With their committed, personal approach, Véronique and Lieven Vandeputte of BBoat Jachtcharter, with departure bases in Ieper and Kuurne (Kortrijk), will assure you of an unforgettable sailing experience on the wonderful waterways of West Flanders. For example, the “Flanders Fields Route” covering Nieuwpoort-Ypres-Veurne-Diksmuide-Nieuwpoort (with an optional extension to Bruges) is a perfect suggestion.
There are many well-known names that will invite you to continue your “voyage of discovery”... Names such as Yser, Leie, Plassendale-Nieuwpoort Canal, Ypres-Yser Canal, Lo Canal, Ghent-Ostend Canal, Nieuwpoort-Dunkirk Canal, Bossuit-Kortrijk Canal, Spierre-Lille Canal (restored in 2011). You will be surprised by the diversity of your boating experience and the natural beauty of Westhoek, a cruising area which is (still) regarded as a “secret tip”. Experience, respect and enjoy. Cruising in Westhoek is a unique experience… (which you may be inclined to repeat on another occasion!)
The “Great War” (1914-1918) – In Flanders Fields Centennial, Belgium (2014-2018). On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo. It was the proverbial flame that lit the powder keg, resulting in a political domino effect. Almost the whole of Europe was at war within eight days, a war that would change the lives of millions of people all over the world. It was a war that caused unimaginable suffering. Seventy million soldiers were mobilised, of whom over 9 million would never return home again... All the great powers were involved in WWI, including the British Empire, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and many countries besides.
The conflict that “would be over by Christmas” lasted for four long years. Westhoek in particular was the scene of many offensives and battles during this period. A ceasefire finally came into force on 11 November 1918 and, to this day, the time at which the weapons fell silent on the Western front is commemorated by Belgians and many others. The First World War was over. “Flanders Fields” became quiet and peaceful once more…
Water and waterways played a vital part in the course of the Great War. The Battle of the Yser (18-30 October 1914): Following heavy fighting, the Belgian Army flooded the area to the north of the River Yser and pulled back behind the Nieuwpoort-Diksmuide railway line. This protected the Army’s position and made the entire south-west corner of Belgium inaccessible. The “concept” of the flooding was cooked up in the town hall of Veurne with Karel Cogge. Karel was the inspector of the Noordwaterring and knew the water management system in the region like the back of his hand. The “Yser Front” therefore became relatively static and “quiet”, as in “all quiet on the Western front”…. Cogge could not have known at the time that his effective strategy would indirectly save the lives of many soldiers. “Only” 45,000 were killed on the Yser Front compared with 450,000 (!) on the Ypres Front.
Is this terrible chapter from the history of “civilised” people really a suitable subject for a brochure about motor yachts and pleasure sailing, do you think?
We can wholeheartedly answer “Yes it is!” And we will explain why. World War I tourism is inextricably linked to Westhoek. Anyone travelling through it cannot fail to notice the many cemeteries, memorials and other important sites. The moving multicultural wartime past is an indelible part of the landscape and engraved in its history. As many as fifty countries, as they exist today, played a part in the bizarre setting of the Great War in Westhoek.
Thousands of family members from around the world pass through Flanders Fields every year to visit the graves of their forefathers who found their last resting place there. It is a mark of honour, but it is also a statement that “such madness must never happen again!” For this reason, the “In Flanders Fields Museum” in Ypres is an absolute “must see”. Since 1928, the Last Post has been sounded under the Menen Gate in Ypres at 8 o’clock precisely every (!) evening: “must experience”!
Understandably, Visit Flanders prefers to describe this as “Peace Tourism” rather than “War Tourism”. Yes, the great War has become a “tourist product”, which sounds very macabre, but it is not if you look at it more closely. The visitors and family members from all corners of the world are grateful that a structure is in place to help them commemorate their forefathers. In this way, “a tourist product” has successfully become a mission for peace.
Sailing into history…
Ceremonies to commemorate the consequences of the assassination in Sarajevo 100 years ago will begin in 2014. The Westhoek Tourist Office has teamed up with Marinex (Linssen yachts’ Belgian dealer), BBoat Jachtcharter (the Linssen Boating Holidays® partner in Westhoek) and Linssen Yachts BV in the Netherlands to develop suggested routes and packages for visitors from all over the world who want to sail into history on a Linssen yacht.
In this unique way, visitors will be able to combine the serious aspects of the commemorations with the pleasurable experience of getting to know the historical, culinary and cultural delights of West Flanders. After all, who would not want to moor their “own” luxury motor yacht more or less in the centre of historic towns like Ghent, Bruges, Veurne, etc?!
Having fun in Westhoek
Having fun in Westhoek means sampling a St.-Bernardus, a Struise Rosse or a Hommeltje (local beers) in a typical brown bar. You could also relax in a sunny pavement cafe sipping a glass of Kerner or Pommelle (Heuvelland wine). Westhoek’s breweries enjoy a glittering reputation and many of them open their doors for visitors and tastings. Heuvelland’s winegrowers have successfully had Heuvelland recognised as a wine-producing region. Heuvelland wines are more than worthy of the AOC quality label they have been awarded. They are proud to share the winemaking process and their wines with visitors.
Having fun in Westhoek also means tucking into Flemish delicacies such as hennepot (chicken, rabbit and veal terrine), schelle van de zeuge (pork belly), kabeljauw aan de Schreve (cod in a beer sauce), boerestuutte met paté (paté sandwich), hammetje in Tripel van St Bernardus (ham shank cooked in beer) or Vleterse schuimtaart (meringue pie). Chefs from this region insist on using local produce to create unique and delicious dishes.
Having fun in Westhoek involves exploring mysterious buildings, hearing stories about smugglers and customs officers and visiting fascinating museums (Folk Experience, Hopmuseum and Mout- en Brouwhuis De Snoek).
Voyage of discovery
Linssen Yachts is contacting the chairpersons of the UK Linssen Owners Association, the LOG (Linssen Owners Group for the Netherlands and Belgium) and the LYEV (the German Linssen Yachts Owners Association) to invite their members to discover this special region and therefore introduce them to a new, attractive destination. BBoat and Linssen Yachts will be happy to assist international Linssen owners and Linssen Boating Holidays charter guests to plan their boat trip. A warm welcome in advance from Visit Flanders, the Westhoek Tourist Office and the Belgian Linssen Boating Holidays® partners!
The poppy is the logo of the “In Flanders Fields Museum”. The Canadian military doctor John McCrae experienced unimaginable scenes close to Ypres in 1915. He saw countless numbers of poppies growing in the fields and on the improvised cemeteries…. His poem went round the world:
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
• Studie 100 Jaar Groote Oorlog 2014-18, Vlaamse Overheid, november 2008
• Chris McNab, Het verhaal van de eerste wereldoorlog, ISBN 978-1-84588-669-1
• In Flanders Fields Museum, Lakenhallen, Grote Markt 34, B-8900 IEPER, www.inflandersfields.be
• NautiV-Vereniging van Vlaamse Nautische Bedrijven, www.nautiv.be
• Westhoek Marina, Brugsevaart, 48 B-8620 Nieuwpoort www.westhoekmarina.be
Grasmarkt 61, B-1000 BRUSSEL
Véronique en Lieven Vandeputte
Kortrijksestraat 39, B-8520 KUURNE
Tel.: +32 56 71 3904
GSM: +32 478 72 2496
Text: Peter Linssen; Photographs: VisitFlanders
Published in Linssen Magazine 42, October 2013