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.

Utrecht ... and the Bridge That Ate the Running Light

Utrecht is The Netherlands oldest city. The Nieuwegracht (the "new" canal) was built in the 14th century. The fixed bridges on it are too low for us so we used the Oudegracht through town; it was built in the 11th. There are 16 fixed bridges between the entry sluice (or lock) and the transient dock and the charts say there is 3.25 meter of clearance. With our mast down we need about 2.8 so we figured no problem. Unfortunately, these bridges are arched and the 3.25 measurement is in the middle. As they say in Holland...Let Op! (watch out!).

Everything was fine, if a bit tense, until the dreaded (we found out later) Stadhuise Brugge (near city hall) that was on a turn. Apparently many a boat has come to grief there and we were among them.

Minor damage to the boat and major damage to Don's ego was done. The starboard running light was sacrificed ... the sound was much worse than the actual damage.

Later we watched as other boats maneuvered under the bridges.

You can see that the old warves are actually below street level, similar to the setup at San Antonio's Riverwalk. And like San Antonio, they're full of cafes and lots of spectators. Also, on nice days, hordes of paddleboats, kayaks and small private boats with outboards that work most of the time.

The transient dock was very close to the center of town and we enjoyed three days there. It has heads, showers and free water for boat tanks. The cost was only about E6 per day for the spot.

Friday was raining (surprise) so after a trip to the Albert Hein (Vons equivalent), we took in a movie. After two months of no movies (we watch about 8-10 a month at home...thanks Netflix!) it was really great. The theater was like a home screening room, complete with clacking projector and, since the Dutch, unlike the Germans, hate dubbing, the movie (Venus with Peter O'Toole) was in English with Dutch subtitles. Highly recommended.
Utrecht is a university town with lots of cafes and some great museums. We visited the Catharijneconvent Museum that features the greatest collection of religious art in the country. If you ever visit The Netherlands, we would recommend Utrecht.
Sunday morning it was off down the Hollandse Ijssel

The Vecht and the "Parklike Setting"

The dinner party was very successful; six wine bottles anyway; and we had enough dinnerware!
Joost did our laundry (he owns a commercial laundry) and that night we slept on ironed sheets. Yea! just like uptown.
(Side note: Laundry is a huge problem here in Europe. We also found this last year when visiting John and Patti in France. Laundromats are very hard to find and when you do they are really expensive; 5 euros a load for a wash and dry. That's like $7. We do lots of hand wash.)
After a bike ride around the area we headed down the Vecht on a beautiful day. They call the Vecht the Loire of the Netherlands and we'll let the pictures tell the story.

Bridge at Vreeland

Just a Summer Cottage

Now it was on to Utrecht.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, Our Anniversary - 25!

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary and we're celebrating it with Dutch friends.
During our first week, when we were staying in Amsterdam, we made contact with Jos, a family friend of our friend Richard Roach. Jos picked us up in his car, drove us all over central Netherlands and then treated us to dinner at his houseboat. We figured we should return the favor so we found a mooring along the Vecht river about a 2 minute walk from his house and invited him over for dinner. He'll be arriving soon with three friends. We'll see if we can seat six around the table for dinner. Luckily while we were raping and pillaging IKEA we bought dinner settings for six!
So we are under way but we've made little progress ... not a problem as we're not in a hurry. The weather hasn't been very good (windy with occasional rain) but we've managed to put a few hours in and at least we're away from the dock!
We traveled south from the lake we were on to the town of Alphen-an-de-Rijn and then up the Aarkanal to connect with the Amstel River through a sluice, or lock.

We got within walking distance of the apartment we stayed at in Amsterdam but then veered off to the east along the Wesper Trekvaart crossing the Amsterdam-Rijn canal (big, busy water but no traffic when we crossed), to the town of Weesp. (The double "e" takes on a long "a" sound and w's sound like v's so it's pronounced "Vaspe"). We spent the night along the bank with about a thousand other boats in giant thunderstorms.

We joined a long line of boats this morning, taking about an hour to get through the four lift bridges in Weesp and out onto the Vecht River. We've driven and walked along this river and it is beautiful. The guide book describes it as "Fraaie, binja stroomloze rivier van Utrecht naar Muiden, door veelal parkachtige omgeving." That's a pretty river with almost no current from Utrecht to Muiden in a parklike setting for those of you who haven't progressed beyond elementary Dutch (or who don't have an English-Dutch dictionary handy).

Another "Where Are We Now" Picture

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Friday, July 13, Departure

As we pulled away from the dock on our maiden voyage, Cathy Jo began to fill out our log book. "Today's Friday but what's the date?" she asked.
I blanched as I looked at my watch and said, "Would you believe the 13th?"
It's supposed to be unlucky to start a voyage on Friday, let alone the 13th, and Cathy Jo was nervous to begin with but maybe that doesn't apply in Holland ... we hope!
We pulled away from the dock about 10 am. It was grey and a little windy. No rain, however, and the weather radar didn't show any, so off we went.
As we crossed two lakes, the Westeinder Plassen and the Braassemermeer, it was a little choppy but once we got into the canals it was pleasant.
We just put in a short day, only three hours underway, but it was a good check out for all the systems and everything appeared to work fine. Once we arrived at the days stopping place, what they call a "passanten" in Holland (a place along the canal for transient boats to tie up for free! no services but FREE!) the weather cleared and it turned into a beautiful afternoon ... great for a bike ride. We've also come full circle; we're just down the road from the cow barn b&b we were staying in a couple of weeks ago.
So pictures!

The broker responsible for selling us the boat, Joost Kempers is on the right. His brother Bart runs the other Kempers marina in Leimuiden where we spent all the time over the last couple of weeks busting our butts.

Adios to the Kempers office staff. Aaron in Leimuiden (on the left) and Jerome at Kudelstaart were most helpful. (And I'm sure I misspelled their names.)

The yard dogs at Leimuiden were excellent. Head of the pack is Kurt, with his back to the camera.

This is our first nights mooring near Ter Aar.

And this is what it's supposed to be all about!

As Promised...The Fietsen

Fietsen don't fail me now. It's all we got!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Monday, July 9 Still Dockbound

Still finishing up a few tasks before we head off in to the wilds of Netherlands. Put some tile around the new stove in the galley:

From this-

To this-

And Cathy put some fresh paint on the deck.

Sunday was beautiful and we got a chance to exercise our new fietsen (Dutch for bicycles) on a 30 km ride. Unfortunately, I didn't take the camera so no pictures. I promise to provide them soon.
Had a huge thunderstorm with lightening, thunder and hail this morning but it cleared off to a beautiful day. Took the rental clown car back to Budget today so we are on foot, bicycle or boat from here on in. Wonder why we called it the clown car? Can you believe a car shorter than Don?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Made it into the water in the, what else, pouring rain. The boats not sinking, the battery charger has been repaired (thanks for the suggestion, Kurt) and, after a month and a half, the suitcases have been emptied and stowed.

They use a tractor pushing a wheeled cradle to position the boat under the travel lift.

Cathy cooked our first meal onboard tonight, the bottle of wine has been consumed and the cookies eaten. Even thunderstorms, complete with booming thunder couldn't dampen the mood (sorry!).

Tuesday, July 3

Well that was optimistic! We had the one beautiful day but it's been cloudy and rainy every since. That delayed the launch by one day so as I write this at 7:30 am, we'll be going in the water this afternoon.

Remember This?

This is what it looks like in the boatyard!

That didn't stop us from spending our first night on the boat. We moved a big box of our IKEA haul inside and slept on a double bed for the first time in ages. Earlier I made a crack about the "Dutch double." I'm not sure exactly what the deal is here but everywhere we stayed we were faced with two twin beds instead of the double bed we're used to. The hotel in Maastricht even wanted to charge us an extra E15 for what they called a "deluxe" room.
We've run into a couple of little hitches during the haulout. It turns out the fancy battery charger doesn't work so that had to go to a shop in Amsterdam to be repaired: that will probably take a week or so. We haven't figured out how to make the demand hot water heater work either. Maybe we're just not holding our mouths right but we'll keep trying. The galley is pretty much complete with it's new stove and lowered counter top. It's still a little too high but maybe we'll get a stool. There's only one more little bit of interior painting that needs to be done (as opposed to wants to be done) and once we get in the water there are some engine issues to deal with but at least we'll be floating.

Cathy Jo doing what she does.

Monday, July 2

When you just can't stand 'em anymore you take 'em to the ...

Baby dump?

Thursday, June 28

It stopped raining!

We hauled the boat out Tuesday in the worst weather we've seen since we've been here: pouring rain and 25 to 30 mph winds. For those of you in the boating community, they use the Beaufort scale for weather forecasts here (for those of you not in the boating community, there's always Google) and at the coast the weatherpeople were talking Force 9, inland force 7 to 8. It was abysmal! Wednesday was slightly better with only occasional rain but still windy. Luckily they put us in a shed because the welder had to replace the outside cooling pipes and its hard to weld in the rain. Today was sunny with only occasional clouds; still windy but no rain. Even the bicyclists were smiling.

The word from Kurt, the yard manager, is that we should be in the water Monday afternoon. We've made arrangements to stay in the place we're in until Monday so we figure we'll be moving onto the boat then. We went to IKEA last week and worked the credit card pretty hard so we should be ready to go. There is nothing but coffee cups on the boat; no bedding, cooking utensils, plates, silverware ... nothing. Sort of like moving into the first college apartment, only this time we have some money to spend.

The bungalow we're staying in now is in another interesting place. We're guessing it used to be a farm on the polder (Google, again) and the family turned it into a summer cabin site and campground. It's just across the Spikerboor Channel (the "campground" is called Spikerboor) from Kaag the headquarters of one of the world's major megayacht builders, Feadship. Kaag is basically an island; you have to ride a ferry to get there, sort of like Balboa Island, near Newport, used to be. Spikerboor has a large area that is taken up by small summer cabins and an area set aside as a campground, a very organized, tidy, Dutch sort of campground. Some of the caravans (like our travel trailers) are also set up as summer homes: they're semi-permanent with add-on canvas rooms. We really don't have anything equivalent in the States but it reminds me of some of the summer settlements around Clear Lake in northern California.

The yard put the first coat of primer on the bottom this afternoon, I got the galley counter ripped out and bought the material for the replacement. Cathy Jo got another coat of primer on the head/shower floor. We bought the new stove today (really!, not a Wolfe) and it looks like this whole thing is coming together. The last couple of weeks have definitely not been a vacation but we see the proverial light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. No proverb: we should be sailing soon.