Nederlands, April 2000

Holland, April 2000

(no photos uploaded as of March 2011)
Provisioning the boat
Our first voyage
Ed and Jurate

Wholly wholesome

Dip Stick Mystery
Simple Communications
Fun with oil
Tortilla on Board
River Vecht
Fast Bike
A Nincompoop does the tube

We departed Italy in late January, spent a week two in Holland where we bought a 10.5 meter Dutch Motor Yacht.   The next two months we were in Florida.   Now we are about to board our recently purchased boat, Caprice, which is located in Oud Loosdrecht, Holland.   Caprice is 10.5 meters Dutch built steel motor yacht built in 1974.   It has a 92 horsepower Mercedes diesel.   There is sleeping accommodation for six, including two on the convertible dinette, two in the bow just forward of the dinette, and two in the aft cabin.   The entrance to the pilot house is off the rear deck which also sports a steering station.

Our boat Caprice
Caprice in Lake Loosdrecht


Provisioning the boat

In our rental car we head for Loosdrecht via Maastricht.   Stop in Hilversum, near Loosdrecht, to start shopping.   The boat has nothing aboard, so we have to get all the basic galley and stateroom items. We bought many things at the V&D, a Dillards-like store with good quality at reasonable prices.   It’s a good time for us to buy as the Dutch gilder is trading around 2.25 or so to the dollar, up from the 2.2 two months ago when we bought the boat.

We arrived at the broker’s late in the afternoon.   Edward is there and says that the boat is ready, all the little problems repaired.  We load the boat and he goes through the items.   I hope that the leak above the dinette is repaired, as I can not test it at the moment.

The boat is at the broker’s dock, not in the marina as we though we would be.  There is no water at this end of the dock.   We don’t have an electrical chord for the boat so we can not plug in.

The water system was not operable when we bought the boat, having been winterized, but it is working now (how much water we have aboard is unknown, but the tanks are not likely to be full, as if they froze they would split).   The diesel heater fires up and warms the boat, albeit slowly;  below freezing it would probably not be adequate.  Condensation builds up on the windows as the interior warms.   The headliners appear to be insulated, as do most of the walls, or at least there is an air gap, but the windows are not double-paned.  If they were, it would help a lot, but that would be an expensive project.   Not too many people would want to live aboard during the winter, so we would not get our many back on that expenditure.

Our winter duvets work extremely well so we shut the heater at night.   I also shut off the propane gas, which runs the cooktop, hot water geyser (which fires up on demand, has no reservoir of hot water; it is brand new, as the old one no longer worked, said Edward) and the refrigerator.  The propane tank is new.   Edward says that the copper tubes look good but we should have the system pressure tested.   The other day a boat blew up due to a gas leak.   We have two gas sniffers on board.  One comes on but I am not sure if it is really working, and the other shows no sign of life.


More shopping today and every day until next Wednesday when we return the rental car.

We find two bicycles from a reconditioning shop.   We think they employ the down and out, a Salvation Army kind of operation.   The bikes cost f.100  each, less than $50.   Bikes are generally quite expensive here.   The price we are paying is a lot for what we are getting, but they are a better value than most.   The next cheapest we found was f 200 and it wasn’t all that much better than what we bought.   New, adult sized ones start at about f 500 and go up to about f2500 for one with a small motor, even higher for high tech racing bikes.   We also buy canvas saddle bags and a basket to hang from the front handle bars.   Each bike has a generator driven light hanging from the front, which interferes with the basket.   So you can have a basket or have a light, but not both.    The saddle bags come with a small bag for the handle bar which I mount facing the rear.

We talk to several people about phones.   We eventually give up on the idea of having internet access via mobile phone for the moment.   Too many things can go wrong.   We may not be able to open an account, we may have difficulty putting money in the bank (I think you have to do that at the branch where your account is, but not sure) when we are a distance away, our laptop has operating systems problems (needs to have windows reinstalled) and I am not sure if the infrared connection will work.  If that connection does not work, you have to lay out up to $200 for a cable, bringing the total to about $550.    Another problem is that some phones may come with software for the internet connection.   All software comes on CD and we do not have a CD player. (Note: later I found that these are exaggerations and we got internet access via a mobile phone.   The settings were made without using a CD).

We end up with a prepaid phone costing 150 g., including 45g for telephone calls.  The first one we bought supposedly allowed you to buy a new SIMM card (a computer chip) in, say, France, so you could use the phone there as well as here, without having to open a bank account.   However, that turned out to be incorrect (you need a bank account) so we returned that phone and bought another one, saving 50 g in the process.   The phone we ended up with is a Siemens single band.  Libertel is our provider.   At a final cost of about $45 for the phone, we can afford to give it away once we leave Holland for good.  If we were renting an apartment here for 6 months, we could not complain at all about a $45 installation fee.   We think of this cost as the equivalent.

Our first voyage


Edward found us a marina across the lake in Oud (Old) Loosdrecht.   We depart after lunch and found the fuel dock on the other side of the lake, 4 km or so away.   We could not dock port side to as planned, so we went around again.  Once I got close, I reversed to slow down, but that kicked the bow too far starboard so I had to try again.   I got it on the second try.   A few minutes later someone came to fill our tanks.   He ran out at about 65 liters (it cost about $.80 a liter, or about $3.20 a gallon).

We located our marina, about 1 kilometer away, got to our berth with about a 10 knot wind pushing us away from the dock.   This should have been a good situation, except we decided that Peg should grab the bow line and I the stern, as from the outside steering station that is easy for me to do.   But coming in bow first, I slowed down using reverse, and again that kicked out the stern too far to port.  Then the wind pushed us quickly too far from the dock.   So I motored forward a bit, pinned us to the dock for a moment while I quickly attached a stern line, jumped back on the boat, and put the transmission in neutral.   We scraped a post,  gouging in the paint in the process.

Friday we took our first bicycle ride for pleasure.  Our previous jaunts were to go get the car after we moved the boat to our current location, the Wetterwille Marina, and to get tools and a new seat for my bicycle from a store about 5 kilometers away in Nieuw Loosdrecht.  We headed west out of Old Loosdrecht about 500 meters, then turned north.   We traveled along tiny roads about 2 kilometers, passing picturesque houses alongside canals, some with steep thatched roofs, all in all, the picture of the picturesque.

Gary on a country lane just outside Loosdrecht
Gary on a country lane just outside Loosdrecht


Ed and Jurate

We met Ed and Jurate in Turkey in late May or early June, 1998, on the gullet we cruised on for a week.   Afterwards they communicated via email, and went on several vacations together.  They married last September.   We have kept in touch via email, in that way hearing about the marriage, and I called them shortly after we arrived.   They came for dinner, shared their photos (her friends, including Spear Chucker, from the boat trip were not among the guests) and spent from 4 p.m. until 9:30 chatting with us.

Ed owned a sail boat, traveling around Holland extensively by boat.   Jurate is studying Dutch, adding it to the Russian, English and native Lithuanian she already speaks.   She said that there are not a lot of rules, but lots of “we say it this way just because we do.”   Lessons are fours hours a day in a class with other foreigners.   Jurate recently got a job working the other half day for the government, helping people fill in their tax returns.   She is an economist by training in her native Lithuania.   Ed’s English is very good, like so many of the Dutch. He says that part of the reason is that they do not dub the movies and tv programs.

This is an unusula couple, or so they seem to me.   They met far from both homes.   They are from different countries, her one that for most of her life was behind the Iron Curtain.   They are living in the world’s lowet countries.   Last but not least, she and Ed use English at home!

They brought us a liquor that is common in Friesland, northeastern Holland. It came packaged with two coffee cups.   Obviously they put it in coffee. but it is not a coffee liquor, but a grape and other fruit distillate,  brandy-like but with less alcohol than normal.


Wholly wholesome

Took a bike ride to Loenen on the Vecht, about five kilometers from the boat.   It’s turned into a lovely day, mostly sunny, around 15 degrees C (60F).   The town is tiny, having maybe 20 houses. It has a lock which we will pass through in the next few weeks as we begin our journey through the canals of Europe.   We arrive to the sound of a group singing songs that sound like old Dutch folk songs, sign along kind of stuff.   Then down the canal comes a barge full of people singing similar songs, accompanied by an accordion and several other instruments.

Hundreds of people maneuvered through the tiny street along side the canal, hardly maneuvered really, as it was snuggling room only.   Vendors sold used items from stalls inches from the sidewalk.   A bar served coffee self service for f 1, or you could get beer, wine and soft drinks inside.   People wandered about with small shot glasses filled with a viscous, dark golden liquid, looking like whiskey.

Hundreds of bicycles lined the sidewalk and paths.   Boats filed under the tiny lift bridge on their way into the main canal.  Rosy cheeked girls pranced about with friends, all looking so apple pie ish, wholesome as the country whooping some let out at the end of songs.    It was all unbelievably picturesque setting, and the rosy cheeked men and women fit right in.

As we rode home, the barge full of singers were making their way to Loosdrecht on the canal.   We passed them easily at our gentle, 6 mph pace.

The afternoon passed idyllically, with the warm sun mostly shining, boats by the hundreds filling the lake on which Caprice sits.   They came largely from the marina next door.   The small sail boats shot out one after another, an adult and one child per boat.  This exodus was part of a sailing school exercise.   They darted about the lake, not following any marked course I could see.   The school stayed out for two or three hours and then zipped in nearly as fast as they departed.  Many other sailing and motored craft joined them as the lake filled with blue and white shapes.   At the marina next door, they sell a small power boat the shape of wooden shoe, and they test drive the new arrivals in the midst of the swarming sail boats.

A sail, a sail!   View from Caprice on the docks of Wetterville Marina, Loosdrecht.


The ceiling light over our sink is old and puts out little light.   We bought a 10 watt halogen fixture to replace it, but upon removing the old one, I found that the wires were corroded and brittle.   I could not get any more wire out of the ceiling probably because the insulation prevents wire movement. Rather than run a visible wire across the ceiling, I decided to mount the new light in an overhang that is the underside of the side deck walk paths.  This location permits me to connect the wire to a light in the bow berth and run it behind the wood panels that are screwed in place.   I removed these panels only to find that they are insulated too.   The panels covering the underside of the deck walk path is not insulated, however, and I ran the wire through that space.

Various storms crossed the lake, some carrying hail, the high winds causing the waves to climb over the barrier onto the walk path.   In between were periods of warm sunshine when a few boats would rush across the lake.   At this time of year, winter storage time is over and marina owners splash boats into the water at a furious pace.   The owners then must move their boats to a slip or another marina.   Thus this race across the lake in between storms.

I found a mechanic to check our butane system for leaks.  He will come this week, he says.   As I can not quite figure out how to check the oil or anti freeze in the boat, Edward is coming over.  He has been coming over since we left BCL last week.   We’ve called several times and each time he is trying to come over.


Dip Stick Mystery

Still waiting for Edward.   In addition to how to check the oil and the antifreeze, there  are a number of strange valves.  The previous owner of the boat is dead, his wife knows little or nothing and a her friend has been helping but he is apparently not intimate with the boat.  So we are stuck waiting for Edward.

It may (and should) seem strange to you, as it does to me, that someone would need help checking the engine oil.   However, there is no dipstick in the engine.   There is one hanging beside the engine, but where it should go there is a rubber hose inserted on a metal tube.  This rubber hose then connects to a smaller, clear tube which in turn runs to a mechanism on the instrument panel.   This instrument is labelled, Check Oil.   When you pull it, nothing appears to happen and Edward says it is old, implying it no longer works.   I think I will have to simply remove the old hoses and tube and use the hanging dipstick as normal.  But I am not certain.

As for how to check the antifreeze, I haven’t a clue.   This boat has a closed system, meaning that it does not draw in river or lake water into the boat to cool the engine.   Instead, there are tubes on the bottom through which the engine pumps water using the normal water pump you find in cars and trucks.  This is called ‘keel cooling.”   We don’t have to worry about cleaning a filter found on the lake-cooled systems.   Both systems have anti-freeze.

I found a way to get an easy look at the forward bilge, hand pumped the gallon or two of water into the kitchen sink, and removed the wet playing cards and cardboard boxes that we found there.   It is quite common in Holland that boats are not fitted with bilge pumps.   Some boats sink as a result of an undiscovered leak in the steel hull or through fitting.  Apparently they think that the risk is too small to worry about, especially since many, if not most boats are stored on land in the winter.  The
rear bilge is accessible, I think, under the rear berth.   I can only see down there with a flash light and mirror.   A mirror is one of the best tools you can own, especially on a boat.

The used bicycles we bought were both Raleighs.   Since they were made here, I assumed that the nuts and bolts would be metric.   They are not, they are English/American measure (there is a slight difference between the two, which I once knew).

So far, nothing but little surprises to the would be boat and bicycle and everything else mechanic.


“Simple” communications

A nearly perfect day for our planned cruise on the lake.   We depart at 1140, an hour or so after some 50 small sailing craft from the school next door made their way to the lake’s center.    First we go across the bay to find the entrance to the canal, leading to the lock that in turn connects the lake to the Vecht River.   Then we meandered about along the south shore.   There are more steep roofed houses along the shore, some thatch roofed, all highly manicured; no “English gardens” here.   We
managed to dock without maiming, damaging or destroying anything, but I still need practice getting the bow to go more where I want it go.

After lunch we bicycled to Hilversum, about 10 kilometers away, passing scores of bicycles and a few motor scooters that share the bike paths.  This was our longest single bicycle journey yet.   The gorgeous weather helped us overcome our reticence to make our legs work so hard.

We committed several traffic violations along the way.   Peg completely ignored a red light.   This is not easy to do, since in urban areas there are red lights for bicycles as well as cars.   Most intersections are ablaze with lights.   There are lights for each direction of car traffic, left and right turn lights, pedestrian lights, and biicycle lights!   I turned left from the automobile turning lane.   I think you  are supposed to dismount and cross with the pedestrians.

I needed a watch battery.   A jewelry shop was recommended so in I went and told the friendly keepers what I wanted.  To commence what typifies the communication problems we have here, he said

“One hour,” he said when I told him I wanted a watch battery.

I blinked in wonder.   Did he mean he would have the battery in stock  in one hour and to return then.   Finally, I said, “I just need a battery,” holding out the one in my hand.

“But there are others in front of you!”

I was the only one in the store.

Then I understood what he was thinking, and then he did also.  We were all embarrassed slightly by the mis-communication.  He was thinking I wanted to have the battery installed for me.  I had my battery a minute later, and I installed it myself, saving the hour wait if not some money.

We did some other shopping while Peg’s bicycle gears were adjusted at the shop where we bought it.   Rain fell on the way home but we made it with only slight dampness clinging to our clothes.   We had to fold the baguette into the saddle bags.

The baguette still tasted good, if less attractive than had it not been folded, with the spaghetti with red sauce and meat balls we had for dinner.   The latter came packaged in an air tight container.  This makes for long storage without refrigeration, good on a boat.   We have also bought cheese packaged this way.   The clerk explained that the cheese did not need to be refrigerated- it wasn’t in the store – until it is opened, and can remain unrefffrigerated until the date on the package.   In this instance, that was well into June.   We stocked up.

Late in the afternoon the boat became quite warm and gnats swarmed.   We’ve read that it can become quite a bit warmer “on the continent.”  This was written by a British boater so I was not sure what he meant by ‘warm.’   Now I know what he meant.   He suggested a tarpaulin over the entire living area, about 8″ above the deck and mosquito netting.   All added to the buy list.

We have learned that the lake on which we are docked was a farmed peat bog.   After they stopped digging peat for fuel, they let the water in.   Not many hard groundings in this lake!


Fun with oil

Edward aka Godot has not made an appearance or called.  The matter of determining how to check the oil has been taken into my own hands.   I yanked hard on the tube that reached into the oil pan and finally got it out.  It was not lipped on the end as I feared it might be, so there was no damage.  The dipstick hanging from the wall fit perfectly.   It showed either that the engine was slightly overfilled with oil, or way so, depending if you stopped pushing at the joint where the stick doubled or pushed as far as possible.   I found a way to fit the tube of the oil removing pump and out came the old oil.   I got out the oil filter and removed the cover of the oil filter canister.   Low and behold, the oil filter did not fit.   This engine, it turns out, has a washable oil filter installed.   So why did the previous owner buy an oil filter?  I previously noted that there might be two fuel filters and was
wondering why there wasn’t two spare fuel filters on board.   A closer inspection of the ‘oil filter’ revealed that it was a ‘diesel oil’ filter, which I now can clearly see means, in plain English, a fuel filter.

I then proceeded for two hours to try to find someone in this tiny town who would wash the washable oil filter out for me.   A shop could di it better and faster than I could.   No luck.  So Peg had to take the bus to Hilversum to buy a small fuel can so I could bicycle 10 kilometers round trip to Nieuw Loosdrecht to buy some diesel fuel, to get the damned oil filter washed.    Peg did manage to make other necessary purchases and while I was waiting, I bought some brake oil for the power steering.  The cover of the fluid reservoir was clearly marked, in English, so I knew what to get.

The sun set around 9:00 p.m. (and this is only April), as another day passed in this small, rich town in the bogs.



Laura, a 22 year old Australian woman whom we met in Rome, sent us an email the other day from London, where she is working temporarily to save money for continued traveling.   She has a vacation from her job as a teacher of pre-school children, in which she is degreed, and is coming to Holland.  After a few days in a youth hostel in Amsterdam, she came to spend two days with us.

While awaiting her arrival, I frantically completed the oil change.   The marina has a bin for used oil and diesel fits into that category;   they also have a place for anti-freeze and batteries.   That’s where I went to clean the filter.

Laura arrives in late afternoon.   We found out she is a vegetarian and decided to prepare pasta fagioli (beans) for dinner.   The Dutch eat beans and canned ones are easy to find.   However, the ones we bought contained sugar, not at all what you want with pasta.   When you make this dish, you use some juice from the beans to make the sauce.   That would not work, so I just spooned in the beans, added a little extra salt, and it turned out just fine.

Laura hates London.   Mostly she complains that the cost of living is impossibly high.  She was attracted by the high wages, and she can work legally there as a member of the Commonwealth, but then found she could not afford to do much, like go to plays, and also set money aside.   The weather is dreary compared to Sydney, near her hometown.  Laura has decided to cut her time short in London, meet her mother in Lebanon (her parents were both born there and immigrated to Australia, where all the children were born).   Then it’s on to Turkey, Greece, and Spain before heading back to Australia.

Laura slept in the V-birth in the forward part of the boat.  You share a space with the kitchen, bathroom and just about everything else on the boat.  You also might share space with a spider or two, and Laura managed to find the one spider we had on board.  She made me kill it, I feigned a tear that she had made me kill Fred. my pet, whom I’d had since he was a pup.  Well, I can make up another Fred story, I told myself as I cried myself to sleep, tears dripping on Peggy as I climbed over her to get to my side of the bed.  I always get the worst of the deal.


Tortilla on board

I lowered my bicycle seat for Laura, then she and Peg took off for an afternoon of pedaling in the
countryside.   They covered about 19 kilometers, according to the little computer we bought and I
installed on Peg’s bicycle.   This little gadget uses a sensor mounted on two spokes of the front wheel
and a sending unit mounted two millimeters away on the forks (the directions were in English and
many other languages).   The computer mounted on the handle bars runs off a lithium battery, shutting
off automatically, and functioning just a car speedometer with an odometer, all for about $15.

Meanwhile, more things on the boat to figure out: what kind of oil goes in the inside steering station,
the transmission, and the enduring mystery of the antifreeze.   All these little problems were resolved
except the last, and still no sign of Godot.

For dinner I prepared a Spanish tortilla.  With gallons of olive oil, it’s a cinch to do.   I can flip it
pretty well, a step which is a bit intimidating at first.   Peg made curried cauliflower, and we ate
delightfully seedy rolls they bought at the Warm Baaker (two “a’s” in Dutch) down the street.   The
Dutch and other Northern Europeans are fond of dark, grainy breads, the most extreme example being Wassa.


River Vecht

The 23rd is a grey day.   Laura leaves, going first to Gouda to see cheese, then to Belgium to a festival commemorating WWI battles.  A few minor chores on the boat, and I went on a solo ride through my favorite neighborhood, looking all the while for a place that sells butane.   Our first tank lasted two weeks.   I plan to strap it to the back of my bicycle and go to Nieuw Loosdrecht to get it filled, if there is nothing closer.

On the 24th we take a two-hour ride on our bikes along the River Vecht.   This small river winds through picturesque countryside, including an old windmill.   Later we have a wonderful cruise on the lake, which again is full of sails under the bright blue skies.  Only the gnats mar the promenade, and then only when the wind is behind us.  The boat’s 6 kilometers per hour speed matches the wind’s, yielding no apparent breeze, allowing the annoying little creatures to swarm about.  They do not bite,
being nice Dutch bugs.   They are in abundance this year, we are told, due to the extremely mild winter.   Another person told us that they would likely be around this summer, so we plan to start working on the screens.


Fast bike!

I strapped the small butane tank on the back of my bicycle, looking like soon to be doomed Tim the Tool Man experiment whizzing down the street, cars and giant trucks aiming to set my rocket ablaze.  There is a shop near with a sign saying ‘Shellgas’ very close by.  Ellen, the assistant master at Wetterville Jachthaven, says he sells gas.   I have been there several times looking for someone to check the butane system on the boat, and there is never anyone there.   Today is no different so I carry my rocket fuel to Nieuw Loosdrecht.   The attendant waited patiently while I untied the tank (taking a minute or so, but with someone looking, it seemed like more).   The filled tank did not overburden the tires and I returned home without having exceeded 150 kilometers per hour, flames shooting out like the Shuttle seeking orbit.

The next project involved finding and installing a battery charger.   Yep, this boat did not have one. Water bubbled out of one battery as it charged, probably over-filled, so I nursed it throughout the day.  By the next morning, our 11.5 volt reading had climbed to 13.26 volts (charger off and batteries rested).   Perhaps these house batteries will make it.

I solved the mystery of the anti freeze.   We assumed that the port side tank filler labeled ‘Water’ was for drinking water.   Instead, it is where you add and presumably check the anti freeze.   How you remove it is another matter, since this tank is higher than the engine.

Peg went to Amsterdam for books.  At Datema, a natutical book store in Amsterdam, the clerk was very helpful.  She told us not to fly the US flag if the boat is not US Coast Guard documented.  It is not.  If it were, it would officially be U.S. property.   If we did fly the US flag, we will get controlled (checked by officials) every second.   We do not need a Certificate of Registry, unlike what our expensive books said.  That saves several hundred dollars.


A nincompoop does the tube

The boat’s batteries read ‘dead’  (1120 s.g.)  per the specific gravity test in the morning.   Will they make it?  The excitement is keeping me awake.

I played bicycle mechanic, putting three patches on Peg’s tire.   I put the first in the wrong place, a second in the right place but it leaked out the side, the third to fix the second, with the same result.   I bought a new tube.  Upon installing it, I noticed that it was apparently too long.   I had brought the old tube with me, the clerk got a new one off the shelf, proving that I am not alone in my capacity to screw up a simple procedure.

Our Dutch neighbor helped me lower the anchor.   I have only used an electric windlass, and this is mechanical.   It’s very simple once someone shows you.  The wheel was stuck and I was not sure which way to apply force;  it could have been female threaded.  .Also lowered and raised our light mast (for low bridges), and the windshield.

It was a gorgeous day until late afternoon, the first time since we’ve been here that the shower rooms on shore (none on board)  are not freezing.

No gas man, no Godot.


Peg goes to Hilversum to buy material to hang over windows.   This should reduce the heat inside the boat on warm days.  She cuts the material, installs grommets and we lace on the covers.   Since it is a warm day, 28C (82F), we immediately notice the improvement once the covers are in place.   These covers will not last many years, perhaps not even one.   At this time of year, it is impossible to find someone to make covers for you.    They are just too busy.   Peg does not have a sewing machine to do it right.   So we have used inexpensive materials in this stop gap effort.

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