Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Holland 2010 – Week 6, 7 & 8

Dear Family and Friends

Can you hear me singing "On the Road Again" – granted it's out of tune, but it should still be recognizable. I swear I'm the only Welshman who can't sing. After 5 weeks in Vollenhove, we hit the waterway on Monday, July 19th. And it would have been a perfect getaway had Phil been able to get the motor started! Our stomachs dropped and our wallets clenched their little cheeks in protest. But we tried starting it from the inside steering station and it purred like a kitten. Gerard did a great job of tuning it up as part of the winter mooring fee. Phil repaired the cover to the upper steering station and probably did something to the electric wires that are stored in the station. 

Saying goodbye to our awesome havenmeester, Rob and his little daughter.

So off we headed to Hasselt our first stop and one which we know well as we stayed there for almost a week last year. The weather was beautifully sunny and bright and we made good headway arriving in time to cycle into the town square for lunch. Yahoo, we are underway! The next day was a longer cruise to Veesson but the weather was lovely and we weren't bothered by many barges. The only downside was that the havenmeester (harbour master) was grumpy! It was a tiny village with a 711 type store but after 4.5 hours cruising we were ready to stop. Every now and then we get hassled by older Dutchmen who give us a hard time because we can't speak the language. We try but our pronunciation is so awful that sadly, they can't understand what we are saying anyway. We smilingly remind them (in a friendly way as only Canadians can) that we are spending our hard earned pensions here in Holland, adding to the economy and we don't cost them a euro cent! That usually does the trick. Though our 'high road' was somewhat blemished with pot holes as we left the next morning - the engine overheated and we had to slink back to the dock. We didn't give it enough 'wellie' so the engine water cooling system hadn't kicked in. We left quickly after a few minutes and headed off to Zutphen.

Zutphen is gorgeous. Another grumpy havenmeester but he did end up giving us a highly prized mooring right next to the facilities so that Phil didn't have to walk too far. His grumpiness was more than offset by a great meal at The Vatican – wonderful Italian cooking. Zutphen is fairly big, great shopping, lots of restaurants and a huge market day with several bands playing and lots of activities for the kids. 

Zutphen is a busy little city.

We stayed 4 nights partly because we wanted to go Driebergen. Marian and John kindly offered us their house as a place for Phil to recover for several weeks. But as we decided subsequently to head off to France, we now have a deadline to meet – flying home on September 23rd and it will take all of that to get to Paris and perhaps beyond. However, one night in a real bed, in a real house with a large screen TV was well worth the train ride. As well as enjoying the brand newly hatched baby chicks, I had a B-A-T-H!!!! When we got back the next day, we bumped the suitcase down the hatch and took a moment to look around our little Calypso. At once I could hear a fairly loud and distinct buzzing noise. Oh crap! What now? We cocked our ears to walls, inside lockers, the engine room (twice) and back again. It seemed to be loudest in the salon. Then all of a sudden I started to laugh. Phil gave me a look – as only he can. Once I dried my tears, I opened the suitcase, took out the overnight wash kit and turned off my electric toothbrush! All that bumping down the stairs must have turned it on. Panic averted! 

Later on our last evening there, a boat a little smaller than ours was towed in to the harbour. An English couple (Roger and Susan from Chichester) had been swamped by a power boat going far too fast creating a huge wake behind them. There was water in their bilge and when they were swamped the water shorted out their electrical system so they lost power. Phil gave him our diapers which soaked up the water like a charm and also lent him our grease gun so he could stop the water leaking by sealing up the stern gland where the prop shaft is. I was very impressed by how calm they were (they are very seasoned sailors) as getting someone to come fix the wiring won't be easy. We invited them to Calypso for a drink – to help calm the nerves – ours! We now have another thing to worry about – just add it to the worry list!

We finally left Zutphen on the 25th and made our way to Doesburg. Hazy bright but a good journey taking only 3 hours. Doesburg is a lovely old village, best known for its mustard. There is a mustard museum but Phil still isn't able to walk far so we usually stick to eating, drinking and buying food. We did go to De Waag which claims to be the oldest restaurant in the Netherlands having been the town's inn since 1478. 

De Waag – beautiful building and microbrewery.

Doesburg had a second treat in store. The boat next to us – a lovely Success 1080 – had a Dutch couple from near Rotterdam. As it turns out – small world and coincidences – Robert and Christa are dental technicians. As you can imagine Phil was in seventh heaven meeting up with a fellow techie. In fact, Robert owns his own laboratory. We went aboard the next night for drinks and appies and had a wonderful time. They are a lovely couple and we hope that we will run into them again in the future. Robert has been to Canada and we tried to convince him that it is his bounden duty to take Christa there too.

Arnhem, our next stop, was rebuilt after the war so many of the buildings are new. It suffered so much damage that the townspeople were forced to abandon their homes and only returned after the war. However, Nijmegen was delightful. The journey there was a little yucky! Very windy and rough and I suffered from nausea with all the rolling around. But once we turned the corner – literally – we entered the Waal and as we are now heading downstream, we made excellent time. We moored right by the 'Bridge Too Far.' Operation Market Garden was fought in and around Arnhem. The Allies tried hard to take the Nijmegen bridge but failed. Nijmegen is one of the oldest towns in Holland and there is a castle that has Roman engineering, was one of Charlemagne's castles and rebuilt in 1155. Well worth a return visit some day when Phil is able to get about and we can get around to see all the various museums and historic buildings.

The remains of Charlemagne's castle.

St Nicolaaskapel, one of the oldest stone buildings in Holland.

We were moored right by the Bridge Too Far

Gennup had market day when we arrived so was able to buy some tatziki, pesto and tapenade so we could have afternoon 'fourses'. This is Nancy's tradition that we have come to enjoy when we get a chance to buy the ingredients for appetizers to accompany a nice glass of wine. Makes for very late suppers – but oh well – we have nothing but time on our hands. Found a very delightful haven just north of Venlo the next day – the cleanest washrooms ever!!! It was a short cruise from Neer to Maasbracht – too far to make it to Maastricht in one go. However, we found a very posh jachthaven. We feel like the poor cousins. Our little Calypso is much outclassed by all the other boats here. They even have some beautiful houseboats that I would gladly trade for. The clubhouse has tablecloth dining and gorgeous outdoor wicker furniture. I had to dig out my best sweater from the bottom of the pile to wear to supper. Needed to show some semblance of Canadian respectability. 

Posh clubhouse and a houseboat for anyone with half a million to spare!

It was a long day cruising to Maastricht – it took 5 ½ hours which is about twice what we would normally do. Two of the locks were over 11 metres deep! When you enter the lock it seems like a great huge cavern and is overwhelming. Once the lock is filled and you look back you can appreciate how high the lock really is.

Huge lock near Maastricht – going in. Too late to change my mind!

Looking back – it really is a long way up!

But we found a nice haven right in Maastricht centre with a number of restaurants around the little basin. We had a choice of Italian, Greek, seafood (lobster!!) and several others. We chose Greek as I was way too tired to cook. Ate quickly and then joined Peter and Eileen Kimber on their boat for a drink. In life's little coincidences we actually met them briefly last year in Vollenhove. Then this year again while we were waiting out Phil's healing, they arrived in Vollenhove again! We renewed acquaintances and made arrangements to meet up again in Maastricht. But in fact one day when we were in Zutphen, I was looking for a craft store and who should be coming down the street – but the Kimbers. We had a nice visit over a drink in a little cafe and then had them over for a drink on Calypso and we had a great time trading war stories.

Peter and Eileen Kimber

There was a great Friday market in Maasbracht – there must have been about 10,000 people. We wandered around a bit and made our way to the chandlers. We needed several boat items including rope, grease, maps – the usual! But what a stroke of good fortune that we did. We had planned to spend two more days exploring Maastricht as it is rich in history and a major centre. The man serving us happened to mention that the lock at Andennes in Belgium was closing on Monday for 3 weeks. You have to wonder about an organization that closes a major lock in the middle of summer! As the only way for us to get to France via the Meuse is to go through the Andennes lock, we had to cancel our plans to spend time with the Kimbers in Maastricht and leave first thing Saturday morning. We had planned to take 3 days to get to Namur (the lock is between Huy and Namur) but had to cut it to 2 days. So off we go – first Belgium and finally – FRANCE!!!!

Maastricht Square – after the market.

Brand new coot – only a few hours old!

We loved the pun – Molo's (the restaurant) and Quasi Molo's (the bar next door) – too cute!

So our cruising continues – we are excited about getting to a new country and other than a 6 foot long scratch on the side of the boat and a pretty good ding on the back, all is well!!! But the beauty of owning a steel boat is that it is quite indestructible (thank goodness) and rust preventer and white paint is pretty cheap especially when you buy it by the gallon! It's hard to believe but we are getting better with the boat. Phil usually moors beautifully and we think we have finally cracked the secret to the locks. (More on that next time.) We'll hopefully have new and exciting things to say about Belgium and France – we can hardly wait.

Much love to all

Sharlene and 'Crash' Coss


1 comment:

  1. Hi Mom and Dad!!!! Soooo good to hear from you! Sounds like you are having quite the adventure, and what lovely country to have it in! Love the story about the toothbrush...hilarious! Dave and I are back from our road trip - 16 days of 24/7 and we didn't kill each other! ;o) We had a wonderful time and "Cousins Day" was the highlight - both sides of the family, his and mine. Is there any chance that we'll be able to Skype this weekend? Would love to see your faces and hear your voice...miss you both loads!!! Grandpa is doing really well - sounds quite strong - and is spending quite a bit of time with Brian, it sounds like. Otherwise, all is well here. Take care and lots of love to you both!