April came about and we are off. Off our rockers, according to some, and not without just cause, given that our destination is in the midst of a third wave of the corona virus. But I mean ‘off’ as in we are on the way north to Netherlands, literally the low lands, and to Viking, our floating home, for the next several months.
But first a word from our obstacles. There were many between us and our destination in Freisland, the northeast part of the country, where our boat spent the winter well under the freezing temperature of water.
Obstacle one, we had to get a PCR test with a negative result within the allowed time constraints. The EU rule, which the Dutch follow, allows you to take a PCR test within 24 hours of boarding OR within 72 hours along with an antigen test within 24 hours of boarding (an improvement over the 4 hour limit that had been replaced only a few days earlier. Whichever option you choose, you must hope that results get to you within 24 hours.
Unfortunately, Peg made flight reservations over Easter weekend, so most labs were going to be closed. I spent hours finding a 72-hour test a day before the flight and a four-hour test in Alicante (our flight was from there, not from Valencia) on Saturday, the day our flight was scheduled, at a lab that would be open one whole hour that morning.
Three days before the flight, when the requirements changed, we had lunch with our neighbors and their niece, whose twin brother works at a laboratory. Not only was he able to get us into the lab within the 24-hour window, but at a “friend discount” of 55 euros each, about half of what we would have ordinarily paid. The clinic opened on time after lunch on Good Friday, we told the receptionist we were here on the part of the twin, we were on her list and we got our swabs, with 20 minutes to make our train to Alicante. The taxi ride took 5 minutes, which gave us time to buy tickets, buy bottled water, and jump on. We could also cancel the previously scheduled 4-hour before departure test scheduled for the next morning.
Our lodgings were a room in what had been a private home, 5 minutes from the train station. Check-in was completely person-free. We phoned the owner, who WhatsApped us the instructions to open the front door, go to the second floor and the code to a real estate lockbox. The code opened the lockbox, which had a key to the door of the flat. The key was chained to the lockbox, so we opened the door, returning the key to the lockbox. The door to our room was open and two sets of keys to the building door, front door and room door were in it. Amazing!
Our flight was at 3:00 pm on Saturday, so we checked our phones for the results every 10 minutes beginning at about 10:00 a.m. No negative test results, no flight. We had plenty of time to come up with a Plan B for a short term let in Alicante, just in case. Testing positive would have seriously hampered our plans for work on the boat that is scheduled for April 8.
My negative test results arrived via email around 10 a.m. At noon Peggy’s had not arrived so I called the special number the receptionist had kindly given me for any problems. Speaking when masked, to someone who is also masked and speaking 90 kilometers a minute in Valencian, Spanish and English and who is sitting in a row of five people, all of whom are scheduling testing appointments and completing testing paperwork for people standing in front of them, is not all that easy. With Peg’s test number, we got to the problem rapidly, which was Peggy’s email address, which was missing a “K”.
When the report arrived at Peg’s email two minutes later, we did a little jig in the nice little bar two blocks from the Alicante train station, where the express airport bus stops.
At the airport, the only hiccup was that the Easyjet app lost my reservation after an update. The friendly guy at the gate got it sorted. Peg’s sewing scissors were confiscated by security – to which she said, “Duh.”
Then came the obstacles between the airport in Amsterdam and the boat in a country undergoing its 2nd or 3rd wave of quarantine restrictions – I’ve lost track of that number too. I figure we will be fine. Last year we traversed Netherlands and a good portion of Germany by boat, all the way to Berlin and back without getting infected. I know. I have tested now 5 times for covid, three of which were the antigen quick type, now a PCR, earlier an antibody test, all negative. No antibodies means you are not a symptom free carrier.
We spent Saturday night in a high tech shoe box room of the CitizenM Hotel staffed by competent and light-hearted staff. Peg loved it – each room has an IPad that allows you to control everything, including options for full-spectrum of colors for the room lighting. The next morning our good Dutch boating friends drove us 1 ½ hours to the boat in less time than a train journey. He helped us get the rain hood installed and she brought sandwiches, ‘brood’ (bread) as they are termed here. The rainhood is a canvas and isinglass item that stretches across stainless steel tube frames and insulates the outside steering station from the weather. It will come in very handy for the cold and rain/snow expected over the next couple of days. I proceeded to de-winterize the boat.
There is no end to the possible number of obstacles one might find on a boat that has been sitting in cold water for six cold months. Boat engines in the type of boat we own use diesel fuel. Unlike a diesel road vehicle, they have no glow plugs and so can be hard to start when cold. We don’t have a sailboat, so in our case, no engine, no going anywhere.