Leaving my home to come home

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 13th, 2022

Or is it the other way around? According to the home port on Fleetwood’s transom, home is Gig Harbor, Washington, USA. But since Ash Wednesday 2005 my home has not been there but for two and a half years. She has spent more time in the Netherlands where her skipper was raised.

In my last blog I reported the major project to repair “Fleetwood III”. The replacement of most of the bottom is nearly done. I had hoped to have it completed by now because the temperature has dropped below the desired temperature for a proper cure of the epoxy. I had expected to have her back from the nearby “Amsterdam YC” to “de Schinkel” yacht club, floating. But now the boat will remain on the hard here for the winter.

I booked my return flight to Seattle-Tacoma yesterday, arriving on November 14th, in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’ll be staying with my oldest daughter, Lisa, for part of the winter and intend to visit California and Virginia before returning to finish the boat in the early spring. That is, if I will be let in to my native homeland. I have exceeded my allowable Schengen 90 days. My application for a residence permit, so far, has not had a response from the authorities.

Since late September, I have had the assistance in the repairs from Robert Scagen a veteran amateur wooden boat builder. The one part of the repair that gave me sleepless hours was how to join the lower plywood panel strakes above the bottom panel. This “Waarschip” multi chined construction is clinker-built (overnaads), just like roof tiles. So, the next panel up from the bottom, fits underneath the next panel above it and then the two panels are fastened together onto the chine (leger). This is particularly difficult to do from the bottom up. Robert came up with a way to keep the top 4” of the panel above the bottom (the main deterioration is just above the lowest chine) and to join the replacement with a two and a half inch backing plate. The backing plate is made up from 12 mm (1/2 inch) plywood and stiffened with a 15 mm mahogany wood strip on top of it. Another new challenge was how to make the scarf joint (las) to join the ends of the remaining strakes to the new plywood ends. I was able to use a ten-foot 5/8-inch panel for the bottom but the strakes above it required longer replacements and were scarfed from eight-foot panels. It is relatively simple with the right equipment to make the scarf joints in the shop but making these on the remaining parts in the boat was time consuming and tricky. The ¾ x 8” mahogany keel plate also had to be scarfed in once we had removed the bottom panel and the keel. Luckily, Robert also has all the skills to operate the fork lift, travel lift and crane at this yacht club during his more than 30-year membership and run the shop equipment. Without him I would not have had access to the many clamps we needed to glue the joints.

Part of the bottom removed

Keel being rehung. New bottom and rot, moisture readings in next panel

starboard panel mounting.

The interior backing strip













My next challenge will be to recover my expenses from the seller. If it comes to a court case, the judge might not have much compassion for the fact that I could have sailed away and gotten into serious distress, possibly fatal. I have plenty of pictures, samples and the ad which states that the boat was epoxied. But there is none to be found. This was the main reason of the rot from long standing water on the inside.

There will still be plenty to do after the boat is relaunched.

I will give a presentation of my adventure at “De Schinkel” YC on October 22nd.  I will visit my twin brother and his family near Hamburg from the 10th of November and fly from Hamburg on the 14th. I also expect to make a short visit to Brussels to meet up with Rose Marie’s godparents on the weekend prior.

I’d invite any interested parties in the Tacoma-Seattle area to make an appointment for one of my presentations and SoloMan book sales. I have an 18-minute slide show video of the best pictures of the 64 countries I have visited. There is an updated version of SoloMan for sale on the internet. The usual accumulated corrections and the updated Epilogue to include the February Cuban shipwreck and my current visit to the Netherlands.

It has been hard work and I have not had much opportunity to socialize other than with the members here at the “Amsterdam” YC.  The expectations were to have a ready to sail boat and returning to the Americas within the 90 day Schengen restriction. I am not so sure this boat will be up to it. Before I invest in solar panel, AIS, Windvane, life raft and offshore charting software, I’ll test sail her on the North Sea. I may end up setting shop as a wooden boat carpenter as my next career.

Last Sunday was a sad day for the parishioners of the Augustinus Church, where I have been attending from 2009, off and on. The diminishing attendance can no longer support the maintenance of this magnificent building. Several other nearby churches will also be consolidated in a church a 20 minute bike ride further away. Not certain what will happen to the large choir of which I was a member from 2012. This trend started years ago. The protestant church I grew up in was demolished and so was the R.C. church, in the nineties, in my neighborhood a few miles away from here. A similar trend is obvious in the time people reserve for their boats and with their club activities. This picture is of “Fleetwood I” in december 2009 at “de Schinkel”; I count 9 masts.

Where have all the sailboats gone?

Yesterday evening, I counted two masts in the same row. They have mostly gone to the “sloep” the open double ended motor launches that can hold many crates of Heineken and large speakers and are turned on with a switch. Or if they are still sailing they are in larger boats that do not fit in these slips. In this much larger club I count two sailboats. In 2009 half of the boats were sailboats. The youth program in Optimists and Lasers are not anywhere of what they used to be. People have no time, bicycle commuting has turned into a speed contest. Am I getting cynical in my old age?

Looking forward to see all the old and young friends, without masks and fears.




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