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blog Blog 2020

Into Germany

To take a boat like ours into Germany, France, Belgium and the rest of the EU requires an operator’s license, called a Certificate of Competence, a marine radio certificate and boat registration papers, which are not used in the Netherlands to convey ownership so the Dutch national yacht association issues them. You also need proof of insurance. All this cost days of time in study, travel to exams, tracking of papers with delays in post caused by the pandemic. It cost more than $500. Imagine my disappointment when this was all we had to show for it:

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Homeowner has a borderline personality issue

Niente. Nada. Rien. Not even one stereotypical “papers, please.” All my duckies in a row and none to drink.

At least the ride to Haren, our first stop in Germany, is pleasant and uneventful if a bit slow due to the narrowness and age of the canal. The many bridges on the small canal opened automatically without us having to wait. The locks were opened promptly and easily managed.

Haren has a charming albeit modernized central pedestrian shopping area with masked shoppers in the stores and unmasked sitting at outdoor cafes and fast food shops. A Turkish kabob shop owner said hello as we walked past. Unfortunately we’d already had lunch. Peg got some vitamins from a helpful pharmacist. It seems like a relaxed and friendly place.

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In the downtown pedestrian zone

In Germany, unlike in Holland and France (places we’ve been on this boat or the last), you can only moor where it is expressly permitted. In Haren we saw an area on google maps where boats were moored and where the lock keeper in town said there might be some places. There weren’t. We ended up in the marina, where finally at 4 p.m. the harbor master showed up. He spoke a few words of English, enough to get us registered for the night. It’s a very nice spot just off the Eems River.

We spent the night next to a friendly Dutch couple but not near the older Dutchies we traveled with during the day. The next morning I filled the boat with water and prepared to leave. Peg returned the hose and happened to read the sign on the post, which I had not. The water was non-potable river water! So out came all 450 liters, which took 30 minutes, and in went a fresh tank, also another 30 minutes as we had to wait for the friendly Dutch couple to finish. Then we were off to Lingen.

The three locks we went through are enormous, built to handle the large barges we subsequently encountered. They all took us up several meters to the next level. The bollards are way too far apart for vessels of our size so both lines have to be looped onto the same bollard, ladder or pipe. Fortunately the rise is gentle but we did not know that at first so were a bit anxious. At the last of them we had to wait an hour while repairs were done. All required a minimum of 45 minutes to traverse.

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Peg looks at lock emptying after an hour wait

It was a lovely day, about 23c (72f) with hazy skies alternating with patches of blue. The cool breeze kept us quite comfortable even with short sleeves and shorts. There is nothing but forest, some bikers on the path waving as we passed, even some without children with them.

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One of about 5 barges we passed. It is just going under the bridge.

Finally we came to Lingen. Again we’d seen a mooring on google maps so we followed the enormous dredging barge being pushed very slowly by a small boat running at wide open throttle. We finally got into the harbor only to find that mooring is not permitted. Our navigation app only shows marinas and it showed the next one 4 km further along.

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We followed this slow moving mass into an old harbor

It was easy to find, but to make sure the app was correct I waved down a boater on a small sail boat motoring in the direction opposite to us. He quickly replied in German but we understood. The marina was just around the corner.

It’s an easy one to get into. There were all the Dutch and the one German boat we’d been seeing along the way. We slipped easily into an open slot and before long the very friendly harbor master came along to tell us a heavy rainfall was coming and would be so kind as to come to the nearby office now. We did and for a modest price we have all the services one can hope to find at these places – water, electricity, bathrooms that you can use (they were still closed in the Netherlands) and even a washing machine.

We passed a restaurant a bit before we arrived. It’s website says take out only. Even with dining in we would not suffer a bike ride in the rain to get there. There’s a hotel with a restaurant just a five minute walk so perhaps one or the other will be accessible to us if the forecast holds. But the next day we found a delightful cafe in the forest, where I am sure we saw Hansel and Gretel eating bread crumbs as they walked along hand in hand.

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the path to the cafe
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The charming cafe at the end of the path. It sits on the Eems River where it joins the canal.

Our main complaint has been the difficulty of obtaining information about free moorings. We can not find detailed charts nor an almanac and apparently these do not exist. None of the free places we passed along the way were on the app and none were suitable for small craft, lacking docks and bordered with rocks. We are allowed to moor there but you’d be hitting the small rocks that line the shore. Perhaps you could moor up to a barge that was there for the night. However everyone we talk to says not to worry, there are plenty of places along the way. It would be nice to be able to plan a bit more however.

By Gary Kirkpatrick

Artist and travel blogger.

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