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Monday, 23 September 2019

Texel - Zaandam, Netherlands (23 September 2019)

We left Texel on Friday 13 September on what was a mainly sunny day with a light NE F2/3 wind. Our destination was Hindeloopen, broadly SE, but for the first 12nm we had to head SW or S along buoyed channels to the sea lock at Den Oever. Unfortunately we just missed an opening there so had an hour wait before we could proceed.
Narrow channels also being used by commercial craft
Seals on a sand bank en-route
Another beautiful Dutch barge passing us
In the lock at Den Over behind a tug pushing a big barge
Once out of the lock we were in the enclosed sea that is the Ijsselmeer. Here we turned ENE and had a brisk two hour sail arriving at Hindeloopen after 27nm just after 1900.
This is another very attractive village, originally a trading port when it was on the shores of the Zeider Zee. It is known for its decorative hand painted furniture painting inspired by Scandinavian styles seen by sailors. It also has very distinctive traditional dress. As it was Monuments Open Day in the Netherlands we were able to visit a few interesting properties over the weekend.
Narrow winding streets
The church tower noticeably leans!
Replica water height measuring station (originally 19C)
Traditional Hindeloopen dress
We also cycled around 20km to the town of Workum which is about 2km inland along a canal from the Ijsselmeer. Here we visited the Town Hall, sadly no longer used as such as Councils have been amalgamated. But there was a Council Chamber decorated in the traditional way with leather wall hangings. We also saw countless vintage cars passing through both Workum and Hindeloopen on the Saturday as there was a tour of Friesland rally taking place.
The historic harbour just below the lock at Workum
The town square, town hall on the right
One of many vintage cars on a Friesland Rally
As we cycled back from Workum we passed a thatched windmill, still working and a new building under construction. Apparently this has been deliberately built as an upside down house!
The thatched windmill
The upside down house
The following day we slipped our mooring early and had an enjoyable four hour sail of 19nm in a F4/5 W wind to the E coast and the town of Enkhuizen where we moored in the town harbour. We have been here twice before, once just as an overnight passage stop. Another town with a multitude of historic buildings, many of which are in previous editions of the blog.
The three herrings are the main part of the crest of the city
More beautifully maintained historic buildings
Wall painting of St George slaying the Dragon in one of the churches
On Tuesday 17 September, on a still overcast morning, we passed through the lock at Enkhuizen into the Markermeer and motored 12nm to Hoorn. We have been here before, in late September 2015 and I was delighted to revisit the excellent Dutch cheese shop that I found then! The weather was still unsettled but I was able to get a good photograph of the entrance to the old harbour in early morning sunlight.
The Hoofdtoren guards the entrance to the old harbour
The town centre has many interesting buildings, some of which lean at strange angles!

Part of the harbourside
These houses are definitely leaning forward!
Very impressive!
Cape Horn, the southernmost headland of southern Chile was first rounded in 1616 by the Dutchman Willem Schouten who named it Kape Hoorn after this city where he had been brought up. Another famous son of the city was Willem Bontekoe, a navigator and sometime skipper for the Dutch East India Company in the 17C who wrote a book about his travels.
Sculpture, "the Bontekoe boys", at the harbour entrance
We also took the opportunity to travel on the Hoorn to Medemblik steam tram railway. Apparently the reasons for it being called a steam tram railway rather than a steam train railway are down to Dutch regulatory niceties apparently too difficult to explain! But our train was pulled by an engine, albeit one originally built for Belgium and we did see some very interesting pictures of Dutch steam trams as well as one in the workshop.
Signal box - nb Tram Station
The engine and train at Medemblik
The harbour at Medemblik
Steam Tram in the restoration shed at Hoorn
The following morning was sunny with a pleasant F3/4 NW wind forecast for a SSE passage to Lelystadt on the E side of the Issjelmeer. As it happened the wind hardly reached F3 so we had the engine running at slow revs as well as all the sails out to maintain around 4.5kn for the 17nm. Although it has a population of 80,000 and is the capital of the province of Flevoland, the city was only founded in 1967. It is built on land reclaimed from the Zuiderzee and is named after Cornelis Lely the man who engineered the Afsluitdijk which led to the reclamation. We berthed in Lelystad Haven, which had originally been constructed in 1950 as an island in the Markermeer with its wooden barracks housing an army of dike builders. In 1955 they reached the mainland and a road linked the island. Gradually the land has been reclaimed. Having been built as a new town mainly in the last quarter of the twentieth century it is not the most attractive place. Cycling around part of it we saw some very unusual estate and house designs and the town centre was very plain. Andrea considered that it reminded her of Basildon.
Some of the more attractive houses!
Part of the town centre
Of slightly more interest was a replica of the Batavia which was completed in 1995. The original Batavia was launched in 1628 for the Dutch United East India Company (VOC). She sailed from Texel In October as flagship of a VOC merchant fleet of eleven ships including two men of war for protection. Her main task was to bring back valuable spices. In June the following year disaster struck and the ship was wrecked on the Houtman Shallows, a group of coral islands on Australia's west coast. The replica is afloat and adjacent to it is the shipyard where staff and volunteers work on the ongoing maintenance and run the museum. It is an interesting ship, but not fitted out as fully as other historical replicas (and originals) that we have seen. The presentation is also a little sketchy but it was worth a visit.
Batavia - top masts removed for renovation
Stern with scaffolding, also being renovated
Just one of many excellent carved figures
Andrea and friend!
The following morning we set off WSW back across the Markermeer. The winds were light, the main task being to work around a stream of commercial barges either coming from or going to the Houtnbsluizen (the busy lock linking the Ijsselmeer and the Markermeer at Lelystadt). Our 16nm passage to Monnickendam took us just over 3 hours. We have been here twice before in 2015 and think that it is a characterful place. Our main task though was to catch up on some domestic tasks, mainly washing clothes and begin to tackle the maintenance jobs required on the boat at the end of the summer. Whilst  in Monnickendam we had some warm and sunny weather and we did have time to spend around the town.
Typical narrow town centre residential street

The Waegh Hus, now an excellent restaurant
There is a network of small canals within the centre
We booked in for dinner at The Waegh Hus having been there before and we were not disappointed. Just behind it is the clock tower which houses the oldest still chiming carillon in the world. It is over 400 years old. There are about 200 carillons in the country and this is one of the most notable. There are shorter pieces of music on the quarter and half hours. That on the hour also features four knights on horses chasing each other around under the bells while a bugler blows a horn.
The tower
Close up, red knight appearing below the bugler
Part of the exhibition in the tower
The tower was opened to the public a few years ago and apart from being able to view the machinery there are exhibitions featuring old clocks and also the history of Monnickendam. Well worth a visit.
On Sunday 22 September we headed S and then W through the Markermeer, under a lifting bridge and through a lock into lock the centre of Amsterdam and the harbour at Sixhaven.
Heading towards central Amsterdam

Sixhaven- immediately opposite Central Station
It was a warm day, the temperature hitting 25C. We had plenty to do and managed to take down both sails as well as various other pre-winter tasks during the sfternoon.
The following day we made our last passage, just 5nm through the city, to be welcomed at Orange Nautical Services at Zaandam just off the N bank of the main canal. Here Whileaway will be lifted out and stored in a shed for the winter. We have stayed here before and they are a very friendly and professional outfit.
This year we covered  just under 1100 nm during the eleven and a half weeks that we spent on Whileaway. Our plans for next year include Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Tonning - Texel, Netherlands (12 September 2019)

For most of this stage of this part of our journey we were joined by my brother, Clive. He arrived in Tonning on another sunny day and found the town as attractive as we had. The next morning we were sufficiently afloat to be able to leave just after 2 hours before HW and so we cautiously made our way out into the River Eider on a sunny morning with light wind. As we headed W about 7nm to the last lock, the Eider-Sperrwerk, we followed a well buoyed channel seeing plenty of bird life on the slowly submerging sands and banks. The Eider-Sperrwerk is a lock which is part of the major flood defence scheme that can, when needed, control the flow in and out of the Eider.

Through the Eider-Sperrwerk
Tonning to Texel in orange
After the lock for the next hour we followed a buoyed channel to the safe water buoy by which we were half the 42nm to Helgoland. This is essentially a settlement on red rocks with an adjacent sandy island. Although part of Germany it is outside the EU and Germans therefore head there in their numbers to buy duty free alcohol and tobacco. The mooring arrangements are inadequate and less than satisfactory so that when we arrived at about 1830 we were the fifth boat out from the pontoon on a raft of sailing boats. Apparently in high season boats raft ten out! Once secured we were greeted with the news that the inside boat was leaving at 0530! So up again a little before whilst the rest of us cast off, milled around the harbour and then re-secured. Other rafts similarly moved around in the following hours. We decided that we would leave with the tide at about 1000. We had a quick look around the mainly featureless town. This was not a surprise as over the years Helgoland has often been fought over. Indeed at one stage it was British but around 1900 it was swapped in a deal with Germany for Zanzibar! The island was evacuated in WW2 and the RAF were said to have used it for bombing practise!

Plenty of small hotels
1950's and 60's buildings predominate
Most vehicles are electric
We left Helgoland and had a stronger than expected S F5/6 wind and some rough seas for the first couple of hours. We were heading SSW initially to skirt around the shipping lanes off the rivers Elbe and Jade before turning W to pass along the East Frisian islands. We arrived in Nordeney on a summer's evening just after 1900 having completed 49nm. We visited Nordeney in 2016 and liked this smart and stylish spa and holiday island. We had an enjoyable and very warm day around the town and then walking for some miles through the dunes and along on the coast.

Classic Victorian architecture
The Conversation Hus (a cafe)
The lighthouse
Outside the town miles of dunes
Plenty of sand between the S of the island and the mainland at LW
Our next island destination was Borkum a little over 30nm W. Another sunny day with very light winds so we had to motor sail. There are two harbours on the S side and we had to fight the falling tide as we rounded the W of the island. It was about LW-2 and I had calculated that we should have had enough water to get into Port Henry, the yacht harbour. But a little way up the narrow entrance channel we touched the ground so we beat a hasty retreat and went to the mainly commercial harbour next door. There is a small craft marina from which we could observe at close quarters plenty of commercial activity, mainly wind farm servicing ships but also the pilot cutters and ferries. The harbours at Borkum are 7km from the town but there is a railway that runs from the ferry to the town so we made use of that. It was Sunday and there were plenty of holidaymakers in what is an attractive and popular town.
Borkum from the lighthouse
Strandkorbs on the beach
Kite surfing, wind surfing and sand yachts all enjoyed
Some attractive properties
An old diesel train, current stock to the left
Was a running afternoon for the historic steam (oil fired) engine
We now had a choice to make as our plan was to continue SW along the North Sea to the Dutch West Frisian islands. This would involve a passage if around 75nm with perhaps anchoring half way for one night. However the forecast for Monday was for strong W winds and then for Tuesday to Thursday SW gales. So we had plan B!
On Monday morning we headed S down the River Ems in a brisk F4 making rapid time with wind on the beam and the River flooding. By noon we were in the first port of the Netherlands, Delfzijl and waiting to enter the lock that would take us into the North Frisian Canal. This is a part of the Staande Masteroute with bridges that can lift. We made good progress along the first part of the canal, seven bridges lifting relatively quickly and so by 1530 (after 39nm) we were in the university town of Groningen, the provincial capital. We have been along this part of the route before and think that Groningen is an attractive and vibrant city.
A feature of Groningen is the significant number of bridges that you have to pass under. Some of these are grouped so that a Bridge Master has to cover two or three, cycling between them. So you have to wait between bridges for him or her to do that.
University building, many students around
Numerous bikes, biggest risk to pedestrian safety!
The town is surrounded by a ring of canals with many historic ships
Attractive buildings
Art noveau style 
Waiting for a pedestrian bridge
Following a yacht through the city
The Tuesday that we left was wet as well as windy and with some repairs to the fresh water system required initially, coupled with the slow progress through the town and a stop for refuelling it was nearly 1900 when we reached Zoutkamp. Just 19nm but one lock and 19 bridges to lift.
Zoutkamp was originally a fishing village in the North Sea. Now that access is through locks and a dam has enabled land to be reclaimed. But Zoutkamp still has its fishing fleet and fish and shrimp processing plants.

An overcast day in the harbour
New buildings on the quay
The harbour with a little sun, Whileaway on the left
The next morning was again very showery with strong winds. As we headed away a fishing boat was returning to Zoutkamp. Our next stop was to be Dokkum, just 15 nm away. But en route we passed through open water and the Slenk and Lauwersmeer before rejoining the narrower canal. The very strong wind was particularly noticeable here.
Dokkum was originally a port built on a group of terpen and was the HQ of the Frisian Admiralty until the approaches silted up in the 18th century. The town was very busy as a festival was taking place the following weekend. It is another picturesque and moated town with canals surrounding it. Again we have spent time here before.
Fishing boat in the channel
Typical Dokkum street
Pleasant setting
Ex-RNLI lifeboat!
We left our mooring in Dokkum on Thursday 5 September and joined a big Dutch barge and another sailing boat as we passed under three lifting bridges. At the second of these bridges we had the relatively rare obligation to pay Bruggeld, a toll for the bridges. There are only a few places that charge this and Dokkum is one of them. There is a notice saying that the charge was €5 (for passing through all the bridges). As boats slowly pass under the bascule bridge the Bridge Master lowers a clog on a string connected to a fishing rod and your fee is placed in it.

Approaching one of the two mills on the canal in Dokkum
Dutch barge and yacht keeping us company.
After Dokkum we only had a few bridges to cope with before Leeuwarden. However a bigger challenge was the fierce cross wind, mainly F5/6 but touching 30 kn (F8) at times.
We decided to stop at lunch time at the attractive city of Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland. Here it is easy to moor alongside the canal in their central park. This is another university city with an extensive town centre, including superb cheese and smoked and dried sausage shops opposite each other.

The Waag Hus (16th century) where cheeses used to be sold
Notable buildings
The Princesshof (18th century Town Hall)
Children entertaining themselves!
After Leeuwarden the main canal splits, the main branch heading SW towards Lemmer whereas we continued W towards Harlingen on the Van Harinaxmakanaal. To begin with this is very much in open country but as you near Harlingen many more commercial uses and traffic became evident.These included sand and gravel and other construction facilities as well as small shipyards and repair facilities.

One of the shipyards
Just before the main sea lock at Harlingen we turned to port and entered the small sailing club harbour. Harlingen is a significant sea port with picturesque houses and warehouses. It has a very large fleet of Traditional Dutch barges most built in the early 1900's. The Saturday we were there was very overcast, windy and wet but there was plenty to see. We were particularly interested in the Willem Barentz, a reconstruction of a 16th century sailing ship in which Barentz led an expedition to find the North West Passage in 1596-7. Only 12 sailors escaped and survived after the shop was trapped in the ice for the winter and then sunk. It is hoped that the reconstruction will be ready to sail in 2020.
Barge negotiating the entrance to one of the inner harbours
And another ...
The Willem Barentz
Masts being shaped
Ships Captains and merchants houses
One of the four lions on a bridge
Painting on a house wall
On a brighter Sunday morning we entered the commercial lock at Tsjerk Hiddessluizen and were followed in by a barge that was only inches narrower than the lock! Impressive manoeuvring by two tugs. We then headed back to sea following channels between drying sands. The weather brightened up and we passed dozens of Dutch barges tacking up and down in the Waddenzee.
Inside the lock with the tug and barge
Small barge tacking across the channel
A great sight
We headed N to the rural West Frisian island of Vlieland, a distance of 19 nm. We had the tide with us until we had to round a big sandy island to reach the harbour near our destination. Vlieland has very little motorised transport being mainly a bikers and hikers island. So naturally we got our bikes out for a cycle around. This included visiting the lighthouse on one of the few hills on the island and cycling down the coast seeing bird life, horses, cattle etc. We also read about HMS Lutine, one of many ships wrecked on the sands around this coast. The Lutine was wrecked in a storm in 1799 whilst carrying a large shipment of gold, which because of the shifting sands the majority has never been recovered. We have seen the Lutine Bell because it was recovered and handed to Lloyds Register of Shipping where it became a tradition to ring it whenever there was a significant shipping loss.

Ferry dock in the foreground, harbour in the background
The fast ferry to Harlingen
The lighthouse
Plaque inside the lighthouse
The main street
Goat sculpture marking street improvements
Canon from the Lutine
The south shore
From Vlieland we sailed carefully through channels between drying sand banks to the larger neighbouring island of Terschelling. Here again there was reference to HMS Lutine and a map of the shifting sands and the navigational marks on the islands suggesting that the crew may have confused marks on Terschelling for those on Vlieland leading to the wreck. In the harbour was an art work created a few years ago which enables you to see the depths in the various channels at the current state of the tide. A big lever rests in the water and as it moves up and down the locations are either above or below water. Here again we biked some distance (about 30km) around the island on a lovely sunny day.

Main street in Terschelling
Many items recovered from wrecks and the seas
Clever art work showing tide heights
Memorial to HMS Lutine suggesting a navigational error
Looking back to the town at LW
Plenty of sand at LW
Spoonbills searching for food
Traditionally ploughing a very small field
Flags of Netherlands and Terschelling
Our final West Frisian island stop was the largest, Texel. Clive left us at Terschelling to catch the ferry back to Harlingen and we set off with the tide and headed SW before rounding the island to reach the harbour at Oodeschild after 41nm.
Gulls chasing the fishing boat off Texel
The next day was a gale with heavy rain. It was F6 gusting F8 and the boat was certainly rocking in the harbour. We went out for lunch and were drenched! So we stayed an additional day, thankfully the weather improving.
Texel is, of course, known for its sheep breed and many were in evidence as we cycled round. Apart from grazing the dikes and levees sheep also graze the fields. In many cases the boundaries are small turf walls, presumably also providing protection against the wind.
The main shipping and leisure harbour is in Oudeschild. In the village is a windmill with aluminium sails. It was bought here in the 1950's as a trial project to generate electricity from wind power which it did for many years. When it was passed in capacity by modern wind turbines it fell into disuse but has since been regenerated by a charitable trust.
Near Oudeschild we came across a Georgian war cemetery with over 400 bodies. These were men conscripted into the German army as an alternative to going to a prison camp. They rebelled on 5/6 April 1945, killed many Germans but then reinforcements arrived from the mainland. A fascinating story is outlined in Wikepedia under "Georgian uprising on Texel". It may also explain why the town centres that we saw didn't have so many older buildings as other places in the Netherlands.

Field of sheep with turf wall boundary
Windmill in Oudeschild
Church in Den Hoorn, partly from 1425, tower used as lighthouse historically
Oldest house in Texel built 16th century
Typical N coast beach, backed by dunes along its length
Tuk Tuks for hire
Centre of Den Burg, the largest town
So we have completed our cruise along the Frisian islands. Even now in Texel we have strong W winds again so no surprise that we had to use the canal in part. But we really like the towns there anyway so no hardship. Tomorrow we hope to enter the Ijsselmeer for our final 10 days on this trip.