Boy, the horns from tall ships are loud. But they are so beautiful that you just don’t care – even if you jump out and your drink spills everywhere every time they go off.
The SAIL is a huge maritime event that happens in Amsterdam every 5 years, and this year it started on the 19th of August. Although the name of the event is SAIL, no one actually sails. This is the largest public event in the Netherlands, and tall ships come from all around the world to moor in Amsterdam’s eastern harbour, and they open to public visits.
The first day of the event is called SAIL-In. All the tall ships arrive and people stop what their are doing to go watch them come. Many take chairs to sit by the channels, some people sail their boats around, some just stop their boats on the water to watch the show… Everyone is trying to get the best view.
The ships arrived during the afternoon to anchor at the event’s location. Many choose to play music, do a presentation or just wave at everyone.
Every five years, about 600 ships navigate along the North Sea Canal before mooring in and around the IJhaven in Amsterdam.
While people were headed to the Oranjehaven to watch the ships arrive, I had the priviledge to head over to a sweet spot in Zaandam (20 minutes from Amsterdam) called Nieuwe Zeehaven. I was on a boat all day celebrating SAIL and watching the ships and other boats sail by – and taking shots of everything.
SAIL Video Diary
I managed to compile some bits that I filmed during the day into a video – it’s nothing professional – and they may seem random, and that’s because I wasn’t really expecting to upload a video. But I wanted to share with you a little bit of what I saw during the 4 days of the event, so I sat down and tried to edit everything into what I think can pass off as a decent video to watch.
It was a complete runaway of boats and ships of all shapes and sizes. Everyone who had a boat, was on the water that day. People would sail around, or just stop and watch, have a party, dance on their boats, talk to other people on boats, and the general feeling was Gezellig.
A sense of togetherness overcame me, I could say that after living here for 4 years, I finally belonged in some way. I was a boat person – and more importantly, a boat lover. The dutch really value their maritime culture, and I guess we can all get that idea from the history books and museums about dutch culture. But to be there to witness it, is incredible.
Having the chance to enjoy the first day and the last of SAIL in a boat chasing and watching the ships was almost indescribable. I wanted to come to this event so badly before I even moved here, after seeing pictures from the 2010 edition. And I still had to wait three whole years.
The weather was cloudly and a bit rainy, but as the night started to fall, some ships looked beautiful with the sunset light and after dark, the ships lit all their lights.
By the time we reached Java Eiland (next to Central Station), we stopped the boat in the middle of the water channel, alongside hundreds of others. It was one of the most special experiences I ever had here in Amsterdam. All the boats and ships had their lights on, and we were all just getting cozy in the cold night, waiting for the fireworks show to finish the first day of the SAIL.
After the firework show ended, all the boats and ships on the water sounded their horns as loud as they could for several minutes. I was so overly excited I didn’t even care about how loud it was (or about my eardrums) and all I did was run to the front of our boat, look around me and enjoy the “concert”.
My SAIL advice? Be on a boat. It doesn’t have to be during the first or the last day, but give yourself the opportunity to sail next to the tall ships and enjoy the overall feeling of the event. Just remember that if you sail a small boat during the last day in the location of the event, it will crowd the channel and it will make it difficult for them to leave, and all the boats in the channels are escorted by the water police to leave the channels where the tall ships are. If you want to sail next to the ships as they leave, just go in the direction of the Ijsselmeer river and wait for them to come.
Don’t forget to sound off your horns!
You can read about SAIL’s history on their website.
From 11:30 – 20:30 @ Nieuwe Zeehaven, Zaandam
From 21:00 – 23:00 @ Water channel behind Java Eiland, Amsterdam