The Linssen Grand Sturdy Sóleyja

Handover of the Linssen Grand Sturdy "Sóleyja"

The time had finally arrived. We were about to leave for Maasbracht for the handover of our new Linssen Grand Sturdy 40.0 Sedan. During the production phase, we had been regularly kept up to date on progress with e-mails and pictures, so we couldn’t wait to see her in real life.

It was an indescribable feeling to finally be allowed on board our boat

11.3.2021, Thursday

Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the rules introduced as a result, which often differed from country to country, the journey from Switzerland to Maasbracht was anything but easy.

We don’t much like driving with a roof box, but there was no point debating it: We had so much stuff to transport we could hardly fit into the car ourselves.
The next question soon arose: Which border crossing should we choose? Understanding or complying with the mandatory pandemic restrictions was difficult because they varied according to country and region and changed almost daily. We eventually decided to travel through France and cross into Germany at the green border. French customs vehicles were actually lurking at both the road into and the road out of the border town of Leymen. This briefly raised our adrenaline levels... Fortunately, we weren’t stopped. In France at that time you were only allowed to move within a radius of up to 30 km around your home. The route via Weil is 28 km. The border crossing into Germany went smoothly, as did the rest of the journey towards the Netherlands. The weather was quite stormy. Shortly before the Dutch border, a stretch of motorway on the German side had been closed due to storm gusts, resulting in a huge traffic jam. But we took this in our stride as well and arrived, quite tired, at Hotel Crasborn in Thorn in the evening. We were the only guests and the waiting chef made a meal just for us. Due to the coronavirus restrictions we had to have dinner in a repurposed suite room, as all the restaurants were closed because of the virus. After a short walk through the deserted town we returned to the hotel. We resisted the temptation to stop by the boatyard. Very reluctantly though, because the sense of anticipation was enormous. It was fortunate that the outward journey had gone so smoothly and we went to bed quite tired - the next day was the big day!

The handover of the Sóleyja
Martin and Monica Bolsinger behind the helm

Handover of the Sóleyja: 12.3.2021, Friday

As we were up early but not expected at the Linssen boatyard until 10.00 am, we took a long walk through Thorn, the white town, down to the water’s edge. Apparently, the houses were whitewashed to reflect more daylight into their dark rooms. This happened after the occupying French devised a window tax to raise money during the Napoleonic period. The inhabitants quickly reduced the size of their windows and whitewashed their houses in order to pay less tax...

At last, it was time. We turned up at the boatyard’s reception at 10.00 am on the dot, in accordance with their schedule. We were immediately directed to the “Upper Deck”, a terrace in the exhibition hall with a view of all the boats on display. This is where we had signed the contract a year and a half before with clammy hands, looking uncertainly at each other. Are we really doing this now? But at the family council after the return trip to Basel, all the children helped us to make the project a reality, even if it had come as a bit of a surprise.
But first, at the boatyard, there were birthday wishes and a huge cherry bee-sting cake for Monica! Everyone was there: Rennie Hénuy, Fred Spadlo, Yvonne Linssen, Angela van Roy and Paul Smits. After coffee and cake, the big moment finally came: We could go aboard the Sóleyja for the first time. It was an indescribable feeling to finally be allowed on board our boat after about one and a half years’ wait! 

We were met by a pleasant smell of teak. The boat was heated to a comfortable level, which made it really inviting. A bouquet of flowers also decorated the interior. After a short period of genuine admiration on our part, we were given a detailed briefing by Paul, Yvonne’s husband. So much technical and practical information - I was quite overwhelmed at times and hoped Martin understood it better and could follow the thread. He seemed to be following it all well, or at least he pretended to...
Around 2.00 pm we had a sandwich lunch and cake again for dessert, after which the instruction continued. To round off the day, we then went on a small excursion. The yacht was wonderfully easy to steer. Everything was slow and leisurely, even the mooring manoeuvre was relaxed. Rennie kindly helped us to transport all our stuff from the car on to the boat. Everything was still new. It had an enormous amount of storage space, which is why we put off tidying everything away until the next day. Slowly we felt the pent-up tension ease and give way to a feeling of disbelief that the yacht was now a reality.
After this very eventful and quite intense day we went back to the hotel, too tired for a proper dinner

Putting stuff away: 13.3.2021, Saturday

We went shopping on Saturday morning as we wanted to have breakfast on the Sóleyja. It’s a strange feeling to be able to move into such a perfect yacht without having to patch up or correct anything first. Then it was time to put things away, which gave me a lot of pleasure. We discussed where it would be best to put the various items. Time and again we discovered drawers and cupboards. The storage space on the boat seemed to be endless. In no time at all, the entire contents of the Volvo, including the roof box, had been stowed away. Next door, other people were getting a sister ship ready for an outing. A young woman was fixing her hair as she could see her reflection in our lightly tinted windows. Monica waved at her. She kept tweaking her hair and didn’t actually see us watching her. A clear sign that we were obviously not easy to see behind the windows. Good to know! Towards evening we drove back to the hotel for the last time and had dinner.

Wild horses: 14.3.2021, Sunday

We brought the hotel breakfast we ordered on board with us, because we couldn’t wait: That day we would be making our first trip alone! Exciting!
We set off at 2.00 pm. We spent about three hours on the Maas, heading towards Thorn and aiming for the Van der Laan Yachting marina, the first mooring in the Netherlands. As we weren’t paying proper attention, we made a turn too early and ended up in a small side basin with very little draft, so the depth alarm went off. Still a metre under the keel. We had to move forward, further into the small basin, so that we could turn round. All around us were old, rusting scrap barges and a scrapped harbour crane. There were thrills aplenty. Merely sailing in was a challenge: The strong currents in the Maas caused a considerable lateral offset when turning into the side channel. Martin managed to slowly and carefully extricate us from the basin again. Lesson learned: Always plan your trips! The first trip took us to the navigable end of the old Maas and back, past meadows containing wild geese, “wild horses”, which are actually ponies, and cattle. We even caught sight of deer. Before entering the marina, Martin did a little more practising to familiarise himself with the steering. The mooring manoeuvre worked out fine at the second attempt and we were happy to have experienced such a pleasant first trip.

Horses grazing along the old Maas
Horses grazing along the old Maas

We headed back because at 5.00 pm we were expecting Rennie, Paul and Yvonne Linssen for the final yacht inspection plus drinks. The obligatory champagne, provided by Linssen, was already in the fridge. It was a very pleasant and informal evening and we got the impression that everyone felt relaxed. After the champagne, the beer (“Chopfab”) we brought with us was thoroughly tested. The party broke up only just before curfew time (at the time 9.00 pm), otherwise it could have gone on for ages.
That would have been nice, but we were still overwhelmed by the events of the previous few days and were therefore dead tired. We hoped we could do it another time.
Suddenly Rennie took the floor and handed us a framed picture of the three of us, taken on the day of the handover. He asked us why we were sitting around in the marina and not venturing out. That was the cue! Making a split-second decision, we cast off the lines and sailed around on the gravel pits for a bit of practice. Finding a jetty, we practised mooring manoeuvres on both sides. We got better and better at it and, as dusk slowly fell, we returned to the Linssen marina. The mooring went very well and we were optimistic that we would manage the boat in no time. I made us a meal of Asian chicken with green vegetables.
To get some fresh air, we went back to the Maasplassen lake the next day and anchored off Thorn. The lake is up to 30 metres deep and we looked for a sandbank under water, which would reach up to 8 metres below the surface. From the cockpit (how chic!) I let the anchor rattle down under Monica’s supervision at the bow while gently reversing. After 25 metres of chain it became taut and... we stopped! We enjoyed the first rays of sun at anchor, sitting in the cockpit. It was so peaceful.

Skipper training: 19.3.2021, Friday

At 10.00 am, Jan Linssen, another member of the Linssen clan, was standing by. We departed immediately. He was a little jittery and kept trying to grab the wheel from me. However, he soon realised that I wasn’t a beginner. We quickly approached the first lock (Sluis Linne), which brings the old Maas to a lower level. I called ahead for our Sóleyja on the radio. What a thrill. It’s a huge lock designed for commercial shipping. We got the green light and sailed in immediately. We kept to the side of the helmsman’s position. A siren sounded and the gates closed. In about five minutes, the level in the huge basin fell by about five metres and the downstream gates were opened. We’d got through the first lock. After another lock (this time it took a bit longer for us to enter - maybe I didn’t press the button on the radio correctly and the lock control centre didn’t hear me. Jan tried on his radio and it worked), we turned into the Linne-Buggenum canal from the Maas at Roermond. In front of us and behind us were heavy barges loaded with sand and oil. They were so fast that it was hard for us to keep up the pace. It was a tight fit in the third lock shortly before Maasbracht. The lock keeper counted us in as “number 3”, so we let the sand carrier go ahead.
We waited until both barges had been secured and moored beside them. A friendly conversation was struck up between Jan and the female captain of the sand carrier. On the way out we had to watch out for the huge eddies caused by the barges and only left when they were in the upper lock gate. I accelerated a little too much and an eddy pushed the stern against the wall. But Jan was already on the spot to rectify the situation. I felt like a rookie. So there is something to be learned after all. Despite the slip, Jan seemed to be satisfied with me and said I was calmness personified and that was good.

The Russian: 20.3.2021, Saturday

We returned to the “Grote Hegge”, the lake in front of the beautiful white town of Thorn. At a landing stage in front of the nature reserve we managed to moor securely side-on. I made us some burgers. A “Vespa” wine from Landi supermarket had to go overboard: It was corked. What a shame!

After darkness had fallen, a small rowing boat chugged past. After a while I saw a big guy sitting in it, fiddling with the engine, in the dark. He was holding on to the jetty and looked kind of indecisive. I got dressed and went over to him, as I wanted to know if I could be of assistance. He spoke to me in slurred broken Russian-English: “Yem living hirrr. Nice eevening. Soo peessful. No problem. I am OK, thank you.” A little irritated, I went back in. We put out the lights and watched him.
He kept fiddling about, smoked and did a few circuits near us a few times. It got a bit creepy. He beached the boat and wandered around on shore. Again and again we saw his head torch, then it went dark again, and we heard the branches cracking but nothing else. He just stood there for ages. Really weird. The Belgian-Dutch border runs exactly along the dam. Maybe that had something to do with it. I really started to wonder if we should go back. He fiddled with his mobile phone and suddenly got into the boat, sailed around in circles indecisively again and moved away towards the outlet of the lake. For a long time I could still see the glow of his cigarette through the binoculars, getting smaller and smaller. We locked our boat and felt relatively safe inside, despite this spooky experience. Actually, it’s a 15-tonne safe made of 6 mm steel... Nevertheless, we didn’t get a completely relaxed night’s sleep...

Home port for 2021: 21.3.2021, Sunday

We moved from the natural jetty to the transit jetty at Thorn and discovered the Russian’s rowing boat there. It looked pretty battered and ramshackle. We locked our boat securely and went walking in the nature reserve. It was impressive to see how successfully nature had reclaimed the gravel pits. We saw a lot of trees that had been gnawed on by beavers, but we couldn’t find any beaver burrows. Even very large trees had been cut down into the water. A little further on we saw the wild horses we had already seen from the boat. They were not at all shy and didn’t let us stop them from grazing peacefully. One foal even dared to come very close to me and sniffed at my camera, only to perform wild leaps in the air shortly afterwards. It was probably surprised by its own courage.

Deeper into the area we saw free-ranging Galloway cattle and geese and found tracks of other wildlife in the area. Having taken the air, we made ourselves a warming coffee with pastries and enjoyed the view through the Sóleyja’s large windows. Towards evening, we went for the first time to our new mooring in the Van der Laan Yachting marina, right next to the ugliest boat in the harbour, the “fat piglet”. There will probably be more to report on this...

The yacht of Martin and Monica Bolsinger

Warranty inspection: 23.3.2021, Tuesday

After spending a lazy day strolling around Maasbracht the previous day, we headed off to the scheduled warranty inspection. The yacht had no major defects, only very minor cosmetic flaws. We were also having our LTE/WiFi antenna installed in the top spreader of the mast and the router in the electronics box to give us a better chance of good reception in future. We had also decided to have a deck wash pump installed so we could hose down the anchor as soon as we’d retrieved it, as the high freeboard made it difficult to use a water bucket alone. Everything on this boat is a few sizes bigger than on the Luffe...

Apparently there was an owner in the marina who kept a piglet on the ship as a pet, I learned with an old Belgian with a smoky, beery voice during our first quayside chat. He was only a year older than me. According to him, the piglet had long since died and so had the owner, two weeks later. The Russian was probably a Pole and had probably been fishing illegally with nets, he said. I still thought it was creepy.

In the late afternoon, we proceeded to the boatyard marina, where Paul met us at 5.00 pm and patiently went through the “list of defects” with us. I called it a “to-do list” because the defects were really minor, almost insignificant flaws. Afterwards we transferred our sleeping quarters back to the Hotel Crasborn in Thorn where, as returning customers, we were given a wonderful suite room.

Drinks as in Estavayer: 27.3.2021, Saturday

On Wednesday morning, we moved the car to the car park at the Van der Laan Yachting marina and unpacked our new e-bikes for the first time. Although the Netherlands is quite flat, it’s always windy. It always feels like a headwind, at least it seems that way. Anyway, we were very happy to be able to ride along the old Maas with electric assistance. In no time at all we’d covered 20 km without any effort. This made going the extra mile really fun.
I went back to the boatyard to check on the progress of the work. The fitter was a bit grumpy because running the hoses for the deck wash pump was not easy as we had had a beautiful bilge floor put in. But by evening most of the work had been done (centring the searchlight, installing the WiFi/GSM router and antenna and fixing a broken LED under the stairs, an unstable floor panel in the owner’s cabin, small paint scratches, etc.), only the deck wash pump and the engine check had not been done yet. Since the sun was shining brightly, we had a seat on a park bench with a table directly above the Sóleyja and enjoyed the moment. Paul came over and we briefly discussed the work. Then he said it was so nice that we ought to have a drink and disappeared to get a bottle of wine. Shortly after, Rennie arrived, waving two bottles and three glasses in the air. He said Paul had told Yvonne and Yvonne had told him. Minutes later we were all at the table enjoying a fine Chardonnay and some crisps from the Sóleyja’s cellar. The jokes were flying around when Fred Spadlo also showed up and made his rubbish from home disappear into the container at the boatyard. It was a really nice evening, just like in Estavayer. When it definitely got too cool, everyone said goodbye, Yvonne and Paul returning to the office again. They all work hard, but also take the time to have a drink. That seems right.
Although we were able to stay on the boat overnight, we had to get up early in the morning. We passed the time by doing some sightseeing in the area around Maasbracht and found an impressively restored Spanish fort in Stevensweert. When we returned at noon the work was finished and we moved back to the Van der Laan Yachting marina.

On Friday we finally went to pick up our compact vacuum cleaner in Venlo, after several attempts failed (delivery problems in Switzerland, delivered items were returned by Van der Laan Yachting). Venlo has a very attractive town hall. But even here there was no sign of life in the shops and restaurants, despite the cold but beautiful weather.

In spite of the stormy wind, we enjoyed our evenings at the big table in the sheltered cockpit. A whole new feeling.

Long-distance birthday: 29.3.2021, Monday

Spring had arrived! That day it was forecast to get above 15°C for the first time. After a thorough cleaning of the inside of the boat we got rid of the dust for a short time. It’s unbelievable how much dust two people can stir up! We made a perfect casting-off manoeuvre and moved back to the town jetty in Thorn. It was noticeable that Easter was approaching as suddenly there were several motor yachts on the move. We even saw a few kiters and a lonely surfer on the “Grote Hegge”, the lake in front of Thorn. We again enjoyed a short walk through the nature reserve and later sunbathed under our boat’s open convertible roof in dead calm conditions. Towards evening, we made a quick FaceTime call to Gregory to wish him a happy birthday. His siblings had invited him to a birthday dinner. So nice! We made ourselves Beef Stroganoff with mashed potatoes and settled down to enjoy the sunset.

Bike tour: 30.3.2021, Tuesday

It was another beautiful day and we decided to go on a bike tour. We cycled along the Maas to Maaseik in Belgium, all on cycle paths - great!
After some initial uneasiness about being in Belgium, we managed to forget about it and really enjoy the ride. In Maaseik, where we had stayed overnight in October 2019, we had a freshly made sandwich and then headed back home. The bikes were perfect for our needs and we were very happy with our companions.

Back on the boat, Martin had a conference call and was able to log on from the boat. Later he filled the water tank. Our neighbour on the jetty knocked on the window and pointed out that we were filling up with Maas water. He said it was the blue hose, not the yellow one. Bother! We had to empty the tank immediately, refill it and sterilise it with sodium hypochlorite. Martin hadn’t noticed the sticker and was annoyed that he had filled the new drinking water tank with dirty Maas water.

First service: 1.4.2021, Thursday

On Wednesday, we sailed to the Linssen boatyard in Maasbracht. The transmission oil was due to be changed the next day.

The comfort seats we ordered had already arrived and we picked them up from Marine-Shop Schuller - just right for the upcoming Easter tour, we thought. A Volvo service engineer came on board a little later and did the oil service with much eye-rolling. “Everybody wants something done just before Easter,” he said. Martin served him a coffee and all was well. In fact, he would remember Martin’s name a little later when we met him again in Wessem just before the Easter tour. That never hurts.

On board of Sóleyja


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