Cruising the inland waterways of the Netherlands

After a few goodbyes we left Ijmuiden and headed through the North Sea canal, past the buzz that always accompanies Amsterdam, with vessels dashing to and fro, to Monnickendam and on the way, taking Dash in tow which had broken down. We spent the night with good friends Alan & Sandra Campion and after a good night’s sleep, we left just before mid day and headed to Horne in good winds that saw us tied up on the town quay in just under 2 hrs.

Tuesday evening is presentation night, a top banquet, more than enough to drink, and the last chance to enjoy each other’s company before we go our separate ways.

Wednesday saw us moored up with Greyhound and Insomnix in Enkhuizen, where we were later joined by Icon, a Sigma 33 from Whitby. Chance to stretch our legs, we seemed to walk for miles, exploring and looking for a famous clock tower, with galloping horses whizzing around the tower on the hour. We never did find it but did manage to buy fresh food and some delicious strawberries for supper.

Freddie and Gerard (Greyhound) had already left by the time we were underway, the wind was aft of the beam and laziness overtook us, cruising without the mainsail under genoa and heavy weather jib, it makes a nice change not to be racing everywhere! We were invited to Insomnix that evening, where Freddie had cooked a meal after which we discussed our travel plans to take us to the start of the Colin Archer Race. An invitation from Gerard to go to Den Over and a BBQ with his friends and family the following day was gratefully received and would be our next stop.

Once again it was champagne sailing and we both set off under genoa alone to Den Over, unfortunately it didn’t stay like that for long and we finished under reefed sails, in heavy winds and a thunderstorm! It soon blew through though and Gerard picked us up and took us for a grand tour around the area, including his home with Greyhound moored outside, before meeting his family at the BBQ, where, without doubt we all ate our fill of the delicious delicacies that had been prepared.

 

 

 

The next day was beautiful but with little wind so we motor sailed to Harlingen, which would be our departure point from the mainland as it is very important to leave at the correct state of tide to maximise the ever changing currents on the way to the Islands.

 

It was red hot when we arrived and after a walk round, a visit to the chandlers, a little maintenance, we decided to stay there another day.

Freddie had learned that Rasmus had, had a problem with his rudder on his way home to Norway, and his boat was somewhere in Harlingen. We set off on a tour of all the marina’s, sidings and boat yards until eventually we come across Bjorkski, Rasmus’s rudderless boat on the hard, it somehow felt as if we had an affinity with her and now we had seen her for our selves, everything would be OK.

With strong winds forecast the following day we decided against an extra day and left late in the afternoon heading for Vlieland. The 10 to 15 knots forecast soon became 25 to 30 knots along with heavy rain, which whilst making for a quick passage, did make it make it uncomfortable in the shallow, twisting channel across to the Islands. However, we both arrived safely and entered the over full marina, only to find that the only berths were reserved for 15metre plus boats, now with strong cross winds. We found a boat on the end of an hammer head, who was quite happy to take our lines, but as the wind increased through the night to 40 knots, I bet it was a decision he soon regretted! Freddie had the right idea and just tied up on the oversized berth! We spent the night and much of the next day adjusting fenders and shore lines making sure our masts didn’t clash.

As the wind eased the following day we found a better berth and as Freddie had been asked to move, helped him re-locate. Then we set off on a mammoth walk, over sand dunes, through wooded walks, uphill and down dale finishing with a climb to the top of the Island, where a light house built in steel stood guard, looking out over the wreck strewn sea to the North and the South, from where we planned our escape, a little North, then east for a few miles, before more north and finely east, the direction we need to go to get to Lauwersoog.

We left the following morning bright and early putting our plan into practice that we had hatched the previous day, out into the freedom of the North Sea and just under 60 miles to our next destination, past Tershelling and Ameland and turning to starboard just before Schiermornikoog. Freddie arrived before us and we heard Lauwersoog VTS call him up, “you are standing into danger, you must go to the fairwater mark and follow the channel in”. We spotted him on AIS and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Our turn next, Ruffian, “you are standing into danger”, followed by the same instruction. We altered course and headed northeast another mile or so, and picked up the buoy. Our charts were only two months old but in this part of the world, with gales and shifting sands that can be the difference between arriving safely and not at all. As a foot note to that a few days later we saw a very impressive looking 38 footer, an out and out racing machine, all logoed up, absolutely stunning, that is until she was lifted in the travel hoist, minus her keel. She had not had her radio on and therefore could not be contacted and came to grief on the now ‘closed channel’

Once we had arrived we locked through a small lock, into the very cramped marina and as instructed, rafted out three deep, this was going to be a precision operation to get everyone in.

The first job was to book in, we went into the Club house and were met by a group of stern looking ladies, who once they had checked all documentation, passed us on to make an appointment with the team of scrutinisers and as one was available, we set off straight away.

 We pride ourselves with our safety equipment and through the language barrier managed to satisfy most of his questions until he asked for our VHF radio test certificate, we showed him our VHF operator’s licence, this is different from what we have in the Netherlands he said, but it is international I said and glossed over it, we later found out it was not what he wanted and others had had to have tests with signal strength meters done to test the aerial and cable. Next came the question of cards for various places, it turned out that cards are chartlets. I showed him paper charts for just about everywhere before pointing out we have two chart plotters, an onboard computer, a laptop with complete European charts and of course Navionics on the I phone and I pad. He was not interested in electronic charts, only paper. He wanted Esbjerg and Kristiansand as bolt holes in case of emergency. I showed him the chartlets in the almanac which he reluctantly accepted; again others not so lucky had to fork out £120 for charts before they passed inspection.  The silly thing is that they did not even ask for things we consider a necessity. Hey ho, nearly there!

Once again, after being joined by our friends from the 500 mile race, we enjoyed our time together until it was time to leave for the start line. This again was a military operation. Sixty five yachts to fit into a lock which at best takes 6 at a time, this is probably why the start time is not until 1915! Once through, you could see that all the marina berths had been taken and we were directed to tie up to the fishing boats literally miles from everyone.

When our good friend Peter heard this, he countermanded it and with Nico’s permission we tied up next to Sec Hayai, probably the second best berth in the marina! The rest of the day was spent shopping and preparing food and getting ready for the race before an early night.

A pre-brief the following lunch time, given in Dutch did not enhance our understanding of the sailing instructions or of the weather forecast but a second one especially for us and Freddie soon answered our questions. During the afternoon we visited a huge open air market and made a last visit to the supermarket for, what had become our traditional daily apple turnover.

Once again we had made it to another start line!