After Woerden we were two weeks off the grid. We entered the Amstel River, the river that gave Amsterdam (dam on the Amstel) its name many centuries ago. For several days we were in Oudekerk (Old Church), moored in front of several restaurants that had just been permitted to reopen outdoors. The weather did not cooperate so few chose to brave the cold winds and rains that plagued so much of May. We ordered borrels (appetizers). They delivered to the boat, quite the treat, and on ceramic plates with silverware, not plastic. When we were done all we had to do was call and they came with the bill.
Across the river you are in Oudekerk proper, a town of a few streets. As the weather cleared the bars and restaurants filled, which h we noted as we biked past looking for the grocery store and the Gamma, a large chain selling paint and lumber. Their paint machine broke as they prepared our boat’s dark dark blue paint but at least we saw all the outdoor activity on a lovely day, at last.
We are not far from the larger town of Amstelveen about 15 minutes on our bikes, and about 20 kilometers from Amsterdam. Amstelveen has a large immigrant population. We learned this as we searched for grocery stores in the area. Many were Indian and other southeast Asian shops. In one Indian shop we found red chili flakes, a must for Indian as well as Italian cooking, at least as far as I am concerned. We stocked up on wine from another shop, racing home against the forming clouds.
We turned back on the Amstel, as we can go no farther towards Amsterdam due to low bridge clearances. We are again in Uithoorn, south of town. We were here the other day, moored while the bridge was repaired. Two hours turned into three, but no matter, as we had shopping to do. With these small refrigerators, found in many apartments in European cities as well as boats, you must go out often for fresh items. From our mooring we are just about 10 mGoogle maps. I went looking, The locations marked on Google maps no longer exist. I went several kilometers several times to find nothing. I headed back to the boat through the tiny downtown to check there, just in case. I saw no Post NL and was about to give up when I saw a postman. He pointed just a few meters towards the Bruna. You can get what you need there, he said. It was only then that I saw the small sign sitting rather high off the ground. This was before I learned that the Bruna was one possible outlet.
Then came Tolensluis. I think this translates as Toll Lock. ‘Sluis,’ is the English ‘sluice’ but a sluice in English is generally used for small locks, in Dutch for all however. You can see many shared words between English and Dutch, although often the meaning is different if somehow related. The movement of peoples is embedded in their languages, something I always find fascinating, these verbal artifacts just sprinkled about.
The sluis is tiny, of course, operated by the man who lives in the adjacent house. After a few minutes he comes out. I was happy to see him as the winds were pushing us about quite a bit.
Oude Weettering was next, after a night in a marina to charge the batteries. Friends again came by to our mooring in the long stretch of houses and a few shops that line the water. Cuckoos live here too, not just in deeper countryside. Youngsters squeal and giggle as they play in the water. Girls in their early teens sing pop, wearing two piece suits for the most part. Everyone stops at a fast food shop called The Family for ice cream, fries, burgers. It sounds so American, I know, but the presentation and atmosphere is not, and besides, where can you get chicken with a peanut sauce in a fast food restaurant in the US?
Boaters are out in force, sloshing the moored boats, up to a dozen or so tied to the docks. The majority are day boats, meaning they have no cabin. Most are completely open, others offer some cover from the rain, not necessary in this week of perfect weather.
In the meantime we are waiting for our final covid vaccination and the Belgian border to open. As of July 1 the EU covid app is due, which you use at border crossings where necessary. Spain is now allowing visitors without testing, Italy with. Concerts and large venues can operate. Europe is gradually coming out of the long, dark winter of confinement. Spring has arrived. We all hope that there will be no repeat come next winter.
May 14, 2021
We entered the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine), a small winding river that moves lazily through the countryside, passing through small villages. It is lined with many older charming houses whose patios face the river. Often there are tables and comfortable chairs. Sometimes residents read as they glance at the passing boats.
We stopped for the night at a marked mooring on the river’s bank. A couple had just moored and helped us in. He even pounded in the mooring stakes, as here there is no other option. Our takes are neatly stored inside one of the two large boxes that sit on the back deck, hanging along with the heavy hammer. Half in English and three quarters in Dutch he told us about some nice places to visit along the way. They left early the next morning, before we were out on our bikes.
The road running along the river leads to Zammerdam, just a few minutes by bike. You pass old but prosperous looking farms with huge slanting roofs and smaller buildings with stilts on four sides so the roof can rise as the structure fills with hay or straw, whatever they are storing for the long damp winter. I suppose they cover the sides to keep the goods dry.
Off to the left is the Ziendevaart Canal, leading to the entrance to a national park. There is a lovely view from the bridge, memorialized by the watercolor below. Follow the canal all the way through you get to Nieuwkoop, near where we are now a few days later but on the Grecht River. We biked down to the canal’s tiny lock. We could make this journey on the boat, we were told, but it looks very close to the margins.
On the way back to the boat we stopped at the dairy that offers its own cheese for sale. There you can see the 100 cows that produce the cheese I am trying to get out of the vending machine using my credit card. I finally find a card that works but in the meantime we had found the owner, who then went to put her shoes on. She came out, tall as the roof over the barn, speaking English quite well despite living well off the tourist track. That tells you how well they teach English here and are exposed to it regularly via American and British media offerings.
She told us they produce 1 million liters a year, that’s 1000 per head, more than a calf would consume. The output is enhanced by breeding. The cows live 8 years, and they are trying to breed the longest living lines to extend that to 10. They sell their milk to an organic cheese maker. She says that the Dutch government does not favor raw milk, for fear of infections, and apparently does not have a certification process. We bought a pretty old version of the cheese, thanked each cow separately, and will check it out when the real old one in the frig is history.
We moved on to Bodegraven, mooring outside town. You get a great view of the harbor. See the drawing. Friends came by to bring us the window he worked on. The glass was cracked by a rock last year. We’d bought a new one so he could try removing the old acrylic glass. He’d never done it before, and the manufacturer, Gebo, said it was difficult to do. It just took persistence, he said.
Bodegraven is tiny, with just one main street bisecting the other at the lock, with a few dozen shops. One of the shops is a Polish grocer. In we went, as we like the cuisine. They had some dill pickles and jars of bigos. Bigos is a sauerkraut dish with bits of pork. It’s very Old World. We enjoyed a jar for dinner and the rest for lunch the next day, all for about 5 euros. We went back for a few more jars.
We went through the lock to moor in town center. We should have done this yesterday. Unlike the other, here there is electricity and water that you pay for via an app. There is no mooring fee, amazingly. So there you are with some great old houses as neighbors. Our friends came by again, bringing some lumber so we can replace the wood damaged by the leaking windows in the after cabin. Their granddaughter is working at a hotel nearby, as an apprentice, so its not so far for them to have come, as they transport her. We stayed three quiet nights as permitted.
The windmill is part of the small brewery in town. It was closed the Monday and Tuesday we were there. Their website says that they are open on Wednesday but as of noon they were still closed and as we left shortly after we never got to try it. A Peace Corps friend saw my Facebook post on the topic and said she was there several times while staying in the village. She said the beer was excellent and there were several varieties to try. I was looking forward to it and the food trailer they have near the door, offering kip sate, fries and other common goodies.
It’s several hours on the river to Woerden. There is an old castle, but it looks new somehow. The old town is surrounded by an octagonal moat of which the castle is a part. There is an old mill on a mound, so the wings tower above. The harbor is fairly large but in need of modernization, as we could not fit in between the posts. We snugged in between two barges.
It was around 1730 that the bridge opened so we headed out of town, back the way we came as there is no other choice, and made the hard right onto the Grecht after slowly, slowly winding our way through the abandoned factories outside town. At the entrance there is barely room for one boat. The wind was picking up so it was hard to hold it in place even in that sheltered spot. At 1900 or so we saw a mooring with two boats already tied up. I tried to get between them but the wind was too strong so we moved on. At 1930 we found a lovely spot that was easy to get into, by the box windmill, just like the people at the 1900 effort said.
The wind blew like crazy all night and all the next day at this spot, outside Nieuwkoop. Nonetheless we were able to remove one of the leaking windows, cut the wood and filler, then reinstall the window.
We continue on the Grecht in the next blog.
April 16, 2021
From Zwartsluice we navigated to Genmuiden for a short visit and a trip to the supermarkets, then we made our way to Grafhorst. This is a tiny town, so tiny it does not even have a grocer. Instead a large van drives into town, beeps the horn, and waits for people to climb in to shop for fruit, veg, meat, cheese and the like. This is now predominantly a bedroom community. Each house has a car.
There is a plaque in the park next to the river. It commemorates the deaths of Australian airmen whose plane crashed into the river during WWII. Viking is moored nearby. We stayed the night alone at the dock other than the unoccupied work boat qft. It was a quiet night under a few stars, the long cold sunset lasting well past 8 P.M.
In the morning, again with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, we set off for Kampen. Kampen sits on the Ijssel River, which flows into the Ijsselmeer, the inland sea that is closed off from the North Sea by locks and dikes. Kampen was a member of the former Hanseatic League, population of 37,000.
Kampen has a well preserved old town center. There are three lovely gates and many chaurches. Three modern bridges cross the IJssel. There is a local variation of the Sallands dialect, termed Kampers.
The friendly and Bible quoting harbor master makes coffee for visitors. It’s a lonely job in the winter but the boating season is quite busy, especially on weekends. There is a fries shop across from it so we ordered two small fries which somehow turned into a humongous order. It’d been a good while since we had crispy fries like this.
The next morning, after another cup of coffee and some comments about the Gospel of Mathew having everything you could possibly want to know, we were off to Almere, where we will meet some old friends and a representative from Gebo, the manufacturer of the windows on our boat. The factory is in the town and the rep lives one minute from the town’s free moorings, and the friends just two minutes more. It’s another gorgeous day with very cold mornings. You emerge from the mouth of the river into some fairly open water before entering the Ketelhaven locks. Here you drop about 6.5 meters onto the polder. We did not have to wait long for the red-green light to come on, indicating they were preparing to open the gates. The first lock drops 5.5 meters so they have ropes that descend along the walls. You just loop a line around it and down you go. It is quite easy. The second lock is not manned. You have to push a button to get things going. We saw it on the right side after we had docked on the port side.
The 52 kilometer voyage from Kampen to Almere took about 7 hours in lovely sunshine. Slowly on.
April 16, 2021
After a comfy night in a high tech shoebox at Schipol, with it’s colored lights operated from a control panel, we were greeted by our friends who live in nearby Haarlem. They drove us to our boat in Heerenveen, a 90 minute ride into Freisland. The boat was afloat and in reasonably good condition by all appearances.
Given the possibility of deep freezes, you have to drain your pipes and put antifreeze (a safe version as it goes into the canal) in the drains and the wet exhaust system. As they say in repair manuals, assembly is a reserve operation. That is what we did first thing. All went well until we tried to leave the dock to fill the water tank, as in this marina there is no water on the dock. Unfortunately the way the marina attached the electric chord to the pole made it impossible to remove the chord so we could not move the boat. We filled some plastic bottles from the rest rooms, a 2 minute bike ride from the boat, not convenient by any means, but manageable for one day. Tomorrow is Monday so they can help us out.
The next day we filled the tank. I found that the shower faucet had frozen in the deep deep freeze earlier this year. Fortunately the faucet came off easily and there are shops nearby. But here things get a bit complicated. Due to corona virus restrictions you have to make an appointment to shop in most stores, grocery and pharmacy excepted. But we have rented a car for the day so we hoped we could just get in without an appoinment. After getting groceries we stopped at one of the big stores. They would not let me in. They did across the street however and I even found the type of facuet they use here, which mixes the hot and cold together using a built in thermostat of some sort, and it was on sale. It installed easily.
However the shower drain pump was no longer operating. The shower water drain is too low in the boat to go overboard directly. It drains into a box with a float operated pump. So no shower aboard and no hopes of replacing it until we get to a marine shop.
With high winds, snow, sleet, hail and rain we were unable to make our Thursday appointment for replacing our 21 year old charger/inverter. Things gradually improved and on the 8th day we headed south in reasonably good weather. Our rain hood completely encloses us so we are protected from the still cold wind, with temperatures barely above freezing as we departed, having paid our electric bill for the winter and our week running the small heater which, along with the diesel heater, kept us warm while awaiting better weather.
After a night in the harbor near Bonsink, the company doing work for us, we were hauled out of the water and placed in a cradle. The boat was placed rather far from the rest rooms and there was no water for washing the boat. We did have electricity at least. The installations were completed the next day and the leak at the prop shaft as well, where the seal had just been there too long. We have a shower and a new Victron charger/inverter, which is about as good as they get.
We did not have the inverter for long. We used it one night. The next day it was drawing 50-60 amps. It should not draw any more than about 2 amps to operate.
After the complexities of our journey north we then faced a week of bad weather. The forecasts were highly accurate. Howling winds kept us in the safe harbor. We kept warm during the day with a small electric heater, just 750 watts, with the addition of the diesel heater that pumps hot water through radiators. The boat is well insulated, which helps a lot. The windows are not double pane so they have to be wiped dry a few times a day as they fog up. As we absorbed the moisture off the panes we gazed out at snow flakes, hail, sleet and the occasional blue sky.
We took the time to deal with any issues that arose over the winter. People were skating on the canals this year, for the first time since 2012 or so. This used to happen every year but the climate has been warming so skates spend long lonely years in the closet. We expected issues and found a few. The shower faucet froze despite having been drained by normal means. I should have removed it completely, apparently. The shower pump failed. A window leak worsened. It needs to be removed and re-bedded. Not bad overall.
We arrived on the 4th and left on the 13th for our annual haul out. You need to check the anodes that protect the boat from electrolysis. Sometimes there is stray current in the water. This current causes weaker metals to migrate to stronger metals. Unchecked you can ruin a prop, rudder and other parts. You can install a galvanic isolater, which we will do. It prevents DC voltage from doing its worst. DC can cause problems when the boat is connected to shore power.
Monday the 12th April broke at O centigrade but sunny. We have outside steering only but stay warm and dry under the rainhood. There was some wind, a bit of hale and a snow shower or two, so staying dry and out of the wind helps greatly.
Along the way I monitored a leak at the prop shaft. There is a grease fitting around that shaft that has probably never been renewed. Before we left I made arrangements for it to be repaired at the haul out.
We made it to the tiny town of Zwartesluice in the large lovely marina. The next morning we being a few days living on the hard, as we say. The boat is put on a frame, they bring a set of stairs so we can easily get aboard, and we plug into electricity. The only disadvantage is the walk to the toilets, as we can not use the one we have aboard. The morning temperatures are still around freezing.
The next morning we make progress on the repairs. In spare moments we made an appoint for temporary residence, required if EU citizens plan to be in the country for more than three months. With the number they give you you can get the covid vaccine. We made the appointment for the number. They are vaccinating the people in our age group now. I’ll report on that as matters develop.
Set to the Oscar Navarro’s gorgeous Noe (Noah). Oscar is from Valencia. He was in the audience when I heard him for the first time.
Kalenburg is a tiny village that is split by the canal. It is perhaps the most lovely navigable canal section in the country. Geithoorn is overall more charming but its canals are too small for boats in the size range of our 12 meter boat Viking. I write about it here https://garyjkirkpatrick.com/wandering-about-the-netherland-east-part-2/
Gorredijk is yet another lovely town in Friesland. A barge passes through the now closing foot bridge behind the boat.