Saturday, October 29. On the border line

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 29th, 2016

Wednesday morning I moved closer yet to the Mexican border. Right now I am anchored close to the El Coronado Hotel. Since my last week Wednesday arrival I have been  moved around three times in the Police Station guest dock marina. Today I will go back in there until I leave for Mexico on Monday or more likely Tuesday the  1st of November. Tomorrow is the kick-off party for the 180 plus boats registered for the Baja Ha-Ha rally. I will follow behind. Solo sailors are not qualified and for good reasons. I need lots of room around me. But I am very much enjoying the company of the participants. My favorite daughter in law took me shopping yesterday at Costco, Target and a fantastic Asian market where I managed to find many of my favorite cruising meal ingredients and galley tools.

Now here is another of my “Small World” experiences to add to my next book: I met John and Maggie Stienstra on “M” a 42 foot sailboat from Danville, Ca. registered in the Baja Ha-Ha. Any name ending on “stra” or “ma” are Frisians, from the Northern Dutch province of Friesland. They have their own language, which happens to be a lot closer to English than Dutch. My mother was born in Friesland and registered in Wymbritseradeel, so was John’s father. His parents grew up in IJlst a small town just south of Sneek. The town used to be the center for the traditional Frisian ice skate makers. One of John’s Woudstra uncles builds the “Bestevaer” a popular 28/30 foot motor yacht in IJlst.

When John started reading “The Mastmakers’ Daughters” and the 2nd world war part, he told me the story of how his grandparents took in a Jewish baby, born in 1940. Her parents were murdered in Sobibor. Shortly after the war a surviving aunt came to claim the young Mia, who ended up in Israel. She lost contact and in 2009 she posted a photograph of a family picture taken in IJlst on a Dutch TV program. Two of John Stienstra’s uncles recognized it and shortly after were reunited with Mia. The Woudstra (read here the whole story) couple was recognized with the Yad Vashem “The Righteous among the Nations” award.

My great-great-etc. grand father from my mother’s side, Sybolt Ottes de Vries, was born in IJlst in 1769. He was the first of the de Vries family Mastmakers, one son continued the tradition in IJlst another set up shop in de Lemmer, where my mother grew up above her father’s mastmakers shop. Yesterday I received an e-mail back from my nephew Sybolt Okkes de Vries telling me that he grew up next door in IJlst, on the Hendrik Huizingastraat, to John Stienstra’s family and was in the same grade school classes with his cousin. His father, who is 2 years older than Mia, remembers Mia and the Woudstra family but never knew that Mia was a Jewish orphan.

In Just a week before I flew from Amsterdam to the United States on January 11, 1957 I skated the “11 dorpen tocht” a 110 km tour of eleven villages north of Amsterdam on  my Frisian “doorloper” skates, the design IJlst made famous. I brought them with me and they are now hanging on the wall in the home of my oldest daughter, Lisa. There is an invoice in the family archives where my great grandmother bought these kind of skates for her chandlery shop, part of the mastmaking business from her in laws in IJlst.


They were tied with their straps to ordinary street shoes. Lisa sent me the picture. I have been enjoying the hospitality of my oldest son John and his wife, Jennifer who live 15 miles north of downtown San Diego, while the boat is anchored out. Tomorrow is the kick-off party for the Baja Ha-Ha rally and I have been granted a spot at the event at the West Marine store on Rosecrans Blvd. to sell “SoloMan”. I bougth a used GoPro video camera and expect to be able liven up this blog with the occasional video.

view from anchorage at the El Coronado

view from anchorage at the El Coronado

From the El Coronado

From the El Coronado


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