We started this week’s travels in Akersloot, a town in the Noord Holland province on the peninsula north of Amsterdam. Our marina was positioned on the edge of a lake – the Aklmaardermeer – which was great for the views but it was exposed to the elements (wind and waves) and was therefore a bit bouncy. Akerstloot was not the most exciting place to stay, but it ticked all of the boxes: good dog-walking areas, reasonable wifi and Chinese takeaway. I’m sure it had many other charming features that we didn’t discover in our few days there.
One strange thing we have noticed over the last week is a green algae covering much of the water. You can just about make it out in the foreground of the picture above. It looks stripy here but in some places it has been solid and it looks like you could walk across the water. (I haven’t tried it yet.) The algae is on the “must research when we have time” list.
On Friday we headed south onto the river Zaan to an area called Zaanse Schans. This is the home of a large outdoor museum consisting of many windmills and other buildings that have been moved here over the last fifty years. The plan was to moor up, spend the day looking around and then stay overnight. Unfortunately we could not find anywhere suitable to stop and had to make do with looking at the windmills from the river. It’s obviously better to arrive there by car than by boat.
The windmills have various different functions – grinding seeds for oil, mustard and dyes as well as sawing timber.
We continued south towards Amsterdam but skirted to the west of the city by going along the wide, straight Noordzeekanaal for about eight kilometres. The Noordzeekanaal brings the big commercial ships in from the North Sea port at IJmuiden to Amsterdam and then on to various destinations in the Netherlands and Germany. The canal seemed very quiet and we didn’t have to dodge many big ships.
We stayed the night in the small town of Spaarndam, just south of the Noordzeekanaal.
The town features a statue of the boy who stuck his finger in a dike to plug a hole and prevent Haarlem from flooding. It seems a little less relevant when you discover that the story comes from an 1865 American children’s book called “Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates” and that the story is not widely known in the Netherlands. The statue was erected by the local tourist board in Spaarndam in 1950. It carries a nice dedication (in English as well as Dutch), which reads: “Dedicated to our youth to honour the boy who symbolizes the perpetual struggle of Holland against the water”.
Our Spaarndam mooring was again on the edge of a lake. The weather was calm when we went to bed but overnight a violent storm came through at about 3am. It was by far the most intense battering we have experienced during our time in the Netherlands. For about half an hour the boat was pitching and rolling and it was hard to believe we were still tied to something solid, but fortunately we were! Tex adopted his “big river position” – i.e. he wedged himself in a corner – and Liz sat on the floor with him to keep him calm.
Our next stop was the city of Haarlem. We arrived early in the day and found a prime, central mooring from which we explored the city. We really liked the city – lots of old buildings, a busy market and nice places to eat.
From Haarlem our journey took us south on the Ringvaart (Ringvaart van de Haarlemmermeerpolder) which we consider to be our “home canal” because it passes by our mooring in Aalsmeer. However, as is name suggests, the Ringvaart circumnavigates a large piece of land and we were on the opposite side to Aalsmeer so we didn’t stop at our base. Instead we headed into the Kaagerplassen, a series of connected lakes, and found a “wild” mooring for the night. This was another idyllic spot on the edge of a lake.
Our destination for the next working “week” was Katwijk aan Zee, about three hours from the Kaagerplassen. Katwijk came highly recommended as a nice seaside town where lots of Dutch people spend their summer holidays. Our initial observations are that it looks really nice, has a lovely beach but the weather so far has been awful. Strong winds and heavy rain have featured a few times in our travels, most memorably when we were on the north coast at Lauwersoog. Our first couple of days at Katwijk were very similar but now, as I type on Wednesday evening, things are looking much better. We were able to take Tex for a dry walk at lunchtime (at least, dry until he ran into the sea chasing a German Shepherd’s ball!) and are now enjoying some much appreciated sunshine. Fingers crossed it stays this way for a day or two.
Here’s the map of this week’s route.