The harbour at Nes
We left Nes early with the tide. As when leaving other islands, we first had to head E to go clockwise around the E of the island and then into the North Sea heading W. We then turned S into the Westgat heading Lauwersoog where there is a lock giving access to the Lauwersmeer and the Frisian Canal. We noticed that there were plenty of fishing boats around this area, probably out of Zoutkamp, and when we reached the relatively narrow lock they had priority. We were though squeezed in behind three others and were grateful for help from the fishermen in lying up to them.
By now it was an overcast afternoon as we headed for a narrow channel leading to the Dokkumer Nieuwezijlen bridge and lock at the SW end of Lauwersmeer. We were on our own here and having tied up the lockkeeper came to welcome us and ask where we were heading. We explained that our plan was to get to Enkhuizen on the W side of the IJsselmeer as we were meeting friends there. He reported that an opening bridge between Leeuwarden and Lemmer had failed and so that part of the canal was closed. Fortunately we knew that there was an alternative, if longer, route that would mean leaving this canal at and then heading for Harlingen in the North Sea from where we could access the IJsselmeer.
The weather was deteriorating with increasing wind and rain and this part of the canal is quite exposed between open fields. So when we reached a small pontoon in the country at Oostrum, just short of Dokkum, we decided that the day had been long enough and tied up alongside. We had started early and covered 56nm.
Back to the canals
The following morning we continued our passage along the canal which we have travelled before in both 2015 and 2019. Dokkum is a very attractive town with many opening bridges for which you pay by putting money in a clog lowered by a Bridge Master.
Passing through the pretty village of Birdaard
A modern part of Leeuwarden
At Leeuwarden we took the diversion of the Van Harinxma Kanaal to Harlingen. This is a wide canal, used regularly by commercial barges. It was late afternoon when we arrived at the HSWV sailing club marina just short of the sealock at Harlingen. We had to pass through 18 lifting bridges in 29nm so progress is not so fast on this stretch. We have stayed at HSWV before, a very pleasant location on the edge of this lovely town.
We had an enjoyable night in Harlingen finding a restaurant for a traditional fish supper. On a misty morning we motored to the Tsjerk Hiddessluizen lock and then passed through the harbour (dodging arriving and departing island ferries) and headed S to the Kornwerderzand lock by which you enter the IJsselmeer. On the way, we were passed by a few barges heading back to Harlingen at the end of a week's voyage. Harlingen is a big centre for traditional barges.
Gliding through the mist
Once through the lock, we shook out the sails and continued to head S across the IJsselmeer to Enkhuizen. This is another port that we have visited before, usually staying in the main harbour, the Buitenhaven. This time we thought that we would try the Buyshaven harbour on the S side of the town and despite arriving in a heavy shower it proved to be a good choice. It is set in green space, although only a 10 minute walk into the town.
On Saturday we did some shopping and then cycled on the levees surrounding the town.
Small canals inside the town perimeter
On the levee
Bridge lifting to access an inner harbour
We needed to get a new continuous furling line for the main sail, the old one showing signs of wear and potentially parting. I had found a yard to the S of Enkhuizen who could do the job. So on Monday morning we motored a short distance over the Naviduct Krabbersgat (which has a lock) and into the Markermeer.
After getting this job done we passed back through the lock into the IJsselmeer and had a pleasant sunny sail E across to Stavoren, a passage that only took about two and a half hours. We had not been here before and it is a pleasant town giving access to a number of canals.
Renault 4 in immaculate condition in a back street canal
We stayed two nights in Stavoren and then on Wednesday headed N to Makkum with a pleasant downwind sail for 17nm.
The town of Makkum is some 2nm down a wide canal. It is a significant ship building and repair centre. I was having a couple of problems with the new chart plotter and had been advised that one of the big maintenance yards was a main agent for the one I had. So we tied up alongside their yard and spent a couple of hours getting to the bottom of the issue that needed to be fixed. We then continued to the main town harbour.
The main canal and (below) the town at the end of the canal
We spent our first full day exploring the town and having a walk in some of the local open spaces. Our plan was to leave on Friday but for the first time in our trip there was a gale warning and the wind was steadily building. So we decided to stay an extra day! Andrea had researched local places and we discovered that a 30 minute bus ride away was the historic city of Bolsward which sounded interesting. So it was! An attractive main street with historic buildings; a thirteenth century church used as a community facility; an impressive city hall; and many canals around the centre.
A view of the main street
By Saturday morning the gale had passed and we needed to start heading back towards Alkmaar. We had to be there earlier than planned because of the UK Government requirement that we had a PCR test for Covid within 72 hours of our arrival in the UK. This seemed a nonsensical requirement given that at that time the infection rate in the Netherlands was minimal, about 20% of the rate in the UK! But we needed the test on Monday. The Netherlands Government were generously providing tests for travel free of charge, not only for Dutch people but also for us! We had found a location in Alkmaar able to do the test so that seemed the best soloution.
On this fine Saturday morning we left Makkum and turned to starboard to the Kornwerzand lock which took us back into the North Sea. We then followed wide marked channels to the NW back to Den Helder. I needed to refuel before winter so rang the marina we were proposing to stay the night in at Den Helder only to learn that they had run out of fuel. Reserch revIealed that there was one other fuel point at the KMJC Harbour, that of the Dutch Naval Yacht club which was at the entrance to Den Helder's big harbour. I rang the HM who kindly offered to go back to the harbour earlier than planned, just after lunch, so that he could serve us. I was pleased to give him a few beers for his help.
We then moved on to a lock which gave access to Willemsoord Marina which is where the old Royal Dutch Naval Shipyard was located. This is not a smart marina but very functional with a helpful HM happy to help.
On Sunday morning we set off at 0900, passed through the lock from the marina, called the Bridge Master for the bridge in the harbour requesting opening and then entered the Koopvaarderssluis lock which gives access to the North Holland Canal. We then headed S back to Alkmaar and in the next five hours met only two other boats travelling along the canal. Despite being on our own most of the many bridges opened promptly. Historically the bridges would each have had their own on site operator. Now there are remote control centres with CCT on the bridges which means that on a quiet day like this the operator often anticipates our passage and is ready to lift the next bridge.
We again tied up next to the Police Station and began preparing the boat for the winter. First task was to remove the two sails which we did on Sunday afternoon. Over the next couple of days we worked our way through all the pre-lift work as well as enjoying some time in Alkmaar. In addition we had the Government required Covid PCR test on Monday afternoon and within 15 hours we had texts confirming that we were negative. On Tuesday we also spent 30 minutes filling in the Government
required Passenger Locator Form - mainly repeating information we had already
provided forthe PCR test and Day 2 Covid test in UK as well as to Stena Line for
Government required Advance Passenger Information!
On Tuesday afternoon we thought that we were ready so we decided that we would head to the yard, only about 1nm, to be ready for lift out on Wednesday.When we arrived at the Yard we were welcomed back with the news that a big storm that the UK had a few days earlier was in Alkmaar the following morning. The concern was that the wind was forecast to exceed the safe lifting requirements specified by the Yard's insurers. The Yard Manager said that if they could do it they would and that we were the first priority for a lift.
Well we did have torrential rain the following morning but we carried on through it getting the mast down and being lifted by 1230. Soon after it became very blustery so we just made it.