29 June 2013

To Lemmer

At 1050 on Tuesday the 25th of June we slipped from the wharf in Heeg and headed out into Heegermeer, across it and into Wâldsinster Rakken to Woudsend. As we arrived in Woudsend, we passed a dozen racing skûtsjes moored on piers alongside the canal. It is wonderful to see so many century-old vessels in such fine condition, and to know that each is raced hard in the many Friesland sailing competitions.

As we continued through the town, we passed the line-up of boats waiting for the bridge to open, and easily ducked under the 2.45 metre span. We crossed Slottermeer in a strong crosswind and entered Slotergat. A short distance along, in the centre of the town of Sloten, we came to the Nieuwe Langenbrug, which at 1.11 metres was too low for us. The keeper had opened the bridge for us as we approached, and as we passed through, he swung a wooden shoe out for Edi to drop in the €2 bruggeld.

The scene behind us as we left Sloten was definitely the Netherlands. There was a windmill, many red tiled roofs, a stone bridge, two canals and a variety of boats old and new. South of town we turned eastward into Wâldsleat, crossed Brandermar and then followed Hjerringsleat and Reinsleat to Grutte Brekken, which we followed southward.

From its southern end we turned into Stroomkanaal and then followed Zijlroede into downtown Lemmer. Here there are three bridges that require lifting. At the first one Edi put the posted €5 bruggeld into the clog-on-a-line and we confirmed that this fee was for all three bridges plus for the lock at the far end of town that will take us up to the level of the IJsselmeer.

As we entered the centre of town, we saw the canal banks lined with visiting boats. It was still early in the afternoon and the havenmeester obviously hadn’t yet been around to condense them; they were loosely spaced with many 10 and 12 metre gaps. However; since we need 18 or more metres for Zonder Zorg to squeeze-in, we continued through the third bridge. We were hoping to find a place on the wall in the basin before the lock, where we had stayed on our arrival in Friesland in September.

We were fortunate in finding a space of more than 20 metres just down stream of the bridge. At 1358 we secured against a 3-metre high stone wall with a stout wooden rubbing strake along its bottom and solid bollards along its top. We were in the heart of the city; the bridge is main cross street of downtown Lemmer. We decided to pause for a couple of days.

27 June 2013

To Gaastmeer

Zonder Zorg was built in Gaastmeer in 1908 and we wanted to visit her birthplace. However, with the  continuing heavy rain and howling winds, we decided to stay a third night in Workum, hoping for better weather. 

On Saturday morning we pedalled into the centre of the old town to do some browsing and shopping and simply admiring the wonderfully maintained old buildings.

Onboard I monitored the evolving weather with the buienradar.nl site, which showed the passing of the main nimbus system we had been under for days. After 1400 there were just a few smaller patches of rain heading our way, so at 1500 we flashed-up the engine and headed out.

We wore around in the narrow canal and headed southeastward along the Lange Fliet toward the Friesian Lakes. Light rain alternated with heavy drizzle as we motored along the canal and there was a strong crosswind from the south.

Taking advantage of the winds were many sailboats, in a wonderful mix of new and old, large and small. This century-old classically maintained wooden botter was among them.

As we reached the lakes the winds were building through Force 6, so we decided to seek shelter. At 1552 we secured to a wilderness wharf on the lee side of an island on the western edge of Grote Gaastmeer. This mooring place is part of the De Marrekrite system, for which we have a burgee. The wind continued unabated and the rains came in waves through the remainder of the day.

Overnight, the rain eased, but the winds remained strong. In the early afternoon on Sunday as we were planning our onward trip across the lake to Gaastmeer, we were told by a man from the boat moored astern of us that the winds were predicted at Force 7 late in the day. We decided to seek better shelter in Heeg, so at 1429 we slipped from the wharf and crossed the Gaastmeer in building winds, using the lowered leeboard to stabilize Zonder Zorg in the short, steep breaking chop.

Across Gaastmeer, we entered the short Yntemasleat, which lead us to De Fleussen  and shortly into Heegermeer. There were many sailboats out on the meeren scurrying for home from a Sunday sail with deeply reefed sails.

As we approached the entrance to Heegerwâl, we had to crab a full 30º to maintain our track in the crosswind. At 1530 we found lee in the basin and shortly we secured to a solid wharf with a thick stand of old trees breaking most of the wind. The winds increased overnight, but we were snugly comfortable with a good wifi signal from the office across the way. 

The rains had stopped by the time we arose on Monday. After a large breakfast of local sausage, scrambled eggs on toast with tomato slices and fresh basil washed down with steaming cups of espresso, we headed out.  

We pedalled into strong headwinds the five kilometres to the village of Gaastmeer. Thankfully, our bicycles are seven and eight speed, so the pedalling was eased, though rather slow.

Near the centre of the village Edi spotted a sign indicating the Wildschut werf was down a small side street. It had moved a few dozen metres around the bend of the canal from where it had been when the Wildschut Brothers had built our skûtsje in 1908.

We pedalled into the yard and introduced ourselves to a worker there. He told us that the owner was out, but should be returning shortly. As he spoke, the owner drove in. He was a bit rushed, but we interrupted him for a short while, telling him that we owned the skûtsje that his company had built in 1908 as De Nieuwe Zorg. He confirmed that he was a descendant of the Wildschut family, but in the rush we didn't even get his name, though we did remember to give him our boat’s calling card along with a few questions, which he promised to answer by email.

In the single slipway was a skûtske casco from the same era as ours, though built by a different yard. It had been completely stripped-out, primed and was waiting for someone to buy it and have it fitted-out to their own specifications.  

We told him we were looking to fill-in some missing pieces in the Wildschut family history and that of the company, which is now called Jachtwerf Wildschut. We asked him to look at Zonder Zorg’s website and to email us any additional Wildschut details he might have.

Our pedal back to Heeg was downwind and very much easier. When we arrived back in the basin, two skûtsjes were moored just ahead of us on the wharf. Each was overflowing with teenagers on deck, excitedly preparing for a sailing adventure on the meeren.

With the wind still a bit high, we opted to stay another night in Heeg, relaxing and enjoying the good wifi signal.

24 June 2013

A Visit to Hindeloopen

The thin cirrostratus that we had welcomed as a sun blocker on Wednesday afternoon had changed to a solid altostratus by evening. Thursday morning we were under low nimbostratus and rain appeared inevitable by mid-afternoon. Nonetheless, after a luxurious sleep-in and a late breakfast, we unloaded our bicycles from the foredeck and pedalled through Workum and out the other side and using TomTom on my iPad, we chose to follow the bike path on Oude Dijk that runs southwest toward the coast. After nine kilometres we arrived in Hindeloopen.

Hindeloopen was built on three mounds in the saltwater marshes along the Zuiderzee coast of Friesland. It was granted city rights in 1225 and became a member of the Hanseatic League in 1368. In the twelfth century mariners from Hindeloopen had begun voyaging along the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts fishing and trading. Their strong overseas connections with foreign countries and infrequent contact with the hinterland across the marshes, caused the development of the Hindeloopen language; a mixture of West Frisian, English, Danish, and Norwegian.

We pedalled into the tiny city, pausing frequently to admire the views.

Everything we saw was tidy and well-maintained. There is an evident pride everywhere here.

We pedalled around the church to get the best angle to see its leaning steeple. Though not as impressive as Pisa's leaning tower, it is certainly out of plumb.

We locked our bikes in the convenient racks beside the church...

... and took our panniers up onto the sea dike and down the seaward side to sit on the large blocks of riprap and have lunch. Edi had prepared ham and cheese croissants and we enjoyed them as the sheep and lambs around us grazed on the lush grass.

After lunch we left our bicycles on the racks and went wandering the city and browsing the shops. We bought a few things for Zonder Zorg. I bought a spare Friesian flag for the jackstaff and Edi bought some of the famous Hindeloopen fabrics and some Douwe-Egberts Hindeloopen cup and saucer sets from the artist who designed them. Then it started to rain.

We walked back to our bike rack, which was nestled between the church and the museum. The continuing heavy rain convinced us that this was the prefect time to visit the museum, which is in the building that was the City Hall from 1683 to 1919. The receptionist told us that with all the shipping trade in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the citizens had become quite wealthy and spent a great amount of money in Amsterdam on precious fabrics, furnishings and decorations. They bought many of the goods imported from Asia through the Dutch East India Company. 

The rich town developed its own distinctive costume and a unique style of colourful painted walls and furniture.

The fabrics and clothing designs showed a distinct Asian influence.

As the prosperous times waned, and oak could no longer be afforded, furniture and panelling were made with simpler, less expensive woods. These were ornately painted by the locals to replicate the intricate carving of the oaken pieces. Thus the now famous Hindeloopen decorative style evolved.

Wall panels and doors were elaborately painted.

The museum was full of wonderful examples of early Hindeloopen decorative art.

After nearly two hours of admiring the displays, we were filled to the brim with this wonderful art. We left the museum and scurried fifty metres through the downpour to Restaurant Sudersee, where we had a koffie en chocoladecake to help the rain diminish. The rain persisted, but to help us pass the time, the owner, Piet Bakker offered his wifi code and a link to a weather radar site so we could watch the progress of the storm on my iPad.

After an hour's pause in the restaurant, the radar showed the heavy downpour decreasing to only a downpour, so we took that weather window and pedalled back the shorter six kilometre route to Workum. It was less scenic, but with the heavy, wind-driven rain, we weren't really into looking around that much. Back onboard Zonder Zorg we enjoyed very long, hot showers and were very quickly relaxed and comfortable again. 

23 June 2013

Southward Through Friesland

On Wednesday morning, the 19th of June, with our seven-month refit in Harlingen complete, we went up to the office of Scheepsbouw & Reparatie Friesland to bid our farewells. We had the rare good luck of finding the three partners, Lex Tichelaar, Wychard Raadsveld and Klaas Koolhof in the office at the same time. After we had thanked them for the wonderful work they had orchestrated, I posed for a photo with them. I am not a short person, but with the Dutch having the tallest average height in the world, these three men at 195 to 200 centimetres tall towered over me. Their work seems to tower over that of other yards in our experience.

We flashed-up Zonder Zorg’s new engine, and at 1015 we slipped our lines and headed out. As we motored past the yard, Andre shouted a “Bon Voyage” from his perch on the foremast of his new topsail schooner. We had watched the previous week as the masts were stepped, and now we saw the yards being rigged. There is still considerable interior work to be completed, but she is looking very shippy.

Within ten minutes we were at the Industriebrug waiting for the bridge to be opened for us. We had decided to take the narrow Harlinger Trekvaart, which winds through farmland and small villages to Bolsward. Along the way are several low fixed bridges, the lowest being 2.16 metres and the narrowest 4.5 metres, but before we can get to them, we have five movable bridges that need to be lifted for us. We phoned the number on the bridge sign and were informed it would be about ten minutes; they were just finishing at the other end of the series.

The second bridge was 6.9 metres wide, but required a 90º turn to port from the narrow canal, so it was a good test of my barge-handling skills. I surprised myself with the ease of the manoeuvre, and am delighted that I had fitted the left-hand propeller.

The third bridge, number 7 on the inset from the chart, is a 5.5 metre wide swing bridge with an immediate 80º port turn into the 6.6 metre wide road bridge and the adjacent 6.4 metre wide rail bridge. It was all wonderful barge handling practice.

At 1059 we were through the rail bridge and then very quickly into rural Friesland, with no more movable bridges until the city of Bolsward. There were; however, many fixed bridges, mostly with 2.5 metres of clearance above water. We have not yet accurately measured our air draft since the refit, but preliminary rough measurements that I took show us to be about 2.05 metres. We slid under the lowest of the bridges with room to spare.

Along the canal banks were herds of grazing cattle, needing no fences to keep them in. The canals and drainage ditches serve a dual purpose; enclosure and drinking water.

The canal wound through several tiny villages and settlements and we admired the wonderfully kept homes alongside the canal. Many of these had life-sized livestock sculptures as lawn ornaments, likely representing their owners' livelihood. And everywhere, there were boats moored.

Shortly before noon we approached the village of Kimswerd, which offered a placid, almost surreal appearance as we neared. The day was very hot, with temperatures in the 30s and all morning the sky had been cloudless. We were relieved to have a layer of cirrostratus move in to offer some protection; our bodies are still rather pale from a rather cloudy spring. 

We wound our way around some tight turns in the village...

… and through some tight bridges.

Just beyond the village, we saw a very pleasantly sited wooden wharf, and decided to secure alongside to pause for lunch. The structure is about 60 metres long and it has solid mooring bollards spaced about 4 metres apart. Alongside it runs the old towpath, now a bicycle route. We surmised that because the canal is so narrow and winding through Kimswerd, making moorage there impracticable, the wharf has likely been built to offer passing boats a place to stop to visit the village. 

After a relaxing hour, we slipped our lines and continued along the canal. Shortly past 1500 we arrived in Bolsward and paused briefly as the Jansbrug was lifted for us to pass through. The bridge keeper then pedalled along and prepared the next two bridges for us, and each was ready for us when we arrived.  Within twenty minutes we were through Bolsward and back out into the farmland.

Four more lifting bridges and about eleven kilometres brought us to Workum, where at 1810 we secured alongside on the municipal moorings on the northern edge of the city. We had come 32.7 kilometres in about seven hours of motoring. Unlike our in sailboat Sequitur, there is no autopilot in Zonder Zorg. Steering is a constant hands-on affair with a huge oak tiller, and we were a tad weary.

We decided to stay two or three days to relax and explore the area. The past three weeks or so had been rather hectic with leaving Vancouver, setting-up house in Zonder Zorg, wrapping-up the last bits of the refit and preparing to head south. We need to catch our breath.

To mark the beginning of our new cruising life, I prepared chicken tarragon and served it with fine green beans almandine and sautéd small potatoes garnished by sliced Roma tomatoes with shredded fresh basil. With dinner we enjoyed a celebratory bottle of Cava Codorniu Classico. I think we will quickly learn to enjoy this style of cruising.