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

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The wind was blowing fairly hard and it was cold yesterday, so we stayed at the dock in Stavoren one more day after all. But now we’re in Sneek (pronounced like English “snake,” but Dutch for snake is “slang,” so there’s no confusion).

It took just under five hours to get here through one lock and three bridges. We didn’t have to wait for any of them. Two or three more bridges have now been replaced by aqueducts, so that was very nice.

We did touch bottom softly a few times (three to be exact) on the way. We had been warned that although the channels are dredged, it’s often shallower near the sides of the canals. Still, we thought we were pretty far from the bank the first time we grounded, just five minutes from the lock and first bridge in the Johan Friso canal. John backed us off of that one. A couple of hours later we were just past Heeg with the depth gauge reading more than six feet when we felt a slight bump. The gauge quickly dropped to about 4.5 feet, and we knew we were touching the bottom, but our forward momentum caused us to plow a furrow through that high spot in the ditch. (Our draft is 6’1”, but the way our gauge is set, we touch bottom at about 4.3 feet.) The last grounding was as we were coming into the wall in Sneek. I was ready to step to the shore when we stopped moving about 10 feet from the bank. Again, John backed us off with no problem.

As we were docking on the wall, leaves and seeds started falling on the boat. I looked up and saw that our spreader was in the branches of a tree. We were glad there weren’t any big branches in our way because we definitely pruned a few twigs from that one.

So far we haven’t explored too much of Sneek, but we did find the grocery store and the maritime museum, and we stopped at a pet store to get more jerky treats and greenies for Märzen. This town looks much newer than any of the other towns we’ve visited, but it was chartered in 1456, so it’s old enough. We just haven’t been into the really old part yet, and perhaps this town hasn’t preserved as much of its architectural heritage as Amsterdam, Amersfoort, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. We shall see.

By the way, we have found Wi-Fi here, so I’ve posted John’s photo page of Stavoren.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Photo Pages of North Holland

New photo pages are available. They are identified as Muiden, Volendam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Zuiderzeemuseum, and Keukenhof on our photo page.

New videos

John was successful in posting new videos while we were in Enkhuizen. Here they are.

Monday, April 20, 2009


We finally left Enkhuizen around noon on Sunday and had a nice, short sail to Stavoren. It’s only 23 km away. The IJsselmeer was covered with sailboats when we started, everyone heading home on a Sunday afternoon, we suppose.

Today was fun. We rented a bike from the marina to go with the one we already have and set off into the countryside. I wanted to ride along the top of the dike, but the road was at the bottom of it and sheep pasture was on the top. Those lambs have a nice view. We found Rode Klif (red cliff), site of a famous battle between the Frisian and the Dutch. The Frisians won that round, and Willem the number-something-or-other was killed in battle at Stavoren. We also found a little cemetery where three Australians and a couple of Brits who died in WWII were buried.

Then we headed into town for groceries and a Frisian courtesy flag. We fly a Dutch courtesy flag, but below that we’ve been flying the flag of the city or province we’re in. So far, we’ve flown Amsterdam and Enkhuizen, but the Frisian flag goes up tomorrow.

We paid for two nights when we checked into the marina yesterday, but we may stay an extra day. The rates are only a little higher than we paid in Enkhuizen, but here electricity, water and shore showers are included, and that makes up for the price difference. Sjoerd will meet us somewhere in Friesland on Saturday, so we have time.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Departure delayed

We walked up to the chandlery around noon today to pick up a chart of the Frisian canals. The plan was to leave when we got back to the boat. It’s a beautiful day, and there’s a nice breeze of 10-15 knots. But wait a minute! That nice breeze is coming from exactly the direction we want to go—northeast. That means we would have to motor.

Tomorrow’s forecast shows even warmer weather and wind from the east. If we move our destination a little farther north—to Stavoren instead of Lemmer—we should have a nice sail tomorrow. I’ll check the charts to be sure we can get into the Frisian canals (deep enough ones) from Stavoren, but that’s the new plan: Enkhuizen to Stavoren tomorrow.

Meanwhile, John has taken the bike into town with his laptop to upload a couple more videos. If you’re interested, you can sign up for a free YouTube account and then subscribe to jforbe’s channel. If you don’t want to bother with all that, you can wait for me to embed the latest here or on Facebook.

Here's a shot of Enkhuizen from Google Earth. I've added a little red X where we're tied up.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting ready to move on

Tomorrow we plan to leave Enkhuizen and cross the IJsselmeer to Friesland. We’ve had a nice time here, but the weather looks good, and it’s time to go again.

Wednesday and Thursday we visited the Zuider Zee Museum (in Dutch that’s actually all one word). It was one of the highlights when we were here with Jeffrey and Karan five years ago, but we didn’t have time then to see it all. It has an indoor museum (which we quickly saw before) and an outside live historical museum.

We started with the indoor museum, and I must admit that it was disappointing in comparison with our memories. Five years ago it had rooms full of historical costumes, furniture, paintings, maps, and boats, all with lots of description. Now some of the historical costumes and all of the boats remain, but there is little about them. Instead, they are shown as contrast and inspiration for modern clothing and jewelry design. It’s interesting for a room or two, but not what we were after.

In contrast the living museum outside was great. It has heirloom livestock (breeds that were almost extinct), craftsmen plying antique trades such as barrel making, and old buildings from elsewhere in The Netherlands that were spared demolition during redevelopment by moving them here. It was especially fun for us to see a couple of buildings from the Haarlemmer Houttuinen in our neighborhood in Amsterdam. We even got a ride in a flat-bottomed boat that one of the museum workers poled through the canals as he pointed out the sights. And we got a free ferry ride from the museum to near our boat on Wednesday and back again on Thursday. We’re always up for a boat ride.

Today Marike drove up from Den Ilp to visit one last time. Once we cross the IJsselmeer, we’ll be out of her range. Luckily it was a sunny afternoon again so that we could site outside in the cockpit and enjoy the action in the harbor. We’ll stay in touch on the Internet, and when she gets a new computer, she’ll get Skype too, so we can talk occasionally.

By the way, John's been working on more videos, and he has posted another one. Here it is.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Arrived in Enkhuizen

We arrived in Enkhuizen around three o’clock this afternoon after motoring all the way from Hoorn. At Hoorn we topped off the diesel tanks, and the docking at the fuel barge went just fine. In fact, the lock between the Markermeer and the Ijsselmeer and docking in Enkhuizen also went well.

The little map is for our friends outside The Netherlands. It shows Amsterdam and all of our stops since leaving there.

Yesterday in Hoorn we went over to the WSV Hoorn and paid for some Wi-Fi minutes in order to get a good connection for John to upload a video to YouTube. Here is it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some photos of North Holland

As a taste of photo pages to come, and to illustrate our journey so far in 2009, John has provided these photos.

This is the Muiderslot in Muiden, our first stop outside Amsterdam. This is the nicest castle I’ve seen so far.

Next stop was Volendam. Famous as something of a tourist trap, the town did have busloads of tourists from all countries (like these women from southern China) arriving off and on all day, but it was also very picturesque.

John took this picture of the main square in Hoorn from a window in the West Frisian Museum, itself housed in a 16th century building. It really is a beautiful town.

On a more mundane note, here’s a photo from our daily lives: Märzen watching intently as John fixes dinner. In this case, he was trimming mushrooms. Mushroom stems are one of Märzen’s favorite treats.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

We like Hoorn!

In Volendam we never did find free Wi-Fi, but we stayed an extra day anyway. John used the time without Internet to finish a bunch of photo pages. I read until he handed the pages over, and then I got to work. Thanks to free Internet in Hoorn, all of the new photos are up. You’ll find links to them on our Web site home page and photo index. Look in the left column under Recent Updates/Latest Additions.

Almost five years after we visited Hoorn with Jeffrey and Karan, we’re back in the Binnenhaven (inner harbor). This time it’s much different. Last night the harbor was completely full of boats. We were rafted up four deep and were lucky to be the second boat from the shore. Our shore-side neighbors live aboard and spent the winter here on their beautiful steel Baltic motor cruiser. Two German sailboats tied up outside of us. As we walked around the harbor, we saw no boats less than three deep and several were five deep. Keep in mind that it isn’t even summer yet. It is, however, a long weekend, so maybe that’s why it’s so crowded.

Today we visited two museums, thanks to our museum card, and explored the town some more. Inadvertently, we found the outdoor market when we walked down the street to see what the crowds were about. It’s a huge market, and we walked for blocks to get to the end of it before we went back to do our regular shopping at the supermarket. We stocked up for three days because we’re pretty sure that the store will be closed tomorrow (Sunday) and possibly Monday for the second Easter day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Muiden to Volendam

Our stay at Muiden was pleasant, albeit very quiet after living in Amsterdam for seven months. The Internet at the harbor was quite expensive at almost 10 euro cents per minute, so John worked on photo pages and I started a book, the first since The Secret Life of Bees, which I started in Oregon and just finished.

We went to Muiderslot, the castle, in the early afternoon. Our museum cards got us free admission, including a guided tour of the 17th century interior where P. C. Hooft, a famous-to-the-Dutch writer and historian, lived. The medieval parts of the castle are open without a guide and have many displays, most oriented toward children. It appeared that several school classes were visiting that day, probably because on Tuesdays they do a falconry demonstration. We didn’t stay for the demonstration because it would have made us too late leaving the harbor. All in all, if we had paid the €11 per person admission, we would have been disappointed, but it was fun for free.

We had nice wind on the quarter and beam at about 10 knots for most of the trip to Volendam. We brought out the jib as soon as we cleared the entrance channel, but soon John also wanted to raise the main. That took a little doing, partly because we were out of practice, but also because I’d stowed the preventer lines for winter. Once all the sails were up, it was very nice to shut off the engine, and some of the time we did better than six knots.

Docking in Volendam was a different kind of adventure. We had originally planned to finesse our landing by throwing the stern line around a cleat and continuing forward to bring us to the wall. There were pilings, though, instead of cleats, and they were six feet or more from the water. I didn’t think I could throw the heavy dock line that far, so I decided to jump off and secure the line instead. Except I slipped. I didn’t fall in, but I did fall and had to use the lifelines to get all of me back on the boat. The fact that we had a big luxury motor yacht in front of us brought John out of the cockpit to take care of the lines, but I didn’t realize it, so I was slow to get to the cockpit and take the helm. We didn’t hit anything, but it wasn’t pretty and yelling was involved.

Here in Volendam we haven’t found Internet yet. We did go out last night for a beer and had some nice conversation with some locals. We had to go out because we have to pay for the electric meter here and it only takes 50-cent pieces, as we learned by trial and error. We’ll be going out again in a little bit for more 50-cent pieces and a search for establishments with Wi-Fi who would like our business.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Stages of spring in Holland

John reports the following:

Watching winter slowly fade away in Amsterdam, I identified four benchmarks of spring.

First, the crocus pop up covering large patches in every park.Crocus (photo borrowed from the Internet)

This is followed in a couple of weeks by the daffodils.Daffodils

Then with the first warm sunny days people spring up on the decks of boats.Sunning on the deck of the boat

This is then followed by the symbol of Holland, the tulips.Tulips in Keukenhof April 2004

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We aren’t in Amsterdam anymore

We’re a few miles away at Muiden. This town on the Markermeer is three bridge openings, one lock, and about eight nautical miles from our berth at Marina Westerdok. Our lock and docking techniques weren’t perfect, but we didn’t embarrass ourselves or hit anything, so it’s all good, as John says.

Sjoerd and Julia were on deck to wave us off as we left just after noon today. We’ll see them again sometime, I think, especially since we’ve borrowed charts and almanacs from Sjoerd. He said he would meet us in Friesland to pick them up. The weather was a little on the cool side on the water, but the sun was out and the wind was calm. It was a good first day out after seven plus months at the dock.

Muiden is a pretty town. Its main attractions are water sports facilities and an old castle, Muiderslot. The castle is closed on Mondays, so we won’t see the inside of it until Tuesday. We have a nice view of the exterior from our cockpit across the river Vecht. We’ll leave here Tuesday afternoon after our castle tour and spend Tuesday night at Volendam.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ready, set, wait...

Yesterday was a gorgeous day: bright sun, warm temperatures and no wind. I started washing the outside of the boat fairly early, thinking that I’d be done and we could leave about noon. Well, maybe one o’clock. Before I knew it, it was clear that I wouldn’t be finished before they stopped opening our drawbridges for the day at 3:30 pm.

So Solstice is clean and flying new flags—U.S., courtesy Dutch, and SSCA commodore burgee—but we’re still here at the dock in Amsterdam. When I posted our new status on Facebook, cruising friends variously congratulated us for not leaving on Friday after all (a sailor’s superstition forbids Friday departures) and sympathized with our difficulty in leaving a place that we’ve enjoyed for so long. We savored the rest of the afternoon sitting outside on our clean boat and visiting with the neighbors. And we took advantage of the extra night to do the nighttime photo shoot that we had postponed when it was so cold out. John should be able to get a nice photo page for the Web site from that, and we had a lot of fun.

This morning the wind is back, albeit from the opposite direction and slightly less. The forecast calls for calm tomorrow, so I guess we’ll wait one more day. Where have you heard that before?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Still in Amsterdam

Yes, we thought we would be moving on to Muiden yesterday, but we're blaming the wind for the delay. Yesterday was pretty breezy—around 20 mph—and that makes it difficult for us to maneuver. We could get off the dock fine since the wind is currently behind us, but we were leery of the drawbridges, locks, and the new unknown marina with our rusty boat-handling skills. Beside that, we do like it here, and our harbormaster isn’t in any hurry for us to leave either. The forecast is for considerably less wind tomorrow, so maybe we’ll leave then.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing more of Marike again, and that’s been wonderful. March 21st we took a day trip down memory lane to Amersfoort. I’d only been back once in 2004, and Marike had only visited a couple of times herself.

One of our two prime destinations was the former Nefkens family home. The house looks good, but Marike noticed some changes from when she lived there. I kind of hoped that the current owners would notice us loitering on the street and question us. Then we could say that we used to live there and maybe be invited in. No such luck. Some guys working on the landscaping did ask us what we were doing, but that’s all.Nefkens family homeThe former Nefkens family home. I loved this house and the people who lived there.

John didn’t want to come with us, but he did ask that we bring him some beer from the Drie Ringen brewery. I suppose we could have found it in a local store (it isn’t generally distributed outside of Amersfoort), but we decided to visit the brewery itself in the scenic old city. Between the house and the brewery we drove by another house where I lived and the old gymnasium around the corner, past Marike’s old schools, the building that housed her dad’s former Opal dealership and garage, and houses in the neighborhood where Marike’s family lived before I knew them. We also visited the cemetery where Marike’s parents are buried. They were very good to me, and I would have loved to see them again, but I returned much too late for that.Koppelpoort from the insideA view of the Amersfoort Koppelport from inside the old city. The Drie Ringen brewery is on the left. You can barely see a few people standing outside it.

When we got to the old city, we found it filled with people. It turns out that the city charter for Amersfoort was signed 750 years ago, and we were there on the opening day of the festivities to celebrate the anniversary. If not for the crowds, we would probably have spent more time wandering around enjoying the old town. The weather was beautiful.Lange JanAnother Amersfoort landmark is the Lange Jan, the bell tower of the old cathedral.

Last Friday Marike did a great job again in picking the weather for a canal boat ride around Amsterdam, and official tour. Although we’ve spent considerable time on the water here, it was fun and relaxing to do it again, and Marike hasn’t had the same opportunities to enjoy being on the water. To top off that excursion, Marike treated us to refreshments at Bickers aan de Werf, the little restaurant here whose terrace we walk across going to and from the boat. It was the first time we’d actually stopped there and gone inside.John and Shirlee at Bickers a/d WerfThe inside of Bickers a/d Werf

This past Monday I met Marike and her sister Gemma for lunch. It was so much fun to see Gemma again. Although she lives in Amsterdam, we hadn’t been able to arrange a time before. Gemma and I arrived at about the same time before Marike, but we managed to recognize each other. The third Nefkens sister, Relinde, lives in Utrecht, and it hasn’t worked out to get together with her. I loved talking with Gemma; she was very good about sticking to Dutch even when I lapsed into English, and I really appreciate that.Shirlee and Gemma at the restaurant at the WaagGemma and I on the terrace of the restaurant at the Waag

The big surprise and extra treat was that after lunch Marike invited me to ride with her to Den Ilp to see where she lives and to meet another of the Heyboer women, Maria. After having spent so many years virtually cloistered in Den Ilp, Marike still likes to keep her outside world separate from her inside world, so I was especially honored. Marike had met John and Märzen, of course, and had seen how I live on the boat. Now I’ve also met Marike’s dogs (Ivan and June) and have seen how Marike lives. When she tells me now that she took a little nap in the hammock in the garden on a sunny afternoon, I can picture it exactly—in my mind. I didn't have a camera with me.

Marike gets credit for all of the photos in this post.