Published in Dinghy Cruising Journal 260
Entre Terre et Der 2023
Our plan was to travel with three boats and a single car to the meeting of the AS Seil association Lac du Der.
Rene decided to leave his Viola in the shed and crew with Hubert on Hatseflats.
So we only had to put Koos' Artemis canoe on top of Hatseflats on the trailer.
Early Thursday morning we fired up all three cylinders of the car and started our 700km journey towards Champagne-Ardennes.
Despite the small engine we were impressed that our car pulled us over the hills with little effort.
We arrived late in the afternoon and met up with Emmanuel who had made a similar trip from far away Brittany with four people in the car and two boats on the trailer.
Friday 6 October
After a relaxed breakfast we launched our boats.
Since drones were prohibited, Koos went looking for a big stick to fly his old GoPro as a makeshift antenna for 'aerial' recordings.
He tied his camera to a big tree branch but apart from hindering his sailing the results were too shaky to be useful.
Meanwhile more and more boats were launched and exploring the lake.
It was 'blowing' a force 2 and we were enjoying the best wind of the weekend.
After apero and dinner we watched a presentation by a local volunteer about the importance of the Lac du Der as a European hub for cranes and many other migratory birds, whose French names I have forgotten.
Saturday 7 October
When Christophe held the briefing at the sailing club it was already hot.
We were to sail and have lunch at Sainte Marie du Lac at the north shore of the lake, some 8 km away.
Pierre (Goat Island Skiff) and I were going to swap boats, but since there was so little wind we decided to stick to our own boats for the meantime.
We followed the fleet to the Ile de Chantecoq where we would wait for the slower boats.
Many boats sported jibs and gennakers to make the most of the little wind.
On Hatseflats with its crew of two and the single lug sail we felt a bit underpowered as we sailed in the second half of the fleet.
At Sainte Marie du Lac we found some shade between the trees to enjoy our 'dejeuner a l'herbe'.
Because of our previous visits we found it easier to talk with our French friends who were eager to explore the Dutch waterways and join events such the Raid Extreme and the Dorestad Raid.
Quite a number of people went for a swim after lunch to cool down.
Rene found the water ice cold so I gave it a miss.
On the return trip we feasted our eyes on the big rigs of some of the other boats.
I particularly liked the Seil with its cloud of sails as it glided past.
Even then I prefer the simplicity of my boat with single sail and I am prepared to row if there is not enough wind.
After the dinner of 'moules and frites', Emmanuel presented about the Challenge Naviguer Leger.
This is an informal challenge for experienced and self-sufficient dinghy cruisers who can sail and row up to 40-50km each day.
You must not be afraid of leaving your comfort zone if you want to join this event!
More information: see issue 331 of The French Chasse Maree magazine for a report of the Challenge Naviguer Leger in 2022 which was held in the Netherlands.
Or look up the qualification criteria of the 'Challenge Naviguer Leger' on the site of
The evening was closed by sculptor Marco Dessardo who gave a humourous and often hilarious presentation about his art projects.
Marco became friends with Emmanuel when he was making boat-like sculptures
such as this floating 'cabane'.
You can see more of Marco's projects at www.dessardo.com.
Sunday 8 October
It was again hot and sunny and even less wind.
As on the previous days, I donned my hat and covered arms and legs to protect myself from the sun.
We were to sail to the church to the east of the marina and have lunch at the sailing club on our return.
When we left the marina there was just a breath of air from the south.
Once we got onto the lake the wind died off.
We followed the fleet towards the church in the company of Koos.
The beach around the church was quite muddy so we decided not to stop and go ashore.
On the broad reach back to the marina we were only making 0,5 knots.
With Rene at the helm I moved forward and sat in the anchor well to use the single paddle for some extra speed.
Helped by the wind and a steady rhythm we got to 2.6 knots.
Halfway to the marina we surprised Pierre who was gently rowing his Skerry along.
The saying goes that whenever there are two boats on the water, there is a race.
This time Pierre wanted to make it a race and started rowing faster.
As Pierre was accelerating I put more power into my paddling.
We slowly got to 3 knots and left Pierre behind.
There were still a couple of boats in front of us so I started to paddle even harder.
We finally reached 3.1 knots on the single paddle and by some clever steering of Rene we were the first to enter the marina.
We enjoyed our packed lunch and white wine in the shade on the terrace at the sailing club.
Many sailors said goodbye as they were leaving for home after lunch.
We were staying on and hoped that the wind would pick up a little during our afternoon sail.
Rene and I were the first to sail out of the marina.
We wanted to sail east past the church and explore the original lake beyond a narrow passage.
As we were nearing the church in a S1 we saw some of the other boats leave the marina to follow us.
We expected that Marco and Pierre would quickly overtake us with their gennakers but they stayed behind us for a long long time.
We were still in front when we reached the shallow opening to the older lake.
Pierre was the first to overtake us, followed by Marco with his Viola.
After a while Emmanuel ghosted past us with his big three-sail rig (20m2 total area).
I didn't fancy a long upwind leg back to the marina so I lowered the rig and started rowing.
This time I beat my personal record by rowing at 3.1 knots.
After we had put our boats on the trailer we walked with our French friends to the Pirogue Bleue for dinner and pleasant conversation.
It was a very enjoyable ending to our weekend in France.
We thanked our hosts and friends and promised to return next year.
On Monday morning we left after breakfast and returned to Dokkum in the early evening after a very enjoyable weekend.
Rene ready for take-off in Hatseflats. Photo Hubert
Paul in the first ever Silmaril. Photo Hubert
Sailing out to the lake. Photo Christophe
Koos wielding his Gopro-tree. Photo Hubert
Sunshine and a breeze on Saturday. Photo Hubert
Beach party. Photo Jean-Marie
Sunday lunch at the sailing club. Photo Hubert
Pierre and Marco ghosting with their gennakers. Photo Hubert
Emmmanuel gliding along with his three-sail rig. Photo Hubert