From the Frisian island of Norderney in Germany (see The Kiel Canal and Frisian Islands), we sailed to Lauwersoog, a major fishing port and our first visit on Pipistrelle to The Netherlands.
The 57nm passage with a mixture of sailing and motoring, took us south west outside the Frisian islands until we reached the island of Schiermonnikoog (try pronouncing that!?), to then follow the channel to Lauwersoog on the mainland.
We finished up mooring against the long pontoon on the outside of the marina, but still in the harbour, which worked well for us. There is an excellent visitors’ centre describing the construction of a massive dam to protect the land from flooding, and to enable the land to the south to be drained. Within this dam there are large sluice gates, allowing the water in the lake to be emptied as necessary.
Traditional Dutch sailing barges arrived in droves, part of a rally we think, all appearing to have paying guests on board.
Just astern of us was a seal rescue boat. Seals are numerous in the Frisian islands, occasionally being injured by fishing nets and exposed to other dangers. Once their energy is sapped because of injury, and providing they have made it to a sandbank, they are rescued and taken to a seal recovery unit close to Lauwersoog. Once recovered, they are brought to the harbour in crates which are placed on a special small ferry, and towed by the rescue boat out to a local sandbank populated by seals, and released. Paying passengers witness this happy event. The volunteers were interested to know whether we have the same sort of organisation anywhere in the UK, which we do, at Helford in Cornwall, Hunstanton in Norfolk and Scarborough in Yorkshire.
A fascinating experience before we continued our passage to Harlingen after a break because of inclement weather and wind direction. Another long 73nm day sail. We thought we might be able to get to the West Terschelling marina to break the passage, but our arrival coincided with low water, preventing access. It is a further two hours from this island to Harlingen which is a major ferry port and fishing harbour on the mainland with two yacht marinas providing access to the Dutch inland waterways.
The harbour master directed us to Zuiderhaven, involving waiting for two bridges to open for us, then motoring past many Dutch sailing barges to a small marina but with sufficient room to manoeuvre and find a suitable pontoon to berth against. We were moored very close to St Michael’s Roman Catholic church dating back to 1881. Happily, the bells did not start peeling until the sensible hour of 09.00! It provided a very different back drop to the marina compared to what we have been used to.
Harlingen is very interesting, and we enjoyed exploring the different waterways and marinas as well as celebrating Martin’s birthday with an excellent meal at the Restaurant ‘t Havenmantsje, where the food, service and ambience could not have been better.
After two nights we motored through a narrow channel to the Ijsselmeer, or the Zuider Zee as it used to be known. Having locked in, we were fascinated to see so many Dutch barges sailing in this inland sea. The water is shallow, and with our draft, we stayed in the main channels. The distance was only 20nm, but it took most of the day with the time spent waiting at the lock, and then navigating through the channels.
After one night we moved on to Flevo Marina, Lelystad, to the north of the main town. An extremely pleasant stop, with excellent facilities and friendly, helpful staff. This whole area is interesting because the surrounding land is beneath the level of the Ijsselmeer. It is a strange experience looking down on villages that owe their existence to the creation of this inland sea, bringing to mind the famous story of the little Dutch boy who put his finger in the dyke to stop flooding.
From Lelystad we had a further lock to negotiate, taking us through to the Markermeer, another inland sea, and even shallower than the Ijsselmeer. We had a strong southwest wind to contend with, and for the last stretch finished up motoring straight into it. Our destination was Muiderzand Marina, 8nm east of the centre of Amsterdam, so useful for a crew change with good communications to Schiphol airport.
The marina is excellent, protected from the prevailing winds by trees along its western side, helpful staff, good amenities and free new bikes on loan, which made shopping in town easy. There are also many good walks in the locality. Martin and Janet left Pipistrelle at this point, and Bob was most grateful for their company, and assistance in so many ways, but especially in helping deliver Pipistrelle from Poland to the Netherlands when Elaine couldn’t be on board.
Also home to lots of bird life, Pipistrelle’s mast attracted many unwanted roosting birds which necessitated an urgent deck clean, followed by hoisting old CDs which are very effective at deterring birds due to the flashing reflections. Each morning Bob walked past a coot’s nest in an old dinghy, a temporary home to Mum and Dad and two baby chicks that were hatched during the week, a lovely sight.
With the Netherlands being so eco-friendly, a barge delivering a load of seaweed almost every day, prompted the question ‘why seaweed?’. The answer was that it is used to create paper, and an example of the finished product was duly shown!
Bob had a few days’ wait before Simon and Steve arrived from the UK. The original plan was for them to help sail Pipistrelle as far as possible along the French coast, but the weather had other ideas. After provisioning we had a very early start, as the plan was to traverse the North Sea Canal through Amsterdam to Ijmuiden, and then continue on south to Scheveningen, just North West of The Hague. At 50nm, the trip included transiting an opening bridge and then a lock to the east of Amsterdam, and then another lock at Ijmuiden into the North Sea.
We were delayed at the bridge as it didn’t open until 0900, but the passage through Amsterdam was very interesting, and passed without incident. Shipping traffic was considerable, similar to the Kiel Canal, and it was very much a matter of keeping as close to the canal bank as possible. On arrival at Ijmuiden, we decided to continue south to Scheveningen, even though it was hard on the wind, with frequent tacking and motor sailing the last few miles.
We were met at the marina by staff in a rib, and helped into a berth in a strong cross wind. The forecast for the next week was not good, with strong winds and rain from the south west and south. As the coast runs in a SWl’y direction for 70nm and having discussed alternative options, Simon and Steve decided to depart the next day, which was disappointing.
As it turned out, it was a further 7 days before the weather relented, and with Elaine on board again we were able to continue our passage. More of that in the next blog.