Amsterdam to Haarlem a mere 13 nautical miles but due to a fuel stop and bridges it took us almost 6 hours to get there under engine (it isn’t appropriate to sail in the channels with the barges and ships) The good news being it was on the verge of raining all day however it actually never quite did so we avoided getting wet – very happy about that.
Why so long for such little milage well let me explain further. Firstly we needed to get fuel and secondly we had to book one of the bridges to open 24 hours in advance so we left early in plenty of time to allow for the fuel and to ensure we got to the bridge well before the scheduled opening we had booked which was VERY lucky as we ended up taking over an hour to get fuel! Well not to actually get the fuel, that only took about 15 minutes for 180 litres but the first issue arose when paying and the EFTPOS machine rejected all our cards (we tried 6 between us), this isn’t uncommon in the Netherlands and a lot of shops don’t accept credit cards however our debit cards were not working either. It turns out it wasn’t the first time this had happened for the fuel barge operator and he was on the phone to the bank trying to sort it out however time was ticking away for the bridge opening so they kindly drove Phil to an ATM to get cash out to pay for the fuel. Great, away we go … well not quite, full of fuel we turned the key to start Red Roo and got no response ? ? ? Very strange as we had been travelling for an hour before stopping for fuel so the battery should have been fine (plus we had been plugged into shore power for our stay in Amsterdam), perhaps the wires to the ignition, nope they seem to be ok, hmmmm the starter motor maybe . . . who knows, the result was that it ended up starting about 20 minutes later after much swearing and head scratching and to be honest we really don’t know what the issue was ? ? ?
We made it to the bridge half an hour before it was booked to open for us, we were very glad we had allowed plenty of time to get there and needless to say we didn’t turn the engine off whilst waiting! Anyway 8 bridges and 1 lock later we arrived in Haarlem without further issue.
We stayed two days in Haarlem whilst the rain and wind did its thing, really no hurry for us and we certainly would prefer to motor when the wind is light rather than strong and against us, especially when having to wait (tread water) around the bridges whilst we wait for them to open as trying to do that in strong winds is a recipe for disaster.
Whilst in Haarlem Phil got on his bike and visited the nearby Cruquius Museum just a short ride down the canal. The Cruquius houses the worlds largest steam engine used for pumping water out to reclaim land in the Netherlands: its main cylinder has a diameter of 3.66 meters and the engine can drain up to 320,000 litres of water per minute (that’s an Olympic swimming pool every 8 minutes).
The reclamation of the Haarlemmermeer by means of steam power marked the breakthrough of the Industrial Revolution in the Netherlands. “De Cruquius”, was commissioned in 1849, and pumped Lake Haarlem dry in three years and three months, together with two identical steam-pumping stations. The Cruquius remains untouched since 1849 and still works today (although no longer used for water control), it is a miracle of Victorian technology.
The museum houses models of windmills, steam engines and various pumps, polder models, old maps and prints in de former boiler rooms provide an excellent overview of the struggle against the water. There is also a water model, which shows what the Netherlands would look like without dikes and what damage a storm flood can cause.
Haarlem to Oudewetering is 15 nautical miles with 14 bridges to get opened and pass through. The first four bridges were all part of the Haarlem city bridges and we had the one bridge controller who opened each of them for us, riding his scooter in-between the bridges.
Again we had one bridge in the passage that had to be booked in advance to arrange the opening (this was a highway and rail bridge) and we were running very ahead of time so we ended up stopping in Lisse for and hour and half along the way and took a walk around before continuing on. We still arrived at the bridge almost an hour before the arranged opening but better to be early than not make it.
We have learnt that I (Maree) get a better response on the VHF radio requesting bridge openings than Phil. I have to be honest and say its most definitely NOT that my dutch pronunciation is better than his (I am embarrassed by how bad it is) but it must be a case of the bridge keepers enjoying a conversation with a foreign female as opposed to a male! Oh well, whatever it takes to get the bridges opened quickly we will run with it.
We overnighted along the canal at Oudewetering where we had stayed earlier in the year, you can stay here for up to 24 hours for free.
Oudewetering to Waddinxveen is only 11 nautical miles with 9 bridges (and none that required advance bookings to pass), therefore without time constraints and to make a day out of the passage we planned to stop about a third of the way to visit a market town which was running it’s weekly Saturday market. We spent a lovely three hours at Alphen aan de Rijn enjoying the market with all its fruit and vegetable stands, nuts, and of course lots of kaas (cheese), we pretty much ate our lunch from the free samples at all the stands! We also restocked with 2 crates of beer (beer is very very cheap in Holland compared to the UK) and as the canal is in the very centre of the town Red Roo was parked almost right out the front of the supermarket – making it a rare short walk (with such valuable cargo).
We parked up at Waddinxveen at another vacant “free” canal side berth (funnily enough no other boats around at this time of year) originally were were staying for 2 nights as the bridges don’t open on a Sunday this time of year however ended up staying for a third as Monday it rained cats and dogs and there was no desire from either of us to helm in the rain and the mooring was free, so the decision to wait an extra day was a given really.
It wasn’t quite a day off for Phil however as he got serious about fault finding the engine starting issue we had out of Amsterdam and came up with a possible voltage issue, which seems to be an intermittent fault so hard to find the actual issue and solve – I will leave him with that one, I helped by staying out of the way when he had tools from one end of the boat to the other (inspecting the electrical system), checking each of the batteries which of course are buried deep in batches in not one but three different locations on board meaning we have to pull out heaps of stored items to get to them!
Clear skies awaited us the next day so off we travelled from Waddinxveen – IJsselmonde (Rotterdam) again only a very small journey of 12 nautical miles with 5 bridges and 1 lock to negotiate and with only the one bridge that we had to wait an hour before it opened we we arrived not long after lunch.
Considerations were given to keep going onto Dordrecht but the timing for the next bridge (between us and Dordrecht) was a few hours away and didn’t then allow time to make it into Dordrecht during their reduced winter opening times for the town bridge into the marina, so IJsselmonde it was.
This was also a decision point for us as there is a option here to exit the canals at Rotterdam out into the North Sea and cross to England but the weather forecast didn’t show anything promising for the next week to allow us to cross so we decided to keep travelling south in the canals to Vlissingen where we will eventually cross from when the weather allows.
The IJsselmonde marina is a members ran marina meaning the members own and operate and put all profits back into the club and you can really tell, it is by far one of the best places we have stayed. The care and maintenance is second to none, everything is well looked after, clean, working and loved. Everyone is happy to help you and the absolute best thing is the bar prices don’t seemed to have increased since 1995. Beers cost €1.10 and a glass of wine is €1.15 meaning between us we had 3 beers and 2 wines at the clubhouse bar for €5.60. It’s a good thing that we didn’t go to the bar for a drink and discover this when we stopped here heading North earlier in the year or we may never had made it to the Baltic.
Rotterdam – Willemstad was 21 nautical miles and had just two bridges to pass through, but both these bridges have reduced and designated opening times this time of year. The first was Alblasserdam bridge which was broken when we came north earlier in the year resulting in us doing an extra 35 miles to get around past it via another route. It was a relief to find this time it was working and opened on time, although from the looks of it it is the oldest bridge we have come across in the Netherlands and by far the slowest to open and close. It is no wonder it only opens a couple of times a day, it takes forever and holds up a major highway traffic in the process.
The second bridge was the big highway and railway bridge at Dordrecht which evokes horrid feelings in us both from our experience at this bridge earlier in the year when we nearly got cleaned up by a ship at this bridge. Blog Post # 77 Dordrecht 31/03/2017
It didn’t help when we communicated with the bridge and got a similar message to last time, that being, you will pass through the bridge first travelling south then a container ship is coming through from the south second. We could see the container ship and as we began to head thru the bridge he pulled out and sat plumb in the middle on the other side and due to “perspective” it really looked like he was coming thru and there was no gap for us to exit out and trust me there isn’t room for both of us. However we had a green light and once we were almost through we could see he was actually waiting for us to pass but due to the sides of the bridge it really did look like we would meet in the middle. Phew!
Willemstad to Bruinisse was 16 nautical miles with 2 locks to pass through. They say there is no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing well we dressed ready to face the weather which reached a top of 3 degrees. It was definitely a thermals + long sleeve top + flannelette shirt + jumper + puffa jacket kind of day.
Whilst waiting to enter the first lock a thick fog crept up from behind, we watched it approach and overtake us, settling in and making the red, green lights on the lock entrance 100 meters in front of us almost impossible to see. We passed through the lock and under the bridge (with just 0.8 meters clearance over our mast) and pulled up directly on the other side at the waiting pontoon for about an hour and a half waiting for the fog to clear. Yachts are not permitted to travel when visibility is less than one thousand meters on the canals, it would be very dangerous with the barges and other traffic. We were grateful that it cleared so quickly and allowed us to continue on and arrive at our destination as planned.
Speaking of just zero point eight meters clearance over the mast passing under this bridge at the lock, whilst we were waiting for the lock we witnessed a strange sight. The lock gates opened to let out the north travelling vessels and out came a yacht backwards! Very strange and made us wonder what went on in there for him to come out backwards, did he perhaps get blown around and turns 180 degrees, did a barge hit it and turn it around?? Nope turns out he was actually to tall to get under the bridge so had to wait for the lock to do 2 cycles and come back out backwards! He then went and passed via the large ships lock with a lifting bridge rather than the sporting (smaller) lock.
Bruinisse is the home of the Big Muscle pictured below on the right (obviously), and strangely enough also the “big shovel” not sure of the story associated with the big shovel. Our appetites were rather excited about the opportunity to get a good feed of muscles whilst in town yet it was harder than we imagined to actually find some to buy, but get some we did! A local muscle farmer was telling us how hard a business it is to make a life out of as it costs him €1 a kilogram to farm them yet the big name supermarkets in his country only buy them for .80 cents a kilo. They make their money early in the season when the overseas markets are muscle hungry and pay top dollar, then just have to suck it up for the remainder of the year locally with what ever price they can get.
Fog kept us in Buinisse an extra day, not much use setting out in this, visibility of less than 100 meters. The highlight of the day was the top temperature, it reached a whopping 1 degree with the days low being -1. Daylight was 08:50am and Dark was 16:05. The fender lines iced up thick and the water droplets on the guard rails were frozen.