So, we set off on Sunday morning down the ‘Standing Mast Route’ of the Dutch canals. The good news here is that at every bridge you come to, they’ll pretty much open on demand – they see you coming – unless of course it’s elevenses, lunchtime or tea time – in which case you can wait an hour! The bad news for us is that the canal is maintained at 1.95M – 5cm short of our 2M draft – but we’re told that today the water is supposed to be 2.01M deep! Yippee!
We found ourselves being escorted – by a German boat in front of us and by Peter Paternotte behind! Our first event was to travel through the first lock – about 5 miles inland – which used to be a sea lock! The rise in water level was almost undetectable, so the locking though was a non event.
Our plan was to take it easy and head to Dokkum about 15 miles along. Supposedly a nice little town… When we got there it certainly appeared nice – but it was not possible for us to stop because the depth at the canal side would not support Toodle-oo!
On the way to Dokkum, we’d touched bottom about 3 times – but it was all very gently and hardly slowed us at all.
We motored on towards Leuwarden – another nice town that we had planned for day 2’s stop. We got a little delayed when we arrived at a bridge at lunchtime – and there were boats crowded around the only available moorings – so we had to hang around in the canal – with a 15knot breeze blowing. So, I learned a new sailing technique: reverse the boat towards the side of the canal and wait until you get stuck in the mud! It would hold us for about 10 minutes and slowly release us – so we’d reverse again – and so on – passing the 45 minute delay in a rather unique manner!
We continued on, skidding our way along the bottom of the canal – all a bit tense – but nothing too serious. Laurie recorded the biggest bump – maybe someone threw out their old toaster?!
Approaching Lewarden we encountered another bridge with a delay (we think for traffic) – so we once again moved towards the canal edge – and actually managed to get there and tie up – with the mast stuck up in the trees!!! Oi vey!
Once we finally got to Leuwarden proper, we found a likely place for us to stop in the crowded canal – though we’d have to ask the little power boat to move forward a bit – which we did. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the mud trying to get there and so once again were forced to move on. The same story at the next town too!
The last town before the Sea again is Harlingen – so Laurie called them and secured for us the only remaining berth with 2M depth! When we finally arrived, we found our German lead boat friend had pinched our spot! Fortunately they were already on the move – but they had plenty of time since I’d run aground at the entrance to the marina – and was having a tough time getting off. When we finally got unstuck, we managed to pull into the slip and sink gently into the 1.8M depth!!
A couple of years ago we started thinking about our next boat – once we’re done with ocean voyaging – and selected a sailing barge so we can travel the European waterways. Today’s excursion reinforced that choice – our day was very frustrating in that we kept going through these beautiful Dutch villages but couldn’t get out to enjoy any of them – it was a tease!
Harlingen has proven to be a nice little coastal town with lots going on. We’re waiting now for a bit less wind (currently force 7!) so we can make some progress towards Amsterdam.