The Standing Mast Route – Part 1

By |Published On: April 10, 2024|Categories: Europe, Netherlands|1179 words|4 Comments|

Farewell to Reitdiephaven

After six cold, wet winter months in the Reitdiep Marina in Groningen, our contract was up and it was time to leave.

Yuma in Reitdiep Marina.

Our destination was Makkum, a small town in the province of Friesland that is a hive of aluminium yacht building and boasts a big and comfortable marina. Here, we had arranged new rigging and sails for Yuma. The sails were already finished and waiting to be fitted, plus we had a date set for an appointment with the riggers. And then there were all the other jobs to get her ready for a new season, and ultimately for the big trip to Australia.

Scenery in Reitdiep Marina.

My brother and his partner, Frans and Lisetta, were keen to come along for the first leg of the trip, from the Reitdiep to Lauwersoog via the Standing Mast Route (explained below). With them not being sea-going folk, this inland canal trip seemed a good, protected option. Our first preference for departure, Easter Monday, turned out not to be an option because the bridge keepers thought they deserved a holiday and wouldn’t be available to open the bridges for us. The next opportunity was the Friday after Easter. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was not fantastic: strong headwinds and rain, perhaps even hail. But Yuma had an appointment in Makkum the following Monday, so rain or shine, Friday it was.

Family party

Early Friday morning, Frans and Lisetta arrived well prepared with lots of warm clothes, raincoats and rainpants. To add to the family feel, my mother and my sister, Harriët, also came along to wave us goodbye from the jetty. And then, just to make it even more ‘gezellig’, my second cousin, Jeroen Kroon, showed up too! It all turned into a nice little gathering.

Family gathering to farewell Yuma and crew.

What’s more, the sun was shining just a little, perhaps the weather would not be too bad after all…?

Frans and Lisetta had settled in on Yuma, endured a quick safety induction, and then it was time to leave. A final round of goodbye hugs with those onshore and we dropped the lines and pushed off! After six months of not sailing, it was all a bit of an adjustment, but we got out of the marina without any damage (to Yuma, to ourselves, and to other boats).

David manoeuvering Yuma out of Reitdiep Marina.

Then it was a sharp left-turn onto the Reitdiep, heading along the Standing Mast Route towards Zoutkamp.

The Standing Mast Route

The Standing Mast Route is a designated route for sailing and motor boats with a mast or superstructure height of more than six meters, via inland waterways in the Netherlands. Using this route, one can travel from Zeeland (in the southwest of the Netherlands) to the IJsselmeer area, and then on to Friesland and Groningen (in the north of the Netherlands), and vice versa. There are no fixed bridges on this route, so one can travel through inland waters even with an 18 m mast (like Yuma). Besides being fun and interesting to do at least once, it is also a safe route in case of bad weather on the North Sea or Wadden Sea.

The weather forecast

For the weekend we wanted to travel from Groningen to Makkum, the weather forecast was not that bad, but sailing to Makkum via the Wadden Sea or North Sea would certainly not be easy or fast. There was a strong southwesterly and it was forecasted to increase over the weekend. And, of course, southwest was exactly the direction we had to go in. Endless tacking on the Wadden Sea was not really an option, given the shallow, narrow channels and strong tidal currents that we were not (yet) familiar with. Going around the Wadden Islands across the North Sea was also not really an option, as we would then have to sail straight into the strong wind and big seas. The Standing Mast Route through Groningen and Friesland would be much more comfortable. Still against the wind, but no waves and no need to tack.

The weather is getting worse

Soon after we sailed into the Reitdiep, the first bridge, the Zernike Bridge, was opened for us. A short distance later we passed through the lock at Dorkwerd with a few other boats, and again waved goodby to my mother, sister and second cousin who had come by car to the lock to watch us go through. After looking left-right-left for large commercial barges, we crossed the Van Starkenborgh canal, waved our final goodbyes, and our trip through the real Reitdiep began. Now the wind started to blow a bit more, and, were those the first raindrops?

Our new crew steering Yuma along the Reitdiep.

We soon motored past the ‘backyard’ of friends in Sauwerd and further on in Garnwerd, a beautiful old village with a windmill (David’s favourite Dutch structures), past a famous and delicious restaurant that might have served as a lunch stop.

Windmill ‘de Meeuw’ in Garnwerd.

Sadly, those few raindrops we had felt earlier had now turned into a heavy, wind-driven shower, and we decided it was best to just push on before it got even worse.  So, on we went straight to Zoutkamp.

Wind and hail

Beyond Garnwerd the weather just got worse and worse.  Dense clouds, strong wind on the bow (of course), torrential rain and occasionally hail.

A lovely spring-day on Dutch waters…

What a lovely day for Frans and Lisetta to come along with us…! Luckily, it didn’t spoil the fun too much, they had warm clothes and we had hot tea and coffee and Zuidlaarderbol (a type of fruit loaf) on board.

Frederieke and Lisetta warming up inside.

Frans expertly steered Yuma through the storm across the Reitdiep, he seemed to enjoy it so perhaps he will give up that Porsche and get himself a yacht!

After a bit more supervision, Frans solo-steered Yuma through the Reitdiep towards Zoutkamp.


After about four hours through the winding Reitdiep we arrived at Zoutkamp. There was space for us to spend the night in the guest marina (obviously no one else was crazy enough to be out in this weather!).

Arrival in Zoutkamp.

Almost immediately after we had docked, the bad weather cleared, the rain stopped and the sun came out from behind the clouds. To add insult to injury, the Dutch weather app (Buienradar) showed that the bad weather had lasted exactly the four hours we had spent on the Reitdiep. Unbelievable…

David enjoying the harbour seat in Zoutkamp.

Fish & Chips

Zoutkamp is famous for its fisheries, and so naturally it was fish and chips for dinner before Frans and Lisetta took the bus back to Groningen. After their cold and wet experience, they weren’t exactly rushing to book their next trip with us. Maybe once we’ve made it to the warm tropics!

Comfort food! Kibbeling, lekkerbekje and lots of french fries, with mayonnaise.

Thanks to Frans en Lisetta for most of the photos!


  1. Frans June 23, 2024 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Het was een hele belevenis. Volgende keer gaan we voor beter weer!

  2. Jim June 26, 2024 at 1:00 am - Reply

    It seems you timed the Standing Mast journey perfectly! Or not, rather! Much like we strive to do in the Misty Mountain Moonshiners!

    • David Westcott July 4, 2024 at 2:02 pm - Reply

      We are pretty good at that sort of timing, Jim, contrary winds and rain are our thing. To be honest it’s one of the few things we’re good at. 🙂 As for the Misty Mountain Moonshiners, well, there you have an example of pure professionalism, nary a wrong step ever to be seen…

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The last passage of the year
The Standing Mast Route - Part 2