At last, back to the boat, well looked after through the winter in Maastricht Marina. The marina is very secure and out of town, which makes bicycles or a car necessary.
We have wintered Cimarron here for a few winters and the marina is well sheltered from wind and water.
There are supposed to be more bicycles than people in the Netherlands and here is the proof.
In 1965 when Crown Princess Beatrix was to marry a German, Claus von Amsburg, some Dutch people hung out signs saying “Eerst mijn fiets terug”, “First I want my bicycle back”. This of course referred to the confiscations in WWII. However relations have improved since.
The art of the wood and steel boatbuilder is seen here in immaculate deeply varnished examples.
Hmm, maybe I can learn to ride one too. Sheep in Weert. On the subject of bicycles I was intrigued to hear that there are moves to ban cross-bar bicycles. First reaction could be that it is another PC transgender issue but it is all about safety as people ride with better posture and reduces the need for safety helmets as well as safer for children being carried on their father’s bikes. A cynic might think it is all part of female equality giving equal opportunities when stealing bicycles;-)
Predators in the Netherlands; well, in Beekse Bergen. We stumbled across this wildlife park with so many animals, birds and reptiles. Lovely little yacht harbour too.
If you are visiting by boat there is a quirky lift bridge at the entrance and I would recommend you allow two days to do the whole safari thing justice.
Oudenbosch is home to a miniature basilica modelled on the other one in Rome.
The bar on the other side of the road is known as “The Confessional”! Its proper name is Eetcafe de Biecht and is well worth a visit even if you have nothing to confess.
Back in traffic outside Dintelmond. On passage up the Great Rivers to Gorinchem on a “dreich day”. On the way up the Hollands Diep, at the junction with the Maas, there is an area of wetlands known as the De Biesbosch. A Dutch friend described it as “just green” as of no interest! He was right about the colour as it is largely a willow forest and wetland for geese and other waterbirds.
Interestingly the land to the East is called Land van Altena and the A27 running South crosses the Bergse Maas with the South end of the bridge landing in Keizersveer where the boat builder Altena is to be found. Altena built Cimarron in 1990.
The beautiful town of Vreeswijk where a Dutch waitress whose son was born abroad was, on his arrival in Holland, taught that you have to practice gargling to be able to speak Dutch like a local.
The lock in Vreeswijk is said to be the oldest pound lock in Europe. Now that single gated flash locks are a thing of the past the pound lock, or double gated lock, is the de facto standard.
Bruggeld or toll being collected in the traditional manner in a clog. A rare event these days as the Dutch canals are wonderfully free.
The Rijkswaterstaat administers the main waterways, locks and bridges, together with monitoring water quality. The cleanliness of the canals and rivers is a tribute to the hard work keeping them clean. About half the freight in Holland, both national and international, is handled by water.
With a quarter of the country being at or below sea level it is important that every part of the system is maintained to the highest standards and this is done by 23 Waterschappen or regional water bodies. These are responsible for raising levies to pay for the maintenance of dykes, the water levels, pumping stations and wastewater treatment. Interestingly they are not responsible for the supply of domestic water which is done by ten water utility companies, to the very highest standards.
Every town seems to have a turfmarkt and turfsingel, this is the Turfsingel in Gouda.
The turf was cut in the “Veen” and transported by barge to the “Turfsingel” and then sold in the “Turfmarkt”.
Almost all the peat sold in the Netherlands now comes from Germany, Ireland and Estonia, as local supplies became exhausted.
One of the many typical houses in Gouda and these old houses prove that you can build long lasting houses on sand. The houses in Amsterdam and some other towns are built on poles. Foundation poles had to be over thirty five feet deep and nowadays over sixty feet. Some of the poles will have deteriorated over the years and so the house takes on a bit of a list, replacing them is expensive.
The Gouda City Hall is one of the oldest Gothic city halls, built in 1450. Just nearby is the old Weigh House that has now become the cheese museum.
The Historic Barge Museum in Gouda. Several of the ports we stayed in had a great duckweed year in 2016 from Gouda all the way to Groningen.
Many of the barges at this end of the Turfsingel are open to the public.
Maastricht Marina (formerly Pietersplas), Weert, Oirschot, Beekse Bergen, Tilburg, Breda, Oudenbosch, Dintelmond, Arkel, Vreeswijk, Montfoort, Gouda.
Haarlem, nicknamed Bloemenstad or city of flowers, was the tulip bulb centre of the world from 1630 until the latter half of the 18th century.
The Dutch made innovations in the market for bulbs in the seventeenth century, creating a futures market for bulbs not yet saleable, moveable or otherwise ready for market. Short selling was banned by several decrees.
You can just catch sight of Cimarron through the open bridge.
The wealth generated by this important trading town is shown in the churches, at least some of this from tulips.
It is only a short bicycle ride from Haarlem to the tulip fields and they are best visited around the second week in April though the season runs from the end of March to mid May.
Haarlem was a stop on the once popular Amsterdam-Rotterdam canal, before the railways took the passenger and some of the freight traffic away.
The cheese centre of Alkmaar was the turning point of the war with Spain in 1573, the Eighty Years War. Beseiged by the son of the Duke of Alba whose name survives today as the name of the mooring dolphins. The Prince of Orange raised the siege by flooding the land around the town.
In the Eighty Years War at the siege of Brielle, 1572, the Dutch launched their waterborne assault with shouts of “Duke of Alba” as they moored. Wanting to throw ropes around his neck survives to this day in nursery rhyme taught to the children of Brielle.
A jackup oil and gas exploration barge and supply ships moored in Den Helder, the Dutch equivalent of Aberdeen, together with its naval port.
Den Helder is home to one of the tallest non-skeletal iron lighthouses in the world, Lange Jaap is 55m tall (182ft) lights the entrance to the Marsdiep.
In January 1795 the French captured 14 Dutch ships held by ice in the port, an unusual event for an army to capture a navy.
The view from the KMJC Den Helder yachtclub moorings showing one of the impressive coastguard vessels.
The Royal Navy Yacht Club was founded in 1899 for officers and midshipmen in the Navy. It has recently broadened its membership to officers of the Dutch Armed Forces, but is very welcoming to visitors.
Waddenhaven Texel, a very busy yachtharbour where we rafted four deep. Texel, after more than half a century of mispronunciation I discovered we should actually pronounce it Tessel like the Dutch.
About one third of Texel has been declared a nature reserve and is home to migrating geese in the winter, the reserve is almost all down the West coast facing the North Sea.
Texel, not Thailand. Tuk tuks to hire make a great way of seeing the island in a short time. Most suitable for moderate sized drivers!
The yachtharbour is adjacent to the little town of Oudeschild and it is possible to roam the islands and the National Park Duinen van Texel.
Vlieland Harbour is similarly packed, one end with sailing barges and the rest with acres of steel and fibreglass, sail and motor.
Vlieland was part of North Holland until the occupying Germans made it part of Friesland. There are ferries from Harlingen and in the summer from Texel. Non-residents are not allowed to bring cars on the ferry.
The beach on the North end of the island of Vlieland looking seaward into the North Sea. The Waddensee is an amazing shallow inland salt waterway.
The Waddensee runs inside the chain of Dutch islands, then the German islands and Bight, Schleswig and up to the West Danish coast of Southern Jutland.
The whole of this unique waterscape is a World Heritage Site.
After crossing the Waddensee we arrived in Harlingen.
The beautiful HSWV park moorings in the Noordoostersingel, easiest accessed from the Franekertrekvaart, though access is possible from Noordergracht.
The beginning of the journey across Friesland.
Gouda, Leiden, Haarlem, Nauerna, Alkmaar, Den Helder, Waddenhaven, Vlieland, Harlingen.
Leeuwarden has many museum ships as well as a yacht harbour, in Wester Stadsgracht, that is two minutes from the centre of the town and in a park setting.
The Elfstedentocht or Eleven Cities Tour is the skating race that starts and finishes here, held when the ice is 15cm (6in) thick. The race has not been held since 1997 but with the winter temperatures falling it may soon be held again. The 199km course runs to Stavoren, Harlingen and Dokkum before returning to Leeuwarden.
Leeuwarden was the birthplace of Mata Hari and is the European City of Culture for 2018 jointly with Valetta.
De Oldehove, which leans more than the tower in Pisa, is the unfinished 1529 tower that was to be taller than the Martinitoren in Groningen. Still unfinished after 488 years.
The double vertical red lights on the bridge show the bridge keeper is having his lunch break and the traffic can flow, while the boats wait patiently.
The windmills of Dokkum adorn the Baantjegracht part of the yacht harbour, the North side is closer to the windmill and the town, the South side has shady trees.
To the left side of the photograph is Klein Diep, the low airdraft canal through the town.
One of the many bridges in Dokkum, this one modern. There is a delightful small canal through the middle of town, a good opportunity to put the dinghy in the water.
The Dokkum windmills make a special sight after dark. These two windmills are open to the public. The nearest windmill is Zeldenrust, the farthest is De Hoop.
In 754 Saint Boniface was martyred here at the hands of the locals. The Admiralty of Friesland was situated here from 1597 until 1645.
The centre part of the town is still in the star shaped fort layout with “bulwarks” facing the star shaped canals surrounding the town.
Zoutkamp is a small fishing village with a very Danish look and a long history of fish and shellfish landings. Apparently the residents are nicknamed ‘haddock heads’.
Situated on the Groningen side of the Rietdiep, which is the border with Friesland. This leads into the Lauwersmeer.
The entry to Groningen has a number of bridges and boats are formed into convoys. On most occasions we have been the only boat in the convoy!
The University population makes up over a quarter of the population and two thirds of all journeys are made by bicycle.
The park and ride system here allowed me to leave our car for a couple of weeks with a convenient bus service to the railway station.
Sneek, one of the Eleven Cities, in the legendary skating race has a dramatic watergate. It was, for those with long memories, the birthplace of C & A in 1841. C & A closed in Britain in 2000/1 but has over 2000 stores worldwide in 22 countries.
Harlingen, Leeuwarden, Dokkum, Groningen, Bergum, Sneek.
In Lemmer every house seems to have a berth and a boat. The canal runs right through the town giving easy access to all the restaurants.
The VEKA Group have a barge building yard here, in addition to shipyards in Werkendam, Heusden, Rotterdam, and fourteen other sites around the world.
The yacht harbour in Meppel, turn around and there are, predictably, two windmills in sight.
The yacht harbour is only a short walk into the town centre.
A shipyard Thecla Bodewes, formerly Scheepswerf de Kaap, is at the West end of the harbour.
Part of the picturesque town of Giethoorn. Literally translated as goat horn, known as “Little Venice” and seen as place number 21 on the International Monopoly board.
Very, maybe too, popular with tourists. Asian tourists are outnumbering all others here, as well as in USA, Australia and NZ.
The village is almost car free and visitors can travel in self-drive “whisper boats” or travel in the standard tour boats.
The idiosyncratic bridge halfway down the harbour in Steenwijk. Low air draft for boats and very low air draft for people on the harbour wall!
The port is well supplied with supermarkets, Jumbo and Albert Heijn in a few minutes walk, with a choice of restaurants.
‘t Veerhuys is one of Steenwijk’s best restaurants and you should try the pudding called hemels-toetje, literally “heavenly dessert”, but only after the other two courses!
Once more in Blokzijl and by now we have learned that a lock is called sluis or sometimes zijl in Dutch. Zijl has been explained as a lock within a city wall.
It is a pretty town, especially the Noorderdiep way out of town to the East.
The harbour in Blokzijl is surrounded by houses, shops and restaurants. Some of these were once merchants houses and warehouses.
Between Blokzijl and Ossenzijl lie Muggenbeet and Wetering.
Interestingly Muggenbeet means mosquito bite, the mossies may have left but the sandflies are vicious.
Cimarron lifting out at Vri-Jon, Ossenzijl for the winter, paint job, underwater and general repair of wear and tear during seven years cruising 10,500 km and 1150 locks through France, Germany, Belgium and Holland.
Sneek, Lemmer, Blokzijl, Meppel, Giethoorn, Steenwijk, Muggenbeet, Ossenzijl.