2017 Netherlands & Germany

Cimarron Voyage 2017

Leaving Netherlands

Leaving Ossenzijl we started on the first leg of the summer cruise leaving the Overijssel and crossing the provinces of Friesland and Groningen.

We spent a few days in Groningen before making our way to Termunterzijl on the banks of the River Ems.

A few hours proceeding up the very muddy river on the flood we arrived at Papenburg where we spent our first night in Germany.

The Overijssel is a beautiful area of the Netherlands, while it is flat there are many lakes and waterways. The area was once peat bogs (veen) and the workings have flooded to create these lakes.

It is an area of tranquillity with wildlife and pretty villages.  All too soon we had left the Overijssel behind and entered Friesland.

Ossenzijl at dusk
On the scrap heap

Ooops! No, not a navigational error, just being broken up for scrap.  Scrap metal is big business all over Europe nowadays and provides traffic for the barges, though this one floated to the scrapyard before being hauled ashore.

The entry into Groningen is spectacular, past classic barges and alongside the streets, through the lift bridges on the way to Oosterhaven.

Boats and barges are organised into convoys and a bridge keeper cycles alongside opening and closing the bridges. On more than one occasion Cimarron has been the only vessel in a convoy! 

Green light through Groningen on the way to the Oosterhaven.
Groninger Museum

The interesting Groninger Museum. If it looks like it was designed by several people, it was.  It contains many different exhibitions and touring exhibitions.


The first station in Groningen was built in 1866 and the current one was built in 1896 designed by Izaak Gosschalk.  It is a wonderful mixture of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance styles. The station area boasts storage for over 10,000 bicycles. Well worth a visit even if you don’t need to use the very efficient train services.

Groningen railway station
Molly meeting a Groningen dog

It is so easy for a dog to make friends in the Netherlands, with humans or dogs.  This one owned an art studio workshop and let its human make interesting things. Molly picked up a little Gronings dialect.

A number of Dutch people have told us proudly that they adopted a Spanish dog.  Hundreds are sent every year, pre-adopted, by air complete with papers through Malaga airport from shelters in Malaga, Estepona and La Linea.

The departure from Termunterzijl is handled by the lock keeper and he will let you out onto the Ems just after low water.  You then get the chance to steam up the chocolate coloured river at full speed on “half ahead”.  

The river has a tidal barrier and is being dredged specially for the shipyard in Papenburg.  

Entering the Ems River
Germany Pappenburg yacht harbour

Arrival Germany

Arrived in Germany at Pappenburg after rocketing up the Ems on the flood tide. A very friendly welcome opposite a working shipyard.  The very largest cruise liners are built this far inland and by their sister yard in Turku, creating problems and solutions for the river.  Five of the latest ten largest cruise liners have been built here, three more in the Turku sister yard in Finland.

After leaving Papenburg, again waiting for the tide, we sailed up the Ems to Haren.  Then joined the Dortmund Ems Kanal until Rheine where we turned East onto the Mittelland Kanal.

This canal is 325 km long, stretching all the way to the River Elbe with only two locks.  After the River Elbe it joins the Elbe-Havel Kanal to reach beyond Berlin and to Poland.

The waterway is listed as “demanding” by european-waterways.eu. If this is demanding then it changes the meaning of the word!  Commercial traffic is understandably busy and requires some attention. As well as German, Dutch, Belgian and even French barges we met a great many Polish, Austrian, Hungarian and Czech barges. Branches give access to towns like Osnabruck and Hannover with access to the River Weser and River Elbe.

Cimarron voyage 2017
Germany Garden shed for holiday makers

After Haren we stopped at Lingen Yachthafen, Hanekenfar, where we met the first sight of the floating garden sheds.  These are very popular in Germany and most particularly round Berlin.

An ideal holiday boat for smooth rivers and lakes, though their lack of vision astern means overtake with care.  

Bad Essen is an historic spa town.  Here we learned about the Timber Frame Road that stretches from the mouth of the Elbe to Lake Constance.

We are now a whole 50m above sea level and the start of the mountains is just to the South of the town centre.

Germany Bad Essen
Germany Bad Essen Marina

The excellent new harbour at Bad Essen is conveniently situated beside a small shopping centre with supermarket, bakery and other essential supplies.

Here we met a submarine engineer who sailed with the Bundesmarine, now Deutsche Marine, and we compared the views from our respective seagoing careers!  Another neighbour was an eccentric Swedish yachtsman on his way home from the Mediterranean and at the end of a long chat in a bar he went home with cold lamb chops under his hat.

The Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg.  The town should have been renamed as around three quarters of a million VWs are built here each year in the six and a half million square metre plant.  Almost everybody in Wolfsburg is dependant, directly or in directly, on VW; even the port captain for the Motorbootclub Wolfsburg and the adjacent Al Porto restaurant.

Wolfsburg VW
Germany Wolfsburg car parks

The VW plant has a museum called Autostadt.  Unfortunately dogs are not permitted and Molly was too recently adopted to leave on the boat.

The photograph shows the multi-storey car parks next to Autostadt that they call silos.  If customers want to collect their new car, rather than have it delivered to the dealer, then they can come to Autostadt, with free entrance and meals, then watch their car being picked and lowered to the ground for their collection.  Eat your heart out Longbridge!

We tried to sneak Molly into Autostadt by pretending to be going to the hotel inside the area. We were asked to leave and we were embarrassed when she left a deposit for a new car. Curiously no VW employee mentioned pollution.

On the way out we met an Igbo security man, a banker by training, and we swapped stories about his home town, Port Harcourt, which I had last visited before he was born in the early 1970s.  He is convinced that the Biafrans will secede again and I hope it will be less painful than the 1967-70 war which probably claimed around two million lives.

Frederick Forsyth’s book; The Biafra Story: The Making of an African Legend outlines the shameful tale of the British government’s part and the outcome seen from inside Biafra.



Biafran in Wolfsburg
Germany Magdeburg Waterbridge

Reaching the Eastern end of the Mittelland Kanal there is an aqueduct over the River Elbe.  Vessels are required to wait and form a convoy after receiving instructions from the lock keeper on the other side of the aqueduct.

When I said “Enschuldigen ich spreche kein Deutsch” the lady lock keeper just hung up the VHF.  We waited until a Polish barge came along and tucked in behind while the skipper gestured follow me.  

At that moment a police car arrived on the towpath and the two policemen got out gesturing us to proceed.  We then had an official escort across the aqueduct which is one of many firsts in Cimarron.

Notice the navigation lights on the lowered mast.  We had to sail the whole summer with the mast down as the airdraft on most of these large canals is only four metres.

Police escort over Magdeburg Waterbridge
Germany Brandenburg Tram

Brandenburg was our first experience of the old East Germany.  One of the things that they did right was to keep the trams.  It was noticeable how few cars there were in the city centre.

A shop window in Brandenburg.  Wedding cake decorations that would raise eyebrows in parts of the United Kingdom!

Wedding Cake Decoration
Stretch Limo in Brandenburg

A stretch limo looked strangely out of place in a city that looked slightly austere.

The architecture of Brandenburg varied between historic, communist and recent and all well looked after.  Brandenburg is one of the federated states of Germany being reformed after unification.  The state capital is Potsdam so the city of Brandenburg lost out once by partition and then by unification.

Brandenburg street scene
Germany Bridge over the River Spree

Sailing up the River Spree, into the heart of Berlin, is an interesting experience.  Not much headroom with an airdraft of 3.6m.  The tourist boats sail on very tight schedules are skippered very professionally but visiting boats should note that they do not take prisoners and a VHF is essential.

The Brandenburg Gate was finished in 1791 and later was used by Napoleon as a triumphal arch after the Battle of Jena in 1806. Recently restored, it is the Western end of the well known Unter den Linden, made famous by John Le Carre, Len Deighton and others.

The quadriga, a chariot with four horses, was removed by Napoleon and taken to Paris.  When Napoleon was defeated in 1814 it was returned by the efforts of General Pfuel.  After this the only people allowed passage through the central arch were the Kaiser and family, the Pfuel family and ambassadors presenting their credentials for the first time.

The Nazis used the gate as a political symbol and amazingly it survived the war though heavily damaged.  Restored by East and West after the war, ordinary people passed through the gate until the wall was built.  In 2002 it was reopened after extensive renovations and traffic now passes around the gate.

Germany Brandenburg Gate
Tourist boats on the Spree

A continuous stream of tourist boats passing the Reichstag and beneath the Marschalbrucke. Just to the East of this bridge is room for about eight or nine boats. The berths are restricted to 24 hours and make an excellent mooring in the city centre.

The Reichstag is visible on the left side of the photograph.

On the banks of the River Spree are poignant memorials to people who lost their lives escaping to the West.

We spent some time exploring around Berlin by car as well as boat.  Much of the time we were berthed at Yachthafen Pichelssee and toured the lakes and the River Havel.

The lasting memories of Berlin?  Huge amounts of green space, parking space for cars were not rare, an all pervasive smell of drains and a continuing difference between East and West that must be decreasing with time.

Cimarron Voyage 2017 Germany
Potsdam on Havel

While Berlin was undisputedly the capital of Prussia, later becoming The German Empire until 1918, Potsdam was where the Kaiser and court lived.  Potsdam became the administrative centre of Brandenburg after reunification. 

The lakes around Berlin are full of yachts sailing in the beautiful summer weather.  Berlin must have the largest number of yacht clubs for any capital city in Europe, both sail and motor.

Germany Sailing on the Wannsee
Werder Yacht Harbour

The recently built harbour outside Werder is difficult to see from the River Havel but once through the entrance it is a large harbour with restaurant and shops nearby.

Fishing nets on the River Havel in the early morning.

The Elbe-Havel Kanal is being dredged and widened with new locks being built alongside the older ones.  The River Havel is still a haven of peace for smaller boats.

Werder on Havel

The Highland Church or Heilandskirche is a romantic church built in a Romanesque Revival style based on King William IV of Prussia’s drawings. The architect was Ludwig Persius and it was completed in 1844.

The area around here, Potsdamer Havel Landscape has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. 2711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern in the area of the Berlin Wall and where the centre of the administrative district for the shipment and extermination was sited.

Below is a link to the Wikipedia article:

Holocaust Memorial
The German Museum of Technology

The German Museum of Technology complete with a C-47 on the roof. 

Because Molly was not allowed in, the Chief Mate had a great time with her in the adjoining cafe/restaurant. 

The museum is divided into railway, road, shipping, photography and aircraft collections.

Beuth, built by Borsig in 1843 and in service until 1864. This replica was built in 1912.  The locomotives and rolling stock are housed in two roundhouses which are really only less than half round!


Beuth, built by Borsig in 1843
Prussian S-10 locomotive No 17 008

A Prussian S-10 locomotive No 17 008 has been cut away to show students how steam engines work. They were built before the First World War and the last retired in 1954. The S-10s were simple expansion four cylinder locomotives and had notoriously uneconomical coal consumption.



M.V. Bayernstein a cargo ship built in 1968 for North German Lloyd, later owned by Hapag Lloyd. 

The museum had models of ships similar to ones I sailed in and nautical instruments that I had used at sea. It made me feel a bit of a museum piece myself.

But not so old as the Preussen below.


A model of the five masted windjammer Preussen. Built of steel in 1902 for Ferdinand Laeisz and sunk after a collision with S.S. Brighton in 1910.

One of the famous Flying P Line sailing ships and sister to Pamir, Potosi, Passat and other P ships.

The Henrichenburg ship lift built in 1899 and used until 1962. 

Cleverly counterbalanced the lift could raise 1000 tonnes of ship and water using only a small electric motor.

Sadly the lift was found to be jammed and tilted in 1963 so it has been locked in place and is open as a museum.

The Henrichenburg shiplift
Laid back Berlin panda

The Berlin Zoo contains an exhibit that proves not all Germans are hard workers!

The outside exhibition of the Berlin Wall where a long length has been preserved. Oddly Checkpoint Charlie was demolished and had to be rebuilt as a tourist attraction.

Berlin Wall
Elbe Princesse in Spandau

The Elbe Princesse leaving Spandau lock. 95m length and carries 80 passengers in comfort and she is a tight fit in the lock.

The Scharfe Lanke viewed from the Segler Club Gothia which is a very pleasant place to have lunch on a sunny day.

Simple sausage based meal and good draught beer.

The story of currywurst bears repeating so click here. It must be true as you read it on the Internet.

Scharfe Lanke, Spandau
Elbe-Havel lock

The Elbe Havel canal lock at the River Elbe. The Mittelland and Elbe Havel canals have very few locks and some are fitted with floating bollards at least on one side.


The delightful and almost hidden yacht harbour at Heidanger is a little distant from the Mittelland canal but more than repays the short journey.

On the way East we stayed at the nearby Braunschweiger Motorboot Club which is a delightful little harbour protected from passing barge wash by a boom gate.  Cimarron only just fitted in.  The clubhouse served food and drink.  

On the way West we took a trip down the Stichkanal Salzgitter and found this haven.


Heidanger entrance
Heidanger "Garden" Harbour

Once inside the narrow entrance the harbour master and manager of the wonderful restaurant finds a mooring for you. Silver service meal follows mooring!

More like mooring in a garden with boats attached.

The Seelze yacht harbour just outside Frankfurt is on the Stichkanal, a short journey from the Mittelland canal and worth it. Complete with another good restaurant!  Come to think of it, the Germans do eat well.

Seelze Yacht Harbour, Frankfurt
Henrichenburg Barge Lift

The Henrichenburg ship lift, now a museum, replaced by more modern lift and shaft locks. We had been looking for fuel for a while and the promised bunkers here were absent.

A novelty here was a gastrobus, an old double decker Routemaster, kitted out to sell snacks and beers.

The well run little yacht harbour was deserted with just an honesty box for harbour dues.

Departing Germany

Remembering the harbour with fuel in Duisburg we headed for salvation, only to be told that the bunker facilities had been closed for two years!

A fine yacht harbour but badly neglected by the council as it appears there has not been a harbour master for a long time and consequently none of the boats paid their dues.

Duisburg by night
de Bijland bunker barge

Return to Netherlands

Sailing down the Rhine at full speed due to the strong current and minimum revs we reached salvation at De Bijland running on fumes. 

The charming Dutch lady owner gave us all the gasoil we wanted with customary efficiency.

The harbour in the De Bijland lake is part of a sports and holiday complex.  The left bank of the Rhine just opposite is Germany and the town of Kleve was, of course, the home of Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII.

In Arnhem the Valkenburg Yachthafen with its attached Restaurant Liman provided welcome shelter from some bad weather.

The interior is a collection of Dutch bric a brac and antiques, the cooking is Dutch and Turkish and they pour a very good G & T.

There are supermarkets and a hardware store (Gamma) nearby and town is a medium distance walk, past the trolleybus depot.

Valkenburg Yachthafen Arnhem
Arnhem Landings in an underpass

Dutch people have fond memories of the British and Allied Forces during WW2. 

These scenes decorate an underpass in Arnhem.

Saint Eusabius’ church, not used for services anymore, has a tribute to the Allied paratroops led by Lieutenant Colonel John Frost.  This commemorates Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

The bridge across the Nederrijn is called John Frostbrug and is the centrepiece of the film “A Bridge Too Far”, which was a quote that Lieutenant General “Boy” Browning said to Field Marshal Montgomery before the operation. The film really used a bridge in Deventer and some scenes were shot in Zutphen.

A lift has been installed in the church tower to let tourists have a 360 degree view of Arnhem without having to climb the 93 metre high staircase.


Arnhem Parachute Brigade Memorial

The delightful town of Zutphen. The church of St Walpurgis houses a pre-Reformation library and is one of only five medieval libraries in Europe.

In 1586 Sir Philip Sydney was mortally wounded here during the Eighty Years War, lost to the Spanish and recovered by Maurice Prince of Orange in 1591.

The town suffered slight damage during Operation Market Garden, ironically some of the scenes in the film were shot in Zutphen.

The yacht harbour in Hattem seems larger than the town, not all of it is visible in the photograph, and contains a pack of howling wolves!

The nearby town has shops and restaurants that did not seem to include any chain stores or national names.

Hattem Yacht Harbour
Het Wapen van Hattem

The Het Wapen van Hattem is a restaurant that is unusual. Among many inventive features the entree was served in a brown paper bag! Five star award for the food and service.


And back to Ossenzijl for winter storage ashore and a few modifications to the wheelhouse. 

The main modification is to fit hinged wheelhouse windows, to reach low air draft canals such as Utrecht and beyond Capestang on the Canal du Midi.

A new canopy, servicing the outboard and a new inflatable all add to the cost!  Oh yes, and two electric folding bikes as well.

Vri Jon lift out, Ossenzijl

Lift out at Vri-john with Patrick driving the hoist and Andre the painter admiring his handiwork. 

Andre had painted the boat the previous winter and the quality of the finish above and below the waterline was very obvious.

Can’t wait for the start of the new season 2018.