2012 Netherlands to France

Cimarron Voyage 2012, Netherlands

Pietersplas Maastricht, Maasbracht, Venlo, Maasbommel, Van Oversteegh, Dordrecht, City Marina Rotterdam, Delft, Den Haag, Amsterdam Het Jet, Zaandam, Muiden, Harderwijk, Elburg, Volenhove, Blokzijl, Steenwijk, Meppel, Kampen, Weesp, Zaandam.

Maasbracht tug, Netherlands

From Maastricht down the Maas to Dordrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam before cruising in East Holland.

One of the beautifully restored little tugs in Maasbracht.

The Netherlands is home to more recreational preserved tugs than I have seen anywhere, from small workboats to full sized river and harbour tugs.

Off the Oude Maas and through the Engelenburgerbrug you find a berth in the centre of town, not far from the Grote Kerk which has the heaviest bell in the Netherlands.

Drecht appears to come from the word to tow or drag, probably from the towing of barges and boats from the Dubbel to the Merwede or vice versa.

In 1572 The first Assembly of the Free States was held here.  King Philip II of Spain was denounced and William of Orange was chosen as Stadtholder.

Dordrecht yacht harbour, Netherlands
Rotterdam historic ships, Netherlands

Rotterdam has many old ships and barges, as well as the maritime museum founded in 1874.

The museum claims to have 850,000 items, not all on display and one wonders who counted them all.  One of the pieces, the Mataró model, a merchant ship model built around 1425, is the oldest ship model in the world.

The finding of the Portugese navigational secrets and the journals of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC or also known as the Dutch East India Company, are on display.

The old steam ironclad HNLMS Buffel was on display but has now been moved to Hellevoetsluis, in the Haringvliet.  This was the naval dockyard where an entire fleet could be kept inside a fortified harbour and it contains the oldest drydock in the Netherlands.

Between Leiden and Haarlem the tulip fields make a fine sight around March.

If you do not have a boat (or even if you do) you can take a combined “boat-bike” cycle and barge tour through the tulip fields and visit cheese and clog makers as well. Having met some barge skippers they sound like it is fun.


Tulip fields, Netherlands
Cafe ‘t Sluisje on Nieuwendammerdijk, Netherlands

Outside the Cafe ‘t Sluisje on Nieuwendammerdijk.  There are two yacht harbours in Grote Haven, Noord Amsterdam, just nearby.

The description is “Laid back. Offering beer, coffee and casual grub” perfect description except that it also makes you feel a bit young again.

After being run by one family for over a century it has just, in 2017, been bought by 85 local residents.

One of the famous green houses of the Zaan.  Going North from Zaandam you will travel through the Zaanse Schans. This area is full of windmills and green houses all the way through Zaandijk and Wormerveer.

To the West of Zaandam are the polders with the villages of Westzaan and Westzaner-Overtoom which really should be visited.

The windmill museum is a must, click on the link below!

Green house on the Zaan, Netherlands
Elburg botters, Netherlands

Elburg harbour lies just outside the historic walled town with moat. Elburg was hit by two major events within a hundred years.  Because local landowners asked too high a price for rail access the town missed out on having a station.  

The second was that Elburg was once a wealthy fishing port that was cut off from the sea, first by the Afsluitdijk from Den Oever to near Harlingen. This separated the newly formed IJsselmeer from the Waddenzee.  Some of the water from the Rhine, flowing down the River IJssel turned the IJsselmeer into a fresh water lake.  Additionally the dredging of Flevoland, to seaward of Elburg, even makes water access slightly more difficult. 

The waterways around Blokzijl, Ossenzijl, Giethoorn and Meppel are amongst the prettiest in Holland. This is the harbour in Meppel whose traffic originally mostly consisted of turf.

Ossenzijl is a village that is best known for the National Park Weerribben-Wieden that is 10,000 ha in area, made up of a variety of eco-systems.

Giethoorn is known as Venice of the North because it is largely car free and well served by water.

Blokzijl was built around the turf industry and named after the fortified lock built during the Eighty Years War.

Meppel windmill, Netherlands
Flevoland, Netherlands

The centre of Flevoland is very flat but it still has many wildlife and visual attractions. It is entirely made up of recovered land and was the brainchild of Dr Cornelis Lely.  If you guessed that Lelystad was named after him you could be right.

The “mainland” part of Flevoland was formed by reclamation around the former island towns of Urk and Schokland.

The busy harbour and locks at Muiden.  Barges rafted up and a yacht harbour for newer craft.

The Eastern defences of Amsterdam were fortified by the Fort Island Pampus and Muidenslot Castle.

The lock in Muiden charges for passage into the IJmeer, fortunately taking debit cards.

Further inland is the nice little town of Weesp, complete with yacht harbour and riverside moorings.

Barges rafted in Muiden, Netherlands
Amsterdam tram bridge, Netherlands

Sailing through Amsterdam is a unique experience with so many beautiful barges, bridges and buildings.

Amsterdam was ringed by four principal canals, Singel which was the first moat for the city until 1585.  Herengracht or Lord’s Canal was named for those that ruled Amsterdam in 16th and 17th Centuries.  Keizersgracht or Emperor’s Canal was named after Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.  Prinsengracht was named after the Prince of Orange.

The North Sea Canal, from Ijmuiden to Amsterdam, has diverse traffic, from hydrofoils and cruise liners to barges and pleasure craft.

In 1865 work started digging this canal and it was finished in 1876, possibly by an English contractor.  If this can be confirmed it would be a reversal of the usual trend.

The work entailed side canals for drainage and traffic such as the Zaan and Nauerna Canals.  The North lock at IJmuiden was built in 1929 and was the biggest canal lock in the world.


Sailing barge in North Sea Canal, Netherlands
Lock into De Poel, Netherlands

The tiny lock on the Zaan into De Poel.

The cocoa factory “De Zaan” is part of ADM and produces cocoa powder, cocoa liquor and cocoa butter.  The aroma of cocoa is part of the scene on this river.

The mooring in Alkmaar is right in the town and only a short walk to the famous cheese market.

The cheese market building looks more like a town hall and even though only in ceremonial guise these days it still gives its authority to the town’s importance.


Alkmaar, Netherlands
Cimarron in Alkmaar, Netherlands

Alkmaar has 399 registered historical buildings and John Lennon’s first guitar was made here!

There is just room to turn a 14m boat in the Luttik Oudorp, there are berths outside moored to the Bierkade.

In 1573 the city was besieged by Spanish forces and when the citizens appealed to The Prince of Orange who flooded the area and lifted the siege.



Back to sailing through the streets of Amsterdam remembering the Van der Valk stories.

In August every five years “Sail Amsterdam” is held for tall ships.  For the last ten years “Sail Bremerhaven” has been held the week before which makes life easier for both events as ships will be in the vicinity.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Haarlem, Netherlands

Haarlem, nicknamed Bloemenstad or Flower City.  In the photograph, a quite ordinary scene, you will see traditional and new buildings, a houseboat and steel cruiser and a double ender dayboat.

Reflections in the crowded harbour in Willemstad, North Brabant.

The town of Ruigenhil was built in 1565. in 1583 the town was fortified against the Spanish who had taken the nearby town of Steenbergen. The Marquis who had held Ruigenhil sided with the Spanish and was dispossessed by Prince William I. A year later Prince William died and the town was renamed Willemstad in his honour.

Willemstad Reflections, Netherlands
Near Krimpen, Netherlands

Hardly two bridges the same, originality is the bridge designers watchword!

This is on the “Mast Up Route” which allows yachts to sail inland North through the Netherlands.

Crossing the Schelde towards Terneuzen, saddened by how few British flag ships are to be seen in the entrance to Antwerp, Europe’s second busiest port.

Terneuzen is reputed to once be the home of Captain van der Decken, the Flying Dutchman in Marryat’s novel The Phantom Ship.

It is the third largest port after Rotterdam and Amsterdam and is the home of Dow Chemical’s largest plant outside the USA.


River Scheldt
Ghent, Belgium

Ghent is a maze of little canals through backstreets and parks.

Before the Eighty Years War Ghent was an extremely important European city trading largely with England and Scotland with large amounts of wool.

While exploring Ghent is worthwhile it is important to leave the city by the Leie when going South or arrive via the Leie if going North.  The small and very beautiful river winds through rather expensive houses set in huge garden which all seem to have robot lawn mowers.


A brocante in Cambrai. The crew of “Tommy Lee” will recognise their shopping expedition!

Surprisingly Cambrai still appears to be somewhat held back by the effects of WWI and has not accelerated at the same pace as the rest of France. The population is not a great deal above 1914 or even 1939 levels.  Despite this we met many friendly people here as we stayed quite a while for various reasons.

Louis Blériot was born here in 1872.

Cambrai brocante, France
Wilfred Owen Memorial, France

The rear view of the forester’s house at Pommereuil where Wilfred Owen spent his last night before being killed crossing the Sambre-Oise Canal just days before the Armistice. 

A moving tribute to the poet.


Vivienne inherited her mother’s dog Daisy, while the boat was in Cambrai. So now the new 2nd Mate wants to know how to work the Lowrance chartplotter.

Her initial fears were soon overcome as she quickly tried to become the boss.

Daisy the new 2nd Mate
Riqueval Tunnel St Quentin Canal, France

Riqueval tunnel, an electric tug powered from overhead cables tows the barge Dahlia and Cimarron through the 3.5 mile (5670m) tunnel in an almost eerie silence.

The town of Saint Quentin suffered badly in WWI as it formed part of the Hindenburg Line and like other towns around here it was systematically looted.

Cimarron at Seraucourt-le-Grand where a local restaurant and bar is run by an ex-French Special Forces trout fisherman.  This lovely little harbour is easy to miss but worth spending the night at least.

Seraucourt le Grand, France
Saint Mihiel, France

The pretty little town of Saint-Mihiel on the Meuse above Verdun. It had the dubious distinction of being captured by the Germans in 1914 and remained in their hands until September 1918.


We wintered in the fine harbour in Toul. A beautiful town within an original star shaped fort layout.  

On the last leg of the journey we picked something up around the propeller in the last lock and conveniently came to rest here. 

Toul Port de France
Les Plongeurs, France

Deep sea diving in four feet of water.  “Les plongeurs galants” clear industrial plastic sheeting from the propeller shaft. 

Zaandam, Alkmaar, Weesp, Krimpen, Willemstad, Terneuzen, Deinz, Menin, Wambrechies, Courcelles-les-Lens, Cambrai, Banteux, Macquincourt, Seraucourt-le-Grand, Chauny, Bourg-et-Comin, Rethel, Neuville-Day, Le Chesne, Bazeilles, Stenay, Verdun, St Mihiel, Pagny-sur-Meuse, Toul.

Cimarron Voyage 2012, France