After a week in IJmuiden we left to go up to Central Amsterdam. To access the canal you go through the sea locks and down onto the North Sea Canal. This canal is used by a lot of commercial shipping, we were shadowed most of the way by a Superyacht Scout. We also passed a cruise ship heading out as we approached Amsterdam.
We stayed 2 nights at Sixhaven marina. This was a great place to stay, quiet but only a few minutes on the free ferry to Amsterdam Central Station.
We had booked tickets for Keukenhof on Friday, this is a world famous tulip garden. As mentioned in our last blog it gets fully booked and it was busy as expected. We spent about 5 hours walking around the gardens. It was worth the visit. There were some very creative displays including one which looked like a river of blue flowers passing through woods. We will let some pictures suffice as words cannot do justice.
On Saturday we left to sail into the Markemeer, there was a cold north wind but we were only going out on a lake with a depth of around 3 to 4 m. How bad could it be? The wind was on the nose for the whole trip and the water had a short sharp chop. We had more water running over the deck than when we crossed the North Sea ( or Biscay come to think about it.)
It was also unnerving to be sailing in such shallow waters, our depth gauge is set to alarm at 2M or less, we had to turn the alarm off as it was sounding continuously.
We headed to Volendam and decided to go to the marina for a few days as the wind would have made the town harbour a little uncomfortable. It was our first experience of mooring up in a box mooring. It went well and they do make sense as you can get lines over the poles as you pass and use these to keep the boat off the pontoon, looking at the photos it does not seem as if there is enough room for Island Girl to squeeze through as she is a bit fat.
Volendam is a town popular with tourists and day-trippers. There were three shops offering to take your photo in costume.
We cycled to Edam. In Edam we visited a cheese shop (what else would you expect). Edam cheese is not our favourite, we tried some samples and they had a mature Edam that was surprisingly good. These cheeses were not covered with red wax like the ones in England but with a thin yellow covering. Apparently red wax is only used for exported cheeses and these are not mature.
The wind was still north-west when we moved on to Hoorn, we had a problem with our staysail when we furled it and Graham spent some time lying on the foredeck sorting it out. In the process he lost his woolly hat overboard. We also had a reefing line come loose and disappear into the boom. This took some time to extract when we were in port. We hope they are secured properly this time.
In Hoorn we moored at the town quay. This was really nice and gave easy access to the town. The town has many historic buildings dating back to the Dutch golden age and was one of the homes to the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
Thursday was Koningsdag or King’s day. This a day when the Dutch celebrate the King’s birthday. This was the first King’s day celebration for three years due to the pandemic. The celebrations consisted of loud music for the youngsters with plenty of beer. On the day itself the town was taken over by people selling stuff, it was like a giant car boot sale, for days before people had been laying claim to pitches by chalking their names on the pavements.
From Hoorn we sailed to Medemblick. Again we found a berth on the town quay. This was a more comfortable sea as the winds had dropped. It is about 4 hours but in the middle of the trip you need to go through a lock as you pass from the Markemeer to the IJsselmeer.
Again we opted to moor at the town quay, these have proved to be good places to stop generally with electricity, water, toilets and showers and often laundry facilities.
We headed next for Den Helder, again a lock breaks the journey as you leave the freshwater seas and head back to tidal waters.
As we approached the locks a police launch appeared and we were boarded a second time. They were friendly enough but when you are navigating in shallow waters and preparing the lines ready for the lock you can do without the distraction of having to show papers and answer the questions.
After the locks you are in the Wadden sea. Care needs to be taken to stay in the channel as there are a lot of sandbanks. We could see seals basking on sandbanks as we passed.
Den Helder is a naval base and as you enter the harbour you pass the warships. We had decided to go to the Marine Watersports club for a few days so we had to pass back through a lock into the canal system.
This was a friendly place and close to the city.
The Wadden Sea has a string of islands stretching North across to Germany and Denmark. The closest island is Texel about 20 mins by ferry from Den Helder. On Sunday we took the ferry (only 5 euros return each for cyclists). The ferry was huge and busy with cars and caravans heading to the island. It is about 15 miles long but only around 4 miles wide.
We had a choice to make at Den Helder as to our next destination.
Option 1; sail south along the coast back to Ijmuiden and on to Scheveningen.
Option 2; motor along the North Holland canal back to the North Sea canal before deciding to carry on through the canals to Rotterdam.
Bridge problems seem frequent in the Netherlands and as we have a mast some 16 m high we do not fit under many bridges in the Netherlands, we need them to open for us.
Finding accurate information seemed challenging, talking to locals produced conflicting information.
We found some official websites and called the lock keeper in Den Helder and the trip seemed possible with only a potential delay of a few hours at a railway bridge in Alkmaar.
We decided to take the chance and head along the canal. There was almost no wind and it was actually sunny. For the first time we actually felt warm whilst sailing.
The trip down was great, passing old windpumps and new wind turbines. There was little commercial traffic. Only 2 barges near Den Helder, the other boats were all leisure craft, a mix of sail and motor cruisers. We also passed a semi-submerged sofa that had managed to find its way back into the canal.
We spent the night at Alkmaar, there was no delay at the railway bridge. This is another historic town with a lot of charm, a bit like Amsterdam without the crowds. Canals wind their way through the city and small boats are moored up alongside.
By the morning the weather had changed, it was raining. By around 11 the rain had stopped so we decided to continue south. It was still cold so we pulled out the wet weather gear and looked as if we were about to cross an ocean rather than sail on a canal.
There was more commercial traffic on this stretch of the canal. The large river barges are often family affairs, cars are stored on the back and they are a home as well as a workplace. As we passed one carrying sand I noticed they were shovelling the sand around. This seemed a pointless exercise until we realised it was the children, they had plastic toy digger trucks out and for them the cargo was a giant sandpit.
As we approached the Zaan signs told us to divert along the Nauemasche Vaart Canal.
We planned to go to Wormerveer for the night and moor on the quay. We passed through the bridges and looked at the mooring, there were a large number of trees close to the bank and we did not want to get them tangled in the rigging. We found a place but it seemed to be reserved for commercial shipping. We tied up and had lunch anyway, a board nearby helpfully had a phone number so Graham called for advice. The number put him through to the Port of Amsterdam office, they provided another number that he thinks was the police. They helpfully provided another number but they did not answer. We gave up, we did not want someone turning up whilst the boat was unattended trying to move us on. We had spotted a small marina few miles north so we headed back there for the night. Probably a better choice anyway, it was a friendly club marina and we stayed 2 nights.
We will stay a few days and visit the De Zaanse Schans before heading down the last few miles down the canal back to the North Sea Canal. We will find out if we will fit under the bridges, if not we will need to retrace our steps back to Den Helder.