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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Enkhuizen - Amsterdam (2 October 2015)

On Wednesday 23 September we left Enkhuizen and motored 19nm south to Monnickendam in warm sunshine and little wind. This was especially annoying as our friends Jenny and Norman were arriving in the evening and the forecast for Thursday was not promising. Indeed the deterioration in the weather began on Wednesday afternoon! We again moored at Waterland and had a very enjoyable Dinner in the old Weigh House in the centre of Monnickendam that evening.
Thursday delivered as forecast with strong gusty winds and plenty of rain. Nevertheless we motored the short distance across the Gouwzee to the former island of Marken (now linked to the mainland by a causeway) which we had visited a couple of weeks earlier. We were able to moor alongside in the small harbour and spent a few hours meandering around the village and enjoying coffee and then lunch before returning, in driving rain, to Monnickendam. That evening we said cheerio to Jen and Norm after dinner and the next morning, in sunny weather of course, headed north to Hoorn. There is a choice of marinas in Hoorn including the old harbour, but we opted to try the sailing club, WSV Hoorn, which turned out to be the right choice.
On the Friday afternoon we explored what is another very attractive town which was settled in the 14th century by merchants from Denmark and Germany and which still has many fine 16th century and later buildings which visibly show the importance of the original residents.
Impressive coat of arms on historic house
In the 17th century it was a regional office of the Dutch East India Company and the regional capital of West Friesland. So to protect itself there are city gates and a tower all still in evidence, It was one of Hoorn's famous sons, Jan Pieterszoon Coen who first rounded the southernmost tip of South America in 1616 and named it Cape Horn so there is a strong sea faring tradition. But his statue also records that some of his achievements are now regarded as controversial including attacking and killing natives of some of the islands who resisted the activities of the Dutch East India Company.

Town square with statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen and Town Hall
After seeing the preserved steam railway and re-provisioning at a supermarket, on the Saturday afternoon we decided to cycle inland to the village of Aartswoud, which used to be on the edge of the Zeiderzee. Unfortunately we didn't realise how far away it was! However we initially cycled through many very pretty and well designed villages all of which had been built from the 1930's onwards after the completion of the dam that created the Ijsselmeer.

Village near Horn
Apart from an obvious grid pattern for the roads most of the buildings were very individual and helped to create an attractive environment. En route we came across an extended house that professed itself to be a tram and other historical artifacts collection and which was a little surprise in the middle of the countryside.
Tram in the garden!
Aartswoud was obviously older that the previous villages and also attractive but apart from seeing the church tower where bonfires were lit at times of poor visibility there was no evidence of its previous existence next to the sea! By the time we returned to Hoorn we had covered 43km (26.5m) on our Bromptons and so were glad to be back, especially as Andrea's bike had developed a  slow puncture. What was noticeable when we returned was that the warm weather had brought out the crowds and that the old harbour was very full with boats rafted out. we were again glad that we were in our own box in the sailing club.
Sunday was also sunny and a very easy downwind sail of just over 8nm took us to Edam. a small port with a very narrow entrance. The opportunity to stay at another sailing club, WSV Edam, presented itself and we found the last spare space in their small harbour. After lunch we walked into Edam and found it to be one of the most attractive of the very many attractive small towns that we have visited.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon at the end of September there was a really vibrant atmosphere and we wandered around looking at the lovely bridges and buildings.
Outside the Weigh House
Edam back street
Naturally there was plenty of Edam cheese of various types available including at the Weigh House where there was a reminder of days gone by when merchants gathered each week to discuss prices and weigh the cheeses.
On Monday we cycled the short distance (about 3km) to Volendam. This has character and tradition but has, regrettably, become a tourist magnet. It seems that coachloads of tourists (predominantly Chinese and Japanese) are brought here on day trips from Amsterdam where they may have been as part of an around the world trip or on a cruise ship calling there. As a result there is an industry in dressing people up in Dutch costume to have their pictures taken and countless souvenir shops. What a contrast to Edam!
The next day was again sunny and with a F4 E wind we were able to sail first SE and then, once around Marken, SW to Muiden on the S edge of the Markermeer. Here we berthed under the Muiderslot, a castle dating back to 1280 and which in later years formed part of the defences of Amsterdam.

The castle and river at Muiden
The town centres around the Vecht sea lock which gives access to the river running to the S. There are a host of attractive historic buildings on both sides of the waterway.

Near the lock in Muiden town centre
The next day we cycled. This time the round rip was a more modest 23kn (15m). We went east to Naarden. This is a historically important settlement being a fortified town from the fourteenth century and in the seventeenth century becoming part of the defence ring "Hollandse Waterlinie" which protected this part of the Netherlands and in particular Amsterdam. The defences are of a star form with double walls, gatehouses and bastions.

Original fortifications in Muiden
Within its walls the town has many fine buildings including the City Hall (Stadhuis) built in 1601 and the main church (De Grote Kerk) with a tower built between 1380 and 1440, We enjoyed traditional coffee and apple cake in the warm sunshine before cycling back to Muiden along the coast through the suburb of Muidenberg.
The following day we motored the short distance to Amsterdam passing through our final lock and bridge for this year, both of them without waiting! In total, during the five weeks that we were in the Netherlands we negotiated 16 locks, 47 opening road bridges and 11 opening railway bridges as we travelled along the canals and the Ijsselmeer and Markermeer.
On our final day tomorrow we have just had the short motor to Orange Nautical Services where Whileaway is to be accommodated until the spring.
It has been an interesting summer with first (sea) visits to NE France, Belgium and the Netherlands. NE France presented new navigational challenges with the extensive sandy foreshores and bays but also revealed some very interesting and characterful towns off the beaten track. Belgium was a little disappointing with generally bland flatted coastal resorts - and much rain(!): the Netherlands through the Standing Mast route has been a revelation with so many attractive and historical buildings in villages, towns.and regional cities.
The weather has been variable but the last 10 days of high pressure and sunshine ends the season on a good note!
Now we have to plan for 2016 ...................

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Den Helder - Enkhuizen (22 September 2015)

Thursday 17 September was an overcast morning; but after a light shower we had a dry day, a welcome change after two very wet days in Den Helder. There was no hurry to leave the sailing club mooring for although we had to motor a short distance to the lock that links the canal and the sea, the wonderfully named Koopvaardersschutsluis, the lock was undergoing major renovation. As a result it was only operational before 0700, 1200-1500 and after 2000. We had opted against a very early start so at 1130 we slipped the mooring and a little after 1210 followed a barge and a very small motor boat into the lock. We exited from the lock and a short distance on a harbour bridge lifted and we motored past the many working ships, a number being huge rescue tugs and naval vessels, and out into the Marsdiep, the passage between Den Helder and the island of Texel in the Waddanzee.
Following a barge through the harbour at Den Helder
We turned east and headed for the buoyed channel which would take us outside the shallow sands which lie along this coast. The wind was a brisk 15-20kn (F4/5) from the south so we had soon rolled out the main and genoa and were achieving around 5.5-6kn. However we were having to fight the ebbing tide so our speed over the ground was up to 2kn less than this. But it was great to be able to turn the engine off and let the wind do the work. For a while we were followed by a Dutch Navy Motorboat which had two or three ribs running around it (marines training we mused?) but then it turned back leaving us to concentrate on spotting the channel marks as we buoy hopped first west then south west. By about 1530 we were approaching the very long dam that encloses the Ijsselmeer and in particular the westerly extreme at Den Oever where there is a bridge carrying the traffic that travels the long distance across the dam, followed by a lock. Although we had passed a few barges and fishing boats heading north as we approached the dam we found that we were the only boat waiting to go south. After circling around for 5 minutes Andrea called the bridge master on the VHF and requested an opening. “Going into the Ijsselmeer” he asked, which we confirmed and “sure” was the reply, “I’ll be there in a few minutes”. Within about five minutes bells started to ring, the signals at one of the two swinging bridge spans went from red to red and green together (signifying “prepare”), the traffic stopped, barriers on the road came down and the span began to swing. Once it is fully open our red signal went out just leaving the green and we waved our thanks to the bridge master as we went through. We were now in an enclosed pool about 100m long and 50m wide and there was already a red and green on the lock so the lock keeper knew we were there. In a very short while the lock gate opened and we motored into and tied up in a spacious lock, all to ourselves.

Andrea securing the bow as the water rises
Plenty of space for us!
Once the water levels had equalised, a wave to the lock keeper, cheerfully returned and we were off the very short distance to Den Oever marina where we tied up alongside behind a traditional Dutch sailing barge that had just arrived from the south. Den Oever marina is a functional place. It is about 2km from the village and is one of those developments where holiday homes have been built around the edge. The facilities were fine but there was nothing particularly exciting about the location. The next morning we cycled into Den Oever for provisions. The town, which had been an island before the dam, was pleasant, a typical small Dutch town where homes and commercial premises easily co-exist next to each other. There is also still a small active fishing fleet.
From Den Oever we headed 12nm south west then south, sailing for about an hour but then motoring as we headed straight into the F5 southerly wind. Medemblik on the west bank of the Ijsselmeer was our next port and we tied up in the Pekelharinghaven which until around the turn of the century had been a football pitch but before then home to a fleet of herring trawlers! We had a good mooring immediately under the remains of the castle begun in the twelfth century.

Pleasant mooring in Medemblik
Medemblik was the opposite of Den Oever. Busy harbours, attractive buildings and a thriving central shopping street, all of which we enjoyed. We also chanced upon some back streets being prepared for the big annual event on the following Monday when pony and trap racing takes place around the streets. In addition the weekend before had a live music event on a Hollywood theme! This was a vibrant town and we enjoyed exploring the area.

Back street in Medemblik
After shopping on Saturday morning we set off across the Ijsselmeer heading for Urk on the east bank. It was a day when the sun broke through from time to time and with a NNW F4 breeze on our beam or just behind we sailed all the way and very pleasant it was too, especially as many Dutch sailing barges were also enjoying the breeze.

Dutch sailing barge making good speed
As we neared Urk we could see numerous wind turbines on the coast, with more being built. The harbour was busy when we arrived at about 1600 but we were able to squeeze in alongside a wall that fringed a small beach. There were noticeably many German boats that night and on the Sunday, perhaps all of them heading home. Urk is unusual for a Dutch town in that there are short hills with buildings overlooking the harbour. So not surprisingly it too used to be an island before being joined to the mainland by the creation of the Noordoostpolder in 1942. We learnt that a strong protestant ethic still dictates life here with various churches regularly ringing bells and nearly all the shops and restaurants closed on Sunday. It is also a busy commercial harbour being used as a base for both the erection of the wind turbines on the shallows close to land and also their maintenance and servicing. It also still has a small fishing fleet. The houses are very traditional. A notable sculpture is the Fisherman’s Monument which depicts an anxiously awaiting wife and 31 marble slabs around her list the fishermen who have never returned right up until 2015.
The anxious fisherman's wife
On Sunday we headed for Emmeloord which is a small new town, now the regional capital. We cycled there and found the design and style reminiscent of first generation England new towns, with plenty of landscaping, a grid layout, big shopping centre and plenty of facilities for sport as well as medical and other facilities. Even terraces of flat roofed houses and shops!
After a lunch stop we cycled on to Espel. A much smaller place with another interesting story in that the original settlement had been abandoned to the sea in the early part of the twentieth century and then, with the creation of the dam, had been re-established in the 1950’s. A pleasant enough place including an attractive sculpture depicting seagulls taking off from a jetty post. From there we completed our 18m cycle by returning to Urk along the coast under some of the wind turbines (around 65 in this group!).

Sculpture in Espel
It was again overcast on Monday morning but around 1000 LT we cast off and headed a little over due WNW back across the Ijsselmeer to Enkhuizen. The wind was a brisk S then SW 4/5 and close hauled we were averaging around 6.5kn and in the gusts well over 7kn. There was a little chop (characteristic of the Ijsselmeer) but Whileaway sliced through the waves. For a while we were trying to puzzle out what activity and which direction one of the half dozen barges we encountered was pursuing but eventually he moved away from us and within less than 2 hours we had covered the 12nm to the approaches to Enkhuizen and were taking the sails down. As we motored up the channel on the edge of the town we could see at least a couple of dozen big sailing barges, ones that were now used to take holiday makers or children on school trips. In addition there were a few ferries as well as fishing boats and other small commercial vessels as well as leisure yachts. We firstly entered a yacht club harbour near the main lock but not seeing any spaces and failing to raise the HM on either VHF or 'phone we headed to the Buitenhaven (municipal moorings) where the HM immediately responded to Andrea's call on the VHF and said that we could moor in any free space we liked apart from the boxes used by the fishing boats. So after passing a few barges we moored alongside on the edge of the town centre.
A walk around the town showed that, once again, there were many fine buildings, quite a few with dates in the second half of the 1600's on their walls. There is also a railway station, a fine building and full of character in the booking hall (although all the "booking" now has to be by automatic machine!).

Part of Enkhuizen Station booking office
In addition to the fine buildings there were valuable resources such as fishmongers and cheese shops. From the former I enjoyed raw herring with onion. The young fishmonger said that traditionally people swallowed the herring fillet whole; but that younger people tended to have it in smaller bite sizes. I stuck with the younger generation. He recommended a couple of local fresh plaice fillets so that was our dinner sorted.
On our free day we decided to spend time at the town's main attraction, the Zuiderzee Museum. This gives an overview of the history of the area and the story of various communities around the Zeiderzee and the West Frisian Islands. It shows how these communities both benefited from and were adversely effected by the damming of the area. They benefited in that winter flooding was a regular occurrence, some severe with loss of livestock , homes and people. But also whole industries particularly fishing, were decimated. The first dam (the Afsluitdijk) was built in the 1930's between Den Oever and Makkum  and that created the Ijsselmeer; in the 1970's another dam (the Enkhuizerzanddijk) was created between Enkhuizen and Lelystad separating out the Markermeer. Hundreds of thousands of acres were reclaimed from the sea. The museum is in two parts. The first is housed within part of a building used by the Dutch East India Comapny in the 1600's; the second is close by and is an open air museum which has over 100 reconstructed or original buildings (the latter moved from their original site). It was strong on summarising the stories of the families who lived or worked in these buildings. 

The Dromeddaris Tower built in the 1500's is a conspicuous landmark  
We have liked the quality of the fine historic buildings in the attractive town of  Enkhuizen and have learnt much more about the unique geography and history of the area around the Zeiderzee. Tomorrow we head south to Monnickendam to meet friends visiting from England for a few days.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Monnickendam - Den Helder (16 September 2015)

On a sunny Tuesday 8 September we crossed from Harwich to Hook of Holland, the first time that we have used this crossing. On a ship about one third full the 7 hours soon passed and we then drove north, through the evening rush hour, around Amsterdam and then on to Monnickendam. Whileaway was fine and so we adjourned to the restaurant at the marina for a very enjoyable fish dinner.

Whileaway in her "box" at Monnickendam
The following day we unloaded the car and visited the supermarket. We then had to drive back towards Amsterdam as we had been invited to leave the car in the yard of the firm (Orange Nautical Services) where we were leaving Whileaway for the winter at the beginning of October. This was also an opportunity to check a few details of the lift out. Having done that it was proposed that we parked the car inside the big shed where the boats are stored. We were then ready to get the buses back to Monnickendam via Amsterdam Central Station but Maurits, the man in charge, insisted that one of his team would drive us back to Monnickendam as it would only take about half an hour to get us there! Couldn't see Premier Marina Gosport doing that!So on Thursday, another sunny day, we said farewell (although we would probably be back) to Monnickendam. We had to be back at Orange near Amsterdam on Friday as we had an electrical fault that was disrupting one of our electronic
 instruments and Maurits had arranged for an electrician to be available to investigate. It was another sunny day and we first motored just under 3nm across the enclosed bay to Marken. This is a small settlement that had been an island until the Markermeer had been created in the 1950’s. Once a fishing village, many of the original houses were built on stilts to combat the winter floods. Now small scale tourism is more apparent with a regular ferry service from Volendam and the facility to drive to Marken on a long causeway from the outer fringes of Amsterdam. We moored in a vacant box and then spent a couple of hours wandering around the central area. The place certainly has a feel of sea faring history to it.
After lunch we resumed our journey, first heading N to round the long spit that protects Monnickendam, then turning south. By now it was a sunny afternoon with leisure sailors out in force. So we worked around many other sailing boats amongst them some beautiful small Dutch sailing barges. We then turned S and had an enjoyable 90 minute sail close hauled down to the channel which leads into the Noordzeekanaal which connects the North Sea at Ijmuiden with Amsterdam. But first we had to wait for an hour at the Schellingwounderbrug, a bridge that carries busy traffic to and from Amsterdam over the canal. It was 1700 and, not unreasonably, the bridge does not open during the peak hours. We chatted to a Dutch yachtsman who was heading for the coast and who had just returned from Nepal helping after the earthquake. He also talked about enjoying sailing to Whitby! Promptly at 1800 the bridge opened and all waiting headed a short distance to the Oranjesluizen, the lock that admits you to the canal. Half an hour later we were through and starting to see the buildings of Amsterdam. We had a choice. Either to moor in the Amsterdam Marina or to press on a little further to Orange Nautical Services where we were due to get that electrician on board to tackle a fault that was stopping some of the electronic devices operating. Orange had said that we would be welcome to stay overnight on their short pontoon so we decided to do so. After passing through the city centre we turned off into a couple of basins and then threaded our way along a canal, past many shipping and commercial docks and facilities and at 2000 we were tied up alongside the yard.
The next morning I chatted to Mauits about the lift out. The electrician came on board and in 30 minutes had traced the root of the problem, a loose wire, and fixed it. AIT (device to show where we are to other ships and us to see other ships course, speed, distance etc) was reconfigured and began working. Automatic bilge pump reconnected and working too.
So soon after 0930 we were off again, now heading north along the Noordhollandsch Kanaal which would eventually take us to the North Sea at Den Helder. At first we travelled through Zaandam, a mixture of suburbs and small scale commercial development, in an area that is very much a dormitory for Amsterdam. Having said that many of the newer residential developments were very attractive with different design styles. A refreshing change from the fare that the large private sector builders serve up in every part of the UK. After our first bridge we had been caught up by a small Dutch
sailing barge which was to stay with us for most of the day. For a few hours we also had a commercial barge as part of the party. Whilst being in convoy means that you travel at a similar speed there is a strong advantage in being with a couple of Dutch boats on a trip like this. Our passage to Alkmaar required us to pass through one lock, a railway bridge and thirteen road or pedestrian bridges. All except the railway bridge operated "on demand" and commercial traffic has priority. In addition the Dutch know the ropes and how to plead with bridge masters for an opening (although we have also now learnt the technique for when we are alone).
In the early afternoon a branch of the canal opened out to the Alkmaardermeer, a large expanse of lake said to be (in the book on the Inland Waterways of the Netherlands) reminiscent of a "Norfolk Broad but larger".  It is quite shallow in parts so we had to stay near a buoyed channel but with a S wind behind us the engine was silenced for half an hour as, like quite a few other sailing boats, we gently glided across the lake. Just as we reached the outskirts of Alkmaar we waved goodbye to our friend in the sailing barge as he turned along another canal and we headed into the small city.
The Harbour Master's Office is a three story tower standing on the edge of the main canal and we moored at the pontoon only to discover that the HM was not there. A nearby sailor said that she rode a bike with panniers in case we could see her; as Andrea noted so did at least half of Dutch people!

Behind the HM Office one of the small canals that ring the city centre
On 'phoning her mobile she explained that she was on the other side of the canal and would be back soon. A very helpful lady subsequently offered us a very suitable and cheap berth on the other side of the city and so we moored up for the evening.
The HM told us of the excellent Saturday market and also said that the weekend was "Monuments Day" in The Netherlands when many old private and public buildings were open to visitors. She was interested to learn that there is a similar weekend in the UK. What we discovered was that Alkmaar has many fine buildings and a vibrant atmosphere.

Interesting buildings and skyline in Alkmaar
We noted that Alkmaar was another place claiming to be the cheese capital of The Netherlands. Saturday began with provisioning in the market including cheese, "English pies" (fruit, sort of half pie half crumble), but also brown shrimps and a couple of Sole fish for dinner. During the afternoon we visited about ten interesting buildings, including the HM Office (the original use being an office to collect taxes from traders; a warehouse converted into architects and designers studio (where one of the partners showed us around and discussed their projects in Amsterdam and Alkmaar as well as the housing situation in both countries); almshouses now converted into private ownership; a cafe and adjacent antiques dealers with a small first world war museum (about the German occupiers); and the splendid Town Hall. As a result of that we discovered the origin of the Bath-Alkmaar Town Twinning which started near the end of the second world war when Alkmaar was liberated. A young Alkmaar resident had escaped from The Netherlands in 1940 and joined his sister who lived and worked in Bath. In 1945 shortly before Alkmaar was freed, because of this interest, Alkmaar was adopted as its sister, this at a time when "twinning" was unknown. What was known was that how poor Alkmaar residents had become and how many children and adults were so short of decent clothes. That led to appeals in Bath and the sending of many clothes together with money all organised by individuals and Rotary. In the Town Hall is the hand cart with organ that was paraded around the Bath streets at that time to attract donations. For more information see

The Stadhuis (Council Offices) in Alkmaar
Sunday was another mainly sunny day and the bicycles came out for a trip to the coast. First to Bergen then Bergen aan Zee where despite a brisk breeze the beach was busy with walkers. After coffee in a smart sea front restaurant I spent time having to perform on the spot running repairs as Andrea's rear inner tube had developed a split near the valve. But once we were on the move again we headed north into the "Duinen" an area of dunes which unlike much of Holland involves some up and down hills! It was an interesting half a dozen kilometres seeing the wooded and scrub landscape with some highland cattle and horses grazing. I guess that we covered 20+ kilometres all on excellent cycle paths.

Dunes north of Bergen ann Zee
By Sunday evening we had lost the sunny weather and rain had set in. On Monday we decided to move a short distance up the canal to t'Zand. The distance was relatively short, 15nm, but it involved another railway bridge and ten road bridges, some a new light variety where the deck was pushed across the canal from each bank. In t'Zand there was a free pontoon on the canal (free for up to three days) and so we stopped and walked around the small village. Fortunately the heavy rain abated for long enough for us to enjoy a walk.
The next morning an even shorter trip (7nm) with only one bridge to open and we arrived at Den Helder. It was very wet when we arrived and the forecast was for more rain and storms so we decided to stay in the canal rather than going through the lock to the sea and an alternative harbour. We called a small yacht club recommended in one of our guides and they were happy to accommodate us even coming down to take our lines despite torrential rain at the time. We walked around the main shopping centre which was not particularly attractive. We concluded that Den Helder had, not surprisingly, been heavily attacked and bombed in the war and much of the redevelopment was of the 1950's and 60's slab block, flat roof variety!
Busy commercial harbour in Den Helder
The next morning we had a longer walk around Den Helder in the strong wind, rain and mizzle and found some very attractive large and small houses that had escaped the second world war devastation. We looked at the North Sea - a very monotonous and uninspiring promenade looking out over a very grey sea.
But then we also found a small and very interesting "cabin" on the edge of the harbour where fish and chips was the speciality; and very fresh and enjoyable they were. That afternoon I tackled another electronic problem in this year of electrical and electronic challenges! My chart plotter draws the chart information from a separate card that is updated each year as buoyage changes, new hazards are discovered etc. For some time data transfer had been intermittent. So I had contacted the suppliers in Italy for advice. They suggested that I get the card checked at a local agent and sent me their list of agents in The Netherlands. There were two companies in Den Helder and we had noticed the office of the first one that morning as we had walked around the town. So off I went to see them only to discover that they dealt with systems for ships, a different sort of card altogether. But the helpful young man printed off location maps and phone numbers for the other agent. I phoned him first to check that he could help and he said that he could. it was only as I started cycling to his location in the rain that I realised that this was going to be about a 15km round trip. He operated out of an office in his home in a residential area right on the edge of Den Helder! With help from various people (when I was struggling to find some roads) I eventually found this helpful man who after 10 minutes could confirm that there was a problem with the card, not the chart plotter. So I now have to sort out that replacement and in the meantime rely on the paper charts and the navigational skills that I learnt before chart plotters existed. In the meantime we agreed our next destination, which would involve a brief foray into the North Sea and then on to the Ijsselmeer.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Goes - Monnickendam (31 July 2015)

The weather forecast for Monday 19 July foretold of mainly sunny periods. So looking forward to that we slipped our mooring at around 0845 so that we were ready to make progress when the Ringbrug (a small road bridge) was opened at 0900.
St Maartensbrug in Goes - typical small lifting bridge
Three yachts and two cabin cruisers then made their way in convoy down the very attractive Havenkannal, through the bridge at Wilhelmina and on to the lock, the Schutsluis at the mouth. Within 45 minutes we were into the Oosterschelde again, This is the only part of the southern Delta region which remains tidal salt water with a storm surge barrier closing only in times of extreme high water.We firstly motored north making use of some tide on what was a fairly still day with glimpses of the sun. We had to avoid both a large shallow area and a few fishing boats heading towards the sea lock before we turned E into the wide Keeten Mestgat where we headed the wind and dodged sailing boats passing in the other direction as well as keeping just out of the channel used by barges. By now light drizzle had started, so much for the weather forecast! At the end of this long passage we reached Philipsdam and Krammersluizen, a major lock system and known bottleneck. So imagine our pleasure when, as we turned the dog leg into one of the yacht locks (two of those and two for barges and commercial traffic) boats were entering the lock. However we were to be disappointed as the lock was full and four boats reversed out. We all tied up at a waiting pontoon and now a steady flow of boats began to join us. A Dutchman tied up alongside us who had just failed to get into the lock) explained that one of the yacht locks had failed in the last few days and was awaiting repairs. There was about a 45 minute wait before the lock was ready for east bound traffic again. By then we had a third boat outside of us, one that had arrived midway through our wait, but had steamed past other moored and rafted boats to the head of the queue. There were some serious conversations apparently taking place between Dutch sailors as clearly only about a third or half the boats waiting would be able to get into this lock. Then, just before the gates opened to let west bound boats depart an announcement over the lock loudspeaker to the effect that boats were to enter the lock "in the order that they arrived". An announcement that was made in Dutch, Flemish and English. Of course boats were not moored rigidly in that order but in the surge forward that followed we made sure that we were not too far behind our position. One noticeable boat that got in the lock was a big traditional Dutch barge which was long and wide and which had arrived relatively late. We learnt later at another lock that this had caused a lot of ill feeling as the young men on this had clearly pushed in! There is not much change in the height of the water in the Krammersluizen but you are in the lock for about 20 minutes. That is because the lock acts as a barrier between the salt water Oosterschelde and the fresh water Volkerak. To protect the habitat and wildlife the locks have to exchange the salt water for fresh and vice-versa to protect the eco systems. Very clever. On exiting the Krammersluizen we saw dozens and dozens of small craft waiting for the lock so a much bigger queue going the other way!
We then headed to the Volkerak, another wide water course with a channel about 6m deep, and on to our final lock the Volkeraksluizen, again with different locks for small craft and barges. Here we had another wait for traffic coming west and it was around 1630 (with the rain just beginning to stop) before we entered the lock under a huge road bridge about 20m above us. On leaving we said goodbye to a Dutch couple in a small yacht who had been with us since before the Krammersluizen and then had to cut across busy streams of big barges going to and from their locks to enter the harbour at Willemstad. The passage had been 30nm but had taken most of the day. The harbour was very busy and we ended up rafted three out in a small space but from which we enjoyed the view of the 18th century windmill.
18th Century windmill (now a residence) above harbour in Willemstad
Another attractive but very small town, named after William of Orange, and with star shaped fortifications which we walked along. We found an unpretentious restaurant in the town and I tried Dutch Mussels which naturally came with chips but also three dipping sauces for the chips.
We decided that we had seen most of Willemstad and that it was very crowded and so after a quick visit to the supermarket at 0915LT we slipped our mooring and slowly edged our way through moored boats on what was to be, thankfully, a sunny day!
Willemstad is said to be the beginning of the Standing Mast route, the canals through the spine of the Netherlands where you can travel through lifting bridges. As we left Willemstad we were able to unfurl our genoa and motor sail E along the wide Hollands Diep. We watched the very busy barge traffic from just outside their channel and so when we did have to cross the channel at the entrance to the narrower Dordtse Kil we did so quickly ducking behind some relatively large and fast moving barges. But in this narrower channel barges slowed to around 7kn whereas the cruisers and sailing boats travelled in a procession closer to the banks at about 5.5kn. Our major obstacle on this day was the railway bridge at Dordrecht which only opens at fixed times. We arrived and tied up to the waiting pontoon about 45 minutes before the opening at 1312. Another impressive bridge, this one lifts the rail tracks between four steel pillars to provide 24m clearance. Through that and into the small WV Maartensgat marina, described as quieter than the other town marina.
Whileaway (stern) in WV Maartensgat, overlooked by 18th century town houses.
With a day and a half to explore Dordrecht we initially learnt much about its history from a visit to the Grote Kerk and its associated tower. For a start it is the oldest city of Holland (the western part of the Netherlands); it was where there was a gathering of representatives from 12 cities in 1572 that led to independence from Spain and the establishment of the Netherlands; and here also the Dutch translation of the Bible was agreed by a Synod in 1619. The Grote Kerk and Tower buildings are on the edge of Maartensgat. Construction began in the early 14th century, but when part completed 100 years later (liquidated damages claim must have been high!) it was seriously damaged by fire. Rebuilding started and was completed in 1626. But the tower is shorter than intended as it began to subside during construction (another claim?). During the 1950's the slow subsidence was halted but the Tower is now 2.25m off plumb at the summit and you can notice that as we climbed the 275 steps to the top of the tower. The climb is interesting, up a brick spiral staircase for much of the way and we were rewarded with a superb view.
Dordrecht historic centre; Maartensgat marina in foreground
Like many other Churches this tower also houses a carillon, in this case Europe's largest "and most sonorous". Although Maartensgat claimed to be quieter this ignored the fact that the carillion played twice an hour throughout the day and the chiming of the hours continued throughout the night!
Dordrecht has over 900 listed buildings and 700 municipal monuments as well as attractive streets.

Dordrecht houses and, in centre, the Tower.
The Grote Kerk Tower was not the only leading building. Many of the historic buildings in the city center leant outwards or inwards, very noticeable when adjacent to newer buildings, or those with stronger foundations.

Leaning buildings.
We also took a long cycle ride out to the nature reserve of the Biesbosch in reclaimed land. The cycle paths themselves are excellent but regrettably signing is not to such a high standard so we missed our route a few times.
On Thursday we set off for Gouda. The first obstruction was a major road bridge on the north side of the city with an opening at 1015. Over the following 3 hours we headed first towards Rotterdam and then turned north up the Hollands IJssel where we passed through one lock, an open flood gate, one railway bridge and another two road bridges. The marina at Gouda was very full but the very amusing Havenmeeester said that the boat before us (a very helpful Dutch couple) and ourselves could stay the night on his pontoon. So on a sunny afternoon we explored Gouda with its busy town centre, historic and attractive buildings and lovely streets, some with water courses.

Attractive Gouda street
Particularly impressive buildings were the town hall and the De Waag (Weigh House) the latter with every variety of gouda cheese that you might imagine. Plenty of other cheese shops too.

Plenty of Gouda here
We had noticed many herons on the river bank. What did surprise us was one in the centre of Gouda looking for fish in one of the waterways within feet of passers by and not even flinching.

Heron at work, studying fish amongst the lilypads
Friday saw us heading north in a convoy in a convoy of 4 yachts. You end up in a convoy as on joining the canal at Gouda we had to wait for the timed opening of a railway bridge. Many of the subsequent bridges which taller boats need lifting open "on demand" but you have to go through together as the bridge keeper invariably waits until everyone is present! At times this channel was quite narrow but we still had to make room for barges passing the other way. The 17nm took us 5 hours and involved opening of 4 railway bridges and 10 road bridges, some more quickly than others. After passing through a large inland lake (the Braassemeer) we reached Kaag island and with the yacht that we had travelled with from Gouda we decided to stop there. This was because the next bridge (a railway one) was not available until 1840, nearly 3 hours hence. Better to have a break on a small holiday island and set off again for the 0839 opening the next morning. It was a lovely sunny evening but with strong winds (coming from a low over UK moving E) forecast for Saturday. Indeed at that stage winds of 40+kn were predicted. We kept our options open but after a wet night the forecast had tempered the winds down to 30+kn in the afternoon and the morning was sunny and winds around F4 (about 15kn). So we set off for the 15nm ot Haaleem. After the railway bridge we (and the two other yachts with us) passed through the countryside with just three opening bridges until we reached the edge of Haarlem. By then though the wind was strengthening and becoming more gusty. There was no available mooring space as we passed through the half dozen bridges in the city centre so we headed towards a small club on the northern perimeter. En route, and for the first time, we had to pay a levy for the raising of the bridges. This is payable at an electronic machine prior to the last bridge. The machine only accepts payment by Maestro Card, which are not common in UK and we certainly don't have. Luckily a bridge keeper arriving at the office by the machine took my 10 Euro and said that he would phone his colleague in the next bridge to clear us which he did,. By now it was raining heavily and winds were gusting to 35+kn (F7/8) and handling the boat was difficult in the squalls. So much for easy sailing inland! Andrea rang ahead to the Yacht Club who said that they had space. To our relief the HM was waiting for us at the end of a pontoon and as the wind got even stronger he was then joined by a couple of other members whose help was invaluable in securing us alongside the HM pontoon. During the following few hours the winds continued to gust strongly and we had all mooring lines doubled up. It was not until the early evening that the wind dropped to F4/5 and occasionally the sun came out.
After the gales of Saturday the wind had dropped to 15kn (F4) by early Sunday morning. So we moved Whileaway from her emergency berth on the HM pontoon to another part of the marina. Here we were with the ducks, geese, grebes etc and in the hazy sunshine we enjoyed the views across the lake.
Scenic mooring at Haarlemsche Jachtclub
We then took advantage of the loan of bikes from the Yacht Club to cycle into Haarlem to explore its many fine buildings and squares. We were particularly impressed with the Windmill De Adriaan, right on the bank of the canal in the city centre. It is a “smock mill”, a wooden towered mill built in 1778 on the foundations of an ancient defensive tower. Its presence came to a dramatic end in 1932 when the wooden windmill was destroyed by fire. However decades later, by 2002, local enthusiasts had rebuilt the windmill to the original design. It is now a working (occasionally) monument and during a guided tour we learnt much about De Adriaan and Dutch windmills in general. It has been recreated to a very high standard and you can see all the engineering mechanisms that are powered by the sails.
De Adrianne windmill, Haarlem
You also get a good view of Haarlem from the stage 12m above the river. This is also the platform from which the guide demonstrated how he could climb the sails when it is necessary to increase or reduce canvas. He did only climb a few steps though!

Haarlem from De Adrianne balcony
After a late lunch in a restaurant at the Grote Market light rain began and we decided to call in at a supermarket for supplies en route to the Yacht Club. Needless to say the rain increased and so by the time we were back at the boat we were again drenched. The rain stopped shortly afterwards!
The forecast for Monday had been for stronger winds (F5/6) and rain (of course). Our next destination was Amsterdam. Only 10nm but we had to pass through a lock and then a busy motorway bridge that only opened a few times a day. The first of these openings is at 1030 on weekdays. We were philosophical about the rain (coming to Holland this year it seems that you have to be) but we didn't want to be caught out in storm and near gale conditions so soon after the last episode!
On Monday morning we agonised over whether to go. Looking at the various web sites I use on my phone by the HM Office (for best reception) I could see that the general consensus was not good, still up to F6. The always jolly HM passing by said “you can stay another day”; looking at the forecasts I said that those for Tuesday were worse so it would mean two days. “Good, you are welcome” was the response! What was also clear was that the wind would increase significantly in the afternoon so if we were to go it would have to be this morning. OK, full kit on, let’s go for it! At 0900 we slipped the mooring and out of the lake towards the lock where one other yacht was waiting. About 10 minutes later two other yachts joined us,
We were all keeping an eye on the time as the major potential impediment to progress was shortly after the lock at the Brug Rijksweg A9 bridge. This carries the major trunk route, the A9, over the canal. Because the road is so busy the bridge only opens three times a day, the first opening on this day being 1030LT. The wind gusted to 25kn, heavy rain fell, the gates opened and we were admitted to the lock,  This was the first lock were you had to pay – Sluisgeld – and Andrea went up the steps to the lock keepers control room to hand over 3.50 Euro. This included (for the last 10 cents) 1 and 2 cent coins. Apparently these were unacceptable and they didn't want them! However they let us off, took 3.40 and gave us a receipt for 3.50!
Only about another mile to the motorway bridge. Here we had a 45 minute wait so we tied up to a freestanding wooden wall provided in the Netherlands at such places. We were now five, one other yacht having already been waiting. Wind gusts to about 25kn every five minutes or so were continuing and in the heavy showers with horizontal rain the visibility reduced sharply. Thankfully not long after 1030 the traffic was stopped and we processed through the lifted bridge with good speed. Within another couple of miles we reached the very busy Noordzeecanaal which runs from the coast at Ijmuiden to Amsterdam and beyond. There is constant barge traffic as you pass oil and gas refineries, sand and gravel plants and other sea port industrial installations. 
Rain continues as barge with large cranes crosses Noordzeecanal ahead of us
We were headed for the relatively new Amsterdam Marina and with the wind now behind us the gusting had less impact although it was now touching 30kn from time to time. About 1330, with not a little difficulty coping with the wind we were, thankfully, tied up in the marina. That afternoon and the next day the wind was very fierce at times and so everyone was staying put.
We took advantage of the free ferry across the canal to the city centre being landed at the Central Station which is having major improvement works behind its impressive 19th century facade. We sought out a marine book store not far from the station and purchased a set of Dutch charts that we needed for north Netherlands. Then we wandered round the city centre remembering some of the places that we had visited before.
Houseboats in Amsterdam
On Tuesday morning, in strong winds, we cycled about 30 minutes to Orange Nautical Services whom we had previously been in email contact with. The plan is for Whileaway to stay inside their large shed for the winter, an experiment on our part. This will mean that next spring we start from here as we head further north and east. It will be necessary to step (remove) Whileway’s mast and she will then be treated to avoiding the winter weather in a shed heated to about 5C. The cost is competitive with outside winter berthing in the UK. Orange can organise maintenance. They had been recommended to us by David Hailes, another Cruising Association member. The visit was hugely reassuring, not only was everything we asked possible but they are clearly a professional and very friendly outfit.
Later we returned to the city and for our treat had dinner at a French restaurant, Cote Ouest, where we could enjoy moules, poisson and various other traditional plates.
The forecast for Wednesday was not good. Thursday a little better. But we were flying home Friday so we had to get to Monnickendam ideally on Wednesday, certainly by Thursday. On Wednesday morning the wind was quieter and the forecast was less threatening than previously albeit still F5 gusting F6. Another discussion and agreement to go.
Threading our way through ferries and barges in Amsterdam
Once again the wind was behind us as we made our way through Amsterdam arriving at the Orangesluizen, the main lock, at around 0900. Wind was a steady F5 so acceptable. The lock was interesting in that the water height difference can only have been centimetres! A short wait at the subsequent road bridge and then we were free! Well free of locks and bridges as we headed into the Markermeer and unfurled the genoa. Just as well we had the genoa well reefed as the wind increased, not falling below 20kn and gusting to 33kn (F7). After three hours we entered Yachthaven Waterland and lined up, in fierce winds, for our allotted berth. It was a box mooring and we wedged firmly between the posts with no prospect of reaching the pontoon. Following discussions with the Marina Office we were offered a choice of alternatives which we could get into and so we berthed.
Monnickendam old harbour
Monnickendam has a beautiful old town centre with newer developments outside this. It has a lovely small town or large village feel. It was originally a fishing village but now it mainly focuses on smoked fish as well as marinas (three) and yacht maintenance services.
The Tower dominates the main square
Naturally Monnickendam has its Tower and its carillon! This one has an unusual feature in that on the hour jousting knights revolve!
The knights are below the piper and the clock
Here we have left Whileaway until September. So that was the end of our second leg sailing during which we covered 405nm. More significantly from a time perspective, since entering the Netherlands two weeks earlier we had coped with 10 locks, 40 lifting road bridges and 8 lifting railway bridges. It had certainly been different to our usual passages and we had enjoyed visiting some very attractive towns. When we return we will stay north of Amsterdam in the Markermeer and the Ijsselmeer and perhaps another part of the Standing Mast route.