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Juneau’s home

The province of Friesland is at the heart of boating in the Netherlands and Sneek, one of its major towns, is the capital of boat building in Friesland. Juneau was built in Sneek ten years ago and we thought it was appropriate to bring her back for a brief visit. We’ve been here a couple of times before – the first time was when we bought Juneau five years ago and the second time was when we hired a boat for a week and explored a little of what Friesland has to offer. We are now back in Juneau’s home town for our working week.

Sneek’s Waterpoort – formerly part of the city’s defenses

Our previous working week was spent in Kraggenburg, which turned out to be a slightly unusual place. It was a “new town”, one of ten built in the 1950’s in that particular part of the newly formed Nordoostpolder of Flevoland. The town had obviously been carefully planned, with big wide roads, lots of efficient-looking houses and plenty of green space. However, there was no sign of the 1500 residents who supposedly live there. It was like a ghost town and we expected to see tumbleweed blowing down the street at any moment. Our marina was on the outskirts of the town and it was very pleasant. We chose that spot because it was near some woods where we could walk with Tex and enjoy the tranquility.

WV Kraggenburg – our home for a few days

At the end of our working week we set off to continue our journey to Friesland. The distances covered each day have been much shorter than our trip around the Randmeren, but progress has been considerably slower due to the number of boats on the move in this part of the country. Friesland is a very popular destination for Dutch boaters and also those from Germany. There are a few bottlenecks around locks and bridges which can cause some big delays if you arrive at the wrong time. After we left Kraggenburg we stopped at the nearby town of Blokzijl to have a look around and pick up a few supplies. Unfortunately we then spent the next hour and a half queuing to get through the town’s lock. We later read that it is a notorious bottleneck!

Blokzijl – the canon was used to warn of flooding
Blokzijl’s lock

A big feature of this week’s journey has been the weather. It turns out that the Netherlands is a very windy country! Maybe that’s not surprising as, being completely flat, there is nothing to stop the wind or to provide shelter. Wind can be a challenge for boats, especially when you are trying to stay still – for example when queueing for a lock – or trying to moor up. The first day of this week’s journey (Friday) was the windiest day we have encountered so far and when we eventually reached our overnight spot in Ossenzijl we quickly tied up (using lots of ropes) and battened down the hatches.

Our next destination was Echtenerbrug, which is on the edge of a large lake – the Tjeukemeer. Echtenerbrug had been our first stop with the hired boat a few years ago and we knew there was a nice marina and a good restaurant serving pancakes by the town’s bridge. The bridge turned out to be another of those bottlenecks because it closed for lunch from 12:00 to 13:00. According to the official information it should have been open all day, but it seems that the bridge operator takes his lunch at that time and the bridge closes. Unfortunately we arrived at 12:01 and had to wait over an hour. Lots of other boats had a similar problem and by the time the bridge re-opened there were around 30 boats waiting on each side. Some, like us, had found somewhere to moor up, but others had to hang around on the water. When the bridge eventually re-opened the keeper let the boats through from one side (the other side) first before closing the bridge and re-opening it to let the second side through. The scene was absolute chaos, with boats coming at us from all directions and jostling for position. Some were polite, others not so much.

Waiting for our turn after the bridge re-opened
How to create a traffic jam – close the bridge for an hour

Once we had passed through the bridge we found our marina and walked back to the town for our much anticipated pancake. We were in a prime position for watching all of the boats come through the bridge and pay their bruggeld (toll) which involves placing the prescribed amount of money in a wooden clog when the bridge keeper swings it at you on the end of a fishing pole. It can be quite entertaining to watch.

Restaurant with a view (and good pancakes)
The traditional way to collect the toll – clog on a string

We had a couple of potential destinations the next day and due to the inclement weather we decided to pass by the first one (Sloten) and continue on to the second (Wousend). Wousend turned out to be another town we had stayed in on our previous visit but we had forgotten its name.

Our final travel day of the week saw a big improvement in the weather and we continued our journey to Sneek. Along the way we stopped in the lovely little town of IJlst for coffee and apple pie.

IJlst
IJlst – handy mooring for coffee and pie

Liz had researched the various marina options in Sneek and identified the Aquanaut Jachthaven as being a good destination. It is close to the town centre and has all the facilities we need. Aquanaut is another steel boat builder and is therefore a competitor to Jetten, who built Juneau. We were slightly concerned that they would not welcome a competitor’s boat but there was no need to worry. The harbour master was very friendly and helpful and allocated us a berth for the next four nights. The location has indeed proven to be excellent with only a short walk into the town centre with its good selection of shops and restaurants.

Here’s our route from Kraggenburg to Sneek.

Week-6

The plan for the coming week is to head further north and east, possibly to the coast.

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A tick and its host are soon parted!

A week at our home base, Aalsmeer, is useful as it allowed mum and dad to take me to the dierenwinkle (pet shop) to stock up on kibble and treats. I think they also used to opportunity to stock up on human kibble to (but I am less interested in that as I don’t get to eat it!). However, the working week in Aalsmeer isn’t very dog friendly as there aren’t really any nice places for us to go walkies at lunchtime. We still go but we have to run the gauntlet of the shouty Rottweiler and various other hazards along the way. So when we left Aalsmeer to go to Friesland mum was on the lookout for a good, dog friendly, stop off place for the working week – which is how we ended up in the rather odd town of Kraggenburg.

Wokingham, where I live (usually), is known to exist in Saxon times. I am led to believe this is a very, very, very long time ago. Whereas Kraggenburg (where I lived a few days ago) was built in 1949, which is still a long time agoto me but not long in the life of a village apparently, before that it was under the sea! So you can tell it is pretty new and mum says it was pretty odd – a bit like the ‘garden cities’ built in the UK but with no people in it.

Anyway we didn’t visit Kraggenburg for its history or architectural significance we visited Kraggenburg for its forest J Somewhere nice for me to go walkies for a few days, and very nice it was too. We would have liked to explore more of it but it was very rainy at first so we didn’t go too far to start with. However as the days improved I did get to explore the forest a bit more. Although it’s a ‘new’ forest it is very nicely laid out with lots of soft tracks for a boy to scamper around on whilst chasing a tennis ball. I was pleased to see a tennis ball again as they are not much in evidence when I am on the boat – this is because mum says I will drop it in the canal and lose it (she may have a point!). Anyway I did get my tennis ball out in the forest and I did some serious chasing. See…

I also did some paddling/dabbling…

And generally as you can see I am smiling J

So all in all Kraggenburg was a success for me and after a few days there I was sad to leave it. However I did bring a little friend along with me for the ride.

It seems that nice damp, warm woods with lots of luscious long grass are a prime hiding place for ticks and one of them joined me – right above my left eyebrow L I wasn’t too bothered but mum soon noticed little brown patch in my fur. She knew it was not naturally a part of me but appeared to be quite attached. Instantly Operation Tick-off went into action starting with the tick removal spray that mum brought from home. I’m not sure what it was supposed to do, maybe scare the tick into jumping off. Needless to say that was futile, it scared me to death but my little brown buddy remained firmly in place. Mum does have a tick remover but a) she has never made it work yet, thankfully she doesn’t get much practice and b) it’s at home…so that wasn’t an option.

Whilst giving the tick some thought mum was in a shop in Echtenebrug (as you are from time to time) when she spotted a tick remover, designed for humans but she decided to give it a go. It took all human hands to hold me still, and a very stoic approach from me, but with a couple of twists my friend was gone from my head, squished (like a pigeon) bashed and generally dismembered before going in the bin. It was a dead tick (which mum says is the best thing for a tick to be).

I, on the other hand, have lived to fight another day. During the process I did lose a few hairs and now I have a little bald patch. Mum says I should now be called Spot (because my skin shows through and the patch is white) but dad says it’s OK he can slick it down with a bit a Vaseline and give me a small comb over! Goodness knows why I have to put up with these two, first they pluck my fur out and then they call me names! Oh yes I know why – they buy me kibble – I refer you back to the start of the blog.

Anyway the job is done. We’ve left the odd and tick-y Kraggenburg behind and are now in Friesland exploring some further Dutch delights.

More to follow dear reader

Love

Tex

Heading north (well, east mainly)

At the end of last week we were back at our base in Aalsmeer, just south of Amsterdam and more or less on the Schiphol flight path. I only mention that because the wind was in a different direction this week and it turned out to be quite noisy! Anyway, after the working week we set off on the first leg of the journey that will take us to Friesland, in the far north of the Netherlands.

We are starting to discover that wherever you go in the Netherlands you have a choice of routes. It’s obvious really, but quite different to what we’ve been used to on the Thames where the only decisions are which way to turn when you come out of the marina and how long to go for before you turn around and come back. I don’t mean to disparage the Thames – it’s a lovely river and we have enjoyed it hugely – but cruising over here requires a bit more planning.

Aalsmeer is separated from the province of Friesland by two things. The first is Amsterdam – you have to go through it or round it – and the second is a large lake that used to be part of the North Sea. That second point may need a bit of clarification! The Dutch are great at managing water, largely because most of the country is below sea level and they have to work hard to prevent flooding. They are also very good at expanding the country by reclaiming land from the sea. Back in the late 1920’s and into the early 1930’s a 32km long dam or dike (the Afsluitdijk) was constructed across the top of the country, cutting off the Zuiderzee from the North Sea and, over time, turning it into a fresh water lake. The lake was called the IJsselmeer and it has subsequently been divided into two via another dike, so part of it is now called the Markermeer. After creating the IJsselmeer, the engineers made a start on creating some new land in the form of “polders”. To create a polder you have to build a dike around an area of the sea or lake and then pump out the water to create a dry(ish) low lying area. Two new polders were created – the first is attached to the existing land of Friesland and the second forms an artificial island at the south end of the Ijsselmeer.

The dikes, polders and inland seas of the north

Why the history lesson? (Or is it geography?) Well, the IJsselmeer and the Flevoland polder are both on our route to Friesland. We essentially had three options:

  1. Head up the west coast of the Markermeer and IJsselmeer, visiting some interesting towns along the way, and then cross the lake at its narrowest point. The narrowest point is about 20km wide and would take us about two hours. All the information I’ve read suggests that the IJsselmeer should only be tackled in very calm conditions as it can get quite nasty when the wind picks up. The forecast for the next week or two is not great so this option was not really viable.
  2. Go along the east coast of the Markermeer and IJsselmeer, along the edge of the polders. We were keen on this idea until talking to a local who keeps his boat in that area and advised that this is a really boring route because you’re just following a coastline and the only towns along the route were built in the 1980’s!
  3. Follow a series of lakes that are collectively known as the Randmeren. The Randmeren is the body of water that separates the Flevoland polder from the mainland. When they polderised Flovoland they left these lakes so that the previously coastal fishing towns still had access to the sea, albeit indirectly. This is the longest route and is the option we eventually decided on.
Our three options for getting to Friesland

The first part of the journey was to reverse our route from a week earlier and go back through Amsterdam. This went very smoothly and we joined a convoy of boats progressing through the city’s canals. There was no need to squeeze under bridges this time as most of them opened for us as we approached.

The bridges opened quickly for us, including tram tracks and power cables

We were soon through the canals and onto the “big river” (the IJ) again. We dodged a few ferries around the central station and made it safely through the city.

Ferries? What ferries?

We considered stopping at the Amsterdam Marina again but instead opted for a small sailing club on the east side of the city, a bit further along our route. That was definitely the right decision as the sailing club (ZV Het Y) at Durgerdam was really nice.

Sunshine in the Caribbean, or just outside Amsterdam?
Durgerdam

The next day was hot and sunny and we headed east onto the Randmeren. Once again there were lots of boats on the water and they were all traveling in a relatively narrow channel through the lakes. Some of them were more unusual than others …

You don’t see that on the Thames!

We spent the night in Spakenburg, one of the old fishing villages whose livelihood disappeared with the coming of the Afsluitdijk and the IJsselmeer in the 1930’s. They now rely largely on tourism and the town was packed when we arrived there early Saturday afternoon. There is mooring for hundreds of boats but it all appeared to be full as we pulled into the harbour. The harbour master hailed us from the shore and found us a space between a huge sailing barge and the ferry dock, after first moving three small boats who had been “squatting” there.

The harbour is home to a fleet of historic wooden fishing boats and these were coming and going all afternoon and evening. It was quite a sight.

Wooden fishing boats in Spakenburg
Our mooring is just out of shot at the top of the picture

We had planned a fairly long travel day on Sunday and moved further along the Randmeren to the town of Elburg. The weather was not as good and the lakes were much quieter than the previous day. When we arrived in Elburg we could see that the moorings were very full and this time there was no harbour master to help us. We managed to find a mooring despite another boat trying to overtake us in the entrance channel (which has a 5km speed limit) and beat us to the space. Just as a collision was looking imminent they saw the error of their ways. It was an unusual incident as we have generally seen only good manners and cooperation on the water. Oh well, there’s always one.

Elburg was another old coastal town that suddenly found itself inland. The old part of the town remains intact and we strolled around its streets and stopped for an afternoon coffee.

Elburg

The final part of this week’s journey took us through the rest of the Randmeren, up to the north east polder of Flevoland and leaves only a short distance remaining to Friesland. The weather was awful for most of this trip, with torrential rain and fairly strong winds making for miserable conditions on some of the lakes. We were dry and comfortable under our canopy but felt very sorry for some of our fellow travellers who had no choice but to be out in the weather. It was a long way – our longest day’s sailing so far – not helped by finding that our route was closed at one point and we had a long detour to get back on track.

Miserable weather

Eventually we turned off the main channel, the Kadoeler Meer, and into the interior of the polder. We were surprised at the depth of the lock that took us down into the polder. The majority of locks we have encountered here have had a rise and fall which is measured in centimetres. This lock had a drop of 4.3 metres! Luckily there was a warning sign (“Let op!”) so we were prepared for it. Once through the lock the area was completely different to the wide open (and largely featureless) lakes that we had been travelling on for three days. We were now in an “old” forest, with trees lining the relatively narrow channel. Of course, “old” is a relative term – the forest is about as old as the land, which was created only a few decades ago!

We will be spending the next few days at the local boat club – WV Kraggenburg – and enjoying the relatively calm environment here before setting sail for Friesland, which we expect to be very busy.

Here’s this week’s route – all 170 km of it!

Week-5

A few readers have commented that they enjoyed the video of Juneau going through the centre of Utrecht a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a link to another time-lapse video that we shot during our first week. It shows the day’s journey from Oudewater to Vianen – approximately four hours condensed into four minutes. Some of the journey was in open countryside with a few villages to pass through, then we encountered a couple of large locks before arriving at our destination.

Oudewater to Vianen from David Saunders.

Tex’s observations on a Dutch life

Before you read this blog I feel I should point out that there are three of us on the boat and we all like to blog from time to time. Some new readers may be surprised to read my blog because, after all, I am a dog but go with it you’ll enjoy it – honest!

I’ve been in The Netherlands for four weeks now and I thought I you would be interested in a few observations I have made in my time here. So here goes.

Dutch Dogs…

…don’t seem to like me. When I approach they generally start shouting at me, in Dutch, I don’t know why (well obviously I know why they shout in Dutch but not why they shout at all!) Mum says I give off the wrong signals by looking a bit concerned by them and that need to be braver. But brave I’m not, so I have to work with what I have! You will be pleased to know that I do not shout back. That would not be dignified (and they wouldn’t understand anyway because I only speak English).

Pigeon evolution

One of the things about the Netherlands is that they have a lot of water and correspondingly a lot of bridges. It’s very civilised because as you boat along the bridges open. Whilst they are open the bit where the bridge normally sits is ‘exposed’. With it so far..?

During the course of our visit I came to the conclusion that the inner city pigeons of Utrecht are less evolved than those of Amsterdam as the ones in Amsterdam have learned not to sit on the ‘exposed’ bit when the bridge comes down.

For this reason one doesn’t see the evidence of multiple ‘pigeon expiries’ under the bridges of the capital that are really very evident in Utrecht. Clearly the ones in Amsterdam have developed an eye on the top of their heads or something. I would have supplied pictures at this point but then I would have to X-rate my blog for gruesomeness! You get the idea, many a squished pigeon was evident!

I’m sure it keeps the population down but it’s not a very efficient method!

Just to give you the idea this is one of the killer bridges of Utrecht, sounds like a film title (now there’s an idea – maybe not)

Bikes!!!

Goodness I’m getting to be bike savvy and I need to be. The flipping things are silent and deadly. Everyone has a bike over here. Maybe they have two or three, there are sooooo many of them, more than the population that’s for sure. They have their own roads and their own traffic lights and cyclists rule the roost. I have to keep my eyes open when out with mum because she can never work out what direction the traffic is coming from anyway, so adding in a silent enemy that can approach from anywhere, and is top priority, just makes things even worse! I tell you I’m glad I haven’t got my old job over here it would be a nightmare!

Of course, if you’re on the other side of things i.e. a bike owner that’s very different. But being one that gets around on four paws I am certainly not cut out for cycling. So I think mum should get one of these

It’s a Bakfiets and it’s designed primarily for transporting children around, we have seen up to three toddlers in one of these! However, I think it could easily be adapted for a Labrador don’t you? In fact I expect that if I went into one of the (many) Fiets-shops in this country such an adaptation would already exist, you know with an entry ramp, a non-slip floor, a dog bed interior, kibble holder etc. But mum said if I think she’s going to push 30kg of Labrador (x golden retriever) around on a bike I am sadly mistaken. She does nothing for me…

So there are a few observations on life so far. It has taken me a little while to find my paws but I am settling in to it all. I can be adaptable if I need to be and I have been a city dog or a country dog as and when required. (This is me being a country dog)

Living on the boat is different, but you know what they say, home is where the humans are (and where the kibble is of course).

On that note I will leave you with a picture of me in the lock at Utrecht where mum thought I looked very handsome and I’m showing off my Juneau boat tag which is set off quite nicely against my fur.

I hope you are well dear reader, more updates soon.

Love

Tex

Back to base

This week’s travels saw us leaving the quiet town of Weesp and heading into the middle of Amsterdam before returning to our home mooring in Aalsmeer. For several weeks we have been planning to be in Aalsmeer this week because it is convenient for Schiphol airport and Liz’s anticipated trip back to the UK for a client meeting. In the end the UK trip was not required but we stuck with the plan and will be here for the working week. It marks the end of our month-long cruise around the southern Netherlands and enables us to re-stock supplies with the aid of a car before heading off on our next adventure.

We enjoyed our stay in Weesp – nice town, nice marina (boat club) – but it did get a bit hot for working. One day we recorded 37 degrees in the boat (99 Fahrenheit in old money) which was really getting a bit uncomfortable. That only lasted a couple of days and then things returned to a more comfortable warm/hot instead of scorching.

One of Weesp’s many small canals
Our marina was separated from the town centre by this bridge

We had a couple of options for getting back to Aalsmeer. The first was to take a series of small rivers that wind their way south and then north again. It would be nice, but perhaps a bit slow. The second option was to head across part of the IJmeer, join the main route into Amsterdam and then head south to Aalsmeer from there. We chose the second option and, with a little apprehension, set off for Amsterdam. The journey turned out to be very easy – the lake was very smooth and we didn’t encounter too much commercial traffic on the river IJ, which is the main river through Amsterdam.

Crossing a corner of the IJmeer
Heading into Amsterdam (and avoiding big ships)
Amsterdam, in case there was any doubt

There are two main marinas in the middle of Amsterdam. Both are on the opposite bank of the IJ from the city and require a short ferry trip to get to the city centre. We opted for the relatively new “Amsterdam Marina” rather than the well-established “Sixhavan Marina”. As expected it had great facilities but our allocated mooring was at the far end of the marina and involved a long walk.

Round marina building – our berth was at the far end of the long, thin building

We don’t often make use of the marina facilities – showers, etc. – preferring to use those on-board. But on this occasion Liz was tempted by the thought of a real bath, the first one on offer since leaving the UK. The facilities block was new, clean and very appealing. The bath turned out to have a view across the marina and the river and Liz enjoyed her soak whilst waiting for the washing. (Yes, all those chores follow you wherever you go!)

A bath tub with a view

We didn’t have time to visit Amsterdam city centre on this occasion, but the next morning we set off back across the river and entered the canals. Whilst there are hundreds of canals in Amsterdam, most of them have low, fixed bridges and therefore would not be suitable for Juneau. There are a couple of routes that have opening bridges to allow boats of any size to pass, so we took one of these. It’s actually part of the “stand mast route” which enables sailing boats to pass all the way through the Netherlands whilst leaving their masts in place. The route through Amsterdam is known as the “night convoy route” because two of its bridges carry railway lines and can only be opened for a few minutes at a time, and only in the middle of the night. Tall boats queue up at the first bridge and then rush through together before it closes again. They then proceed at a more leisurely pace through the next ten bridges before arriving at the rail bridge at the far side of the city. Again, they all have a few minutes to get through when it opens.

Fortunately Juneau can easily clear the two rail bridges so we did not have to travel the canals of Amsterdam by night. In fact, with everything taken down (windows, etc.) we were able to squeeze under all but three of the bridges along the route. Some were a little close for comfort with only an inch or so to spare above our highest point – the top of the steering wheel!

Lots of low bridges on this route
An unusual driving position

Squeezing under the bridges instead of waiting for them to open saved us a lot of time and we got through the city quite quickly. It was interesting to look along some of the canals to the side and see typical Amsterdam streets with tall buildings, narrow roads, more bicycles than you can count, houseboats along both sides of the canal and a narrow strip of water up the middle. There was no doubting which city we were in.

Emerging from the canals we arrived at the top of the Nieuwe Meer. We had been there once before, during our short trip at Easter, and had been just about the only boat on the lake. Things were a bit different this time. A hot, sunny July day brought all of Amsterdam out onto the water, at least it felt like that. We again found ourselves surrounded by small day boats (sloops) in the lock, mainly filled with scantily clad sun worshippers. The “don’t go out in the sun it will kill you” message has not yet reached Holland. The Dutch seem to have few inhibitions and, thinking back over the last week, we have probably been the only fully clothed people wherever we have been. As we progressed across the Nieuwe Meer even the scanty bathing costumes disappeared and it appears that this was a location where people take their boat, drop the anchor and work on their all over tan. That wouldn’t be so bad, but this was definitely the more mature, more rounded demographic who really should know better.

Back to the journey. From the Nieuwe Meer we joined the Ringvaart van de Haarlemmermeerpolder (Ringvaart for short) which we think of as our “home” canal as it passes by our marina. Once again we were struck by how different things can be on a nice day. Our previous experience of this canal had been calm waters with the occasional passing boat. On this sunny Saturday afternoon it was packed with boats of all shapes and sizes. People don’t seem to worry about wash and the little sports boats were tearing around making it a very bumpy experience. But everything was very good natured and despite some close shaves we didn’t see any collisions.

We had a lovely day on Sunday with some guests on board. Gaston, a colleague of mine who lives in the Netherlands, had helped me with some of the logistics for the trip. It was nice to meet his family and to head out onto our local lake (the Westeinderplassen) for some lunch and, in the case of Gaston and his children, some swimming and leaping off the back of the boat. Madness, but they seemed to enjoy it!

The last leg of our four-week journey was quite short – here’s the route we took this week.

Week-4

I’ve been keeping various statistics along the way. This is how things are looking after four weeks:

Kilometres travelled 330
Engine hours 50
Bridges opened for us 58
Locks 19

Our “southern loop” went like this (blue, red, orange, then green):

Loop-1

Next week we’re planning to head north.

Utrecht

We left Leerdam on a sunny Friday morning and proceeded back down the river Linge which we had travelled up in pouring rain five days earlier. In the sunshine the Linge turned out to be a lovely river with lots of wildlife and, with very little traffic, it was a pleasant hour and a half to the Merwedekanaal that would take us north again. Our planned destination for the day was Vianen, where we had spent a night a couple of weeks earlier.

WSV De Oude Horn in Leerdam – our home for five days

Having made good progress we were in Vianen by lunchtime and decided to push on to Utrecht the same day. We would then be able to spend two nights instead of one in Utrecht with a full day to explore the city. The journey involved crossing a large river and canal, each of which had a pair of locks around it, before making our way slowly into the centre of the city.

According to our ANWB app on the iPad there are three mooring places in Utrecht. The first is accessible from the south, which is the direction we were approaching from. Our preferred one was right in the middle of the city and then there was a third one on the north. We decided to have a look at the southern one with a view to then moving on to the city centre one. As we took a look at the southern mooring on the Catharijnesingel we were advised by someone on another boat that this was the best of the moorings and we should stay here. He turned out to the right – there is no central mooring at all – it appears to be an error in the app, and the northerly one was nowhere near as nice as the Catharijnesingel.

Gemeente Utrecht (“town moorings”) do not exist!
Our mooring on the Catharijnesingel

The Catharijnesingel was very central and a two minute walk through some quaint streets took us to the heart of the city. It’s an old city with lots of lovely buildings, narrow streets and the river Oudegracht winding its way through the middle. We spent Saturday exploring the city and having a nice lunch in a restaurant at the water’s edge. As the day unfolded the river got busier and busier with tour boats, leisure boats and all manner of small hire boats, canoes, paddle boards, etc. We were quite happy watching it all from the comfort of our table but we knew we had to pass that way on Juneau at some point as our next destination was north of the city.

Typical bridge and restaurant along the Oudegracht
Bikes are everywhere

There were several things that concerned us about taking Juneau through the middle of the city. First, there are 16 relatively small bridges, some of which are more like short tunnels. Whilst we knew the overall height was not a problem if we took the canopy and windows down, the bridges are either rounded or “pointy” and it was likely to be quite a tight fit. The second problem was a big No Entry sign at the first bridge when approached from the south. We made enquiries and were told that this had been put up in anticipation of the following weekend when the Tour de France would be starting from Utrecht. We were told we could ignore this no entry sign! Essentially they were making the river one way, which led to the third problem – it was likely that we would be going against the traffic in a very confined space.

Some of the 16 bridges we would pass under

The alternative to passing through the middle of the city was to retrace our steps to the south as far as the Amsterdam Rijn Kanaal and then take this busy, industrial waterway north to beyond the city. We didn’t like the sound of that and decided to make our move early on Sunday morning when there would be few other boats on the Oudegracht and hopefully no one to tell us off for going the wrong way.

It all worked out well in the end and the trip through Utrecht was really nice. We didn’t meet a single boat and managed not to hit any bridges. It took about 30 minutes at a slow walking pace but the video below has it condensed to less than 4 minutes.

For best results, click here to watch it on Vimeo and select HD playback.

The reason for heading north from Utrecht was to travel along the river Vecht, supposedly the most beautiful river in the Netherlands and possibly all of Europe. The description turned out to be accurate and it was indeed a lovely river, with impressive houses, beautiful villages and nice countryside along its length.

One of the villages along the Vecht

I had identified the Loosdrechtse Plassen as a potential place for an overnight stop. It is a large series of connected lakes with many islands, moorings and with marinas all along its edges. The only downside is that there is a single lock through which all boats have to pass to get in and out. When we turned up on Sunday afternoon there was a small queue of boats waiting to go in. We joined the queue and soon found ourselves in the middle of a crowd of boats, many of which were playing loud music and having parties. We couldn’t easily get out at that point and decided to head through the lock.

The lock itself was quite a sight. The first thing that struck us was that the lock is on a curve. We tied up on the “inside” of the curve and had several smaller boats around us, some of which were tied to us. We also couldn’t help noticing the jazz band and the rows of chairs that had been assembled along the side of the lock so that people could sit there with their drinks being entertained by the antics of the boats as they jostled for position.

You don’t see (or hear) this kind of thing on the Thames

When we got through (unharmed) there was a much bigger queue on the other side waiting to back out from the Loosdrectse Plassen onto the river. We estimated 50 boats or more. Most of them were quite small but some would be waiting there for a few hours. At that point we decided we should definitely stay overnight and leave on Monday morning when things would (hopefully) be much quieter.

Amazingly, once we got away from the lock the crowds and the noise disappeared and we found an island with some nice moorings. We had a very peaceful evening watching the birds and the lake and were the only boat on the island overnight.

Peaceful mooring spot – Weer island on the Loosdrechtse Plassen

Getting out through the lock on Monday was no problem (once the lock keeper had relieved us of five Euros for the second time in two days) and we proceeded on up the Vecht. We aimed for another boat club – WV Zeemeermin in Weesp – and received a warm welcome. This is where we are spending our working week before heading back towards our Aalsmeer base at the weekend. Weesp is another nice town – the Netherlands appears to be full of them.

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

Week-3

Nature and a rescue

As planned on Friday morning we left Gorinchem headed for the Beisbosch national park. I don’t think we’d quite factored in the size and the choppiness of the Boven Merwede river (see David’s blog) which was a challenge, particularly as we hadn’t made preparation for big river cruising and it caught us by surprise.

Tex was swiftly, but reluctantly, relocated to the cabin where he soon defined his ‘big river’ position. Wedging himself into the corner by the stairs, in a sit, where he had walls to his back and his side and the largest surface area (his bottom) in contact with the floor. He’s not as daft as he looks!

From the wild waves of the Boven Merwede we passed through a lock and into the calm tranquillity of the entrance to the Beisbosch. Talk about different worlds, this was much easier.

We cruised down towards the park and stopped off for lunch in a side shoot off the park. Tex wasn’t particularly in fond of the pontoon which was a metal grid, so I could see his point. But he made it over to dry land and was rewarded with sand between his toes and a squidgy ball thing he found. We spent lunchtime watching the coots beat up ducks and the ducks coming back for more. And we saw an Oyster Catcher bird. I don’t think they are rare but that was a first for us.

Our first destination was a Jachthaven on the edge of the Beisbosch, where we were greeted by a Brit working there. It was a very efficient location, a bit car parky but a useful stop-over. And it had a nice restaurant.

Destination gifts seem to be the order of the day, so far we have acquired 2 key floats, an LED torch (courtesy of the Beisbisch jachthaven) and a life ring bottle opener (perhaps the least useful as we never open bottles of beer – yeah right – but we have got a bottle opener on board).

The plan was to find a nice peaceful mooring and to overnight in the park. However that didn’t quite work out. There weren’t many moorings and the ones that were there had attracted groups of people who were mostly having a weekend gathering, we felt we’d be a little out of place in those locations and that they might not provide the peace and tranquillity we had hoped for, So Plan B was hatched. To head back to a marina just below the lock and to head back onto the Boven Merwede the next day. Sounds simple…

This complicated it…

It’s a man, standing on the front of his boat and, initially, he was shouting at us in Dutch. We got the gist he had broken down and would like a tow, honour says you have to help. Well if we were in the same situation we hope someone would help so…

With my worst case scenario hat on (this is the one I wear most of the time) I was convinced that it was just a ruse and that he was of course going to board our boat, rob us blind and sail off into the sunset with Juneau and Tex. David pointed out that this was unlikely to be the case and that he probably just needed a tow! He was right so tow them we did.

Whilst they looked a little scary (to me) they were just a family with three children, one a young baby. They had had the boat two months and this was the second time they’d been towed home. I said maybe he should contact the seller but as he pointed out, it was very cheap. (Really?)

So our good deed done we went off to find ourselves a home for the night. After a bit of hunting around we finally found somewhere we deemed suitable and broke out the wine!

A new plan in place we are now sort of Utrecht bound but we needed a place for the week so we cruised up the Linge to Leerdam. I assumed it would be famous for its cheese (Leerdamer and all that) but it’s not, it’s famous for glass. I think Leerdamer might be a marketing thing. Anyway this week it has been famous for its rain as it hasn’t stopped much since we got here and now there is a strong smell of wet dog on the boat!

But we have a nice town centre location and hopefully the weather will pick up and we’ll have a good few days here. Fingers crossed.