|Whileaway in her "box" at Monnickendam|
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|
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|
|The Stadhuis (Council Offices) in Alkmaar|
|Dunes north of Bergen ann Zee|
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|
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.