Middleburg ú Zeeland, Netherlands
In her voyages so far, 'Duyfken' has had some tremendous welcomes to the ports she has visited. We have been met by dug out canoes in Indonesia, traditional warriors in Papua New Guinea, kora kora canoes in Banda, firefighting tugs in Sydney and Amsterdam, warships off the Pennefather river and in the North Sea, VOC protesters in Amsterdam and princes, politicians and personalities all over the place. Another first today, though, when we were met by a fleet of cyclists. (I am not sure if that is the correct terminology for a group of bike riders but it will do for a simple seafarer like me.) After another day in Vlissingen, getting the ship ready for èmuseum modeî we departed the berth at 1100, on a foggy morning, to head up the canal to Middleburg. We were to be met by a flotilla of local vessels to escort us up but I suppose no one told the swing bridge operator. After opening the bridge and calling us through, it inexplicably closed again as we were making the approach, and we had to wait for 25 minutes for the next opening. Luckily there was no wind and we were able to hold station. When we finally made it through, the convoy formed up, a big leeboard barge, a smaller gaff ketch, which looked like a converted fishing vessel and a number of yachts. What was most amazing though was the large number of cyclists that followed us along as we made our way up the canal, with crowds gathering to applaud our passage through the 4 swing bridges on the way. The numbers seemed to grow and grow as we got closer to the town, how some of them managed to take photos and control their bikes without riding into the canal, I do not know. A big welcome in Middleburg, a huge crowd, Marine band, traditional cannoneers in period costume and a large fleet of traditional flat bottomed barges, large and small, dressed overall in flags and banners. As we passed through the final bridge to enter the town we gave a long blast on the whistle as a greeting, only to be answered by a cacophony of sound, whistles, bells, car horns, cheering and a spectacular steam whistle from the restored tug èHerculesî Her whistle was set up to sound like laughter as the final notes came out, quite unique. Once alongside, I was whisked away up onto a big stage to join the Mayor for the welcome speeches, my reply was made to the biggest crowd I have ever spoken to. We were presented with a print of the old town of Middleburg, to be taken back to the museum in Fremantle ú apparently the one that is already there, supposedly of Middleburg is in fact not, and this one will correct the error. Nice to get these things correct. My final duty was to fire off a cannon to officially open the celebrations ú at first the powder in the touchhole would not burn from the fuse but when it did the gun went off with a bang. I could get to like these cannons; we had better hurry up and get our bronze one tested so that we can use it. Finally, after a tremendous effort from all the crew, the ship is set up properly for public display, and we were overwhelmed with visitors for the rest of the day. My final duty, with the commanding officer of the warship èHarlingenî was a review of the fleet of traditional boats as they sailed past. As each group of 3 came abeam of the 'Duyfken' they lowered their headsail in salute and we responded by dipping the red ensign. All in all quite a day and we look forward to continued good visitor numbers over the next 3 days. We leave again on Monday morning, bound for Rotterdam.