Woordenboek Woensdag: Zeilen

Plompetorengracht [Day 116/365]
Now that the weather has turned so nice, all of the canals around town are filled with boten (boats), from small kayaks to larger motorboats. With that in mind, I thought I’d look up the word for sailing. It’s times like this that I need help. There are a ton of words for the verb to sail: varen, bevaren, zeilen. Then there are different words for the gerund form, sailing: afvaart, bootreis, vertrek, vertrektijd, zeilsport. It all gets a bit confusing. Looking up each individual word doesn’t particularly help, at least not with my dictionary. I’m hoping someone else will be able to explain if there’s one use that is better than another in certain situations. I’m particularly interested in the right word for describing sailing in a canal, rather than on the high seas.

I did finally remember to look up Plompetorengracht, which is the name of the canal pictured above. From what I gather, it basically translates to Floppy Tower Canal. Even if plomp has some other meaning in this case, floppy tower is more fun to think about. The canal itself is quite old, dating back to around 1392, when it seems to have created along with the Nieuwegracht, the Kromme Nieuwegracht and the Drift canals to help with drainage. At one point, the canal was the headquarters for tradesmen, and around the middle of the 19th century, it was a neighborhood of the nobility. The somewhat grand buildings that line it now are used primarily as offices and the Cathedral Choir school is located there, as well. I think they had an open day recently.

I’ll round out this post with a few more photos of some of the boats you’re liable to see in the canals here in Utrecht.
Tour Boat
Bongo Boat
Grote Boot
Around the Bend
Arts the Beat Doctor

12 thoughts on “Woordenboek Woensdag: Zeilen

  1. I never ever get tired of watching the boats in the canals..I just love it. I am however shocked when I see a really large one in such a tiny space. Some of the water isnt that deep but yet they all pass through fine. I need to take a boat tour one of these days. I have yet to do that.

    Enjoy the beautiful sunny day!!

    • I used a friend’s visit last year as an excuse to take the boat tour. It’s kind of fun and probably worth doing at least once, although definitely try to get a window seat. I love sitting in our little park and watching all the boats go by; it really is calming and wonderful to watch. I love seeing all the boats on Queen’s Day, too. It’s fun to see how inventive people can get!

  2. Well, to help you out a bit:

    Zeilen: You do this on a sailboat, using the sails
    Varen: You travel over water in a boat.
    Bevaren: For example in “Hij heeft de wereldzeeën bevaren” means “He sailed the world seas” It’s not used much.

    So, sailing with a motorboat through the canals, is varen.

    Good luck with your dutch!

    • I used zeilen in the title, since that was the closest word to sail that I saw, so it’s nice to have learned that varen is really the word that I was looking for in this case. It’s nice to be able to post a blog piece and get answers!

      Plompetorengracht was such a mouthful for me when I first moved here, so it’s nice to finally be able to say it and know a bit more about it, too. I wish the city needed more English-language tour guides. I suspect that would be an excellent job for me. 😉

  3. It’s so funny that you should mention this because my girlfriend used the Dutch word for sailing in a sentence last night and I had no clue what she was saying. It totally threw me.

  4. I love the water and the boats here; Maastricht lacks canals but has a lot of activity along the river that is always fascinating. The canals were the best spot for people-watchign on Queens’ Day, and the summer nights eating in cafes along the Utrecht canals are always special.

    • The river and bridges in Maastricht look fantastic from some of the photos I’ve seen. One of the things I look forward to seeing when I eventually visit.

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