Heeg, Village of Traditions
Heeg: more than eels and Polyvalk sailingboats
Shipping links with London made way for water sports
HEEG (NL) - Heeg is one of the most charming water sport centres in Friesland. It is a village bustling with the activities of numerous water sport companies, hotels and B&Bs and party organisers. Something they are experts at in Heeg is creating a good atmosphere, for young and old alike.
For centuries, the fishermen of Heeg exported eels, otherwise known as elvers, to London. There, on the Thames near Tower Bridge, their +/- 18.50 m long wooden sailing barges had a permanent berth where the live eels were unloaded. Each barge transported between 7,500 and 10,000 kg of eels in its water-filled central well.
Frisian eels are - still - born in the Sargassozee (Bermuda), where the larva grow into elvers. Then they swim to the Frisian waters where they eventually reach adulthood.
The number of eels in Friesland and the surrounding waters dropped rapidly due to the construction of the IJsselmeer Dam [Afsluitdijk] in 1932. The Zuiderzee, which until then had contained salt water, was halved in size by the creation of the Wieringermeer and Flevoland province polders to form the current IJsselmeer. This is now the largest freshwater reservoir and recreation area in the Netherlands. Heeg is separated from the IJsselmeer by just one sluice and bridge, in the dyke at Stavoren. The town, which is on the route of the famous Frisian skating marathon, is just a two hour sail away.
Dykes, sluices, pumping stations and a lack of living space have caused the number of eels in the north of the Netherlands to plummet since 1932. The fact that the Zuiderzee became a freshwater lake did not bother the eels since they can live in both fresh and salt water.