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