After 2 nights in Dordrecht we left for the Haringvliet. We enjoyed our stay but the bells of the Grote Kerk of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk kept us awake all night, they were really loud and chimed all night long.
Leaving to travel west needs to be timed correctly as just around the corner is a railway bridge that needs to be lifted.
The river here is really busy with commercial shipping of all shapes and sizes. We were heading onto the Oude Maas which provides an alternative route back to Rotterdam’s ports and the sea. We were making good progress, the current was providing a few knots of speed. This was not a pretty stretch of water, it was lined with docks and factories but it is was good to see a working river.
After a while we turned to port and joined the Spui, this took us away from the commercial traffic back onto a rural river. Here the current turned on us and we had 2 to 3 knots against us. This would have been difficult to predict as it did not align with the tides at the Hook of Holland. A local sailing boat was travelling with us so we assume it is normal to have to travel against the tide on one of the two rivers. Graham did not remember reading about this in the guides. We were still going forward and the weather was pleasant so all was well.
As you approach Hellevoetsluis you are in the inland sea with plenty of boats sailing.
This area was not closed off from the sea until 1970. The town of Hellevoetsluis was an important naval base in the past, the main harbour area is surrounded by a defensive wall with numerous forts and a moat.
The big surprise here when taking a walk was to find a large shopping centre just outside the town. Our fridge had played up the night before, getting someone to look at a marine fridge is always challenging and there did not seem to be any local specialist. We decided to buy an electric cooler as a backup. After 12 hours rest, the boat fridge came back to life and has been working fine, let’s hope it keeps working for the rest of the season.
On Saturday we headed out onto the Haringvliet, the wind was good and we hoisted the sails for the first time in weeks. We had a good sail for a few hours until we reached our next destination Stad d Haringvliet.
Our Belgium friends Evi and Marc used to keep their boat here. They spent the winter of 2019/20 in Cascais like us. They told us this was a quiet town, and they were right. It has quite a lot of housing, at least 2 schools (and a windmill). It has no shops or restaurants, we found an ATM, and the marina had a large Chandlery shop but that was about it.
We left Sunday morning, the bridge is about 90 minutes from the marina and doesn’t open much. We wanted to make sure we were there for the 11 o’clock opening as the next one wasn’t until 5pm.
We were early and slowed right down as we approached, there was no wind as we sat gently bobbing our way across the lake. There were no other boats waiting and it was about half an hour before the scheduled time of the bridge lift if Graham had read the Dutch instructions correctly.
As it got closer to 11 other boats arrived and at 11 the bridge opened. At least 6 boats were waiting to pass with us. Once the bridge opened it was a mad dash to get through, there was at least 6 boats coming the other way. Boats with a mast less than 12m can pass under the closed bridge.
Close to the bridge and across the river is Willemstad. This is another defensive city from the days when this area was open to the sea. We moored up against the wall in the harbour, there is something rather nice staying in these old harbours, you feel like proper seafarers lying alongside the wall, much nicer than a large marrina with rows and rows of shiny boats. On Monday we became a tourist attraction. A group of American tourists on a river cruise trip stopped by with their tour guide for a chat.
Tuesday the weather forecast was for rain showers, it started as we returned from the Supermarket. The marina wanted to use our space for a large group of Belgium boats arriving at 10:30, we would need to move along the wall. As we got ready to do this the sun came out and we decided to leave and head for Grevelingenmeer.
As we left the Belgium Armada of 6 to 7 boats arrived. We headed out dodging the large ships coming out of the large ship locks not far away. We made our way across the river to the yacht lock. As we headed out it rained, not a gentle rain but rain that stung your face. Fortunately we had decided to put full waterproofs on despite the sun when we left.
The rain was short-lived but the wind was quite strong on the nose. In the first lock we were joined by two smaller hotel boats. The high sides of the lock protected us from the wind until they opened the gates. We managed a graceful exit however.
This lock has a fixed bridge with a clearance of 18m, our mast is no more than 16m with the VHF aerial but it is best not to watch as it always looks as if you are going to hit the bridge.
Two more locks and we entered Grevelingenmeer. We headed over to some tiny man-made islands with a small harbour, this is really getting back to nature, the island takes less than 5 minutes to walk around, the only facilities are some toilets and some waste bins, it was a very quite place to stay, no traffic, no people except for the other boaters. There were about 9 boats overnight.
After a quiet day on the island, boats started to arrive as Thursday was a public holiday (ascension day). Our quiet harbour was now full, in the morning a warden arrived to check everyone had paid. We had tried to pay online but the online system did not accept any of our cards or apps (a common problem in the Netherlands). The warden noted our details and asked us to pay when we returned to the mainland. The cost was around 15 euros and this allows you to moor at jetties all around Grevelingenmeer for 7 days.
We left and went to Bruinisse Marina a 20 minute trip. We wanted to visit a pharmacy, but most were closed and the only open one we could find was in Zierikzee about 8 miles away. Once safely in a berth we headed off to get the bus.
We found the pharmacy, the medication Judith wanted was only available with a prescription so we had to take an alternative (which did not really work). After we walked back in to the town. This is one of the oldest towns in Zeeland, you can see the ornate merchant’s houses dating back 400 years to a time when this area was still connected directly to the sea.
We took the opportunity whilst in the marina to shower and do the laundry before heading back to the nature reserve and another small harbour having now brought our seven day pass. The weather had turned colder and the winds picked up making the harbour a little uncomfortable. Also Judith was not feeling any better and we needed to try and find a doctor.
We headed up to Brouwershaven about an hour up the lake. The wind strengthened as we got out on the sea, we picked up a hitchhiker who sat on the outboard engine for at least 10 minutes as we made our way. We knew the harbour might be quite tight and manoeuvring might be interesting with strong winds, fortunately, once we were in the harbour it was quite sheltered also we had a berth alongside and it was not busy when we arrived.
Judith managed to see a doctor Monday afternoon and was prescribed some pills. It was too late to leave, so stayed a second night. Graham got his bike out and cycled to the Brouwersdam at the top of the lake and see the sea.
Tuesday morning we headed to a small harbour at the top of the lake next to Brouwersdam There was a small underpass through to the beach. We walked along the sand.
Wednesday we decided to leave Grevelingenmeer we had a good sail back down the lake and stopped at the island for lunch before making our way back through the lock and heading west along the river.
The inland seas of Zealand have all been created to reduce the risk of flooding. This area has been shaped by floods. The Elizabeth flood of 1421 to the North Sea floods of 1953 have changed the character of the area. Much of the land in the region lies below sea level and in a number of towns we found marks showing how high the sea had been in 1953. The Sea defences constructed after the 1953 have created the landscape we see today.