Read about this trip from the start – here.
We never for a second thought we would spend as much time in the Netherlands as we did. There is so much to see and the Dutch are geared for water travel. I started blogging about our boat when we did the northern areas of the Netherlands – Drenthe, Groningen and Friesland in 2013. In 2014 we explored the middle and southern areas taking in places like Delft, Rotterdam, Utrecht and heading into the Limberg region down to Maasbracht. For such a small country Holland has over 6000 kilometres of inland waterways.
|French maps and remote control|
One day we were having a chat to some people on a boat next to us and they opened a map of the waterways of Europe. That’s when we realised the sheer scale of connected waterways. A person can travel by boat from Holland through Germany through Poland through Belarus to the Ukraine all the way to the Black Sea. Or from Germany up north via Denmark to the Baltic Sea and Scandanavian countries. Or from Holland via Belgium to France. From France it’s possible to head back up and across the English channel to the UK. Other countries such as Austria, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Hungary, Bosnia and Serbia are also accessible to avid boaters. No doubt about it, we had to move on.
|Last night in Zwartsluis|
This is the story of our journey from Zwartsluis in the Netherlands via Belgium to St Jean De Losne in France. One continent, three countries, five cities, 44 towns, 77 days, 298 locks and 1274 kilometres in total.
Our last few days in Zwartsluis were about tying up loose ends. Final repairs, topping up on food and fuel, squaring up our account with the marina. Since we were going to cross the Ijsselmeer, timing in terms of weather was paramount. It can get mighty breezy. Which is why it attracts a lot of yachts. We said goodbye to all the people we got to know and geared up for an early start from Zwartsluis across the Ijsselmeer to Enkhiuzen. The start date of our journey was Saturday 18th July 2015.
|Using the van to load up on provisions|
The wind was about Force 5 on the Ijsselmeer, enough to give us a bumpy ride at times. I was glad when we made it to Enkhuizen. We had four marinas to choose from. Not always the case I need to point out. Compagniehaven was the biggest marina I have ever been to. Could accommodate – at a guess 700 boats. The 3 other marinas although smaller were jam packed full of boats. We’ve experienced double banking on our boat. We’ve seen triple banking. In the municipal harbour in Enkhuizen – boats were tied up six abreast. Sextuple banking!
|Sailing on the Ijsselmeer|
Although my other half is a meticulous planner, and we have the Imray Inland Waterways guide books, it’s not always possible to know what to expect when arriving at a new place. The guide isn’t ever going to say a place is rubbish. They have more, or less, to say about a town which is something of a guide. And the name or size of a place doesn’t give much of a clue either. Some really big places have turned out to be industrialized and conversely tiny places were post-card pretty. Enkhuizen is a lovely touristy place with something we haven’t seen often – a Dutch beach! They also have the Zuidzee Museum which although pricey at €15 – is worth visiting. Not all Dutch museums have their information in English but this one did. We made the mistake of not allowing enough time for the museum. There’s an indoor part where they have exhibits and artifacts. But there’s also a huge outdoor section where they recreate an entire village. You can see a pharmacist, a cooper and a lime kiln amongst many others exhibits setup as they would have been back when. You can buy smoked herrings and Dutch sweets at the various shops.
They also have a walking route that you can follow on your own which takes you through and past the best bits of Enkhuizen. Since Sundays and Mondays tend to be pretty quiet in most places in Holland we knew we would need an extra night in Enkhuizen. The nice thing with planning and anticipating our journey, we had a bit of room to add or subtract a stop here or there.
From Enhuizen we went back onto the the Ijsselmeer heading north, close to the coast, and popped back inland at Medemblik. Fortunately the weather was a whole lot better and it was a much calmer passage. We found a wild spot to overnight. Wild stops can be free but unlucky for us, this one cost €17. The havenmeester (harbour master) pitched up on his bicycle to collect his fee. Admittedly the wild stop did offer walstroom (electricity), water and an overflowing refuse disposal bin. But to put that in context, our night at Compagniehaven cost €26 and had everything you can think of, washing machines, supermarket and bakery, two floors of amenities and showers, restaurant, wi-fi, boat repairs and various items for sale. Utrecht marina cost us €12 including unlimited electricity. You still have to pay to use the showers at the marinas over and above the mooring fee. And you pay for electricity. And for water. It’s all metered and you drop in a 50c or €1 coin, or use a yachthavenbetaalkaart (yacht harbour pay card) which are only in use in a few marinas, press a button and it should work.
Your mooring fee is based on the length of your boat, the amount of people on board and sometimes a tourist tax. Private marinas are more expensive and usually offer the works – some even have a gym and free bicycle hire. Municipal marinas are cheaper but the facilities can vary from not so great to surprisingly good. Municipal marinas are often in the inner canals near the bars and shops. Nice to be in the heart of things. Not so nice if a group of rowdy people don’t want to go to bed, which certainly happens in the summer holidays.
The story continues – here.