A bridge too far?

For our last week of cruising in the Netherlands, at least for this year, we planned a small circuit to take in some of the rivers and towns that we had not yet visited. From our previous working week in Leiden we would head east along the Oude Rijn (one of the many rivers in these parts that has Rijn [Rhine] in its name) to Woerden, then north to Uithoorn before heading back to base in Aalsmeer. Here’s what the planned route looked like.

Planned route – taking in the Oude Rijn

We had seen some signs on the rivers a couple of weeks ago containing the words stremming and Alphen aan den Rijn. We had not paid much attention as we were not at that time planning to pass through Alphen aan den Rijn, but we had translated stremming as “curdled” or “coagulated”. It sounded intriguing, but not good. Our planned route to Woerden would take us through Alphen so we decided to do a bit of research and found out there had been an accident causing the closure of the river. A bit more digging revealed that the accident was caused by two cranes toppling off a barge whilst trying to lift a large section of a new bridge into place. Someone caught the whole thing on video and it’s well worth a watch. Even the BBC covered it on their website. Click here to watch it. The good news is that, amazingly, no one was killed or seriously injured despite several houses and shops being crushed.

With Alphen no longer an option we chose a slightly different route that would take us along the Drecht and Amstel rivers to Uithoorn and Ouderkerk aan de Amstel and then back the same way. This proved to be a good choice as both were very quiet, scenic rivers.

Lots of nice windmills
Waiting for a bridge along the Drecht

Our first stop, Friday night, was in Uithoorn. Our guide book stated “There are moorings for vessels up to 6m only at the visitors’ harbour, unless you can persuade someone otherwise”! However, the moorings were replaced earlier this year and they now offer very good quality pontoons that easily accommodated Juneau’s 10m length. It was a great spot right in the town centre, close to shops and restaurants.

Uithoorn – view from the boat
The new moorings in Uithoorn

On Saturday we went an hour further up the Amstel to the village of Ouderkerk. Ouderkerk was a nice little place but after wandering around for a while and stopping for lunch we felt we had “done” it.

Ouderkerk aan de Amstel

The moorings at Ouderkerk were not great and so after lunch we decided to return to Uithoorn and we arrived back there around 3pm. As the afternoon progressed we noticed a lot of activity nearby and soon discovered that they were setting up for the annual “Tropical Night” – a large, free concert with the main stage about 100m from our boat. Oh dear.

Tropical Night attracted a lot of visitors, mainly young and the street running past our mooring started filling up with people (and bikes of course) from around 9pm. We decided not to venture out for a closer look and instead “enjoyed” the music from inside the boat. There was absolutely no problem (apart from the noise) and it all finished around 1am. By the time we got up in the morning you would not have known anything had happened, apart from a small amount of litter. Had we known about it we would have stuck to our original plan and stayed in Ouderkerk for the night, but in the end it was OK.

On Sunday we retraced our route back down the Amstel and Drecht rivers and headed over to the Braasemermeer. This is an example of a Dutch name that really has too many letters. Subconsciously we found ourselves shortening words like this to make them pronounceable for a native English speaker. We had been across this lake a few times and had been calling it the Brass-em-eer. But when chatting to a Dutch neighbour at the Uithoorn mooring and mentioning that we were going to the Brass-em-eer he first looked a bit puzzled and then said “Oh, you mean the Braaaa-semmer-meer”. I agreed that was indeed what I meant. This was a fairly typical exchange with a Dutch person – they are always polite and helpful, generally speak excellent English and, if you attempt any Dutch words they will correct your pronunciation. I firmly believe they are being helpful, not critical, but sometimes the corrected version sounds exactly the same as the way I said it! I’m definitely not a linguist and Dutch is quite a challenging language.

Anyway, we arrived at the Braaaa-semmer-meer and stayed overnight at one of the marinas we had visited last December on our flying visit to identify a home for Juneau. The Jachthaven de Brasem is in a great spot on the edge of the lake and it was a good place to spend our final night “away” before returning to our Aalsmeer base the next day. There was an endless stream of boats constantly passing by – goodness knows where they were all going.

Jachthaven de Brasem from the Braasemermeer

After leaving the Braasemermeer on Monday morning we headed over to the nearby Kaag lake where we had reserved a table for lunch at the Tante Kee restaurant, which came highly recommended. The food was very good and the view from the restaurant took in the Feadship ship yard next door where they build superyachts. They were in the final stages of finishing a 187 foot superyacht called Halo which had been launched a couple of weeks earlier.  Here’s a bit more information about Halo.

We parked Juneau outside the restaurant, next to Halo.

A handy mooring at the restaurant
Juneau and the superyacht

Finally the time had come when we needed to take Juneau back to her home marina, Jachthaven Stenhuis in Aalsmeer. We are very pleased with our choice of Stenhuis as a base – the family that run it have been extremely helpful throughout the process of getting Juneau there, doing a few jobs on the boat and looking after her when we’re not there. The final job for this year will be when they lift the boat out of the water in early October and tuck her up in a heated shed for the winter. It’s good to know she’ll be protected from the elements until we can next make use of her.

Here’s the route for our final week’s cruising.

Week-12

Finally, some statistics for our three month trip around the Netherlands:

Total distance covered 1149 km
Engine hours 152
Number of bridges opened for us 206
Number of locks 37
Amount of fuel used 335 litres
Average fuel consumption 2.2 l/hr, 9.7 miles per gallon

We’ve had a fantastic summer exploring the Netherlands and living on Juneau.  Any concerns about being cooped up in a space 34 feet long were completely unfounded and we’ve become steadily more impressed with our little boat.  She has taken us along narrow waterways, under low bridges, across large stretches of open water and into town centres.  We have spent nights on little islands, in the hustle and bustle of cities and everything in between. Given a chance, would we do it again?  Absolutely.

 

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Beweegbare bruggen

I have mentioned bridges a few times over the last couple of months because they are such a big feature of boating in the Netherlands. A bridge is a brug in Dutch, with bruggen being the plural. Beweegbare means moveable so a beweegbare brug (or BB for short) is a movable bridge. The charts (maps) of the rivers and canals show all of the bridges, both fixed and moveable, along with their heights. For some strange reason the heights are always quoted in decimetres. On the iPad version of the charts (which is an App from ANWB, the Dutch equivalent of the AA or RAC) there is an additional symbol (usually, but not always, in the right place!) showing the bridge. Clicking on the bridge symbol brings up additional information such as opening times. Again, these are mainly accurate but we have come across quite a few discrepancies.

Some of the bridges around Leiden

This chart shows some of the bridges around Leiden, most of which we have passed under twice this week. Taking one bridge as an example, number 623 in the middle at the bottom of this picture, the chart tells us that this is a railway bridge (spoorbrug) with a height of 14.5 decimetres (1.45m) and a width of 9.9m. It also tells us that there is a fixed part of the bridge (vast) that has a height of 2.5m, which is high enough for many boats to pass under without waiting for the bridge to open. The opening times for this particular bridge are quite complicated because it has to tie in with the trains passing over it.

Rail bridge opening times

Most bridges have different opening times on different days of the week and they are also different during the main boating season (usually mid-April to mid-Spetember or October). This bridge generally (but, we found, not always!) opens at four minutes and thirty-four minutes past each hour. When planning a journey you need to take into account opening times as some of the bridges close for lunch and/or during morning and evening rush hours, to minimise disruption to the vehicular traffic.

In many parts of the country we have found the bridges to be manned (by a brugwachter). These bridges often open as you approach and are sometimes accompanied by a wooden clog being swung at the boat so you can deposit a prescribed amount of money for the toll (the bruggeld). In other places the bridges are unmanned and they rely on cameras to spot the boats arriving. This is generally less efficient (from the boater’s perspective) as you have to nudge up to the bridge to make sure you’re within sight of a camera and then hope that someone, somewhere is looking a monitor.

All bridges operate a traffic light system. There are three vertical lights – red, green, red. Under normal circumstances there will be a red light at the top when you approach a bridge. If both red lights are on it means the bridge is closed for a prolonged period and you might as well find somewhere to tie up and wait. When a green light comes on along with the red it means that the bridge will open soon(ish) and that you will be allowed through first, before any boats waiting on the other side. Eventually the red goes out and the green remains, meaning proceed.

Getting ready to open

Seeing the green light come on under the red is very reassuring as it means that someone has seen you and they will in due course, usually in the next few minutes, lower the barriers for the pedestrians, bikes and traffic and then open the bridge.

Many of the bridges can be contacted by VHF radio so you can ask them to open. This is a big challenge when you don’t speak Dutch and struggle to pronounce the name of the bridge you’re waiting at. (Hooghkamerbrug or Duivenvoordsebrug anyone?) And of course you stand no chance of understanding the reply, if it comes. I have resorted to this a few times and, to be fair, it has usually done the trick. However there was one bridge where I called a couple of times and got no response. Eventually a Dutch person on the boat behind called on the same channel and we got a red and green light straight away. Clearly the brugwachter had not understood what I was asking for!

The final option at some of the bridges is what we have come to know as the “melding button”. This is a button, usually accompanied by an intercom, often tucked away in a hard to reach place, that you can press to let the brugwachter know you would like the bridge to be opened. We have honed our technique and now have the melding button off to a fine art. I nudge the boat forwards and Liz stands on the front with a boat hook. As we get close she presses the button and, if a response is forthcoming, attempts to say the bridge name followed by “alsjeblieft” (please). Sometimes the brugwachter will respond in Dutch, sometimes in English and sometimes not at all. We then keep our fingers crossed that a green light will be forthcoming.

A well aimed boat hook and a melding button

Throughout these manoeuvres we have wondered who is watching us or speaking to us and what they might be seeing. Is it a sophisticated multi-screen control centre or is there someone occasionally flicking around the cameras and seeing if they spot any boats. It often feels like the latter when you’ve been waiting 15 minutes for something to happen but we know that the Dutch are very efficient so that scenario seems unlikely. Finally I was able to see the inside of one of the brug “huts” and this is what was there:

Inside a bridge control room

It does indeed look like there are multiple monitors, presumably each for a different bridge, and each having a split screen showing four different cameras that cover the water and the road traffic around a bridge.

Why am I boring you with all this information about bruggen? Well, they have featured very heavily in this week’s travels. There have been several very long waits (and sometimes no waiting at all) and on one day we had 19 bridges open for us.

It started with our journey back out of Katwijk, which is up a “cul de sac” canal. We had spent our three-day / four-night working week in Katwijk and, after two days of storms the sun had come out. This meant much nicer lunchtime walks with Tex and we are able to see this seaside town at its best.

Stichting Jachthaven Katwijk – the end of the road

Once upon a time the canal connected to the sea, but two large dams now mean you have to return along the same route as far as Leiden. At that point you can go north, which is where we came from, or south which is where we were heading, bound for Delft.

Delft was one of the places on our “must visit” list right from the start of the trip. We had heard it was a nice place and of course it’s famous for its blue and white pottery. We had considered visiting back in June when we were in the south of the Netherlands, but at that time decided to go east towards Utrecht instead of west to Delft. When we arrived in Delft at lunchtime on Friday we were initially a bit disappointed because the only moorings (the town moorings, or gemeente haven) were right next to a main road and did not look particularly nice. After a discussion with the harbour master we discovered we could moor under a big “no mooring” sign on a different bank, further away from the road. This turned out to be a great spot and we stayed for two nights.

Delft was much larger than we had expected – it’s actually a small city rather than a small town. We arrived at the end of what we in the UK would call “freshers week” at the university and there were young people everywhere. They were mainly in large groups being given a tour of the town or engaged in some other kind of “bonding” activity, mainly in orange t-shirts. As we sat eating lunch on a restaurant terrace we watched one after another go up to a door in a nearby building, press the bell (nine times) and wait. Eventually, someone would appear at the door, pass them some large packages and close the door. Some minutes later, the door would re-open and the packages would be taken back inside. The caller would then walk away. This was either some kind of strange initiation process into one of the clubs or a not very subtle drug running operation.

The older part of the city has some lovely buildings and we enjoyed strolling around. As well as the pottery, Delft is also known as the home of the painter Johannes Vermeer so images of the Girl with a Pearl Earring were a common sight.

Delft City Hall, in the Markt square

We happened to be in town for the weekend of the annual Delft jazz festival. A stage arrived in the Markt square in the evenings and a free concert was given. I don’t really understand jazz music but was keen to have a listen after we finished dinner in a nearby restaurant. Perhaps I would learn something. After a few minutes I realised that I still don’t “get” it and it still sounded like a bunch of people with random instruments playing different tunes at the same time. Oh well, I’ll have to remain a heathen on that front.

A visit to Delft would not be complete without a trip to the pottery factory. There used to be over thirty factories in the town but now only one remains – Royal Delft, which dates back to 1653. The factory tour was very interesting and very quiet – I think we were the only people in there.

One of the Master Painters at work in the factory

From Delft we retraced our route back up the Delftse Vliet and Rijn-Schiekanaal towards Leiden. After an overnight stay at Voorschoten along the way, we finally entered Leiden on Monday morning after having skirted around it twice over the previous two weeks.

The gemeente haven in Leiden is very pleasant and quite central. We explored some of the city on our first day and dodged some big rain showers. We’re hoping to see a bit more of the city in the evenings whilst we’re here and are keeping our fingers crossed for some drier weather.

A slightly damp Leiden
Sheltering, waiting for the rain to pass

All this rain does have its advantages. This is the scene from the front of the boat on our first evening in Leiden.

I wish … it would stop raining!

Over the past ten weeks we have rarely retraced our steps but this week has been a bit different. Here’s where the route took us.

Week-11

Next week will be our final week of cruising, at least for this year.

Another coast, another storm

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.

Jachthaven ‘t Hoorntje, Akersloot

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.

Some of the windmills at Zaanse Schans

The windmills have various different functions – grinding seeds for oil, mustard and dyes as well as sawing timber.

Het Jonge Shaap (The Young Sheep) – one of the saw mills

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 old lock at Spaarndam – nice coffee and apple cake at the cafe

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”.

The boy with his finger in a dike

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.

City centre moorings in Haarlem
Haarlem’s waterpoort – similar to the one in Sneek

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.

Wet and windy Katwijk aan Zee
Reserving our deckchairs, just in case

Here’s the map of this week’s route.

Week-10

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.

Enkhuizen

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.

Week-9

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

Ik is Acht

Well it has come to that time of year again. This is one of my favourite days (along with Gotcha Day and Santa Paws Day), but this is the most special because it’s my BIRTHDAY J And as it says I is Eight. Every year my birthday is special but this year is particularly memorable because, of course, I am spending it abroad. We’re still living on the boat in the Netherlands and I must say I am having a fine time J

When I last did a blog we (me and my small tick friend) has just left Kraggenburg and we were headed into Friesland. We had a nice time in Friesland, the ‘water capital’ of the Netherlands. First we took Juneau back home to Sneek, where she was built. We stayed there for a week. Sneek has a very nice park but it was quite a distance away so mum and dad put my Thingy training into practice and whizzed me down the canal to the park. This meant I could have more time running around and less time lead walking, so that was good. I was a bit confused because mum was taking me for a ‘walk’ whilst dad went for a ‘run’. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be with so I tried to keep up with them both for a while. I realised this was not going to work so I stuck with mum but I kept a very keen eye open for dad in case I could trip him up as he went past J. Here I am in the Thinghy. I really don’t like getting in it but I do quite like the ride as I get lot of cuddles whilst we go along. I think mum is scared of the Thinghy really and relies on me as her security blanket!!

For some reason we then left Sneek which was warm and dry and headed to the stormy north of the Netherlands. Mum was keen for me to see the sea, so we went to Lauwersoog (yes that’s right – Lauwersoog!). I saw the sea and lots of boats and a few goats, mostly through driving rain and in what felt like force 10 gales. I’m sure Lauwersoog is a lovely place to the Lauwersoogians but for the Wokinghamians it was pretty grim and I seemed to be permanently damp for the time we spent there (not nice for anyone believe me – especially me as you can imagine!) Here I am commiserating with the goats in Lauwersoog. At least I could escape. These guys are permanent residents of soggy Lauwersoog!

Seeking a warmer climate we headed south and encountered nice places such as Bergum. Where I got to visit the dierenwinkle (I suspect this may be the source of my birthday present)

And then the Auld Feanon national park which was nice but inhabited by a wolf, who tried to eat me. It wasn’t a native wolf – flipin thing turned up on a boat (…with a family – I know water is at the centre of Dutch life but no one would sell a wolf a boat of its own – would they???) Anyway we had a nice walk and it was generally a lovely place (wolves apart). Here I am on a sunny walk in the Aude Feanon.

Then we went to Joure where we joined a jamboree (good word eh?) of boats. We (well mum and dad) had a good lunch in Joure and I posed for pictures J One of my bestest poses I feel.

And then onto Stavoren. We all really liked Stavoren, good walkie territory, nice mooring with easy dog access (not so crucial as we have found out this week) and dad says it has the bestest ever kibbeling. Which is not Dutch for my food but is battered fish to which dad has become very partial J I think I would like it but I don’t seem to have been offered an opportunity to try it … yet!

Our latest leg saw us cross the big wide ocean (well it’s the Ijsselmeer – actually just a very big lake). All preparations were made and I was told to adopt my ‘big river position’ just in case. In fact it was very calm and I didn’t need to wedge myself in, so I just lay down for the journey. After a couple of hours we ended up ‘on the other side’ in Enkhuizen. Very nice place, dad and I posed for pictures on the wall.

And then we did another big river crossing to Edam. This time it wasn’t quite so smooth, I did need to park myself quite firmly and mum kept me company when it got a bit rough. We were glad to see Edam, not just for the cheese prospects but for some calmer water. This is me standing on the actual dam of E fame.

Just when I thought all my watery events were over for the day dad offered to take me swimming. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this as he doesn’t usually strip off and get in the water with me when we go to Heath Lake! However not to bypass an opportunity, in we went. I think dad thought we’d swim off together but in fact I was more interested in my normal game of catch the tennis ball and take it back to the shore for another throw. Unfortunately mum was my shoreside human so the throwing was pretty poor (don’t tell her I said it but her throwing is a bit rubbish!). Mum took her camera and dad took his special waterproof video camera and so many records of human and canine swimming together were created. Some of which I feel I should share with you. I warn you my fur is a bit messy in places – well what can you do with wet fur! Photo’s first

And then here is the little video of me in the water.

If you can’t see the video Click here to see it on the web.

We well and truly ‘did’ Edam what with a long walk around town and some swimming I was shattered I can tell you. After all I am eight!!

However, we did create a milestone. You know the saying “you can’t teach a dog-in-his-prime a new trick”? Well this week I proved that wrong. In Edam we ended up in a mooring box. The Dutch like mooring boxes but we Brits are not so keen because they don’t have a pontoon at the side. So all access has to be off the front of the boat, which is not easy for me. Prior to our departure dad bought a dog ramp to cover this eventuality (also a lifting harness but we don’t talk about that!). They tried the obligatory dog-ramp training at home and I was having none of it! As a result ‘boxes’ have been avoided like the plague. HOWEVER…needs must, and all that, and when I needed to use the ramp (and avoid the harness) I did so. I don’t know why they were concerned, I was a pro I tell you. Here I am showing you how it is done.

On my way…

I’ve arrived… J

Now we are tucked up in Akersloot (yes Akersloot!) for the working week and we have a paws in all the excitement for a few days, but I will leave you with these last few pictures of me on my birthday and with my birthday presents.

Sorry that’s a long post, hope you were able to stick with it to the end dear reader.

Love

Tex

Coast to coast

That title might be a bit of an exaggeration, but technically we did travel from one coast to another this week. We started our journey in the north, on the coast of the Waddenzee (basically the North Sea) and four days later arrived on the coast of the IJsselmeer, the fresh water “inland sea”.

Here’s where our route took us.

Week-8

At the end of last week we arrived in Lauwersoog, on the north coast. It was probably a very nice place, but unfortunately our main memory of it will be the wind and rain. The weather only started improving as we left on Friday morning. Here’s a picture of the marina where we spent our working week, captured in a fleeting dry moment.

Jachthaven Noordergat, Lauwersoog

We chose a different route for our journey back south as we wanted to avoid the busy “stand mast route” that we had taken on the way up. The chosen route had lots of fixed bridges with a height of about 3m, which we can get under if we take our canopy down. This proved to be a good choice and we made good progress along relatively quiet waterways. The quiet waterways came to an end when we briefly joined the Prinses Margrietkanal, one of the main thoroughfares for commercial barges passing through Friesland. On this occasion the canal was very quiet and it was a pleasant trip to our overnight destination of Bergum. The canal at Bergum is very industrial but the marina turned out to be very quiet and pleasant, once again operated by a friendly and helpful harbour master. We explored the town (very nice) and had an excellent Chinese meal (at a fraction of the price we would have paid at home).

Leaving Bergum we proceeded a few more kilometres along the Prinses Margrietkanal before turning off into the Alde Feanen national park. This is an area with many lakes, lots of narrow channels and hundreds of free mooring places. As with everywhere in Friesland in the middle of the summer there were lots of boats everywhere. We found a nice quiet spot and spent the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the surroundings of the nature reserve.

Nature

The next stage of our journey took us across a few more lakes and into a small town called Joure, which is at the end of a cul-de-sac canal. One of the lakes along the way was the Sneekermeer, named after the nearby town of Sneek. Having visited Sneek a couple of weeks earlier we knew that the first week of August is “Sneek Week” – a huge sailing event. As we passed across the edge of the Sneekermeer we saw more sailing boats than we could possibly count. We estimated there must have been at least a thousand boats on the water. Most of them were some distance away but we still found ourselves having to dodge the ones who ventured into our channel or decided to tack just in front of us. Of course, as a motorboat you are obliged to give way to sailing boats and that can be a bit of a challenge when they come at you from all directions.

Sneek Week on the Sneekermeer

We made it safely to Joure without getting tangled in anyone’s sails. We had briefly visited Joure once before on our previous trip. We remembered the marina as being very quiet, with only a few boats moored up. Things were a little different this time.

Joure

We followed several boats up the canal into Joure and were concerned that there would not be enough space for us. However, there was plenty of space near the town centre and we were very pleased with our mooring spot. It was Sunday so most of the shops were closed and the town was quiet. Fortunately the restaurants were open and we were able to have some lunch along the main street.

We have noticed that Dutch towns all have public art in the streets, mainly in the form of bronze statues. Our guide book showed one of Joure’s statues and we came across it on the high street. Angles can be a bit deceptive – we expected it to be life sized and missed it at first. It was actually about a foot high and positioned on a tall plinth. The figures are all gazing upwards at the bell tower of a church.

Deceptively small statue in Joure

On Monday morning we set off from Joure with the intention of going to Heeg, a nearby town, for our three-day/four-night working week. We arrived just outside Heeg at about 11am and decided to press on as it was so early. After crossing several more lakes and wondering why we were seeing lots of traditional sailing ships on the move we arrived at the town of Stavoren on the east coast of the IJsselmeer. We had accidentally picked the day when the sailing barges, known as “skûtsje”, have their annual regatta on the edge of the lake. The town was buzzing with people and sailing barges were everywhere.

Lots of skûtsje everywhere in Stavoren

We happened to walk along the “sea” front just as the main race was finishing. It was a very impressive sight and you have to admire the skill required to race a hundred-year-old iron barge in close proximity to a dozen others.

Crossing the finishing line

The only problem for the boats, fortunately not for us, was the queue to get off the lake through the lock and onto the canal. There were two locks, one for big boats and one for smaller ones, but this lot was going to take some time to clear.

Waiting to get back off the IJsselmeer

We’re very pleased with our mooring at Marina Stavoren. It’s a busy place with lots of comings and goings, but it all calms down in the evening. This was the view from the end of our pontoon on our first night.

Not a bad view from our pontoon

A final note about kibbeling. I mentioned last week I had seen it on a menu when I had ordered my tong (sole) and chips. Since then I have ordered it three times and I must say I’m a fan. It consists of deep fried chunks of fish (I’m not sure what kind but it’s cod-like) and it’s delicious. I am not one for photographing food but I wanted to spread the word about kibbeling – maybe one day it will make it to the UK. This was my lunch as we watched the skûtsje coming and going.

Kibbeling!

Next week might (or might not) bring our biggest adventure yet …

The frozen north

We enjoyed our stay in Sneek last week and it was useful to have access to a large town for a few days. We made good use of the shops, restaurants and hairdressers! The Aquanaut marina was very convenient and had all the facilities needed, except for the WiFi which was a bit intermittent.

The Aquanaut marina – with some very nice boats for company

The supermarket was about a twenty minute walk so we inflated the dinghy for only the second time on this trip and went shopping in that. It was much easier than carrying the heavy stuff by hand (mainly the water and the wine!) but it did involve going under some very low fixed bridges.

Duck!

When planning this trip I wanted to avoid carrying petrol on board if at all possible and I researched electric motors as an alternative to traditional outboard engines. I discovered that there are basically two categories of electric outboards – the “Torqeedo” and everything else. “Everything else” is not very good – short battery life, not much power. The Torqeedos had very good reviews but they are quite pricey. Eventually I took the plunge and bought one, along with a lightweight Brig inflatable that can be rolled up and stored under a seat when not in use. I was slightly concerned about the range of the electric motor but we have found it to be fine for our needs with distances of 10-15 km being easily obtainable at slower speeds. And if you’re in a hurry (for example getting back to your boat before your pizza gets cold!) it can hustle along at about 9km/h.

Trusty electric motor

We also took advantage of having the dinghy one lunchtime when we took Tex for his walk in a park a couple of kilometres away from our marina. He’s still not keen on getting in but seems happy enough once we’re on our way.

Walkies by dinghy

When we left Sneek we went out past the Jetten factory where Juneau was built and where she was located when we bought her in 2010. Nothing much had changed there, except that the current models moored outside are much more modern looking than Juneau’s traditional lines. And they seem to be getting bigger and bigger – these were both 44 footers.

A pair of 44 foot Jettens – very nice

This week’s journey was to take us to the coast in the far north of the Netherlands. We had identified a place called Lauwersoog which is at the end of the “stand mast” route taken by sailing boats who want to cross the Netherlands on the canals instead of on the North Sea. Lauwersoog has a lock that separates the inland waters from the sea. We thought it would be nice to see the sea and plotted a course that would take us from Sneek to Lauwersoog in four days. Before we set off we checked the weather forecast and saw that storm force winds and rain were due to arrive on the Saturday. We didn’t fancy travelling in that and instead compressed the first two days into one so we could be safely moored up in the town of Leeuwarden whilst the storm passed.

On the way into Leeuwarden we passed under one of the most unusual bridges we have seen so far.

Excellent engineering and quite a sight

Leeuwarden has a lot of moorings along its main river and when we arrived at lunchtime on Friday it was packed with boats. Luckily a boat left as we approached and we were able to secure a mooring. Later on it became even busier with new arrivals having to raft to (moor alongside) other boats. Not many boats departed on Saturday, presumably because everyone had seen the weather forecast, but plenty more arrived. By Saturday afternoon it was getting very cosy.

Busy moorings on the river through Leeuwarden

The much anticipated storm came through on Saturday afternoon and evening. We were a bit concerned about being moored under trees but fortunately the wind was blowing the right way for us and all of branches that came off the tree missed us! We later heard that there had been significant damage and disruption across the Netherlands. I think we got away quite lightly.

The morning after the storm

We got on our way again on Sunday morning and continued our journey north and east along the Dokkumer Ie. At first it was very quiet but the traffic steadily increased through the morning. The traffic is always a bit “lumpy” because boats have to wait for bridges and therefore get bunched up. We were seeing groups of twenty boats at a time travelling in the other direction and eventually ended up in a group of ten or more ourselves. Many of them were sailing boats making use of the mast up route between the coasts.

One of the many convoys

We found a “wild” mooring for the night, near to a village called “Ee”, and we all went for a nice walk to explore the area. Sunday had been a dry and pleasant day for travelling but that all changed again overnight. The remainder of our journey to the Lauwersmeer and the town of Lauwersoog on Monday was in pouring rain and strong winds. I’m not sure that we got the best impression of this national park as we crossed the lake. We moored up at the Jachthaven Noordergat in stormy conditions and waited for a break in the weather before setting out to see the town and the seaside.

It’s not really like a British seaside town because there is no beach, and hence no real seafront. There is a large dike to keep the sea out and a harbour on the sea side of the lock with a small commercial fishing operation. Not surprisingly, the menus in the few local restaurants are heavily dominated by fish. I took pot luck when ordering my lunch and went for “tong” and chips. This turned out to the sole and very nice it was too. Other options were “schol” and “kibbeling” – maybe next time.

Salty water to the left, fresh to the right
Harbour entrance with the Waddenzee beyond

The remainder of our time here in Lauwersoog is work time, which is just as well because the weather has been awful and we are better off tucked up in the boat with our laptops. Rain and wind have been non-stop and it’s cold. We’ve even got the heating on today – that’s a first for us in July! Still, mustn’t complain, it’s just like a typical British summer.

Here’s this week’s route.

Week-7

Next week the plan is to start making our way back southwards, trying to pick some slightly less traveled routes.  And we’re hoping it will stop raining soon!