Saturday, January 30, 2010

2009 Newsletter #2

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dear Family and Friends:

This has been an amazing week of firsts. Of necessity, these first 2 weeks have been highly compressed. Normal people (and you know that’s not a term that applies to the Cosses) would probably have taken longer to do what we have done but we were on a mission and as our friends the Fleming’s will tell you “Gotta make time. Gotta make time.”

I’m slightly embarrassed – only slightly mind you because I still have an issue with bank fees –as the wire transfer arrived within 4 days and we were the proud owners – officially – of a used 10 metre boat with a lovely interior, great quality gubbins and some work to be done to add a few amenities. We see great potential for comfortable cruising this year as there are thousands of yachthavens where we can shower to keep clean and then over the winter we’ll have a shower added so we can be pretty much self sufficient by the time we get to France next year. So all is going according to plan. Yes, people, there is a plan!!!.

Reliance on bikes for local transportation is another first experience and an eye opening adventure. Our new friend and mentor, David, cycles 14 km to buy his Chinese takeaway! He has been living here at the yachtyard for about 1 ½ years. Later today we will cycle to Blouwe Hand (Blue Hand) as a baby step to eventually travelling back from Zwartsluis on Tuesday. David needs to leave his new sail boat at the marina for repairs so we’ll put the bikes on the boat, cruise down the canal, and then all 3 will cycle back. I’ll be the one in the rear muttering under my breath something about “Whose stupid idea was this???”

Last Thursday we bundled all the dirty laundry up, tied it to the bikes and headed up into town (our boat yard is at the very south end of town) to the passantenhaven: a municipally run temporary haven - passing haven - for holidaying yachts which are supposed to only stay a few nights. There we put the laundry into the machine (a Miele no less!) and then threw ourselves under the shower at .50 euros – or 50 cents as they use cents for their coin as well. Both Phil and I (he was on the men’s side) gasped as the cold water hit and we used up about 10 cents worth of water trying to get the temperature right. We’ll know better for today when we do it all over again. In the meantime we use the wash basin on board to do a spot wash! No one has made a move to cover their nose as we approach so I guess it’s working. That, or Dutch people are incredibly polite!

Another very special first was meeting a Dutch couple with whom we spent a lovely evening. On Wednesday we decided to bike into Giethoorn centre to eat supper at the Italian place we’d seen earlier in the week. As we were tying up the bikes, we met Marian and John Berg, a Dutch couple from the Utrecht area, studying the menu. We got to chatting about why two Canadians would be here in Giethoorn, how did we even know it was here?, etc. See, you aren’t the only ones who think we are nuts. Anyway as we walked into the restaurant together I asked if they’d like to join us at a table. What followed was one of those special moments when people connect, find they have much in common and have similar tastes socially and politically. Marian and John Berg were on a two week holiday as they are about 10 years younger than we are but they are looking forward to the day that they can spend more time doing what they love to do - hiking and camping. She is a Phys Ed teacher, like you Eleanor, and of course very interested in sport. She quizzed us on who were our Olympic champions and in which sports. She gave very short shrift to our curling champions so that became a running joke all evening. Phil countered with the old adage, teachers who can’t, teach phys ed!

The most important highlight was our first run in the boat up to Steenwijk, we then circled around through many beautiful villages strung out along the canal (Nancy and Jamie, you would have loved it) and then across quite a big lake where we had to follow a marked channel. As you know Holland is mostly below sea level and so lakes may be big and wide but very shallow so your boat has to have less than a metre draft or you’ll run aground. Holland is very windy all the time, but you feel it especially across open spaces, so it bounced the boat around quite a bit and it was difficult to stay on course. Phil and I both took turns at the wheel, practiced our warp/rope throwing (Nancy, I am definitely getting better) and Phil pulled up alongside a dock several times to get used to mooring and using the bow thruster. It was a superb day but much too long. David is trying to compress our boat skills/learning into 2 days as he is on a tight schedule, but normally we don’t expect to be travelling more than a few hours a day. David has been living here in Holland on his boat for 3 years but he is now off to Portugal where it is much warmer. He’s had it with cold climates.

We’ve become most skilled at throwing money into a great hole called “Calypso”. We’ve order a new mattress for our bed as sleeping on a blow up isn’t as comfortable as you would like long term. We’ve ordered a bimini which is a huge BUT EXPENSIVE tarp that goes over the top steering station so we’ll be out of direct sun. We’d never make it through the summer without it. And of course we’ve ordered the BBQ so that we can cook outside. Using a gas stovetop pretty much means everything is fried and that will kill my stomach. Speaking of which, Suzanne how are you doing? Recovering well I hope! The food here is pretty wicked for frying and every meal is accompanied by 2 kinds of potatoes – roasted and French fries. It amazes me how they stay so slim but that’s where the bikes come in I guess!

The fields are amazing. They are incredibly neat and there isn’t an inch or acre not under cultivation of some sort. As you can imagine this being spring, the fields are also filled with baby lambs and goats. Too cute! Every, and I mean every front yard is incredibly well kept with no wild English gardens for the Dutch. The houses are fascinating – many of which are just tiny in Canadian terms. Beating the tax man is universal and the originals were built at a time when houses were taxed based on the size of the footprint. This meant small square footage on the ground floor but they built up, including rooms in the roof. Sometimes they even incorporate the barn into main living space so they can claim part of the structure as farm building.

First Impressions:
Sharlene: Dutch is a lot easier to read than it is to pronounce.
Phil: The girls here are gorgeous.
Sharlene: The architecture is very interesting – buildings and houses are brick – no stone or stucco.
Phil: The girls here are really gorgeous.
Sharlene: Sitting on our boat and watching the world go by is quite lovely.
Phil: The girls here are unbelievably gorgeous and oh, yes, the tobacco is cheap!

Well, I’ll go for now. We miss you all but writing these newsletters really helps me stay in touch as I think of you all as I’m writing. We hope the weather has improved and you are getting in lots of golf, hiking, whatever your hobby allows.

Take care – much love to all

Sharlene and Phil

PS – if you have a minute, Google ’Giethoorn, NL’ and I suspect there is a tourist site which will show you pictures of how pretty is this little town. They call it the Green Venice as it has many canals but is surrounded on all sides by greenery – trees, grasses, lawns, etc. The Dutch style houses are small but charming!

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