Sunday, August 31, 2008

First week in review

Our first week in our new marina has been full of exploring and visiting with old friends. We’ve had a wonderful time and have been too busy doing things to have time for updating the blog.

Wednesday Marike took us to the Museum Jan van der Togt in Amstelveen to see the Anton Heyboer exhibit there. Heyboer, who died in 2005, was a famous Dutch artist and personality and Marike’s husband. It was really special to have Marike to show us Anton’s work, and the museum director, Jan Verschoor, made us feel very welcome. Jan is a sculptor himself, and we were invited into his personal apartment with some other people, where we got to see art that isn’t on display in the museum proper. The photo is of Marike and me in front of a Heyboer painting that the museum purchased.

Thursday night we went to the Democrats Abroad Netherlands all-night gathering to watch Barak Obama’s acceptance speech. It was fun to meet some other Americans, and we found out, among other things, where we can buy corn tortillas. The guys who gave us the tip had actually been pressing their own tortillas from polenta before they located the mother lode to supply both corn tortillas and masa. Also, our gathering was covered by Dutch television, and we were shown on the news the next day. Although we were interviewed, that portion was cut, and we only show up clearly at the end. Here’s a link to a clip from the show called EénVandaag, but it’s in Dutch.

Friday afternoon Marike came by and spent the afternoon. It’s so good to get acquainted with her again. She gave me a carnelian necklace and bracelet for my birthday and brought lots of books about Anton Heyboer so that I can learn more about her life these past 30+ years.

Saturday the sun came out, and it was a beautiful summer day. Esmeralda and her boyfriend, Mark, came to see us, and we had wine and hapjes (snacks or nibbles) in the cockpit. She looks great (as you can see), and Mark is very nice. We’re looking forward to seeing more of them. Esmeralda brought me the latest Kathy Reichs paperback, Bones to Ashes, which is much appreciated especially since Reichs is one of my favorite authors.

Saturday evening Anouk came to visit and we went out for a yummy Chinese dinner. It turns out that the best Indonesian restaurants are closer to where Anouk lives in Amstelveen, so one of these days we’ll join Anouk and her family for rijstafel in her neighborhood. As you can see in the photo, Anouk looks great too. She's still tan from her summer in Spain.

Unfortunately, birthday greetings from my sister also brought the news that my dad is in the hospital. Reports are that he’s doing well, and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Getting settled

All the staff at Marina Westerdok and the owner, Nauticadam, are great. They’re all making us feel very welcome here as we pester them with questions while we settle in.

The harbor master, Sjoerd, is a very nice, and very busy, young man. We had a chance to get better acquainted with him yesterday afternoon. It turned out that the boat that was in our slip was his, but someone else had put it there, and he didn’t know. And it wasn’t scrap lumber (that was just my impression), but rather nice teak boards. In his spare time, Sjoerd and a friend are restoring the boat, which is pre-WWI vintage. Anyway, it’s all sorted out now. No worries.

The general manager of Nauticadam, Jorrit (or Troy for rolled-r-challenged Americans), is another nice young man. Troy lived in San Francisco for a number of years at 15th and Guerrero, and we’ve hit it off quite well. (In fact, we left the old neighborhood before Troy did.) I didn’t quite catch the name of the third member of the management team, but I think it was Shara. Anyway, she has been helpful in identifying markets for shopping for various things. Everyone has been wonderful, and I’m really liking it here.

The photo of the Brouwersgracht street sign is in honor of our friends from Indigo, Greg and Kathy, who used to live on the Brouwersgracht (assuming that I’m remembering correctly). This is only a few blocks from Marina Westerdok.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Marina Westerdok

This morning we joined the queue of boats leaving Sixhaven Marina, and then crossed the river IJ, called to have two bridges opened for us, and finally arrived at Marina Westerdok to find a black scow with scrap lumber in it tied up at our spot. What’s more, the harbor master is off sailing in the IJsselmeer. We had already used all of our prepaid phone minutes talking with Anouk yesterday evening, so we couldn’t call the harbor master ourselves, but the skipper of a tour boat helped us out and called him. She told us that we were just supposed to tie up somewhere for now. Not pleased with that answer, we rafted up with the boat in front of our slip so I could hop off and get more minutes to call the harbor master myself. He told me the same thing, but he sounded very calm. I told him what we’d done, and he said it was fine and he’ll be back this evening.

The really good news is that there’s an open wi-fi hotspot in the area, so we’re temporarily connecting to it. It’s kind of nice to have a quiet day to catch up with things. We can’t really leave the boat the way it is. Already we’ve moved from the boat that we were rafted with in order to let some neighbors leave the dock. We were blocking the channel for them. (And they too called the harbor master.) Now we’re tied to the dock outside of the boat that’s in our spot, so if the owner comes to move the boat, we’ll have to let him out. The neighbors were very nice and friendly, so already we’re getting acquainted, and I think we’ll like it here very much.

The photo is the view off our stern. The bridge is for the trains, but they’re quiet, electric trains, so it isn’t like Tacoma except for the weather. On the map, look under the B on the grid and you’ll see the “We are here” label. (You clicked on the map to get the big picture, right?) We’re definitely within easy walking distance of the sights and activities.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Amsterdam, yes, Internet, not so much

We arrived in Amsterdam yesterday and found a spot at Sixhaven Marina. The marina deserves a story of its own, and that will follow, but I wanted to be sure that those of you who were awaiting notice that we'd landed would get it sooner rather than later.

Critical things to do have been finding our permanent marina for the winter and getting a phone. We accomplished those yesterday and also talked with Esmeralda. Since we haven't been able to get Internet on the boat, I didn't have any way to contact Marike, and we don't have Anouk's phone number. Marike was resourceful and saw our position report, so she showed up at the marina this morning as we were leaving to find an Internet cafe and contact her. It was so great to see her, and it definitely made my day.

We're moving to our new marina tomorrow but may not have Internet right away. It is promised one way or another, though, so please be patient, and we'll be back online with blog entries, individual emails, and photo pages on the website. Meanwhile, the best way to be sure to hear from us is to email us or post a comment.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Up is down

Having made incredibly good time from Ostend to IJmuiden, we decided not to stop there but to continue on to Amsterdam. First we waited about an hour for the sun to rise behind the clouds so that we could see what we were doing. Then we headed straight for the lock on the North Sea Canal. After only a very short wait, the bridge opened to let us into the lock, and we tied off like pros. Suddenly John noticed that we were going down. After the Panama Canal and the lock at Ostend and based on our intuition, we expected to go up to go inland. But, no, we're in the Netherlands (which means low country) and they call it that for a reason.

So as I write this, we're motoring toward Amsterdam, below sea level, and we've finally arrived in Holland.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Continuing on

It looks like today is the day we finally start the last leg to the Netherlands. Whoopee!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

VMMK, an awesome museum

Ostend has a museum of modern art that is known by its initials, VMMK (Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst). It’s a good thing that the weather kept us here longer or we would have missed it, and that would have been too bad. We went yesterday and were amazed at how good it is and how large. All of the artists seem to be Belgian, and most are from West Flanders, the province we’re in. It was really awesome. If you like modern art and are going to be in Belgium, we recommend this as a side trip. You can get some idea of it from their website.

The gale warnings are gone from the British shipping forecast for our area, but significant gusts are still predicted, so we’re staying one more day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Extending our Ostend stay

This is the day we had thought we would leave Belgium for the Netherlands. The North Sea weather forecasts, however, indicate that we should stay where we are for a couple more days. We’re comfortable here, and you can’t beat the convenience of the location, so we’re fine with that.

Having enjoyed the waterzooi so much, we used Google to find more Flemish recipes. There’s an interesting site called Recipes from Belgium. (It's plain HTML, so it loads quickly, which is good for us.) John has been admiring the veal at the grocery store, so he picked a Flemish veal stew for his encore. Tomorrow night I’m going to make meatloaf.

It’s good to use the stove and oven because then we don’t need the furnace as much. Our family tells us it’s been hot in Oregon, but it certainly hasn’t been here. I think we only had one day in the past week that didn’t have some rain. We’re hoping for an Indian summer (I wonder what the Dutch call that) because if the rain starts in August and continues until spring, it’s going to be a very long winter.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


John has been instant messaging with our friend Jeffrey in the SF Bay area. We traveled to Brussels in 2004 with Jeffrey and his partner, Karan, and one of the highlights of that trip was dinner at a Flemish-style restaurant. Three of the four of us had waterzooi with chicken. (I had something else equally yummy.) Anyway, Jeffrey reminded John about that dinner, so John looked up some recipes on Google, and tonight we had a wonderful Belgian dinner served with a Pinot Gris from Alsace.

John used a combination of Rachel Ray’s waterzooi recipe on Foodnetwork and the Homebrew Chef’s recipe. Since Flemish cooking traditionally uses beer, we figure the Homebrew Chef’s recipe is a bit more authentic, and John definitely used good Belgian beer in his version. We had broth left over, so tomorrow John is going to add some potatoes and fish, and we’ll have another wonderful dinner.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bruges and Ostend

As promised, today we returned to Bruges. First on the agenda was climbing the bell tower to view the city. This was a serious bit of exercise, but the view was worth it. They charge you to do this, so we used our second-to-the-last prepaid stamp on it. The last one we used on the Arentshuis, a small museum showing the works of the artist Frank Brangwyn. We’d never heard of him either, but he died in 1956, so we figured the works would be more secular than those in the church museums. We weren’t disappointed.

The train stations in both Ostend and Bruges were oddly quiet at 9 a.m. on a Friday, and our train tickets were at the reduced weekend rate. When we tried to go grocery shopping upon our return to Ostend, we learned that it was a national holiday. We had to look it up on the Internet, though, to find out what holiday. Any Catholics or lapsed Catholics reading this probably know, it’s Assumption Day. Not being Catholic, I had to look up what Assumption Day was after I found out that was the holiday. Except for the grocery store closing early and everyone sleeping in this morning, it seemed to be a pretty normal start of a long weekend. For a change the weather has been gorgeous. That’s supposed to change tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bruges, Brussels, and back to Bruges

Brugge market square
Buildings along market square in Brugge

We’ve been very busy the past two days. Yesterday we went to Bruges on the bus and did the first part of a walking tour. When we got there, we bought a pass to five museums. It only took one to discover that we weren’t going to be able to do all five in one day. The pass doesn’t let us skip ahead in line, and the lines are long for the most popular places. It’s summer and Bruges is a famous medieval city. So we’re going back tomorrow. This time we’re taking the train. Our bus ride took more than an hour, and it was interesting to go through the little towns along the way, but the train only takes 13 minutes, and we’ve already seen those little towns.

Today we went to Brussels. In 2004 when we visited there with Jeffrey and Karan, we really liked the fine arts museum, especially the modern art part, and wanted to return. We found an excursion through the Belgian railway for round-trip train fare plus the Royal Museum of Fine Art and the Musical Instrument Museum for €20 each. Since normal round-trip train fare mid-week is almost €30, it was a good deal.

We bought a five-day pass for Flemish buses and trams before we went to Bruges, so we’re going to do more exploring around here over the weekend. There’s a world music festival going on in a neighboring town on Saturday, so we’ll go see what that’s about, and there’s also a modern art museum right here in Ostend that we haven’t seen.

A note about spelling: Everything here has at least two spellings (Dutch and French), and most have three (something different for English). For example, the English spelling where we are is Ostend, Dutch is Oostende, and French is Ostende. Then there’s Brussels/Brussel/Bruxelles (English/Dutch/French). So if it looks like I’m misspelling something, maybe I’m just being multilingual.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mercator Marina, Oostend, Belgium

Neighboring local boat showing Dutch spelling of the town's name

In order to get to this marina we motor-sailed about 10 miles northeast of Nieuwpoort and waited outside the entrance to the harbor for the green lights. The harbors here use International Port Traffic Signals. When we arrived, it was red for a ferry coming out plus a flotilla of really little sailboats for a children’s regatta. Then it switched to green-white-green, which means you need permission to enter. We waited awhile green-green, meaning we could go, but I wasn’t sure they were going to show that, so I called for permission. They said to wait. We had to wait through another red before we finally got our greens.

From our stern looking back at the entrance to the marina

Then once we were in, we called Mercator Marina. It’s inside a lock, so we needed to let them know we were coming and get instructions. The fact that we would have to go through a lock to get here was one reason I’d picked Nieuwpoort instead to start out with, but we’re going to have to do locks eventually, so we might as well get used to it. This was a good place to learn, except for the crowds lining the lock walls watching us. The short story is that we had some problems and got turned sideways in the lock, but we got straightened out again, didn't break anything, and learned from our mistakes. The major thing was that we didn’t have our lines set up right, and the bowline got fouled, so we didn’t get tied off quickly enough. When we left the lock and tied up to wait for the bridge to open, we did better.

Tall ship Mercator, for which the marina is named, securely anchored off our bow

Once we got settled, we went exploring. There’s a huge grocery store just across the drawbridge from us, so we picked up a few things and dropped them off at the boat and then walked along the Kappellestraat, the major pedestrian-only shopping street, which is on our side of the bridge. We walked all the way to the beach, not that far really, and on the way back finally found our frites and beer in a little café (more a Belgian fast-food place) that appeared to be on the edge of the respectable part of the shopping district. A bar called Bada Bing was across the way and a tattoo parlor just down the street. One medium order of frites between us satisfied our craving, so now we can see what else Belgian cuisine has to offer. It looks like it’s mostly chocolate, waffles, and pancakes. Whether the pancakes are Dutch style or French crepes, we’ve yet to discover.

Treats we have been resisting, but it isn't easy

Sunday, August 10, 2008

40 hour passage + rain in Belgium = new photos

We've had time to add photos to the website. There are five new photo pages. Go to our home page and use the links under "Recent Additions." The same links also appear under "Latest Additions" on the main photo page.

Raining in Belgium

What are the odds? Well, actually in August, I guess they aren’t that great. The locals say this weather definitely isn’t normal. Summer weather is usually nice.

Yesterday we walked to town to find a baker and get more baguette. Also on the agenda was Belgian beer and frites (French fries but better). Alas, they don’t seem to sell just an order of frites where they also sell beer. We saw a couple of walk-away frites places, but when we gave up and went back, they were closed. We did have a local beer, though.

Not on the agenda but a real bonus was an outdoor art show that was going on around the town hall and market plaza. We liked several of the artists, enough so that if we were still buying art, we would have been tempted. And even though we weren’t buying, it was fun to look.

I’m using my Dutch more and more. It’s really helpful in the stores where the signs are in Dutch, but I’m also trying to speak more. Clearly my accent is terrible, and I’m sometimes misunderstood or not understood at all, but I’m trying not to switch back to English. John noticed in the marina office that the staff bore with me and didn’t switch to English until they noticed John and I speaking English with each other. So there’s hope. For his part, John really likes Normandy and is thinking of taking French lessons this winter. Pretty cool, I think.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

At the dock in Nieuwpoort

We arrived and tied up at the reception dock here at 7:30 a.m. after an exciting night of threading our way through well-marked and lighted channels from Calais in the dark. We aren't sure if we'll stay here more than one night. A local has already advised us to go on to Oostend, so if they have room for us, that's what we'll probably do. Stay tuned for updates.

Friday, August 8, 2008

It's farther than I thought

We're making good progress on our way to Nieuwpoort, going faster for six hours and slow for six as the currents change. But I revisited the mileage tables and discovered that Nieuwpoort is about two full days from Cherbourg, not the day and a half I thought. It doesn't really matter; it's just two nights out instead of one. But in case anyone is counting the hours until our arrival, I wanted to let you know.


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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Moving on

Later this morning we’re leaving Cherbourg and heading on to Nieuwpoort, Belgium. We’ve had a wonderful time here, thanks in no small part the last few days to Sue and Laurie Stoll of Princess Sue.

Originally from the Brighton area, Sue and Laurie have been living here on their motor yacht for the past 18 months. Shirlee met Sue in the laundry room where Sue was helping the newcomers figure out how to use the machines. When we discovered we were on the same pontoon, a book exchange ensued. Then they invited us on a store run in their car, and when they learned we were thinking of renting a car to visit some of the D-Day landing sites, they offered to take us.

Getting to ride in a car to the store and cart back provisions was a much-appreciated treat, but the trip yesterday to the Normandy American Cemetery and the town of Bayeux was really wonderful. Sue and Laurie had been before and could tell us things we wouldn’t have known otherwise. For example, French servicemen from WWII visit and tend assigned graves several times a year. Sue and Laurie went with a French friend on one of his visits earlier this year. We are so lucky that we met this very generous couple and hope that we’ll see them again. In fact, we’re talking about meeting up in Amsterdam while we’re there.

Another thing I forgot to mention falls in the small world category. Between the Azores and here, we heard an American boat Dandelion on Southbound II. A few days after we arrived, I saw Dandelion come into Cherbourg, so I went over to say hello. Somehow it came out that the owner, Andrew, was originally from Eugene, Oregon. Not only that, he played in the Eugene Junior Symphony under Dick Long. Obviously, he’s quite a few years younger than we are since we played in the Junior Symphony with Dick Long. Dandelion appears to be the only other American boat here.

Andrew also brought word of the other boats we’d been traveling with: Ventura, Aphrodite, and Orinoco. He passed within VHF range of them at the entrance to the Channel, where they were hove to awaiting lighter winds. We heard a couple of days later from them that they had safely reached Falmouth.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Still in Cherbourg

When we arrived here, we paid for a week in advance. At the time, we thought that we’d go from here to Le Havre and take a train to Paris. Since then we’ve learned a lot about the prices of things here and have changed our plans. Next we’ll go on to Nieuwpoort, Belgium, and save our trip to Paris for the off-season.

The public market in front of the theater

Umbrellas of Cherbourg for sale here

This statue of Napoleon survived the WWII bombing

But first, we have to have a repair completed. Last week the wind in the harbor kicked up, and we needed to adjust our dock lines, so we tried to start the engine to back off the dock a little. But it wouldn’t start. It had been difficult to start since somewhere between Florida and the Azores, and we thought it was the battery. This time John checked the battery and it was good, so it must be the starter. We’ve been carrying a spare starter, so it wasn’t that big a deal when the mechanic told us the astronomical price to replace the one that died. We said use the spare. Pleased that the labor costs for the mechanic were very reasonable, John turned on the engine yesterday to warm the oil prior to changing it, and smoke started coming out of the engine instrument panel. Nothing burned, but some wires melted, so we got a mechanic back to the boat to fix it. It was their error that caused the problem, so there was no charge to us. However, as they were running the engine to be sure that everything was OK this time, they noticed a small fuel leak. The high-pressure fuel hose had chafed through in a spot. So now we’re going to replace that, but the shop is closed Sunday and Monday, so we’re here until Wednesday. (John still has to change the oil after the repair is complete.)

Since our last post we’ve been to the public market, had dinner in a nice restaurant, and visited the museum of the liberation. We’re walking a lot to make up for all the baguettes and Camembert we’ve been eating. The weather has turned a little rainy, so we’re hanging out on the boat at the moment. Nothing very exciting to report, but maybe John will get another photo page or two put together soon.