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: 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.




2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Sharon Whitman says:

    Jack I just finished catching up with all you have been doing! Hurray.
    Loved the photos you included on this blog, especially the one of you modeling your new shirt! Muscle Man Jack! Maybe you can post that one on FB too.
    Glad you got off ok today. Happy sails to you! See you soon.

    PS my friends just docked in Brunswick GA for several weeks (Brunswick Landing Marina) and Loved it there! Happy Hour three times a week! Hope you can enjoy it too.

  2. Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for the comments. I hope to be able to head s.e. into the Atlantic. Once that far south in Georgia it gets real difficult to fetch the Windward Islands because of the East tradewinds. I was in the Brunswick marina in February 2008. Yes, very large marina. Great day on the water today. Love, Jack