We passed through this tiny town on this one lane canal in this tiny town in Friesland, rich with charm.
An unattended barge on the Mitteland Kanal came loose from its moorings, blocking the canal. Behind us there was a barge who apparently had been contacted and asked to push the barge back to the dock. I videoed the process.
May 18, 2020
From a masked airplane ride from Madrid we proceeded to the masked train ride but not before a perfunctory interview upon debarking the KLM flight from Madrid. They did not keep the virus questionnaire at the end of the 30 second interview. That saved time helped us make a perfect connection to the train. Train schedules are much reduced here probably due to reduced ridership. We appreciated the fortuity, not just of the timing for the train but for how well the journey had gone given the uncertainty we faced. Our good forture continued even to the gate at the marina. We’d been give the wrong gate code although I’d asked a few days before. The resident harbor master saw us from his boat and opened it for us with his remote control. We could not know if anyone would be there to greet us aside from the 90+ year old who is, or was until now, the only one allowed to live aboard.
Once off the train we removed our masks. There were few people about and none masked and none close so we posed no mutual risk the entire 1.8 kilometer walk from the train station. During the next few days we had no need to get close to anyone other than chance encounters in the supermarket aisles. The public facilities at the marina are closed. No showers, toilets or laundry facilities. Their little restaurant remains shuttered.
For a few days we went about cleaning the boat deck and other exterior elements. It was a wet winter so the deck was green with algae. Then it was getting the heater to work. Nighttime temperatures were close to freezing so having a bit of heat in the morning is helpful. We do not run it at night as the heater runs off of diesel fuel so if fumes enter the living area you can suffer CO poisoning. One of the bikes would not shift gears so I had to mess with it. Then there was trying to remember where things were stored and how we did things last year. It took a few days before we left on Saturday.
By 0930 on Saturday the skies were sunny with a slight breeze. We turned the boat around to make departure easier from the narrow space and headed down the canal from Dronten towards Almere, about 40 km. Everything checked out ok as we went but then about 20 minutes later I noticed that the engine was running hot. I checked below and things were steamy so we floated in the canal while I figured out what had gone wrong.The hoses were all intact, the water pump belt was still entact, and the pump that circulates canal water through the engine’s heat exchanger was working- that’s the first thing you check before you depart. I decided to restart the engine and add coolant. The temperature came down and remained at the proper level for the rest of our journey. I concluded that the thermostat must have been stuck in the closed position. We ordered a new one and a spare belt.
Otherwise we had no issues along the way and after two days of sunshine our solar panels have kept our batteries almost fully charged the entire time. After a few days more these stopped working. I exhausted my diagnostic skills trying to find out what happened.
In Almere we had our first visitors. Our long time friends Kees and Ada, whom we met on the Eem in the village of Eemdijk in 2000, have two daughters. Marcella and Bart in turn have two daughters. They came by for drinks and snacks at 1700. It was just our second visit with anyone since March 9. On the deck we can keep a good distance. Inside it’s another matter so no one was allowed in. We joked and recounted stories for a few hours and even then, the sun showed no sign of tiring out.
After a week in Almere and a complete change of plans, we headed back to Dronten before a stop in Hasselt and then Zwartesluis (Black Lock) to try to find help with the solar panels. After that we hope to cross into Germany to start the 600 km voyage to Berlin via canal. It’s a beautiful route that takes a few weeks if you push hard. The borders with the Netherlands are still closed in both directions.
July 3, 2019
This is Willemstad, a neat small town with a brick clad windmill, as well as a lovely old houses. l. There was an army of large vessels on this beautiful day. Below you will see a traditional sailing barge, not particularly large but lovingly restored.
In the morning following our arrival we were looking for a place for our guests to try an uitsmijter, a hearty Dutch breakfast. Nothing was open, the only sign of life being those headed for work by bike, bus or car, and a man walking his dog. I asked him if there were any cafes open. “Nay,” he said. Realizing we were tourists, he explained that the town was a major naval port until the 1950’s. This explains the octagonal shape and the bunkers. They built the large bunkers in the middle of the 19th century, so my speculation that they were part of Hitler’s WWII defense system was wrong.
The brick clad windmill still works, grinding wheat, I think he said.
From Willemstad we back tracked about 5 km then headed north to Oud-Beijerland on the Spui River. It’s narrow entrance on the Spui River is a bit of a challenge as the current is about 3 km per hour, so the boat crabs towards the entrance. You have to straighten out at the last moment, once the river releases its grip. It was lunch time, so we found a lovely place on the harbor. On the menu: mustard soup. Sounds odd, I know, but the cream, onions, garlic and leeks make the mustard just a tangy addition. We all loved it! Salmon with various lettuces on dark bread, fries (the Dutch can’t have a meal without them), thin slices of smoked tuna. Not a English menu in sight, the waitress had limited English, so the chef came to the table to help where our restaurant Dutch was inadequate.
We were unable to stay the night to participate in the many activities, including loud music (playing reggeton, one of my least favorite), so we decided to try for Delft, the home of the famous ceramics. This took us through Rotterdam harbor, one of the busiest in the world. Huge ships and lots of them, so we dodged where we had to and otherwise stuck to the shore until we had to cross to go north. Our preferred route took us further to the west than the one we ended with. After entering the lock, the lock master told us a bridge was down along the way, so we had to back out of the lock. Boats do not do well going backwards, but we managed. Then we had to scoot across the waterway, head a few kilometers towards the center of Rotterdam, then make our way across yet again. The small lock’s bridge was just tall enough for us to pass beneath, otherwise we’d have had to wait for several hours for it to open, as it was rush hour. Once through we passed through one very low bridge, then found a nice marina on starboard side. And there we rest.
This is our summer ‘home’ for the next few years. It’s a 12 meter Dutch motoryacht built in 1996 with a beautiful interior crafted by the original owner from whom we purchased it. We have not been to Dokkum yet with this boat. I used a photo of our first Dutch boat Caprice which we did sail to this small town in Friesland.