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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.

Rotop
Open to Getting Lost
December 14, 2008
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In early December, an OPEN flag was flying over Oriental’s Town Dock, snapping in the wind from the backstay of Martijn Dijkstra’s boat, “Rotop”.

Rotop at the Town Dock.

Martijn is from Holland and those OPEN banners first caught his eye when he sailed “Rotop,” to the US a few years ago. From a distance, he mistook them for flags from home — the Dutch flag is a red bar atop a white bar atop a blue bar – but without the OPEN message. Amused by the similarity, Martijn got an OPEN flag in Newport, Rhode Island and has been flying it ever since.

Martijn on board “Rotop”. The log book in front of him dates to 1996 and has more than 800 entries of places he’s stayed. Among the more recent entries, anchoring near the Statue of Liberty and tying up to the Town Dock in Oriental.
The boat below that flag is a scow design, with a slant where the hull meets the deck. It was built in Holland in 1964 by Vermuelens Jachtbouw, and designed for the punishing waters of the North Sea. Martijn says. “It cuts nice through it.”

He found the boat in 1996, more or less abandoned and needing work. Martijn says he figured that, “‘Steel is cheap. And I know how to weld.’” He was 19 and “moved on straightaway.” It’s been his home off and on for the past 12 years.

It seemed a natural progression. Martijn grew up in the Zeeland part of Holland. (It means Sea Land and much of it is below sea level.) His grandfather had used a sailboat to gather mussels, and “taught me all about sailing.” After a huge flood in Holland in the early 1950’s, his grandfather told him of sailing “inland” and fishing from his boat .

Some of that is fog, but there’s also smoke rising out of the pipe from “Rotop“s cabin..

With this boat of his own, Martijn kept “Rotop” near the town of Bruinisse or “Bru” in Holland for 8 years and lived on board when he didn’t go off to work on boats in other parts of the world. His engineering work on tugboats took him to Vietnam, Africa, the Caribbean. He also crewed on a cargo boat that circled England, and went to Iceland, Greenland and Russia. He did some boat restoration along the way, too.

The cabin of “Rotop”.

Along the way, he made some improvements to “Rotop”, some of which did involve welding. He replaced the leaking teak decks with steel. He extended the cabin farther in to the cockpit. A beefy door took the place of the original companionway boards (which he says not only let water in, but mashed fingers, too.)

Companionway door on “Rotop”. The boat draws 6 feet and was on the ground – notice the slight list to starboard.

Four years ago he sailed “Rotop” from Holland to the Caribbean. He’s been up up the US coast to Maine for two summers. Along the way he has continued to fix up the boat, largely with cast-offs.

“My boat is from what people throw away.”

For example, the stick. There was a bend in the mast when he sailed across the Atlantic. In Maine, Martijn found a 65-foot mast that had been on a Hinckley. It’s now in two pieces on “Rotop”. He cut above what was the lower stay — and got a boom and mast out of the deal.

The engine that runs on spent restaurant oil. The stainless tank in the upper right holds the oil, and the engine has two incoming lines, one for the diesel to get the engine going, and the other for the cooking oil.

A self steering system was about to be thrown out but he rescued it, and it’s rewarded him by working well.

But perhaps the recycling that most stands out on “Rotop” is in the engine compartment.

To heat the cabin, Martijn built a wood-burning stove out of two propane tanks. A box of short chopped pieces of wood sits under the cabin table.

“I run the engine,” Martijn says, “off of cooking oil.”

His engine burns spent frying oil and grease from restaurants. Before he headed south from Maine this fall, he stocked up on 100 gallons. Much of it is in jerry cans but some of it in the stainless steel tank aft of the engine. It still takes a bit of diesel to get the engine going, but then he switches to the used cooking oil. That is when, “it smells like a restaurant” on the boat.

On occasion, he’s had to cull bits of meat off the top. As he explained, the same stuff that could “block your heart, can block your filter.” Overall, he says, burning the recycled oil keeps the engine clean.

Martijn also fashioned a wood-burning stove from two propane tanks. He is hoping not to use it much longer this winter. He was thinking about crossing over to Bermuda and then taking “Rotop” toward St. Maarten, the “Open” flag flying.

While that OPEN flag may seem funny to Americans, it might strike Dutch speakers as sending a mixed message, given the boat’s name.

In Dutch, Martijn says, “Rot op” , means “go away”. (Some translations put it closer to what the Governor of Illinois has been quoted as saying.) Another interpretation might be, “Get lost.”

Martijn Dijkstra at The Bean one morning in December.

So, why such a name? Martijn says he did it because he tired of being on canals in Holland seeing “four boats that would have the same name”. On these shores, that might be the ubiquitous “Dawn Treader” or “Second Wind” or “Carpe Diem.” In Holland, he says, it’s “Hoop op Zegen” (or Hope on Blessing). A contrarian streak made Martijn think about naming his boat, “Hoop op Regen” or “Hoping for Rain” until he hit on the five-letters now painted on the transom.

Mixed message: OPEN flag and the boat name, “Rotop”.

More photos from Rotop on the next page.

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Posted Sunday December 14, 2008 by Melinda Penkava