28 September 2012

Onward to Friesland

At noon on Wednesday the 19th of September we slipped from alongside a guest pier in Grashaven, Hoorn. We had spent two days in Hoorn, including a side trip to the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen. It was time to move on; we had a long way to go to get our skûtsje to Harlingen for her second century facelift.

The weather was a bit unsettled as we left; though it was raining lightly, there were blue patches among the large billowy clouds. The winds were about 15 kph from the southwest with occasional gusts to about 25.

We had decided that rather than crossing the IJsselmeer, we would to head south, back down the Markermeer and then around the chain of lakes and canals that follow the former Zuiderzee coastline. If conditions deteriorated, we could poke back into the canals through Edam or Monnickendam and take the longer but calmer inland route. We watched as a thunderstorm engulfed Hoorn astern of us.

Ahead, it didn't look so nice either. We continued southward, favouring the western side of the meer to make our exit inland shorter and easier if we needed to take it.

About midway to the entrance to Edam, we were hit by a heavy thunderstorm and Edi wisely retreated to the dryness below.

The thunderstorm had passed and the rain was slowly abating as we passed Volendam. The sea was a bit lumpy with leftover chop from the system's 50 or 60 kilometre winds, but the sun was breaking through.

Ahead beyond the Marken light, the sky showed more blue than cloud. We decided to press on down the Markermeer.

As we passed the Marken light, we committed ourselves to a thirteen kilometre crossing to the next protected waters in Flevoland. The wind was southwest 25 to 30 and would be on our starboard bow for most of the crossing.

We could, of course, turn and run back to the protection of Marken if conditions deteriorated too much during the first part of our crossing.

Fortunately, the thunderheads moved past us to the north and the south, and spared us the heavier winds and downpours. It did; however, continue to alternately rain and drizzle with very few dry respites.

About half-way across we crossed the main commercial traffic lanes, up and down which seemed a nonstop flow of huge barges.

We were crossing at an angle of about 30º, and I picked a gap between traffic to pop through.

As we approached the Flevoland coast, the sun broke out through the western clouds and gave some colours to the eastern ones.

It continued raining as we entered more protected waters, passed under the Hollandse Brug and into the Gooimeer. I was very thankful that Henk had left his foul-weather suit aboard for me.

At 1645 we arrived at JachtHaven Naarden and secured to the reporting pier. We pushed the call button  on the speaker and were answered by a female voice. Edi asked in Dutch for moorage for two days, received confirmation of space availability and was told to go to the Westzijde. The posted map is oriented at 45º, so there are two Westzijdes, northwest and southwest. Both looked plausible.

Edi asked for directions. An impatient voice told her to go left and then left. Edi asked left facing which direction and got no reply. We noted that the office was open until 1700, so we still had a good ten minutes to walk to the office and get better directions. After a brisk walk, we arrived at the office a few minutes before closing time to find the door locked, but still occupied by a woman. We gave-up, writing her off as an extremely rare example of an unfriendly and non-cooperative Dutch person.

As we descended the stairs, we were met by a sympathetic man, who told us to wait a minute, and he went off to a storage shed and came back with an area brochure and a layout of the jachthaven, showing where Westzijde is located. We walked back to Nieuwe Zorg and moved her to a wharf on the northwest side of the marina.

Naarden, a town in the province of North Holland is a wonderful example of a star fort, complete with fortified walls and a moat. Naarden was granted its city rights in 1300 and later developed into a fortified garrison town with a textile industry. Because of its distinctive shape, the town was a visual rally point for bombers returning to England after raids on Germany during WWII.

On Thursday morning we walked to the office to register and pay for two days moorage. We met the woman with whom Edi had spoken when we arrived at the reporting pier. She was just as forthcoming and helpful as she had been previously. Edi asked her directions to Naarden and was told where to find the bus stop, so we walked about half a kilometre to it and waited for the hourly bus. Fortunately, we arrived a few minutes before its scheduled passing and when we boarded the driver refused to take any fare; the trip was too short. We walked along the defence walls above the moats and wandered through the arsenals, which have been converted into upscale interior decorating boutiques.

In the centre of town we admired the city hall, which on its intricate facade proclaims that it was built in 1601. We visited the baker for bread and rolls and the small centre-town supermarket for vegetables and meat and so on for a couple of days. We have finally become accustomed to shopping for a day or two at a time, rather than stocking-up for weeks or months as we had done for three years in Sequitur.

We wandered a circuitous route exploring the old city. There is a charming mix of old and new, including fascinating sculptures.

On Friday morning as I was boiling water for coffee, the propane tank ran out. I switched tanks and relit the pilot light for the water heater and reset the furnace. At 1050 we slipped and headed out into the Gooimeer and turned eastward. Along the way we met the westbound CANAJUN EH, which was proudly flying a Canadian flag.

At 1320 we secured alongside the wharf in front of the Havenmeester kantoor in Spakenburg, squeezed in between a fishing boat and two dinghies. The Havenmeester was not in, so we walked the two hundred metres into the centre of town for a look around.

We walked past a seeming unending line of century-old wooden boats, dating from the nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries. Most were botters, but there were also Lemster aaks, Staverse jols and bons.

We watched old wooden ships moving in and out of the harbour and counted forty-nine alongside in port. There were several slips open and there were three boats hauled-out for repairs on the antique marine railway.

We thought of the Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival and laughed.

As we were looking at the old boats, a woman in traditional Spaken dress rode past on a bicycle. We learned that there are still several dozen regularly wearing the costume.

We saw another in the supermarket as we were picking-up some items for dinner and breakfast.

After our circuit through town, we went back to the boat to stow our purchases and to top-up the water tank. While I was filling the tank, I wondered why all the ducks were gathered around our boat.

The answer shortly arrived on a bicycle with her grandfather. A child almost the same age as our granddaughter, Annelies began tossing slices of stale bread into the water just off Nieuwe Zorg's bows.

The ducks had great interest in this; there was a feeding frenzy as each slice approached the water.

We settled-in for the evening in an idyllic setting among a wonderful selection of antique boats in an historic fishing town on the ancient shores of the Zuiderzee.

Saturday is market day in Spakenburg, so early in the morning we walked into town to experience it. Stalls were set-up all along the broad avenue that runs each side of the canal through the centre of town.

We wanted some sole for dinner, so we looked at the collected viswinkels and chose one.

Their sole appeared to be the freshest, so we had the young chap behind the counter select a couple of large fish.

He weighed them, jotted down some figures and then proceeded to filet them for us, very shortly presenting us with four nice filets in a small plastic tray for less than €3.

 We stowed our market purchases aboard and then walked back to the museum. Our passes gave us free admission, and we spent a couple of hours thoroughly engaged with the story of the transition of a coastal fishing town on the Zuiderzee into an inland port cut-off from its historic fishing grounds.

At 1107 on Sunday the 23rd we slipped and headed out of Spakenburg, totally enthralled with the wonderful little town. We turned eastward and fifty minutes later came to the Nijkerk lock, which took us up about 30 centimetres to the level of the Veluwemeer. We watched a rather steady parade of cyclists pedalling along the bike paths on the tops of the dikes.

The lake turned northeasterly and we followed the marked channel along it. Being Sunday, there were many boats on the lake, and as we neared Hardewijk, we watched some paragliding with a smiley-face kite.

We arrived in Hardewijk at 1413 and were met at the passenten melden pier by the Havenmeester, who pointed-out a spot in the inner harbour for us to moor.

We secured and walked into town past the historic ships and windmill.

Through the sixteenth century gate we went and continued into the wonderfully preserved old town.

Among the old buildings, some have been modernized, and we were charmed by a century-old art deco storefront among three, four or five hundred-year-old buildings.

Back onboard, our furnace had failed to run. I had spent a couple of hours troubleshooting without success. I had installation instructions in Dutch only, plus a multi-lingual operating sheet. The English on the multi-lingual sheet was clear enough; the problem was that the heater was British. I dug back in my mind to days of sorting-out Lucas wiring and other British engineering labyrinths in my days of trying to keep running various models of Austin Healey, Triumph, Jaguar and Lotus. I finally resolved to bring a water hose into the engine room and through a likely-looking spigot try to add some pressure to the system's watertank. It worked. We had heat again.

We slipped our lines at a quarter to noon on Monday and continued northeastward. Two and a half hours later we had secured to the guest wharf in Elberg. We locked-up and walked into town to find the Havenmeester and to look around.

Elberg is a delightful town, full of charm and houses that reflect their owners' pride.

Everywhere we looked we saw an eclectic mix of decor; old, new, organic, inert. Among the things we were shopping for was an inexpensive handcart to haul our empty propane tank to the service station for a refill. We found a passably robust model for €14 and we also bought some lamp oil. We needed a new wick for the lamp, but the shop had none suitable. The clerk pointed-out a couple of shops along the street that had wicks, and after the downpour stopped, we scooted out to continue our search. 

The mentioned shops had nothing near what we wanted. Edi thought of the marine hardware shop we had seen next to the city gate, and we went back out to it. There was a large selection of wicks in many styles, including one ten centimetres wide, which to me appeared what we wanted. We bought a half metre piece and chatted with the owner for nearly an hour before we hauled ourselves away.

Once I had figured-out how to remove the old wick and install the new one, the wick proved itself to be the perfect size.

After breakfast on Tuesday I put the empty propane cylinder our new shopping cart and wheeled it about 400 metres along the paved walking path on the dike to the Esso station and pulled-up at the AutoGas pump. I added 28 litres of propane to the tank, pain the clerk the €22 and wheeled away back to the boat. How wonderfully convenient this process is compared to our experiences in finding propane in North and South America.

At 1044 we slipped and headed back out and followed the Drontermeer as it gradually bent northward. Just over an hour later we arrived at the Roggebotsluis where we were lowered about half a metre to the level of the Ketelmeer. There was a heavily laden commercial in the approaches as we exited the lock. It was filled to the combing tops with sand and its gunwales were awash in the ripples.

The marked channel led us to the northwest, and as we passed the mouth of the IJssel, we bent our way westward toward the Ketelbrug and under it. As we passed under the bridge and into the IJsselmeer, there was a parade of antique klippers and tjalken lowering sail to await the opening of the bridge.

The IJsselmeer was very choppy. Short, steep wind waves combined and interacted with waves reflected off the shores to offer a very confused sea. The wind was about 50 kph from the southwest, nearly on our beam for the remaining 6 kilometres of our passage to Urk.

At times Nieuwe Zorg got into a rollong rhythm when the pitch of the waves matched her beam. I lowered a leeboard and steered a tacking course, putting the slop alternately on our bow and our quarter. The pressure on the tiller was very strong and I needed to brace myself to steer. The winds had increased and Edi was below clearing away things that had shifted, when we heard and felt a very loud bang. We quickly searched for its source, but found nothing. There were no signs of problems, so we continued.

After nearly an hour of fighting the confused seas, at 1440 we entered the protection of Urk and secured in the lee of a wharf near the centre of town. While Edi was forward handling the bow lines, she noticed that the mast counterweight, which had been placed athwart the centreline, had slid across to the port gunwale. That explained the loud bang. The 1100 kilogram weight had broken loose from its temporary blocks and had crashed into a gunwale-mounted mooring cleat with sufficient force to shear the two 7.5mm stainless mounting bolts.

We were listing to port, so with the aid of some mooring lines, I slowly moved the weight back closer toward the centre of the foredeck and blocked it there. Our onward route will be all inland, so there was no need for further securing arrangements.

We locked-up and went into town to explore Urk and visit its museum. The town is first mentioned in historical records over a thousand years ago in 996. At that time it was an island in the Almere, a lake that would become part of the Zuiderzee in the thirteenth century after a series of inundations by the North Sea. The island was about 80 hectares in size and composed of a high clay hump and a pasture. The hump was about 12 hectares and on it was built the town. The low-lying meadow flooded regularly and the island slowly eroded until it was little more than the small town.

With the closing of the Afsluitdijk in 1932, the waters around Urk slowly reverted to fresh for the first time since the flooding in the thirteenth century. In 1939 a dike connecting Urk to the mainland was completed, ending the town's island status. In 1942 the surrounding land was drained to become the Noordoostpolder. Today, Urk has the largest fishing fleet in the Netherlands and boasts many large, modern fish processing and packing plants.

At 1110 on Wednesday we slipped and headed around into the lock, where we were lowered 5.5 metres to the level of the canals in the Noordoostpolder. In the lock chamber are conveniently spaced pipes set in vertical slots in the walls. Edi looped a line around one forward and I around one aft, and we enjoyed a smooth, well controlled descent.

As we motored slowly along the canal through Urk's new suburbs on the polder, we passed many large fish-packing plants, all with their owners' houses, wharves and jachts on the canal side. There is obvious prosperity.

At 1435 we arrived at the entrance to the Friese sluis, the lock that would take us back up the 5.5 metres out of the Noordoostpolder to the level of the IJsselmeer and into Friesland.

There was another pleasure boat in the lock ahead of us, and I needed to snuggle very closely up to its stern so that our tiller and flagstaff would miss the bridge as we rose. In this lock, instead of the vertical pipes to handle our lines, there are 3cm ropes fastened top and bottom and spaced every 3 or 4 metres.

As we came up, I thought I would need to remove the flagstaff, but in the end, it cleared the bridge by about 20 centimetres.

We exited the chamber and slowly motored into Lemmer and up to its entrance lock just as the keeper was opening the gates for us. We entered and secured to the chamber wall as she came over to collect the €5.50 fee for the lock and bridges through the historic heart of the town. We were lowered about half a metre and then motored to a mooring on a wall in the middle of town, where we secured at 1520.

Alongside down the wall from our mooring were two beautiful Lemsteraaks. We walked along the wharf to admire them.

There are many elements of the jachtenroef conversion of a skûtsje that resemble those of a Lemsteraak, and it is not difficult to see from where early design inspiration may have come.

At 1033 on Thursday morning we slipped and headed through town. We had been moored about a hundred metres short of a bridge, which needed lifting for us. We had spoken a couple of times with the bridgekeeper the previous day, and he was watching us as we prepared to get underway. As soon as we let go our lines, he initiated the process to stop traffic and raise the bridge. We passed through and wound our way along the canal to the next bridge, which was open for us. As we rounded a bend we saw the third and final bridge opened with three boats passing through it. However; we were too far back for the bridgekeeper to delay traffic and he closed it.

We waited for a few minutes while road traffic cleared and the bridge could be reopened. A large tjalk came up astern of us as we cleared through the bridge. We moved along at 6kph, the speed limit on this section of the canal, but it was obvious that the tjalk's skipper found this much too slow and we were soon overtaken.

We shortly joined the Prinses Margriet Kanaal and followed it northward. Close to the junction we spotted a sign indicating a wharf for the landing of barge automobiles. Barging certainly has changed since the days our skûtsje was built.

We followed the tjalk up the Groote Brekken, keeping up with it with the increased speed limit of the broader waterways. Further ahead was another tjalk under sail, and there was a rather steady down-bound traffic, both pleasure and commercial.

The sailing tjalk turned off into the Rijnsloot and appeared to be sailing through the fields as it headed toward Sloten.

Across the dikes from the canal we saw rich agricultural lands stretching to the horizons.

Dotted among the fields were typical Friesian farm buildings with their low walls and high, steep roofs. We continue to admire the sense of order, the apparent care and the obvious pride of ownership of the land and the buildings.

We turned off the Prinses Margriet and into the Witte Brekken and the Woudvaart toward Sneek. Just short of the toll bridge we spotted a marina with a sign announcing free wifi. We stopped, backed and went alongside its melden wharf. There was nobody around; it was 1315 and we assumed everyone was at lunch. We shut down and were in the middle of our own lunch when the Havenmeester arrived and knocked on the hull. He showed us to a spot across the way and pedalled around the marina to take our lines when we moved across. He gave us the wifi code, pointed-out the marina's laundry facilities and gave us directions to the supermarkets.

We finished our late lunch and then walked the short distance into the centre of the old city, passing along the way the Waterpoort, which was built in 1492 as a part of the city ramparts. We went browsing and shopping among the wonderfully maintained historic buildings in the heart of town and couldn't resist making some purchases from among the broad selection of upscale shops.

Toward the end of the afternoon we located the Fries Scheepvaart Museum, but there was too little time to give it the attention it deserves. We bookmarked it for a long visit the next day and then walked back to our skûtsje to relax. Nieuwe Zorg is finally back in Friesland.


  1. We were in Sneek in 2005 for a week on a bareboat, loved the trip. Thanks so much for continuing to share. Stu

  2. Your Blog reads as a novel, how to discover Holland from the seaside of the dikes...I have seen places and read stories i have never seen before.
    I remember the same type of oil lamplighting in our beach house when I was a kid. The thing really could heat up the room and turning it too high would cause blackening of the whiteceiling....
    A ballast weight of 1100 kilo bouncing around on your deck could have created havoc, good decision to travel the inland waterways rather than crossing the IJsselmeer. Go to see a shipshandler and get yourself a real ZUIDWESTER rather than that silly PETJE

  3. It looks like you guys are having a blast!
    Those were some very pitoresque pictures of the home land.