I discovered chips with mayonnaise in 1966, I was thirteen. We were in Friesland, sailing, moored rather disconcertingly on a bouncing island. Everywhere we went there were stalls selling this exotic mix, and I loved it.
My father had decided that this year we would abandon the comforts of the cabin cruiser and go proper sailing. He loved the unusual and back then chartering a boat from Sneek in Holland was unusual. Remember no internet research just gut feeling.
The taxi driver who drove us from Amsterdam to Sneek must have thought it was Christmas. We were loaded with so much clobber and we were going 125 kms.
The drive took us over water on the A 7. It was a never ending gloomy drive, water on either side. We had not a word of Dutch between us although my mothers was very proud to crack thank you and goodbye very quickly.
Sneek was then a small town, probably still is, and the driver found his way to the boatyard and the owner of the 'Element'. A nice boat, maybe 30 footer. This wizened true boat man came out of one of the sheds and looked at us in disbelief that the three of us were off round the Ijsselmeer. By that time I had perfected the trade mark 13 year old pout and sulk. My father however, was in seventh heaven. Charts were handed over along with an ancient army compass and that was it, we were off.
We had heard of the storms on this shallow, large inland lake, but we were confident in my father's experience. We rated it as the best holiday ever.
My mother found the people in Friesland odd. It was their determination, she said. To wear full national costume and speak a totally different dialect. It was different but the scenery was just stunning.
Mile after mile of canals, mooring on bouncy islands, and of course chips. There is a downside though. My mother discovered tinned meat balls. To this day I can’t eat them. My father bless him, just gobbled them down.
We came across a small town that had a large Dutch barge that was on dry land and was a restaurant. It looked very strange.
We did hit stormy weather on the Ijsselmeer crossing to Hoorn. It wasn’t a pleasant trip and I remember very low banks, chamfered with tiny pebbles, as a protection against tidal surges. But they were very low.
We skirted along the edges of these taking shelter before scuttling in to hide wherever we could.
Damp, miserable and hungry, we walked into the town, the name long gone sadly, and before we could even open our mouths the menu was passed to us open on the English page. My mother never got over that. What was the giveaway ?
It was the most amazing holiday. We returned the boat dutifully after two weeks and I am certain the owner was convinced he’d never see us again.
When you head out with your gps, radar, depth sounding, mobile phones, remember us with that old army compass on that holiday, the best ever.
Lead poto is of my father and I on the Elemente in Sneek, Holland.