During a recent visit to Germany I went with my friend Peter Donnison to the Marina Strijensas in Holland to spend a couple of days fixing a winter cover over his and his wife Petra's Hallberg-Rassy 352 yacht. It just so happened that our route from Meerbusch (near Düsseldorf) to the marina took us via the Dutch town of Nijmegen and over the famous Nijmegen bridge.
We stopped whilst I took a few photographs of the bridge, because my father, Kenneth Taylor, spent a few weeks there and in Nijmegen itself during the Allied advances in 1944. His experiences are recorded in his war diary. Since then he has never returned to Nijmegen so I took the photos for old times' sake.
The Nijmegen bridge crosses the Waal river, which in Germany is the Rhine (Rhein) and on whose banks stands Düsseldorf and further south, Cologne (Köln). It seems rather odd that the great river Rhine never makes it to the sea in its own name, much better known than the Waal (unless you were defending the Nijmegen bridge in 1944).
Under the bridge: "Jonathan" (Seagull)
In 2003 Peter and Petra took six months off to sail their yacht - "Jonathan" - from Düsseldorf through Holland (passing under the Nijmegen bridge), along the English Channel, down the Bay of Biscay and into the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar, then returning northwards (under engine power) up the Rhone and other rivers and finally passing again under the Nijmegen bridge en route back to their starting point at Düsseldorf. Of course they stopped at various interesting places along the way, and in Peter's words, a good harbour has to be earned.
Pictured above is "Jonathan" (Seagull) in dry dock at the Marina Strijensas on 12th October 2005, before we put the winter cover on. The yacht is beautiful inside and out. Its name comes from a 1970 story by Richard Bach called Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Pete and I slept very comfortably on board, but apparently this is not the same as sleeping on the boat when it is actually at sea.
The wooden struts visible in the picture are not part of the boat but are to support the two-piece cover which is draped over the boom and spinnaker pole, which are also supported on wooden struts. A commercially manufactured cover would be very expensive because of the complexity of fitting it around the shape of the boat and all the shrouds and other wires. So, with just a little help from me, Pete has made the cover from a large rectangular plastic sheet cut into two, one part in front of the mast and the other behind. It was fun, but not as much fun as when we flew our model aeroplanes and boomerangs together in our early teens 45 years ago.
I could never take on the responsibility of a sea-going yacht, even if I had the time and money. For me, sailing is (or was) a contact sport and a boat - a racing dinghy in my case - just a weapon. But I can understand the satisfaction in the challenge of mastering seamanship and navigating the world's oceans not only oneself but in harmony with a crew of like-minded people.