Two local guys, Martijn de Liefde and Hedde Stegenga share a passion for water sports and before long will be sharing their passion with you too, on the water sports island of Fort Kudelstaart, known as the Zeilfort which literally means sailing fortress. Although Martijn used to sail in competitions and now sails the world recreationally, Aalsmeer is his stomping ground, where he learned all the ins and outs of sailing. His dream is to resume racing when the Zeilfort opens. Hedde swapped Amsterdam for Kudelstaart years ago and likes to sail across the Westeinderplassen in his own boat. “We’ve known each via the water sports scene since 1997. We’ve worked for each other, collaborated on projects and now we’re working together. All combinations have been tried and tested. Some a great success, others less so” Martijn and Hedde explain grinning. Zeilfort will be a huge success, they assure us. This makes sense because their plans stem from their passion for sailing, in a place that they know like the back of their hands. Have we piqued your interest? The Zeilfort in Kudelstaart, is due to open officially in 2023.
The four pillars of the Zeilfort
“You could call water sports the foundation of our concept, on which our key services of catering, accommodation and meetings are built upon, all found within the historic fort of the Defence Line of Amsterdam.” This is how Martijn summarises the ‘pillars’ of the future Zeilfort. The first pillar is the Defence Line of Amsterdam, a merging with the water sports experience. It is a truly magical experience to pursue water sports in and around the cultural fortress – with its two-metre thick walls and interesting history. The yet to be completed water sports café is a perfect example of this, where you will find a plethora of historical photos of Fort Kudelstaart. “Our dream is to serve traditional Dutch fare such as ‘stamppot’, a delicious mashed potato dish, kale and soup here, giving our water sports cafe an authentic vibe, serving simple food, making it accessible to all. The original kitchen complete with large pots and pans is located in a section of the new kitchen area which adds to this authentic feel. A restaurant is planned next-door to this ‘age-old’ café, which will offer more luxury and delicious cuisine.
“Accommodation was already a main function of the fortress in the past and we intend to give this pride of place once again.” When you walk through the fort, you’ll encounter the long narrow corridors that are eighty meters long on both sides leading from the middle of the fort. The old soldiers’ quarters were located here, and these will be transformed into beautiful Aalsmeer hotel rooms for our guests. Martijn and Hedde aim to attract the business market by offering modern meeting spaces in a unique setting, in a natural environment and surrounded by water. This creates a concept where they are open all hours. In the weekend their focus will be on the holidaymakers and tourists, whilst during the weekdays they will concentrate on their business clientele.
Roof renovation from 25 November 2019
On November 25, 2019, the roof renovation will commence. This is a huge step in helping to restore the premises and the future of the Zeilfort. Originally, special sand from the North Sea Canal covered the roof, which filtered the rainwater into drinking water. “Extremely sustainable.” The permits have all been issued, allowing Aalsmeer Council to carry out the roof renovation. After the – now contaminated – sand has been removed from the roof, the contractors can inspect the roof and make a quote for the work required to make the roof waterproof. This work will be undertaken in November and December. The roof will be made watertight during the first half of 2020. Eventually, new sand will be placed on the roof, which is suitable for filtering rainwater and will provide the Zeilfort with sustainable drinking water.
Did you know that there are enormous tanks under the fortress that can hold as much as 550,000 litres of water? In the past, three hundred men could live on these water supplies for several months.
Dreams and plans
As water sports enthusiasts, Martijn and Hedde have the dream of making the Zeilfort the water sports icon of Aalsmeer. Fort Kudelstaart holds a unique location on the largest inland waterway in the Netherlands. By developing their water sports island, they want to breathe new life into Dutch water sports by combining an attractive historical environment with a friendly atmosphere and facilities such as an excellent Aalsmeer hotel, restaurant and business meeting centre. But also boat rental, a port of call and sailing events that have a regional appeal. They happily organise these types of events in cooperation with other clubs and associations. “We don’t want to compete with other events, clubs and associations. Above all, we want to work together!” The Zeilfort guys are open to all initiatives. For example, the photo exhibition in the café was one of these initiatives and the event which took place during Easter weekend in 2019 was carried out in collaboration with local business owners. They have plans, dreams and ideas aplenty.
Martijn and Hedde think it is important to remove any concerns from local residents regarding the future plans of the Zeilfort. “The silt and sand will initially be dredged, then halls, hotel rooms and an underground car park will be built. After the construction work is completed the sand will be replaced, so that the fort looks like it was originally.” A new environmental plan will be devised for the planting of foliage and vegetation in which the contours of the fort will become far more visible. “From a tree island to a fortress island.” The guys tracked down old drawings from 100 years ago, so they know exactly what the original fort looked like. The Zeilfort will be a small-scale location: a beautifully balanced small hotel with a meeting room and the focus on water sports.
The tree-lined dike, which lies between the Westeinderplassen and the Zeilfort harbour which acts as a kind of defensive edge, also remains intact. It is and remains a sheltered port which they want to expand by use of a small ferry service.
Fort Kudelstaart, accessible to all
“Our view is that the fort must be ultimately available to everyone. That people think, “Hey, let’s head out to the fort on a nice day.” That’s the future. In the intervening period, we aim to open the gates and welcome the people as much as is practically possible.” Harbour Master Kees is ready to welcome you and offer you a planned or unplanned tour.