Read about this trip from the start – here.
I mentioned C-Taste earlier. It’s an eatery where you dine in total darkness. A person doesn’t realise that there is ALWAYS some light even in the dead of night. Alarm clock, street lights, mobile phone, LED lights, something is producing even a teeny bit of light. At C-Taste you leave your watch and phone at the front desk, put your hand on the waiter’s shoulder, and are guided to your table. Not so easy to sit down when you have no idea which way the chair is facing and where your table is relative to it. I’m a hectic claustrophobe. I nearly bailed but I’m glad I persevered. Oh and one other thing. You have no idea what you’re about to eat. C-Taste will accommodate any food preference or diet, provided you give them notice.
The food was amazing. Our quiet waiter came to life in the dark. Have to confess I used my fingers to eat. It’s nigh impossible to aim a knife and fork if you can’t even see your plate. Let alone the food. I just assumed I would easily guess what we ate but was surprised at how much we eat with our eyes. We liked that they ask you afterwards what you thought you ate and corrected you.
|Big passenger ship
Back at the boat we heard a deep horn blowing and raced out to see what it was. The biggest passenger ship I’ve ever seen in my life was being assisted by a pilot and tug. We tried to count the outer cabins but there were too many. That excludes inner cabins. Crew are probably in the bowels of the boat so add them as well. That boat surely accommodates thousands of people. It’s a city – moving on water.
The weather was conspiring against us and we were pretty much trapped by boats at Sixhaven marina. An early start was not possible unless we could get to the outer boxes where we could at least leave without waiting for the surrounding boats to surface and be willing to move. We definitely did NOT want to be doing tight manoeuvres in wind and rain. By about 11am we were finally able to get out the inner section of the marina and move the the periphery.
|View of Amsterdam from Sixhaven
We made an early start to Utrecht. The weather was still rubbish. Cold and intermittent rain. We know in the height of summer if you don’t get to a marina shortly after midday you run a real risk of not finding somewhere to berth. Shangri La arrived at Utrecht just after 15.00pm and we bagged the last of three spots. Phew! We’ve been to Utrecht before, so spent the night on the boat. We didn’t feel like going out in the rain after a day of battling the elements on the boat.
Utrecht marina is the cheapest by far at €12. But no wifi. And limited hours at the ablution facilities as they’re connected to a retail shop. That fee did include unlimited electricity (walstroom). We took a day out in Utrecht the next day. Less sightseeing and more about finding things – like brass hooks and stationery. Sometimes just wandering around a place is also a nice way to explore. Apparently Utrecht was plagued by flooding so the canny Dutch rebuilt a new city on top of the old one. Now that they are able to keep the water at bay, Utrecht has two levels. The lower levels are typically where people hire canoes or little dinghies. Coffee shops (real ones – not cannabis smoking spots) and restaurants line the lower canals. The upper level has more cafes and bars but also retail shops. We had an appelgebak (apple tart) and a coffee at HEMA so we could get wi-fi and check for any urgent messages. Leaving Utrecht is special. There a lots and lots of low and sometimes long bridges. Almost tunnels. We dropped our mast, radar arch and awnings so we were as flat as possible. It’s surreal gliding along the canals watching people beavering away and slipping through dark tunnels.
|Market day in Utrecht
Next stop was Schoonhaven. By now we’d had five straight days of rain. As luck would have it, the crucial moments, like entering a lock or tying up in the marina, the rain subsided. We were grateful for that. Schoonhaven is a teeny little place. Not a lot going on but we found a gorgeous pub full of old fashioned decor items and authentic interior design. They also played some solid rocking music. Think Stevie Ray Vaughan. A perfect reason to enjoy a glass of wine or a rich dark ale. Or two. For the most part we self-cater on board our boat. Eating out in Europe is hellishly expensive. Especially for those of us unfortunate enough to earn South African Rands. The Rand has been heading steadily south. I notice it every year when I need to change money. Sigh. I wish Nelson Mandela was still around. Those were good days for Saffas.
|Rain en route to Dordrecht
The other big reason we self-cater is we’re both almost vegan. So we eat fully vegan at home and on the boat. But if we go out to a friend for a meal or are at a place with limited options then we drop back to vegetarian food. But we prefer not to have to do that. We LOVE local organic and ethical food stores such as Marqt and Eko Plaza found all over Holland. Even regular supermarkets such as Jumbo or Albert Heijn have a fair selection of vegan and organic food. More important than eating out or saving money – is eating nourishing food. We also love being on our boat. In good weather we sit on the back deck and watch the world go by quaffing a glass of organic wine and enjoying a healthy meal.
It was a short journey to our next port of call, Dordrecht. Along the River Lek, the River Maas Noord and the Oude Maas River. No more narrow gentle canals. Now we were sharing the waterways with big beefy barges and dealing with tides and the resultant currents. When we were travelling with the tide we made great speed but the opposite occurred when we motored against the tide. Dordrecht is quite a big place with lots of marine activity, both pleasure and commercial boats. We had to wait for the havenmeester (harbour master) to open a bridge so we could pass through. And allocate a berth. Unfortunately we were placed miles away from the havenkantoor (harbour office). Which meant no wi-fi – yet again! The shower and ablution block was a trek. Dordrecht is a lovely historical harbour and can accommodate some seriously big boats. We don’t envy big boats. There is a lot more scope for travelling in a smaller boat.
The story continues – here.