Thursday, December 18, 2014

Boating in Holland - Final + Boating Tips

Boating in Holland - Final + Boating Tips

Guest cabin
Our goal is to see as much as we can of the inland waterways of Europe. We've been boating in The Netherlands for the last 2 and a 1/2 years. Not the whole time obviously. In winter the canals freeze over, the smaller canals shut down and there are limited bridge opening times.

Also, as a South African, I am limited to a maximum of 90 days per annum.

We planned to explore Holland first since we bought the boat there. My husband and I originally thought we would be in and out of The Netherlands. It's not such a big country after all. How wrong were we? We fell in love with the Dutch people. It's possible we may fall in love with other countries? It's not hard to when a person explores a place from the waterways. You get up close and personal with the people and go to areas other visitors would never see.
Large working barges have right of way

However, if we are ever going to see Belgium, Germany, France, Poland, Denmark, United Kingdom and all the other countries linked to the European waterways - we have to move on.

Hopefully more family, friends and acquaintances will join us. Will we be able to share more of our experiences?

Meanwhile, I thought I would share my boating tips. Hope you find them useful.

Make sure to pack the following: -
  • weatherproof/windproof/waterproof/warm jacket
  • peak hat/sun hat
  • non-slip light coloured sole shoes
  • slip slops for the communal showers 
  • running shoes
  • sunscreen
  • sunglasses
  • biodegradable shower gel/shampoo
  • scarfs that double as sarongs
  • cheap gloves for handling the ropes
  • heavy duty bags that double up as laundry bags, toiletry bags, shopping bags etc
  • cash - cards are not accepted in all countries - Netherlands is one of them
  • small change for the showers and water and electricity supply - usually 50c
  • plug adaptors for any gadgets - think mobile phones or tablets
  • comfortable clothes for climbing on and off the boat
  • phrase book or app with the local language
  • consider loading or similar app on your phone
And for boaters: -
  • maps of the waterways in the area either on-line or hard copies
  • required waterway books
  • your local flag and any other required flags
  • mini binoculars to read signs/buoys/boats on the waterways 
My Top Boating Tips are: -

Traditional Dutch boat under sail
1.    Take gloves. I use cheap gloves from the hardware store. Even if your hands aren't tender. Thick course ropes can shred your skin when you tie up for the night or secure your boat in the locks.

2.    Do try and learn basic phrases in the local language. Most Europeans speak a lot more English than they let on. However you are in THEIR country where they have been speaking their mother tongue for eons. It's only polite to make an effort to speak the local language and not expect them to accommodate you. Besides you will need to buy provisions, read notices or maps and ask questions of the lock keepers and locals.

3.    Pack sun-hats and sunscreen. The sun does shine in Europe. It can get quite hot.

4.    And a warm windbreaker. It also needs to be weatherproof/waterproof. It rains a lot in Europe. It's usually colder on the water than on land.
Dutch cash card machines

5.    It would be wise to have some boat handling skills. And perhaps get to know a few boating terms like cleat, bollard, port, starboard or fender? No formal qualifications are required but a boat can be unpredictable in currents and wind. If the "captain" is speaking in boat-ese, it helps to know what s/he is saying.

6.    Pack light-coloured sole shoes so as not to mark the boat and make sure they are non-slip. Leaping on and off a boat for locks and moorings is required. Make sure your shoes won't be falling off.

Waiting for a bridge to open in Leiden
7.    Bring a cap, top or something to connect you to your home country.We have met expats and made new friends by flying our South African flag.  People greet their fellow countrymen with gusto abroad. And we have made friends when people recognised our flag and shared memories of a trip to South Africa. Or they enquired where we are from. But we have also met locals who love it that we are taking an interest in their country.

8.    Pack running shoes. A walk exploring the town or a run along the tow path is a great way to relax at the end of the day to stretch your legs. Besides you never know how far away the nearest supermarket will be?

9.    It is mostly older and retired people who do these trips and while they aren't strenuous they do require some effort. You will be jumping on and off boats and heaving ropes. You have to walk to the shops.
Bus service in Haarlem

10.     Go easy on the water when on a boat. Most boats come with about 200 litres tanks - which is not a lot. Get into the habit of re-using water for dishes. When showering use the spray to wet yourself. Switch off while you soap to conserve water. And only turn the tap on again when you need to rinse. Save shaving and shampooing for when you are in a marina where they have facilities. We try to use marinas when we have visitors on our boat.

Weather report Lelystad
11.    Learn a few basic knots. Fenders have to be moved up and down depending on the mooring. A Clove Hitch, Round Turn and Two Half Hitches are a good place to start. And it helps to know how to make a figure of 8 on a cleat to secure the boat so it doesn't float away.

12.    Boating is NOT glamorous. Pack comfortable clothes that you can move in and make sure you don't mind if they get a bit grubby. Your clothes will be washed in a communal facility. You are going to be using basic facilities in a communal ablution block.

Essential guide books

For more on other places we have visited, go to the top of this page and open - My Holidays and Trips.

I will be back soon.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Boating in Holland - Part 7

Boating in Holland

Click here - to go to the start of this journey.

The following day the weather improved slightly. Since we hadn't seen much of Haarlem we decided to stay on and do the walking tour together.

The walk is supposed to be 90 mins. We took a 30 minute lunch break and yet somehow managed to drag the walk out to 3 hours. Lunch was at a cute vintage style cafe called In Den Gevulde Broodmand Tea Salon.

We had belegde broodjies which are filled slices of bread. And coffees. Very, very nice. Our walk included historical old buildings but also streets where residents had planted lots of greenery. Our map got drenched with all the rain.
Lunch stop in Haarlem

Back at the boat we freshened up and ate supper, then walked back up to the main square to watch the Netherlands vs Argentina game in the Soccer World Cup quarter finals. I really, really wanted Holland to win. I so badly wanted to be part of the winning celebrations. The Dutch sure know how to party. We had been following the games and invested so much interest in this tournament.

The game was yet another goal-less draw. And yet another round of play either way. Again no result. At penalty shoot out the Dutch goalie let in two balls. That was it for the Dutch team! I wanted to cry. Everyone filed out of the pub and walked silently. I saw people crying. It was so, so sad.

The weather had now turned hot. Amazing how we can be in winter woolies one day, and dying of heat the next. Our destination was Amsterdam. A busy port and a bustling city. With two extra folk on board I could relax a bit. It's nice to
Six Haven Amsterdam
have other people enjoy this experience with us. We see things through their eyes and share what we have learned about the Netherlands. We went via Noorszee Kanal through Spaarndam Sluis. Lots of big barges and marine traffic on this route.

Amsterdam has a couple of marinas but the one everyone mentioned was Six Haven. So we went there. It's right opposite Amsterdam Centraal Station. Crossing over the channel with so much big boat activity was a bit nerve wracking but we have a great captain. Six Haven has box berths. A
Box style berths
really tight squeeze. The extra hands on deck were most welcome. Access on and off the boat was over bow - which requires some dexterity. After lunch we had a relaxing afternoon. Some of us slept off the late night before.

We decided to go into Amsterdam and have a drink in Damrak. We donned our glad rags and took the free ferry across. We've seen so much of The Netherlands now that we can make comparisons. Damrak is at the very heart of Amsterdam's tourist area. It's heaving with humans and to be honest, not a true reflection of how people live in The Netherlands.

If only visitors knew that a mere 20 minutes from where they are, it's much quieter, friendlier and way more authentic. My advice
Sunset on the River Ij Amsterdam
after all this time in Holland is get out of Amsterdam and go to Haarlem, Edam, Gouda or Delft. Public transport in Holland is excellent.

After our drinks we stopped at the supermarket - Albert Heijn - and bought items to make a BBQ (or braai as South Africans call it). Back on the boat we got the BBQ fired up and had a very late meal. And wine.

We left all the portholes and hatches open to allow cool air to flow in as it was hot - but also humid. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up with water falling on my face. A massive thunderstorm had come up and rain was pouring in via the hatch above our bed. My other
Broek aan de Waterland
half scrambled to close all the porthole windows and the hatches in the dark. He came back inside dripping wet. Bold flashes of lightning and thunder ensued and then as quickly as it started, it was over.

Edam was our next port of call. The amenities at Six Haven were OK. We all spruced up, got ourselves dressed and ready to make an early start. Breakfast was an en-route affair. We decided to travel along the scenic inland route to Edam as opposed to going via the Markemeer. Our boat passed through Broek aan de Waterland
Broek aan de Waterland
where I could easily live. It's a narrow waterway with lilies and loads of boho homes.

A person has to be wide awake and know to look out for wire operated ferries. The last thing a person wants is to get tangled in the personal wire operated boats. We expected the route to Monnickendam would narrow and shallow. But not THAT shallow. At times the echo sounder showed NO space beneath us. We heard the boat touch the bottom of the canal a good few times. We also lost time as we had to wait for dredging vessels to move so we could pass them.

We got to Grafelijkheid Sluis. Have I mentioned
All navigation gear and awnings down
my partner is a planner de luxe? He had planned this trip - months in advance. The mandatory Dutch charts showed the lock first and THEN the bridge at 3.9m. Our boat is 4.8m at full height. Minus the radar arch we get to 3.65 which should have been fine.

What we discovered as we got there is the bridge is right over the lock. And the lock goes up! I guess I thought a lock keeper would be around to manage the situation. Or even check all was OK before going ahead. But no.

The lock closed behind us. The water level started rising. Right under the bridge! We only had 30cm to spare. Our boat was about to get crushed. The awnings had to be dropped in seconds.
Connecting to shore power in Haarlem
Oh, and we had to also hold onto the ropes to stop the boat crashing as the water rushed into the lock. Mega stress! But we got it right.

Thank God we had extra people on board helping. I could not have done it alone with Patrick.

For more on other places we have visited, go to the top of this page and open - My Holidays and Trips.

I will be back soon.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Boating in Holland - Part 6

Boating in Holland

Music festival Kaag Eiland
We went back to the pub at 21.30pm and found the place heaving with Team Orange supporters. Not a spare bit of space. But they were all smoking inside the pub which was a surprise. I cannot bear second-hand smoke so we decided to watch the game through the window. And got chatting to locals in a mix of English, Afrikaans and Dutch. People back home often ask if

Dutch and Afrikaans are the same. The Dutch were the first European settlers in South Africa. The Portuguese got there first but did not settle. Yes. And No. Highbrow newspapers are impossible to understand. If we read coloquial
Kaag Muziekfestival
Dutch we can
mostly understand it. I will give a few examples with the Dutch word first and the the Afrikaans word second. Rice = rijst/rys. You = jouw/jou. New = nu/nuwe. But then other words are completely different. Kitchen = keuken/kombuis. Hospital = ziekenhuis/hospitaal. Chicken = kip/hoender. Lemon = citroen/suurlemoen. Peanuts = pindas/grondbone. But also, it's the way the Dutch people pronounce their words. Leg = is spelled as - been - in both Dutch and Afrikaans.
Amenities Kaag Eiland
The Dutch
say it as bain or bayn. In Afrikaans it's said as bee-in. We get by with a combo of all three languages. Luckily almost every Dutch person I have met speaks English - but also - they are willing to speak English.

The game started at 22.00pm. It was emotionally draining. Costa Rica and The Netherlands ended the game with goal-less draw. They went on to rounds of 15 minutes each way. Still no result. Finally they had penalty shoot outs and The Netherlands saved two goals. Much cause for celebration and our new friend bought us a round of drinks. Our new best friend did say that although Netherlands won, he felt it wasn't actually a victory as they hadn't WON the game through
Laundrette Kaag Eiland
play. We stayed until 01.30am and then snuck away for some much needed sleep.

Kaag Eiland have an annual music festival and the following day was festival day. I have to be honest, most small towns in Holland are peaceful and I wasn't expecting the festival to be all that. How wrong was I? They set up bands all over Kaag Eiland at various pubs, eateries and under stalls. We listened to some blistering blues and solid good old fashioned rock. They had a bit of jazz, swing and pop going on too. We bought a Heineken and some frites from one of the foodie stands. Kaag Eiland is a gorgoeus place. Postcard perfect. Who knew?

Shangri La moored in Kaag Eiland
After wandering around the island taking in various bands we ended up back near our marina where a band was doing covers of 80's numbers from the likes of Robert Palmer and Hall and Oates. The heavens opened and we all scrambled to boogie under an awning. This is why I love the boating scene. In front of me were three ladies dressed in designer duds worth a small fortune. I could see
Hooking up to shore power or Walstroom in Kaag Eiland
the labels on their handbags sitting on the table. I know what they paid for those bags. Next to them/us were the complete opposite folk. Hippy bohemian "couldn't give a shit" type people who live on their ramshackled boats. We all danced in the rain together and had a ball.

Our next destination was Haarlem. There were 11 bridges to pass in total. Our boat would not go under all of them. Also, some of the bridges only opened at fixed times as they were on busy roads/train tracks. We had to factor all this into our journey. We decided to bring down the radar
Coin operated fresh water Kaag Eiland
arch and awnings to help us make better progress. We did 22 kilometres in 3 hours. The speed limit is 9 kilometres an hour but there is always time lost waiting at the bridges.

Haarlem is immediately different to the places we just came from such as Delft and Leiden. It has a bohemian laid back vibe. Blokes walk around in long shorts and pony tails. None of the formal designer scene you get in Amsterdam. Lots of seriously old, slightly decayed buildings but without the twee hanging floral baskets with geraniums one finds in other areas. It also has a large industrial outer area. I have to say as a Capetonian, I LOVED Haarlem. But then I prefer Glasgow to Edinburgh which most people don't understand.

After tying up in Haarlem, we went for a walk to the main
Approaching Haarlem
square which every Dutch city/village has. And had a beer. We managed an early night. Well a not too late night, I should say. We tend to stay up far too late. The next morning we got up and went to find IKEA in heavy rain. We should have caught the
bus or train but we try to walk as much as we can - when we can. It's impossible to exercise on the boat.

Haarlem station
We had an early lunch at IKEA and stocked up on Swedish knäckebröd, Swedish beers, a few other items and walked back in the unrelenting rain. Next stop was the VVV to find out more about what to do in Haarlem. They had a walking tour but same deal as in Leiden - only in Dutch. We bought their booklet with the tour route and info for only €.50. Bargain!

Our next group of friends were arriving later that afternoon. They caught the Eurostar from London to Brussels and then to Amsterdam. There had been a power failure and a few of the train services had been cancelled. Luckily not theirs, but their trip was delayed. We met them at Haarlem Centraal Station, walked back to our boat and
Side street in Haarlem
had supper together inside the boat. Amenities at Haarlem were OK but not well serviced. I prefer not to find pubic hair in the basin.

Our travels continue - here.

Read my husband's take on our boating holidays in his blog - Waterway Wanderer.

For more on other places we have visited, go to the top of this page and open - My Holidays and Trips.

I will be back soon.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Boating in Holland - Part 5

Boating in Holland - Part 5

Read about this trip from the beginning by clicking on - this link.

Patrick went and found the Delft  havenmeester (harbour master) and paid €16.00 for the night.
Turns out there is/was a grand plan to upgrade the marina in Delft. The havenmeetser showed him the plan. But the whole deal went flat when the economy took a down-turn. The marina facilities were below the local restaurant. Unfortunately the water wasn't hot here either.

Our time was winding down. We kept getting waylayed in places and feared we would never get done. So the next day we got going toward Leiden. A 25 kilometre trip with 20 bridges and one lock. We could pass under the fixed bridges but we would not pass under the beweeg (moving) bridges without lowering our mast and awnings. Even then, we would still not have gotten under most of the bridges. Kanaalbrug and Reineveltbrug did not respond to our VHF requests to open
En route to Leiden
which stressed us out no end. The bridges are supposedly monitored via video surveillance. It took a while but they EVENTUALLY opened. Perhaps because other boats phoned?

Waiting for bridges made our travel time longer. Our big fear is always that we won't get a mooring. After Delft that was a more than reasonable fear.

We see so few other nationalities on the Dutch waterways. My guess is 98% of the flags flown on boats are
Kandelaar brug stayed firmly down
Dutch. One percent of boats have the German flag and the other 1% a  mix of everyone else. We saw a few Danish, Swiss and the odd UK flag. We saw 1 x Ozzie flag, 1 x USA flag, 1 x Canadian flag and 1 x Swedish flag. This is over 6 months during 2013 and 2014. Clearly everyone goes to Amsterdam. Which is such a huge pity. I mentioned earlier that Gouda was probably nicer than Amsterdam. But after seeing Delft, I would say Delft was even nicer.

Coming in toward Leiden we passed two marinas which had no free passanten (places). If we didn't get a space in Leiden proper we were going to be
Dutch sloep or dinghy
in trouble. Fortunately Leiden has plenty mooring space. Thank God! A super friendly havenmeester and really helpful boaty folk helped us tie up in the box passanten which are tricky to negotiate. Relief!

The facilities were good. No Wifi unfortunately. (The Dutch call it wiffy) But unlimited hot water and electricity via tokens. The weather was fabulous. They were having a heatwave. The Dutch never let a ray of sunlight go amiss. There were barest of bodies on display on the boats as people lay basking in the sun. The marina is next to pubs, cafes and restaurants. It was a Thursday
Doing a self guided walk in Leiden
night. Holland is dead Sunday to Tuesday. Even Amsterdam. Dead, dead, dead. But from Wednesday to Saturday they sure make up. We could hear people laughing and revelry until well past 12pm. Even as late at 2am people were singing with all their might on the quay and in passing sloep (dinghy) boats.

We read the brochures the havenmeester gave us and found a Leiden City Walk for €3.00 per person at 11.30am. Seemed like a great idea, so we went to the Tourism Office and guess what? The tour guide did not speak English. I have to say
Precarious mooring in Leiden
that is the first time in my life I have encountered a group tour guide who does not speak English. And also the first I've heard of a Dutch person in a city who can't speak English. Might explain why so few people travel past Amsterdam.

We bought a book with the walking tour and followed the walk ourselves. With a lunch stop included, the walk took us 3 hours.

Afterwards I stopped in at De Tuinen, a local health shop chain, to get something for my allergies which were driving me bonkers. I battle as I am not immune to the local pollens.
Box style moorings in Leiden

We had been lucky with fabulous weather but the minute we untied our boat to get going - the heavens opened. We drove in pouring rain to Kaag Eiland. We made such good time that we got lost. My other half was looking at the wrong part of the map for bearings. He finally figured it out and we tied up in the rain at Kaagdorp haven (harbour). They have Wifi but our boat was so far from the signal I had to sit at the very back of the boat in the flipping rain to get one bar of signal. Which kept dropping anyway. That's how it is on the waterways. Sigh!

Homes near Marina in Leiden
Kaag Eiland has no supermarket. A boat comes along and sells provisions to the locals. We missed it unfortunately. Holland was playing a game in the Soccer Cup so we showered early and headed up to the local bar. We got to the pub too early so had a German beer and watched the Belgium vs Argentine game. Then went back to our boat for supper. My other half and I used up the spare time catching up on comms, logs, saving photos and the usual stuff.

Cuisine this end of the world is not exactly vegan. Or vegetarian for that matter. The kind of thing they had on the menu was bitterballen (meat balls). Usually some type of crumbed fried meat balls with frites (French fries). Or maybe a cheese, egg and ham sandwich called an Uitsmijter. Desert or sweet is almost always Appelgebak (apple pie) with Slagroom (whipped
Dutch menu
cream). The Dutch love strong coffee. Even the tiniest boat will have some kind of coffee making device. It's not uncommon to smell the aroma of coffee in the morning at the marinas. We prefer to self cater on our boat given our narrow dietary choices.

For more on other places we have visited, go to the top of this page and open - My Holidays and Trips.

And now for something completely different. I've started a new raw vegan blog. Find it - here. I already have an established eco fashion blog called -
Greenie Dresses for Less. I'm juggling three blogs!!

I will be back soon.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Boating in Holland - Part 4

Boating in Holland - Part 4

Mini world museum Rotterdam
This journey starts - in this post.

Another late start the next day. No surprise. Our friends packed up and we walked with them to the tram station. We also went to the central station. They went on to Zandfoort and we went to Mini World to finally see the model railway layout.

Mini World is - without doubt - the best model railway I have ever seen. The attention to detail defies belief. They recreate areas of Holland from sections of Rotterdam's Europort, to polders, to farms, to pre-war and post-war architecture. And they recreate modern day scenes such as a music festival, an archaeological dig with dinosaur bones and a beach with a nudie section. They even have emegency scenes such as a building on fire and a plane crashed into a roof. The lights dim about every 20
River Maas Rotterdam
minutes and you get night-time activities. It's well worth seeing just for spotting the fun bits.

Back at our boat we got cracking with laundry. Fortunately Veerhaven had a launderette. We had four full loads. A wash costs €2.50 and a dry costs €2.50. Much cheaper than most other laundrettes. While that was going on we caught up on comms, our diaries and logs, sizing and saving photos and all the stuff we probably don't actually need, but like to record.

Picasso statue Rotterdam
We opted to stay yet another day in Rotterdam. There is a helluva lot to see and do and on checking the tourist map we realised we wanted more time. So after a late and lazy start to the day, we went walk-about. Why does it always rain when we want to explore a place on foot? This time we walked along the waterfront and veered toward Binnenrotte area where there are lots of eateries. We stocked up at Marqt, one of our favourite eco friendly food stores. Then we walked the other way along the waterfront to Het Park and the Euromast. We passed on going up the Euromast which was €9.50. But there is lots going on there. Have a meal, stay the night, go abseiling or just admire the view.

Rotterdam is so completely different to Amsterdam. It was hit
Euromast from Het Park Rotterdam
hard during the war and has lots of newer and taller buildings. It's the most culturally mixed city in The Netherlands. The current mayor is a practicing Muslim. I really liked Rotterdam and could have stayed another day but we had to keep going. Rotterdam was the most expensive marina to date. We paid €24.00 per night. The cheapest we've paid was €10.00.

Our favourite store - everything is organic
The next trip was to Delft. What a beautiful place. But my goodness the marina is awful. They are busy spending a small fortune upgrading the train station, yet there is space for only 7 boats in the marina. All 7 spaces were full by the time we got there, not surprisingly. We went back and found 4 more parking places on a
busy road outside the marina. There were 2 spare so we took one. No facilities. No services. Half the problem with Delft is big passenger ships hog what little space there is for pleasure boats. And then for some reason they don't allow mooring on about 70% of the actual space within the marina.

Delft is a gorgeous place. A student town, so it has a fun feel. They have preserved their old buildings and kept as much of the history as possible. It has lots of green trees and waterways with lilies in
Belgian beers in Delft
bloom. There is also an IKEA about 2 kilometres from the city centre on a bus route. Very handy since we needed a few more things for our boat and so made sure we stopped by IKEA. We also had a bargain lunch at IKEA and stocked up on our favourite Swedish foods.

Our road side stop outside Delft wasn't great. For some reason our boat water was cold. Icy showers for both of us. We had big barges belting past on the one side of our boat and cars and lorries on the other. The following day we decided to give up on Delft and head for Leiden. As we were going through Delft we saw an open space. We instantly changed our minds and grabbed the parking place. The marina rules say you can only berth for 24 hours but we weren't sure people
Delftware in Delft
would adhere to them. We tied up and went exploring again. We had a lunch at Bagels and Beans - one of our favourite fast food chains in The Netherlands.

I had invited a friend for supper, so we shopped up at Eko Plaza - our other favourite organic food store - and went back to the boat to make a meal. I got horribly carried away and ended up making a 4 course dinner. We had veggie rice paper wraps
Stadhuis Delft
with peanut soy dipping sauce. Next was a curried carrot and butternut soup. Main course was mushroom and tomato wholewheat pasta with a celery, pea and potato salad and crispy fried tempeh. For desert I made ginger honeyed apricots with soy yogurt and caramelised sugar crumble.

Read Part 5 by clicking - here.

For more on other places we have visited, go to the top of this page and open - My Holidays and Trips.

I will be back soon.