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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Prinses Mia
The Not Normal Voyager
November 26, 2013
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“It’s not normal.”
Martijn Dijkstra says of his new home, the 25-ton steel sailboat, Prinses Mia. She is, he says, “a monster of a boat” – 50 feet long. That is a lot of space after living aboard a 30 foot long boat for years, as Martijn did on his previous steel boat Rotop.

And the “It’s not normal” line also applies to Martijn’s approach to outfitting this vessel.

“Everyone says bigger boats are expensive,” Martijn says. “I want to prove they’re not.”

It helps that Martin is handy. His engine runs on used frying grease. His anchor is homemade. His windlass includes parts from a ship wreck, a muffler and an abandoned Maine sawmill.

Prinses Mia the morning of November 12 as she prepares to tow Primadonna out of the Oriental anchorage. The red vessel had occupied the Oriental for a year and was a source of controversy. The towing is what made many in town grateful to Prinses Mia’s captain, Martijn Dykstra.
Martijn beneath the sign that leads to Princes Mia’s forward cabin. “Alte Liebe” means “old love”. He says his dad found the sign at a flea market. Martijn says it reminds him of the boat’s past owners who poured much time and love in to her but never got to sail her much.

While Martijn had visited Oriental many times in the past half decade on Rotop, this November was the first time Prinses Mia came to town. Here is the story of Prinses Mia.

Princess Mia is massive, black and steel. Built to a German design for the rigors of the North Sea, she is 17 feet wide and measures over 50 feet from the tip of her bowsprit to the end of her wind vane. Her mast is so tall, Martijn says, “the VHF antenna hits when we go under a bridge.” Fellow sailors kidded Martijn she’d have a hard time navigating the ICW. She draws 7 feet. At 25 tons, she needs to be handled carefully, especially when docking. “She will pop most fenders,” Martijn says.

She could just as easily burst a sailor’s budget.

Conventional wisdom says big boats cost big money. The cost of equipment increases as displacement goes up. The ratio is not linear. While a new anchor for a 20 foot sailboat might cost under 100 dollars, for a 30 footer, it could run to the hundreds. For a 45 foot boat – especially one as heavy as Princess Mia – it could run in to the thousands.

Not so for Prinses Mia.

The pilot house house features an inside helm and engine controls. The three ports running down either side came from a salvage yard in Exeter, England.

After two decades of living aboard boats, Martijn had well-developed and resourceful ways for outfitting Prinses Mia. On deck, this approach has contributed greatly to Princes Mia’s look – both sturdily functional and colorful at the same time.

For instance, hanging from Prinses Mia’s starboard bow is a massive, slightly rusty anchor. While it resembles a $1,500 dollar version that might grace the anchor roller of a similarly-sized boat, Martijn acquired it for considerably less.

Like much of his cruising gear, he fabricated it himself.

“I built my anchor out of scrap steel,” Martijn says. Using an anchor he liked as his model, he cut pieces out of scrap steel plate and welded them together. Total price: $30. “If I had known how well it was going to work,” he says, “I would have built another one.”

Hauling up an anchor this size takes some effort and a windlass that, if bought new, would run into thousands of dollars. Martijn built his windlass for pennies on the dollar.

Princes Mia’s windlass. It is hand cranked.

When he got Prinses Mia, she had an electric windlass. Citing it as too complicated and expensive to operate – he says parts cost a fortune – he replaced it with a purely mechanical one. This one came from a scrapyard. It was little more than two large gears and two flywheels.

Martijn carries a generator and welding equipment aboard. Since he first installed his windlass, he replaced the original flywheels with a set he scavenged off a Portuguese wreck. The windlass is turned by hand. The wheels are so heavy, once they spin fast enough, the flywheel effect takes kicks in and Martijn says, “it’s very easy to raise the anchor.” To slow the chain as it deploys from the windlass, Martijn fashioned a brake from a stainless steel muffler mount. “The main gear,” he says, “is from an 1890 Belfast sawmill” in Maine.

Rather than pay to have Prinses Mia hauled to apply anti-fouling paint, he careened her while visiting Maine. He motored in to shallow water and waited for the tide to fall. To ensure she laid on the correct side as the water fell, he pulled over with a line attached to the top of the mast. To pull her down on one side, he used a spinnaker halyard attached to a tree. For the other, he used his cousin’s car. (Martijn Dijkstra photo)

Some of his innovations haven’t panned out. He says, “Once, I hooked a 50cc scooter motor to my anchor windlass. I attached it with belts. When I turned it on everything started shaking and jumping but the anchor came in real fast. For a time, I had the fastest anchor winch in the world. So nice if you’re in a hurry!”

In the end, though, he deemed the add-on “completely scary” and scrapped it. A slight bump, where he took a grinder to his creation, is still visible on Prinses Mia’s deck.

The stairs leading from the pilothouse to the main cabin. The stair treads were salvaged off a small Dutch cruise ship.

Below decks, Prinses Mia resembles a cross between a naval vessel and a maritime museum. Her bones are stout – her living quarters connected by three water tight compartments, each accessed by a steel door. Her bronze portholes have fold down reinforcements for storm conditions. But everywhere below, Princes Mia’s interior features more of Martijn’s resourceful salvaging. It starts with the first steps you take from the pilothouse. On the heavy set of wood companionway steps, each tread is capped with intricate brass plates from a cruise ship in Holland.

And then there’s the living area that would seem to calm a person in even the roughest seas. A Persian rug covers the hardwood cabin sole. A bronze and fabric lamp hangs over the solid oak galley table. None of these items were bought. Martijn says he came across most of them in the course of his travels. He pulled them from dumpsters, gathered them up at construction sites. Martijn comments often that he is amazed at what people throw away.

The collection gives the vessel an air of Aladdin’s cave. She looks like she cost a fortune but Martijn hasn’t spent one on her.

The main cabin.
Carved mirrors above the settee have been re-purposed from pieces of furniture.
The lamp over the main cabin table. Visible behind, the tiled galley.

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Posted Tuesday November 26, 2013 by Bernie Harberts