Our Barge, Odysseus

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.

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