Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Heeg, Súdwest Fryslân

We are safely moored in Heeg in Friesland. The weather had turned nasty and the lake turned choppy with many white caps. With the wind increasing through Force 5, we looked for shelter. Heeg was close by and we secured ourselves in the lee of the trees along the dockside in Heegerwâl, a passante marina.

In the early days of Heeg, the little town was surrounded by small canals and the land was slowly filled with fisherman's shacks with access only by water. The shacks became houses and with this, created a labyrinth of twenty-two small back lanes, narrow streets and alleys. 

The lake area is well known for its historic eel fishery with regular live export to London. The Hegemers had free moorage at the Dutch Landing on the Thames, not far from the Tower of London and the Billingsgate fish market. The trade was important to the locals of Heeg and they taught English in the local primary schools. The eel trade remained profitable till 1938. 

"De Syl" was the main business section of town for the eel trade. Eel merchant Anne Wiegers Visser lived there and was also a floating eel merchant in London. There were generations of sail makers on the street and in busy times the lay-out and cutting of their sails took place in front of the shop and spilled out into the street. The homes on De Syl were small, close to each other and near the water.  With no room for their gardens, small gardens were set up across the canal with small lanes between them big enough for horse and cart. The oldest standing house dates from 1699 and is named the Hellinghûs.

Across the canal from De Syl is an active shipyard. In the height of the eel trade, it had build hundreds of flat bottom boats such as skûtsjes and palingaaken. The shipyard has remained active for three hundred years. 

Today Heeg  is known for its water sport and boat rentals. The town is quaint and some grant old homes are still standing from days of the eel merchants.

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