In part, my trip to the Netherlands was exactly what I thought it would be, but in a few regards it also really surprised me, and that for the better. After an early start at on Friday, I headed for the train station and hopped on a train to Hannover at 05:20. From there via Amersfoort I arrived in Den Haag about six hours later.
My sister who studies in Den Haag took me see the old city of the nearby Delft. The historic town center is a mix of narrow streets and countless channels, and now for the Christmas season, they are all illuminated with chains of white lights. It was just absolutely gorgeous. Passing by, I just couldn’t help but think that the many small restaurants overlooking the channels, would be a perfect place to take your special someone for a candlelight dinner. Maybe one day!
The arrival of Saturday, took me to Breda, which is about an hour away from Den Haag by rail. Once there I met up with Sven Stevens, a naval architect and huge proa fan. His 38 foot proa ‘Pacific Bee’ is one of the largest pacific proas in all of Europe. 38 feet (11.5m) sounds like a big boat, but my first impression upon seeing Pacific Bee was the exact opposite: it was much smaller than I had imagined. A long slim canoe body, even if it’s 38 feet long, is still a pretty small boat, at least compared to a monohull of similar length. That said, once we went inside, I was surprised to find a very cozy and roomy cabin. It even has a full 2 meters of standing headroom in the middle of the boat.
Pacific Bee was completely disassembled for the winter, but I had the opportunity to see the cockpit, lee pod, beams, rudders, and ama as well. We talked a great deal about Pacific Bee though, its capabilities, its limitations, some of the changes made to the boat over the years, and what could still be done to improve it. Overall the boat was in excellent shape, despite already being over 30 years old. Well built wood-epoxy boats just don’t go bad, and Pacific Bee proves it. Sven intends to sell the boat to help finance his next one: a beautiful 53-foot proa, designed for real ocean cruising. At over 5 tons displacement, the boat would be nearly ten times as heavy as the little ~7 meter proa I am tinkering on, and it’s a good deal more expensive than that, but it was great to see just what’s possible.
I left Breda with a lot of food for thought for the new design of my own boat. We run the proaforum together, and at times Sven has been like a mentor for me in this whole project, so it was great to finally meet in person, and also to get to poke around the boat with a tape measure. 😉 What really surprised me though was that the one of the most memorable parts of the weekend was still to come. More on that in part two!