Our Barge, Odysseus

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Monday, June 25

OK, so what country are we in? Three guesses and the first two don't count.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday, June 24 - This is a Holiday?

Now we remember what we disliked about owning a boat: the boatyard.
Earlier this week, Cathy Jo looked up at me wearing her respirator as she painted the bilges of our boat and said "This is what we do for vacation!?!"

The previous owners of Odysseus had used it as a weekend condo on the water so there is a lot of deferred maintenance to catch up on. One good thing: canal boating is a fresh water environment so the rust problem with a steel boat, while not insignificant, is not as great a problem as with salt water, like the ocean.

The weather has also taken a turn for the worse, making painting difficult. The first couple of weeks we were here were mostly sunny with only the occasional rainy day. The last couple of weeks I don't think we've had a day when it didn't rain at least some; but there have been some real gulley washers of the midwest variety, with the attendant thunder and lightning.

One other problem has been that, in our quest to find inexpensive accommodations with a kitchen so we don't have to eat at restaurants all the time, we ended up in a b&b that we thought would be only a half hour drive from the boat. Unfortunately, the horrendous traffic in Holland made it least an hour each way and the toll on our nerves was ridiculous. I really don't know how anything gets accomplished here. The equivalent to our interstates, the "A" roads, are gridlocked in the morning 'til about 10 and beginning in the afternoon about 4 until 7. Traffic slows to a crawl. We thought dealing with LA traffic had shown us some of the worst but Holland's tops it by a mile!

So today we took a day off from boat work and moved our stuff from the b&b near Schoonoven (that's near Gouda, for those of you following along on your map) to a campground bungalow in Oude Ade, near Leiden. That should cut down the drive to about 15 to 20 minutes and we don't have to go on an "A" road.

Yesterday and today, being the first weekend of summer, also resulted in several celebrations. We listened to some interesting music in Schoonoven last night after dinner (a Dixieland jazz band and a salsa band with no Elvis) and visited "Haven Dag" (Haven Day) on our way through Gouda. It's an excuse for people with old boats to get together and show them off; just like people with old boats everywhere.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Odysseus is a converted dutch cargo barge. Built in the 1920's, the hull was originally riveted steel. In 1989 a major portion of the bottom plating was replaced and it was converted for pleasure use; the house was built and fitted out.

It is 13.8 meters long, about 3.2 meters wide and draws about .8 meters of water. It has a Mercedes OM 636 diesel engine, ironically, the same engine that was in the sailboat that we lived on in the 1980's. The steering is hydraulic and there are two steering positions, one inside and one outside on the back deck. There is a double berth in the forepeak (up in front, for you landlubbers, and that's ours!), and what Cathy Jo and I affectionately refer to as a "Dutch Double" in the aft cabin. (We promise to move the generator out.)

The head (bathroom, fyll) is just down the stairs from the inside steering station. The interior was apparently designed for Dutch people; there's about 6 1/2' headroom, plenty for our taller friends

As you might expect from our past history, some changes will be made to the interior. That "round thing" with the tv in it to Cathy's right will have to go and the galley counter will be changed out, as the stove has to be replaced ... no, not with a Wolfe!

That hatch above Cathy Jo's head opens up to let in light and air but we think some changes to the windows will have to be made before we go to France ... it's much warmer there in the summer than Holland.

One of the major plusses of the boat is all of the outside space.

There's room for a table and some chairs on the back deck for some outside living.
It had a gas and electric fridge so the white wine can always stay chilled no matter what the location, and plenty of storage room for guest duffle bags.

With a weight of about 12 tons and a 40 hp diesel engine, it's not going to be a barn burner but it will move along nicely. Who's in a hurry anyway?

June 12 - The Purchase Process

The purchase of a boat is the same as the purchase of a house: make an offer, have an inspection, negotiate over any repairs that need to be made and then closing. Monday the purchase process was begun, Tuesday we made a trip to Amsterdam to turn in the rental car then traveled by train to nearby Hoofdorp to pick up "the clown car", Wednesday we made a trip to Gouda to check out the cheese and Thursday was the inspection (or in the boating world, survey).
The broker recommended a surveyor, Rutger Versluis, and we met him at the boat about 9 Thursday morning in the rain. He was extremely thorough and the process, including taking the boat out for a trip around the lake to see how it handled, finished up around 4 pm. The cow barn b&b wasn't available Thursday night (we found out Thursday am), but after a frantic search, we were able to find a place not to far away in the town of Linschoten. Saturday we sat down with the broker and the current owner to go over the repairs list, the most important parts of which concerned the engine (it is a motor boat, after all!) and we're now waiting to see how much the repairs will cost and how much of that the current owner will pick up. Hopefully we'll know something for sure by Tuesday and be able to take possession by the end of the week.

June 11 - An Intermission

Just a quick word about what's going on with the blog.

Until we got to our current housing situation, internet access was a little spotty so even though the postings are dated over the last couple of days they've been composed as we went along. Also, it's been pretty much of a travelogue up to this point. Hopefully now that we have the blog thing going we'll be able to add a little more about our impressions of the Dutch people and Holland itself.
We really are enjoying ourselves here but it does get some taking used to ... like the Dutch are really tall!

June 10 - A Quick Couple of Days to France, A Decision

One other boat had really intrigued us, a traditional dutch barge converted for pleasure use lying in France, near Charmont in the Champaigne/Ardennes region. A British couple own it and have put alot into it. It was a long way away but we really felt like we had to see it and, as a bonus, it wasn't that far from where John and Patti were staying near Dijon, making it possible to see the barge in the morning then drive down and spend the night with them.

We reluctantly left the farm early Friday morning, making it as far as the walled city of Langres, staying in the Hotel de la Poste Friday night. What a great old town. And I mean old. One of the gates thru the city walls was built by the Romans ... we're talking old! We got up in the morning and walked a couple of miles on the top of the ramparts.

The only problem was that up forward inside there was only about 5'7" headroom, not so great for our tall friends. Plus, when it comes time to sell, we'd have to find some short people to sell it to. Not a great idea to limit your market.
So after a great visit with John and Patti, we decided we should get back up to Holland and conclude our search.
We had narrowed the field down to three boats, Odysseus, the more traditional barge-type in Kuddlestart, and the two cruisers, Arminta and Adios. When we got back into the Netherlands and our cell phone worked again (don't get me started on the phone thing!) we got a message that Adios had been sold so it was Odysseus or Arminta. Since Odysseus was closer (and the more traditional design, which we were looking for) we decided to go there first and make a decision.

The decision was Odysseus and after a couple of back and forths with the current owner through the broker taking about 15 minutes a deal was struck. We were going to own a boat in Holland!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Up to Friesland

So for those of you following along on your map of the Netherlands, we left the B&B in Tiel and headed over to Leiden, then up the Alsmeer Canal, stopping at marinas along the way and looking at boats. One we looked at had been on our list all along, at the Kemper Watersports sales docks in a little town called Kuddlestart. I liked it right off but Cathy Jo thought the interior looked a little rv'ish. We weren't done looking yet so it went on the list of possibilities.That evening found us in the town of Enkhuizen which Cathy Jo and I christened the Bar Harbor of the Netherlands. Lots of beautiful sailing ships and barges for use on what used to be the Zuider Zee, but now enclosed by dikes is the Ijsslemeer. Lots of upscale looking individuals in topsiders with no socks.

We stayed in a hotel over a chinese restaurant, had a great fish dinner in a local restaurant and, after more walking the next morning, were off to Friesland.
Our next place to stay was another B&B on a farm outside the town of Tijnje (pronounced tinye, long i) and we saw another couple of possibilites along the way, including several boats called river cruisers, which have a much finer bow and, usually, bigger engines. This created a dilemma for us because we were originally limiting our search to converted barges and there are literally hundreds of these cruisers on the market. Because of their design, a suitable one could be smaller that a barge and still allow plenty of living room. Two of our favorites were an Arminta cruiser and Adios, a Stabilicruiser owned by a retired professional sailor and only reluctantly on the market. There was already an offer on Adios but the Arminta had been on the market for a while so was still available.


We had also been pursuing a broker about a boat we had seen in an ad online. We finally made contact and he sent us to the boat, telling us we should contact him again if we were still interested after seeing the outside. It was an unbelievable mess, a total wreck on the inside (a boatyard worker gave us access) and nearly that on the outside, and for that they were asking 35,000 euros! We were stunned that anybody would be so bold but the market is really wacky in Holland.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Search Widens

We picked up a rental car on Wednesday the 30th and began the boat search in earnest. Saw a couple of more possibilities. We were staying in a typical Dutch situation, the extra rooms added on to the side of a large farmhouse and rented out to guests. In this case we were sharing a kitchen with another guest but he was rarely there so it was like our own apartment.
The co-owner of the B&B, Martin, was the retired superintendant of one of the last full-service shipyards (not boatyard) in the Netherlands, Merwede Shipyard, about 45 minutes away, near Rotterdam. They just happened to be launching their latest project, a 200 meter pipelaying ship for a Scottish company on Friday night so he invited us along. An all access pass to a ship launch was the last thing we expected but what a sight! I included just one picture but a 6oo ft. ship hitting the water backwards at 30 kilometers per hour is something not to be missed.

Meanwhile, we're driving all over southern Holland in search of the boat. Follow along on your Netherlands map as we visit Rotterdam, Nijmegen, Latham, Peoldijk and Loosdrecht, among other yachthavens (marinas to you and me).

Along the way we managed to fit in some "time off" to take a bike ride along the Linge River, somewhere we'd like to visit on the boat, visit Delft, home of delftware, Leiden, a bustling university town, and more beautiful Dutch countryside ... including windmills!

But it's time to move on to another part of the country, up north to Freisland.

The First Netherlands Post-Tuesday, May 29

After what seemed longer that the Jamestown settlers boat ride in the other direction, we arrived in Amsterdam at about 8 am Wednesday the 23rd. I don't know how people can justify bringing a hyper 1 1/2 year old on a trans-atlantic flight but everybody in the front of the US Air 767 paid the price. Ear plugs didn't even work. No sleep was had. That made our first day in beautiful Amsterdam something of a trial (stay awake, stay awake!) but after only a couple of days we have successfully defeated jet lag.

The weather mostly cooperated. The first three days were perfect: sunny and warm. We had some rain overnight Saturday but Sunday was pretty nice. Monday afternoon it began to rain but as we were in the Van Gogh Museum it wasn't really a bother. It was cold and blustery the day after that for a day trip to Haarlem but we haven't used half of the sweaters we packed.

The apartment we booked for the first week was great. It's a small studio on a very quiet side street but just one block from the bustling street market on Albert Cuypstraat. Everything can be had there from vegetables to luggage. One night for dinner we had roasted chicken from one of the stands, potatos and veggies from another and cheap wine from a third. Don't need any luggage.