Just north of Zwolle there are several small lakes. We spent several days there before painting the hull in Hasselt just up the river and again after a cruise up the Ijsselvecht River. Moored on the lake just a few meters from the river we were treated to a stream of water craft of all types, from canoes to river cruise ships. Families came by water and land to swim, picnic and sun bathe.
Other boaters occupied similar moorings, picnicking, swimming and playing traditional Dutch music, polkas that sound a lot like German polkas.
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.
Urk was an island in the Zuider Zee but the making of the poulder turned it into a coastal town sitting on the Ijsselmeer. To get there from Vollenhofe you must pass first through a lock. Then come several opening bridges in Emmelord, where we stayed the night on a free in town mooring. The bridges open quickly via remote cameras. Once we left Emmelord the trip became somewhat irksome, or I should say “urksome.” As we neared Urk the remote bridge tender became much harder to communicate with. The first bridge, despite having a camera sign, was not opening, so we called. You can get the phone number using the ANWB Almanac, an excellent resource for boaters here. However you get a menu and it is all in Dutch, whereas by marine radio you speak directly to someone and they all speak English- in this case this was not an option. Irks 1, Urk 0Finally Peg managed to get through to the bridge tender, who is also the lock keeper in Urk. He informed us that the lock was closed for the next two weeks. Irks 2, Urk 0.
He was helpful, however, suggesting we ask the businesses with moorings at the next bridge if we could stay the day. Urk gets a point. We went on. However at the next bridge we were again forced to call. Same number, same system Irks 3, Urk 1. This time Peg was eventually able to find the bridge on the menu and once you entered the bridge number via the phone, it would open in 5 minutes. It did and on we went. Urk scores. Irks 3, Urk 2.
We found some moorings and docked. Peg walked to two businesses she could reach without climbing a fence. However no one was around. Irks 4, Urk 2. We got the bikes off and were about to leave when someone showed up next door. He did not speak any English. Irks 5, Urk 2. However he somehow understood what we wanted and said we could stay behind his place. That was very nice of him. Irks 5, Urk 3.
We backed out and over to his dock just 25 meters away to find his only spot was not well suited for mooring, lacking bollards, and there was a large plastic pipe sticking straight out. Irls 6, Urk 3. We managed to get in and found that our largest fenders were just big enough to keep the pipe for gouging the paint on the hull.
Then we biked the 1.5 km to Urk, a lovely ride in the day’s gorgeous weather. Urk gets a point. Then in town Urk easily makes up for the the deficit. It is full of loving cared for brick fisherman’s homes, bars and restaurants, and small shops.
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.
Passing through the remaining seven bridges of Edam is a bit of a challenge due to the narrowness of the canal and the ever present wind. At times our boat barely fit between the small bridges. The harbormaster of the day biked from bridge to bridge to open them as we arrived, which helped. Some of the bridges required him to pull down on a rope. The last one or two are machine operated, just requiring the push of a button.
Countryside followed the last bridge, with few boats and just one large barge that came around a curve on our side just past the ferry that was loading passengers. The barge glided past while the ferry waited as both Viking and the barge passed by. Along the way we saw several houses whose front doors were well below.
At Spijkerboor there is an intersection. We took the canal that takes you through or in the canal alongside Lake Alkmaardermeer. There’s an attractive marina with a restaurant in the canal. Dozens of boats were camped, passengers enjoying the sun.
We moored a few hours later in Alkmeer, our second visit by boat to this town. This time we moored for a day in the canal, made choppy with passing boats and frolicking teens spinning their small crafts to make the biggest waves they could manage. We were fortunate to get a spot as there is a medieval festival this weekend, attracting many locals and tourists from afar. The restaurants and bars were packed and the streets narrowed with by the people sitting at the sidewalk tables. Traditional sailing barges and other boats lined the downtown harbor, where we stayed last time.
The next day the crowds thickened. Dressed in medieval garb, with makeup mimicking injuries, burns and various diseases as well, men, women and teens marched through town. Many were in character, displaying mental disorders, and there were a few hunchbacks too. Along came the well to do in fine frocks and Sunday best. Vendors sold traditional foods along the route. I was taken by the apple-cherry pie, which did not last more than a few steps.
The harbormaster moved us off the main canal the next day. We stayed two nights right in front of a restaurant, along with a few other boats. The aromas and chatter lasted well into the night. Aboard it was sausage and sauerkraut for dinner, for lunch a lekkerbek, a deep fried super bland white fish, with a bit of salad and the ever present fries. A friendly Dutch woman explained the ‘beck’ is a word for mouth. I already knew what ‘leeker’ meant. So leekerbeck is ‘like mouth’ as in ‘tasty fish.’ I disagree.
We have friends in Haarlem, the Haarlem in the Nederlands, not the Harlem in New York City. We are going to meet them in May at a spot off the Ijsselmeer in the middle of nowhere. It’s where we first met them in 2000. It was their idea, and how charming of them to think of it! We met as we were docking our boat, they helped us get to the bank, and later invited us for Oranjebitter, a liquor made from oranges. This beverage is issued every year in honor of the monarch, still on the throne,
We met them again later that summer near their house. It was July. The Tall Ships were in Amsterdam on their annual circuit, which this year concluded here. Thousands of smaller boats joined in parades to the harbor. We joined K and A, their daughter M and her husband B in the latter’s boat for a trip to Amsterdam harbor in the twilight. There were hundreds of small craft doing the same. We were bumper to bumper, so to speak. When it was dark out came a large barge stuffed with fireworks as well as huge loud speakers. It was a great show! I am glad Kees was at the helm as it was a pitch black sail back to their harbor.
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.