Wednesday, April 29, 2009


If anyone has been anxiously awaiting my next post, I apologize. Technically, we arrived in Leeuwarden day before yesterday, but we spent that first night at the waiting area for the first of eight bridges we needed to clear to get to the city center. There was no Internet, and we couldn’t even go ashore because the waiting area was about 10 feet from the side of the canal.

We lingered in Sneek because it wasn’t expensive and we both had Internet. Although we did go look at the Waterpoort (water gate) and visited the maritime museum, which was pretty good, other than that we didn’t find much to see there. It’s a pleasant town, though.

Waterpoort in Sneek

We left Sneek around 11 o’clock Monday morning thinking that it would take us about five hours to get to Leeuwarden, and that’s what it should have taken. However, when we got close to Leeuwarden, we saw a big yellow sign by the canal indicating that the standing mast route to Leeuwarden was via some canals that I thought were too shallow for us. We ignored that sign reasoning that the Prinses Margrietkanaal (Princess Margriet Canal), which we were in, went to Grongingen and on to Germany, so we would just go the way we had planned. Then we saw another sign saying that the bridge we needed (the Fonejachtbrug) was closed to small vessels. According to the regs, that’s us. When we saw the Fonejachtbrug in the distance, there were no other sailboats in sight, so we decided to go ask at the yacht harbor back at the designated standing mast route.

We touched bottom lightly getting into the canal, but we were getting used to that. Then we grounded again at the yacht harbor fuel dock. But finally we found people to talk with, and they assured us that the canals were a minimum of 1.9 meters deep if we stayed in the middle (our draft is 1.86 meters), so we decided to try it.

The detour was very picturesque taking us through one village and past another, through a couple of drawbridges (one collecting a toll by means of a wooden shoe on the end of a fishing line), past farms with pretty farmhouses, and finally over the freeway on an aqueduct to join the Van Harinxmakanaal just southeast of Leeuwarden, which was back on our planned route. That’s where the eight bridges come into the story.

Example of picturesque

It was just before 4 pm when we reached the first bridge. According to the schedule I was looking at, we had until 4:15 when the bridges would close for an hour and then reopen until 7 pm. Suddenly, the lights on the bridge switched from one red to two reds instead of the red over green that means that they’re going to open the bridge. I was annoyed, but John said we would just tie up at the waiting area and wait.

That was its own adventure. We had 20 to 25 knots on our beam there, and it took us three tries to get the boat secured to the pilings at the waiting area. Then I went below to check the schedule again in preparation for complaining about the bridge tender closing early. That’s when I saw that there were some exceptions to the general schedule and that they were listed on another page. Sure enough, the bridge we were facing (and all of the rest ahead of us) closed at 4 pm for two hours, reopening at 6 for only one hour—not enough time to get through all of the rest of the bridges. That’s why we spent the night there.

The eight bridges (one is always open) the next morning were sort of fun, and John is working on a video of them. The last one is the first of a series through the main part of Leeuwarden, and they collect a toll, again via a wooden shoe. This time John got video of that too.

Today we went to one of the museums, which took us through city center. We like it. Tomorrow is Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), and almost everything is closed, so we’ll go see what that’s about and maybe put the dinghy in the water to go exploring.

Pretty canal in Leeuwarden

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