We have met two interesting singlehanded sailors so far in this trip, both of them Dutchmen.
The first was in Lowestoft, and was on his way north to Norway by a much more direct route than us. He had a relatively modern (1990s?) boat and had made lots of interesting modifications himself, including installing a Torqueedo electric outboard, a movable solar panel, Dyneema rigging and a self-designed carbon fibre wind-vane steering gear. Everything had to be lightweight. We have occasionally checked his progress via AIS since, and he has successfully reached Norway now.
The second was in IJmuiden and was sailing a Contessa 26, the same model as our boat. In fact, his boat was the most similar one to Lizzie which we have ever seen, with almost identical layout and joinery in the cabin. He had done a lot of refurbishment himself and it looked beautiful.
He was sailing in company with his parents who were sailing a Contessa 32. His dad was a massive Contessa fan and this had obviously rubbed off on the son. He claimed the boat was really easy to singlehand, even with a spinnaker, but he got his first boat aged 4 and was now in his mid 20s so has probably had more practice than us.
He had a wind vane steering system which was very similar to the one I’m halfway through building, and I got some good ideas for simplifying the design.
He was flying a large pennant on the backstay with a single large spot on it. Apparently this is the standard signal denoting a solo sailor, and sometimes means the lock-keepers are sympathetic.
Here is a rubbish photo of a similar pennant on another boat which I saw more recently: