Our Barge, Odysseus

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.