ze die nacht in een hotel in Middenmeer ondergebracht. Ze brengen het paard weg, er zijn kippen, varkens en konijnen.

We zijn zoo dankbaar dat het zoo goed is gegaan. Ze mogen tot na de oorlog blijven ze hebben ook al spek gegeten. Ze hadden nogal veel brood mee op reis, Jaap schreef dat hij gedeeld had met kinderen die niets hadden.

Gisteren trof ik in een portiek een ventje van ongeveer 9 jaar dat huilde, ik vroeg: “wat scheelt er aan vent”. “Ik heb zoon honger” antwoordde hij, dat gaat je door alles heen. Langs de huizen komen ze vragen om brood of ander eten. In de krant las ik het sterftecijfer. Was in 1944 van 26 Januari tot 4 Februari 169 pers. Dit jaar was dit 506.

De jongens Leibbrandt zijn wegens plaatsgebrek[5] naar Andijk moeten gaan.

Hannie Broers[6] is bij een boerenarbeider, Catharina Geel[7] is ook in Middenmeer.

27 Februari

Vanmorgen om 7.30 gestart naar Middenmeer. Ik heb Sieb’s fiets te leen gehad, de mijne is bezweken. Het was goed weer, vrij veel wind. Over Zaandam, Purmerend, Oosthuizen, even bij van de Wal zijn dochter aangeweest. Kop koffie gedronken, was 12 uur in Hoorn, daar boterham opgegeten, 1 uur verder gegaan, was om 3.30 in Middenmeer. Een prachtige nieuwe moderne boerderij[8].

De jongens waren met de wagen naar Kolhorn, tegen 6 uur kwamen ze thuis, ze zagen er best uit, wat hebben ze het daar uitstekend, lieve menschen, Groningers, de kinderen zijn ook erg lief voor ze, ze eten brood zooveel ze lusten, pap met volle melk, vleesch enz. Jan is de heele dag met de knechten in het land, kent alle beesten bij naam, hebben op het veulen gezeten. De eerste week waren ze 1 pond afgevallen, na 2 weken Jaap 4 pond aangekomen. Ik heb die klacht van de boer bevredigend kunnen oplossen.

Jaap schepte op dat ze de indruk hadden dat ze niet ondervoed waren en dan waren er velen die eerder in aanmerking kwamen, ik zei dat ze wel niet ondervoed waren maar toch al veel te kort waren gekomen en we voor het te laat was tot deze maatregel waren overgegaan, vet en boter krijgen ze al lang niet meer en brood is hier gerantsoeneerd. Voorts hadden ze de indruk dat het Opa en Oma te druk werd, (volgens Jaap zijn uitlating) en hij voelde er niets voor om kindermeisje te spelen, toen ik dit weerlegd heb zei hij dat verandert de zaak.

Het zijn aardige jongens, gelukkig dat het weer in orde is. Ik heb Jaap op zijn hart gedrukt dat hij erg dankbaar moest wezen dat hij hier mocht zijn. Ze aten een keer Jan in de zak, dat lustte Jaap niet maar hij kreeg ‘s avonds weer, opgebakken, toen lustte hij het wel.

Des avonds aten wij brood en ik kreeg gebakken aardappels met een stukje spek, pap na, heerlijk. Ik sliep op een 2 persoons bed in de logeerkamer, keurig.

De volgende dag hun verjaardag, ze hadden hun Zondagse pak aan, melk bij het ontbijt, ‘s middags aten we aardappels met een flink stuk vleesch, spercieboonen, een groot bord vla na, ‘s avonds groote sneden tarwebrood en pap, voor de verjaardag had de vrouw een cake gebakken, de jongens kregen voor het naar bed gaan een stuk, wij bij de koffie. Die dag Catherien Geel bezocht en Hannie Broers[9] in Slootdorp, hebben het ook goed, zijn bij gewone dorpsbewoners. Schaafsma bezocht, daar is ook een Meisje uit de wijk in huis en 2 Meisjes van Kuyken.

De volgende morgen 8.30 vertrokken, hartelijk afscheid genomen, mocht nog wel eens komen, kreeg mee 12 besmeerde boterhammen met kaas, 2 mooie peren, die ik bewaard heb voor hier, 1 voor Rien en 1 voor Moe, bovendien een zak tarwe van 17 pond. Ik heb er een paar aangename dagen gehad. Er stond veel wind, veel regen gehad, was 4.30 weer hier. Even voor Hoorn Duitse controle, maar ik ben er aardig doorgeglipt.

Miep de Wit is met 2 Meisjes bij een boer in Wieringerwerf weduwnaar, zal wel trouwen worden. In de Alblasstraat is bijna geen kind meer, alleen Lientje Swart, Peter Biemond en Anton Jansen zijn nog over.

De kinderen van Zemmelink[10]  gaan naar Texel. Kees Vlaanderen is naar Friesland geloopen, Wim[11] is naar Gramsbergen. Hans Alberts[12] is naar Nes, ook Mevr. Verhagen[13] met de kinderen.

[1] Schoonzuster

[2] De tweeling had een ontsnappingstunnel voor de ondergedoken knechten ontdekt en een verstopte ambulance in de hooiberg. Ze waren te ondernemend.

[3] schoonzuster

[4] Onze buren op Alblasstraat 39 II

[5] In de Wieringermeer

[6] Ablasstraat 44 I

[7] Alblasstraat 52 II (tante van de TV evangeliste Jacobina Geel)

[8] Famile Klaas Dekens, Schagerweg 25. Middenmeer. Klaas jr. emigreerde naar Canada.

[9] Alblasstraat

[10] Alblasstraat 57 I

[11] Vlaanderen Alblasstraat 39 II, buren, Wim 1931 Kees 1928?

[12] Griftstraat 46 II

[13] Alblasstraat 46 of 48 Mijnheer Verhage was de Luchtbescherming man.

 

75 years ago In the “Hunger winter” of World War II

Written by Jack van Ommen on March 31st, 2020

Seventy-five years ago, March 30 1945 was Good Friday. Near midnight on Holy Thursday eve, two dripping wet crying boys rang the doorbell at their aunt and uncle’s home in the old center of Amsterdam. One of those little boys was me. (Plagiarizing Kamala Harris…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0WTx_ady48  ). My twin brother and I had just turned 8, a month ago.

The winter in Holland in 1944-’45 is still reverted to as “The Hunger Winter”. Particularly in the major cities there was little food. Our father and my brother and I had been staying with our grandparents in Amsterdam. Our three year older sister was living with an uncle and aunt in Alphen at this time. The pastor of our Christian Reformed church had arranged for temporary lodging with families in the countryside for a group of 150 children from our neighborhood and the Christian elementary school.

These are excerpts from my father’s diary he kept ever since our mother had been arrested the end of April 1944.

March 29. Early this morning, Saakje (sister in law) showed up at my office to tell me that Jan and Jaap had been dropped off at their house on the Singel at 11.30 p.m. by a police man. The farmer had received other children and then sent our boys away.

I thought that their concerns about the twins’ behavior had been addressed during my recent visit on the twins’ birthday.

It seems like a very strange way of doing things. Apparently, the driver, who took them back to Amsterdam, had a letter on him for Pastor Kunst. The boys looked o.k. but unkempt. They arrived in tears on the Singel, dragging their blankets over the wet streets. They had one piece of luggage with them. The farmer had put them under a tarp in the back of an open pick-up truck but the boys had not had enough cover from the rain and the cold night. They had left in the evening in a hurry. The driver had dropped them off at the Police Station on the Adelaarsweg in Amsterdam North. One of the Policemen had accompanied them to the Police Station near the Koepelkerk where the twins recognized that they were near the Singel and then had the policeman ring the bell at nearly midnight at their aunt and uncle on the Singel.

March 30. Good Friday. Went to see Pastor Kunst. He had received the letter from Wieringermeer and was not very happy with the way this was handled. He had already had other unpleasant experiences with his contacts in the Wieringermeer. Kunst has given them a piece of his mind and accused them of committing an unpatriotic act towards the van Ommen family.

This is the part from father’s diary where our story begins:

February 6. This morning on my way to work, I ran into Pastor Kunst. He was on his way to talk to a barge skipper. Kunst had found a way to place 150 children from the church families on farms in the Wieringermeer[1]. I told him that I would like our boys to go there as well. He would look into that. They needed to be on the dock the next morning at 5 a.m. I had quite a job making the arrangements on such a short notice. Jaap and Jan had to be picked up from their grandparents and then I brought them to Siebold on the Singel, for the night, which was just a short walk to the dock. They had to get up at 4 a.m. In the Damrak, near the Central Station, lay a large Tjalk[2]. Straw had been spread on the cargo hold floor. The children were all stretched out on the straw.

The children are in good hands. They are headed for the towns of Middenmeer and Slootdorp. The mood was good and our boys enjoyed the adventure as well. They recognized many of their Dr. de Moorschool friends who they had not seen since July. Jan was a bit concerned that he would not be home for his 8th birthday. One of the children managed to fall into the ice-cold water while trying to board. The father jumped right in and both of them stood soaking wet back on the quay.

The barge took off at 6.30. A tugboat took the sailing barge in tow. I miss them but they’ll have much better chances to get the food that has become so scarce here in the city. It also became a bit too busy for their grandparents. It has become eerily quiet around here now. February 13. We have received a letter from the temporary foster parents of the boys. They are staying with a farmer family Dekens. There are five children on the farm in ages from four to eighteen. They are very happy there. I may come and visit on their birthday.

Jan and Jaap also added their letters. From Jan a very short message, Jaap wrote in more detail. They were locked in the hold for five to six hours. On arrival that night, the children were all quartered in a hotel in Middenmeer. They get to walk one of the horses, there are chickens, pigs and rabbits. They can stay until the end of the war.  The boys had brought each a couple of sandwiches for the trip and since several of the children had nothing to eat, they shared them. Jaap wrote that this prompted one of the older Mulder boys to conclude that our parents were NSB members (the Dutch Nazi party) because they were the only ones who would have access to bread. There were eleven hungry mouths to feed at the Mulder family who live about five doors up the street from us.

Yesterday, I came upon a young boy, I guessed him to be about nine years old, who stood there crying. I asked him: “What’s the matter, young man?” He replied: “I am hungry!” That just breaks your heart. People are coming through the neighborhood begging for bread or something to eat. I read in the newspaper that the death count for the week from January 26 to February 4th is 506. The same week last year was 169.

February 19. I helped unload a barge with a load of tulip bulbs[3], I received a little extra for my efforts and came home with 50 kilos.

February 21. Mrs. Heringa (Anna Heringa-Jongbloed) has died in Ravensbrück. One of the women in Ravensbrück has been released.[4] I hope to be able to get in touch with her.

February 23. I am busy cleaning the tulip bulbs; the flower stem has to be removed otherwise they continue sprouting. It is a good starch substitute, mashed like potatoes with a few carrots; tastes o.k.

Pastor Kunst brought me a letter he had received from the church commission in Middenmeer. In this letter, they point out that the twins did not have it all that bad with their grandparents in Amsterdam and did not lack anything. I am going to see the farmer family this Thursday for Jaap and Jan’s birthday and I will try to clear this up. It is really too bad that this had to happen.

February 27. I left at 7.30 a.m. for Middenmeer. Siebold lent me his bicycle. Mine has given up the ghost. The weather was good, a stiff breeze, via Zaandam, Purmerend. I reached Hoorn at noon where I ate a sandwich. At 3.30 p.m. I arrived in Middenmeer. It is a beautiful modern farm. The boys had gone to Kolhoorn with the horse-drawn wagon. They came home at 6 p.m. They looked fine.

They have found a very good home. Very kind people, they came to the Wieringermeer from Groningen. The children also treat the boys very well. Jan spends the whole day with the farm hands on the land. He has learned the names of all the animals.

I managed to clear up the farmer’s complaint, that had been reported in the letter to Pastor Kunst, to his satisfaction. The next day was their birthday. The boys had dressed in their Sunday clothes. Mrs. Dekens had baked a cake for their birthday.

March 1st. I took off again at 8.30 a.m. The whole farm crew waved me farewell and told me that I could come back any time. Mrs. Dekens gave me six ham and cheese sandwiches for the road and two pears, which I have saved for Rientje[5] and Moe. They also gave me a seventeen-pound sack of wheat. I enjoyed the couple of days I had with them. The wind was strong on the way back, rain showers; I made it back home by 4.30 p.m. Just before Hoorn there was a German road block, but I managed to find a way around it. There is hardly a child left in the Alblasstraat after the transport to the Wieringermeer.

The letter:

R.J. Ridder Accountants

Middenmeer, February 22, 1945 

The very reverend Mr. Dr. P.G. Kunst,

 Dear Dr. Kunst, 

As spokesperson for the church commission, I wish to advise you of the following incident with the van Ommen children, Jan and Jacob, who have been given a home with Mr. K. Dekens, Schagerweg, Middenmeer. These two children were living with their grandparents before they were assigned a home here. From their remarks, it has been clearly established that both boys did not lack anything, but instead were accustomed to what, we would call in these times, festive meals; at their grandmother white bread was regularly served, they had vegetables with every dinner. When they are served potatoes with ham, they insist on having vegetables with it, because that is what they are used to at their grandmother. This is their general attitude and the reason that their foster parents do not wish to keep them any longer. 

As a matter of fact, this sort of boys should never have been sent to us. There are thousands of children who have better reasons to be sent here. No doubt, you will share our conclusions. The Dekens family will shortly be receiving other children from Haarlem in the place of the van Ommens so that fortunately no children will become the victims of this problem.

Would you, please, get in touch with the parents or grandmother to have them send someone to come and get Jan and Jacob?

Fortunately, we have not had any other similar cases to report. 

In anticipation that you will look after this matter, I am, with kind regards, 

Your dv.

Later on, I heard from the boys that they had been a little too inquisitive. With the aid of the five-year-old son, Klaas, they had, for instance, discovered a secret tunnel from the farm that led underneath the road the farm fronted on to the canal that ran parallel with the road. This way the farm workers, who were hiding on the farm from the German forced labor service, could escape to a rowboat that was moored at the end of the tunnel in the canal. They also found an ambulance that was buried in the hay stack to keep it out of the hands of the Nazis.

This story is also part of my books: www.TheMastmakersDaughters.us and www.DeMastmakersdochters.nl 

[1] Wieringermeer was one of the very first “polders”, reclaimed land from the Zuider Zee. About 30 miles north of Amsterdam.

[2] Tjalk is a traditional Dutch flat bottom, lee boards, sailing barge.

[3] Tulip bulbs became a sought-after substitute for potatoes.

[4] Most likely this was Corrie ten Boom, who was released on January 1st. Or Hebe Kohlbrugge released January 1945. At this time Dick van Ommen still does not know any better than that his wife is still in Ravensbrück instead of Dachau.

[5] Rientje is Rennie’s youngest sister and had chronic health problems in that period.

 

Monday March 30. St. Thomas USVI. End of the line?

Written by Jack van Ommen on March 30th, 2020

I left yesterday Sunday morning from Christiansted on Saint Croix heading for Charlotte Amalie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Amalie on St. Thomas. A 37- miles fast sail, a reach with a little over 20 knots of trade wind from the east. One reef in the main and my little red storm jib. Averaging about 4 ½ knots. A little bumpy. Listening to salsa music. The Virgin Islands have a large Spanish American community, mainly from Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo.

Earlier in the morning I had a fitting Sunday morning religious program but it has faded in the distance on St. Croix.

The Covid-19 had me abandon my original plan to visit more of the French West Indies islands like Guadeloupe and also Antigua. They do not allow foreign boats to enter any longer. Until yesterday evening I had understood that Puerto Rico was accessible for US citizens. But that was questioned. I’ll have to verify this tomorrow morning on St. Thomas. Cuba, where I had hoped to stop and get dental work done, has also closed its borders.

Without internet here on the water, I am not sure where I left off in my previous blog. So, I’ll work back.

I left St. Barth on Wednesday morning, the 25th for the over 100-miles overnight sail to La Croix. A nice downwind sail during the day but the wind dropped and it was a frustrating slow night with slapping boom and sails. Without my tiller pilot, it is very difficult to steer the helm under engine power. Thursday morning the wind came back. When I got close to my planned anchorage, I dropped the main and when I tried start the engine for maneuvering to anchorage, the starter would not respond. What to do? I had a little room and time left. Checked the obvious, fuse, etc. And when I sailed closer, under the genoa jib, it looked like I would not have an escape route to sail back out against the wind. My call on the VHF channel 16 for local assistance went nowhere. A little later the US Coast Guard control center on Puerto Rico responded. They gave me the phone number for Boat US towing assistance. It was an answering machine on St. Thomas. I had no choice but plan A and do it right. It worked, I got the hook down reasonable clear to shore, so I could row to the world and a wi-fi connection. Because I had been holed up in a remote anchorage, Le Colombier, on Saint Barth since Wednesday the 18th of March.

Pictures of St. Croix: Chickens, roosters everywhere. I could not make myself pay $8.35 for a dozen of eggs. One could make a fortune if they could figure out where these stray chickens laid their eggs, instead of flying them in from the USA.

Christiansted

The chickens and the search for eggs

A flowering flame tree, rare sight in winter.

The Danish heritage

 

 

 

 

My Gig Harbor friends returned to the United States on the weekend of the 14th of March. I had promised Richard Spindler to bring a bottle of propane along to St. Barth. The gas merchant in Marigot gave me the run around and instead on having it ready on Friday the 13th, I ended up buying it on the Dutch side of the island and sailing it late Tuesday to St. Barth. I went ashore and could not believe what I saw. Hardly a car on the road and all stores and restaurants shuttered. I managed to get a cold beer and wi-fi at a takeout restaurant. Richard then told me that they were in Le Columbier and suggested I’d consider sitting out a blow predicted for Friday. That blow did not let up until Tuesday night. So, here I was for a week on a mooring buoy. It is the most protected anchorage on the island and the mooring buoys are free. As much as I trust my plow anchor there remains some apprehension when the wind comes up. No worries here. I rowed to shore that first Wednesday and took these pictures.

sunset from Le Colombier

the windy side of the Atlantic

my dinghy on beach “Fleetwood” in background

 

 

 

 

Someone came on to the VHF radio to warn the people on the beach that this was not allowed under the restrictions that went into effect the day before. It looked like I’d be able to leave for St. Croix on Saturday after the Friday strong winds, I deflated the dinghy, then found out that the strong winds were still to last a couple more days.

I could never have imagined that I would not go out of my mind tied to a mooring buoy for a week, but I managed to get much needed chores done. Backing up my laptop, editing a string of video projects. There was no socializing across the bay with other boats. Richard and Dona would stop by and keep the required distance from their dinghy. Once in a while I’d get a knock on the hull when Richard was doing his swimming routine.

I had my favorite radio programs. Mostly in French.

Meanwhile, Monday the 30th., anchored out on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront, my previous blog left off just after the Heineken Regatta on Sint Maarten. The four Gig Harbor couples came back to the anchorage Grand Case on St. Martin and I joined them there from Marigot on March 11. Beautiful bay and protected anchorage. Good bathing beach with the shore line lined with restaurants and bars where one can rent beach chairs and sun shades. It is a short distance from Marigot and a favorite destination for tourists and locals to come out to dinner or lunch to some of the best restaurants there on the island.

The next morning the nine of us took of for a day cruise to Pinel Island on the Clark’s catamaran. This was my very first sail on a Catamaran, bigger than a Hobycat. Compared to “Fleetwood”, this is sailing in comfort and luxury while watching the shore line slide by from your large living room and deck.

At Pinel, Clark’s catamaran in front

Mothers don’t let your daughters to grow up to be slaves to their smart phones!!

Kite surfing at Pinel

 

 

 

We sailed back from Grand Case on Friday the 13th. My friends returned home on Saturday and Sunday. Marlys restocked my provisions with the left overs from their two week cruise, which came in handy while sitting out my one week recluse in Le Colombier.

My free wi-fi options have become very tough to find, with all the restaurants and bars closed. I am sitting on the edge of a drainage ditch behind a hotel, with an open connection.  I have sent an e-mail to the marina in Havana, to see if i might be able to come in and sit through a quarantine. But most likely I’ll be on my way south in the next couple of days. I might try to get to Vero Beach before Easter and park the boat there on their inexpensive buoy moorage and rent a car to come to the Chesapeake. Then I will most likely do a haul out in Green Cove Springs, near Jacksonville. The bottom is getting raunchy. So, keep an eye on my tracker when I disappear from FB and internet.

I will choose my route east or west of the Bahamas depending on the internet predictions. I now have a decent connection to Chris Parker’s shortwave briefings. Which will help me decide when it is time to duck from the Atlantic on to the ICW, while I’m underway.

I don’t see much of a possibility to find the part I need for the tiller pilot on the internet.

 

 

 

Monday March 9 My 83rd birthday on St. Barth and Saint Martin and the 40th Heineken Regatta.

Written by Jack van Ommen on March 9th, 2020

I left Marigot on Monday February 24th, just a short 25 miles sail. The island, harbor and the town of Gustafia are a delight. Quite a contrast to St. Martin and Sint Maarten. Much cleaner and better run. It is the playground of the wealthy, particularly yacht owners. Every luxury brand store is represented here on the harbor front.

Gustavia harbor

From the Anse Public anchorage

Typical style from the Swedish colonial period

 

 

 

I met up with Richard and Dona Spindler and Jim and Jeannette Drake, who I had met with Richard’s catamaran “Ti Profligate” in Marigot. Richard treated me to a fabulous birthday dinner with the Drakes and several other sailor friends, at “Eddie’s” restaurant. Before dinner he introduced me to a group of local expat sailors from France and the USA at the “Select Bar” a longtime sailor hangout.

L.R. Richard Spindler, Steve Travis, longtime US sailor/adventurer on the island, Luc Poupon, Michel Corre a salty Breton sailor

Meeting the French sailing legend Luc Poupon, at the “Select”, was a treat. He started his trophy collection when I jumped into my new passion in the mid seventies and I remember reading about his and his older brother Philippe sailing accomplishments.  60 transatlantic crossings, with an impressive sailing record, like trans-Atlantic solo record, many others most on “Fleury Michou” see:https://www.lepoint.fr/…/avec-tabarly-on-ne-s-attachait-jam… He started Les Voiles de St. Barth regatta in 2010 which is now one of the most aspired yachting event in the Caribbean. On right is Michel Corre, Breton with several Atlantic crossings, solo and crewed.

I returned to Marigot on the 29th and was treated by three couples of my longtime Gig Harbor YC friends for another birthday dinner at the “O Plongeur” across from the Marina Fort Louis.

L.R. Marlys Clark, me, Janet James, Terry James, Doris Gordon, Tom Gordon, Greg Clark

 

Greg and Marlys Clark have their Bali Catamaran in a charter program out of the Grenadines and picked up a similar yacht here. Marlys used to work with me in Gig Harbor from 1988 until 1997. They were then living on “Oasis” a motor yacht, moored in Gig Harbor bay. She used to commute to our office on their tender. Greg became a captain on super ocean-going yachts. Marlys worked, until her recent retirement, as the stewardess. An exciting life that took them across the globe on different yachts. They plan to move onto their own catamaran when Greg retires in a few years. We have been together since the 5th on the Dutch side of the island, near the bridge into Simpson Bay, where all the action has been until yesterday. The 40th Heineken regatta. This you tube video https://youtu.be/-Y9fkrsl1SI

will give you an idea of the excitement.  This regatta is known for some of the world’s top competitors as well the cruising class. In this class, there are many participating with local charter boats. A fourth couple from Gig harbor, Kelly and Shawna Bussey, joined the Clarks party on the 4th.

Greg, Terry and Kelly helped me to the top of the mast on Friday to replace the lamp for the Tri-Color and to replace the windex that lew off in the strong winds on my way from Beaufort.

taken by Janet James from “Dominique”

They left on Saturday for St. Barth, I tried to follow them a couple hours later, but the wind had strengthened and I considered it to have to sail through the starting fleet in these conditions and not having a working tiller pilot. I went to work on the tiller pilot and got the motor running but the compass does not work any longer. I am going to try find a solution/parts today.

I attended the 8.30 mass in Philipsburg at the church of Saint Martin of Tours (same saint as the church I attended twice in Marigot), served by the order of Divine Word Missionaries. This was a very special experience. The congregation, majority the black locals and some tourist, is very much involved in the liturgy and an impressive list of church and social activities. They sing Happy Birthday for any who has a birthday that week, and they have a song for any first-time visitors. The associate pastor is from Indonesia, Yohanes Bally SVD. After a very meaningful sermon, he whipped out his guitar and sang this wonderful song: https://youtu.be/QZXPsCjUl6w

Much of the liturgy was sung. With a voice and musical talent, he has to be the envy of many believers and his colleagues.

You hear very little Dutch on Sint Maarten. There is a rare radio program in Dutch. Many Americans and Canadians work here and have retired here. The Dollar is the most common payment method. They also still have their own currency, the guilder. And the Euro is also accepted but less so than with their French neighbors.

The Clarks are already on their way back from St. Barth. I will probably wait here to see them in the next couple of days when they return their catamaran to Marigot.

 

Sunday February 23rd Marigot, St. Martin.

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 23rd, 2020

It is still early. I am in a laundromat washing the salt from the submarine parts of the two-week voyage.

The Sunday mass starts at 11.

I plan to leave tomorrow morning for St. Barth, about a four-hour sail from here.  Just in time to be there for their Mardi Gras festivities. Carnival started here in earnest on Friday evening with a loud concert on the waterfront. There was a children parade yesterday and there is to be an adult parade here today.

The strong trade winds have calmed down and I have no longer the need for a tow to shore. Friday morning Jim and Jeannette Drake stopped by in the anchorage. They had seen my home port on the transom and came to introduce themselves as recent Bay area transplants to Gig Harbor. By coincidence we have a good friend in common, Richard Spindler, the founder of “Latitude-38”. They are looking after his Caribbean “Profligate” catamaran and sailed her on Friday from Marigot to St. Barth. Richard and Dona will arrive this evening on St. Barth.

I am looking forward to joining them again on Monday. The 29th of February Marlys and Greg Clark will fly in and board their catamaran in the Marina Fort St. Louis, her in Marigot. Marlys was my office manager when I ran my wood products export business in Gig Harbor, from the late eighties until 1997.

She and Greg lived in the harbor on a motor yacht and she used to commute on their outboard to my office which had a dock on the bay. A few years after 1997 the Clarks moved into a totally new life style, Greg as captain and Marlys as cruise attendant on private motor yachts. Marlys retired last year and Greg is now working part-time as skipper.

Two other mutual sailing friends from Gig Harbor, Tom Gordon and Terry James, are also flying in from Gig Harbor to Sint Maarten on the 29th and Kelly and his wife Shawna Bussey are arriving here on the 4th of March. The annual Heineken sailing regatta is held from the 5th through the 8th of March, the main reason for the timing of this visit.

My oldest daughter, Lisa, is trying to pick a location to come join me for a short vacation on the boat. I intend to return for another short visit to St. Barth(olemy) after the Heineken Regatta. And then I’d like to see a couple more of the less visited islands in the string of the windward islands, like Guadeloupe,  Domenica and whatever is recommended along the way. Then I plan on turning North West and end up in Havana, via the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, possibly Haiti. I need to have some maintenance done on my teeth in Havana. From there I intend to sail to Florida and coast/ICW hop back to the Chesapeake by late May.

The pictures below are taken yesterday from the old Fort Louis ruins. “Fleetwood” is the smallest boat in the anchorage just to the left front of the main entrance to the Marina Fort Louis, with the dark hull. The consecration picture is taken at the 11 am mass at Saint Martin of Tours in Marigot. Beautiful service in mostly French and parts in English and Spanish. In the church the priest thanked the young French crew of the 57 foot sailboat “Frog Tour”. They had spent time cleaning up the church grounds. They are on their way to Cuba, this week. I chatted with some of the 7 students crew. You can check their project at https://thefrogtour.wixsite.com/thefrogtour/accueil/categories/vid%C3%A9o  and you can find their videos at Frog Tour on You Tube.

Marigot

anchorage Marigot

Fort Louis

St. Martin of Tours church, Marigot

 

Alive and well in Marigot, St. Martin

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 19th, 2020

Wednesday, February 19 ashore in Marigot

JO towed my inflatable to shore this early morning. I checked for moorage in the Marina Fort Louis. They had a spot for a few days but I needed insurance. My Boat US coverage stops beyond US territorial waters. I’ll try make some inquiries to see if I can get something temporarily as I did for Mexico. But in the meantime, just think of all the money I’ll save at anchor. It has been a nervous experience because of the strong winds. JO tells me that they will calm down from tomorrow. I cleared myself in at the marine chandlery. I got an address for a possible repair shop for the auto pilot. I plan on taking the bus there, to the Dutch side, tomorrow. By the way you can reach me on my regular US phone number. I got a call from Susan Kovacs last night. I hope to get in touch with Lisa who may be able to come visit me here. My plan is to sail to a few of the nearby islands, starting with St. Barth(olemy) and be back to meet my Gig Harbor friends the Clarks, Gordons and the Jameses for the Heineken Regatta, March 5-8.

I have a few more pictures but very slow wi-fi, will add later.

At the end of this rainbow is the “port of Gold” as in the Thelma Peterson song “Jack come Back” see previous blogs

A real sincere thanks for all your prayers that got me here safely, I pushed my luck a little further than I intended. I love you all very much.

“Fleetwood” center                                                               

 

Damage from the 2017 “Irma” hurricane

 

Monday morning February 10, 2020

I am at 27.46.7800 N and 57.57.7700 W. The wind changed during the night by about 90 degrees and it looks like I might already have reached the S.E trade winds. I am a little better than halfway to St. Martin from where I started last Monday, at Beaufort N.C.

There have been a few short periods of decent sailing, but, for the most of it, I would not recommend it for a fun retirement voyage. For reasons which I have already explained in earlier blogs, I got a late season start. I do not have any way to check the weather from the boat without internet, other than a short-wave receiver; I used to have a regular SSB radio on the first “Fleetwood” which gave me access to continuously updated Grib files.

All I needed was a decent one week forecast to get to where I am as I write this. I used Predict Wind, which has been quite accurate. It showed a low coming through from the S.E. with 30 plus winds on Thursday and Friday and I would miss the worst of it if I could get beyond it at around 32 N and 70 W. That should have been possible. But I got a late start from Beaufort, my anchor was stuck on an abandoned anchor chain. It took me about two hours and bruises to get it free. Once in the Atlantic, the waves and swells made for slow going and then during the night the winds and waves piped up to near gale force. That was not in any predictions, but might have been a local Cape Hatteras surprise. That slowed me down. Sailing was reasonable on Tuesday and Wednesday. But on Thursday I got into survival mode with a storm from the S.E. that I had hoped to miss. The only good part was that the wind direction was from Starboard and not closer to the direction I needed to be. But the wave height had to be near 15 feet. The worst was the constant falling in the holes, slamming hard. My wood plywood hull becomes a sound box. At one moment, on Monday night, it slammed so hard that I swore I hit a hard object, like a floating container. I rushed forward and then on deck to check if the bow pulpit had been crushed. No, just one of the hardest hits on water I ever recall, other than the knockdown in 2006 in the Strait of Madagascar. Wave crests ran over the cabin top. These water collisions stop the forward motion and the windvane takes a while to put the boat back on course.  Monday night was zero sleep. On Friday I tried to get a hold of the Coast Guard by VHF but I was too far off. I wanted to get weather forecast to possible diversion ports because I suspected that I had a slow leak; water was slushing over the floor boards when on a steep heel. Then I tried to use my satellite tracker to send a message on Face Book, to try a relay to the Coast Guard. But I must be doing something wrong, since there have not been any replies.

Friday night I sailed out of the east edge of the storm and determined that there was no leak. It had to have been water that spills from my stuffing box when I motor. I had motored 200 miles from Norfolk to Beaufort and totally forgot to dry the bilges before I left Beaufort.  Then on Saturday I fell into a hole for the better part of the day and night. No wind. To add to the agony, I could not motor out of it. My 12- volt tiller steering had pulled the cord from the cockpit socket. One of the waves into the cockpit must have had it out with the mechanical helmsman. I tried hand steering but that did not work either. The water was still so restless from the storm of the past days that the cockpit bulkhead compass spun like a drunken sailor and there was no other point on the horizon for me to steer by. What I had looked forward to, for the storm to calm, now became another challenge. The sails and boom were slamming around and when I finally got the boat moving the puff would die down again. Late in the evening the wind came back and slowly grew to many sail reductions, down to the third reef and in the end only a storm jib. This morning after a two-hour nap, I discovered that the wind had made a big change from East to North. Now I am sailing in what I believe to be the S.E. trade wind. Much closer to the wind direction than since my departure on Monday. Still with three reefs in the mainsail and now with the 100% jib. Both sails were the original sails when this NAJA version was launched in 1986. I have a nice newer mainsail aboard but it has only two reef options and needs some maintenance.

Last night I managed to get some entertainment from my small short-wave receiver, but the noise from the vibrating mast and rattling of the loose wiring PVC tube in it made the lyrics inaudible. This morning, I had a good reception of Radio Martin, the Cuba Libra station from Miami. Salsa sounds good from both sides of the Cuban wall. The station choices will get better by the day, Puerto Rico, soul music from the Virgin Islands. I’ll never forget, on my sail from Trinidad to the Chesapeake in 2007, I heard my first “Prairie Home Companion” on a Saturday, after having been out of reach of my addiction for the “Irreverent Reverend”, Garrison Keeler, since I set off in 2005.

 

Feb 12 Wednesday morning

25.21 N 67.05 W

Making decent progress averaging a little over 4 knots. As hard to the South East trade wind as possible, not the fastest way to sail. But it looks like if this holds, I will be able to stay on this tack until I reach St. Martin. With another 500 miles to go I should arrive late Wednesday the 19th. Had my coffee and egg and done last night’s dishes. I am listening to SW channel 5970. A mass in English by Radio Cattolica Mondial, a solo is just now being song, my favorite, “Pie Jesu”. Just lost it. Yesterday was one of the most perfect ocean sails I have had. With a 15-knot breeze close to the wind with full main and my second hand 120 % genoa, cruising at 5 knots. Just a smooth ride over the swells. By evening I had to put in two reefs and exchange the genoa for my 90% jib. I had hoped to be able to shake out those reefs by now, but the wind is more in the twenties still and a bit of the usual wave slamming. But it is a glorious day. Yesterday afternoon, a rainsquall caused a short fire drill, the wind changed quickly and threw the boat on the opposite tack. But it was short lived and your skilled fireman was back on the road within five minutes. And the short shower got most of the salt out my hair.

Yesterday was also the day to change my winter blues into my summer whites. No socks, just shorts and t-shirt. For all those first days fire drills I had to be dressed/sleep in my foul weather bib pants, boots, long underwear, hoody, PDF and safety harness.

Today’s project is to try and wire the 12-volt auto pilot. I have already cleaned the inside as best I could from the salt water intrusion. Wish me luck.

Contemplating my 15 year “SoloMan” voyage:

Since my 2009 North Atlantic crossing, I had not been more than a 100 mile off shore, in the Med in 2012 and the last part of my circumnavigation in 2016-2017 and the longest overnight parts were 4 days. After I lost the original “Fleetwood” in November 2013 off Ibiza, I told everyone that my ocean crossings were done with. This February the 28th I will be 83. But from these 10 days sailing and the 4 days on the ICW, I’ll have to find a better excuse to quit this, than to claim advanced age.

The weakened muscles are being re-tweaked. I am stiffer than when I left for the circumnavigation at age 68. I have to assist my feet, bending my knees, with an arm to get up through the small companion way entrance. I reduce sail quicker and add sail slower. Whereas at a younger age I went by the seat of my bib pants, now I need pre-plan my moves.

The big advantage I have to extend my foolishness is the fact that everything is lighter, smaller, simpler on my 30-foot light weight plywood boat than the standard set up. I can still get my anchor up without a mechanical device, do without roller furling.

The reefing system on this boat was originally set up with three separate lines that could all be done from the cockpit. All those extra sheaves in the boom started to cause too much friction. I now use just one line and have to go forward to attach the luff reef grommet, then raise the sail again, put the reef line through the leech grommet and tighten the line.

Monday evening February 17. Arrival at Saint Martin.

I dropped the anchor at 3 pm local time (we are one hour ahead of Atlantic time zone).  It just seems all so long ago that I had to plan every move on deck, struggle dragging my safety line, in the cabin always bracing to avoid being thrown on the constant moves. I had one painful replay of the smack I took at Cabo Malo near the Panama Canal in February 2017, that caused the crushed vertebrae. Again, thrown back from the stove against the chart table. But not as severe. I find blood and discover a leg or arm scratch that I don’t remember what caused it in the heat of the fire drill, mostly in the frequent reefing exercises. This morning, at dusk, still too dark to see it coming, a squall came through. The mast starts shaking, the boat heels, the windvane gets overpowered. Quickly boat-shoes fastened, harness on, drop the main. It quickly blows by. Main back up.

The trade wind piped up later and I finished the day under just the 100% jib. I was reluctantly to shorten sail. According to my calculations I could reach the anchorage at Marigot, Saint Martin just before dark.

But before I dropped the main, I saw spurts of over 7 knots per hour and with just the jib I was still averaging over 4 ½ knots and seeing sixes. As you already saw, I dropped the anchor at 3 pm. In the meantime it is Tuesday morning. Two weeks to carnival. Had a good sleep. There are at least 150 boats spread out throughout this anchorage, next to the wagon-wheel Marina Fort Louis. A few super power yachts further in the open channel. I am very close to the entrance to the marina, but I fear that it is too difficult a row in the strong winds to row to shore. I am close enough to shore to have flat water. But when the willy-waws come in strong blowing down the canyons, you see the entire fleet bow their bows in the same direction “to the mountains from where my help cometh”. I tried to contact the marina on VHF but they do not monitor Ch 16 and when someone else suggested channel 73, another deaf ear. It looks a bit run down from where I am. I will try to row to shore after the afternoon trade winds die down, or try hail a passing motorized dinghy.

I need to get into a marina here or in Phillipsburg on the Dutch side. With the upcoming Heineken regatta, that might be a problem. I need to get my 12-volt tiller pilot repaired or replaced. I managed to reconnect the broken exterior plug and have power to the unit but it is not working. I was hoping that I could make it work with the remote-control line. Does not work. Probably ruined the wiring in the unit or the motor that runs it. The motor is probably the easiest to replace. The wiring appears very well sealed from any water intrusion. Yesterday I was able to steer the boat with the Monitor windvane , under power, when I had to go head to the wind to the anchorage and had to drop the sails.

One of my wind vane control lines needs replacement. The last, main part, of my windex wind-indicator, blew off the top of the mast in that storm of the first Thursday-Friday of the trip.

I have a ton of laundry, the winter clothes that were soaked, etc. Yesterday I gave up on putting dry shorts back on after getting hosed on deck, without an audience, I was dressed in just a life preserver, harness and soaked boat-shoes.

 

I have been reading Carl Robinson’s “The Bite of the Lotus”. A very interesting and very different perspective of the Vietnam war, than the many other books on the subject. Carl went to grade school in Redlands, California and moved with his Methodist missionary parents to the (then) Belgian Congo. On a side trip from his studies in Hong Kong, he ended up working for a few years in the South Vietnam delta for a US Government assistance program. He went back to finish his arts degree and earned a “cum laude” degree, in June 1966, at the University of Redlands with a thesis on the 1954 Geneva peace accords. He went back to work in the Delta at Co Cong for the USOM assistance program. He was fluent in French from his Congo days and also more adjusted to the post-colonial life style similarities that baffled most other Americans. Eventually he quit the US aid position, in disgust over the political ineptness. He joined Associated Press in Saigon working for Horst Faas the legendary war photographer.

He married a young student from Co Gong, who became his assistant for a few years and quit at the same time.

This book also contains one of the most authentic facts on the disappearance of Sean Flynn (Errol Flynn’s son) and his close friend Tim Page in Laos with whom Carl had a close professional and personal relationship. Robinson came to Vietnam shortly after I left in 1963. For me there are so many recognizable, places, events, people. The affection for the people and country of Vietnam, I share with Robinson. I knew a number of the press people he mentions in his book.

He also describes in detail his struggles with the then reigning drug culture, from marijuana to the opium dens of Saigon and Laos. The book was published late last year and is available in the usual formats and book sellers. I recommend it, especially for its historical details and why this ended up in one of our most embarrassing defeats.

It is now Tuesday evening and accomplished a few chores today. I thoroughly dried the starboard and port bilges. There is no leak. I was removing about 3 gallons every day since I suspected a leak on Friday the 7th. I replaced a frayed control line to the wind vane. Fitted the new ensign and staff that replace the one I lost on mooring in West Norfolk the first day out from Cape Charles, January 15th. The wind never let up today to dare row to the shore. I hailed my neighbor, who was returning from his work in his inflatable outboard. Jean Olivier, short JO, he will come by tomorrow morning, on his way to work, to get JvO and tow me in my inflatable to the marina. Then I can row back, down wind after I have talked to the marina for moorage and cleared in with the Marechaussee, and find internet to catch up with the 16 days in the wilderness and post this blog. There is still visible damage left from the 2017 Hurricane. Apparently, according to JO, the bridges are not repaired yet. Now, to get to Philipsburg in Sint Martin,

I‘ll have to sail twice the distance around the south end of the island. I shaved my beard this morning and, towards dusk, I got a long enough rain shower to wash the salt out of my hair and take a cockpit bath, I feel clean again.

Here is the You Tube video of what the storm looked like. Be sure to take your favorite anti-motion medication before watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDlgpnsjaws

 

Beaufort N.C. heading south

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 2nd, 2020

I will take one more look at the 7 day forecast in the morning. Right now it looks good for departing on Monday the 3rd of February. There are some 30 plus knot winds coming up from the south on Thursday Friday but it gives me enough time to get to the east and south of this system.

I left Cape Charles on Wednesday the 15th of January and had planned to spend a few nights with my youngest daughter, Jeannine, but near freezing cold and strong winds that blew the water out of the I.C.W. (Intra-Coastal Waterway) kept me tied up until the 26th.

I left from West Norfolk on the Elizabeth River on Sunday morning, did my dominical habit Saturday evening with Jeannine on the Saturday evening prior, and had a great sunny day on the ICW. I passed through the Gilberton Bridge right behind the ketch “China Rose” and had a nice chat with Peter and Linda in the Great Bridge lock. They are heading for Oriental, near Beaufort. They are both from Southern Norway and live near New York, Peter is a retired fireman and she was a nurse.    I anchored near day marker 57 on the west side of the channel close to milepost 40. Griffith Brinkley, the younger son of my Cape Charles friend Bruce Brinkley, who lives on Munden Point and he met me and guided me in and took me in his skiff to his dock. Griff and his Portuguese-American wife Soraia were my outstanding hosts for the night.

Sunset from the Brinkley home

 

Griff with the Vatican ensign and George the Portuguese waterdog.

 

 

 

On Monday I made it at dusk to an anchoring spot just north of the Alligator River bridge. I had not counted on the wind to go north and it was a very rough night and it was very difficult and time consuming to get the anchor up against the strong wind and chop. Little by little with help from the engine it came up. It was again after dark that I made it to a very calm anchorage on Tuesday evening just south of the long canal, east of Belhaven.

The Alligator River- Pungo River Canal

 

 

The nights were cold. Once the anchor was down, I opened the companionway stairs to let the heat off the engine and radiator warm up the closed cabin and crawled in my sleeping bag soon after dinner.

This is the 4th time I have transited this part of the ICW between Norfolk and Beaufort. In January and November 2008 and May 2017. I filled up my diesel tank and spare canister on Thursday here in Beaufort. I am writing this from the living room of Joni Dennis, one row back from the waterfront of this historic Maritime town. She has deep maritime roots here. I was introduced to Joni by Linda Chancler who is a sailor FB friend. Both Linda and Joni crewed and worked on large sailboats.  They started their adventures in their early twenties, in the eighties, in the Caribbean and Joni has been all over the globe. She moved her cooking skills and international recipes and ingredients on shore to Fort Lauderdale and now to her roots in Beaufort. She has combined her culinary skills, cultures and adventures in her books. The first one, which has been very well received: “Mermaids Yachts & Rum”. I started reading it and I could not put it down. This is a totally different part of the yachting world than what I ever get to see. Wild and wonderful and a constant changing scene in many parts of the world. She is just going on a book tour of the second book of the “Sea of Destiny Series”. You must get a hold of her books. Go to her web site: http://www.ChefJoni.com

Joni’s friend Meekah, who rents the upstairs, drove me to mass at the St. Egberts church in Moorhead City this morning. I have been here before but never read up on this, for me, obscure saint. Turns out the was an English priest who ended up in Ireland and sent Saint Willibrord, in the early part of the 8th century,  to convert the pagan Frisians.  He became the first bishop of Utrecht. Another one of his contemporaries, Saint Bonifacius was martyred in Friesland in 754. My mother is a Frisian. This N.E. Province of Holland became for the most part protestant in the Reformation. There are a few enclave villages in Friesland where the reformation never happened. One of them is the town of Sint Nicolaasga. Just 15 miles north of de Lemmer where my mother’s roots are. The maternal roots of Father Gary Weisenberger, our parish Priest for many years in Gig Harbor, are in Sint Nicolaasga.

Father Davis at St. Egberts church

 

 

 

Besides Peter, Linda, Joni and Meeka I want to introduce you to two other new friends I made yesterday. They are Dan Brown (a.k.a. Nguyen Viet Tri) and Le Ly Hayslip. The last name might be familiar to you if you read her book or saw the Oliver Stone movie: “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places” I read her book when I was in Vietnam on “Fleetwood” in 2006. A few years later I read this moving story from Dan Brown. There are so many similarities in their stories, geography, struggles and search for their relatives and uprooted roots. I finally succeeded in getting the two together, yesterday. This came about through a Google group I belong to of mostly Vietnam era war correspondents. They are having a reunion in Hue in April and it turned out that one of the members made contact with Le Ly who is going to be in Vietnam in her mission for her Global Village.  

You know how to follow me, see the upper right box on this post.

By now you’ll know the winners of the super bowl. Her is my bit of name dropping and bragging about the friends that keep me. I was talking to my dear Cape Charles friend Thelma Peterson suggestion the super bowl. She told me that she, and probably a few more women, had a crush on Joe Namath. A couple she knows invited her to attend a game and with the suggestion to come down to the field to take a look from there at the season ticket loge they had in the Kansas stadium, she was confronted by Joe with a smirk on his face “Hi sweetheart, I understand you wanted to meet me…” You can see more of Thelma in the previous blog, as the songwriter of “Jack come back”.

Thelma with “Broadway Joe”

 

 

You know how to follow me, see the upper right box on this post. It is good to be moving again and I hope that you will keep an eye on this blog for more adventures.

 

 

 

Sailing South

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 14th, 2020

I’ll be casting off tomorrow morning from my berth in Cape Charles, Va. My aim is for St. Martin. I had hoped to catch a weather window to leave directly from here into the Atlantic, but instead will be looking for an opportunity out of Beaufort, N.C., by way of the Intra-Coastal Waterway  (I.C.W.). My first stop will be on the Elizabeth River in West Norfolk to spend a couple days with my youngest daughter in Chesapeake.

You will be able to follow me on my Garmin In-Reach satellite tracker at: https://share.garmin.com/JackvanOmmen This link is permanently visible in the right upper corner of my home page, together with my AIS position. I will from time to time leave short messages on Facebook, from my Garmin tracker, when I am underway out of Internet communications. I hope to be in St. Martin at the time of the Heineken Regatta from March 5-8. But this all depends on the weather and my progress. In January 2009 I ended up going down the ICW and ending up too far south and west to fetch farther than the British Virgin Islands.

I plan on getting back on the same routine as I did since I started this blog with my Transatlantic crossing in June 2009. I am embarrassed to see that my previous blog dates October 15, reporting on my September/October trip to Europe. Since then I had one long weekend cruise across the Chesapeake for the local OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) encounter on October 24. Since then “Fleetwood” has not been from her stall. The rehearsals and performances in November for the play/musical of “The Gift of the Magi”, which turned out to be an unforgettable experience and introduction/preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Several of the cast members were already good friends and others became new friends. This was my first experience of having to memorize the lyrics and be in costume. I am the one on the far right in this picture,  with my belated wishes.  The baby  is real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day after the last performance, on November 25, I flew to the North West for Thanksgiving. My oldest daughter, Lisa, had 16 guests at the Thanksgiving meal. This was the first Thanksgiving since our 2nd oldest child, Rose Marie, passed away, on June 2nd. Traditionally the two sisters alternated in hosting the holiday.  I re-acquainted with my friends in the Northwest and in British Columbia.

One visit was with Bernard and Betty Wessels in Canada. I had not seen Bernard for 75 years, since 2nd grade. He and his Jewish parents survived by being selected by Hans Calmeyer a German lawyer who managed to falsify theirs and thousands of other Dutch Jews’ ethnic roots. By coincidence, Calmeyer worked with another Dutch good crooked lawyer, Jaap van Proosdij, whose father handled the defense for the arrested members of our mother’s resistance group. But to no avail. Shortly after our parents were arrested, the Nazis did away with any sort of legal process. In the diary my father kept while our mother was in prison he writes about a chance meeting on November 25 1944. Our father was on his way home from foraging in the countryside for me and my twin brother. Our mother was in Dachau concentration camp. The winter 44-45 goes down in Dutch history as the “Hunger Winter”. Food ran out in the cities and long foot and bicycle searches were made into the countryside. Father wrote in his diary for November 25th:”I returned with 5 bottles of milk, 1 rye and 1 white bread, 2 pounds of beef, vegetables. It was a difficult bike ride. The Amstel river was flooding over its banks. I had an unusual encounter. Just outside of Uithoorn I overtook a man who asked if he could ride up with me. He was also on his way to Amsterdam. He had left that morning at 7 am and arrived in Gouda at noon. He lived in the Kribbestraat and he told me that he was Christian Reformed. I said: “So am I”. He attended our Waal church. His name was Wessels, I suspected this because he looked Jewish. When I told him that I was the father of Jan and Jaap, he told me that Bernard spoke often about our boys. His company made the trip a lot shorter. ” Bernard was in my (Jaap) 1st and 2nd grade in 1944-’45 and then we lost track of him. I had always wondered how they avoided deportation to the gas chambers. Through An Huitzing, of a group FB page for our old Amsterdam neighborhood, I found Bernard back. He is two weeks older than I am. He had quite a story to tell me. He had bounced around to many family and strangers’ homes before we met in 1944 and again after the war. He emigrated to the United States a few months before I did, he ended up in northern Michigan. In the winter of 1956-’57. His first job was to borrow a snow shovel and going door to door in the better neighborhoods. After these fifty years, I would have picked him without any problem out of a line-up. But he does not even remember the name of the grade school we were in, let alone remember me or my twin brother. But he described the neighborhood accurately.

I spent Christmas at the home of my third daughter, Jeannine and have been back in Cape Charles for two weeks. Last Sunday my friends organized a bon voyage send-off at Susan Kovac’s home. Thelma Peterson, song writer, painter, Eastern Shore historian, etc., had composed a song for my farewell on June 14 on the occasion of my transatlantic crossing. That was planned before the tragic untimely death of Rose Marie, on June 2nd. It is a great song you can find it on You Tube at “Jack come Back”. In the picture, I am wearing the t-shirt that was autographed for the June 14 departure.                                                                             

 

 

 

 

The Frenchman has it right: “Partir c’set mourir un peu” . In my wildest imaginations I could not have suspected that in this unpretentious flat dead end of the Eastern Shore where I ended up by accident, shipwreck, I would have met so many new friends. The Acropolis of combined talents in every conceivable art form, diversity. And, most all of these new friends happen to share the same importance I attach to my faith.

For the readers of my book “SoloMan” and the ones who have yet to treat themselves or a friend to it: I have a slideshow in sequence of the book’s story on You Tube This is in particular attractive to watch while you are reading the Black and White print versions. And I have most of the slide shows of the different parts of the 60 country circumnavigation on You Tube, instead of down loading them from my web site. I started making videos in 2016 on the last leg from the West Coast to Florida that you all find in their proper categories There are a number of videos to watch made here in Cape Charles, in case I got you all excited to start packing. Voor de lezers in Holland raad ik aan, vooral voor de E-boeken de Mastmakersdochters en SoloMan die bij Pumbo te bestellen i.p.v. Amazon.

My plans: I hope to be back here in Virginia by Easter, April 12. And I hope to be able to be in Holland/Germany for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of our mother and her companions on April 30, on their Death March out of the Dachau satellite camp. And the May 5th end of the 2nd world war.

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 15. Back in Cape Charles, Va.

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 15th, 2019

In my previous blog I left off one of the main reasons for the Europe trip, the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of the inmates from the Nazi S.S. concentration camp Vught on September 6th 1944. The commemoration was held the first Sunday after I arrived on September the 8th. I attended the 65th anniversary in 2009, together with my twin brother. This time I represented my twin brother and my sister. There are still a few of the survivors alive but no longer physically able to attend. It was a beautiful sunny day. There was the usual silent procession, through the pine forest, from the camp to the nearby execution wall. This is where 142 male political prisoners were executed in the last three days before the September 6th transport to Germany. (Those of you who might have read the book or seen the movie “The Hiding Place” about the Dutch evangelist Corrie ten Boom, might have read one of several inaccuracies in the story, she reported this as 700 men executed on the last day prior to September 6th. The grand total for the existence of the camp, from 1943 until the closure, was 329 executions.) In my book “The Mastmakers’ Daughters” is the eye/ear witness story of Tiny Boosman who was with these men in the bunker in their last hour before their execution. She, with a few other women prisoners communicated through the ventilation ducts with several of their nearby cell mates. They sang the “Dona Nobis Pacem” refrain from Mozart’s Requiem for the men.

The memorial service was well attended by my second generation and on down. There were a number of speakers. The one speaker I particularly valued was the leader/speaker of the Dutch house of representatives,  Khadija Habib. She is a first generation Moroccan-Dutch woman who came as a child with her parents to live in Holland. She revealed new facts and unique significance of this day in the second world war history, I had not been aware of, and the lessons to apply to the tumultuous times we are in right now.

The execution wall. credit: Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught

On the way out the Royal Marechaussee brass band played: “Abide with me”. I think it was a coincidence, even though it is not uncommon to be played at memorial services, it just so happens that this is one of the most emotional memories our mother shared with us of the 1944 evacuation: (excerpt from “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”)

“Most of my group, 82 women, managed to end up in the same cattle car. These cars were meant to carry a maximum of six cavalry horses….The heavy wooden doors were shut and we heard a lock and chain being attached. We could only stand up and barely move. There was a latrine barrel in one corner and no water. The first thing we did was, with our wooden shoes, to break the wooden slats from the blinds in the small windows, to give us a little more air. We deposited all our bread rations in one corner as far away as possible from the latrine barrel. One woman was assigned to distribute the bread. Next, we divided our group in three sections of 27 women to take turns in standing, sitting and stretched out on the floor. Now we had a plan and we felt a little more in control. The train started moving slowly. It felt as if the Lord stretched his arms out over us with a blessing when two young women softly started singing the Dutch version of: 

Abide with me, fast falls the even tide.
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

More and more women in our car and along the track joined in. The chorus could be heard afar. In the earlier part of this book, I wrote about my hymn singing mother. Amongst us, we had complimented and enlarged our repertoire of the Psalms and Hymns we had grown up with. We had no Aufseherinnen in the car with us, so, we could sing as much as we liked.”

The train stopped in Sachsenhausen, the destination for the nearly 3,000 male prisoners and the book continues: “The doors in the first cars were opened and we heard the clatter of wooden shoes on the stone platform and the shouting of commands by the guards. This was the destination for the men; their cars were uncoupled from the long train. A chorus swelled from the remaining eight box cars. Over six hundred women sang a farewell to the men. The men nodded to one another:  “Listen, the women are singing!”

When the women reached their destination at the infamous women concentration camp Ravensbrück, they walked singing from the train station through the camp gates. But the female camp guards quickly silenced them with their billy clubs. But throughout my mother’s story you’ll learn the strength and joy she and her (in)mates drew from the songs, mostly religious, they shared. She and our father passed this on to us and I just keep on singing.

By another coincidence “Abide with me” was chosen for the concert given on May 4th. 2016, the annual 2nd WW memorial day in Holland. You can read more about this concert, I sang in, and listen to the recording at: https://cometosea.us/?p=5741

What were the survival chances of these 650 women? From its inception in 1939 until the end of the war, 140,000 women went through the Ravensbrück gate. Only a third came out alive. The vast majority of these women died from disease, physical abuse and malnutrition, not in the gas chambers. Even of those survivors, a portion died prematurely and many remained scarred physically and mentally for the rest of their lives. The majority of the women were political prisoners. Of the approximately 900 Dutch women who were imprisoned in Ravensbrϋck, estimates vary, between 162 and 200 Dutch women died in the camp or on the Death March out of the camp at the end of April 1945.  But for 192, including our mother, out of these 900 Dutch women, the survival chances improved when they were sent to a Dachau satellite forced labor camp. The so called Agfa Commando (see full details at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agfa-Commando where only 2 Dutch women perished.

Before the event at Camp Vught, I attended the high mass at the nearby St. John cathedral in den Bosch. My first visit to this medieval gothic church.

St. John, den Bosch 9/8/’19

 

I have a short video with the choir and service at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYGPdNAYakQ

I flew back to New York from Schiphol on September 8th.  My niece Mariken cooked mussels for us a week before my departure.

L.R. My sister Karolien van Ommen, niece Mariken de Ruiter (hostess) nephew Dirk Jan de Ruiter, grand niece Phoebe Ohayon, grand nephews Daan de Ruiter, and front Lukas de Ruiter, Phoebe’s boyfriend Maikel.

On the Saturday October 5th I attended the centennial celebration of the “De Schinkel” yacht club in Amsterdam, where I had been a guest between August 2009 and September 2013, and joined the club in the last year I was there. My uncle Fred van Ommen, taught me my first sailing lessons at this club in the late forties. Frankly this was a bit of a disappointment compared to the 90th anniversary when I was there on “Fleetwood”. At that time there was wide participation in the program by the members and I got to lead sing one Dutch sea shanty with the Amsterdam Harbor Choir. This time it was in the confinements of the club house and a huge band made conversations very difficult. But I still managed to reacquaint with a good number of my friends from the 2009-2014 period.

So far, no one here in Cape Charles has remarked that they wished that I would have stayed away longer than the six weeks. I just heard that the Messiah choir and sing along for December 10 has been cancelled here. I will sing in: “The Gift of the Magi” musical adaption. Being performed on November 22, 23 and 24 in the old Palace Theater on main street in Cape Charles, Va. I shall fly on the 25th to Sea-Tac for Thanksgiving with my west coast family at Lisa’s home. I will use a standby buddy pass and will have to wait until the air has cleared after the mass exit from the holiday, for space availability. I figure on setting sail for the Caribbean by mid December.

Next week, Thursday the 24th, I plan sail to the Matthews Yacht Club for the annual fall dinner of the local chapter of the Ocean Cruising Club. There will most likely be a number of members from the N.E. Atlantic who are gathering here for the official end of the hurricane season to sail to the Caribbean in the Salty Dawg rally or individually.

 

 

Sunday September 29 Europe Visit.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 30th, 2019

This blog is done in reverse chronological order, working back to the 4 September take off from New York.

Sunday evening in the train returning from Brussels to Kerkdriel, where I have been staying with my cousin Gido van Ommen and his wife Riet since Monday 23rd. I trained to Brussels for the day to spread a small amount of Rose Marie’s ashes at the church where she was baptized 51 years ago. On the way down, I missed the one transfer in Breda because there was a delay in den Bosch. I missed the 11 o’clock mass at St. Pie X where I had planned to meet Yvette, Rose Marie’s god-mother, and her sister Colette. I met them after the service and to my surprise Rose Marie’s godfather, Claude Claeys, joined us as well. He had made the trip from his home in Cordoba, Argentina. As you can see from the picture the Roses in front of St. Pie X were still blooming and waiting to watch over the memories of their namesake. We stopped by at our mutual residences, near the church, where we lived at the time of Rose Marie’s birth in 1968.

L.R. Colette, Yvette and Claude

Reunited with Rose’s baptismal ground where she received the seal of everlasting life.

L.R. Claude, Joan with Rose Marie, Colette, Jack, Mme. Claeys at Baptismal Feb 1968 St. Pie-X Forest (Bruxelles)

L.R. Claude, Joan with Rose Marie, moi and Colette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are more pictures of the baptism and yesterday’s reunion at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AsL0JlhDwXCLli20nBnVyUAmAGlN?e=mwvWau

On Friday my (distant) cousin Karel van den Berg (no relation, as far as we know, to Jennifer van den Berg, my daughter in law) came to pick me up in Kerdriel. You might remember reading my blogs of my chicken/cat/farm sitting in Eck & Wiel, where Karel and Ankie live, in 2013 and earlier. Karel drove me to Barneveld to visit Maria and Stephen Boonzaaijer.

Ankie v/d Berg with their decoy Holstein.

 

Black sheep of the family

 

 

 

They are the sailing couple I met in Papeete in 2005. Maria is a prolific author and one of the editors who helped me with my Dutch versions of my books. Stephen is a Dutch Reformed pastor and leader of the ‘commune’ “De Bondgenoot”. Friday evening is their weekly communal evening meal with a program. I was privileged to share with the members my experiences since I last attended a similar meeting, in 2014, right after my first shipwreck. Kerkdriel, where I have been since the 23rd, is a small town, near the southern banks of the Waal river, near where the Meuse river joins the Waal from its origin in Northern France. The Waal, Rhine and Meuse were the borders where the Allied Forces were held back in the fall of 1944 in their liberation of the Nazi occupied North Western European countries. There was some heavy fighting here in these southern Dutch provinces. There are commemorations all over the area to celebrate the 75 years since the liberation. Gido took me on a bicycle tour of the wide vistas across the rivers and levies to the medieval city of Zaltbommel, with its distinctive church steeple. There is a well-known poem, written in 1934 about the bridge here across the Waal river, by the poet Martinus Nijhof. Titled “Moeder de Vrouw” (Mother the Woman) It ends with:

Het was een vrouw. Het schip dat zij bevoer, kwam langzaam stroomaf door de brug gevaren.

Zij was alleen aan dek, zij stond bij ’t roer, en wat zij zong hoorde ik dat psalmen waren.

O, dacht ik, o, dat daar mijn moeder voer. Prijs God, zong zij, Zijn hand zal u bewaren.

This always brings back emotions, reminding me of our mother. The poet is resting in the deep grass on the river bank of the Waal River near the bridge and a sailing barge is slowly approaching from under the bridge. A rough translation of the above:

“It was a woman. The ship she steered came slowly downstream through the bridge. She was the only one on deck, she held the helm, and then I recognized that what she sang were hymns. I thought this could be my mother. Praise God, she sang, His hand shall always save you.”

Zalt Bommel, taken from “Glissando” April 20, 2011

Please, check my blog of April 20, 2011 at https://cometosea.us/?p=1883   where I passed Zaltbommel, from the barge “Glissando” which towed “Fleetwood” upstream on the Rhine in August 2010 on my way to the Black Sea.

Interior of the St. Maarten church in Zaltbommel.

 

Last weekend, from the 20th., I travelled to Reinbek, near Hamburg, to see my twin brother and his family. On Sunday there were nine of us at the lunch Jan treated us to. It was a glorious late summer warm sunny weekend. His two sons, Jacob, my namesake, came with his wife Maren from Berlin, Carl with Steffi and their daughter Sita from Hamburg, Anna from Bath, England. Jan and I attended Sunday service and communion at his Lutheran church. The readings are the same as in all R.C. and Episcopalian churches, so you might remember, one of the readings was about Jacob (my baptismal name) cheating his brother out of his inheritance. On the subject of brothers, I have always told you that Jan and I are fraternal twins. But most of you have never seen us together. This has now been corrected by an expert, our gynecologist neighbor who has known us from birth. We are now identical twins.

Jan and Jack

 

L.R. from end Jacob, Maren, Jan, Steffi, Sita, Carl, Jack, Catharina, Anna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weekend of the 13th my cousin Carol de Vries took me up to de Lemmer, in Friesland. It was the yearly “End of Summer” festivity. Boat parades and a race on the former Zuiderzee of the of traditional sailing fishing boats, etc. We stopped in at the mastmakers shop where my mother grew up. It has been turned into a hotel with the exterior left in its original state since it was built in 1906. A 2 1/2 minute video of the visit: https://youtu.be/Bdh2ORnJIcY

Replicas of the traditional Lemster Aak fishing vessel.

smoking eel.

The Dutch Reformed church, where my Grandfather was a member until he married the Christian Reformed pastor’s daughter on the island of Urk in 1900

 

 

The boeier “Friso” the “showboat” of the province of Friesland

 

 

Earlier from September 5 onwards, I visited friends at the Choir I sang in during my 2012-2014 stay and 2015 and 2016 visits, stopped by “De Schinkel”, saw family and friends in and near Amersfoort, Soest, Arnhem, and Nijmwegen.

There is another busy schedule the rest of the week. On Saturday is the centennial celebration of the yacht club “De Schinkel” where I learned to sail from my uncle, Fred van Ommen the father of my current host Gido. I was berthed at the club marina and attended their 90th anniversary in 2009. I was a member from late 2012 until my departure in September 2013.

In Sloten, south of Amsterdam is this old windmill, once used to maintain the water level in the reclaimed “polder”. At times they crank her up under the right conditions. Here is a short video of it: https://www.facebook.com/jackvanommen/videos/10158772594185898/?t=3

Die Mooie Molen van Sloten