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Easter Cruising

Picture the scene, it’s Good Friday, the start of a long bank holiday weekend. A perfect opportunity to rest, relax and generally recuperate. Ha!

An alternative is that it is 4:45am on a cold, dark morning when the alarm goes off and you have to get out of bed to begin a journey to the Netherlands. That was reality, it may have felt a bit grim at the time but it really was quite exciting as we were heading to see Juneau in her new home.

Tex spent the weekend with his friends Scamp and Candy because there were quite a lot of miles to be covered in a short period of time and we didn’t think it was fair to take him on this occasion. For me it was a good opportunity to recce the trip so we know what to expect in June.

I won’t bore you with the details of the journey. It wasn’t too bad and we managed to avoid some major traffic jams around Antwerp (as you do). Safe to say the Aalsmeer turn off was very welcome and Juneau a happy sight to see.

Friday consisted mainly of unpacking and putting stuff away. Happily everything had made the journey in one piece. It was quite odd to be unpacking all our bits and pieces again. It was a bit like moving home. But once done it was the same familiar Juneau, just in a different location. It did seem to take ages to get everything sorted and by the end we felt we had earned this glass of wine, just the one mind (yeah right!)

Saturday we awoke to the unwelcome sound of rain on boat! Not only was it raining it was pretty cold too. Hmmmm, not necessarily as planned. We made the best of it by taking the opportunity to explore Aalsmeer. It’s a very nice town a bit bigger than we first thought, it has its own windmill of course and it’s big enough to have 3 bike shops!

Having acquired some soup and a pack of Roombroodjes we headed home with the resolve to take the boat out somewhere. Roombroodjes, for those not in the know, are very soft sweet bread rolls filled with custard. Believe me they a wonderful Dutch invention – many of which will be consumed come the summer I predict!

We did finally head off with the aim of finding somewhere for lunch. We cruised along the Ringvaart to Kaag. Here we moored on some public moorings with a windmill view for lunch. It was very nice (if a bit chilly). On our way back I saw a sign which told me it was 5 degrees, brrrr.

David’s work in acquiring and setting up the TV and satellite paid off as we were very comfortable in our lounge watching Saturday night BBC. There was only one thing missing…

Sunday dawned a little brighter, although still flippin cold! Thank heavens for boat heating. We cruised off in the opposite direction on the Ringvaart which was interesting but not particularly picturesque, particularly when we cruised past the end of the Schiphol airport runway!

We did a round trip on another meer and back again. The difference to Thames boating is that there are very few locks. Instead there are lots of bridges which, even little Juneau is too tall to get under. The power of the boater is such that you can stop the traffic and get them lifted (and you don’t do it yourself – the Netherlands is full of Brugmeisters ). Here we are ‘commanding’ the Aalsmeerderbrug. Quite an impressive bridge don’t you think?

Prior to returning the marina we stopped off on some moorings on the Westeinderplassen, our ‘home lake’, for a cup of tea. Here our British ensign attracted the attention of a fellow boater who seemed to be looking for a source of tea bags and spotted us as his best hope. In the spirit of Anglo-Dutch relations we were, of course, happy to oblige. Bit odd though!

Finally we headed home, moored up and rewarded ourselves with a meal out. I was particularly pleased when, aiming to indicate our table needs, I uttered the word two (just that – two) to the waiter in Dutch, he didn’t say what? correct me or reply in English. See I am on my way to fluency – one word at a time.

Monday was sad as we had to retrace our tracks across Netherlands, Belgium (this time with less luck in Antwerp), France and around the M25 to get back home. But we left Juneau in good company with Dutch friends.

It was a long but really worthwhile trip to familiarise ourselves with a small bit of the Netherlands. We have plenty to do before we go but roll on June!

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Moving Day

After all the preparation, on March 23rd, finally the big day was here. The boat transporter was due at Harleyford at 10:30 and I just had enough time to get on board Juneau and double check that everything was stowed securely, lashed down, padded with cushions or otherwise prepared for the journey. 

The transporter arrived exactly on time and, after a short wait for the boat lift to become available, Juneau was on the move. She was at a bit of a jaunty angle but the straps were secure and she made it safely to the waiting trailer.

The boat lifter has arrived and the straps are being readied
I’m sure they know what they are doing!

After much to-ing and fro-ing, lifting and lowering Juneau finally made it onto the trailer. Lenny the driver strapped her down and she was ready for the road.

Slotting Juneau onto the trailer
Carefully positioned and ready to be secured

The journey would take her 120 miles round the M25 and up the A12 to Harwich.

Leaving Harleyford Marina at the start of the journey

Then it was the overnight ferry crossing to the Hook of Holland and a final 40 miles of motorway to the Westeinderplassen lake where she would be craned back into the water and I would meet up with her after catching the 06:50 flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam (for the second time in a few months!).

Liz and I had spent a long but fruitful December day visiting marinas in the part of the Netherlands we had identified as a good base for our travels.  We visited about six marinas that day and several of them were good candidates. We eventually chose Jachthaven Stenhuis in Aalsmeer because it offered most of what we needed, is in a lovely location and is run by a very friendly and helpful family. 

Unfortunately, one thing not available at Stenhuis is road access for a large boat transporter so the craning-in took place at a larger marina at the other end of the lake. One of the Stenhuis team met me there and we sailed Juneau across the lake together. I was grateful for the help as it had been a long day and finding the marina on my own might have been a challenge!

Crossing the Westeinderplassen from Leimuiden to Aalsmeer
The approach to Jachthaven Stenhuis

Fortunately the weather was decent and we were still dry when we arrived at the new marina. We had been allocated a nice mooring and I managed to moor up without incident, which was a relief having not manoeuvred the boat since we had left her at Harleyford the previous November. I spent the rest of the afternoon putting up the canopy – tricky singled handed! – and removing bubble wrap from everything.

On her new mooring, with lots of other steel boats for company
The view out onto the lake

I eventually headed for the airport, caught the 9pm flight back to Heathrow and arrived home about 10pm local time. A long and tiring day but very satisfying to see Juneau safely installed in her new home.  And the good news was that Liz and I would be back the following weekend to unpack, get everything up and running and start exploring the area.

More Moving Day photos can be found in the Gallery and the loading process has been condensed into a four minute video here.

David

Let me entertain you

Welcome to my first post on juneauboat.com.  I say my first post on here because I am already an accomplished dog-blogger.  I have a full record of my thoughts and musings captured here  Tex’s blog .  I’m sure you could waste a few happy hours catching up on this dogs view of the world over there.  Not that I want to chase you away!!

I hope you are enjoying the updates on the progress of our trip to the Netherlands on my boat.  I expect you are all wondering why I think it’s my boat (well a few of you may have wondered – nobody?? Oh well I’ll tell you anyway).  Here is how I see it…

Some time before I joined the household, mum and dad were in the market for a new boat (which would eventually be Juneau).  Dad tells me that mum looked at every boat they considered to determine if it would be ‘dog friendly’.  More than a few were rejected on that criterion.  Boat sales people were a bit bemused because on further questioning it became clear that they didn’t actually have a dog!  So to lose a sale on the requirements of a mythical pooch must have been a bit vexing to say the least.

Anyhow it was all a plan – mum didn’t know which dog they would get, and they certainly didn’t know it would be me, but they had an idea of the general size and requirements for the prospective canine family member (I was never going to be a chihuahua – the shape was always intended to be labrador-ish luckily).  Finally the plan came together and the combination of boat and dog was made.  As it happened we (the boat and I) arrived in the very same week, and 5 years ago almost to the day.  It was kismet and as a result she is my boat – it all makes sense now doesn’t it?

Having acquired this floating home I am quite surprised that it is such a cheap hobby, no one has presented me with any invoices for my boat yet (possibly because I would eat them  😕 ).  It’s a good job there are no invoices really because I am not a dog of independent means.  In fact I’m not a dog of any means whatsoever, so I’m not planning on paying for anything at all!

No my contribution is not financial.  I am here to love and charm mum and dad and to generally entertain them.  Via these posts my aim is to do the same for you with my slightly unusual observations on life.  Well I am a dog after all.

I hope you enjoy my musings dear Juneauboat reader

Love

Tex

It’s all about the list

Who thought this little trip would need so much planning?

Now I like a plan, probably more than most, and a list is very much my best friend.  But really this is getting beyond a joke! Between David and me we have spreadsheets, shared on line job boards and more than a few tatty bits of paper dotted around the house.  All we can hope is that all this listing will pay off and we will have everything we need when we get to the Netherlands.

My main activity in the prep process has been to shop!  I have shopped in every location possible ranging from John Lewis to the local pound shop taking in Argos and Tesco along the way.  Our dining room is so well stocked it resembles a rather eclectic shopping emporium.  Now all we have to hope is that all this stuff fits in the boat and that when we put it in the water it doesn’t sink under the additional weight.  Sadly we won’t know that until she reaches Holland!  If there is a problem David will be seen rapidly jettisoning cans of baked beans and pots of English mustard (we have a lot of that 🙂 – no honestly we do!) in Leimuiden.

So apart from shopping and listing my other little task is to learn Dutch.  Now I understand the Dutch are very accommodating and generally do speak English, but it seems at least polite to greet people in their own language (or my best approximation to it).

Of course the most tricky words include the letter g, the pronunciation of which I can’t really describe but safe to say it doesn’t come naturally to a born and bred Brit!  Sadly it appears to be in most of the words I want to say.  So mastering it is my challenge of the moment.  I take the opportunity to practice when walking the dog (de hond).  Fine for me but he thinks I have lost the plot as I wander round muttering words to myself and apparent only saying words that involve a g!

Anyway it’s coming along.  I have mastered o few greetings and now need to look at some specifics e.g. do you have a mooring, can you help my boat has sprung a leak – that kind of thing!  Thank heavens for Google translate.

Hopefully our dining room (and the rest of the house) will be less cluttered post this weekend and all our stuff will safely reach Leimuiden.  Then we can start some more pre-trip planning, I feel a fresh bunch of spreadsheets coming on…in the meantime

Met vriedelijke groet

Liz

Preparing for Holland

The ToDo list started off quite big, and then it grew. Whenever we thought about living on Juneau we came up with more things we needed on board and jobs to do on the boat. Some were “big” items and others much smaller. But when you put them on a list it can be a bit daunting. Most of the winter has been spent working through that list.

The first thing to be tackled was Juneau’s hull. Nothing major, but it looked awful when she came out of the water in November. The boat had not been lifted for two and a half years and the hull had gained a layer of lime scale in that time. Nothing that a bit of elbow grease (plus de-scaler and polish) couldn’t fix.

Just out of the water, with the hull in need of a good clean and polish


Clean and shiny – the “marks” on the hull are reflections

We need a good internet connection in order to work from the boat. You’d think that would be easy in this day and age but it proved quite a challenge to find suitable kit. We got there in the end but only after returning a total of five routers to various companies because they simply weren’t up to the job! The final solution means that Juneau has her own wifi hotspot to connect all our devices, a wifi “bridge” to enable us to use internet connections in marinas, etc., and a 4g router to make use of high speed mobile networks. Hopefully that should cover all the bases.

Of course, Juneau is a steel boat. A steel “cage” is good at stopping radio signals so we need outside aerials for picking up the wifi and mobile networks. These have been mounted on the mast where previously we had a TV aerial. They are not too obtrusive, as you can see below.

The TV aerial (left) was replaced with cellular and wifi aerials (right)

If you look carefully at the top of the mast in the after picture, you might notice that the light is missing. Thats because the highly trained engineers broke the top off whilst moving the boat from one position to another on the hard standing. They assure me that they will have a new one fitted by the time Juneau leaves on her trip to Holland.

The TV aerial is no longer needed because we won’t be watching terrestrial TV – our Dutch isn’t good enough yet! But three months without the BBC? That was not going to work and a satellite solution was needed. This was one of the “big” items on the list but it turned out to be quite a neat solution. It’s called a “Snipe” and consists of a motorised dish that automatically finds the satellite and later “parks” itself so it can be stored away in its case when not in use.

All this technology requires power, so an upgrade to Juneau’s electrics was needed. This took the form of three very large “domestic” batteries and an inverter capable of powering a kettle, microwave, hair drier, etc. We’re expecting to have access to shore power most of the time, but with this setup we should be self-sufficient for several days at a time when we’re “off the grid”.

To keep things tidy and ship shape, we’ve added some storage boxes on deck and various shelving solutions inside. Unnecessary items such as infills for the spare bed have been temporarily removed to make space for storing the deflated dinghy and its electric motor. And to keep Tex safe I’ve made a pair of stainless steel and canvas gates to ensure he stays on the upper deck and doesn’t wander off when he sees something interesting on shore.

The engine and heating systems have had a full service so we’re hoping they will be trouble free. The underwater bits have also been seen to – a fresh coat of antifoul paint and a shiny new set of anodes. (“Sacrificial” anodes are chunks of metal – in our case magnesium – designed to prevent other parts of the boat from being eaten away by electrolysis.) The propeller had a bit of a dent which had the potential to cause vibration, although we hadn’t noticed any problems.

Slight damage to the prop can be seen on the far right

The prop was sent off to be refurbished and came back looking like new. A nice touch is that it now has Juneau stamped on it – not that anyone is going to see it!

As good as new – and now with “Juneau” stamped on it!

Finally, there was a lot of paperwork to be organised. First Juneau had to be “registered”. This is not needed when cruising in British waters but is essential for establishing the boat’s credentials when in foreign waters. Juneau now has SSR159333 on her sides to prove who she is. Along with this goes insurance, ownership papers, proof that VAT was paid when the boat was new (otherwise over-zealous customs officials might ask us to pay 21% of the boat’s value!) and various other essential papers.

I’m hoping we’ve thought of everything as there are not many days left before Juneau gets picked up (literally!) from her winter residence at Harleyford and transported to her new home in Aalsmeer, just south of Amsterdam. It has been a busy winter but hopefully all the preparation will make for an easy and enjoyable summer. Fingers crossed!

Ill post again soon with details and (hopefully) pictures of Juneaus journey back to her home country.

The journey begins

2015 will be a “big” year for Liz and me as we will be celebrating “significant” birthdays. We had talked about many different options to mark the occasion and I’m always keen to organise a special holiday when I can find an excuse. Canada and New Zealand made it onto the short list. What better way to celebrate?

Then I had another idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Back in the autumn of 2013 as the boating season was coming to an end it occurred to me that we already have a perfect holiday home that can take us anywhere (within reason) and perhaps we should head across to the Continent for the summer of 2015. Out came the spreadsheet to work out the feasibility and, with a few guesses on likely costs, the trip looked feasible so long as we could both work a few days each week from the boat.

We’re lucky that our jobs could allow us a considerable amount of flexibility as to where we work for a period of time. We each regularly from home already, so we wondered if it could be possible to work three days a week from our floating home for the summer? We would need to make sure we have good communications links (fast internet access) so that our employers would be able to agree to the arrangement.

I started by researching the French rivers and canals with a view to kitting Juneau out for a cross-channel trip and entering the waterways somewhere around Calais. But as I read more, it looked like we would be using some big, industrial waterways at the start of the journey and there would not be any “nice” places to stop. This would be a problem for Tex who likes a bit of grass under his paws when we moor up at lunchtime and at the end of the day.

Then I thought about the Netherlands. In 2011 Liz and I had charted a boat in Friesland, a beautiful area in the north of the Netherlands, and we came away thinking that the country was very “boat friendly”.

A typical street scene from our Friesland trip

The Netherlands seemed like a good choice for our first adventure abroad with our own boat because it should be a (relatively!) easy place to cruise and it feels right to take Juneau back to her home country. Over the winter of 2013/14 we started reading about the country and its waterways and decided this was a good place to aim for. We could happily spend one summer there and then think about where to go next.

Before we could make any real plans we would need to get approval to work in this slightly unusual way. By working three days a week from the boat and taking two days a week as holiday we could have three months of 4-day weekends for cruising and exploring, but no one in the office would see us for three months! Giving a year’s notice of our plans seemed reasonable, so in June 2014 we broached the subject with our respective bosses. After some deliberation we both got the thumbs-up and the plan was on.

Now the planning could really start. First, the logistics. The boat would need to be sent on a transporter as the trip by sea would be too long for us. Apart from our relative inexperience of going to sea, with a maximum speed of about 7 knots Juneau would take a long time to reach Holland. Our current marina, Temple, does not have the facilities to lift boats so we would need to go elsewhere. Just across the Thames is Harleyford Marina and they are able to lift boats as big as (and bigger than) Juneau. We could have Juneau lifted at the end of the 2014 season and she could sit on their hard standing until spring 2015, at which point she would be loaded onto a lorry. We submitted the required 16 weeks’ notice to our marina and gave a leaving date of 9th November.

2014 was a good year for boating and we made good use of Juneau right up until “moving day”. We left Temple Marina with mixed feelings because we had enjoyed our two-and-a-half years there, but this was to be the first step in a journey that will eventually take us to our new cruising grounds.

Temple Marina was looking lovely on this sunny autumn day
Juneau, shortly before departure from Temple

The trip from Temple to Harleyford is not exactly long or complicated. It took us about ten minutes and must rank as our shortest ever trip on Juneau!

Safely tied up at Harleyford ready to be serviced and lifted out

The small inflatable in the picture above is Juneau’s new “tender” – a 2.65m Brig with an electric engine. We thought a tender would be essential for our Dutch trip and bought this after thoroughly researching the options at the Southampton Boat Show in September. We’ve only had a couple of outings in it, but so far so good. The little “Torqeedo” motor is a great piece of kit. It pushes the boat along at about 5 knots and the advantage over a traditional outboard is that we don’t have to store any petrol on Juneau. We’ll have to see if range becomes an issue, but the figures look promising.

We said goodbye to Juneau and headed off in the tender
Juneau’s berth at Temple looked very empty when we got back

We packed up the car and headed home feeling sorry that we would not be using Juneau for the next six months but excited that our next outing would be in foreign waters.

Now that Juneau has moved half a mile closer to her 2015 destination our attentions can focus on the other things that need to be planed for our trip, starting with finding somewhere to base the boat when she arrives in Holland. I’m sure that will be a topic for another blog entry.

Finding Juneau

At the end of 2009, with one year’s boating experience in a small sports cruiser (a Fairline Targa 27 called Sunday Morning) we decided that we’d like a boat more suited to cruising on the Thames. Sunday Morning was a lovely boat but we realised she wasn’t quite right for the cruising we wanted to do.

Sunday Morning on the Thames

The Targa went up for sale and we started looking for a different type of boat. Having had the challenge of two V8 petrol engines (with a tendency to stall) and outdrives (with expensive servicing costs) the first requirement for the new boat was a single diesel engine with a shaft drive. Beyond that the only other requirements were a “proper” cabin to sleep in and a decent bathroom.

We had not been looking for a steel boat, but having looked at various boats at Val Wyatt in Wargrave, they told us about a Jetten which had been taken as part exchange and was now at the factory in Sneek, in the Netherlands. The boat was five years old and had been given a minor refit by the factory – new flooring, furnishings, and so on. It looked great in the pictures and ticked all of our boxes but obviously we needed to see it in the flesh.

On a cold Sunday in February 2010 we flew to Amsterdam and were taken to Sneek to see Vrijheid. It had been very cold in Friesland for a while and the water had frozen solid around the boat.

Vrijheid in Sneek

We looked around the boat and loved what we saw. Sometimes you have to just go with your instincts. The deal was done. But we would have to change the name as neither of us could pronounce Vrijheid (which is Dutch for “Freedom”).

There were a few additions we wanted the factory to make for us, the biggest one being the installation of a stern thruster to complement the existing bow thruster. (Whilst not strictly necessary, the thrusters are a nice luxury that provide great manoeuvrability which can be lacking in a single shaft drive boat.)

Work was delayed a little whilst the ice melted. That gave us some time to think about a new name and eventually Juneau was chosen. It can be very difficult to think of a name for a boat. Some people manage to come up with a decent combination of their own names, but Daviliz didn’t quite work for us. We also wanted to avoid a number in the name (Lazy Days 53 didn’t appeal) so we needed something that would be unique on the Thames. We have no particular connection with Juneau, other than we liked the city of Juneau in Alaska when we visited (actually, it’s the state capital) and the name has a nice ring. We didn’t realise at the time that people would struggle to pronounce it – it’s pronounced June-oh, for the avoidance of doubt J

After the thaw, the boat was lifted into the factory where the work took place. It was nice to know that the same craftsmen who had built our Jetten were now customising her for us.

Vrijheid becomes Juneau

The next time we saw Juneau she was arriving in Henley-on-Thames on the back of a transporter.

Juneau arrives in Henley-on-Thames

Juneau was carefully lowered into the Thames before making her way to Wargrave where she would remain for a few weeks.

Taking her first dip in the Thames

Finally, in the middle of April, Juneau’s crew of three set off from Wargrave on our maiden voyage to Bray Marina, which would be Juneau’s home for the next two summers. One member of the crew, Tex, was a little bemused by the whole thing as he had only just joined the family and wasn’t used to boating. But he coped well.

Ready for our maiden voyage

The trip was largely incident-free and we all arrived safely. Less than two weeks later we set off on our first big adventure – taking Juneau to London. But that’s another story.