Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Mv Tamarind in Holland 2015

Spring cruise 2015 -distance travelled approx. 570kms.

Vessel:  M/Y Tamarind,  Volharding Rijnland Cruiser 10.2 metres
Starting point  Lage Zwaluwe 51.43 N 4.42 W River Amer, South Holland

Our cruise began before we had even left the marina with festivities in the harbour and village of Lage Zwaluwe where we had left the boat for the winter. The theme was the 1900s. The whole thing was all the more enjoyable with our Dutch friends’ guidance. Luppe bought some smoked eels for us to eat with our fingers. A messy but succulent experience which Eric opted out of.

There was small gathering of old tug boats in the harbour as well as a hilarious tug of war on the water between two rowing boats attached by a line on the stern.

In the evening we set off unescorted to our favourite bar cum restaurant. It felt good to be welcomed by the Landlord who remembered us and bought us a drink on the house. It was good to get to know some more locals.
We watched a small procession of illuminated boats go past the balcony in the dusk.
The next evening there was live music and pretty lively clientele. In fact we were inspired to dance too.

On this occasion we got talking to the owners of the tug boat 'Harley D'. They were Anglophiles and we encouraged them to visit North Yorkshire.
The next day was King's Day..more celebrations! However, Eric and I had a quiet day -recovering. We had a nice surprise with the marina bill. The owner did not charge us for returning to the boat late! 3 weeks free mooring. Very generous.

 April 28th 18 kms
We set off in a still chilly wind a week after our return to the boat. During this time the trees had burst into leaf and there was an abundance of spring flowers and blossom..                                        

Our first passage to Dordrecht along first the Dordtse and  the Oude Maas is only 18kms. However, it just happens to be one of the busiest inland waterways in Europe.
Everything on the boat must be well secured as some of the wash from the often large and fast moving traffic creates waves that can throw us around.
The following description gives an idea of what it is like.
My Watch
Soon after coming on watch I have a high speed hovercraft water bus cutting across to the landing pier. Behind me is another wanting to do the same. Meanwhile a fast moving work barge is overtaking the now slowing waterbus. Tamarind is in the middle. The effect on the boat is that she is tossed around in all directions but vaguely stays on course helped by my  steering. I keep well to the side but not TOO near as some space is needed to deal with the wash and anyway there is a backwash from the bank. Watching your back is also extremely important!  We change watch every half hour.
Now it is Eric's Watch..I am sitting in the saloon, feet up, watching the world go by. As we are on a busy stretch, sometimes it is going by very fast.
Eric has two barges and a high speed ferry coming towards him. Behind him there are also 2 x 3,000 ton barges and yet another high speed Water bus. There is also a small traditional Dutch Boat to pass.

It is like being at sea..except there is more traffic.It's better than sitting at home watching TV.
Finally we leave this maelstrom by turning towards the lifting bridge for the Royal Dutch Rowing and Sailing club Harbour. There is a waiting area for the bridge and although we are only about 30 metres from the river, suddenly it is quiet and still.

This is a very familiar harbour to us and we are remembered by the Harbourmaster. We moor in the shadow of the old church which sounds a carillon on the hour.  
Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland (which is the south part of the Netherlands).
It is a wonderful place to wander round. Fabulous old grand and small houses, some of them seeming to defy gravity. A harbour full of traditional  tall ships and old sailing barges.
Quaint little lifting bridges, a buzzing shopping centre. Centuries of history AND one of our favourite Eet cafes..Cafe Passant. A meal there has to be part of our cruise. The proprietor always asks where we are off to next.
This  year we plan to wander south.  But not yet.

1st May 20kms
We feel like an early start and are off through the first bridge at 08.30 turning East along the Merwede. It continues to be busy but there is the Biesbosch  a wild wooded area on our starboard side which reminds us of more peaceful cruising ahead.
The 20 kms we intend to travel to Gorinchem, pronounced Horkham, takes us 3 hours. We have to lock in and coming into the harbour the first thing we see is the tug boat 'Harley D' last seen in Lage Zwaluwe just a week ago.
This is the first of several towns in this area which have a specific defensive shape with water and dykes in a particular pattern.
At the end of a wander we find somewhere to sit in the large square and find ourselves next to 'the tug boat' people! We enjoy their company and when we part they tell us to look them up when we're down their way.
Returning to the boat normal cruise pattern continues. Sitting out in the spring sunshine enjoying a drink whilst watching people, craft and birdlife. The latter on this occasion are two coots building their nest on the stern platform of a boat marked 'For  Sale' .

3rd May 17kms

We only have a short stretch of the busy Merwede before the turn onto the Afgemamde Maas. However, we still have to contend with the wash of two Double barges length approx. 500 ft!    

The remainder of the passage  was very peaceful...cattle drinking from the river. Lock gates so slow to close that I had time make a cup of tea. The wind was increasing throughout the day. By the time we reached Heusden three hours later the  simplest way to moor up was to get the bow line on and drive her in.
This town is a perfectly preserved example of the defensive design.The office was a landing craft with U.S ARMY still written on the hull.
This is a poignant time of year in the Netherlands. 4th May is Remembrance Day followed by Liberation Day on 5th.
This small village lost 134 people in the Stadhuis in1944. The retreating German’s policy was to blow up the towers as they retreated. They did not know necessarily that the people were sheltering in the cellar.
We cycle round the ancient streets. National flags are on many houses at half mast.

 A small lifting bridge is at the harbour mouth with two wooden windmills nearby. It is very picturesque

In the Eetcafe overlooking the harbour we enjoy a meal. The beamed ceiling has many artefacts and an array of musical instruments.
 Here we meet Martin, a local Englishman who also invites us to call if we return.We really like this place so spend three nights here. During this time there is a gale and the high winds continue.

May 6th 37 kms
Back to where we started some speed ( for us) as the river is flowing quite fast. We took three and a half hours. Lage Zwaluwe has an excellent chandlery and we need a pipe replacing on the toilet. What with the wind against 'tide', the passing traffic and the weather it is quite a bouncy ride and includes a hailstorm that really reduces visibility.

On arrival Eric commences to wrestle with the toilet pipe which is awkward to get at and virtually welded on.

May 7th

First thing, Eric checks that the engine is still well attached to the boat after all that chucking around. Then I go of on the bike for a 'quick' shop at the local supermarket about 25 minutes ride away. Sadly I forget the padlock key. It is only when I go to unlock the bike that I realise. The good news is that my purse contains our mobile number .Bad news for Eric… he has to bring the key.
We're off again along the Hollandse Diep before 11 A.M. More head into wind and busy with shipping. At least the Sun is shining. Two hours late we are in another small attractive star shaped town -Willemstad. Unfortunately so are 15 charter boats in some sort of gathering. So instead of the harbour we go alongside the wall in the marina. Time to enjoy some bitterballen which are hot savoury balls in breadcrumbs at the cafe.

May 8th  31kms
Once through the lock appointed for small barges and pleasure craft (the other two are for larger vessels) we are out on the open water of the Hollands Diep. Thankfully there is no wind. The land is featureless and low lying. Great for sailing. It is possible to travel outside the fairway so we are free from the disturbance of the large vessels....until we turn onto the canal helpfully signposted Antwerp.

Travelling now between dykes the only action is the wild fowl which are busy courting, squabbling and making nests. A pair of swans on a nest catch our eye. Warm sun at last after we are moored up at Tholen on the Schelde-Rijnkan Canal. We take a leisurely cycle and have a drink soaking up the Sun. By evening a strong wind blows up again. Coming across our beam it is extremely noisy below making sleep difficult. We both wore earplugs! Despite this we plan an early start for our final passage to Antwerp.

May 9th  47kms
We wake to Force 6 but as we will be cruising along the Canal with trees to protect us we are not put off. We are away by 08.10. Correction....almost away! We need to ‘spring off’ to get away from the pontoon. This entails taking the line leading from the bow back to a fitting on the jetty half way down the length of the boat. The helmsman can then drive the boat forward which as the boat is still attached makes the stern come away from the mooring. The boat can then be reversed out letting go of the mooring line at the last moment. All goes well until the spring catches the last half metre round the lug of the pontoon fitting. Fortunately Eric understands my shout and reacts quickly.

 As the boat nears the pontoon again I am able to flick the line off the fitting before the wind pushes us back against the jetty. We get away with only losing a small amount of paint. Phew.
By 10.15 Belgium was heralded by wall to wall smoke belching industry all along the horizon.

 At the Noordland bridge Eric had to call up the Antwerp harbour authorities to let them know our destination. We also had to be given a number so that we were accounted for. This part of the trip took at least an hour and a half. A Dutch friend had given us the local chart for the docks which is just as well. They seemed to go on forever. Fortunately the shipping is not too busy.    


However we need two eyes to the helm, two to the chart and four watching out for traffic.
 It is with some relief that we finally reach the lifting bridges for Willem dock. 5 hrs of strong wind on the beam and constant vigilance take their toll. No way are we going sightseeing today.

May 10th
Today we cycled into central Antwerp –and thought we were still in the Netherlands, which of course the town was for centuries. This is why they speak Dutch. Beautiful architecture, magnificent town hall.

 A Thai festival was in progress, dancing in the streets, a brilliant jazz band and an ethnic market. Later we took a city bus tour. A memorable sight was a man with four children on the one bicycle!

The next day Monday, we received an email saying the hospital had a cancellation and Eric could have a knee op. in York on Friday, with a   pre op assessment the day before. Somehow we  were ready for the ferry from Rotterdam the next day!

May 20th
Back on board for the cruise to recommence. We had left the power on so that the fridge contents would not be wasted and we could eat on board on our return.

 Antwerp onwards

May 22nd Distance covered 57 kms.
We are again in the mood for an early start and take the first bridge at 08.30. lt took us 2 hours to come through the docks and there is a major hold up at the Kreekkrak lock as only one of two is working. Each lock  is 320 metres long. We wait 2 hours before being squeezed in the last available 15 metre space behind six ships with another pleasure boat rafted to us.
 We intend to visit Zeeland so after the next lock, the Bergse Diep, we  are in tidal open water. Our boat has not sailed in tidal waters for years and except on the Ijsselmeer navigation has been fairly basic.
"Lay a course for Yerseke" says Eric. Can I remember how? Slowly it comes back to me. The chart shows that it is fairly shallow. We decide  on a waypoint and off we go. As we get nearer we can see through the binoculars that worryingly the water ahead is becoming much lighter. There is even a sandbank which is not on the chart. We check our position. There should be enough water but one bump and we are quickly into reverse and aiming for darker water and marked channel.

We have no echo sounder and but we only draw one metre and the charts tell us the depth - normally. It seems a very long way round. It is well into the afternoon before we reac h Yerseke. On arrival we are pleased to find the harbour bar and enjoy talking to the owner who is an ex deep sea fisherman.
The next day I spoke about our passage to Yerseke with the young woman in the harbour office. She tells me that the harbour has asked   for an updated chart as people have regularly run aground and there is    a new chart coming out this year. Close call --didn't like it. However,  it  was some compensation that it was not the navigating.
We enjoyed Yerseke.It was the start of a holiday weekend. There was a market and a crazy bareback horse riding competition dating back to mediaeval times.( Not a riding hat in sight). The rider had to put a handheld stick through a small ring dangling from a frame a gallop. The horses were beautifully turned out with plaited manes and tails decorated in different ways

May 24th Distance covered 10 kms

Continuing west along the Oosterschelde on a beautiful sunny morning, it took us an hour to reach the Goes Sas lock to enter the small canal up to the attractive harbour of Goes (pronounced Hoos)  5 kms further on. There was a convenient restaurant on the harbour for us to sit and soak up the Sun, a drink and some bitterballen. It was sunbathing weather on yet another holiday weekend, so we relaxed on board taking in our wonderful surroundings until it was time to explore the town square and watched the World go by. There was a huge boot sale in the market on holiday Monday. I came home with an excellent jacket and rugby shirt.
May 26th Distance covered 29kms
Out on to the Oosterschelde again and another short hop round the corner through the lock into the Veerse Meer. The tide was with us which was a bonus. It was another lovely day with a cool breeze. We planned to tie up at one of the mooring points marked along the mere so I could have my first sail in 'Gofer' our 2.5 metre tender. A quick lunch and I was off in open water. Wehay!          
The breeze was ideal for a first sail. Pity I hadn't arranged with Eric to meet him further on....I had to come back.

 Once we had lifted 'Gofer' it took less than an hour to reach Veere. This will be our most westerly port E 3.40'  N 51.33' It is only 3 nautical miles from the North Sea and is protected by the Veerse Dam.

 Another wonderful waterfront exuding history. We actually met some Brits here. They had sailed from Ramsgate in a Nelson to join the commemorative small boats gathering at Dunkirk. This is the first British crew we have spoken to since we left U.K.  In the club that night we met another  interesting couple who were Dutch .The wife had had an amazing idea of using robot horses for the disabled which her husband had the know how to build. Coupled with videos whilst riding them the disabled lose their spasticity. It is a real breakthrough. They have now got top neurologists researching even more possibilities. A ground breaking discovery.

May 27th 34 kms
We were away at 09.00 and it was a perfect still spring morning.  Alone on a vast expanse of water with just the sound of the birds.
It was so calm I decided to risk washing the windows. The whole boat had got really dirty coming through Antwerp docks in a gale. Add to that the salt spray. I had been going to wait a few days until we were back in fresh water. We were lucky to catch the lock so no waiting and we were out on to the Oosterschelde by 11.15. Over the next hour and a half the weather deteriorated with cloud and increasing wind. Lots of much for the windows. Why DID I bother?

We went under the vast Zeelandbrug which joins Duiverland to Noord Beveland. Constructed between 1963 and 1965 it is the longest bridge in the Netherlands, consists of 48 spans and is 5,022 metres long. The movable part is 40 metres wide to allow shipping through.

On arrival we aim, as usual, for the town harbour and are lucky to get a space close to the historic lifting bridge and the towering old prison.  

May 28th
Eric's birthday dawned blustery and grey. However, by the time we had the BIG breakfast the Sun was out and we strolled round a good market and bought a couple of foldingchairs. Later we went out for dinner. The food was great but wine abysmal. I think the restaurant knew, as instead of charging us for a bottle, which we didn't drink, they charged for three glasses. On the way home we found a really good bar which was the venue for a surprise birthday party. Eric was given his own party blower.
May 30th  34 kms
The wind had been increasing with very heavy showers but the forecast was better today and thinking we could always turn back we set off at 09.00. Out on the Oosterschelde it was very bumpy until our course altered to port when we could motor in the lee of the land. We only got caught in one brief downpour before we were making for the Grevelingen sluis beside Bruinisse into which fortunately we went straightaway behind some other boats.

We received a cheery welcome from the harbourmaster. In fact everybody was very friendly here, particularly as it was a club and they were staffed by volunteers. There was a good sailing breeze in the harbour  area although too many waves on the mere, so I had a couple of sails during the day. In the evening the club was open. We chatted with Imperer who was a retired seaman as well as lifeboat crew and sailor. There were a few pennants hanging up and as Eric had recently replaced the R.N.S.A. pennant he asked if the club would like it. They seemed to like the idea and Imperer came round the following day for a coffee to collect it, bringing their club pennant in exchange. After that and a trip to the club washing machine we hunkered down to watch old films as the rain and wind swirled around us.
Tomorrow we are on open water so we again enjoyed the novelty of laying a course.
June 1st 11 kms
A dramatic sunrise in red and orange but today it did not herald bad weather. The water was like a mill pond. It was only 2 nautical miles between the two locks we had to go through but it took an hour and a half. Another mile took us to the start of the narrow channel up to Oude Tonge.
 We were really glad we had taken the trouble to lay a course for our two short passages between locks and the channel. It looks so straightforward on the chart but with so much shallow water around and changing tides it is much more difficult to see the way than you think- and that is in good visibility.
During the passage  I dropped a fender from which I was cleaning  weed collected at the lock, so Eric had a practice  ' man overboard' to pick it up.
Once we entered the channel there were increasingly more water fowl of various breeds some with young, both in the air and in the water.

The small harbour of Oude Tonge was very peaceful and relaxing.
Later we went for a quick trip to the supermarket which was up many stairs. Thinking of Eric's recently operated on knee we took the lift. Once we were inside we pressed the button but it didn't move, so we made to open the door except it wouldn't open. There we were -stuck. There was a lot of coming and going of various people, telephone calls and helpful suggestions. Eventually a guy with some knowhow arrived and we were released after a further 10 minutes. I think we were trapped for about an hour in all. It didn't do Eric's knee any good.
This town was one of the worst affected in the floods of 1953.
 305 people died when the dyke gave way. 65 in one street.
I discovered this, cycling round. I also found a windmill dated 1748 and a memorial plaque to the 7 crew of a Lancaster bomber that crash landed here in 1944.

We had a cheap and cheerful meal at the Eatcafe and expected to leave in the morning having checked the forecast....which turned out to be rubbish as we were woken by gale force winds and rain. So - lie in. Full English brunch, occupying ourselves by watching the test match while one cooked a curry and t'other dealt with some mould caused by condensation.

June 2-4th 44 kms
The sun is out. Could this be summer? We had easy passages Eastwards for 25 kms to reach Lage Zwaluwe, stopping a night at Numansdorp on the way. We invited our friend Allard over and had a summery evening meal on deck. Asparagus followed by seafood salad, cheese and finally strawberries and cream. We arranged to meet him and his wife Luppe in their boat the following afternoon at a mooring in the Biesbosch.
The Biesbosch is a national park. The name means rush woods. These had grown on the silt from two rivers. As the land became higher, willows began to grow so withy -beds were planted giving two means of making a living. After the flood disaster of 1953 the Biesbosch was changed permanently by locks. Tidal movement was reduced significantly. Shallow lagoons developed in large parts of the area. Today it covers 12,000 hectares. It has wild flowers and animals. There are about 200 beavers who play an important role by cutting down trees which allows other trees to grow The beavers also eat stinging nettles. Birds thrive in this pesticide and fertilizer free area. There is an increase in small mammals which in turn encourages birds of prey.
A wonderful place too for boats of all sorts, from exploring tiny creeks in canoes to sailing dinghies and mooring or anchoring with larger craft.

June 5th 6 kms
Our  first really warm day. We were at our agreed mooring spot by 10.15. It got hotter as the day went on. I went for a sail to cool down in a flukey light wind and came back even hotter. I would have liked to jump in but it is difficult to climb back on board. Fortunately the cavalry arrived...Allard and Luppie in 'Sterde Maid'. They had just finished work, were dying for a swim AND they had a boarding ladder. What bliss.
We heard that a storm was forecast for the evening. You could see it coming and we were going to be beam on. We put out extra lines. It was really strong. It was going to be a noisy evening, but was immediately cooler , which was a blessing as I was cooking......until the gas ran out! Fortunately the fury of the wind abated soon after, as it would have been very tricky changing the gas bottle. We only got wet in the rain. At last, lines sorted, dinghy moved, gas changed we settled down to enjoy the meal. Eric got a reprieve on the washing up as our friends appeared with Dutch coffee in a flask and Amaretto and Oude Jonge to accompany it, while the rain lashed down. Later we retired to bed with earplugs in place. The slapping of water on the hull and the roaring wind didn't keep us awake.
The next morning as soon as there was a space we moved  'Tamarind'  head into the wind. The wind remained fresh and the sun shone. Excellent for sailing. I was off before breakfast ( sounds good except we only got up about 10.30). Later I had another go. I wanted to explore so I took a VHF radio as I would be out of sight. However, that didn' t happen because as soon as I rounded the corner there was no wind. I turned back and came to a stop with a lurch. Too shallow. It was quite tricky to restart.

I got the centreboard up but although I got going I soon stopped again. The wind was driving me on. Eventually I sorted myself out. The wind had increased and it was a lively exciting sail tacking back to the boat. After a relaxing day we went for a de luxe BBQ on board Sterde Meide with Allard and Luppe thus ending a perfect day.

June 7th 26 kms
A calm and sunny start. We decided to leave at 10.30. We took one of the channels through the Biesbosch to reach the River Merwede which took about an hour and a half. A short stint along this busy commercial waterway brought us again to the lock for the town of Gorinchem

Gorinchem harbour is overlooked by historic houses. At one end is the lock and the other a bridge adorned with a blaze of summer flowers. Most of the moorings are 'boxes' which can be tricky to moor in but we aim for one alongside some steps. It was warm and sunny. A visiting yachtsman played various styles of music on a keyboard. He sounded professional. Shame about his companion who started to sing (flat) to his accompaniment. It went on a long time.

There is a market on Monday selling fresh produce. A good opportunity to practice my Dutch. The fish looked wonderful. I managed to ask for a taste of a cheese. The stall had a wonderful selection. What next? Dried fruit. It all look so good that I bought cranberries and bossen berries        ( fruits of the forest) as well as apricots and prunes. I managed to ignore the smell of fresh roasted nuts. Finishing up with fruit and veg. I tracked down Eric in a café. Shopping has to be carefully judged to our carrying capacity of the day. No rucksacks on this occasion so we filled the two boxes on the back of our bikes.
We were a bit low on water so best to fill while we could. This is a good moment to do hand washing of clothes before we start refilling. So apart from the bikes (which have been left behind on one occasion ) we were ready to go in the morning.

June 9th 22 kms
10.10 Eric is convinced that   'Tamarind' will get under the two low bridges through the town to save us going round. We have checked the height in the Almanac which is compulsory for all cruisers to have in the Netherlands. This is useful for bridge and lock times. It also gives information about fuel, water and Dutch. However, names and numbers can be read. Although some of the bridge names are tricky over the VHF- try Bolgerijensebrug!  We creep towards the first one and all is well by about 4 cms. The second one looms. It seems lower to me. In fact I duck as before ( no option) but also close my eyes and wait for the scrape on the windscreen. " 2 cms." Says Eric. Next time we are going round.

It was an interesting route along the Merwede canal. Mixed agriculture with grazing cattle, sheep and horses.     

The latter included a couple of very young foals. The birds too had their young. There were reed thatched houses and wild flowers.      

We had a lunch stop at tiny Meerkerk before moving onto Vianen outside Utrecht. We arrived at 15.20. It looked a boring cut alongside modern flats. However I went on an exploratory cycle more to find the rubbish bin than anything and discovered a small ancient gated town with a quaint museum. One of the cafes had a beautiful garden overlooking a moat complete with water lilies. 

June 10th 16kms
Boat maintenance morning for Eric.  Museum for me. We left for our 'short' trip to Utrecht at 12.30. Lucky with the first lock, we joined a queue of one barge and several pleasure craft with no waiting.
The barge turned onto the River Lek whilst the little flotilla whizzed across the busy waterway to the Koningensluis, which is a lock opening into the continuation of the Merwede canal little used by barges  as there are two huge locks 200 metres long half a mile away.
Quelle horreur! We were met by two red lights.......CLOSED. There was a large sign about renovation of the lock. The flotilla milled about like so many distraught ants. After a lot of shoulder shrugging we all changed course for the large locks. More problems here. Several ship- sized barges,  some with engines running, were queuing up. The two lead small craft went in amongst this. One seemed unaware of a barge coming up behind him -until the barge sounded his horn.
Eric and I have been through this lock before. We decided on tying up out of the way and contacting the lock on the given VHF channel. We were told that we would probably have to wait 4 hours BUT we could use the one we had just come from as it had apparently now opened. So off we go again just in time to join 2 barges in the Koningen lock. We were already delayed by an hour. Everything took forever. We ate lunch in the lock and then proceeded to creep along having to hang back at the following 4 bridges until thankfully the barges turned onto the Amsterdam Rhine canal. There was another  delay of half an hour at the next lock. At this point it was 15.15. I was ready to throw in the towel- gazing longingly at a quiet backwater.  However, Eric wanted to be in Utrecht and said he would helm and I should go below with a cup of tea. 

6 lifting bridges later we emerged on to the last pretty but tricky passage through the centre of old Utrecht. There are 17 low bridges of..3.5 metres  
in 1700 metres. Some on bends, all narrow and one is a curving tunnel     (we met a pedalo here on our first visit). The canal is lined with plane trees and cafes. The latter are full of people relaxing in the sun hoping for a drama. As there are pedalos and canoes often out of control, this is fairly likely. In fact we met a canoe which did not stop at a bridge. We missed. At last we reach the moorings and tied up at 16.30

June 11th
Here I had an opportunity to use the launderette but NOT have a shower. We have never managed to shower in this major city. We have visited tiny places ...always all facilities. Apparently we come at the wrong time of year.  Our friend Lucilla arrived in the evening and we went straight from the station to a blues café for dinner.

June 12th 16 kms
My turn to take Tamarind through the 17 tiny bridges. When we were opposite the pedalo depot there were four girls returning to it within a few metres of the base. For some reason they decided to reverse coming straight into our path. We were going slowly but I had to put  ' Tamarind'  into reverse in order to avoid hitting them. The cafe watchers must have loved it.

“Only a few steps” to Vianen and  apart from that the trip was uneventful. It took 3 hours instead of the previous 4. Lucilla's nephew and 8 year old son came over. He came out in 'Gofer' with me and managed to learn to row. 

A thunderstorm threatened and was forecast .  It was extremely hot. We would have loved the windows open overnight but couldn't risk it.

 In the ensuing short tunnel which has a bend in  it we came across a two man canoe.     

June 13th 25 kms.
A straightforward passage back along the Merwede canal to Gorinchem. Eric managed to squeeze us into our  favourite spot in the harbour. I got talking to some Aussies on 'Atlantis' a 10 metre Dutch cruiser,  and  invited them on board. Denise and Anthony proved to be an entertaining couple. They are planning to go south to France. Eric was able to show them some charts and answered their questions.

 June 14 th
 A relaxing meander back to Heusden. We borrowed the harbour bike so we could all cycle in. We were greeted by a brass band. It was a music festival .The sun was shining and we settled ourselves at a table overlooking the full harbour and enjoyed the fun, sights, varied music and some bitterballen. Again!

June 15 th 29 kms
It looked a grey blustery day and we were bound once more for the National Park of the Biesbosch. We could always change the plan. However, as the morning wore on the sun came out and thankfully there was still a sailing breeze. Eric chose our anchorage in a quiet backwater with plenty of space to sail.

Lucilla, who was a Sea ranger with me a few years ago, was mad enough       to come sailing in ' Gofer' with me. It was a bit of a squeeze  two people in a 2.5 metre dinghy. Each time we tacked we swapped helm. We survived but had a close call when going nicely ran aground  ( what again?).  Up with the centreboard. Out with the paddle. We managed to relaunch ourselves without getting our  feet  wet . The wind increased until we had waves so we thought it best to call it a day. The anchor  on 'Tamarind'  began to snatch in the stronger wind so we opted to find the mooring jetty marked a couple of kilometres  further on.   It turned out to be an idyllic spot.

 We entertained ourselves watching two courting Grebes, nesting swans and other birds.  I got in an exciting sail and after dinner we settled down to enjoy the setting sun to the sound of Beethoven and Wagner.

June 16th 20 kms
We had an early breakfast being entertained by the antics of the waterfowl which  were either being amorous or aggressive The Cob saw off a coot busy bodying too near the nest in the rushes. We were not in a hurry and were delighted to spot a deer and her fawn taking a drink among the reeds. Eric turned the boat and our resident professional photographer, Lucilla, managed to get a few shots in before they climbed the bank.

 This delay caused us to miss the lock which apparently closed at 09.00 , despite calling him up and being there at 08.55. It reopened at 11.00. So fenders and the deck got washed , curtains mended, etc. All the boring jobs that are usually ' manaña'.  We moved out of the Bisebosch turning west onto the wide River Merwede for 7 kms before turning north through the Ottersluis onto the River Wantij about 6 kms from Dordrecht where we arrived at 13.45. Such a beautiful city. We said goodbye to Lucilla here after a fabulous steak at the Eet Cafe Passant.

June 18 th 33 kms.
10.00 start for our passage to Gouda ( where better to go if you're low on cheese) out amongst the seriously large craft on the Canal Noord crossing the River Lek to reach the River Hollandse Ijssel  dotted with thatched houses which takes us the last 19kms. Through the Mallaget sluis into

the traditional boat harbour which doubles as a museum. Free moorings for anything old enough  that  floats.

 However, we carry on through a couple of lifting bridges to moor in the shade of the trees on Katsingel. Eric's son Gavin is arriving and this is conveniently near the station. We were lucky to get a fact we only had two thirds of the boat alongside the jetty. Apparently there is a traditional boat gathering and party this weekend. Whoopee.

June 19th
We seem to be wandering into all sorts of celebrations. There are shanties tonight for the start of fish and ships festival. I went to the library to print our air tickets. They had such a complicated anti scam system that the staff were struggling with it as well!
Gavin and I enjoyed walking all round Gouda including the festivities. We met Eric at the lock and while we were munching on pancakes as a horse drawn boat passed by on the road carrying passengers. Later we saw a white coach and pair. In the evening we listened to a couple of good bands alongside the canals. Folding tables and benches provided the crowd with seating with extra bars set up for the thirsty.

June 21st  21 kms
An early start to beat the 'rush' and the rain. The second lock -Waaierschut- is according to the lock keeper, unique. Invented in about 1870 it allows barges that are longer than the lock to pass through. It is still used today for this purpose .The water is tidal. When the water is at the same level on each side of the lock , it is possible to open both gates allowing the barge through.  It is a very short period and the only way the lock can be closed is by using a third 15 ton gate in the middle which is shut by the force of the water fed into a side chamber. Once this is done the second set of gates can be closed.
The weather was mostly heavy showers. We wandered along the Hollander IJssel for a couple of hours reaching the village Oudewater by 11.00 coffee time. We made our way in full wet gear to an inviting cozy cafe. Warmed up ...this is hot chocolate and coffee.  Dodging the torrential showers we found our way to the Rope museum. They have been making Hemp rope here since the middle ages. The factory now uses many other materials and , of course, it is all mechanised. The same family owned it for generations. It was only sold a few years ago because the family had no descendants.  I already knew the town was famous in the middle ages for weighing people who had been accused of witchcraft. Suspects came from far and wide and left with a certificate      ( for a small fee, no doubt) saying they were innocent. Gavin and I, following a map with the village history, wandered about. We spotted a stork nesting on the roof of the town hall.
That night ,Gavin took us out to dinner. The place was traditionally Dutch with dark wood and interesting artefacts as well as good food.

June 22  30kms
Bad weather continues. There are many lifting bridges and a couple of locks to pass through as well as the 17 in Utrecht centre. We leave as soon as the first bridge is open at 9A.M and arrive at 13.00.
A couple of occasions there is no radio channel or camera to announce our arrival at the bridges. Whoever is on the helm has to nose the boat up to a post about 5 metres from the bridge with a push button the size of a 50 pence piece. Sometimes this can be done with a boathook. Good boat handling practice, especially if there is much of a wind.

June 23rd
Family visitors for the day led us to take them under the bridges. We moored by the tree lined walk on the other side of town.                                 

 June 24 th
Goodye to Gavin, hello washing, shopping and engine maintenance. Also good weather.

Tomorrow is to be a day off...a bit like "free beer tomorrow" we manage to relax in the sun until Eric gets a bit restless around 15.00. "We could just go the ‘short hop’ to Vianen you can steer.." that's 10 lifting bridges and 2 locks the second lock there was a hold up which turned out to be convenient as we remembered our friends had told us you could buy gas nearby. It was touch and go whether we could buy the gas before the lock opened but it worked out o.k. The weather was really hot by the time we arrived so we opted for no cooking knowing there was an 'Italian' nearby. We sat in the cafe garden next to the water wondering why all these people were walking by. Many of them had flowers. Apparently it was the annual 10 km walk for the primary school children which is held over 4 days. This was the last, hence the flowers and 5 bands. It looked as if the whole town was on the march.

June 25th
We overslept, but encouraged by a lovely day we set off back to Gorinchem which took 3 hours. Here we have decided to stay for 5 days...just relaxing in the sun or shade, sitting in riverside cafes, watching the clouds and pottering.

An easy run to Dordrecht where we will be based for four days preparing for and entertaining my daughter and granddaughter. The clock here is beginning to drive us mad ? Wind us up? on two counts. The hourly carillon has replaced the usual jaunty mixture with a dreary durge AND it strikes the hour on the half hour.

Thankfully the good weather continues, in fact it is so hot every hatch, door and window are open, with fans operating at both ends of the boat.

We take the waterbus ( aah wonderful breeze) to Amblasserdam, a National Heritage site of 20 windmills previously used for pumping water.

 July 5th
We set off early to visit the other end of the Biesbosch along the Wantij, through the lock across the Merwede entering another lock a couple of kilometres  along which is the gateway to the peace of the National Park. A new International visitor's centre has been opened with some moorings. An innovative building with the roof covered in grass. We were really interested but a little disappointed that everything was in Dutch.

We move on ...CAREFULLY... And find a mooring with several boats, two of which have families and friends who have met for a BBQ.  Belinda and I opted for a swim. Someone from the boats kindly suggested using their boat for a swimming platform as they had an underwater step to ease getting out. The swim was wonderful. The water so soft. A bonus was that our hair was soft and shiny when it dried. I should have bottled some. Megan, my granddaughter went for a row.

 Later with Belinda, she discovered a hidden mooring through the trees. We all thought it was worth moving- which proved providential as a a storm was brewing.   As the weather   clouds and increasing wind, all the other boats left. We retreated inside to enjoy Belinda's cooking. Later the weather cleared and we explored the area by foot and discovering a 'renovated' hut with a description on the wall explaining that this would have been the sort of dwelling for people working here. Eric had stayed behind listening to music and we heard it long before we got on board.
July 6th
Belinda's birthday. We made an early start in order to reach Dordrecht in time for lunch. We were diverted by seeing a vast elegance of swans on the horizon, there must have been a hundred of them. We moved closer to take in such a beautiful early morning sight. A birthday gift. Belinda took the wheel as we retraced our passage of the previous day. We made sure she knew what to do in case of touching the bottom. 5 minutes later she had to put it into practice! The three of us sat in the bow and went through the procedure.

 Eventually we got going again. It seemed like ages, but in fact we arrived at the lock just as it opened for the day. We had lunch in La Place on the roof of a department store. There are several food bars where you can choose from a varied selection of hot and cold food. The hot is prepared as you wait. This was followed by one of those delicious summer fruit concoctions in a glass.
We had dinner at a little Italian restaurant that we knew. The proprietor, Hercule from Calabria, was quite a character. At the end of the meal when all the customers had gone, he sang and chatted to Belinda in Italian. He had a wonderful voice. We left with the customary roses he presented to all the female clients. It was an entertaining evening as well as an enjoyable meal.  It was a fitting end to our spring cruise as the next day our visitors were leaving and Eric and I were taking the boat to her summer base.
TROPHIES Most cruises we manage to find something for nothing which is useful for the boat. Over the years we have picked up several fenders, including a large ball fender, caught in the reeds, from the sailing dinghy. Last year it was a Director's chair which needed a small repair to the seat, found by the recycling bin. This year it was a height adjustable swivelling  bar stool perfect for a helmsman's chair and a metre of new lino perfect for reflooring the heads.



The Skipper and Mate




                The Skipper


No comments:

Post a Comment