The IJsselmeer

A few weeks ago I talked about the IJsselmeer, the large lake or “inland sea” that was created by building a 32km long dam to keep out the North Sea. I mentioned that it has a reputation for getting quite rough, even in moderate wind conditions. Apparently its shallow depth – about three to five metres on average – means that large swells can build up quite quickly. We avoided the IJsselmeer on our way up to Friesland because the weather was not very good back then, but now the time had come to head across this lake to explore the towns on the other side.

Our previous working “week” was spent at a marina just outside the town on Stavoren on the east coast of the IJsselmeer. We really enjoyed being there and were sorry to be leaving, but other places beckoned. Our home had been on the “arrivals” pontoon, close to the harbour office, shop and other facilities including a small gym. This was the first gym I’d seen for a couple of months and I felt obliged to make use of it!

We enjoyed our stay at Marina Stavoren

We had been keenly watching the weather forecast and the “Wind Finder” app for several days to see if our planned crossing on Friday morning would be OK or whether we would need to take the longer, inland route around the lake. All the indications were good and we set off from Stavoren at about 9am. After passing through the lock (which was very quiet now that the big sailing event had finished) we headed out onto the lake.

Leaving the harbour at Stavoren

Conditions were excellent with winds of around force 1 to 2 leading to very calm water. Our destination was the town of Enkhuizen and the journey took about two hours. There were several other boats making the same crossing, but apart from them there was little else to see along the way.

Not much out here

At one point we saw a huge flock of birds crossing the lake in a long, thin line. As they came closer we could see that they were Cormorants, which surprised us as we have normally seen them on their own or in very small groups. They were a wonderful sight.

You can just make out the black stripe of Cormorants
We found ourselves humming the the Onedin Line tune (and showing our age!)

As we approached Enkhuizen the water became much busier because all boats travelling from north to south (and vice versa) have to pass through a lock there. The lock connects the IJsselmeer and the Markermeer – two halves of the same body of water, separated by another large dam (the Houtribdijk). The Houtribdijk was built during the 1960s and 70s as part of a plan to create another huge polder by reclaiming the land that is now (still) underneath the Markermeer. Public opinion moved against the plan and it was debated over a number of decades. The polder plan was finally abandoned in 2003 and this area will now remain a lake.

The town of Enkhuizen itself and the Compagnieshaven, our destination for the night, were on the IJsselmeer side so we did not have to pass through the lock.


The Compagnieshaven marina is huge – around 650 berths – and there is a very slick operation to intercept visiting boats as they arrive and assign them a free slot. We arrived quite early in the day and were assigned a berth with a pontoon alongside so that Tex could get on and off easily. This was near to the “reporting” point and there was lots of entertainment later on as boats started arriving at a rate of one every couple of minutes. By early evening the whole marina was full and they were turning away large boats and rafting smaller ones. We ended up being blocked in and had to politely ask a large boat to move for us at 9am the next day.

We explored Enkhuizen in the afternoon. It is a nice old town with lots of history from when it was a sea port. There is an open air museum that shows how life used to be when the town was on the Zuiderzee, but we decided our Dutch is not really good enough to fully understand it and decided to give it a miss.

The next day, Saturday, we needed to do another lake crossing. This time it was the Markermeer and our destination was the famous town of Edam. Unfortunately the weather was not so kind this time and with force 4 to 5 winds the lake became very lumpy. The crossing was slightly longer than the previous day at about 25km and it took us about two and a half hours. Conditions got steadily worse and we were very pleased to arrive at Edam at lunchtime. It’s all relative of course, and those who regularly sail on the sea would probably think nothing of it, but for us it was quite an adventure to be crossing open water in conditions like that.

We walked a couple of miles into the centre of Edam and had a leisurely lunch at a restaurant by the side of a small canal which we subsequently learned was the only route through the town. (More on that later!)

Leisurely lunch (for the avoidance of doubt, there is only one Tex!)
The main canal with our lunch stop on the left
Private lock into someone’s garden?

The town is quite small but very picturesque and of course the cheese theme is everywhere.

The leaning museum
Trying not to quote Monty Python …

Having now been to Gouda, Leerdam and Edam I feel we have completed the Dutch Cheese Tour and we will not be seeking out any more dairy-based destinations.

The marina was in a great location and the people there were very nice. We decided to stay an extra night and the next day we borrowed a couple of bikes and peddled off to the nearby town of Volendam.

The bikes were very Dutch
Colour coordinated, as always

Volendam was on our to-do list and we had contemplated taking Juneau there. However, the harbour turned out to be very small and very busy and we were pleased we had arrived on two wheels instead. The town is known for its painted houses and it attracts a lot of visitors. As we rode into the town centre the full coach park gave a hint of what was to come. We enjoyed wandering around the streets and the harbour front but were happy to leave the crowds behind when we headed back to Edam.

More art – this time in Volendam
Volendam harbour

After a few days on the edge of the big lakes we were ready to head inland again and took the small canal through the middle of Edam. There are six bridges that have to be opened and the bridge operator accompanies you through the town on his bicycle. Convoys of boats travel together to make this process easier. The convoys going in our direction start at half past each hour. We arrived at 09:55 and had to wait for the bridge operator to start the process. When we saw him arrive at 10:25 we cast off and went through the bridge as soon as he opened it. Another boat was waiting with us and they were not so quick to untie. Unfortunately the bridge guy didn’t wait until 10:30, closed the bridge again and they were left on the wrong side. Presumably they moored up again and tried again an hour later!

It was a nice morning (no wind for a change) and we really enjoyed the trip through the town in our convoy of one.  As we proceeded I was pondering whether it was customary to tip someone for opening bridges.  A couple of minutes later he asked us to pull over and presented us with a bill for seven euros.  That answered that question!

Some of the bridges of Edam
Our very own bridge operator

Here’s a short time lapse video of the journey and the bridges being opened and closed.

For best results click here to watch the HD version on the web.

After leaving Edam we headed north and arrived at Akersloot mid-afternoon. This was to be our base for the next three-day working week. There were a couple of marina options and we chose Jachthaven ‘t Hoorntje, mainly for its wifi! This proved to be a good choice with nice views out on to the lake from our deck, although it got a bit bouncy with strong winds and passing traffic on the lake.

Here’s where this week’s route took us.


Next, we’ll be heading south again towards Amsterdam.

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