Our Barge, Odysseus

Monday, October 15, 2007

A map of the summer

So it wasn't the last post.

What a wonderful free tool this is!!!

I had a little time before I had to go back to work so I messed around with Google maps and created this chart of our summer travel. You can zoom in and out, even convert it to the satellite view so you can get an idea of the countryside we watched go by. I also think if you have the Google Earth program and you click on the .klm icon at the upper right, a file is downloaded that allows you to superimpose the map on Google Earth for even more fun!


View Larger Map

Sunday, September 30, 2007

On The Way Home

So no pictures in this part, unless you want pics of the inside of a Boeing 767.
We're in the air somewhere over the Atlantic between Amsterdam and Philadelphia, on our way back to Southern California. I originally wrote "back home," but I guess we have two homes now. "Look at me ma. I'm bi-continental!"
It was very strange to walk away from Odysseus in the early morning half-light knowing it would be 8 months before we would see the boat again. The Dutch all thought we were crazy when they saw us working on the boat over the summer. That's their recreation time; winter is for boat maintenance...that and planning gardens. But after we explained we were crazy Americans, they understood completely. They'll be working on their boats and we'll be wishing we were.
Other than the weather, we did have a great time this summer and we think we're pretty well set up for the future. There will always be projects on the "to do" list but it is a boat after all. The Dutch have a saying that translates loosely to "Buy a boat, work to death" and that's the same everywhere.
So we've begun planning for next years adventure, which involves heading south to, hopefully, better weather and better food.

So this will probably be the last post for this year.

I want to thank everybody who emailed or called over the summer. Thanks for your good wishes and encouragement. I hope you enjoyed following our travels and maybe in the years to come you can pay a visit. We'd love that!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Back to the Lake

By Thursday afternoon we were back in Holland at the marina, planning some maintenance chores if the weather held. Luckily it did and on Saturday, Cathy Jo was able to get some serious painting accomplished while I did laundry, cleanup, and a little varnish and repairs. After some more chores on Sunday morning we took off on our bikes for another "only in Holland" experience: a Shanty festival at a canal-side bar. Needless to say, much beer was consumed. The groups would arrive by barge, perform for about 45 minutes and then it was off to the the center of the nearby village of Leimuiden for more drinks and singing. One of our Dutch friends described something very country-Dutch as "cloggy", as in the wooden shoes. You couldn't get more "cloggy" than this.

Monday was our last full day for this year. We filled up the diesel tank, drained the water tank to prevent freezing water from bursting pipes and gave the inside a good cleaning. It's hard to imagine we won't be seeing it for another 8 months.

I have also been remiss in earlier posts not to mention the office manager at the marina in Kuddlestaart. Marion was the only one in the office the first time we saw the boat and it was one of her first days on the job. She answered our questions and translated some of the dutch terms we didn't understand on the listing sheet. She kept all the "high finance" straight and cheerfully put up with our constant questions and requests. Everything went much easier with her help.

By Monday night it was raining cats and dogs. We had returned the car Monday afternoon so it was busses to the airport for us. Luckily, it was only sprinkling when we said goodbye to Odysseus about 6:30 Tuesday morning and headed for Schiphol.

Alsace ... We'll Be Back.

On the border between France and Germany is a region they've both been fighting over for hundreds of years, the Alsace. We can see why.

The Maison Katz on Saverne's main street.

We spent the night in Saverne on our way into Switzerland and a little time on the aptly named "Route du Vin" but a little was not enough; we had to go back.
Saverne featured the least expensive and nicest hotel we stayed in while in Europe, and the cheapest parking, always a plus in small European towns not auto-centric. There are probably a thousand (it seems) small wineries scattered about the countryside along with a generous helping of old castles and grand chateaus. It's glorious!
What could be better that a good E4 cremant, pinot blanc or reisling?
One of the most picturesque canals in France goes right through the middle of town. The Canal Marne du Rhine is a major route between Paris and Strasbourg.

and has a great port du plaisance (marina, for you anglophiles.)

The canal picture was taken from the top of the Haute Barr, a ruined castle on the hill overlooking Saverne. It's just a couple hours walk round trip from the center of town. Some portions are left over from Roman times. History was all around us.
Unfortunately, the clock was ticking on this year's European adventure so it was back to Holland to prepare the boat, and ourselves, for winter.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

They Speak Italian, Don't They?

It was on to the Ticino region of southern Switzerland, where we stayed in the town of Locarno, on the Lago Maggiore. Again, as you can see, we had great weather, quite a change from the north!

The lake crosses the border between Switzerland and Italy and it's less than an hour by boat to the village of Cannobio, where they hold a great Sunday market. Off we went. Italy (6).

The whole waterfront was covered with tented stalls selling everything: clothes, leather goods, shoes, handbags, flowers, the works. It being Italy, there's also a huge food section so here's your food porn:

After the market, we wandered around the town, like so many others in the area, perched on the side of the hill above the lake and very picturesque.

Returning to Locarno, we hiked up the side of the hill to a great view of the town with the Church of the Madonna del Sasso in the foreground.

The next day it was a little further south to Lugano, also on a lake, and a visit to the American School in Switzerland, Cathy Jo's high school. Much had changed in 35 years. The enrollment has greatly increased with the addition of an elementary and junior high program and, with that, the need for more facilities that eliminated much of the open space on the campus.
Also, the area, known as the Colina d'Oro (Hill of Gold) had become a very popular residential area, with villas now filling up what was open. We did find a nice place to have our picnic lunch, however.

But remember Alsace, that famous French wine region?
Saverne was calling our name and we had to return.

Six Countries in Six Days!

(Well, five countries and one Grand Duchy but the other way sounds better)

One of the great features of Europe is that, with so many different countries packed so closely together, it's possible visit several in a short period of time. Maybe it won't be an in-depth culture study but still a chance to experience something a little different.
Because her family was living in Libya at the time, Cathy Jo attended high school at a boarding school in Lugano, Switzerland. She hasn't been back since and our spending time in Europe this year gave her a chance to visit, and us both a chance to see some more of the continent. We had hoped to do a few maintenance days on the boat when we returned to the lake but after a couple of frustrating days battling the weather, we gave up and headed southeast. We traveled through Netherlands (1) and Belgium (2), crossed Luxembourg (3, or the Grand Duchy, if you prefer) and then crossed the Alsace region of France (4) to the town of Saverne. We like it so much we came back for a couple of days on our return trip. I'll write about that in detail a little later.
After the night in Saverne, it was on to Switzerland and the Alps.

Our first stop was the city of Bern, where Cathy Jo decided lunch cart brats were one of her favorite foods.

We spent a couple of hours walking around the city, which is located on the Aar River. This was my first experience with Switzerland and it was a big change from the flatness of Holland!

The weather had improved greatly and we had a couple of beautiful days hiking though the mountains near the town of Lauterbrunen.
The area is the birthplace of downhill skiing, being popularized by the British in the late 1800's. There are several cable cars and small railways giving access to the mountains surrounding the valley and also an extensive set of well-signed footpaths that wind though the area. The valley reminded me of Yosemite Valley although, at this time of year, at least, without the hordes of people.

We stayed in the Stechelberg Hotel, which is right at the end of the road.

This was the view out our window.

No, we're not in Holland!

After giving our legs a good workout on some of the Swiss mountain paths, it was on to the lake district in southern Switzerland. But as we leave the area, one more shot back up the valley, this time early in the morning.

In between the Sustern and Gottard Passes we came upon this parade in a little village. Apparently it was time to move the cows from the upper pasture down lower for the winter and they make an event out of it.
All of the traffic was blocked as the procession headed down the road, huge cowbells clanging so loud it was impossible to talk and be heard (herd?). You just never know what you'll see when you travel on the back roads.

Switzerland has one very important distinction: it really doesn't have it's own language. In the western sections, some French but mostly German is spoken and in the south, Italian predominates. That makes life a little difficult for someone not used to the polyglot culture. A waiter would put down a plate on the table and often I couldn't remember whether to day "danke", "merci" or "grazzi"!

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Circle Is Complete

After a goodbye from John and Patti and a quick trip to the grocery store, we were on our way south from Haarlem. Just a couple of hours later we arrived at the Kager Plassen and the little island we had stayed at about a month ago. Since the summer school holidays are about over (most of the schools close in late June or early July and reopen around the first of September), it was quieter than before; mostly retirees on their boats, several doing what we planned; a little painting. Unfortunately, the weather refused to cooperate. It would be mostly sunny in the morning but as the day progressed the clouds would build and Cathy Jo ended up painting in the rain; guaranteed to ruin that fine glossy finish. After a couple of days of that we decided to give up and head for the barn.

Odysseus will spend the long cold winter months in the same marina where we saw it, The Kempers Jachthaven in Kudlestaart. It only took us two hours to reach it from Kaag and by 12:30 we were tied up in a slip, looking at each other asking, "Is that it?" Maybe because we'd just been wandering about Holland with no real goal in mind, we both felt the end of this years cruise to be anticlimactic. We did sit at the table last night surrounded by charts planning next years adventure, however.

We had pulled in on a Saturday and seen some posters for a festival in Aalsmeer, the biggest nearby town (nearby as in about 2km) and on Sunday we stumbled upon the Holland equivalent to the Rose Parade. This is a huge flower growing area, Google Earth shots of Aalsmeer will show acres and acres of greenhouses. The town is also the home of the world biggest flower auction. It turns out that the first weekend in September these "floats" are created, driven up to Amsterdams Olympic Stadium on Saturday, and then back to Aalsmeer for a viewing, similar to what they do for the Rose Parade floats on Jan. 2. These are not nearly as elaborate as the Pasadena floats; a lot more down-home (and dammit, we didn't have the camera) but you might try Googling "Bloemencorso Aalsmeer" and see what comes up.

We were hoping the weather would improve so we could get some of that painting done but no luck so we've rented a car and we're off tomorrow to Cathy Jo's high school stomping grounds in Switzerland. We've just got to see some mountains! Holland is sooooo flat! We'll be on the road for the next 10 days or so, then back here to winterize the boat before heading back to California on the 18th.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Our First Visitors

Saturday morning Cathy Jo went off to the market and I stayed behind to clean up the boat. John and Patti had called from Brussels Friday night to say they would arrive sometime Saturday. We assumed that meant in the afternoon but I got a call about 11 am that they were in Amsterdam and wanted to know where we were. After a couple of phone calls for directions, I met them at the ferry and we had our first visitors. It was great to see them again; after all, they were the ones who got us into this barge thing in the first place! And they pronounced the guest cabin bunks very comfortable, for those of you interested.

For those of you unfamiliar with the back story, we first met the Hardmans way back in the 80's when we lived aboard our sailboat Arrow and they owned a wooden sailboat, Freya. After several years, they moved back to Texas but we kept in touch. Four years ago they bought Capri (see the link to the right) and last spring we spent 10 days with them in the Burgundy region of France. We were hooked! We came back from France, sold the house and now own Odysseus.

We spent the afternoon wandering around Amsterdam, Patti's favorite city.

You just never know what you'll see on the streets of the city. This guy was just sitting in his Cadillac Eldorado on a bridge over a canal with an Italian opera aria blasting out of his radio.

The following day it was more wandering about the city and then over to Uitmarkt (pronounced "outmarkt") which is the kickoff to Amsterdam's winter cultural season. There are booths with information on all of the museums, concert schedules, theater and music events, art exhibitions; just about anything happening anywhere in the country for the next 9 months. There were also several stages with live music and several art exhibits. As we crossed the river from Java Island, just one of the venues scattered throughout Amsterdam, this was the view back.

We couldn't let the Hardmans leave without a boat ride so Monday morning it was off down the Noordzeekanal for a trip back to Haarlem.

We've already been here a couple of times, once by train and later by boat so we were able to give them the grand tour.

I think we've seen about twenty paintings of this Haarlem bridge but none of them have Odysseus in them!

The highlight of this visit, however, was a full concert on the Muller organ in the Grote Kerk. You may remember when we last visited we missed the concert by a day but attended an Evensong Service to hear the organ. This time we got a 90 minute Bach organ mass. What an instrument!

Wednesday morning, John and Patti had to hit the road; they had some stops to make along the way back to France and their return to the states was just days away. We decided to try to get some painting done before we returned to the marina where the boat will lie for the winter so we headed back to Kaagiland and the island where we spent a couple of days about a month ago.

The calendar may still say August but fall is definitely in the air. The temperature really drops at night and when the sun goes behind a cloud (which it does often) the long sleeves come out. Sometimes we forget we're at the same latitude as Newfoundland. We'll try to get some work done anyway. We can see the end of this years adventure approaching.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I quote from the "Lonely Planet" guidebook to the Netherlands

"Naarden would be just another satellite town to the capital if it wasn't for the magical fortress. This work of art is best seen from the air: a 12-pointed star. This defence system was unfortunately built only after the Spanish massacred the inhabitants in the 16th century. The bastions were still staffed by the Dutch army thoughout the 1920's...

There's a really huge marina close by so we pulled in for the night. The old city is pretty spectacular and now seriously upscale. Only a couple of Fiat 500's parked on the street. The dual moat system is still intact; nobody was going to massacre the inhabitants of Naarden ever again ... until they invented airplanes that is.
While there we visited the 14th century Grote Kerk. There are some great ceiling paintings that are really hard to take pictures of but we still have a hard time walking on the gravestones in the church floor. As near as we can tell, de Hier Schuyt was buried here in 1612 and his wife in 1631, then his son in 1664 and his wife in 1670.

Friday morning was beautiful (I really have a hard time typing that) so off we went to Amsterdam. After crossing the big water in nearly flat calm conditions we navigated our way back to the Sixhaven Marina. John and Patti are supposed to be here sometime tomorrow (Saturday). It's also Uitmarkt time, a major music and film festival (what did I day about festivals?) here in Amsterdam so the next couple of days should be pretty busy!


When the Dutch closed off the Zuider Zee with dikes, they essentially put small fishing villages out of business. It was either find something else to do or die. Small villages like Spakenburg found their salvation in tourism, much like many small towns in the U.S. These are the typical fishing boats of the area, called "botters." You can also see a couple of them up on the slipways in the local boatyard.

We got back to the boat just as the wind and rain started to pick up. By the next morning it was really howling and since heading back to Amsterdam involved crossing open water we decided to stay put. Good thing we did. It didn't rain much but the wind she did blow! Luckily, the Dutch always tell us that if we wait just a little bit, the weather will change. By the next morning, things had settled down enough for us to tackle the Eemeer. Since we had two days to make it back to Amsterdam, we decided to stop in a marina near the town of Naarden. It looked pretty intriguing on the chart; we thought it deserved a look.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


This place was a total surprise! When we were in Haarlem, we visited a beer festival (summer is festival time for everything!) and one of the brewers suggested we visit Amersfoort. It's at the end of the 18km Eem River and, he said, not many boats visit. That's for us! What we found, besides the Dias Latinos, a two-day latin music festival, was a brand new transient dock with all the necessities (electricity, water, showers and welcoming personnel) and a town with an amazing juxtaposition of the new and the old.
On the walk into town from the transient dock, you see this

Much of the 12th and 13th century wall surrounding the old city still exists. This particular gate, one of the three that are still standing, was built in the 1400's.

But just a couple of blocks away are these modern office buildings and city hall.

City Hall

As for Dias Latinos, this was Amersfoort's 11th annual Latin Music Festival and it drew bands from South and Central America, Cuba and even a mariachi band from Mexico City. We felt right at home! We pulled in on Saturday just as it was getting going and got lost in the 50,000 or so people attending. There were several outdoor stages scattered around the center of the old city and there's nothing quite like salsa dancing to a Cuban band in a 13th century town square. The music lasted until well after midnight and then started up again Sunday about noon and ran 'til 10pm. We had a blast!

Meanwhile, we'd gotten a call from our friends John and Patti Hardman. They had finished up their cruise in France and would have a couple of days free to spend time with us before they headed back to Texas. We arranged to meet back in Amsterdam on Friday or Saturday. The weather forecast wasn't great so we headed back up the river as there were a couple of towns just a bicycle ride away we wanted to visit.

Return to the Big City

So after a couple of months doing circles near the city, here we are! We found a marina recommended on one of the newsgroups we follow called the Sixhaven Jachthaven and the location is perfect. Right across the River Ij from the city, a free ferry that leaves about every 10 minutes is a five minute walk. The ferry drops you off at Centraal Station in Amsterdam.

(Where those two cameras are superimposed on the Google Earth picture are the free ferry landings. Centraal Station is below the picture and to the left. That boat in the entrance is making the very interesting turn in.) Since we'd spent time there at the beginning of our trip, we knew how to navigate the public transit almost like locals. Once again the weather after our arrival was appalling, with heavy rain and high winds so we spent time at the Rijksmuseum, reprovisioned at the Albert Cuypstraat Market, and revisited one of the restaurants we enjoyed from our earlier visit.
The jachthaven is really a scene.
Since it's not a big secret that the location is so good, its a very popular, and very small, marina. The havenmeister is a good-natured transplanted Belgian.

The Maestro

When you pull in, he spots you from his office in a converted barge wheelhouse and then directs you to an available spot using his whistle. By the end of the day, nearly every available square foot of space is filled with a boat, few tied to docks, mostly tied to each other. When it's time for people to leave in the morning it takes a couple of hours to unwind the raftup. The show can be really fun!
After three nights in a marina, however, it was time to move on and we decided to investigate some new territory, to the east and north of Amsterdam. Since Odysseus is a flat-bottomed boat, it's not really made to take on waves. Since we didn't feel comfortable taking on the Marker Meer, a pretty good sized lake, we would travel down the Amsterdam/Rhine Kanaal, with its heavy commercial traffic,

We're much smaller than these guys!

for about an hour to a small canal that would take us across to the Vecht River (you've heard of that before) and then north and east to our next destination, Amersfoort. Unfortunately, we failed to check the opening times on the two bridges at the end of the canal and they would have required an extensive wait to get into the Vecht. Back to the A-R Kanaal and back south to Weesp it was for the alternate route to the river. After the usual trial getting through the bridges in Weesp, it was north on the Vecht. By now it was pretty late in the day (like 3 pm!) but the stopping places further on were few and far between so we pulled up to a mooring spot on the Vecht just north of Weesp and settled in for the night.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Holland: Home of Happy Cows and Don Rediscovers Google Earth

If you've seen the tv ads, California cheese's claim to fame is that it comes from happy cows. The cows in Holland must be ecstatic because they have a lot of cheese here. That brings us to Alkmaar and the primary reason for our visit, the traditional cheese market. Begun in the 17th century, every Friday between April and September about 30,000 kg of cheese is stacked in the central square (Waagplein or Weigh Square) beginning at about 7 am. At 10 am a bell is rung, and with hundreds of tourists watching, dealers and testers check out the rounds and deals are made. Then porters in their colorful hats load the rounds onto wooden sledges and carry them to the weighmaster. That task complete, the cheese is then loaded on to carts, then into trucks and off to it's final destination. It's all quite a show. The big conglomerates control the cheese trade these days but this is a good re-creation of the way things used to be.

We didn't get there early enough to be at the front of the crowd so the pictures were a little sparse but you can get the idea.

These are a couple of the porters doing their job.

The mooring spot we had in town was very picturesque; on a little side channel off the main canal.

And as the headline says, I remembered Google Earth so here's a shot of the mooring spot from overhead. The Waagplein is to the left and we were tied up about where that first boat is on the side canal at that runs from left to right. When we were there that whole first section of canal was full every night, with boats going past the second small lift bridge further down the canal.

Also, we continue to marvel at our mooring spot in Haarlem, right in the middle of town so here's a shot of it too. We were tied up under the trees just behind where that big barge is preparing to go through the lift bridge in the center of the picture. The Grote Kerk (home of the Muller Organ) is just above and to the left.

These GE pics are just thumbnails. If you click on the picture here you should get a bigger view.

After the excitement of the cheese market it was off to the east to visit Prumerend and the coast. We had very relaxing few hours underway; the weather was very pleasant and there was no traffic on the canal except for a traditional Dutch sailing barge ... actually sailing the canal!

From Purmerend we bicycled out to Edam and the coast of what used to be the Zuider Zee, now enclosed by dikes and called the Marker Meer. It was a beautiful day and a light breeze so the water was a busy place with lots of sailboats. The next day was clear but really windy so we stayed put and did a little maintenance. We weren't actually tied up in the town spaces but staked to the bank on the other side so it was free. Tuesday it was just a 2 hour trip down the Noorhollandsch Kanaal to the big city, Amsterdam!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Return to Haarlem

We had made a day trip to Haarlem while we were staying in Amsterdam that first week. It was cold and blustery. This time it was very different.
The weather really improved this week and we had three great days in and around Haarlem. One just fair.

One great thing about Holland is that it's very boat friendly. In Haarlem,like many of the cities we've vsited, we tied up right in the middle of the old city center.

We've written before about the use of bicycles in Holland; everybody had one. If you need to ferry your kids around and you don't like putting them on a kid seat behind you, then the bike truck is for you!

It was just a 5 minute walk into the Grote Markt area and the beautiful walkways and small streets.
The weather the next couple of days was great and we used the opportunity to revisit the Kennemerduinen Nature Preserve and the town of Bloemendaal aan Zee, a beach side area of dunes that we had visited when we had a car but, as usual, it was raining. What a difference the weather makes. The road into the beach was packed with cars, scooters, bicycles and walkers; people in cars must have been waiting for hours! We just rode right past on our bikes and spent the afternoon cruising around the beaches and dunes.

The Grote Kerk van St. Bavo in Haarlem features one of the most stunning church organs in Holland, a Muller that was constructed in 1738. It's over 90 ft. high and has more than 5000 pipes. Both Handel and Mozart played it, the latter when he was only 10. We really wanted to hear it but had missed an organ concert by one day. Luckily, Sunday evening the church was featuring a Church of England Evensong service (even though it's a Dutch Reformed church) so we got as dressed up as we could under the circumstances and paid a visit. What a magnificent instrument! There's nothing quite like that last sustained note from a huge church organ in a large gothic church.

Monday the weather deteriorated a bit but since we were so close, we decided to make a quick trip to IKEA to pick up some things we had forgotten on our earlier forays.
They have both train and bus stops right outside the store entrance so it was easy to get there.

Tuesday morning it was off again up the Spaarne River and down 8 km of the Nordzeekanaal with its ships a tugs and up the Zaan river in the direction of Alkmaar.
One interesting note for you chocolate lovers- we were traveling though Zaandam and Zaanstadt and kept smelling the odor of cooking chocolate. We discovered that this is the center of the lovely bean for Holland. We saw huge barges of the beans being unloaded into silos and passed this site. Those tanks are loaded with chocolate!

On to Alkmaar, home of Hollands largest outdoor cheese market.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Leiden and Back to Kagiland

Leiden is another university town with about 20,000 attending The Netherlands oldest university and also the birthplace of Rembrandt. The end of July all the students are gone and Rembrandt didn't achieve real fame until he moved to Amsterdam but we liked Leiden anyway.
The Passanten is very pleasant and busy; lots of coming and going. The first two nights, because we are a "bigger" boat we were essentially tied up to the sidewalk along a fairly busy street but then a larger boat came in and we gladly moved over to accommodate them. That's us still beside the sidewalk.

We did a little restocking of the grocery bin and spent a couple of days wandering about the city. It's very compact and, with the student population gone on holiday, pretty quiet. Many restaurants and shops close for a couple of weeks to give everybody time off and now is about that time.
We used the opportunity to get started on a couple of maintenance chores (between rain showers) but everybody said the weather was going to improve, with warmer temperatures and more importantly, less rain! (Special note: don't let the pictures fool you. We only take the camera out when it's not raining. Even the Dutch have been complaining about the wet summer and, now that everybody is on holiday, the complaint have really begun.) So Tuesday we headed back out the two lift bridges and turned left, headed for Kagiland.

We visited this area by car earlier on our visit, walking around Kag Island in a downpour. The Kaggerplassen (Kag Lake) is a very popular boating area with lots of small power and sail boats. We ended up tying up on an island in the lake separated from Kag Island itself by a small channel. Odysseus came with a small inflatable canoe that was missing a few important pieces but we managed to use it as a raft and trek into town to get some maintenance supplies. More projects! Cathy Jo got the cabin house top painted and I got more varnish on the name boards. Most importantly, no rain for three days! Huzzah!

Another boat on the island.

The second day here we were working away when a boat tied up behind up. The woman came up asking if we were speaking "American english" and it turned out to be a couple from San Diego, Glenn and Barbara Goltz, the first Americans we've met in the boating community. They have been at the canal boating thing for awhile; this was their 11th summer. They have a 12 meter boat that was originally designed by the Conniseur Cruise Lines as a "hire boat" but they have made it their own. It was great to swap stories with english speakers as the entire Dutch boating community speaks Dutch (!) and communication can be difficult.

The island is also home to a thriving blackberry patch and though we didn't have the lavender for Cathy Jo's special blackberry/lavender topping we did have the ice cream, to the envy of surrounding boats.

The cupboard is once more getting bare and Mr. Mercedes needs some exercize so it's on to Haarlem.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Montfoort, Haasdrecht and Leiden

We left Utrecht Sunday in huge thunderstorms ... one hit while we were stopped for lunch but another on our way to our next stop, Montfoort. Luckily it was just heavy rain, no thunder and lightning. A steel boat should be protection enough but we really don't want to chance it.

We took a nice long bike ride on Monday in light rain, ignoring it just like the Dutch, and then sat through heavy rain that evening. Next morning it was up and on to Haastrecht in the wind.
Wednesday was a beautiful day; partly cloudy and only a little wind so it was off on another bike ride, this time along the Vlist and Lek Rivers. We had driven in the area alot when we were staying near Schoonoven and wanted to bike down the river we had driven. After about 30k we returned to find that the lift bridge in town had broken down, halting boat traffic on the Hollandse Ijssel. The nice quiet city tie-up had become a large collection of boats, all waiting for the bridge to be fixed so they could continue with their holiday.

Before Broken Bridge

After Broken Bridge ... we're in the middle there somewhere.

After much scratching of heads, consulting of manuals and calling on cell phones about 9:30 pm the bridge, normally operated by remote control from Gouda, was opened manually and a mad rush began for the other side. We decided to sit tight, hoping the bridge would be operational the next day.
The bridge operator showed up about 9 am on Thursday and, after some shuffling about of boats to reach the public water tap and refill our tanks we were underway bound for Gouda.
Little did we know what a trial it would be.
It turns out all of the rain has affected the river levels so all boat traffic from the Hollandse Ijssel into Gouda has to pass through the Waaierschutsluis, basically a lock. Unfortunately, the sluice is only about 26 meters long so at most, only two boats at a time can get through. Luckily, this being orderly Holland and the channel to the sluis very narrow, everybody is forced to wait their turn. After about an hour and a half we were able to head through and face our next obstacle, the Julianasluis.
Unfortunately, the entrance into this sluice is a large basin and there's no way to tell who goes first and nobody to tell you; it's every boat for themselves. The sluis gates open, the boats inside stream out and the scrum begins to see who will get in before the red light goes on indicating the chamber is full.

This sluis chamber is pretty big; 110 meters long and 12 wide, but there's commercial barges too. We made it through on the second opening.
By now the weather was worsening but the wind was at our backs. We headed up the Gouwe River which carries quite a bit of commercial traffic. We thought we'd just tie up somewhere along the bank as it was getting on to cocktail hour and it had been a trying day what with all the jockeying at bridges and sluices. We found what we thought was a good spot but it turns out all the commercial traffic really stirs up the water. The canals are pretty narrow and shallow so any wake really bounces around; and bounces you around. We found one spot we thought would work, then another but finally gave up and headed up to Alphen en de Rijn which is the entrance to the Aarkanal where we spent our first night away from the dock. Only pleasure boats use it so we staked ourselves to the bank and sat out a blustery, rainy night in comfort.
The next morning is was up and off into the howling wind for Leiden. Only four opening bridges to wait for and a couple hours later we were snug in the Passanten in Leiden, plugged in to electricity for the first time since Leimuiden and ready to enjoy another Dutch university town.