Dear Family and Friends: June 13/09
Cruising in the Netherlands is quite easy for the most part. Very flat country, lots of bridges and a few locks or ‘sluises’ as they call them here. On the major canals, the ones that accommodate all the huge barges that transport goods from one part of the country to the other, the sluis is very long, wide and can drop or rise a number of feet to the level at the other end. In fact in some locks, we’ve been one of several cruisers along with 2 barges, one of which was 110 metres long. Think of a good sized par 3! We ran into 2 sluises of this size when we travelled from Sneek to Groningen. Sadly, we lost the stern in both of them. Think of a capital H – the sides of the lock are the parallel lines and ‘Calypso” is the bar between them – the bow tied to one side while the stern floated perpendicular to the wall as the wind pushed it into a position which didn’t allow us to throw a line. How embarrassing ! While a German couple cursed us, a kindly Dutch couple helped us out of our dilemma.
Happily, after telling Arthur and Diana Dixon (from Perth) about our troubles, they gave us some good advice and on our return journey we were awesome! The trick was to have me tie the bow from a more central position on the boat, give it some slack but fully secured and then Phil uses the engine to push against the bow line to starboard which then brings the stern in to the port side of the lock. Yahoo!!!!! They got it! They really got it! It’ amazing once you know how. Piece of cake. Phil has now really got a great handle on maneuvering the cruiser.
Speaking of cruisers - and we are - there’s a new book coming out soon. Not sure of the publication date but check with your local bookstore. It’s called ‘The Boating Bible’. You might find Chapter 6, Book of Coss, verse 2 of particular interest. Thou shall count thy ropes, especially when leaving the dock. There we were, all set to leave the Groningen Motorboat Club on a Sunday morning to make our way to Leeuwarden. I cast off the bow rope and Phil had the stern covered. Phil put the engine in reverse and slowly made his way backwards out of the slip. All of a sudden the air was filled with curses that the dratted engine is slipping again. It’s not reversing and the boat next to us was in peril. Then we noticed a nice man from the club waving to us from the dock. He was suggesting that perhaps it would be better if we cast off both bow lines!!!! Just a suggestion mind you, but we members find it easier to get underway if we aren’t still attached to the jetty! Lesson learned – count your ropes, stupid!!!
Finally, the sun has come out and we had a great day cruising from Leeuwarden to Buraard on our way to Dokuum. We could easily have made it in one day but we wanted to stop in a little village because to us, they represent the quintessential Holland. The little village has about 2 streets, 2 bridges, a big red windmill that we are moored under and that is still used to grind corn, and a very small Spar grocery store. But it does have a lovely restaurant situated on the canal right by the bridge. We sat in the sun, ordered a coffee and watched the boats coming and going through the manned bridge.
And speaking of bridges, we had to go through 11 (!!!!) of them on our way out of Leeuwarden. The first 3 were tall enough we could sail right under but the next 8 had to be opened for us to get through. With the windscreens and the cabriole cover up, we measure 3.7 metres from the water line. The bridges that had to be opened were all less than 2 metres so there was no way we could get through. While the bridges on the main canals are manned, there are a number of other canals that would be lovely to take but the bridges are just too low for our boat – and most other cruisers of our type. When we leave here we are going to use a canal that has several bridges that are unmanned, but are in the neighbourhood of 3.5 metres. We’ll take down the cabriole and the wind screens will be flat to the deck. It leaves us exposed to the elements but it means we can take one of the more picturesque canals to get back to the Overissijl area. We still have to get to Giethoorn by the end of the month to pick up our new bimini.
The main purpose of going to Groningen was that they have an Ikea. There are only about 3 in the country – which totally surprised us as I thought Ikea was very popular here as well as Canada. But while there we managed to outfit the salon so that we can be comfortable as well as entertain another couple. We have 2 tub chairs, 2 folding wooden chairs that we use in the salon and up on the deck, an outrageously colourful rug as well as other bits and bobs. It is now looking much less boaty and way more homey and we are happy. For us, cruising is a moveable cottage. We are definitely not the gung ho shippy types.
Speaking of homey, Phil got a 15” LCD with DD player included for his 65th birthday. We had traded an alternator used for a type of motor that we don’t have with David and he gave us his satellite dish and box. We didn’t think we’d use if but the TV was such a good deal we couldn’t refuse. We don’t always put it up but it is nice to have on occasion when we want a break from reading. We are tuned to Astra 2 which is a British satellite so we get all their English shows.
One of the most lasting memories of the Netherlands will be how much of their life is tied to water. Not only is there a lot of water, especially in the northern and eastern provinces, but that water, water sports and boating are a part of life from infancy. The first time we saw a little boy of about 7 years driving his own little runabout – with no adults on board and no life jackets – we were thrown. Now, we’ve come to accept it. They play in the water like Canadian kids play hockey. It is just who they are. I wish Haydn were here to be part of the experience. I’d love to see him out on the canal in a kayak, canoe or motor boat.
The news on Mom and Dad is good really. Mom has been admitted to extended care at Wexford Creek on the south side. Dad has moved to the same floor but in the assisted living side. So they are together, just not sleeping together. (I honestly don’t see a downside to that! Sharing a double bed with Phil the Schnorer hasn’t been totally fun!) Dad found it really hard to adjust to not having Mom there and Mom kept packing her bags every morning to go back home, but now they both have settled in pretty well. Barb will stay at the rented house until the lease is up at the end of July and then not sure of where she’ll be. Anyone need a great house and/or animal sitter for the winter????
Well, my 2 pages are up so I’ll go for now. We think we can get access to free wifi tomorrow at McD’s, so I should be able to send pictures via the PhotAlbum route.
Much love to all
The Boating Rovers – Sharlene and Phil