Copyright © 2003 by Martin S. Reff
All Rights Reserved
Dear Mother and Michael,
We'll be leaving shortly to drive to the Friesland area of the Netherlands to check out the boat yards. We've been there twice already, but there are lots of places we haven't seen.
Last night we had dinner at the home of some Dutch friends we made. They live in the town of Elburg which is 20 or 30 minutes from our hotel in Zwolle. Elburg was once a walled village on the sea coast before the Dutch filled in the sea and made the polders. Now the town is on a river. It is quite lovely. The family live in a new house outside the main village. He has been all over the world. He worked for an American firm for awhile so they both have been to the United States. He, Hank, retired a year ago and now they have a camper rather than a boat, but they are very knowledgeable. We spent one day driving around with them and found a very nice boat which we might bid on. The salesman is trying to contact the owner but hasn't reached him yet. In the meantime we will continue to look.
We took our hosts to dinner in Vollenhoven, east of Emmeloord. (I hope you have gotten a good map of the Netherlands so that you can follow our adventures.) The restaurant was in a building that was built in 1620 adjacent to a church. I don't know which came first, the church or this building which was, I think the City Hall. We really splurged here and had quite a spectacular feast. A fish dinner for four. Huge platters holding a large variety of seafood very artistically arranged.
This is a lovely country with many small towns and lots of agricultural land. Most of the land that we see is occupied by sheep, yet the Dutch don't eat much lamb. It is not on the menu in the restaurants. They export it somewhere. The fleece is made into yarn, but I don't know where the factories are.
The fields, especially on the "new lands" are all rectangular and edged with drainage ditches. This is true as far as I can see on the mainland too. There are very few fences because the water keeps the sheep in the correct pasture. The water level is controlled by the pumping stations. The canals and rivers come up to the level of the land but do not flood it since the whole country is constantly monitored. The road system is excellent. Many or perhaps most of the roads are built on top of the dikes. In comparison to the US there are very few trucks since so much is transported by barges. The barge traffic on the main canals is heavy. The lack of trucks and the small cars must help keep the roads in good condition.
We've been very lucky as to the weather. Some days were very windy and we have had lots of rain, but no freezing ice or snow. Everyone says that this is most unusual.
Jan. 11, 1988
We don't seem to be finding a boat that both Martin and I agree upon. We looked at a number of boats yesterday and have some to see today. However we had some very nice experiences yesterday. When we were at the City Hall in Harmelan to get our Dutch visas one of the clerks said that she had a brother who had moved to Friesland and he had a camp ground and boating center there. We called him and got to his place around 3:00 PM yesterday. He lives in an old, traditional Friesland farm house, These are huge buildings with the house directly connected to the barn. We entered through the barn which was filled with boats, travel trailers, lee boards, boat doors, and a wood working shop. He doesn't sell boats as a living but will look around for us. He took us to one boat but it turned out that we had seen this same boat about a week and a half ago. It was a converted barge of 21 meters with a family living aboard.
We are going to move to a hotel in Kamden today. It is less expensive and nicer than this motel and it is right on a canal.
NOTE: The first general letter follows and summarizes some of the material you've already read. At the end of the letter is a link to photos of the interior of our boat.
Although we sent a few letters and cards from Europe we were unable to write to everyone and hope you will be interested in our adventures.
Martin and I left Baltimore on Dec. 8, 1987 after many months of feverish activity: closing our business, selling the house and packing. We enjoyed a visit to Mother Reff in New York and then after the sale of the house, my sister Paula was generous enough to take her homeless relatives in for a few days. Thanksgiving was celebrated in Dallas with son David and his wife Vonnie.
Paula, in her travel agent role, had arranged charter rate tickets with a return flight on Jan. 20, 1988. This gave us six weeks to achieve our goal of buying a boat suitable for year round living while cruising the European canals. Paris would be our first stop because we wanted to attend the winter Boat Show. There we hoped to get lists of used boats and meet boat brokers. For European tax reasons we were hoping to buy a boat in France, although we had heard that for a steel boat, Holland was the place to go. Our two visits to the Paris Boat Show, although fun, were disappointing, garnering only meager leads.
We spent most of our time in Paris finalizing our extended French Visas. A normal tourist visa is for only three months but, since we were planning on spending more time than that in the French canals, we had applied for and received, after submitting six copies of our life history, the long term visa. We naively thought we were over the major hurdles until we read the small print telling us to report our arrival to the police within eight days. Six copies of our dossiers turned out to be one short! The police demanded their own plus proof of residency. After a great deal of time and effort we were at last able to supply the necessary documents and eight days in the same Parisian hotel earn us a rent receipt.
Paris ls jammed with immigrants and refugees trying to get French resident visas. Thus the scene at the massive central police station is a nightmare: hordes of people waiting hours to get into the building and then waiting hours to reach an official in order to present their papers. Memories of war time movies flooded my mind as we joined the endless lines, tightly clutching our papers, and hoping to escape being carted off to the dungeons for interrogation! But six hours brought partial success, We received our temporary "Carte De Sejour" and were informed that a letter would be sent to our address (the hotel) within the month telling us to return to the station for the permanent Carte De Sejour ! This was not welcome news.
Our first 14 days were thus spent in Paris. We enjoyed walking along the riverside and the boat basins, watching the passing scene from the cafes, visiting the museums, and French dining. As a prime tourist activity, we do not recommend spending your days at the Prefecture of Police.
Eventually we picked up our rental car which had been ordered while we were in the USA when we thought our stay in Paris was going to be brief. But after one day of Parisian traffic and street parking we stored the car in a garage and went back to using the Metro. Paris driving should be left to the Parisians! Three French cars park in the space that two American drivers would use. They park on the sidewalks, in the crosswalks, and in the parks. At night they even park on the yellow line in the middle of the street! Our French friend, Chantal, informed us that there would be an election soon and all the parking tickets could be torn up, since all the politicians promised amnesty.
We were extremely lucky that Lesley had met Chantal in Paris a few years earlier. Subsequently, when Chantal taught in Boston, she visited Lesley in New York and joined our family in Baltimore for Thanksgiving. Fortunately for us, this year she teaches in the suburbs of Paris. She helped us in a hundred ways. We found our hotel while walking with her, she helped us with the French phone system, and best of all she introduced us to a great restaurant where we enjoyed true French cooking at pizza parlor prices.
Once we were able to leave Paris, we followed our most promising lead and drove to Normandy to see a man who had recently bought two steel canal boats and was restoring them. We were to call him from the railroad station in Flers. Since the village of Flers is inland and not near any river or canal we were slightly mystified. After he met us we learned that the boats had been transported by truck from Marseilles and were now lodged in an abandoned iron mine building. But before visiting the boats Lionel invited us to his home for lunch. We drove out into the countryside, then down a dirt lane to a tiny farming community of nine ancient stone houses. There we partook of a typical French meal: a little fish, a little meat, fried potatoes, cheese and homemade bread. Lionel was lovingly repairing and adding on to his home while retaining its traditional nature. His workmanship was very evident in both his home and in the repairs that were underway on one of the boats. Although in the end we did not purchase this boat, we looked at it twice and continued to think about it as we looked further.
We spent three days in Flers because (1) it was Christmas, (2) we liked the town, and (3) we were still recovering from colds we had caught in Paris. From Flers we went to Liège in Belgium. There we contacted a gentleman who had advertised a number of steel boats. His company's fleet provided provisioning services to large freighters. When we arrived he had two small freighters for sale. One was completely gutted and had just received a new steel house to replace the original wood one. For anyone with unlimited funds this would have been an ideal choice since you could get the interior custom built. Unfortunately we didn't have unlimited funds.
Our arrival and first afternoon in Amsterdam was frustrating and frightening. It was our first encounter (and much too close) with the thousands of Dutch bicycles. We got caught in the evening traffic rush and we couldn't find a hotel room. Because of the holidays the city was filled with vacationers, but we eventually found a room at the Holiday Inn and even got off season winter rates! During the New Year holidays we put our boat search on hold and explored the town and its canals. All types of boats line the canals. There is even one barge housing homeless cats. Three to four thousand people live aboard boats in Amsterdam.
Staying in a hotel with an indoor pool started us on a search for swimming suits, an interesting hunt for a January day in The Netherlands. However in a large department store we also found an enormous magazine rack and bought boating newspapers and magazines and thus found many ads that we eventually followed.
As in France we had to finalize our long term Visas. Here we were told to report to the hometown of our Dutch sponsor. (In both countries we had to have residents willing to vouch for us and agree to be responsible for our behavior.) Case R., an American friend had asked his father to be our Dutch sponsor and he had graciously agreed. But Piet only spoke Dutch so the first step was to have someone call and tell him we were coming. This accomplished we drove to the village of Harmelan just west of Utrecht. Piet had asked a niece to drop in and act as interpreter and thus we had a very pleasant visit. At the city hall, however, we discovered that the official who had to stamp our passports was off taking a law exam, so we had to leave our passports and return for them two days later. It still was vastly easier and much pleasanter than our French experience.
The next two weeks were crowded with adventures. In Belgium a chance encounter in a laundromat led to our meeting a delightful Dutch couple from the ancient village of Elburg. Who could have guessed that the kind gentleman who helped me decipher the French laundry directions would put us in touch with English speaking Dutch boaters? When we called, they invited us to their home and gave us a private tour of Elburg. In the market square Hank taught Martin how to eat herring, an important skill in Holland. Later they drove us around showing us boats and marinas we would never have found on our own. They graciously shared their experiences and knowledge. We had a memorable dinner in a building in Vollendam that was built in the 1600's. On another occasion, we shared dinner in their home. Meeting people like Hank and Bettjie is what makes travel worthwhile.
We also had aid from a Dutch liveaboard whom we had originally met at the Baltimore Boat Show. He showed us some interesting boats including the three bedroom one with a washer and dryer that he and his family occupied. In addition, we visited numerous boat brokers who had advertised in the magazines. Thus we crisscrossed this beautiful, fascinating land beneath the sea. Mother Nature was unusually cooperative. The weather was cool, but we never saw snow or ice. We moved from Amsterdam to Zwolle and from there to Kampen during our search.
Again a chance encounter led to "our boat". While in Harmelan getting our Visas, one of the clerks at the city hall had suggested that we contact her brother who had moved up north and had a camping and boating resort. Eventually we called him and again received an invitation to drop by and visit. He lived in the Freisland area. In our previous journeys through this part of the country we had greatly admired the huge Freisland houses which combined house and barn under one enormous peaked roof. We were thrilled to find that our new friend lived in one of these old farm houses. We entered through the barn to find it filled not with cows but with campers, small boats masts, rudders, and all sorts of wood working equipment. After enjoying our coffee and describing the type of boat we wanted, he drove us to one that he thought we might like. The next day he made calls and then called us to tell us of another that he had located. It was this lead that took us to Enkhuizen on the western shore of the Ijseelmeer, the enormous inland lake that the Dutch created when they dammed off the sea. Here we found the "Opperdan". Her American owners had just returned to California with their two daughters after a year's cruise through the Dutch and French canals. The boat had been left with the original broker. "Opperdan" was not all we wanted but one must make compromises: she became the boat for us.
We moved to Enkhuizen, opened a bank account, had money transferred, and made arrangements for an engine survey, boat haul out and measurement of the thickness of the steel hull. A little negotiation, a lot of quick action and three days later we were the proud owners.
We now had only four days before our plane left. We used the weekend to return to Paris and our legal residence at the Hotel Printemps. There we found two official letters waiting for us. Martin was to report to the police station on Feb. 10 and I was to report on Feb. 18. Since we planned to spend February in Florida, this news caused us much consternation. We decided to try an end run around the bureaucracy. On Monday, January 13th we went to the Prefecture, waved our papers quickly at the guard and got on line. Our bravado paid off. Four hours later we received handsome, laminated, one year (but renewable), identification cards. We are now officially registered as permanent residents of the Hotel Printemps, which for boat gypsies is the best we can do.
On our final day in Paris we returned the rental car (after 4300 kilometers) and then walked to the Place de Republic by following the canal. We enjoyed watching the barges passing through the locks and under the bridges as they continue to fulfill their traditional role, transporting goods.
After returning to The States, Paula again shared her home with us as we attended to numerous final details, including the shipment of 17 cartons, three duffle bags, and one large trunk to Enkhuizen. Then we joined the snowbirds driving to Florida so we could visit son Michael and my mother, Frances, in Naples, Florida. Although we will miss our family and American friends, we are anxious to return to Holland. We leave sunny Florida on March 18 and plan to live in Enkhuizen for a few weeks while making improvements to the boat. Then off we go.
We hope this brings you up to date and you have enjoyed this first installment of our version of Innocents Abroad. We will try to keep you informed of future adventures and misadventures.
Until next time Marcia and Martin Reff
About Our Boat
Name OPPERDAN - We're told that the name in the Friesland dialect of Northern Netherlands means "To Go Away". We'll try to confirm the meaning. Meanwhile, we are going away and we are going to keep the name. According to the what we've been told, it was built in 1926 [discovered later it was built in 1915]
Length 18.36 meters about 60 feet
Beam 3.15 meters about 10 and a half feet
Draft: 1.3 meters about 4 feet
Weight: 38 tons
Clearance above water 3 meters or about 10 ft.
Fuel capacity: 200 liters
Water capacity:1000 liters
Hull and top: steel
Powered by a single 96 hp Volvo Diesel. Keel cooled (closed system - no exchange). Portable Honda generator. 12v 24v 220v Electric system Hot Water Diesel Heat
The boat is a converted Dutch canal freighter. We bought it through a broker from an American family that had just completed a year aboard, cruising the French canals.
To see photos of the interior after we fixed it up, click on photos.
We had a most unusual flight from Miami. We flew Martinair, a Dutch charter company, that flies one plane a week nonstop from Amsterdam to Miami starting March 17th. This first trip brought over a full plane load (376) to sunny Florida. But since no one wanted to leave on the 18th, we had the entire plane to ourselves. There was only one other paying passenger, two flight attendants, one company official and the cockpit crew. Talk about service! The 7 hour flight seemed short, of course the plane was very light. We arrived about 6:30 AM Dutch time, showed our passports and picked up a rental car.
On the road we were again struck by the loveliness of the countryside and the neatness of the farms and houses. It felt good to be back. Our boat broker had put us in touch with a physician who had a vacant one room apartment. This turned out to be better than we had hoped for. The doctor owns two adjacent houses. He lives in the bigger one and has his office on the ground floor of the other. Our apartment is above the office.
We have our own private front door which opens onto a small hall with stairs. At the top there is a landing with two doors: one going into our bath and one into the apartment. We have an "L" shape room (about 23' by 22') with the kitchen in the short part of the L. There is a big bed, two chairs, a clothes cupboard, a round table and four chairs. Two of the walls slant and have four port hole type windows plus two regular size ones. We can see the street, the houses on the opposite side of the street, and the town from the front window. There are six very old exposed beams. I don't know how old this house is, but some of the buildings in the town go back to the 17th century.
The "Opperdan" is in great shape with a fresh coat of bottom paint and fresh green hull paint. Martin put in the key and the engine turned right over. We had one preliminary meeting with a carpenter to discuss changes and additions that we desire and we'll talk to others tomorrow.
We will be staying in the apartment while work is in progress, at least untill April 18, 1988. If you are writing give the letter 12-14 days to reach us.
Enkhuizen is a gem. Although we spent 3 or 4 days here when we bought the boat, there is so much to see. Sunday was a lovely day and brought the people out of their homes. Everyone was walking in the brisk air. The crocuses, daffodils, and tulips are beginning to bloom. Girls were giving away boxes of pansies. Perhaps a gift to the townsfolk from the local growers. A whole flotilla of cruisers, perhaps on a club outing arrived in the harbor during our walk. The Dutch begin their boating season earlier than we do.
Some work on our boat is completed so we finally got aboard to do some of our own work. Marcia worked in the aft cabin first scrubbing the floor and ceiling, then painting the walls and cabinets. She also made lined curtains by hand; quite a feat! This week the carpet we bought will be installed and then the mattress for the newly made double bed. Martin took apart and cleaned the marine toilet, replaced all the working parts, and put it back together again with a new seat. He also gave the boat its first washing. Our sink is in and our water system is operational. This week we expect the refrigerator and stove to be installed.
Among the tasks still to do: paint exterior of boat, install electronics (VHF radio, converter, new battery and switch, isolator), clean and paint the forward cabin, wash rugs and cushions, clean wheel house, secure electrical systems, clean engine, and make screens. Some of these tasks take muscle, some brains, but most just time.
The shipment of our belongings arrived - all our good things from home - a pleasure. Now our apartment looks like a storehouse.
Saturday and Sunday Enkhuizen hosted a festival of charter boats. We visited many, gathered material for Paula (who is in the business) and generally had a good time. We even got to sail one from one side of the harbor to the other. We took video pictures and interviewed one of the captains. With only two exceptions all of these boats are 50 to 100 years old, are made of steel, have two masts, are in magnificent condition, and are outfitted for 6 to 25 passengers. They sail the waters of the Netherlands and the North Sea to Scotland and Sweden. We stopped for lunch out. Marcia had a fish cake and Martin, some herring and a smoked eel sandwich. We went home for coffee and tea.
The weather has been beautiful. Some days are very warm, almost all are sunny. Yesterday was crisp and magnificent. We work, bike, walk, bike, visit, read, sew, paint, nap, eat, cafe, explore and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.
Diagonally across from our house is a funeral home. The parlor for the dead is on the main floor. The windows are curtained but we can see the bereaved enter and leave. On the upper floor is the parlor for the living - the proprietors - a man and a woman. She sits by the window all day while he can be seen only at breakfast and at dinner time when he walks about. Because she is facing away from us, her back and left side of her upper body are visible. Part of the building blocks our view of what lies in front of her. We see a telephone which she rarely uses on the window sill, and we guess there is a desk in front of her because her arms rest on something. She always is well dressed and smokes cigarettes continuously. She works all the time.
We know all of this because we looked through our window to theirs - with much curiosity and some shame since both of us were brought up to respect the privacy of others. Here in the Netherlands where the windows are so large and clean, and where vision is unobstructed, our latent curiosity prevails.
What we do not know is how the dead are brought into the house. We assume they leave because we have seen the hearse move along the street with a lady majorette dressed in black leading the entourage. We suspect that the bodies arrive when we are not about, but we cannot warrant this probability. We have also toyed with the idea that the dead are secreted in via the enclosed truck which not infrequently visits a garage next to the funeral home. "Cash and Carry" is the only part of the sign above the garage that we easily understand; from the other words and letters, we assume that the garage is a magazijn (warehouse) and belongs to a supermarket nearby. The trucks are yellow with a blue hash mark and have on the side a symbol of a clenched fist with a thumb extended upward.
At the beginning of one of our daily walks we read the plaque on front of the funeral home. Uitvaartcentrum with the block letters "E.C.U" underneath. We knew immediately from our driving experience that uit means "exit." Using our pocket dictionary we learned that vaart means "speedy." Thus, a "speedy exit center." It could not be, but we laughed on the street and then stopped rather guiltily. Later, in the privacy of our home we checked our version of the Oxford which is Karmer's Pocketwoordenboeken Nederlands-Engels, and, indeed, uitvaartcentrum does mean funeral home.
We do not know whether the windows in the Netherlands are for looking out or for looking in. From our experience they are unique to this land. Large by American standards, 8 to 10 feet high, they span almost the width of the house. Plants and window hangings frame the glass which is always sparkling clean, and small lace curtains complete the proscenium. The interior varies with the family but always there is the table upstage for eating or for reading the newspaper. And almost always a television set is situated 'catty' in one of the front corners so that if you were watching the video screen inside the house you could, with no movement of the head and with hardly a movement of the eye, fix your attention on the large screen of the picture window and look out. The people indoors have a definite advantage. We, outside, must stop and stare, at least, turn our heads. Marcia is not embarrassed but I am. I am curious, though.
During our earlier trip to Europe in December, 1987, an experience with a short wave radio had reminded us of the war years. We were in the Hotel de la Couronne in Liège , Belgium at the time, and our room offered us the luxury of an antiquated multi-band radio. We turned it on and the babel of foreign tongues that burst forth carried us back in time to the movies of World War II set in grand hotels, in cafés or in hidden haylofts where our heroes and heroines listened to the BBC or to the Free French announcing another victory for their side or for ours. As we sat on our bed in Liège listening, the reality of Germany being so very near was momentarily frightening. We imagined sitting by the radio listening to reports of invasions. The past was so real that it was Germany we thought about, not Russia.
We listened briefly to the BBC and then to some French programs, and decided that we wanted to own such a radio for our cruise. We could keep in touch with the world, perhaps even with the United States. So, before our second departure we bought Radio Shack's Model DX 360, an AM/FM LW/SW 9 Band Portable Radio. Now, in the Netherlands, we are once again broadcast rich, but without the memories.
The owner's manual for the radio lists stations that presumably broadcast in the English language and indeed, we have listened to Radio Moscow, Israel, Canada, as well as to the BBC. Once we even heard a voice from Voice of America but it was as quickly lost in a foreign tongue. Generally, though, we have been disappointed. We know what conditions of weather and traffic exist in northern London but the fact that northwestern Europe has been experiencing the heaviest rainfall in a century, requiring the closing of the Rhine to shipping, we learned from our yacht broker when we asked him about the relatively high water in Oosterhaven, the canal that holds our boat, the Opperdan. We must obviously apply ourselves more deliberately to the task of tuning our radio. I'm sure we can find our way to news if we are orderly and keep a methodical log of our failures.
Eating raw herring bought from a street vendor is as traditional here in the Netherlands as eating hot dogs is in America. Hank M., out friend from Elburg, introduced me to the ritual and ever since then I have endeavored to uphold the tradition. In Enkhuizen very early on I found a shop that serves cut herring covered with onions on a paper dish with a small plastic fork. The herring is delicious and I manage to have it once every other day (in respect for Marcia on our off days). I have not yet had it in the old fashioned way, however, holding a split herring by its tail and then eating it like spaghetti. I recognize the problem as one of environment. In Elburg I ate the herring at a street vendor's stand on ancient cobblestones in a very small seaport. In Enkhuizen, my shop is quite modern complete with glass display cases and neon lights. In the corner by the exit is a special washstand with paper towels This should help me eat the herring whole. It has not, yet.
During our first shopping adventure in a supermarket, two semi- uniformed young women thrust a plant into our hands. "No, we did not want to buy a plant," we pleaded, but we were assured the plant was part of a promotion and was "gratis." We accepted it but later, in the unfamiliarity of checking out our purchases, we lost it. Marcia insisted that I go back and find it, which I did, next to the cashier. I was embarrassed. Obviously I had not purchased it. No one would. It was a disaster - a few dead white flowers of some unknown and probably disreputable species and a bundle of sad, dry, yellow leaves. But Marcia was happy. "Pansies," she said.
We watered the plant but it seemed not to respond, Undaunted, my gal took the initiative. Scrounging around the galley of our boat she picked up a pot and then we searched for some soil. At first she "borrowed" some from the embankment of the canal, but stopped short because some other plants seem to need the soil more than ours. Later, she searched in a boat yard and got big chunks of black earth.
The plant burgeoned. Within 48 hours the stems strengthened and turned green and grew two inches, and the leaves perked up and out. Even flowers started to emerge from a few of the withered buds.
Now, some three days later, we do not know what to do. It has grown so much. We need a larger vase. We might even rent a plot of land - many of the townspeople do. It is that inordinately wonderful dark Dutch earth so rich that we are sure the land would grow anything. Meanwhile our plant of mixed species flourishes and our home is happier.
I always thought the French very daring. They sit quietly in a café, until they have enough courage, and then they go off to Étoile, to the races, where autos careen without any regard in a non-stop merry-go-round and where exiting means being flung off with a tremendous centrifugal force. But the Dutch of Enkhuizen are more daring and they do not need the café warm up.
There are absolutely no traffic lights and only one stop sign in all of Enkhuizen so that movement by pedestrians, horses, bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, trucks, and automobiles is governed by guts, chance, and a way of life that is inculcated in the young at the earliest age and developed intuitively throughout life to an extraordinarily fine sense of timing and hindsight. Here, as in the rest of the Netherlands, the bicycle dominates transportation: it is used by men and women who commute to work or to a bus or railroad station where one can see literally see thousands of wheels. (I wonder how an owner finds his bike among so many alike. I remember how some people back in the States tie an identifying pennant of some sort on the antenna so as to find theirs in the sea of other vehicles.) The bicycle is used extensively by school children who appear like racehorses as they move in a group on and along the bicycle tracks or on the roadways and, more realistically, as they take a long curve and you wish you could bet on the inside bike as it makes the long turn into the homestretch. It is used by old men in regular suits or winter jackets and by old women dressed in long skirts and wide coats as they move about the city during the day completing the chores of their busy lives. It is used by mothers who bike with their toddlers (as many as three at once) strategically situated in built-in seats, in front and in back of the handle bar and on the luggage rack; we have seen them in the rain and wind as they bike about the city. It is used by delivery boys and by show-offs and by thousands of teenagers singly, in pairs, or in small groups. You will often see a mother or father with a youngster riding together in traffic, with the parent's hand on the child's shoulder as both ride side by side, with the parent teaching the child the rules of the road and developing in the youngster that sense of timing and hindsight that is so characteristic of the Dutch.
Marcia has said with some truth that it is safer to walk than to ride but we wonder whether that is so. The sidewalks when they exist are very narrow so that walking two abreast is virtually impossible and walking single file is sometimes interrupted by a bench that has been installed by the owner of a home. The bench, extending from the building to the curb is used for sitting Even more frustrating is the owner who has marked off the front of his house with two decorative grills, some of which have sharp points, designed like those used to protect ropes from access by rodents, or pipes across streams by little boys who want to play. Our alternative is the street but that is dangerous - silent bikes appear suddenly from somewhere behind you - or lumbering trucks or compact cars. But most of all, there is the danger of stepping into - or on a neat pile of feces. These piles abound and since dogs are very large here, the..... We will buy bikes, each with two wheels and a stout seat. Neither of us have racing rear ends.
Enkhuizen restaurants have no rugs. We have checked the Spanish, Yugoslavian, Chinese, and Dutch restaurants but nary an oriental rug. This oversight concerns us because we have seen such rugs in Amsterdam and in Kampen and have learned that this use is traditional: instead of a tablecloth, there is an oriental rug. We must ask for clarification in a respectful way. Marcia, after reading this paragraph informed me that the rugs are put out only in the morning and afternoon. I must make a study.
The physician and his wife who are our landlords occupy a large house next to ours and use the ground floor of ours for his office. Below our dining area is the waiting room and under our kitchen and bathroom are the examination rooms. Chickens occupy our backyard. The doctor's practice is limited to general medicine. It is not as large as he envisioned when he moved his practice from his house to ours. He sees patients in the morning under our bathroom and visits them or others at their homes in the afternoon - in a fashion much like the GP (General Practitioner) in America used to practice many years ago. He tells us that he also occasionally visits patients at the hospital in Hoorn, a city some 20 kilometers away. The local hospital from which patients have been removed now serves as a meeting place for the local physicians and specialists - a club of sorts.
When we saw him yesterday in his study which occupies the entire front quarter of the first floor of his house, he was working on a computer. His English is impeccable and delivered slowly in a British accent. His wife who speaks English well manages the office while being a mother of three, the keeper of the large house, and a woman-about-town. Two children, a boy of about 11 and a girl about 13, were having fun with words as their mother was helping us find a bicycle store in the yellow pages. Their third child, a boy of about 10 was not about. Later, another youngster was introduced whom we later learned was French. For many years this young man, now about 16, has been visiting with the family during the summers and holidays. He came from a large impoverished family and has been with the doctor's family for many years. He seemed shy at our introduction.
The streets and sidewalks of Enkhuizen are brick, and workers are either bricking or unbricking. I asked a talented young worker who had just demonstrated how easily it is to cut a brick so that it fits perfectly as the keystone in a circular design, why he had earlier unbricked the area in front of the post office, which he was now bricking. He indicated that there had been low and high surfaces which held the rainwater rather than surfaces which dispersed it to the gutter. And then I noticed how nicely convex are all the street surfaces. Maintaining the shape requires constant work throughout the city and so we see at various locations groups of men loosening, unbricking, pounding, and bricking always in the cold damp air.
We are adapting. Today we went to the open air market which is a weekly event and takes place in a supermarket's parking lot. The lot is obviously public because the vendors who come from all over do compete with the market. On this day it was raining and the aisles between the stalls were covered by a plastic which was lifted from time to time by one of the vendors to release a cascade of water.
We came specifically to buy fish. We have had a hard time buying fish in that the two fish markets in town do not offer a variety and the supermarkets do not sell any. Until then we had schar (dab), a flat fish that looks like flounder; the flesh is very white and very soft. It is good but the fish is not chubby so that fillets that should have served two, barely were enough for one. Also available are kabeljouw (cod) in all sizes and schol (plaice), also a flat fish but smaller than the schar.
Smoked fish is plentiful. Mackerel and eel predominate. Finally, there is herring which is always available - smoked, raw, pickled, salted and dried.
To our surprise the open air market did not offer much more. Knorhaan (gurnard), a small fish the size of a perch with the color of a whiting was available and whiting itself was for sale. We did, however, see zee wolf (catfish) and that is what we bought. The fillet was very large and even when we had it cut in half and brought it home, we halved it again. It was not sweet as the the catfish back home is, but it was chunkier,
We expected to see so much more fish but found little. No large North American species such as halibut, haddock, fluke. No shark or tuna. No sea bass or trout. No shell fish except mussels and no crustaceans except for very small shrimp. Herring galore is what we have in Enkhuizen. We asked our acquaintances. Their reply is simple. Few people want or eat fish.
We have been in Enkhuizen for almost two weeks. Our apartment is very comfortable and now that we have a blanket rather than a quilt we can sleep through the night. The Dutch put enormous down quilts into colorful covers which serve both as sheet and bedspread. We found this made sleep impossible in January when we stayed in hotels and again the first couple of nights here in the apartment. We would wake up thinking we were in a sauna. By removing the quilt and just using the cover, we could sleep but I was afraid that on very cold nights it wouldn't be enough. The boat was full of quilts (ten and four blankets!), so I had two thin blankets cleaned and put those into the quilt cover. But even this was too much. Now I have just one and like Goldilocks, I think it is just right!
The previous owners of the boat had left everything aboard when they went home to California - sheets, blankets, quilts, pillows, dishes, pots, tools. But I had no use for so much and no storage space to spare. I gave some of the quilts to another liveaboard and we filled the car trunk with the others plus old sheets, pillows, etc. and dropped them off at the local Salvation Army. In January I had thrown away nine mattresses. They had them sitting in pairs directly on the floor boards with no way for the air to circulate. Everything had a musty smell.
The inside of the boat is all torn up now. The two bed frames in the aft cabin have been removed and we now have one double bed with wooden slats for good air circulation. The two beds in the forward cabin are gone and the galley is going to go in that area. A new stove and refrigerator are on order.
We haven't gotten our shipment of belongings yet. They are still in Rotterdam. The shipping company needed a customs declaration. We located a Foreign Officer in the City Hall which is only half a block away. He said we first had to have a legal residence in Enkhuizen! (I think I have gone through this before.) He told us to get a friend to lend us his address. Luckily we were able to talk the yacht broker into filling out the form. Then we found out that this wasn't all we needed. Martin reached the right office in Amsterdam and they sent us an application for a tax exemption for household goods. Martin filled this out today and we will mail it tomorrow. Since we are not living aboard and we do have a supply of clean clothes, there isn't too much urgency for our everyday items. There are, however, a number of items in the shipment that Martin wanted to install in the boat, but these things will have to wait.
Yesterday we purchased two used bicycles and today we rode to the weekly market which is set up in the parking lot of the supermarket. This seems strange, but that is the way it is. It was raining, but then it rains everyday so you get used to it. We went to the market to buy fish. The stall has a larger supply and selection than the two local stores. We are surrounded by water yet the selection of the fish is very meager. They sell a lot of herring and excellent smoked fish.
Buying the bicycles was a major undertaking. We had looked at new bikes in the local shop which is only a few blocks away, but Dr. Hudig's wife said that she only bought used bikes and she highly recommended a shop way down the road, two or three villages away. When she found out that we had returned our rental car, she offered to drop us there. The road through the village leaves Enkhuizen by a gate/monument and heads off in the general direction of Hoorn. It is only two lanes and is heavily used by bicycles, but also by cars and trucks. The trip was not for the faint hearted. First she swings to the left to pass the bikes, but has to miss the bikes on the other side. Then goes back to the right to avoid the oncoming truck. Back and forth, back and forth. We were relieved when we arrived. We had driven this street ourselves, but at the speed of the bicycle riders, never daring to pass them.
Our landlord's wife introduced us to the shop's owner, but couldn't stay. There were new bikes downstairs and about 100 used ones upstairs. All colors, shapes, sizes - single speed, 3 speeds, 5 speeds, thin tires, fat tires - completely bewildering. We looked and looked and then took a pair of 5 speed bikes down the street to try out. The rain and the traffic made me extremely nervous and I didn't really know what to do with the gear lever. Martin had better results but the gears needed adjustment. I decided I only wanted 3 speeds. Since it was 6 o'clock it was too late to continue to look. We were going to take the bus back, but the owner offered to drive us home. The next afternoon we returned to the shop by bus, which only had one near miss and that was with a car. There are no traffic lights in Enkhuizen!
Again we looked and eventually picked out two which we thought were in good shape and took them down the road for a test ride. I bought a Raleigh and Martin a Batavus, Phoenix model. We decided we weren't brave enough to ride them home, so we took the bus and let the shop deliver the bicycles.
We made two business/pleasure trips to Amsterdam during our first week here. On the first we went to the American Consulate with the boat's bill of sale and got a very official, notified document attesting to our American citizenship and ownership of the boat. We have been told that this will make the French friendlier.
The American Consulate is located near the museums and the ANWB office (the Dutch National Touring Club). We went here first and picked up a set of charts for the Dutch canals and then to the Rijksmuseum (rijks = realm, empire). This is the museum that houses the Rembrandts, etc. It is almost the size of the Louvre and much too big for one visit. We bought a yearly museum pass which is good for over 300 different museums and plan on returning to the Rijksmuseum and also going to the nearby Van Gogh museum.
We had to return to Amsterdam the next day to return the car. On that day we visited the Anne Frank house and then went to the bookstores for second hand paperbacks and a better Dutch/English dictionary. I wanted a field guide to European birds but couldn't find an English one. I did get a coffee table size magnificent copy of Birds of the World which will keep me busy for a long time.
The train ride back to Enkhuizen was very easy and pleasant. There are two trains each hour and Enkhuizen is the last stop on this line. The Dutch must have an honor system because no one ever collected our tickets. The fare is 12 guilders which is about $6.00. This is one way for one person.
We learned that the Rhine is flooding and that this daily rain is unusual even for Holland. Where our boat is the water is above its normal level and we had to lower the tires which act as bumpers. The Dutch keep pumping the water out into the sea, but our little harbor must be even further below sea level.
We have a flock of chickens and a rooster in our backyard and the rooster is making a lot of noise this morning. Although we are directly on the street it is very quiet since there are so few cars. The church bells make the most noise at night. They play music at the strangest times.
March 31, 1988
We have just returned from a trip to Hoorn via the railroad. We went to look in furniture shops for a sleep sofa and we found one that we will consider seriously. We found it inside a church! A beautiful, large church has been converted into a two story department store. Later we ate lunch on the second floor of the Weighing Building. There are enormous scales downstairs that were used for weighing cheese and produce. To reach the restaurant you must climb a tiny, winding wooden staircase. There is a small landing half way up to wait on if someone is trying to come down. We had the day's special which was outstanding and ended with Crepes Suzette.
We bought the Enkhuizen Courant, a local newspaper, on Saturday last. We were interested in finding out if a local restaurant, where we had eaten before and one of the best in town, had another fifty percent off sale. We failed in this regard but did learn about the advent of Dutch daylight savings time which, like American time, arrives at 2 AM on Sunday. We adjusted our watches on Saturday evening, but the two church clocks which we listen to religiously sprang ahead on Monday.
We are returning to basics. Bread crumbs are not easy to purchase so we began to save the crumbs of French bread which we buy occasionally, and then save whatever bread is left. French bread is good in this respect because it stales in about 6 hours. Good French bread may last 10 to 12 hours if kept away from the hungry. We have dedicated the present glass coffee jar to house the crumbs of the future.
On this Easter Sunday in 1988 we went to our church. It is ours because we can see it from our front windows and we have heard its chimes now for so long that we have taken them for granted. This day the bells announced the special service but we were already on our way, dressed in our finest. Marcia in a soft, light gray raincoat with open toed shoes, and I in my boat show uniform, a blue blazer, khaki trousers, and my 'superdad' tie. (We have done this before in the States - attending church services on holidays when we are away from home, boating or traveling. We look for the change of pace, the beauty of the place, and mostly the music.
We entered through an inauspicious wooden door and found ourselves in a musty, plain, unattractive, large cathedral of sorts, complete with vaulted wooden ceilings, three naves, and gravestones in the floor. The members of the congregation were dressed plainly, almost classically, with a few in old-fashioned styles with lace and dark clothes. Children were very much in evidence and each child was given a drawing board, the outline of a religious drawing, colored pencils, and the task to color in the drawing during the service so that it could be exhibited later when the minister called upon them to stand.
At the hour of ten, and with little pomp, the men and women of the choir, already dispersed in four separate areas of the church, opened the service with a magnificent round of voices that came from everywhere, reverberating through the space like a carillon of a thousand voices. It was beautiful. The liturgy followed and although we understood practically nothing, we could follow the service so it was not until the sermon that my mind and eyes wandered. The building is such an old structure. The southwest wall seems to be caving inward and so much around needs repair. I looked at the stones in the floors. They were curiously marked with symbols, lines, and letters. I was reminded of the sign of the fisherman but later Marcia, who had read a bit about the church in one of those rare brochures written in English, informed me that the names had been chiseled away in the French Revolution and that the symbols were of occupations.
My eyes kept returning to the magnificent pulpit that seemed to be suspended in the air high above the congregation. We read that it is made of oak and shows the year 1610, almost 200 years after the building of the church had begun. What keeps the pulpit up? It is so very heavy itself yet holds an ancient bible donated in 1782 plus the minister himself, not a light person. I would have liked to have understood the sermon.
Our Short Wave Radio: We have made contact regularly with the World Service of the BBC and now we have daily news and commentary. Marcia complains of a lack of color in the announcer's delivery. She is right.
We bought new bicycles, not because we are rich Americans, but because we are ignorant Americans who do not know a pre-loved bicycle from a discarded wreck. We are happy, though. We polished and vaselined both bikes, and for one, we purchased a saddle bag for groceries and other objects.
How very fast a bicycle moves! I was impressed with its speed when we rented two in Florida, but here in Enkhuizen, they fly. The other evening we rode on the path that lies on the circumference of the city and made the circle in less than 30 minutes. We biked on the fietspad, so I thought, and I was concerned that we might be breaking the law, but Marcia allayed my fears by pointing out a few other riders and the spoor of horses - not an uncommon sign in this town. Later we found that we were on the bike path.
I do not remember traveling as fast when I was thirteen.
Our plant: Our plant is growing green and more fulsome, but alas, no pansies. The buds are not blooming. I complain bitterly. Marcia is more philosophical. We shall see.
On the fish market: Brook trout and small salmon appeared recently.
On the funeral home: The funeral home lady who smokes all day as she sits by the window near a telephone opposite a man - presumably her husband - who appears to be working all day is not always working. While I was watching her this morning she picked up her hands and began to shuffle a deck of cards. I watched carefully later and observed certain movements of the arms. I am now convinced that she and the man opposite her, whom we cannot fully see, play cards all day long. Marcia was not surprised. A funeral director is not like a yacht broker; she does not look for the dead bodies, and when no one dies, there is absolutely no work.
Paper bags are practically nonexistent. Stores sometimes supply plastic bags but most often you bag your own purchases, using your own container brought from home (which is usually a plastic bag).
With the exception of the supermarket, most stores do not provide a receipt for goods purchased unless you request one.
The garbage is collected once a week and must be in a securely fastened plastic bag - no garbage cans. Bottles must be discarded in large metal waste bottle containers located near the market.
The large, wonderful children's playground here in Enkhuizen cost 1 guilder for admission (about 50 cents).
Soon after we arrived in Enkhuizen and looked out our back window we found something familiar, an American flag flying from the mast of one of the large sailing ships moored in the Oosterhaven, a canal a block away. The flag looked a little faded but there it was, streaming in the north wind. When we later saw Anne, our yacht broker, who lives on the canal, we asked him about the Americans on the boat moored up the block. He knew nothing about any Americans on any boat and nothing about a flag. A few days later, during my early morning run, I passed the American boat at the moment its owner, who was living aboard, emerged. I stopped breathlessly and asked him if he were American. "No,' he said. "Why?" All I could think of to say was, "I'm an American," as if this cryptic reply would explain my inquiry. "Have a good day," I added, and continued on my run.
Recently at a store that sells naval flags, we ran across a large box of American flags except they were Enkhuizen flags with 13 stripes, 7 orange and 6 yellow, and a square of blue and white, but instead of 50 stars, there were 3 white herring on a field of blue. Obviously, we made the connection. Our "American" flag flying from the mast that we observed from our window was not a faded American one, but the flag of Enkhuizen in good condition. Next time I see the Dutchman who is not an American, I will explain.
April first was the opening day for the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen. This was unusual. The normal opening date is in the middle of April, but Easter was early and perhaps they decided to open earlier because of that. It is hard for us to find out about these things since we can't read the local papers or understand the news programs. There is a VVV office in town, but the local staff is just not very helpful even though their job is to provide information to tourists.
The museum has two main parts: the Buienmuseum (outdoor part) and the Binnenmuseum) (indoor part). The indoor museum is on the next block and we had already found out that it was going to be closed all year for repairs. The outdoor section is only a few blocks away, located between the town and the Ijsselmeer. It is like Williamsburg in Virginia. A small village of about 100 houses, stores and boats showing how people lived in the past, in this case, daily life in the fishing villages surrounding the Zuiderzee (South Sea) between 1880 - 1930. The Zuiderzee played a large role in the history of the Netherlands, but in 1932 the outer dike was completed. This closed off this immense body of water from the sea and gradually it changed from a salt water fishing area to a fresh water lake. Four large "polders" were eventually constructed. Polders are large bodies of land formed by damming, pumping out the water and leaving canals and draining ditches to continually remove the water. These polders turned thriving seaports into inland cities or river towns. (You can find light houses in what seem to be the strangest places here.) This created economic hardship and change for those dependent on the sea. Their houses and neighborhoods, never the most prosperous, began to decay even further as their old way of life disappeared. The museum has saved many original buildings from destruction and urban renewal and reconstructed them in neighborhood groups to preserve the past.
Although we could clearly see this village we didn't know how to get in! We walked over to a turnstile only to discover it was an exit. There was a sign however in four languages that besides stating the museum was closed until mid April, explained that the entrance was by boat only and there were two stops: one near the railroad station and the other by the lock on the dike that crosses the Ijsselmeer and goes to one of the polders. We discovered that the reason for this was the traffic problem and parking. The museum attracts large crowds and there is a parking lot on the dike. We walked over to the railroad station and caught the ferry. From there we were taken to the dike where we had to get off to buy our tickets. Because we had gotten a yearly museum ticket (for all the national museums in the NL) we had to pay only for the boat ticket. I also bought a guide book in English which was excellent, although we didn't get a chance to read it until after our visit so missed some of the finer points.
We had a great day for our visit. The early morning fog cleared and the crowd was small. Later in the season the village will be prettier when more of the flowers are blooming, but some early spring flowers were open. Since this is a fishing village, the houses and businesses are small. Most of the houses had only one or two rooms. Exhibits were related to daily life: sail making, boat building and repairing, fish smoking and cleaning, house building and painting, using shells for lime making, cutting peat, and net tanning. one building housed a small mechanized steam laundry that washed clothes for the wealthier city dwellers. A windmill of course.
There was a chapel where a young people's orchestra was performing. This was an unexpected bonus. Especially for the children there is a small traditional playground and a costume house. The children can put on the traditional costumes and parade around the grounds. While we were in the chapel, one of these children came in with her parents and the clatter of the wooden shoes on the stone floor caused some good-natured laughter.
Outside the costume house some children were trying to walk on stilts and some were trying to master the art of rolling a metal hoop with its attached metal stick. The children could also ride in a small barge propelled by a bargeman with a pole.
Enkhuizen itself is a living museum. We believe it is one of the most popular tourist towns in the Netherlands. It is similar to Annapolis and maybe about the same size. The weekends here are getting very crowded. People come in by train, car, tourist bus, and of course by boat. In addition to small town canals and harbors, there are two large marinas and a large main harbor. On Fridays this harbor is filled with the traditional sailing ships, the Tjalks with their lee boards. We saw about 20 last week. I understand that later there will be about 40. People go out on them for the weekend or week. Each one can take 10 to 20 people. On April 24th, there will be an annual gathering of the tjalks in the Enkhuizen harbor and they will be open to the public. I am sorry that Paula will not be here. She would enjoy this.
In addition to these large charter boats there are small charter craft, the fishing fleet, and private pleasure boats of all sizes. People who live on the very small canals with fixed bridges in the town have miniature motor yachts and dinghies. Sailboats way outnumber power boats, probably 9 to 1.
The Ijsselmeer is very windy. There is no large canal leaving Enkhuizen. We will have to use the Ijsselmeer to reach a canal when we leave here. The eastern lock between the northern part of the lake and the southern section (also called the Markermeer) is here so all boats travel on this shore and thus go past Enkhuizen. This dike cutting the Ijsselmeer is the most recent one built. It is the first step in creating a new polder between here and Amsterdam, but plans have been shelved. The four polders already built in this century have relieved the population pressures and provided sufficient agricultural lands for the present.
Yesterday there was a children's race of 40-50 tiny squared bowed sailing dinghies. We stopped by at the end of the race and watched the parents lugging the boats to the cars to be loaded onto the car tops. The masts went into round cases and also placed on the top of the car. The marina dock master said the people were from Sweden.
In addition to the boating, people are drawn here by the town itself with its 17th century buildings. There was a wall around the town at one time and there are fairly high dikes. These dikes are no longer needed now that the sea has been turned into a lake and the water level is controlled. Some of the old forts and gates are still up and there is a nice bicycle path on top of the dike that circles the town. The streets and most of the houses are brick or at least faced with brick. The house across the street has a date of 1643 on it. The new houses in the town blend in with the old and there is an entirely new area across some open fields outside the old dikes. Also outside and fronting on the lake just beyond the museum grounds is a large camping area. Even now there are small caravans camped. There is an outdoor swimming pool and athletic fields. Horseback riding is a big thing here. The stables are in the town and the riders frequently pass our house. We also discovered a lovely park down the block with a children's nature center. It has a large field with deer, sheep, ducks, geese, pheasants, etc. We sat there in the afternoon sun watching the children feed the inhabitants.
Work on the boat proceeds slowly. The new sink cabinets have been built on the starboard side leaving a space where we will have a breakfast table with two stools. The port side is cleared and floored, but the refrigerator and stove will not be delivered for another two weeks. A large exterior steel box has been constructed to house the propane tanks. This is located on the aft deck in the middle of our seating area. But with a tray on the top, it will double as an outdoor table. There was no other location for the tanks. They had been in the forward storage locker under the deck without ventilation. This is against American laws because of the danger. The new location will make it easier to remove them when they need to be refilled.
We keep in touch through the BBC radio news and brought the TV off the boat and watch American movies and programs. We used our residency paper to acquire a library card and so now borrow books from the English language shelves.
In the markets two kinds of chickens are for sale: one you see and one you do not see. The one you see is small, one kilo in weight (about 2 lbs.) and there are many for sale. These small birds are more like squabs than pullets, and are made in a factory we are told. That is why they all look alike, weigh the same, and taste terrible. The other chicken, the one you never see, is large because you see its cut up parts - large leg quarters and filets of full breasts - no wings, though. Perhaps there are no large chickens and that is why you do not see them. Perhaps, the leg quarters and filets are also made in a factory.
The Dutch establishment - its banks and government offices - may be of the old world in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Hague but here in Enkhuizen, the only person who wears a tie is the police officer we met. Everyone else is dressed informally with large baggy pants and shirts and soft shoes and sweaters. And everywhere is youth. The banks are operated by a group of young, tall, attractive girls who drink pop and smoke incessantly. The scene is repeated in City Hall, at the foreign office, at the national tourist agency and at the post office where every stamp that is put on a letter from Enkhuizen by the post office clerk is licked personally.... always youth and everywhere informality. (I do not think that the boys comb their hair in the morning.) Even the police are young but they wear ties and crisp shirts.
Is my perception of the youth accurate, or does some fault lie in my perspective?
I opened my wallet on the dining room table yesterday evening. The wallet was handy and I remembered having stuffed into it some bills that I had received in change at the market. I removed the bills and began to rearrange them in order. It became an occasion to examine each denomination.
Guilders in paper are colorful - orange, violet, pink, carmine, red, deep blue, tan, bright green - probably all the colors of the rainbow. The 250 guilder note is a maze of designs and reproductions in a very pleasing form. On one side a lighthouse is set in open country near the sea shore. In the foreground are wispy, thin branches of small trees and the whole is set in two diamond shapes which in turn are set on a line drawing of the map of the Netherlands. The number 250 is printed on the upper right and lower left corners. Below the number on the right is a blank space but in looking for a watermark I found it there. It was a cuddly rabbit. On the lower left is a legend but the print is so small to be illegible without a magnifying glass. On the other side of the bill is the top of a large lighthouse. The bills of smaller denominations are equally interesting with watermarks of a poelsnip (a bird), a bumble bee, a vase of flowers, and a sea shell shaped like a horn of plenty.
We finally visited the lighthouse some distance north of Enkhuizen. Marcia discovered it while looking at a map. When she told me about the visit, I was excited. We talked about having an outing. I was thinking about a bottle of wine and cheese - a leisurely picnic on a sandy beach, perhaps some combing.
The other day we made our visit. We did not go as either of us planned: no picnic and no preparation. Indeed, we just biked out of town one day for a ride and followed a road. (I think Marcia knew that the road would lead us to the lighthouse, but I was ignorant.) The road we took ran along the inside of a dike which was always on our right. Sheep grazed idly in the bright sun and an east wind buffeted us abeam, helping us only when we tacked. Each of the sheep was marked on its back with a swath of green blue, or red paint. (This is always done with sheep as all of my readers who know about sheep understand.) And then there were the lambs. (Spring lamb, Mom) They all looked like they had just jumped out across the fence of someone's dream. They were darling - clean and cute. Some congregated, but most stayed with mamma. Neither of the hind legs of the lamp looked large enough to roast, but it was just April.
The sheep and lambs were silent as we passed, merely looking at us curiously as we looked at them. Wisps of wool clung to the fences where an animal had rubbed. Marcia salvaged a clump and I immediately put in for a scarf.
The road continued to follow the dike and because the inside of the dike was fenced pasture for the sheep, we could not climb the dike to look at the water on the other side.
Eventually I became aware of a building in the distance. When Marcia told me that it was the lighthouse, I refused to accept her statement. For one thing, we had not gone that far from town. And for another, the structure was not high enough for a lighthouse, especially since it was built on the low ground rather than on the dike so that at least one third of the building was not even visible from the sea. Finally, though, there was no sand, just more of the dike and pasture and sheep. I ignored the large light placed on top of structure. A private house was attached to the building, and there was a small path leading up the dike, but it seemed like private property.
We started back but took a different route, turning right at the second road into the west wind. We saw gulls, terns, water snipes, herons, and a robin white breast, a common bird hereabouts. It's not as robust as a real robin but since we do not know its name, I christened it because I, like other explorers, are licensed poetically. We passed more sheep - one herd in which each ewe was accompanied by two lambs. (No rams about, which is surprising, particularly in the Netherlands where dads are given considerable respect). We passed a few horses, a private harness racing track, fields of tulips about to bloom and a farm with many cows. All the land as far as the eye could see was farm land. The few houses we passed were small and neat, with large picture windows. I do not recall more than a half dozen automobiles that passed us throughout our ride, and three of these were Mercedes sedans being used as auxiliary farm vehicles.
We also smelled manure - strong and sweet - really! We are getting accustomed to it as we are to these rich lowlands of Holland.
We described at some length the "quick exit center" which is located on the left, diagonal in front of our house, but we have given no description of the other buildings.
Directly opposite us is what we assume to be a barbershop. A vertical candy striped tube is enclosed in a glass cylinder near the entrance. The sign on the door adds more evidence, viz.
Nu Gillette voor de meeste keren meesterlijk scheren
We have not had an official translation but we arrived at the following, informally:
Now Gillette for the master cleaner masterly shave
Also two signs are set in each window:
hier geen Petsen plaatsen
These words were a problem for some time. Having never seen anyone enter or leave the establishment, we thought the signs gave notice of a long vacation. However, a professional translator, whom we had hired for another task, told us that the sign merely requested that no bicycles be put in front of the window. So far, no bikes and no barber.
Next to the barber, moving to our right is a private home and then an office, the office of a chiropractor we guess (orthomanipulate). We have seen a woman who lives there and a younger man once in a while, but no one appears to be arriving for treatment.
Next door is a private house and then a building which is a nursery school during the day and a community center in the evening when we have seen meetings and art classes. The last house is private.
UPDATE - The funeral parlor.
It finally happened. It is late afternoon. We see an ambulance pull up across the street and what appears to be a body on a stretcher is removed and carried into the funeral parlor. A few moments later the stretcher is returned to the ambulance. I am glad we see this delivery with our own eyes. We have been here almost a month and while we have seen many bodies being carried out, up to now we have never seen one carried in. We imagined terrible things. We feel better now.
Later, that evening, a few minutes after the stores close at 9 PM, we were heading home, walking on Westerstraat, the main shopping street, when a couple arm in arm come striding down the roadway. I am sure that they are the man and woman of the funeral home. The man's eyes meet mine - instant recognition - almost, perhaps a greeting with a slight movement of the head. It happened so quickly and unexpectedly. They passed. I told Marcia but she says that I am mistaken, but I know. They have been watching us as we have been watching them.
We went to a jazz concert this afternoon at the large community center near the harbor. This event kicks off Enkhuizen's celebration of jazz which culminates in a three day 'mardi gras' type of Jazz Festival on the 6th, 7th, and 8th of May. We did not know what to expect when we entered the building at 1450 hours (2:45 PM). The band was setting up for the concert at 3 o'clock. The bar was opposite the band and although some of the tables, set up community style, were already filled there were still spaces free. We chose two spots off on the left near the bar. From this position we had a good view of the band.
Some old folks were present - quite a few, actually - and then there were children with their parents, or in some cases just with their mothers. All of the children were young - under 8 and some quite young. We had expected a larger, different crowd. Admission was only 21 guilder (about $1.30) per person so that many young adults should have been there.
We picked up a couple of glasses of draft beer and waited. At exactly 1500 hours, the combo began with the Darktown Strutters Ball. A very good trumpet, an excellent trombone, a fabulous sax, mediocre banjo and drums, but an extremely talented base fiddle that doubled on the largest, lightest, and most rhythmic tuba I have ever seen and heard.
And so we listened. All American music ( our most important export ) - some classical jazz, one show tune, swing and blues. Take Me Back to Indiana, Washington and Lee Swing, Dinah, Slow Boat to China, Muskrat Ramble, Alexander's Ragtime Band to name a few that we remember. And as the band played, more and more people arrived. Mothers and daughters, guys with dates, girls alone or with a female friend, guys, senior citizens, and most of all, young families with two, often three small children. Beer drinkers were three and four deep at the bar. The dance floor became crowded as the oldsters, catching the rhythm, took to the floor to Peabody, lindy, and fox trot. Four long sets took the band to 1800 hours (6 PM) when it all ended.
We loved it. We kept the rhythm with our feet, knees, hands, and fingers. Such good music, so well done. A wonderfully revealing slice of Dutch life with the emphasis on the family, particularly children; the presence of lively seniors; the closeness of the community - so many knew each other; the appreciation of American music; and among the young men and women, so much consciousness of clothing style. We were very glad we came.
On the main shopping streets in Enkhuizen and in every other city in the Netherlands, only pedestrians are permitted. No autos or bicycles. Our streets are vacuumed once a week. Sidewalks are washed by homeowners or business people. Windows are washed by everyone.
Here we are, finally, real liveaboards. We moved aboard on May 12th even though the work on the boat was incomplete. Our Dutch renovator's favorite word turned out to be Spanish: mañana. We originally expected to be in our apartment for a month, then we had to tell Mrs. H. that we would stay another week, then another, and then yet another! But she had a psychologist who wanted to rent it for an office and so we couldn't wait for things to be finished. We had been spending more and more time working on the boat: cleaning the engine compartment (gallons of oily water had to be pumped out into a container and then disposed (the last owner was not very fastidious), sanding rust spots and then priming and painting - which is still in progress - the aft and forward cabins were cleaned and painted, the ceilings were cleaned, the toilet was taken off, cleaned, and new parts installed not the most pleasant job, but one of the most necessary, curtains and screens made and installed, couch covers made, everything left by the previous owners sorted and cleaned, or thrown out. Our trunk, duffle bags, and boxes had to be transported from the apartment to the boat. This was accomplished using bicycle power! Each time we came over a box would be lashed to the rear luggage rack. In this way 500 lbs. was moved.
The boat is slowly getting homey and comfortable. The aft cabin is great. The two single beds were removed and a double bed frame constructed for a 140 cm by 200 cm. mattress, which is bigger than USA standards since my fitted American sheet won't fit. There are three half size closets behind the bed used mainly for storage. We have two chairs in front of the bed and the covered shelves are very ample for clothing. We have a new rug and with the curtains, the room is very cheerful.
From the aft cabin there are 5 steps up to the helm station/dinette. We haven't gotten around to fixing this room. Eventually (next winter) the wood will be sanded and re-varnished, sometime soon the floor will be repaired where it has some water damage. But already our dinette gets the most use. The room is large and completely lined with windows, so we can sit and watch the world pass by. We have a brass lantern with two wicks that provides excellent light after 9:3O PM. Holland is in the far north. We have day light here from 5:30 to 9:30 or 10:00 PM - in May. I don't think we will have light at midnight, but have been told to expect it at 11:00 during the summer.
From this room there are 7 steps down into the main salon, galley, and bath areas. The boat was originally a cargo boat and this area would have been the hold, so it is quite deep. Our new galley is fantastic. It replaces two twin beds. We have a large sink and drain board. A hot water line was added. Cabinets under the sink, plus a set of drawers. On the other side is the new propane stove and oven, a propane refrigerator which can also work off the boat's battery or shore power - if we are ever at a marina and have it - and another cabinet. In addition there is shelf space behind these built-ins and we have a hanging rack on the wall. Removing the kitchen sink from its original location provided space for a small table attached to the wall which gives us a breakfast nook, but we have only used it once. We like the dinette's windows too much. But it will be great in the winter when it will be warmer. The other major improvement is a sliding door for the bathroom. Originally there was just a curtain, which was sufficient for us, but since there was room, we decided to add a door for the benefit of guests.
We have a small propane hot water unit on the wall in the bath. Americans have large hot water tanks which store gallons of hot water. These little units seem to be preferred in the rest of the world. We had seen them in foreign films, but never used one before. When you want hot water you light the pilot light, then when you turn on the hot water faucet in the bath or kitchen, flames light like on a stove burner and in 30 seconds the water comes out hot. But as soon as you turn off the faucet the flame goes low, so you are only burning propane on demand and no hot water is being stored. It is amazing how quickly the water becomes hot.
Yesterday Martin lashed our largest propane tank to a grocery hand cart, the kind women own in the cities, and took the tank to town. It was filled for 65 guilders (about $35.) when we attach it we will see how long it lasts. It was very heavy to bring back and took two of us to get it aboard and into our new steel propane locker. I'm typing this letter on May 23rd sitting on the aft deck using this same propane locker as a table. It is nice and warm and I can observe the passing scene. Since we had the big tank filled, we have also filled one of the 3 regular tanks for 35 guilders. This tank is now lashed behind the seating platform on the aft deck and we are still using propane that came with the boat.
Enough of the boat - on to more exciting things - I hope.
The Queen's birthday is celebrated on April 30th. The present queen's birthday is actually in February and April 30th is her mother's birthday. But her mother reigned for 50 years and so April 30th became a habit. Besides it is warmer in April than in February and the Dutch are very practical. The parade began in the grocery store's parking lot (the one used for the Wednesday market) at 9:30 AM. We had gone down to get our supplies. There were three marching bands, a few floats, and hordes of costumed children. The Dutch version of Halloween! Pirates, Indians, Kings, Queens, plus traditional Dutch costumes. The parade wound its way to the steps of the city hall where another band had been playing. Officials gave speeches, the Queen was cheered, the National anthem played, prizes awarded to the best costumes, etc. It was all very festive.
A few days later, May 3rd, was the Dutch memorial day. A number of events occurred during the day followed by an evening church service. We arrived outside the church as wreathe and flower bearers were leaving. A long parade of quiet people followed from the church and then others like us joined in. We walked to, but then past the city hall, down the block and into the park to a memorial statue where a band was playing and another crowd of people waited. It was all very solemn and impressive. A version of "Taps" was played, two minutes of silent prayers are offered at 8 PM throughout the country, hymns are sung, flowers laid at the statue's base and then the people walked back to the town.
When we got back the notary and his wife invited us into their house for coffee. We had a very pleasant visit. The notary in Europe is an important person. This town has been assigned only one by the government. He has a handsome office on Breedstraat and also lives on the same street. He has many functions that would be handled in a lawyer's office in the USA. When we bought the boat, we had gone to him to legalize the Bill of Sale. Well a few weeks ago we decided to get rid of the sailing dinghy that came with the boat. It was just too big and cluttered up the aft deck. It did not have a mast or sail, but had a small tiller, a rudder, a wooden seat, and two oars. First we stopped by the Foundation for Water Sports for the Handicapped. The Dutch are very caring people. This organization provides water sports in large and small boats. One day we had stopped and talked to a young man repairing a tiny boat outside their office here. At the charter boat festival, they had a large sailing boat on display equipped with ramps for wheelchairs. The director came over and looked at our dinghy, but rejected our donation. He probably figured, repairs, a mast, and a sail would cost more than the boat was worth. Later we spoke to the man who had surveyed our hull before we bought our boat. He said that the notary's son wanted a boat and would bring him over. The boy was about 7 or 8 and was delighted. Father and mother came by and were equally delighted. Our surveyor friend made a few minor repairs to the hull, dumped the boat into the canal where it is providing hours of pleasure to the boy and his friends. The other day day we saw the notary resting comfortably in the boat while his son rowed him up and down the canal.
This town is a child's delight. The little canals crisscross the town and connect to a great recreation area outside the town. These safe waterways are filled with small rowboats, sailing dinghies, kayaks, and canoes - manned by little boys and girls. One Sunday we watched a grandfather rowing a 4 year old who was towing a toy bathtub boat behind the rowboat. They rowed up and down all morning. Then in the afternoon we saw the grandfather in one boat and the boy in a separate boat learning to row himself! So our old dinghy has joined this flotilla of small pleasure boats and our deck is less cluttered and explains why the notary invited us in.
Besides that visit, we also had cocktails with the doctor and his wife in their garden one afternoon. Mrs. H. had lent me her sewing machine which I used for the screens & couch covers. We are quite indebted to them. They have an open wooden boat that originally was a small fishing boat. Perhaps it is 25 ft. long. They put a tent over it and have traveled all around. It is tied on the opposite side on the canal to our boat.
We also visited the woman who lives on Breedstraat. She has only lived in town for two months having just sold the family farm where she raised 9 children and also taught school! She spoke to us a few weeks ago but was on her way to Turkey for a week's tour. (Last year she visited the USA.) She asked us to visit when she returned. On the night we came, a son had also stopped by. His English was fluent and so he could help his mother and us to communicated. She showed us a picture of the farm and also of the sailing ship they had had. She said she was enjoying town life with the nearness of neighbors and shops after years on the farm. One of her sons had emigrated to Australia and she has visited him - quite a world traveler. The son we met had worked in Saudi Arabia and in Mexico, so our conversation was most interesting and informative.
So many things have been happening. I seem to be writing a book - also getting a sunburn. May 5th, the day after Memorial Day, was the day the country was liberated from German occupation and this is also a big holiday. There were a number of events we did not have time to attend, but we did check out the special market. This is the yearly "free market" where anyone can set up a booth or a blanket. It was the biggest yard sale I have ever seen. The children had toys and comic books set out; grownups had a typical array of used household items. I don't know what this has to do with the liberation but...
The largest event in the past month was the 15th annual jazz festival. Perhaps it rivals Newport! We had bought our tickets weeks before on the first day of public sale. I think that if you didn't you were out of luck. We attended two events requiring tickets, plus many of Saturday's free events. Friday's Opening Concert was held in a large (for Enkhuizen) hall - The New Festival Hall. The concert was scheduled to start at 8:15, we arrived on our trusty bikes a little before 8 and were lucky to get seats. Fire occupancy laws must be nonexistent here. People packed the hall and stood in the back. The rows of chairs were as close together as possible. Waiters roamed the aisles bring coffee, beer, etc. Sandwiches were available to sustain you through the night and you needed to be sustained.
There were 4 main bands. One from San Francisco, one from England, a Dutch one, and a German one. Then there was a great opening number performed by the best players from the various local groups; and around 1:30 AM the Jazz Festival Reunion Band - made up various players from different bands. Then at 2:30 AM a marching street band paraded in. We left at 3:00 AM to cries of "one more time". The Dutch band was quite funny in an odd way. They did the Farewell Symphony in reverse. The members had come in different cars and only half of the band arrived on time and half of the equipment, but we didn't know this. The band set up and after awhile began to play. Then in walked two more players. By the third number two more came and the music stands - like the thirty's big band stands with the band's insignia. There was much scrambling around to get everything set up. It ended up to be a very large band.
Saturday's events began at 11 AM. A band stand was set up on one of the sailing ships. You could stand or sit on the ground or sit at the cafe tables. The street and most of the town was blocked to traffic. Each band had a time assigned - 1 and a half or 2 hours - and it went on all day and night. At 2:00 PM in the main harbor there was a parade of sailing ships and steamboats, perhaps 6, each with a New Orleans style street parade jazz band tooting away. They entered the harbor, landed, then each band set off in a different direction. This went on for a couple of hours and we marched along beside a couple of the bands and then return to the band stand area again - stopping for herring, etc. along the way.
In the evening there was a choice of another concert in the Festival Hall or a Pub hopping event. We had bought tickets for the Pub concerts. There were 19 bands playing in 19 bars! You could go to as many as you wanted. All the bands that we heard were very good, but as the night wore on the crowds became too large and the rooms too hot for comfort. The hotel on the corner had stripped their lovely elegant dining room to make an open room with bars set up, but no furniture. We had become friendly with the manager and discussed her plans with her and we ended the night at her place. We were quite concerned for her about possible damage. But she was serving lunch the next day as if nothing had happened. We ended our night fairly early, but woke to hear the party goers in the early hours of the morning.
On Sunday there was a Bloody Mary concert, but we skipped that. It had been quite a weekend. Yet it was amazing how quickly the town recovered. On Sunday afternoon there was a little debris, but by Monday, no one would have known how many people had packed the town. We weren't the only Americans. There was a group of 23 Americans at the Opening Concert, although we did not meet them. It was announced.
We do speak to English visitors and Americans and Canadians. Just the other day a couple drove by the boat & waved. Martin said, "I bet they are Americans." We mounted our bikes to go shopping and met them as they stopped to take a photo. They were from Baltimore! Yesterday (May 22) we invited a young couple (he was English, she Canadian) aboard the boat with their 5 little children. He works in the Hague and they are camping here in Enkhuizen. A few moments ago a young man with his girl walked by and said he used to own this boat and his family had sold it to the the Americans who owned it before us. He still lives in Urk. He said the boat was owned by many families in Urk. He confirmed many of the details we had heard. His family had six members but they went out with relatives or friends and always slept nine. As I said there were 9 mattresses aboard when we bought the boat.
We will be in Enkhuizen for probably two more weeks. We have hired an electrician to update the electrical wiring systems and have endless other things to finish. We will let Lesley know when we move and then try to provide notice of where we are. We loved the letters that we received here and thank everyone very much. The doctor's children drop our mail off to us, but when we leave we won't have that luxury.
Martin had an old dental filling replaced that had developed a crack. Fees here are standardized. 50 guilders 50 cents (exchange rate 1.85 about) There are 6 doctors and 4 dentists in town. New doctors can't move in. Things are controlled more here than at home.
We will miss Enkhuizen. We love the town.
Our love to all,
My letter of May 18th said we would only be in Enkhuizen for two more weeks. Well we left June 21st! The electrician was as slow as the boat repairman. He is just going to have to delivery some items that we got tired of waiting for (electric cable, connectors, labels for the helm station breakers, and engine belts). We had new engine filters installed (and they leaked); we got new engine belts (and they were the wrong size); we got a new and larger alternator to charge the batteries when the engine runs ( and then this had to be rewired); an American connection for a 220V electric cable was installed (the first holes he drilled had to be filled in when it was discovered that there was a steel beam in the way); a Heart Interface that we had bought in the USA to work 110 volt appliances was installed (and then had to be grounded); new breakers and wiring were installed (I think this was trouble free). He said he would come at 9:30. He arrived at 4:30 or he said he would come Wednesday and he arrived Thursday. Getting work done on a boat is not easy! But we now have two batteries and a battery switch, safe wiring and breakers, the capability for a 220V system (Martin will do the inside wiring ), an expanded 12V system, new breakers, a propane safety device that Martin installed, and lots of other technical goodies.
In the meantime we have worked steadily on the boat. We removed the dinette which was a major undertaking. Ripped up two layers of old linoleum plus a layer of glued cork that had to be chiseled out. Under that was a wood base laid on top of the steel deck. The wood was rotten around the door where water had seeped in. That wood was also chiseled out and new wood cut and put in. The bottoms of both door frames were rebuilt with new wood, new door jams and corking. Then we installed a whole new wooden floor, put on three coats of finish and reinstalled the dinette. To go with our new floor we sanded the walls, put three coats of white primer and a top coat of white on the wall and varnish around the windows and the doors. The wheel was stripped, bleached and revarnished (sounds easy does it? ask Martin). The only easy job was the new dinette cushions. We had them made.
We designed and made our own curtains for this room. We had two problems. One the back and front windows slant and two, we didn't want cloth curtains. Martin designed a very ingenious system for keeping the shades against the slanting windows and rolling them up. We bought Chinese bamboo beach mats for 1.25 guilders, cut them in half, added new edging, put in grommets, lines and pulleys and now have nice nautical looking shades to keep out the sun.
We eventually finished painting the outside of the boat; rain delayed this for quite awhile. We got a boy to sand the floor in the main cabin, since he had an electric sander, but so far have only put one coat of varnish down and we are still painting the galley floor. It is very hard to do this since we can only do half the floor at a time otherwise we can't use the head or galley.
Well two months of solid work is not our idea of retirement and we finally got fed up; happy with the results, but sick, sick, sick of working! Last weekend we went on strike. We cleaned the paint brushes and put them away. We put away the tools, took the drop cloths off the furniture and started to make plans to leave on Tuesday. But first on Saturday we played tourist.
We wanted to go to Medemblik and see the harbor entrance, the bridges and the locks so that on our first trip out we wouldn't get lost. Medemblik is located on the Ijsselmeer, a short distance north of Enkhuizen. There is a canal leaving the town that we are planning on taking which will eventually head south.
We knew that there was a big ferryboat that went to Medemblik and had already discovered that there wasn't any bus. I rode up to the railroad station at 9:30 and asked about boat tickets. The ticket agent said it was an excursion. You took the boat to Medemblik, caught an old fashion steam train to Hoorn and from Hoorn you could take any regular train back to Enkhuizen. All this was for only 17 guilders, less than $9.00 a ticket. There was only one trip per day which left at 11:00 AM. The time in Medemblik was very short, only one and a half hours, but the trip sounded like fun and it was.
The ferryboat is a large ship with two floors, set up with tables. You could order apple cake with coffee or sandwiches. Some tables were formally set up for luncheon, but this was reserved for the people who had started the triangle at Hoorn and were taking the steam train first, then catching the boat at Medemblik. We felt like we were on a busman's holiday, although the coast line once outside Enkhuizen was unfamiliar. We watched the buoys and markers and shore line and enjoyed finally being at sea.
The entrance to Medemblik is easy, but not that obvious and later when we made the trip in our own boat we were very glad that we had done it before. We took a quick look at the bridges, lock, dockage area and then found the RR station. The station is unused now except for this once a day round trip steam engine from Hoorn. By the time we got on the train we had really begun to unwind and Martin fell fast asleep until the train pulled out! We rode part of the way on the outside platform fully enjoying the beautiful scenery and weather. Young people were digging up the tulip bulbs and harvesting potatoes.
Saturday was market day in Hoorn but we didn't stay long. We needed to get back and buy groceries and didn't want to carry perishables on the train. Stores close early here and there is no Sunday shopping. If you don't buy meat by 4:30 you are out of luck. Most stores close from 12:30 to 1:30 and each shop must also close for half a day. Monday morning the big grocery store is closed? You must plan your shopping carefully.
Sunday was Father's Day here too. I had wanted to have a big going away party, but some of the people we had wanted to entertain had engagements with their fathers. ( Hank M. was out camping with his son.)
We invited Dr. and Mrs. H, the owners of our apartment, over for Sunday cocktails. So Sunday we washed the boat, put rugs on the floor and were ready for company. We had a delightful time with them. So good that they came back Monday night to see a video we had on the Chesapeake Bay. Since on the first night I served Jenever, the Dutch gin, in water glasses, Yvonne brought us two Jenever glasses! On Monday she brought over some herring in sour cream and I made chocolate chip cookies. With all the chocolate here no one sells this type of cookie. The doctor loved them and I gave Yvonne the recipe. (Cooking is a challenge. I couldn't find baking soda, baking powder or corn starch. Vanilla is sold in packages as a vanilla sugar powder.)
Monday was a very special day in Enkhuizen, "Lappendag". It was the annual town market day. Breedstraat, where we used to live, was lined with booths, plus the next street, plus Westerstraat ( which is a pedestrian street where most of he regular shops are). There was also a small carnival that had been in town over the weekend. They were set up right in the middle of the street with bumper car rides, a merry go round, etc. Dr. Hudig had to park his car on our street since he couldn't use his driveway. (Our canal and the street next to it is one block away from Breedstraat.) The funeral parlor couldn't have a funeral. I couldn't ride my bike to the laundry. The streets were bumper to bumper people. Everything was for sale. I asked what was the reason for the market, but was told it was just a tradition. Lappendag , means remnant day. Yvonne Hudig said that in the old days the women had one day off a year to go the cloth market. And there were many booths selling material, sewing supplies and yarn.
Monday the electrician came over, but the missing items would come "mañana", so we decided not to wait. The wind is usually very strong on the Ijsselmeer and the lake is rough for a round bottom canal boat so on Tuesday we took all the glasses off the shelves, wrapped them in dish towels, stuffed the drawers with anything breakable , brought in the flower pots, tied down the bikes, removed books from open shelves, etc. Naturally, after all this preparation, when we emerged into the lake it was as calm as glass. Sailboats were standing still. The next day was brutal so we were very lucky. The trip was very pleasant and we found a great spot empty in which to moor. There is a castle opposite us. One of only three intact national museum castles. We visited it and have also found the park, the pumping station, the city hall, the public gardens, and the canal where lots of canal pleasure boats are tied up.
Once a day people pass either on their way to the steam train or to the Enkhuizen boat. There is an endless parade of charter and pleasure boats. An extremely large catamaran belonging to the Handicapped Sailing Association came in. The sides and doorways were big enough for wheelchairs. The harbormaster asked us to move forward a few meters so they could fit in. The boat had a crew of 4 with 3 people in wheelchairs. They disembarked and explored the town for a few hours and then left. Then the marines landed. Large NL marine landing craft with about 8 zodiac type boats (large inflatable speed boats). They stayed overnight and had a few beers in the local pub. They were here for maneuvers with the zodiacs and we watched them out in the lake. Other boats come and tie up beside us. Last night we had two. There are four now. A huge sailing boat flying an English flag came in but left within the hour. I don't know why. Another just came by. The fishing boats go out to mind their eel pots, but the weather is too cold for big catches. Next week the World Champion Flying Dutchman (a small open sailboat) races will be held here. I think this also has something to do with Olympic tryouts. Two of the boats are on trailers on the road next to us. The boys used the ramp and went out to practice today.
The championship soccer matches are taking place (in Germany I think) and the Dutch have been winning. There have been lots of celebrations taking place. One night everyone was aboard their boats watching with much cheering. As I type this the final game against the Russians is going on. The grocery store closed at 3:30 - and everything else. Loud shouts keep coming out of the bar so they must be doing well. If they win it will be a wild night.
This afternoon (June 25) we rode the bikes out of town looking for the steam engine museum. It is in an old steam engine pumping house, which replaced 24 windmills in pumping water out of the polder. It is filled with old engines and on the weekend they are all working with lots of volunteers around to answer questions. One man came over to us and gave us an excellent tour and explained everything very well. Outside there was a special exhibit of old gas and diesel engines being displayed by a club. Even the ride over was interesting since we had to stop and ask directions. We stopped by a farm where a farmer had a big old steel boat hull filled with dirty water and the roots of celeries. A big electric mixer was stirring everything up. He explained that he was washing off the dirt and then they would be fed to the animals. His wife and he were concerned about the growth on the town which was fast expanding toward their farm.
We have gotten our boat officially documented and we found out it was built in 1915 and is 18 meters long, not 17. We had to put our names on both sides of the boat. All the charter boats also put their weight and how many persons are allowed to be on. So we now have
|MARTIN AND||9 TONS|
|MARCIA REFF||2 PERS.|
We get a lot of smiles from the passersby.
What does a soaked Dutchman look like? No, it isn't a Dutchman. It is that crazy American, Martin Reff riding his bicycle in a tremendous rainstorm near Alkmaar. But how did he get into such a predicament?
Well, when last you heard from us we were in Medemblik. We mailed your letters and were going out for a bike ride on Sunday afternoon. As we rode along the harbor road a man called to us from a passing sailboat, "How are you? We are so glad to see you again. How is the boat? May we see it? Where are you moored?"
We call back that we were just down the way and that the boat tied up to us was just leaving. If they waited a moment they could tie up alongside. As we rode back to the boat I turned to Martin and asked who were those people. He didn't know either. What a predicament! We welcomed them aboard and Martin decided that the best thing to do was to admit our ignorance. The answer was very embarrassing. We had been given their name by an official at the Dutch Consulate Office in NY. At the beginning of our first trip to the NL in January we had called them. They had invited us over and we had visited them in their home. They lived in Markenbinner, a tiny village near Amsterdam. They had called the Case R.'s father, Piet, for us and explained in Dutch who we were and that we would visit him in Harmelan. They had also helped us find one of the boats that we looked at. We had sent them a copy of our letter describing our trip and the boat we did buy when we had returned to the US, so they knew we had been successful.
As it turned out they kept their boat in the marina in Enkhuizen and were out for sail. If we had called them, we could have seen them in Enkhuizen. So here we were bumping into them in Medemblik. They enjoyed seeing our boat and we enjoyed seeing theirs. They had bought an unfinished Swedish fiberglass boat hull, top, and basic interior bulkheads - and then completed the interior cabins and exterior wood trim themselves. Beautiful wood joinery! They had put in two years work on the boat.
Later that evening we had another lovely experience. Suddenly we heard a band. Looking around we saw a large charter boat sailing past with a fife and drum corps playing on deck. The music was delightful and we followed them by bike until they got past the bridge and into the second part of the harbor where they continued to play even after tying up. The band must have chartered the boat for an excursion, but was combining their pleasure with a concert for the enjoyment of the other boaters.
We wanted to leave early on Monday morning but needed to shop. We hadn't shopped on Saturday because the stores had closed early due to the soccer game. The Dutch won the championship.( That was quite a night. Parades of people through the town, singing and shouting all night!) But everything was closed Monday morning. I was expecting to go to the outdoor market which is held on Mondays in Medemblik, but discovered that even this wouldn't start until 1:00. We puttered around, filled the water tank, talked to the Austrians, etc. and then stocked the larder.
Pulling out at 2 PM we faced our first bridges and locks. We were two very nervous boaters. The light was both red and green in front of the first bridge and we could see a sailboat approaching from the other side, so we waited. But too long. The bridge opened, the sailboat went through and before we could get there it closed again! We blew the horn. Nothing. We moved forward, then back. Martin struggled to keep the boat in the channel, off the dock and off the bridge. Sixty feet of boat with only one small engine is not the easiest thing control. The boat has an old fashioned throttle, a wheel, rather than the lever that everyone else has. And it has a huge mechanical gear shifting device that has to be pushed forward or back depending on the direction you wish to go. Eventually the bridge tender returned from his coffee break or whatever and opened the bridge. Two young tourists who had been watching our struggles from the bridge ran down the bank and took a picture of our triumphant passage through the open bridge.
We were then in the inner harbor and traveled the 5 or 6 blocks to the first lock or sluis. The gates were closed so again we waited. When they slowly swung open they disclosed a lock filled with large rowing prams (the Dutch farmer's work boat). There must have been half a dozen boats filled with young people out for a row in the canals. We waited until they left and then entered our first lock. I struggled to fasten a line to the side while Martin struggled to stop the boat - no brakes. Luckily the water level change on this our first sluis was very slight, not even noticeable. We were quickly out and on to our next. The next was a railroad bridge and a sluis combination. It had huge sides towering above the boat. There was a grab line along the side which would be under water when the lock filled up and there were crossed bars to thread a rope thru. I knew that you couldn't tie a knot because when the boat went up you wouldn't be able to get the line back since it would be under the water. The trick is to get a line around something, but bringing both ends back to the boat so you can pull it lose. You also have to control the length as the boat moves up or down. Well I never would get my mates license by my performance, but eventually got us attached. It isn't easy since the boat keeps moving forward and you are trying to stop the boat and get the line on correctly at the same time. Another boat came in and the gates closed and the water began to pour in. We started to rise. As we went up the tender reached down with a boat hook. At first this mystified me until I realized that he wanted me to put my line on the hook. I unfastened what I had so recently succeeded in fastening, placed a loop on his hook and he hauled the line up and placed it on a bollard. We went up about 4 meters in that sluis. On our first day we went thru 3 locks and under 6 bridges, 3 of which had to be raised.
None of the bridges or locks operate after 6 PM so all water traffic stops. We got as far as Kolhorn and pulled up to the side. There was only one bollard. We got a line on that and then had to quickly find a stake in the forward locker to hammer into the ground. On the following days we remembered the boy scout motto and were better prepared, but on this first day we used a small anchor to hammer in the stake. However we were at last actually on the canals and had survived our first day, although exhausted from the tension. And we had only started at 2 PM.
Kolhorn was a pleasant little town. We walked around, then returned to the ship for dinner, then out again for our evening bike ride. We stayed a second day at Kolhorn -practicing my knots, getting groceries, topping up the water and fuel tanks and left June 29. We went thru two locks and under 16 bridges, but only a couple had to be raised. We can fit under if the bridge is a little over 3 meters. One lock was broken. It was open on our side so we went in and tied up. Then we saw the men trying to fix the gate. They were successful and our wait was short. There were at least 8 boats waiting on the other side, but only one went thru with us. Later we were approaching a bridge when we see this enormous ship coming toward us, and not even straight Martin got over as far as possible as this behemoth bears down upon us. There is a man sitting on the top, toward the aft, with binoculars and behind is a tug pushing what turns out to be a barge. The tug gets the boat off its collision course and we feel much better and quickly slip under the bridge. Most of the traffic on this canal is made up of pleasure boats but there are still working boats and barges around. We are chartering a course to keep us on the smaller canals and are planning to avoid the large canals used by working traffic.
Although it was only noon we began to look for places to stop. We did not want to go into Alkmaar, since that would involve a high dockage fee. We passed one small town, but the slips looked too small and the bank area was crowded. Further on we found a great spot. There were five small boats tied up, yet still room enough for us. The bank of the canal is mainly tall reeds, but in places the reeds have been cut. This place has a grassy picnic area with small garbage containers! We are right next to a bicycle path and the road from Langdike to Alkmaar. There is so much commuter bike riding that roads all have bike paths with white dividing lines for two way traffic.
After lunch we biked to Alkmaar, usually a 45 minute trip to the center of the old own, but we got lost and took 1 and a half hours. Lots of windmills, lots of boats. We found the square where the cheese market is held on Fridays.
This cheese market is a favorite tourist attraction. There is a cheese museum there and we visited that quickly because it closes at 4 PM. We looked at some shops and then rode home for dinner. In the evening we biked in the other direction to Broek op Langdike. There we discovered another tourist attraction, the Broeker Veiling (Veiling means auction). This is a farmer's auction started over 100 years ago. The vegetables or flowers arrive on small prams (barges) which the farmer poles into the auction house and right up to the auctioneer and the buyers. The auctioneer starts with a high price, say 2 guilders a kilo, and then works down by cents. The buyer can push a button by his seat when the price gets to where he is ready to buy. When we walked into the auction room, the guide was explaining this to a class of school children. We couldn't understand his Dutch but had bought an English guide book. Then a costumed woman poled in a pram and the children would get to bid on small amounts of vegetables and plants. I do not know if the place is still used professionally. It may be, but the interior is now a museum of farm tools, farmer boats and local farming methods. Cabbage, cauliflower and flowers are big local crops in addition to the ever present herds of sheep and cows. Sheep are raised for their wool, not for their meat, and they have just been sheared. They look quite bare out in the fields.
Our visit to the Auction took place on Thursday. Then on Friday the rains came! Not the normal pleasant sprinkle, but a Noah's downpour. We had again contacted our electrician in Enkhuizen. Given directions to the man who answered the phone (We are on the Omval-Kolhorn Canal, between Alkmaar & Langdike, by route 242, one hundred meters past where the RR crosses the road and canal.) and said either come Thursday night or early Friday morning, because after that we would be moving on. So there we are sitting in the boat at 8:30 AM with the rain pouring down and a motorbike stops on the bike path. Martin said he must be in trouble, maybe he ran out of gas. The motorcyclist walks over to the boat, removes his helmet and transforms into our electrician. For some unfathomable reason he had decided to take his bike rather than his car.
The rain kept us from going to the Cheese Market, but in the afternoon it stopped. I had asked our landlord's wife, Mrs. H., to forward any mail to the post office in Alkmaar, so we biked in and picked up two letters - one from my mother with some interesting articles about towns in the Netherlands which it was nice to receive. We also went to a museum and did some more looking around. Unfortunately somewhere on the way we lost Martin's glasses. He was wearing his sunglasses and I had put the regular pair into the saddle bag. While getting out the map they must have fallen out. Which explains why, after we returned to the boat and looked all over the grass, he rode back to Alkmaar to look for them and why he got soaked while I stayed dry. Luckily we both brought our old glasses and our prescriptions. They shouldn't be too hard to replace but in the meantime he has to get along with the old prescription.
Sunday, July 3, 1988 The rain and wind continued all Friday night. Tremendous rain. Force 6 to 7 wind. Saturday and Sunday has been the same. Immense black clouds race across the sky. The leaves on the trees turn up and the water rushes past us. We have been most anxious about our mooring lines. We found two long - 1 meter - metal stakes in the forward locker, but they have no cross T at the top to keep the line from slipping off. We bought a stake in Kolhorn that is in the form of a T, but the stake part is too short to do any good in this wet earth. We also put a small anchor into the ground, what in the US is called a "lunch hook". Then later we laid our huge ship's anchor on the ground and tied a line to that, but didn't hammer in the flukes. On Saturday in between rain storms, we got the bikes out to go to the grocery store. We were just setting off when a huge barge passed creating a large wake. We watched in horror as our boat surged against the canal. The large anchor lifted up off the ground and tumbled over where it dangled from the side of the boat. The stakes were pulled from the soft earth and the boat began to move forward and out. Martin ran for the aft line. I ran forward. Some of the other boaters ran to help us and we all held on. After that moment of panic everyone helped us get it tied down again. (These boaters know very little English, so our verbal communication is held to a minimum.) One man had a huge sledgehammer and hammered the flukes of the big anchor into the ground about 5 meters away from the boat. Then we moved all our stakes and our lunch hook further away from the boat and reset them into the ground. We set up lines fore and aft and "spring lines" toward the middle to help resist the surges. The ground is soaked and so soft, but we seem to be holding.
We were going to move on, but just before this canal joins the North Holland Canal near Alkmaar is the Kraspolder Bridge. Our chart says "BB H 26.3 W 95.8". The BB (Beweegbare Brug) means the bridge is an opening one. The H 26.3 means the air height is 2 meters 63 cm. The W 95.8 means the width under the bridge is 9 meters 58 cm. (Numbers on the chart are in decimeters, tenths of meters.) Then we have to consult our Dutch "Almanak voor Watertoerisme". We look up the Kanal Almaar to Kolhorn and there it says in Dutch: operates Mon. to Fri. 8 AM to 6 PM. Closed Sat. Sun. & holidays. Since we can't squeeze under 2 M 63 cm we have to wait until Monday.
We have both managed to read a book during this stopover. Plus we have worked on the charts. We are trying to translate all the key words on the chart and in the Almanac. It is a slow process. The chart abbreviations are especially hard. And when you ask other people they don't know either!
Then there are life's minor problems. The kitchen sink stopped up. This is bad enough on land but on the water it is horrendous. The outlet is below the water line and it was filled with all sorts of nasty stuff. Martin reached down with the boat hook and pulled some stuff out. Then he reached down with a bent clothes hanger and managed to scrape out the opening.
Today's big event was a successful catch of a fish. Not a big fish, but it definitely was a fish.
We are looking forward to summer. We might not find it until we reach France. We are wearing long sleeve shirts, sweaters and jackets. We sleep under 2 blankets. We had a few beautiful weeks in Enkhuizen when it was warm and sunny and I put away the winter clothes. That was a mistake. We wore shorts just one day. But if the weather doesn't daunt the Dutch, we won't let it get us down. But, it is raining again.
Love to all,
Time Magazine and the Herald Tribune report enormous heat waves and droughts in the USA and Europe. What we need to do is send you our weather and get some of yours in return. The rain here could make all the farmers happy and get all the deserts to bloom.
After four days of rain, we finally left Alkmaar Monday afternoon, July 5th and started south toward Haarlem. Everything was going along quite peacefully on the North Holland Canal. The chart showed a symbol for a ferry so we weren't too surprised when we saw a small flat bottom barge crossing this small canal carrying a few cars, bikes, and pedestrians. A yellow light was flashing but the ferry would be on the other side by the time we reached it so we did not reduce our speed, which is only about 6 mph anyway. Suddenly we saw cables crossing the canal just a few feet above the water level and we were heading right into them. We had seen these ferries depicted in American Westerns and paintings taking the settlers across the western rivers, but did not expect to see a motorless ferry in Holland. Martin quickly turned the throttle down, threw the gear into neutral, then reverse. He then screwed up the throttle again to try to arrest our forward motion. We slowed and the ferry reached the shore. The captain, who had been watching us nervously, either lowered the cables into the water or they sank of their own weight and we were able to safely pass over them. It was heart stopping for a few moments.
From there we traveled across a small lake and then past Markenbinner where we had friends who asked us to stop, but we decided it was too early and continued. We had a choice of two canals. We had decided on the smaller one which ran past a small town called Krommene. The bridge tender raised the town's bridge, we went under and then traveled half a kilometer to a set of car bridges on a main highway and a railroad bridge. Nothing happened when we blew our horn so we waited in the channel for awhile. A railroad went by, but still the bridges didn't open. We got over to some pilings, but they were too far apart for our boat. I got a line around the forward piling, but the stern swung into the shore. Then Martin maneuvered the vessel back and tried to get a line from the stern to a piling. Unfortunately he injured his thumb which got caught under the line. Since I was forward I didn't know anything had happened and was surprised when he called and told me to cast off. It wasn't until we had turned around and were tying up to the shore that I knew he was hurt. We got the bikes off and went to look for a hospital to get the thumb X-rayed. The first people we stopped for directions, Mr. & Mrs. Smit, were fluent in English. They had lived in South Africa for years and had just recently returned. The previous week Mr. Smit had had a similar accident at work and his fingers were still swollen. He offered to drive us to the hospital since it was too far to bike. There were no broken bones, but the doctor cleaned it up and bandaged the thumb. Martin wasn't going to be able to tie any knots for a few days though.
Krommene was a pleasant town and we had a safe berth, so we settled in. We went to an optician and had new eyeglasses made to replace the pair that was lost. We had the Smit's over to visit one evening. They were interesting people. While waiting in the hospital with Mr. Smit for Martin, I had learned quite a bit about t his wife. She was the daughter of a German woman and a Dutch businessman. They had met and married in Japan. The mother had been raised in Japan, had gone to an American school in Japan and could speak both English and Japanese. As a little girl, Ingrid lived with her parents in various Far Eastern places until they were imprisoned by the Japanese during the war. Ingrid and her mother had a rough time of it in the camp since the other Dutch women did not like having a German woman in their midst. She acted as an interpreter which I would image also caused problems. They survived and eventually ended up in South America where Ingrid met and married her Dutch husband. Her mother is still alive with her second husband in South Africa.
We took advantage of our rest in Krommene to make two railroad trips to Amsterdam. We visited the Palace, which was originally built in the 16th century as the Amsterdam City Hall when Amsterdam was one of the richest cities in Europe. Joseph Napoleon used it as his palace during his short rule of the Netherlands. It was magnificent. I am reading The Embarrassment of Riches by Simon Schama. He has many references to the Palace and its art work so I was most anxious to visit it. We made two trips to the Van Gogh museum in order to see everything and one to the City Art Museum which houses modern and contemporary works (not to my taste). Our museum card was one of our better investments.
In Krommene we explored the town and rode our bikes to all the neighboring towns and even over to the other canal. We left on July 11th, but this time we got an appointment to have the bridges lifted! On the 11 th for the first time we had to pay lock and bridge fees. At one sluis the keeper had a small wooden shoe tied to a line and stick, like a fishing pole, to reach out to the boats. The required fees are listed in the marine almanac so you do know how much and which ones cost money. At Spaarndam above Haarlem there is a large capacity lock which was closed when we reached it. We tied up and waited and were amazed at the number of boats that came out when the gates opened. Here the fee was 5 guilders and you had to take it up to the lock keeper's office after you tied up.
At Krommene we were in a small canal called the Nauernase Vaart. This ends at the North Sea Canal, which is the big canal that connects Amsterdam with the North Sea. This is an extremely busy canal used by large ships. We had to enter it, make a right and go in the direction of the North Sea for a couple of kilometers. Then cross the canal to get to the Spaarne River. There was a big ferry crossing just before the entrance to the Spaarne, but no cables! In the other direction the chart shows the Amerikahaven, an enormous harbor off the canal. I suppose it was used by the Americans during the invasion of Europe.
There are eight bridges on the Spaarne in Harrlem. We stopped outside the first. There is a huge bulkhead so boats can wait. The bridges do not open during rush hours and this canal has a lot of barge traffic. Sometimes a barge will go right up to the bridge, put their bow under the bridge and wait right there. Once through the first bridge you have to stop at the harbor master office and pay a bridge fee to go through the town. The Almanac shows fees for one day, one week and yearly tickets. We understand that boats are sent through in groups in order try to limit the disruption to the city traffic.
We have used our bicycles to get downtown and have visited the Frans Hals Museum, the old church in the main square, City Hall, and various other places. The Hals Museum had a special exhibit, "Schutters in Holland". These were the town militias that were made famous by their paintings such as Rembrandt's Night Watch. Our brochure says that 135 of these paintings have survived. We have seen quite a few in the various museums so far, but this exhibit gave you more background. It included Hals and other painters, silver work, engravings, maps, etc. The museum is in an old alms house. There are a lot of these buildings in the various Dutch cities. Taking care of the poor and elderly was important in the Dutch religion and these houses were built to last.
One evening we rode out of town and all the way back to Spaarndam after learning that it was a beautiful little village and harbor. It was a lovely ride (great weather for a change) along the river and the tiny village was quite delightful. On the way we passed pastures with many old bunkers and an old fort. We had seen these ruins in other places and had assumed that they were relics of WW II, but in an exhibit building in Haarlem we saw an entire exhibit about them. Some were built at the end of the 13 th century and others in the first years of the 20 th. They were built to ring and protect Amsterdam. The exhibit was only in Dutch, but we watched the slide show and were able to understand the general idea.
Our berth here in Haarlem is right beside a busy city street and next to a factory with a loading platform on the bulkhead filled with big drums. Trucks come from all over: Germany, England, Spain. If the trucks come in at night the drivers sleep in their cabs in front of us. Boats pull up also to load or unload, but we don't know what is in the drums. Down the block is a very nice 6 storey apartment building with balconies over looking the water. Most of the homes lining the blocks are just 2 storey private homes however. Because of the soil large tall buildings are rare in the Netherlands. There is a garage and a used car dealer (Mercedes & BMW) also across the street. Only in Holland do they put flowers on top of used cars. A man just came out of the corner house, dressed in suit and tie, and sprinkled three bottles of bleach of his sidewalk and the walls of his house. With a small shovel he scooped dirt off the walk so I assume he was cleaning up after the dogs. Perhaps he hopes the bleach will keep the dogs away.
Yesterday we were surprised to find that the side street directly in front of our boat was the location of the local street market. It took up about four blocks. Yet there are two enormous grocery stores within a few blocks and also a very long shopping avenue. The grocery stores are the most modern we have seen, one with a computer read out system. To get a cart you must put a guilder into a locking device on the handle. When you replace the cart your guilder pops out. As in all grocery stores, you must either pay for a bag or bring your own. We always carry bags in our saddle bag. Sometimes we put things in a box (which is free) and fasten the box onto the bike's passenger seat with rubber straps.
We have a family of swans that come by every day for a hand out. Two adults and six large gray cygnets. They are so big they try to take the bread out of our hands. Their beaks are very large and we try to keep our hands away. Martin's thumb is healing and we don't need to lose any fingers to the swans.
We picked up a big bag of used paperback books from a shop yesterday - one or two guilders apiece. For 25 guilders we got quite a few. We now have a huge collection of unread books - saving them for a rainy day, not too hard to find here. However it is never boring. The passage of boats is always different. Three beautiful royal ships just went by. Princess Irene, Princess Christina, & Princess Beatrix. One pulled up alongside the barge in front of us and asked their permission to pick up a passenger. The boat lowered a ladder and he climbed up. The barge traffic is constant. They come down from the North Sea Canal loaded, sometimes the decks are under water, and return empty. Pleasure boats come in from England and Germany.
Our next main destination is Gouda, which is not pronounced Gouda, but something like HOW-DA. If you want to write within the next few weeks send mail to
Martin Reff Poste Restarte PTT Helmond Helmond, Netherlands
We will eventually be passing by this small town and will stop by the post office for mail. I called Mrs. Hudig yesterday and she had some mail for us and will forward it to Gouda. I hope it is only good news
Much love to all,
We left Haarlem on Monday, July 18, l988. We kept waiting, for good weather and then gave up. While waiting we revisited the Frans Hals Museum and found some rooms we had missed on our first time around, including the main exhibition room with the biggest pictures! How we managed to pass it the first time is a mystery. We also saw a film about how they restored some of the paintings. Since these civic guard paintings hung in the club houses of the various town militias they were sometimes subjected to extremely rough treatment. Not only destruction by time and humidity, but were even used for bayonet practice by drunken soldiers. The paintings had been restored and painted over and varnished a number of times in the past. The varnish had darkened and the canvas was sagging in the frame. The restorers used all the most advanced methods - x-rays, paint analysis, etc. - but recognized that sometime in the future their work would also be redone. They put their addition on over the Hals work in such a way that it could be easily removed by future restorers.
We also visited the Tyler Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands. Housed in a beautiful building it was filled with fossils, rocks, and old scientific instruments, which were the best and most advanced when purchased but gave you a Jules Verne feeling now. More interesting to us was the engraving and art collection, small, but outstanding. The background of this place is fascinating. The Tylers had emigrated from England around the time that the Pilgrims also went to Holland. The Tyler family were Mennonites. They prospered and wanted and needed to share their wealth. (It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven.) In Haarlem, as in nearly all the Dutch towns we have visited, the wealthy class built many charitable buildings, orphanages, alms houses, hospitals, and churches. (The Frans Hals Museum is in the Old Mans' House.) One of the Tylers decided to leave his house and fortune for a museum. The first curator bought the Swedish Queen's art collection - I don't know why she needed the money but it would be fun to find out - enlarged the house and collected the scientific instruments including the biggest electric generator of its time. Dr. Frankenstein would have liked it.
Well as I said we left our mooring on Monday when there was a break in the rain. We went through the first bridge and pulled up to the harbormaster's office to fill our water tank. We paid our bridge fee and than waited for the bridge to open. Nothing happened. Eventually Martin returned to the office to inquire. He was told that we could fit under and that they didn't need to open it. We inched forward and did - just barely. I think we had a few centimeters to spare.
The passage through Haarlem is not for the weak of heart. At each bridge you wait. The bridges do not open until there are enough boats collected and the bridge tender has arrived and there is a break in the traffic. Some of the bridges are just foot and bike crossings and some are for cars. In some cases the bridge tender opens one, waits for the boats to pass through, closes it and then gets on his bike and rides to the next bridge. Some bridges are draw bridges, some swing open in the middle (the road rotates 90 degrees leaving a water passage on either side ), some travel up in the air horizontally from both sides on towers. These last have an upper limit and the chart will give the heights, one for the bridge closed and one for the maximum height. Sometimes bikes try to sneak over after the gates go down. We saw one man yelling at the bridge tender when the bridge started to rise while he was trying to cross.
We successfully completed the nine bridge obstacle course and continued down the river making a right on the Ringvaart van de Haarlemmeerpolder, (The Dutch run their words together. You can never find words in the dictionary because you have to break the words apart. Even then half the time you can't find the words.) These ring canals are the canals around the various drained lands. This one circles what was once the Haarlem lake before it was drained. There is a pump house museum but we did not stop having seen the one in Medemblik. We passed three more bridges and then we saw a nice bulkhead. The sign invited us to stop and eat in the restaurant. By the time we decided to take up the invitation we had passed the place, but Martin made a U turn and returned. Now making a U turn with a 60 foot boat in a narrow canal is no mean feat, but the captain of the Opperdan is getting quite cocky. The restaurant was great. The food was excellent, the owners very friendly and the place obviously popular with the local residents. We thought about staying another night just to have dinner there again but the wife's mother was having a birthday and they were going to close.
Our next trip took us past Leiden, which we decided to leave for another time, toward Alphen A/D Rijn. I wanted to stop here to visit a place called Avifauna, a bird park, but we couldn't find anyplace suitable for mooring. Lots of Verboden signs and then places where you could just stop for two hours. Eventually, in the next town we tied up using our stakes, but the boat traffic was so heavy that our stakes bent and pulled out! There are enormous barges on these canals and they create huge surges as they pass. We ate lunch and moved on. But in Waddinxveen, the town just before Gouda we found a big bulkhead with bollards and decided to use it. The sign said, in Dutch of course, "Community bulkhead. To load or unload call for permission." But since we weren't loading or unloading we just tied up. Interesting spot. There was a self service truck weighing station next to us, then a lovely residential area across the street. Very pleasant town right nearby, shops and a laundromat. I'm always looking for a laundromat!
Because of the bollards we were quite safe, but the boat was rocked during the day by the passing barges and ships. Most of these were sand and gravel carriers, some with their own cranes, many carried the owner's auto on the top. The family lived in the aft section of the boat. One barge had a large cage like a gorilla's zoo cage behind the cabin and actually hanging over the water. It contained a swing, children's toys, a toy riding car and a beach chair for the mother. You saw play pens inside many of the wheel houses. I don't know what the children of these families do for school. Perhaps they live with their grandparents when they are school age. These boats varied in size. Some we believe were the size of football fields. When they were full the walkways around the sides of the boat would be under water, but when they would pass empty they would tower above us.
In addition to the cargo barges there were all the passing pleasure boats. Mostly low cabin cruisers or sailboats with their masts down. A few do travel with standing masts. One such boat pulled up on their annual trek to the Ijsselmeer. They had delayed their vacation for a week because of the constant rain and then had given up. But their engine broke and so they tied up and called a repairman. It can't be very nice to run a sailboat in the rain, the cockpit is open. We saw people sitting under umbrellas!
From Waddingzveen (Vahd ings vein) we took the bus to Gouda to get the "lay of the land" - in our case the lay of the water. It was a good thing that we did. We found the best canal anchorage and learned how to get into it. We would never have found it if we had arrived by boat.
Next we went to the post office for our loot! What a haul! Mrs. Hudig had sent a letter and had forwarded our mail: a letter from Aunt Lily in California, from Mary Singh and Mother Reff, from David, and from Lesley. We sat in the post office and caught up on all the news from the home front. Nothing like it to give us a lift. We were so engrossed that we missed the return bus by minutes so walked over to the railroad station and got the train back. We had to write out the name Waddinxveen for the ticket agent since we couldn't pronounce it.
The trip to Gouda by boat on Saturday, July 22nd wasn't long but involved six bridges and one sluis. As we set off a small sailboat was pulling about eight other sailboats. We had met this group or perhaps one like it, on a number of occasions. Sailing schools or camps traveled together in this fashion. Since they didn't have to wait for any bridge (their masts were down) we didn't meet them again until the sluis at Gouda. The gates were closed and they were tied up alongside a miltary type vessel waiting along with a few other motor cruisers. Therefore we tied up way back. The northward group came out, the sailboats and the other powerboats entered, then after awhile the next group going north came out and we went in with the boats that had gathered with us as we were waiting.
Immediately after leaving this lock you can go either right or left. Right took you through the town toward the Ijssel River. You could tie up practically any place but we had discovered that this area was crowded and not very attractive although eventually we would have to go that way to reach the Ijssel. Instead we turned sharply to our left - so sharply that we had to tie the bow to the bulkhead and swing the stern around - and then waited for the bridge tender to walk over and open the bridge. This brought us to our new anchorage next to a very attractive strip of greenery in the best part of town.
There was one space open on the south bank of about 19 meters. Most of the north bank was free, but that is directly on the road and the parked cars. Personally I didn't think Martin would never get us in without banging one of the other boats, but the gods were on our side and we made a perfect landing. The only trouble was an overhanging tree that kept banging on the roof of the wheel house. But after we had gotten in and were trying to tie the branch up to another branch the boater behind us came out and moved his boat back a few meters. He hadn't helped us when we pulled in and I was surprised when he moved back. The next day this man left and the next boat to pull in broke our flag pole as he came in. But we were very gracious. "Oh don't worry about it. It's nothing, could happen to anyone." Pros can afford to be kind!
There are willow trees hanging over the water, a large bed of pink flowers in the little green park that separates us from the road and nice houses lining the canal. The main shopping street is just around the corner leading to the town square, cheese weighing house, and a very old and impressive town hall. A few blocks away is the NL longest church, St. John's, which is famous for its stained glass windows. I believe that at the time of the war of independence from Spain and during the strife between the reformation and the Catholics, most of the Catholic religious art and stained glass windows were destroyed in the NL. For some reason these windows were spared. Perhaps because the church had just been rebuilt and the windows were new, the donors were still alive and saved them from destruction. The Catholic windows were installed between 1493 and 1571. The protestant windows between 1593 and 1603. Some offensive parts of the Catholic windows were removed.
On Monday, July 25th we took the train to Alphin A/D Rijn to visit the bird park, Avifauna. It was nice but not worth the trouble I put Martin to in order to see it. I liked Florida's Sunken Gardens better. But we got a lot of exercise. The train station was quite a distance from the park so we had a very long walk to and fro.
We have had two sets of visitors here! We had called Connie R. and she drove over with Piet (her great uncle by marriage). Piet is the father of a friend in Pennsylvania and he was the man who had signed as our Dutch reference. I was hoping that Connie would also bring her family, but she left her four children at home. Piet is very tall and bearded, looks very much the Dutch patriarch. He is in his 81st year and looking forward to visiting his American son in September. He enjoyed looking at everything and took a photo to take with him to America.
On Monday we called the M'rs, but again Mrs. M. was alone. Her husband had rushed off to France, a friend was sick I think. Anyway we said we would call again. Then here I am writing this letter when a car beeps and they arrive with two grandchildren in tow. Mr. M. had returned on Monday evening and they decided to drive down and look for us. Unfortunately because of the grandchildren they didn't stay long but it was good to see them again. We admired their camper and they got to see our boat.
Odds and Ends
It rains 6 days out of 7. Saturday, July 23rd, was the first warm day we have had since spring and the first sunny day in weeks. We actually put on shorts! (This week we have had some good weather.)
There is so much water here. We ride on the canals and the water level is sometimes way above the level of the fields. Riding on the train you look across the fields and see a slight rise of land, the dike, and then boats in the canal. It looks like the boats are crossing the pasture land because you can't see the canal water. When you are in the boat you look down on the fields.
On Sunday the church going population in Gouda walks through the town: the men in black suits, black ties and homburgs; the women in black suits and black hats; children in short pants and white shirts. A family of evangelists sing in the square. Then the father preaches a sermon to the few who stop and listen. We pass the Salvation Army meeting house as the uniformed members come out and walk or bike home.
We met Canadian tourists trying to get information from the VVV office, but it was Sunday and everything is closed.
We looked for a hotel. We wanted to use the hotel's phone and call the US. The hotels are so small we miss seeing them. They are just restaurants with rooms on the second floor. Eventually we find two. They are both closed until dinner time. We end up feeding guilders into a public phone.
It is raining. There is a small girl in a red, white, and blue sweat suit playing in the tree that overhangs the boat. She was here this morning also. She talks to herself. I look up every once in awhile expecting to see two children, but she is all alone keeping up a running conversation. (She comes by everyday. This is her tree.)
Most of the time we don't have to pay anything to moor. In Enkhuizen we paid by the week and in a few other towns they collected a fee. Medemblik, Haarlem, outside Alkmaar it was free. Here a boy came around to collect. He only charged us from Monday although we arrived on Saturday. Eight guilders for the bridge and lock fee - that will cover when we leave also - and 5.90 a night, (last year the cost was 3.90 it says in the book) - but that is only about $3.00 a night. Of all the overnight charges that we have paid this is the cheapest and for a very nice and convenient place. More and more towns in the NL are starting to charge, but you can still tie up outside the towns for nothing.
You see quite a few immigrants in the NL. Blacks, orientals, Arabs, and Turks stand out. Most dress like everyone else, perhaps they have been here for generations. The Moslem women seem to be more recent arrivals with their head coverings and long dresses. What is interesting is the number of families with non-caucasian children. You see this all over. Dutch families have adopted many, many children. Amnesty International and other such groups are also very active. You see anti-apartheid signs everywhere. We also come across various monuments and memorials to the victims of the holocaust. Here there is a gate in a small park near the church. In one town we found a very old Jewish cemetery. Sometimes you see the Star of David on buildings that once housed synagogues or sometimes just a private house. The most recent stained glass window in St. John's Church is a WW II memorial showing the horrors of the war and the round up of the Jews. It is not a pretty window.
On Wednesday we took the train to Den Haag (The Hague) and the beach. But that will have to wait until my next letter. We are expecting Lesley on August 9th. She will fly into Amsterdam and then take a train to where ever we are.
Our best to all,
Scene: Casino Scheveningen in the fabulous beach front pleasure hotel, The Kurhaus. Enter two elegant Americans. The man suave and debonaire in khaki trousers and a blue jacket; the woman in a timeless summer frock and understated makeup. They proceed to the roulette table and place a 5 guilder chip on #17. The croupier pushes the chip back to them. It is the specially marked chip given to each person entering the casino. He quietly informs them that this table has a 10 guilder minimum. Undaunted, the Americans proceed to place both their entrance chips on #17. The board fills with regular chips in various colors while their two chips continue to stand out from the others. Although there are many tables and players, the room is very quiet. Everyone concentrates on their games, while the Americans, bored with the slowness of the action, glance idly around the room. They look back to see the croupier pushing 350 guilders toward them. They appear startled as if they did not know that the ball had been spun and # 17 was the winning number!
Although we bought a VHF antenna, a computer chess game and had lunch out in a very lovely water front restaurant, our side trip to Den Haag (The Hague), and the adjacent beach town of Scheveninger did not dent our budget due to the above fortuitous event. We had gone to Den Haag to visit the American and French Embassies. We went first to the American Embassy where the door was opened by a smiling, friendly American, a real gentleman. We were expecting a cold brusque, "State your name and business. Instead we get, "Welcome to the American Embassy in the Netherlands. Step right through here (the metal detector, which somehow failed to look stark and threatening). Now how can we help you good folks?" And he did try to help us. He actually made two phone calls and tried to put us in touch with the right people. The Dutch marine police had told us to get a letter stating that in America we did not need an operator's license for a VHF radio and the US would appreciate it if the Dutch would extend us the courtesy of radio use in their country. Unfortunately, the office of American citizen services is only in Amsterdam so although the friendly gate keeper tried, we came away empty handed. One of the men Martin talked to on the phone, a Naval attaché, said don't worry about the regulations - just use your radio.
The receptionist at the French Embassy was just as helpful and friendly, and we were just as unsuccessful. All our guide books had said the French close and clean certain canals each year and publish a list of these canals. The guides said it was important to get this list. Well the receptionist made a couple of calls, local and to Paris, trying to find this list for us, but she couldn't find anyone who knew anything about it. Tourism sends you to Waterways who sends you Transportation, etc.
After these two stops we tried to find a place to buy the antenna, since we already had the radio. None of the city shops had any and eventually we were sent to a marine shop in Scheveningen. Not too many casino players enter carrying a VHF antenna! So our visit to Den Haag was quite eventful, although we didn't get to visit any of the usual tourist spots. Next time we will see the museums.
On one of our last evenings in Gouda we had a sailboat tied on to us. The couple joined us for a rubber of bridge. We had bought one deck of Dutch cards, so we used that deck and one American deck. That way we were at equal disadvantages. The Dutch deck has H for Heren (man) instead of a K for King, V for Vrouw (woman) instead of Q for Queen; B for boer (farmer) instead of a J for Jack. The Ace was the same A. Clubs are Klavers (clovers or shamrocks), Diamonds are ruiten, Hearts are Hart (that was easy), Spades are schoppen. It was a very pleasant evening, but there was certainly some confusion during the bidding.
Our bridge friends left at 8 AM on Aug. 1st, so we decided to get an early start also. We cast off only to discover we had no steering! We had pushed off so the boat was aimed for the other side of the canal which we reached safely. Luckily the other side is not popular and there were no boats there. Not a successful early start. Martin went off and located a mechanic. He filled the hydraulic fluid container and expelled the air. Everything appeared all right so we tried again.
The first bridge was at the end of the block. It was opened promptly. We traveled two more blocks to a fuel barge, stopped and got diesel and a tank of propane. We cast off again and went another block and stopped again. The attendant at the small foot bridge was at lunch. At 1:30 he returned and the 4 or 5 waiting boats passed through. Two blocks further was the lock out of town. Again we had to stop and tie up to wait until the gates opened on our side and discharged the boats in the lock. And so eventually we reached the Hollandse Ijssel River. From 9 AM to 2:30 to go about 10 blocks! Paula in one of letters said that it didn't appear that we traveled very far. She was right, but progress is progress.
A few bridges and a lock further brought so to Oudewater. The steering was becoming erratic again and the afternoon was ending. Secretly I was delighted that we were stopping. Fodor's guide had given the town a couple of paragraphs and it sounded nice. Other boaters thought so too. As we approached the town one side of the bank was lined for perhaps two kilometers with moored boats. (The river is too narrow to moor on both sides.) We got through the first of the town's two bridges and there was a big empty spot just waiting for us right in the heart of town. Actually it was not too scenic since we were opposite some old factory buildings and next to a large professional laundry (hospital laundry work). But it certainly was convenient. Just two blocks away was the delightful village. Martin was very unhappy about the steeringquite relieved to be safely tied to the quay.
After a quick look around Martin worked on the steering. The cables run through the boat. They pass through the wall of the wheel house, behind the wall in the aft cabin closets, through a box above the bed, through the wall in my "dresser", then through the engine room and into the steering compartment at the rear of the boat and then finally to the rudder. About 30' and except for the very beginning and end all enclosed! A real pain to find and fix a leak.
There was a crew working late to repair a huge boiler in the laundry. A man was watching them. Martin spoke to him and asked him if he could recommend a mechanic. This man turned out to be the owner of the laundry, plus a boat owner and he had just returned from a 4 week trip to the northern part of the Netherlands. He wanted to take a look, but of course he couldn't do anything but say well you must have a leak. He did say then that the buildings across the way were an old ship yard and he would call the owner in the morning and see if they would look it over. The next morning he told us that we should move our boat to the other side of the canal to the ship yard. Sounds simple? Well the canal is about 18 meters wide and our boat is 18 meters long and we wanted to go directly across and our steering was bad. Well we moved out. We had the bow on one side of the canal and the stern on the other. Now you remember that the town has two bridges less than a kilometer apart and the river turns so you can only see one. The west one opened and a ship approached; the east one opened and a ship approached around the curve. Somehow Martin managed to get the stern in and we were safe and sound on the right bank. What made life interesting was that very soon boats came along and pulled into the space we had vacated and now there were boats on both banks. This left an extremely narrow lane in the middle just at the point of the curve between the two bridges. And this river is used by both the small pleasure boats and the large barges, two of which were tied up to a factory in front of us!
The manager of the yard, who could speak English, arrived with his mechanic, who only knew a few words. They looked over the situation. The man pointed to our nice new wheel house floor. "'Well we will have to remove those boards." "No, No," I shouted. Then explained that under the boards was a steel deck with no hoses. But in order to give the mechanic access to the hose connections that appeared to be leaking, Martin did have to remove some of our new baseboard and the wall boards in the forward, starboard side of the wheel house. (It was all a plot to destroy my nice white paint job.) The mechanic tightened the forward connections which were still extremely difficult to reach - very poorly placed- and the connections in the aft steering compartment. He didn't ask Martin to remove any more of the wall so I guess he was hoping that the rest of the hose was in one solid piece. So far the repair seems to be successful.
While there Martin asked them to weld a metal extension bar to the steering wheel to make it easier to spin. They did a fine job. And he asked them to make us good mooring stakes. The owner of the yard, also a boater, suggested the kind he used: a bar with a cross piece at the top in order to help you pull the stake up, and a triangular metal piece welded to the body of the stake to help it stay in the ground like an anchor. We had three made. They are very heavy and strong and seem to work very well.
This old shipyard is now in the business of making pig ladders! Now pig ladders are obviously an important device to make. Pigs are much too heavy to lift up when you want to load them into the truck and I doubt if they climb willingly into the truck taking them to the slaughter house. Actually I think these ladders are elevator devices. I saw such a device being used on a farm as we passed by. I also saw two huge trucks carrying pigs. One with two layers of animals and one with three!
Fascinating the people you meet in such strange places. This was quite a run down looking place. Very old buildings, messy yard overgrown with weeds. Not your typical neat clean Dutch establishment, although Martin said the owner's office inside was very nice. Two suited gentlemen walked out to look around and wanted to talk. Martin went off with the yard owner so I was left with the two men. One was dark skinned and one white. Both had been to the US. One mentioned MIT and Boston and places in New England. When the other mentioned some big mid-western city, the first asked him if he had been at Honeywell. I figured that they were engineers. We talked for a long time - about the boat and what we were doing there, but I will never know what they were doing. Were they going to buy the place? Were they going to design some new machinery? Were they buying pig elevators? Just one more thing I'll never know.
At around 2:30 we had completed our business with the yard. Again our spot on the other bank was vacant so Martin got the boat headed directly across the canal. The bridge around the curve opened and two pleasure boats came around. We were sticking way out when one of the boats pulled into the spot. Martin waved him away, called to him, yelled at him and eventually got quite hot under the collar, but to no avail. We straightened out the boat, went forward and found a much nicer berth on the other side of the bridge. Here we were next to the town's garden plots, and behind a wall was the town's outdoor swimming pool. On the other bank were beautiful homes and gardens and yet we were still just a few minutes from the heart of the village.
Oudewater is a small attractive village with a charming town square, which isn't in the shape of a square. There is an ice cream cafe and some benches and cafe tables overlooking the smaller canal going through the town's center. One of the benches is completely occupied by a granite family. Since they are permanent residents of that bench you have to chose another spot to eat your ice cream. Across the street is the town's weighing house. During the 16th century the persecution of witches was the rage. Witches were being burned left and right. The people of Oudewater must have gotten a little bothered by this for they passed an ordinance that required any accused witch to come to Oudewater to be examined. There they would be set upon the scale in a paper witch's costume with a paper broom. Then the town's mayor would declare the person to be too heavy to ride safely on a broomstick and issue a certificate stating that the person had been examined and proved not to be a witch. Naturally people came from near and far for this certificate and this valuable service is still available - during the tourist season.
While we were safely tied up in Oudewater, and protected from the witches, we took the bus to Utrecht and from there to Maarssen to the Minolta repair center for the Benelux countries. Our camera shutter mechanism had jammed but in just a few minutes the expert repaired it and returned it to us.
The Hollandse Ijssel winds north, then south, then makes a sharp left toward Utrecht. We were not going to visit Utrecht so we made a sharp right into the Merwede Canal. One big sluis just before the Lek River was 120 meters by 12 meters wide. We crossed the Lek and continued south on the Merwede Canal. Here there is another 12 by 120 sluis. These locks have a tremendous capacity. The earlier locks we had been in were babies in comparison to these. The smallest was 6 by 25 meters. We had used one big one at Spaardam before Haarlem, that was 12 by 100 meters.
While trying to tie on to a piling to wait for the gates to open at this lock on the Merwede our bow bumped another boat and we actually chipped off a little bit of paint on his railing. The wife got quite incensed. "Sorry isn't enough!" she kept yelling at me. Now the bumping of boats in and by locks is a very common experience. They had a large bumper lying on their deck and when I saw we were still moving forward, I had yelled to them. Even if they couldn't understand my English they could see what was happening and could have put out the fender. Instead they just stood there frozen and watched us bump them. Eventually Martin pacified them with 25 guilders. The couple behind us said that some people seem to hang around locks hoping for an accident so they can collect insurance. I doubt that however.
We eventually pulled up along the side of the canal half way between the Lek and the Waal Rivers, at a crossroads spot called Bazeldike. It was a quiet restful night and we needed it after the excitement of these last two locks and all the bridges. It had been our longest running time of the trip, 6 hours and 40 minutes, not counting the waiting times at the locks. We had gone a total distance of 45 kilometers! (Yes, you can probably walk faster than that, but the boat saves on shoe leather.)
The next day as we continued south we came to a fork around a large island near Gorinchem. We had plotted our course to take the western waterway, but the bridge tender wouldn't open the bridge for us. He waved us away. There was a sign directing pleasure boats to take the eastern waterway. This turned out to be quite interesting and exciting. It was curving and very narrow. The small passageways through old unused locks and old bridges would only permit one boat through at a time, yet because of the curves you couldn't see if the way was clear. There was a system of TV cameras monitoring the passages. So you would get a green light when it was safe to proceed. Gorinchem looked like a nice place to stop but unfortunately we had just started and did not have any excuse to end our journey so soon.
The lock at the entrance to the Waal River was another 120 meter monster. The capacity of these locks is amazing. Sometimes the boats are stuffed in like sardines, four abreast. We crossed the Waal with the flotilla of boats that we had shared the lock with. While you are waiting for the gates to open before getting in and while waiting inside the lock you tend to make friends with the various boaters near you. The whole process can take close to an hour. When the gates close and just before the water begins to fill up the lock, a siren sounds to warn you. We are traveling up each time toward higher ground.
After the Rhine flows into the Netherlands from Germany it breaks into two parts. These are the Waal and the Lek which then flow in parallel toward the sea. We only stayed on the Waal for about 4 km. We turned off and entered the Afgedamde Maas, a winding river, a real Chesapeake Bay river. Lots of boating, swimming and camping. It made me think of the Chester River in Maryland. We had to pass through one more lock 13 meters by 100 meters again traveling up. The water raises the boat two to three times the height of the boat. Sail boat masts are below the top of the walls when they come in and then are raised up until they are free above the walls again. The river continued to be calm and beautiful. About 13 km further we reached the main river, the Maas (also called the Meuse) our destination was in sight: the town of Heusden.
A number of people had told us to stop at Heusden and that the best place was the inner harbor but they also said that our boat would be too big and we would have to stay in the outer harbor. The chart showed a good size harbor and then further down the river a second harbor called Stapelloop haven which we translated as an industrial or work harbor. We had decided that this was where we were supposed to go but as we are crossing the Maas and reaching Heusden we see two large canal ships enter the first harbor! Well if they can, so can we. Inside we see a nice marina with a long empty pier in front. With the binoculars we read the sign which basically says, "Speak to harbormaster here."
We approach, a boy asks our length and breadth. Do we plan to spend the night? Yes, we plan to spend the weekend. He uses his walkie talkie and then directs us to a nearby pier. It was shorter than the length of our boat, but it worked out fine. It wasn't until the next day that we discovered that there was a very small circular harbor inside the city walls, big enough for about 10 boats if they were less than 10 meters long. This harbor was like the bottom of a gold fish bowl since the town towered above it. The tourists in the village could look down upon the boats and there were long flights of stairs climbing up to the town. It was quite unusual.
The large outside harbor where we were was like a small bay. There were two marinas with docks and piers along the town side of the bay. The other side was beach where, if you wanted, you could just run your bow up on the shore and put out some lines. This was what the two large barges had done. Our engine is keel cooled, meaning we have pipes running from the engine out of the boat, along the keel and then back to the engine. This is our engine radiator. Because of this we have been very wary of this method of mooring. We are seeing it more and more however. We never did enter the industrial harbor, but if we had needed fuel we would have had to go there.
This stop at Heusden was our first stop at a Dutch marina. All our other stops had been along the canal sides. It is nice to have all the facilities available, but except for the luxury of unlimited use of water, we didn't use the marina facilities. We didn't even plug into the electricity.
Heusden itself is a very old town. Because of its location it has been a military target since early days when it was sacked by the Vikings. The city was fortified and refortified over the years and then over the recent centuries the fortifications decayed. The retreating German Army provided the final straw. They blew up the church towers and the town hall. The town hall was being used as a temporary hospital and was filled with people so 135 people died and a couple of hundred got caught under the rubble. One of our informants said the Germans forced people into the town hall and deliberately killed them. Another said the buildings were blown up to prevent the Americans from having the high vantage points of the towers.
The town rebuilt, but in 1963 they decided to make the city look like it did in the 16th century. They rebuilt the old ramparts, moats and bastions. They dug out the inner harbor, rebuilt three windmills, reconstructed some old buildings and renovated hundreds of others. The results are spectacular.
One evening we had a conversation with a couple sitting in an outdoor cafe. Only the woman spoke English. They were the parents of the owner of the restaurant and visiting their daughter and son in law. They told us a lot about the town and the next day dropped over to see our boat. Then on the following day we met an American couple from Charlotte, North Carolina. Their 13 year old son was living with a Dutch couple while attending a soccer camp in Nijmegan. They flew over with him and were touring the area. We had a pleasant visit with them and got some of the news from home.
We left Heusden, Aug. 9th traveling east on the Maas, a wide pleasant river. After awhile we reached the lock. The natural river has been dammed so the chart shows a dam and waterfall to one side and the canal lock to the other. The lock was 13 by 100 meters, the gates were closed (enormous gates) but the waiting area was very small. There was one area for pleasure boats where the pilings are close together, but it was already occupied. The pilings for the large barges are 19 or 20 meters apart and every time we have been forced to use these we have had trouble. You get the bow tied on and lose the stern which swings in or out. Here we made a perfect catch and got both stern and bow safely secured. So along comes the widest and biggest barge I've seen and we are in his spot. But he just hovers in the middle. Then along comes another barge and uses the two pilings behind us to get half of his boat tied on. The gates open and a parade of boats emerge. I try to keep count, but something always distracts me and I lose count. Perhaps 40 boats from runabouts to large cruisers, no barges in this batch.
The lock keeper had a loud speaker and he called to the various boats, using the boat names. He called to us but we did not know what he said. Did he say to go in or to wait? Did he say which side we were to use or what order to go in? Martin tried to reach him by VHF but did not succeed. Well the big barge entered on the right side of the lock. We cast off and approached but couldn't see how we could fit. The barge looked at that moment too wide to fit in next to him and too long to fit in behind him. He was still maneuvering, but we had to make a quick decision. We pulled off to the side and tried to grab a piling again. But then we saw the other pleasure boats cast off so we changed direction and headed in again. The first two boats went in on the left side of the barge and lost control. The walls of the lock were about 20 to 25 feet high. An assistant at the top would reach a long wire hook down to you. You would try to catch it, put the loop of your line on it and then the assistant would lift the loop up and place it on a bollard at the top of the lock. The first boats were supposed to go in to the front on the left side of the barge. Instead they were swinging round behind. The wash from the barge engine had probably caught them. No matter what, it was a mess. We were waved over to the right behind the barge and since we had to then make a sharp turn, our approach was very bad.
At this point neither one of us felt very calm and collected. I got the forward line on the hook. The dock man lifted it up and I thought I got it tied securely on the boat. I didn't. Since we had turned in at an angle the stern was now cross -ways in the lock and Martin was not at the wheel nor getting a line on the stern, but at the stern trying to keep us from hitting the boats on the right. At the same time since we don't have a stern line on we are drifting forward, plus I find out that we don't even have my bow line tight. Now the barge is a foot away and I see in the water behind the barge an enormous anchor which our bow is about to collide into. Pandemonium all around. I am screaming to Martin for help. He is screaming at me to get the line tight. We are about to hit boats on all sides. These are the events that cause spousal murders. Eventually we did get everything straightened out with no damage. In the meantime boats keep pouring in. The entire left side is filled in and now they are behind us and to the side of us. A large cruiser comes in and ties up next to us. They have their share of troubles and the wife apologizes to me !!! It is a chartered boat and this is their first lock ! It is our 15th and we had started out on small ones. We get them tied on, but then another boat is behind us but diagonal in the lock.
I think they speak German. I can't tell what they are trying to do. Does the lock keeper want them in that position? Perhaps if they were behind us the gates couldn't close. They break the chartered boat's stern flag pole. They have a big new bumper hanging on the rail. I try to use sign language to get the wife to hand it to me so I can keep their boat from scraping against us. She doesn't do anything so I grab it and quickly push it between the two boats. I am not too concerned about our big old tug, but they have a very new looking fiberglass cruiser. Then suddenly another boat comes in with a dinghy & outboard behind it! The lock gates close and the owner pulls the dinghy out of the way before it gets crushed. Luckily the second big barge did not try to squeeze in!
The water begins to rise and as it does the lines that were taut become slack. 0ur stern swings away from the walls. Naturally the cruiser tied on to us is pushed over. I try to pull the boat back to the wall, but don't have the strength. The man on the cruiser comes over and he and Martin together take the stern line while I go forward to keep the bow line taut. The water level keeps rising. The boat goes higher and higher until we reach the top. The gates open and the barge leaves followed by the rest of us. We look like a mother duck with her parade of babies. Thank God, this is our first and last lock of the day.
We don't see any boats moored to the side of the Maas. Perhaps just because it is too early to tie up for the night or perhaps it isn't done. The few bridges over the Maas are high so river traffic could continue all night. Although there are few bridges, there are numerous small ferries crossing the river. What the Maas has are a number of small bays which you can enter and moor in. We picked a large one, an enormous recreational area called, De Gouden Ham (strange name). There were a number of areas in which you could moor for free, two marinas, four beaches, many camping areas, hundreds of sailboards, etc.
Sailboards to the right, sailboards to the left, sailboats tacking in front of you, rowboats, canoes, speedboats. What is a poor motorboat to do? It was a little hair raising, but we made the circuit and found a mooring space. It was quite lovely. Plus the camp grounds had a washer and dryer! We spent a couple of days. We did a lot of bike riding. Rode to the Maas and took one ferry over to the other side to a lovely village, Megan. Rode to the next ferry and took that one back. Then rode around the "lake" back to our boat.
From here we continued on the Maas passing through another lock (This one was a piece of cake.) to another similar recreational bay south of Nijmegan, called Mooker Plas. We have reached the "mountains" or at least what the Dutch call mountains. We climbed the small wood covered hill which was perhaps 200 feet tall. Nijmegan has the tallest mountain in the NL. It is 350 feet tall! The scenery here is quite different, quite un-Dutch. If we had walked one km further through the woods we would have been in Germany.
Tomorrow Lesley will join us. She will take the train from the airport to Amsterdam's Central Station and then a train to Nijmegan. We will take the bus and meet her there. The weather has been lovely for the past 3 weeks so she should have a good time. We are not going through Helmond which I gave as a mail address in one of my letters. We had that mail transferred to the town across the river, Cuijk. We took the ferry over there for groceries on Saturday. After we meet Lesley we will pick up the mail and mail these letters. From here we travel south toward Maastricht. We will have to make one or two stops along the way
Our best to all,
Martin and I became slightly anxious while waiting for Lesley in Nijmegen but she finally did. The plane had left N.Y. a couple of hours late. We gave her a quick welcome and then rushed her to our connecting train to Cuijk. Cuijk is a small town that lay on the far side of the Maas from our boat, but it had a taxi.
We left Lesley's suitcases with the station master and introduced her to our prosaic routine. First we walked to the Post Office where we picked up two letters originally sent to Helmond, then when our plans had changed and we decided not to go that way, we had requested them to forward the letters to Cuijk. (One of these letters was from Les.) From the PO we went to a grocery, a hardware store, a fish market and then back to the station for the bags and a cab. There is no bridge across the river, just a small ferry, so Les got her first boat ride sitting in a taxis! The cab then took us the 4 km to the marina in Mooker Plas. By this time Les was thoroughly exhausted. She had been up all day, all night, and then another day. I thought she managed the time adjustment extremely well; her eyes were still open! Martin and I went off to the beach and left her to take a nap. Then woke her for dinner and a bike ride with her father before she went back to sleep.
From Mooker Plas we continued up the Maas. (Up, in so far as we were going away from the sea and toward the source of the river; down, as far as I was concerned, since we were going south and going south is, to my way of thinking, going down.)
Lesley's first lock was "Sluis Samback" where there are two locks 16 meters by 142 meters (52.8 feet by 468.6 feet) and one lock 14 meters by 260 meters (46.2 feet by 358 feet). Actually these enormous locks make things so much easier. Our only problem was trying to decide which one would be the next one up and this we decided by following the barges. Everything went smoothly and Lesley was disappointed by the lack of Indiana Jones adventures. We rose 3.25 meters ( 10.7') in this lock.
When it was time to call it a day, we pulled into one of the water sport "bays" off the Maas. (The nearest village is called Leuken, the chart shows two streets, but we never saw it.) This bay had a narrow entrance and then opened into a small lake size harbor. From this you could go under a bridge and into a second lake like area. Out of curiosity we went through and discovered a large camping area and hundreds of wind surfers and little boats. We could see boats moored beyond the wind surfers, but being chicken we retreated into the first harbor. Here the boats were moored bow in, facing a very tiny two or three foot cliff. We had bought new rope to make long mooring lines, so decided to make our first attempt at this method of mooring. Martin was at the helm, so it would be my job to jump off the boat, pound the stakes into the ground and attach the lines. I don't know why the woman always gets this job. The next boat in had the same division of labor.
The problem is we have a very high bow. I changed into my shorts and took off my shoes. I should have changed into a bathing suit, but next time I will know better. Then I climbed down into the forward locker and got out the stakes, hammer and a swim ladder. The swim ladder is a short plastic and rope affair, but I thought it might help. It had a loop which I put over the forward bollard which is just behind the bow. As soon as I did this I saw how useless it would be. It was so short that there would be no way to get back on the boat. Actually the ladder was so short that it was useless without the swimsuit. The water drops off sharply from the shore, which is why you can use this method of mooring. Using the swim ladder I would end up in deep water. So I had to jump. Later Martin pulled up the metal ladder that goes down into the forward locker and leaned this against the bow. The foot of this was still in the water, but at least it was in the shallow water.
There wasn't any rush to get the lines attached, since the bow was aground and the bay was relatively quiet. I got three stakes partially into the earth and the let Martin use his muscles to finish the job. After all our labors, we all changed to swimsuits and went for a dip Lesley even washed her hair in the lake.
There were about six boats in this area plus a number of sunbathers on the shore. The three of us settled down on pillows on the roof of the forward cabin. Martin enjoyed watching the topless female bathers. Lesley and I could admire the topless male bathers and after awhile we closed our eyes for a nap. I decided to turn over and in the process discovered that the sun bathers had company. A herd of cows had decided to wander over and see if anyone had any lettuce sandwiches. Most of the sunbathers took this development in stride, but after awhile some groups went home. One couple went for a swim, but then had to go back and chase the cows off their blanket. The moral is, "Don't sunbathe in a cow pasture."
After dinner Lesley and I decided to go exploring. We climbed down the ladder and walked carefully through the pasture - cows leave large calling cards. There was a double barb wire fence, but it had one single wire section at the farm road entrance which we crawled under. We followed this dirt road past the farm house to the main road, crossed that and followed the path to the camp ground. This proved to be a very large resort area. There was one large section of permanent summer homes, similar to Florida retirement villages of pre-fabs. Then camping areas for trailers, mobile homes and tents. The resort had all the amenities: swimming pools, tennis courts, miniature golf . The golf clubs were sitting in a barrel and we thought we would play, but you had to buy the balls at the reception office and that was closed. Next to the golf course there was a large bar/restaurant. A band was setting up and due to start to play at 9 PM so we decided to check them out. Naturally they played mostly American music with a slight Dutch accent on some of the words. Les got a kick out of watching the dancers do a very formal two step to this music, not the wild gyrations you see at home. We stayed for an hour and then decided to start back before Martin sent for the Canadian Mounties.
It was dark. The camp grounds were lighted and people were still playing tennis, but once away from the camp it was pitch black. We followed the resort road to the main road (which was unlighted) and then tried to find the farm road. Luckily there was a light in the farmhouse and so we managed to find it. We couldn't remember how far away the barb wire fence was and couldn't see a thing. We just kept going - slowly- until we almost ran into it. I was worried about finding the single wire section, but we stopped right in front of it. I went under first, but as I was under Les decided to pull the wire up so I wouldn't catch the back of my jacket on the barbs. Instead she screamed and dropped the wire which then bounced on my back giving me a slight shock. It was electrified! Well I got under, my trouser knees muddied and grass stained. Les was quite reluctant, but finally decided it was either that or sleep out with the cows, so she also managed to crawl under. Somehow we found our way back to the boat without stepping on anything, and waded through the water to the ladder. I think that after all our adventures we could join the army. Basic training obstacle courses wouldn't faze us.
The next day we continued our journey, going through another of these giant locks. Again we had three to chose from. We let some barges go first and waited for the next elevator up. Plenty of room. These locks also have a great system for your lines. The bollards were on a floating system. You put your line around the bollard but then didn't have to keep changing the length of the line or moving it to a higher bollard. As the water went up it forced the bollard up also, so the boat and the lines rose together.
The only problem was that the bollards were staggered: one high and the next one low. We could reach the low ones, but had to use the boat hook to get a line around the high ones - or you can climb a wet and slippery ladder.
After the day's travel, 50 km, 6 and a half hours running time, we entered another small offshoot of the river for the night. There was a marina, but only for small boats. As we passed a man hailed us. We had obviously met him somewhere along the line but couldn't remember where. He yelled and pointed and made us understand that we could moor further in. We passed a small bathing beach and tried to head for shore but ran aground way too far away. The bottom sloped down gradually not sharply. Martin reversed the engine, we churned up a lot of mud, but were able to pull back and continue our search. A number of boats were anchored out, something we hadn't seen elsewhere, and only one or two small boats were tied to shore. Since we had just bought a light weight anchor, we decided to anchor out. This was always our favorite method on the rivers of the Chesapeake, it is so peaceful and calm. Lesley was looking longingly at the town, but Martin and I had seen enough towns and we weren't too unhappy.
The next day, Aug. 19, we continued south, through a lock that raised us 11.35 meters ( 37.5 feet !). We only made a short trip of 16 km, 2.5 hours to a marina near a town called Wessem. This was a large, comfortable marina. They even had extra bikes, so we were able to get around together. We stayed here over the weekend until the 23rd. One day we rode over to Maasbracht, the larger town across the river. It was quite a long ride, especially for Lesley who hadn't had our practice, and hard because of the wind. You had to ride through Wessem to the entrance of a large bridge, cross the Maas, then still on the bridge cross a spit of land and then cross the Juliana Canal. Once off the bridge you rode through the industrial area and finally reached the town. It was a baptism by fire for Lesley with a few rain drops thrown in for good measure. Due to the wind, rain, and distance we never did explore Maasbracht after that first short visit.
We rode to Wessem a number of times for supplies and one evening we stopped at a small carnival in the town square. Lesley and I rode the "caterpillar," which they called a "butterfly," a major mistake on my part. I had a headache for five days afterwards. On another occasion we rode to the nearby town of Thorn, a town of white brick houses. Quite unique. Thorn was the site of a convent of wealthy, secular nuns and their church was elaborate: huge altars, sculptures, and paintings. Naturally it started to rain so we took refuge under a covered arch where we were joined by an American couple from Ohio! And this in one of the most out of the way towns in the Netherlands.
From Wessem we traveled on the Juliana Canal passing through two more locks. In each one we rose about 40 feet. We ran for about 5 hours, not counting the time spent in or at the locks. Martin is keeping engine hour times. A lock may take from 30 minutes to an hour to pass when the engine is off. In distance we traveled 40 km to Maastricht. The Julianakanaal runs roughly parallel to the Maas, but the Maas twists and turns and many areas are not navigable.
The river Maas is quite wide at Maastricht and crossed by two bridges set only a few blocks apart. The old bridge has low stone arches for 2/3 of its length and then a more modern section that permits navigation. There is a barrier wall running the length of the river between the two bridges and cutting off, to some degree, the 1/3 of the river that is the ship's channel from the other part. The large tour boats dock along the shore in this quiet area. They have to turn around and go under the modern bridge and then around to the ship's channel. This creates some wash, but it isn't disturbing. Pleasure boats can moor for free alongside the barrier wall. The view is excellent and the location outstanding. There are steps going up to either bridge and then the shops, cafes, squares, and sights can be reached in any direction. The market is held twice a week in the square facing the city hall plus, more importantly, there was a laundromat only a few blocks away. Water was not available on this dock, but there was a fuel barge across the river, and when we left Maastricht we refilled our diesel tank, water tank, and bought a can of propane.
When we first arrived in Maastricht there was no room for us. We rode slowly by searching for a space. We were about to give up and go away when one of the boaters waved us over. He moved his boat a few feet up and then helped us get in behind him. We didn't use the engine for this maneuver but stopped beside him and then with ropes walked the boat back. It was a very tight fit. This was just one more example of the helpfulness that we have encountered everywhere. In fact a few days later Martin and I went off with the shopping cart determined to find a big supermarket. We wanted a number of items that just weren't available in the little city stores. We stopped a woman walking along with a small boy. She said it was too far to walk but she was on her way there and so took us in her car. We bought as much as we could handle and then met her at the exit where she gave us a present of some fresh herring! I was so embarrassed. I should have bought her a present, not she us.
Maastricht is a polyglot of languages. In the market you heard French, German, Dutch, Arabic, and various Oriental languages. Some Italians had a stand selling pastas and olive oil. Then there were a few Iranians and Turks wandering around. The prices on the signs were in both Dutch guilders and Belgium francs.
There are many schools and colleges and the students had just returned. They were involved in various celebrations and hijinks, wandering through town in costumes and painted faces. One day we saw a large parade. Each group had their own colors and type of costume: plastic bags and green faces; yellow tights and red faces; cardboard boxes and blue faces; purple nightgowns with funny hats, balloons and noise makers. We were showered with confetti which hid in our hair for days. One day we took refuge from the rain and found two students dressed as mimes. We thought they were street performers, but they explained that they were the leaders of their group and had to be found. They were "it." Later, on our way down the stone steps from the bridge to the boat quay, we found a boy and girl sitting on the ground playing cards. I think they had to be involved in the same game, it just wasn't a normal place for card playing, but was an outstanding hiding place. There were a lot of musicians. I saw a boy bicycling to class with his cello strapped to his back and thought of all the places and hours Paula had lugged her cello, but never on a bike!
An enormous food festival was held for three days in one of the main squares. We were told that it was to raise money for the restoration of the cathedral. The street facing this square is completely lined with cafes. On Friday night we found a table and listened to a strolling band that had about 12 members and then listened to an even larger band on the town's band stand. On Friday night it was crowded. On Saturday night it was packed. It probably took us a half hour to extract ourselves from the square on Saturday. We had just heard about some young men who were crushed to death at a rock concert and were quite relieved when we escaped. The street in front of the square and the cafes was wall to wall people so we didn't linger. We went a few blocks away to a bar with a band called "Smokey and the Bandit" and listened to some good old American music. You can't escape it.
Sunday morning we took a bus to the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands. Most of the young men originally interred in the NL had been returned to the USA, but there are over 3,000 soldiers still in the cemetery. There is a large display of the history of the invasion in both English and Dutch, a visitor's center, a chapel, and a reflecting pool leading to an attractive statue of Peace. On the walls lining the pool walkways are the names of those missing in action. The grounds are beautiful and peaceful. There was a steady stream of visitors, nearly all of them Dutch and it reenforced our view that the Dutch have not forgotten WW II and are still grateful to those that gave them back their freedom.
I like Maastricht. It was just the right size. Everything was convenient and attractive. We walked through the town to an old limestone quarry in a "mountain". There is also an old fort on this hill, but we didn't go to see that. A guide from the VVV leads tours of the quarry caves. He would speak for 10 minutes in Dutch and then as we walked along quickly explain it to us in English. There were a couple of French girls on the tour, but they had to guess, since he didn't know French. These "caves" are enormous and very old. Digging started in 50 AD. During one of the wars, the French had tried to destroy the fort by blowing up the caves below it but they miscalculated the location. We walked through the area that they blew up. During the second WW, art work such as Rembrandt's Night Watch was stored in the caves. They were also used over the years as bomb shelters. They were prepared to shelter 50,000 people during the WW II invasion.
We left Maastricht on Aug. 30th to cross the border into Belgium. At the border we had to tie up at the custom's house and present our ship's papers. No more English, French only, but the officer was very nice. Immediately after the "Douane" there is a lock. One large one for the barges - 16 meters by 360 meters (52.8 feet by 1188 feet) and two small old ones - 7.3 meters by 55 M (24' by 181.5'). You went up 13.96 Meters (46 feet!). We entered one of these small locks and were brought up all by ourselves. But no floating bollards. This was a very old lock. You had to hold on to the ropes and keep moving them up from bollard to bollard. Martin would take off the forward rope and move it. As soon as he got it attached again I would move the aft on. The water pouring in through the front gate looked like a waterfall. It was quite exciting. When we reached the top Martin had to go to the office to pay a fee and present the Douane paper. Lesley and I walked over to the other small lock and looked down at a tour boat that completely filled the space. It was all the way down at the bottom and the unprotected height gave me a minor case of vertigo.
The distance from Maastricht to Liège is only 28 km, but you leave one world and enter another. Liège does not appeal to me in the same way, although it has some nice points. We were here in December so we already had a map and knew our way around one section of the town. Again we have a good berth in a similar type of location. This is a small yacht harbor at the side of the river - and again in the heart of town. There is a fee, but it is very small.
Lesley stayed with us until Friday afternoon, Sept. 2nd, when she took the train to Paris to visit Chantal. Then very early Monday morning she will fly to Amsterdam and then back to NYC. I think she enjoyed being with us when we were busy and active and the sun was shining; unfortunately the wind blows, the rain falls, and she would have enjoyed a larger bed in a more private location! But we enjoyed having her. We had a couple of good dinners out with her and a few great dinners aboard. We went to see one movie. I roped her into learning the rudiments of bridge and Martin captured her chess king (or else she captured his). Certainly it was a different European trip.
Les missed the Liège market. It is held on Sunday on the street we are on but a few blocks down (on the other side on the JF Kennedy bridge). It is huge, runs for blocks and blocks, and very crowded. We noticed a couple of striking differences from the markets in the NL. There were two stands with live rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, baby chicks, even some kittens and puppies. One of these stands seemed to be selling the fowl for food and the other for pets. There were 3 or 4 Italian stalls for cheese, groceries and for hot sausage subs. There were 5 or 6 stands selling broiled chickens cooked on huge racks of rotisseries. One of these was as big as a truck. At the fresh poultry stands you could also buy skinned rabbits with the heads and feet still on.
In the NL we never could buy food on Sundays, so we had done our shopping on Saturday. Still we bought some feta cheese and black olives at a Greek stand, some Italian cheese, a hot Italian sub, some fresh vegetables, and a 4 kg sledge hammer with a long handle to hammer in our mooring stakes!
From here we travel to Namur, Dinant and Givet in Belgium and then into France. I believe we gave Givet as a mailing address on the letters (maps) we gave Les to mail. We received mail in both Maastricht and Liège and will check the PO before we go and leave them a forwarding address.
From your foreign correspondents in Belgium,
Marcia and Martin
THIS LETTER WAS SENT TO A GROUP OF FRIENDS WHO WERE INVOLVED IN BOAT SALES
We've come a long way and are having a great time!
Some facts: On June 21st we left the port of Enkhuizen in the Netherlands, located on the Ijsselmeer, a large inland sea, and on August 30th we arrived in Liège , Belgium on the River Meuse. In the Netherlands during our 71 day trip, we stopped 18 times at such cities as Alkmaar, Haarlem, Gouda, Oudewater, and Maastricht, and covered 440 kilometers (273 miles). We passed under 180 bridges of which 55 opened for us. We managed 23 locks. A couple of these locks raised our boat very little (in one only 6 centimeters) but most raised it about 10 feet. And four of them raised us more than 37 feet. The last lock before Liège raised us 46 feet in a lock which held our boat alone. The lock was about 180 feet by 24 feet. Many locks are larger (470 feet by 50 feet) because so many of the canal freighters are longer than football fields.
As we leave Liège we will continue upriver (upstream) on the Belgian Meuse to Namur, Dinant, and then to the French border at Givet where the waterway becomes the Canal de L'Est. We continue south to the Canal des Ardennes where we turn west and go on the Rivers Aisne, L'Oise, and finally the Seine to Paris. Distance from Liège to Paris, about 500 km. We expect to winter in Paris.
The trip in the Netherlands was wonderful and we recommend it either under power or sail. Everyone speaks English and you're made to feel very comfortable. In southern Belgium and in France you must know some French. Fortunately, my French has improved and Marcia ia learning fast.
Because all of you receiving this letter are into boating I've used the rest of the letter to describe our boating rather than our cruising or touring experience.
It's been quite an experience, a continuous adventure. You never know what to expect when you leave your mooring and you are never sure of where you'll end up and how you will secure your boat at the end of the day. The Dutch charts have been very good but even they are not always accurate or complete, and the Belgian ones which we will now be using emphasize the "touring" aspects rather than "boating" ones.
Maneuvering our boat has taken some learning from experience. If you remember, Length 18.3 meters (60 feet), Beam 3.11 meters (10.5 feet). She draws 4 1/3 feet of water and almost 10 feet of air. The boat weighs 38 tons so that when it is moving even slowly, it takes some time for it to stop. Our first experience with a cable ferry was frightening. We had slowed to allow the ferry to cross our path and then resumed our normal speed (about l0 km/hr or 6 mph) only to discover that the cables that guide the ferry were above the water. With considerable reverse thrust, it took almost too long to stop our boat and by that time the cables had been lowered.
Even gentle movement of almost 40 tons can be disastrous. We had been tied securely to stakes along a relatively small canal when two cabin cruisers and then a large canal freighter passed. Our boat is very stable, but after the third wake even she began to rock a bit. One stake bent and the others were uprooted. The anchor (about 100 pounds) which I had placed on shore was lifted and dropped in the water. Some quick action by some fellow boaters and me helped to secure the boat. We have since had special stakes made and I purchased an eleven pound, yard long sledge hammer to drive them into the ground.
Tying up with stakes along the side of a canal is one way we moor for the night. On a lake, horizontal mooring is not possible because we draw too much water to get close to shore so that we tie off vertically. Our bow is moored to the shore and two lines are brought forward from either side of our stern at about 30 to 45 degree angles and then secured on shore. We have done this successfully. The most secure way is to drop an anchor at the stern but dropping one at the right moment and later retrieving it with but two people aboard can be difficult.
We also tie along loading walls that are especially built for boats in cities or on the sides of canals. Because they have bollards or rings, these walls are safe moorings. Getting into a marina is difficult because of our length. Almost all of the marinas are designed for smaller, standard pleasure boats up to 40 or 45 feet. Our 60 feet of boat is not easy to manage in the confines of a marina, although we did tie up at a marina twice, once where we tied on to a floating T pier and the other time where we tied up on to an old 45 footer.
We anchored out one night because there were no other alternatives. It worked out perfectly. (We used a mid sized anchor with chain that I could pull up.) By the way, practically no one anchors out.
Finally, one can moor on another boat. This is common. All boats, for example, carry many large and visible fenders. We presently have 5 tires and about 3 regular fenders.
Because we have but one screw that walks to port in reverse, we can only make a successful clockwise turn in narrow quarters. This means thinking ahead constantly, particularly when you are standing by waiting for bridges to open or locks to empty, a 300 foot freighter to get out of your way or flock of a dozen small sailing boats to move.
Our main and most common maneuver is using the spring line (we have a ready made one - 6 meters (20') in length with two large loops at either end. Secured on the starboard side from our boat to a bollard on shore, forward thrust with a port helm will bring the stern in and keep it until the boat is secured. We've used this again and again when we approach a wall to tie up. We also use it in a lock when Marcia has secured our spring line (called our landing line) forward. This maneuver gets our stern out of harms way up against the wall and keeps it there - a real pleasure when the walls of the lock can be 30 feet high and mooring bollards inconveniently placed. Forward thrust with a starboard helm will bring the stern out until it is at 90 degrees from the shore or bulkhead. ( Switch the bow line or landing line or get rid of it and the boat will continue and make the whole 180 degree turn). We use this maneuver when we leave a mooring, particularly when we have to turn the boat around, or to get into deep water.
For us the single most difficult maneuver is waiting - that is standing by under power while a bridge attendant finishes his coffee or waits for more boats to show up before opening the bridge, or waiting for the green light so that you can enter the lock. Tying up in the first instance is not practical. The time is short but it might be windy and the channel might be very narrow. Waiting for a lock entails mooring on pilings which are often some twenty meters apart. When we're only 18 meters, it can be tricky. Fortunately, some locks have waiting pads for pleasure boats or pilings closer together. But you still need 60 feet of space.
VHF radio is used infrequently by the pleasure boater in the Netherlands. The stiff license exam and the expense of the radio discourages use. We have a radio (I bought in the States) and we have used it in approaching locks to find out which one we are to go into or just to let the lock master know we are there.
Poly lines are very popular here, much more so than nylon, even for small boats. Our lines are heavy duty and long: two 3/4 inch 120'; two 1" 90'; and two 5/8" 165'; In addition we have some misc. lines plus our trusty landing (spring) line.
Most boaters in the Netherlands have and use TV, powered either by an onboard generator or by a 12 volt battery. American movies with subtitles are normal fare. We have a TV but have not used it once.
Registration of boats is an ad hoc affair in the Netherlands. Only one official registration exists - a "meetbrief" - something like our documentation but usually only commercial boats have one. We got one though and discovered that our boat was built in Alkmaar in 1915 rather than in 1927. We are also "9" tons, that is we can take on a load of 9 tons at which time the marking on our hull will be at water level. As I indicated before, our boat is 38 tons.
We've seen a variety of boats but dominating the powerboat category is the aft cabin cruiser. They start off at 7 meters and end up about 40 feet. Practically all are diesel powered and the larger boats, most with single engines, have bow thrusters. All are made of steel. We've also seen a number of 36-38 foot trawlers. Some are Taiwan in glass but there are others - very nice and made here in steel. Practically every boat, even the smallest, has davits and a dinghy. We've seen a few - three or four - flybridge sedans and two boats that look like the old Trojan 40. Bayliner, SeaRay, Wellcraft, and Silverline are among the firms whose runabouts we've seen. We also saw a number of Chris Craft Cavaliers. Sailboats dominate in the large lakes and inland seas - many traditional rigs and lots of British and French vessels - the larger ones in steel but many in glass. Even the larger boats often have tillers.
Well that's it for now. I hope you all are healthy and happy. Marcia sends her best.
Dear Lesley and David and Vonnie,
You were right Les. We stayed in Liège for another week. I forget now, why, but I remember we enjoyed it. We contacted Mark M., a young man whom we had met during our last trip. He's a prison chaplain and works with adolescent kids. He's going to the states in order to raise some money.
In Huy, where we went next, we tied up against the river wall right in the middle of town. We arrived during the Walloon festival, which is a celebration of local culture, etc. We stayed longer than we really wanted because Marcia had a cold. She's having a hard time shaking it. (I got part of it today.) Huy has a citadel, a fort on top of the city, which we visited. Gruesome. It was used by the Germans during WW II.
Our trip to Namur was uneventful. (We've the locks under control.) We're tied up just off the main river, on a small river called the Sambre (which by the way goes to France as well). It's very narrow and when some of the big barges go through we get some swell. We arrived on the 22nd but really haven't seen much because Marcia has been resting. Today I caught the cold. But tomorrow, unless I feel miserable we are going to push on to Dinant. Time is a fleeting.
Actually, as it turned out, one of the main canals below Givet in France has been closed since September 1st. (will open again on Sept. 30) So even if we had rushed earlier, we would have had to sit and wait.
The weather has been wet and warm, although one morning it was cold and we used our diesel heater for the first time. It worked well.
I spoke to Chantal in Paris a few times. She was suppose to check out a winter mooring. She finally did and is making arrangements - via a reservation - for us to stay in the heart of Paris. If it works out it will be perfect - nicely located, with water, electricity, and a laundromat. We're going to try to make it by November 1st. Paris is about 450 km from Namur, which means we will not be able to spend a week at each town. Everyone should have our problems.
Paula is expected sometime in early to mid October. She's flying into Paris and then driving to where we are.
I'll try to get an individual letter off to both of you when we get to Dinant or Givet but I wanted to get this off today before we leave.
As for writing us, it's going to be difficult. Try the town of Soissons in France. You know how to do it - Post Restante PTT - Soissons, France
Hopefully, we should be there by the middle of October.
Marcia sends her love.
The mist swirls over the water and the bank of the river is invisible. There is a hum from a pumping station, but after awhile one is unaware of this constant sound. We are facing a minuscule island in the middle of the river. To our left is the town. Behind us and also on the left is the entrance to the lock. It would be a very romantic anchorage if only we weren't aground! Well it has been 15 years since the last time we ran aground so we shouldn't complain. We had crossed the border from Belgium into France at Givet and had just completed our first day on the French side of the Maas/Meuse river/canal system. We had gone through eight locks and two tunnels and had almost reached a small town called Revin. It was 4:30 and the sun was dropping behind the mountain peak, but as we came around the bend it was shining directly and blindingly into our eyes.
According to the chart the lock at Revin was the first of the automatic self service locks and we certainly weren't about to start anything new at 4:30, besides Europe had already changed from day light savings time and it gets dark early here. The chart showed the river continuing in a curve around the town with the next dam and waterfall just on the other side. The canal was to our left and led to the lock. After the lock the canal went immediately into a tunnel through a mountain and then into another lock on the other side. Our chart said the town had "all resources" so, we thought, people must stop there for supplies. It also showed all the water with the same dark blue color. This should mean that the river continued to be navigable - at least until you reached the waterfall. But it obviously wasn't since our boat was firmly aground.
We caused quite a stir in the town. The boys on the bank had a good laugh, but someone did notify the police. No one rowed out to us, but Martin yelled across the river and got our message understood. Twice we tried to back off without any success, so we gave up and had dinner.
After I got into bed Martin starting worrying. What if the boat floated down river to the falls we had just passed? They weren't big but we certainly didn't want to float over them. So he went and got the anchor out of the forward locker, attached chain and rope and threw it out. This is however not the correct way to set an anchor. If you just drop it overboard it may not dig in. You usually use your engine and put the boat into reverse and then make sure the anchor flukes dig into the bottom. But since we couldn't move the boat this wasn't possible. After awhile he finished and came back inside and got into bed. Just as I was beginning to feel warm and cozy, in climbed this polar bear! We warmed up again, but kept worrying about the boat. The vision of us floating down river and over the dam was becoming stronger and stronger in my imagination. So like a typical wife I kept talking about it. Martin asked me if I wanted to take the first watch. We could take turns sitting up all night. Somehow that idea did not appeal to me. Then my loving husband decided to set some alarms which would wake us if the boat started to drift. He climbed out of bed, got dressed, went back out to the forward locker, got out our metal stakes and tied them on to a part of the anchor rope running along the deck in such a way that they would fall on to the deck and wake us if the anchor and boat moved. Shades of Rube Goldberg! Afterwards frozen solid again, he climbed back into bed.
At 3 AM I woke and checked our position. At 4 AM Martin checked. Somehow we managed to fall asleep again. Martin got up an at 6 AM and I got up at 7. (In the old days, the woman got up at the crack of dawn to chop the wood, start the stove, and bake the morning bread. Thank goodness those days are gone forever.) By the time I rose at 7:00, Martin had filled the thermos with hot water and had started the diesel heater.
At eight we heard from a man on the bank. He would return at 9 with a truck and pull us off. The mist slowly lifted and we decided to try the engine one more time. This time we were successful and the boat slowly moved backwards churning up the mud. As soon as we were free Martin swung the wheel so we could turn around. Going forward your keel protects the rudder and propeller. Going backwards in shallow water is very dangerous because of the damage you can cause to these two essential parts. We both had our fingers crossed as the boat made the turn. We were turning left which our boat does not like to do, plus in the process the stern was turning into the shore. We didn't know whether we were going to ground again or rip up the propeller blades on unseen rocks, or if the boat would balk and refuse to make the turn. Amazingly we were successful and motored past the surprised rescue workers with their truck.
After we got back into the channel we continued downstream (the way we had come from the day before) for 2 km until we reached the radar detector for the automatic lock and then we again turned around. A barge had just passed us and went into the lock so we had to wait. These small French canals are quite different from the monster size Belgium canals. The big ones usually had some kind of wall to tie against while waiting. Here we just had the grassy bank. There weren't any bollards so Martin just left the engine on and nosed the bow against the bank. These French locks are 40 meters in length and about 5 and a half meters wide. The barges (peniches) are built to fit. They are 38.5 by 5 meters. The 70, 80, 90 meter barges from the river are no longer with us. Here only one barge can fit in a lock or two or three pleasure boats. At this time of the year, there are fewer and fewer pleasure boats cruising so usually we have the lock to ourselves.
The barge in front of us rose in the lock, the forward gates opened to let him out and then closed again to get ready for us. We could see the water coming out on our side and then the gates opened to admit us.
We had a big welcoming committee waiting for us at the lock house. All our would be rescuers had gathered. Martin went out and thanked them and paid the bill for their effort on our behalf. They had brought the rescue truck and had gotten a boat to get the tow lines out to us and had spent quite a bit of time preparing the rescue. We were most grateful and paid the bill willingly. In tidal waters we would never have asked for help since you can wait for the change of tides to float you free, but on these dammed rivers the water level is so constant that we never expected to free ourselves.
The next five locks were listed as automatic locks, although in each case there was a lock keeper on duty, so we weren't completely on our own. After first passing the radar detector you slowly approach the lock. A red light says wait, red and green tells you to get ready, and green, of course, tells you to go in. As you enter your boat should hit and swing a bar that extends part way into the lock entrance at the water level. This has been a problem. You can't always see which side this bar extends from and it is hard enough to steer into the lock without having to worry about getting close to one side. After awhile I used a boat hook on a couple and think that may be an easier way. Once in the lock you tie up and then pull a blue pipe. This closes the back gates and lets the water in. When the lock is filled and your boat has risen, the forward gates open. You then untie your lines and leave again having to hit an exit bar with either your boat or a boat hook. Next to the blue pipe is a red one to be pulled when things go wrong.
Our first day on the French canals had been very exciting. (This was just before the above events.) Leaving Givet the entrance to the first lock, #58, was hidden. It was impossible to see the gates and none of the first day's locks had traffic lights! The locks are narrow and so are the entrances. We had to enter the lock entrance in order to find out whether the gates were opened or closed. They were opened and the lock tender told us that right after leaving the lock we should tie up to the bank and wait for two peniches (barges) from the opposite direction before proceeding into the tunnel. He said that there were bollards, but my shoes got soaked as I looked for them in the wet grass. The first boat came around the bend and entered the lock. After awhile the second one came. We were going to wait until he was past us because the channel was so narrow but the lock keeper yelled at us to start immediately. The tunnel was 565 meters long by 5.8 meters wide. It had rough stone sides with water dripping from both the sides and the ceiling. But it was straight and as they used to say about the war, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. There was a peniche and a chartered pleasure boat waiting to enter the tunnel as we came out. We had to pass the peniche on a sharp curve, which was hair raising, and then we entered lock # 57, traveled 4.8 km to lock #56, 7.4 km to # 54, 3.2 km to # 53, 4.8 km to #52, 2.6 to #51, 6.1 to # 50 followed by a little tunnel (224m. long), and then 1.6 km to where we ran aground at Revin near lock # 49!
The scenery has been magnificent alongside the Meuse (Maas). We are high up in the Ardennes. At times we have rocky cliffs towering above us; at times the hills and peaks are wooded. Sometimes we travel straight through the woods with tall pines on either bank. We see many fishermen, some campers, and a few hikers. The river twists and turns its way through the valleys. A railroad follows the river path in places like along the Hudson. Some of our locks and tunnels bypass a few of the rivers natural loops, but even so there are endless curves in the river/canal. On the sharp curves Martin sends me to the bow as a look out. Years ago my mother, Michael and I took a ferry across a bay in Maine. It was a great trip. I particularly remember Michael standing in the bow acting as look out. Never did I imagine that I would ever be a real look out.
There are scattered towns squeezed in between the cliffs and the rivers. This town, Chateau Regnault- Oct. 2, has two streets following the river on each side and a cross street over the bridge cutting across the hills. Gone are the manicured lawns and homes of the Dutch with their large opened windows proudly displaying the living room treasures to all passersby. These houses are secretive and have shutters on the windows and doors. Many of the houses even have metal doors that roll down from the top. They remind me of NYC with all the bars on the windows. Walking home last night the houses were shuttered and dark. Even today, Oct. 3, one of the houses above us has all the second and third story windows shuttered and it is a beautiful, sunny fall day! I can understand shutting everything up when the winter winds are howling in the hills, but why in this type of weather? Some of the houses are well kept and have nice gardens, but many are run down and have messy yards and gardens.
I discovered the reason for the condition of the homes at 6 AM on Monday morning. We are moored opposite a metal stamping factory. The din starts at 6 AM. Obviously the houses in the immediate neighborhood of this factory would not be considered too desirable and would not be occupied by the more prosperous residents.
There was a small cafe/restaurant on the road near the bridge. We stopped by in the late afternoon and asked what time dinner was served. She asked us what time we would like to eat! We came back around 7:15. The cafe was busy, perhaps it had eight customers. No one was in the restaurant room. We usually do not eat in any restaurant that does not have customers, so we walked across the bridge but there wasn't any other place to go. We returned and went in. The owner was very nice. At first she just asked us what we wanted and seemed to expect us to tell her what to prepare. We were not really prepared to order in that manner and asked if she did not have a menu. She did and on it was steak with marchand de vin sauce. It was delicious. She also served a potato, onion, garlic round patty and a lettuce salad, both of which were just great.
We talked a fuel oil man into giving us four jerry cans of diesel. They are not allowed to sell home heating fuel for cars or boats, but we told him we had a diesel heater and needed it for that, which we did, but not 120 liters worth. He even drove Martin back in his car with the fuel.
We stayed two weeks in Liège , Belgium. The last five days of this stay was caused by money problems. You would think that in these days of instant communication, the transfer of money could be accomplished in a day, but in some places it takes forever. We had two months supply transferred. When we get to Paris we will set up a French bank account and that will make things easier.
We arrived in Huy (pronounced Wee) on Sept. 14 and stayed until the 22 just for the fun of it. We then went to Namur until the 26th and then to Dinant until the 28th.
Huy, Namur, and Dinant are all old fortified towns along the river. Each has a fortress (citadel) on the top of its cliff or mountain top. Each also has some type of cable car for the tourists. The one in Huy looked the nicest and was probably the longest ride. It took you across the river to the top of the citadel and then to a sports park area on a nearby plateau. It was a two km ride each way but at this time of the year it only ran on the weekends so we walked up the hill which wasn't too high and was quite a pleasant hike.
The original fortress burned and the present one was built by the Dutch (when Belgium and the Netherlands were one country) around the time of Napoleon. It wasn't too successful as a defensive fort. The Germans captured it in both world wars. It was used as a disciplinary prison for German soldiers in the first WW and then as a prison/concentration camp during the second. At present it is a museum about those years and was a grim place inside and out in stark contrast to the lovely town nestled at its base.
All the towns in the Walloon area (the French speaking area) of Belgium were having Walloon Festivals during September. We stayed for the one in Huy. The streets were lined with food booths, wine and beer booths, booths for the Red Cross, UNICEF, The European Community, animal protection league, etc. There were five band stands. We saw a folk dance performance and listened to a wide variety of bands: country/western, jazz, rock and roll, even a little old time Walloon music!
Huy has a famous son, born in the 18th century (I think), a man named Merlin - not the magician. We visited an exhibition about him that was in a tower directly opposite the boat. He reminded me of Benjamin Franklin. He was a man of many talents, an inventor. He invented roller skates.
We had a great mooring in Huy, just across the river from the beautiful church and the tower at the foot of the citadel peak, plus we were right across the street from a small shopping mall with a large supermarket, and there was a laundromat only three blocks away. The best of all possible worlds! The citadel, church, bridge and other spots were lit at night over the weekend and it was quite beautiful. I bought yarn and a french pattern book in Huy. There was a sweater in the window and I couldn't resist trying to make one like it.
From Huy we traveled to Namur, a much larger town - actually a city. They had just finished their festival and the debris was still very much in evidence. It was probably a nice place to visit, but we weren't at our best, physically, plus it rained for three or four days straight which was quite depressing. Sunday morning we rode a small cable car to the citadel, only to find it wouldn't open for another two hours, so we just came down again.
We had moored just off the Meuse on the Sambre River/canal. We could have taken that river toward Paris but had been told it wasn't as attractive as the route via the Meuse to the Canal de L'est et des Ardennes.
Our next stop was Dinant, a small town, again situated at the base of a high red rocky cliff with a citadel on top. We had an excellent mooring, directly on the river, but very comfortable and again with a nice view. We were on the citadel side so were looking across the river to the hotel and buildings on the other side. Our mooring did cause some inconvenience to the baker. We had stopped directly in front of his kitchen. This baker was a serious fisherman. He would tie a pole to the fence outside his kitchen and while his bread and cakes were baking, he would run out and attend to his line. Because of our boat he had to move his line further down, but he still caught eels regularly.
Dinant was an affluent, attractive town with lots of tourists. There was a small casino and we stopped in and threw away a few francs. I think that some of the customers were American servicemen.
Our next stop was the border. Our chart is not very clear. It is in four languages, but at times it gives different information in the different languages. The chart showed the border, in fact it had a blow-up showing the location of the Douane (custom) office. Then on the facing information page they told about Givet and the border regulations for commercial craft. We passed through a wild area, crossed the border and entered lock #59, the first of the French locks. The book said and I quote, "Watch out for lock #59." It didn't say what you should watch out for.
Well the entrance to the lock was bad and then the water rushed in like Niagara Falls! We were following a barge through the locks and when he pulled up to the dock we pulled up behind him. We changed into cleaner clothes so we wouldn't look too scruffy. Martin got out all the ship's papers and our passports. We put the boat into order in case we were inspected and then we went in search of the office. It turned out to be the Belgium Douane! They did not really want anything from us but did take our temporary transit paper. We continued up the river, passing an area called "The Port of Givet," then through a woods and through a very old open "gate way", perhaps an old lock. The stone walls on either side created a very small passageway. How the barge got by is a miracle. Another km brought us to the town of Givet and the French Douane.
There were two long areas for commercial barges, one for upstream boats and one for downstream ones, and a small area for pleasure boats. Since we were still following a barge, we started to pull up behind him, but a man told us to continue to the right place. We again gathered up our papers and went looking for the office. The same man who had just told us where to moor the boat looked at our Met Brief, the ship's papers, and then dismissed us! We were expecting so much more. We had read so much and had heard from so many people about the problems of getting into or out of France with a boat that we were nonplussed. Martin blurted out, "Don't you want to see our passports?" He replied, "You have a Visa, don't you?" He glanced at the passports and said, "See everything is fine." He asked us if we had any arms. Since this conversation was mostly in French the word "arms" confused us. It took awhile to realize he was asking if we had any guns aboard. He then asked how much whiskey and tobacco we had since there are limitations on how much of these two items you can bring in. Martin said he had half a bottle of cognac and a package of pipe tobacco. The man wasn't really too interested in us at that point. He asked us our destination and we said we were going to Paris and then south and then perhaps to Spain. He didn't ask how long we planned to stay in France, and he didn't stamp our passports.
Our main concern for the past six months has been the French regulation on importing a vessel. If you bring in a boat and keep it in France for more than six months you have to pay a 20% tax on the value of the boat. But if they don't stamp your passport or write down when you entered with the boat how do they know when the six months are up? In Huy we had met a Dutch couple traveling south. They had lived aboard since 1980 and spent the winters in the Canal de Midi in the south of France. They never paid the tax. "Just don't ask and don't tell anyone you are staying," was their advice. Later that day in Givet an English couple stopped by. They had bought a huge boat in Holland and had it converted to a pleasure boat. They were going home for the winter and were trying to follow the regulations which tell you to notify Customs and leave the boat locked up and unused for six months to escape the tax. They were having a hard time of it. They had to find a resident agent, etc. We couldn't help them.
In front of our boat was a Dutch couple going north. It was the first year of their retirement. They had rented their house and had taken their sailboat to the Mediterranean and Spain. They were an interesting couple, but I have never heard the word "terrible" used so many times! Everything was "terrible". Too many locks, too expensive, too rough, too hot, either too much wind, the Mistrals, or not enough wind. Yet I think that they really did enjoy themselves. We have had our share of scary experiences and misadventures, but in retrospect it has all been fun and/or exciting. Certainly more fun than staying home and not doing anything.
We picked up two letters at the PO : one from Mother Reff and one from Lesley. In my last letter I said that Givet was in Belgium and I had given Givet as a mail drop so I hope we didn't miss any mail. We always leave the PO a forwarding address so if anything comes in after we leave it will reach us further on.
There was a public toilet under the bridge just by our boat in Givet. Martin ran a water hose from the sink to our tank and we filled up. Getting water, fuel, and propane are our main concerns. Sometimes it has been easy, but we always rest easier when the tanks are full.
From Givet, we journeyed to Revin and our overnight stay out in the river. Then through five locks and a tunnel to Chateau Regnault and from there to Charleville where we stayed one night. Charleville is the largest town that we will see in awhile. We had a good safe mooring, but not scenic or in the center of the town. We walked to the town square which was large and impressive and dates to the 1650's. The town is very involved with marionettes and calls itself the Marionette capital of the World. They have a huge festival each September and host 60 troupes from 30 different countries plus 70 french groups. The festival lasts 10 days, but unfortunately we had missed it. There has been many write-ups about it in the paper and there were still displays of puppets and marionettes in all the shop windows. One street even had scarecrow like figures hanging from the lamp posts.
We were on a short quay and moored behind a 30' sailboat covered with all the paraphernalia needed for ocean crossings. The owner, his wife, and son lived in Charleville, but had sailed the boat to NYC and were now preparing for a trip to the Caribbean. We don't know when they were leaving, but they had a lot of visitors that evening. Don't worry. We have no plans for crossing the Atlantic in the Opperdan.
From Charleville we continued on the Meuse for perhaps 15 km to where the Canal Des Ardennes enters. We have been traveling on the Meuse/Maas since Heusden in the Netherlands. It has been a beautiful and varied river. From the flat fields of the NL, through the rocky quarries of Belgium, through the hills and forests in Northern France. The river would continue south, we would miss it, but our destination was Paris.
The Canal Des Ardennes is almost as narrow as the canal behind my mother's house in Florida. It is just wide enough for two 5 meter wide barges to pass each other. We have reached the highest point of our journey. So far we are traveling through woods and rural farm lands. There are gentle hills, but no mountain peaks. We are on the top! Now we start to descend.
On October 4th, after leaving Charleville we passed through six locks and one short tunnel and then just past the tunnel we tied on to some trees along side of the canal's bank. The last four locks, which were the first four on the Canal Des Ardennes, were quite interesting. You go through one, make a sharp 90 degree turn and enter the next. Between the first and second was perhaps 2 km, between the third and fourth , just 100 meters. There was a fuel dock and tiny marine store after the first lock, at Pont-a-Bar. We filled our jerry cans with diesel and topped off the water tank, bought a new life jacket and a chart for Paris.
Our mooring after the tunnel was what the chart calls a "wild mooring;" We stopped along the side of the canal in the middle of the woods. You could see some cultivated fields, but not one house. It was about as peaceful as could be when around the bend come two inflatable boats carrying 6 or 7 soldiers. They pull up in front of us, leave one man guarding the boats and disappeared into the woods. After a few hours they returned and motored away.
We made dinner and went to bed early. Martin was asleep when I started hearing strange things. I thought I heard a truck, but what would a truck be doing in the woods? There was a road within sight, but it was way off in the distance and this truck sounded close. Then I heard boat engines. Now the canal was very narrow and it was pitch dark. We had not turned on an anchoring light to mark our spot since it is against the law to navigate at night, besides the locks don't work so you can't. But still I heard engines. What was happening? Smugglers? Moonshine men? I certainly didn't want our boat rammed by any moving vessel - legal or illegal. Naturally I woke Martin and got him out of bed to investigate. There are car lights on the other bank. There are search lights swinging around and the two inflatables putter past again! The French army are holding night maneuvers at our wild mooring! Well at least we were safe and well protected. They even had a red cross truck with them just in case we had any medical emergency.
The soldiers had a damp night out in the field. The wind blew and it rained. They left very early in the morning. The rain and wind left the boat covered with leaves, so Martin went out and brushed them off. It was damp, but not pouring. We needed to reach a phone by 2 PM. I was supposed to call Paula in order to make some preliminary arrangements for her upcoming visit. A barge passed us and after awhile we cast off. We quickly caught up to the barge since he was traveling very slowly. Martin had to turn the engine speed down to idle. We made about 4 and a half km an hour and still had to wait for him at each lock. At the second lock we met our Army platoon again. They were sitting around - some were eating - by the side of the lock. One boy spoke to me in halting English as I was tying up. I said we were going to Paris. He replied that he wished he could go with us. They looked pretty miserable, very wet and chilled.
We stopped at the first village, Le Chesne, but because of our slow speed by then it was after 2:00 PM. The barge had pulled over, but had not tied up. The wife had jumped off, run up the bank and over to the store, bought her groceries and then run back to the boat. There was a small enlargement of the width of the canal and a stone quay just after the town's bridge. We pulled in and tied up. We found the PO, made our call and so here we are.
Oct. 6, 1988
It is raining. Not a gentle rain from heaven, but heavy downpours. Not a boat has passed us in either direction. We have the diesel heater on and will stay nice and dry and warm just where we are. One km from Le Chesne is a set of 26 automatic locks within an 8 and a half km stretch of land. In each one we will descend about three meters. The book says that it takes 7 hours to pass through this series. If you are in one of them at 6 PM - when they shut down - you just stay the night. We will wait until tomorrow. Hopefully it will be dry and then we will start early.
Paula arrives in Paris October 11th. I think she will take a train to Rheims and then another train just a little way north to . The train goes there and so does the canal. We should reach that town before the 11th. but it is hard to know. We will call her again before she leaves and we can also leave a message at Air France in Paris.
We have a reservation at the marina in Paris starting November first so have a place to spend the winter. We still have a long ways to go, but should reach Paris around Nov. 1st. or a little while afterwards if we don't linger too long on our way. We will get from the PO the address and zip code for the marina in Paris and give it to you in our next letter or post card. Then we will have a regular mailing address for the winter.
It is after 3 o'clock and still pouring, but we will get these letters into envelopes and wade through the storm to send them on their way.
Our love to all,
Marcia & Martin
November in Paris. No, I guess that's not the way the song goes, but October wasn't bad. In fact it was just beautiful.
We arrived in Paris on Saturday, Oct. 22. We had covered a
lot of kilometers on our last two days of cruising. We had left
the canal system, the Canal des Ardennes and the Canal Lateral
to the Aisne, and entered the river Oise at Compiegne an extremely
busy river port. Compiegne had huge quays, but all occupied by
professional barges. The pleasure boat harbor looked like it was
set up for regular size boats, not for the likes of us, so we passed that by. Eventually we found an empty spot among the working barges. The barge captains were pleasant but they obviously wanted the space we had occupied. In the evenings they would tie up 3 and 4 abreast, leaving a very narrow channel. There was an island in the middle of the river and upstream traffic went on one side while downstream traffic took the other. Boats were tied up on both banks which made the channel very narrow, although the river itself was wide.
Martin, who was fighting a cold and not feeling well, decided that the time had come to let someone else do the work for awhile. He talked to the barge captains and hired a pilot to take us to Paris. Our pilot was only 19 years old but had grown up on the rivers. He we was very good and we were delighted to be able to sit back and relax. He used our VHF radio to contact all the locks ahead of time so we always knew which lock to use, which one was free and which one we would have to wait for. The river traffic was quite heavy. Many of the barges were "doublers". They would fasten two 39 meter barges together, bow to stern, or sometimes side by side, so one captain could run a double load. The locks were enormous and handled many of these ships at one time.
We left Compiegne at 7 AM on Oct. 21st. and traveled 98 km on L'Oise until it joined the Seine at Conflans-St.Honorine arriving at 6 PM. Conflans- St. Honorine is the barge capital of France. Our pilot had arranged our berth before we left. When we arrived the barges were tied up 10 to 11 across except at one place where there were only three because we were expected! Our pilot slept aboard his friend's barge while we went out and explored a small area of the town.
Climbing over only 3 barges wasn't too bad except for the fact that one was loaded and rode low in the water while the next was empty and was riding high. We couldn't discover anyway to get up to the deck of this one, but luckily met some young men walking across the barge and they hung a ladder down for us. We were disappointed that we couldn't stay a few days and explore the town, but will have to return by bus during the winter. There is a National Waterways Museum in town that gives a history of the canals and barges. We passed the watermen's church which is located on a white painted barge. And in the spring there is a big barge festival that sounds like a lot of fun.
We left the next morning at 7 AM for our trip to Paris. Martin was feeling better, the rest had done him a world of good. It was great traveling up the Seine and seeing all the Parisian sights: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Statue of Liberty! (smaller version of the one in NY), Notre Dame, etc. We arrived at the marina at 3:30 after a 70 km trip. The marina is just off the Seine. You pass the two islands - Ile St. Louis and Ile de La Cite with Notre Dame and then turn into a small lock at the beginning of the Canal St. Martin! As soon as you leave the lock you are in the marina which lines both sides of the canal for about 4 to 5 blocks.
The marina ends at the canal tunnel which goes under the Place de La Bastille and then under a number of the city blocks until it reappears after the Place de La Republic. Last winter we walked along most of its route. It is quite lovely. Two or three tour boats pass us each day taking tourists for a ride on the canal.
The marina is very lovely. On our side is a garden, a children's playground, a cafe/restaurant, and the marina office. The other side just has a wall, but with the trees above and the buildings our view is quite nice. Above the tunnel entrance is the Metro which is above ground here and goes over the canal, although you don't see it. The city is reconstructing the station so there are temporary walls above the canal right now. The city is also building an underground parking garage under the park. This is all being done because of the new Opera House. This is an enormous modern building which seems almost complete, at least on the outside. It is next to the Metro station on the Place de La Bastille. From the boat's forward windows we look out on the top of the monument and the top of the Opera House.
The marina is home to a fair size colony of liveaboards. We have met quite a few but have been too busy to have people in. The days haven't been long enough for all we have to do. First we had to explore the immediate area and locate the butchers, bakers, and grocers. There is an outdoor market on Sundays, two fairly convenient small supermarkets and a street full of small fish, meat and vegetable stores. You can't go hungry in Paris. Further down one of the blocks is a large department store, 5 or 7 floors tall, with a great basement full of electrical, plumbing, heating and hardware supplies. Martin has been a steady customer. He has put in days and days of work on the boat.
One of the major jobs has been completing the 220 volt electrical system. We now have a 220 volt lamp hanging over the table in the wheelhouse and he switched our small 12 volt lamp to 220. In the forward cabin. He has installed a reading light but this isn't doing the job so he plans to get a different fixture. A fluorescent light has been put in the galley and this is great, very bright and cheerful. We now have 220 outlets in all three areas. Today he is working on the installation of a 220 light over the bed and one in the bath. We are trying to limit the drain on the battery as much as possible while we aren't running the boat. The refrigerator is dual - propane and electric- so is now on electric. The propane is being used for cooking and hot water, so should last longer. The diesel heater is supplemented by an electric fan type heater which is great for early morning quick fixes and we bought an oil filled electric radiator for the aft cabin. This we have been leaving plugged in on the lowest setting. We don't want the room hot, just want to keep things dry. This morning, Nov. 4, the temp was about 35 degrees F. but it is quite warm in here.
The electrical work has been very complicated. We have Dutch, French, and American appliances and they all need different sockets. The 12 volt sockets and plugs are completely different also. Martin has had to make all sorts of adaptors to accommodate our needs. The electrical store is quite amazing because of the variety of parts it stocks.
Then my fearless Jack of all Trades has been working in the engine room, preparing the engine for the winter. He cleaned out the forward locker and we cleaned and waxed the bikes. Somehow we managed to get them into the forward locker although I don't know how we will get them out again in the spring. And we worked on some of the rust spots on the deck, sanding and painting.
November 1st was All Saint's Day, a national holiday here, so we took a holiday also. All the museums were closed so we went across the river and took a walk through the Jardin des Plantes (Garden of Plants) which is very close and then walked over to the Luxembourg Gardens, which were very beautiful. There is a large round garden surrounded by a wide pedestrian walkway and then on the next higher level a columned balustrade. Mounted on this were enormous stone urns planted with chrysanthemums. These had been cut and trained to overflow the urns in lovely cascades. Hundreds of chairs were available and people were sitting and sunning themselves - eating, talking, or reading. Beyond this circle is another circle surrounding a large model boat basin filled with racing sailboats. In other areas of the gardens were beautiful fountains and statues.
The French spend a lot of time and money on the upkeep of their city parks. The flower beds at the marina that were filled with mums when we arrived, have already been uprooted, tilled and replanted (as were the beds in the Jardin des Plantes). "Our" rose garden is still blooming nicely even in the cold.
The previous Sunday afternoon we had explored part of the area near the marina called, The Marais (the swamp) which was drained centuries ago. We visited one of the museums and looked at a lot of the other buildings. We have a copy of the Michelin guide to Paris which is an excellent book giving you the walking tours and background on the areas and buildings. Some of the museums are free on Sundays and some on Wednesdays, so I will have to do some research and set up a schedule. We bought the weekly magazine of events, movies, etc. and have figured out the code so we know which movies are in English with French subtitles and which are dubbed.
On Nov. 3, we spent the day trying to (1) get an official change of address and (2) get our visa renewed. We had already visited the main police station over near Notre Dame and had been told to go to our district, the 12 arrondissement. First we found the city hall for the 12th, then we were sent to the main police station in the 12th arrondissement. They sent us to the local police station which brought us right back near the boat, so we had lunch. Then we went back to the main 12th police station. We now have the change of address duly recorded plus an appointment to go to the main city police station over near Notre Dame on January 18th. (Plus we got a lot of exercise.) After accomplishing this task we checked out the exchange rate, the costs at the bank and what we could get at American Express and got money. Then starting around 5 PM we walked from the Old Opera House to the Louvre, down Rue de Rivoli and all the way back to the Place de La Bastille with short detours into a couple of the large stores. Martin was trying to get a hat which isn't easy. He wears an unusually large size, but at last we found a very helpful saleswoman and he bought a beret, quite French and rakish.
The walk back was quite spectacular, the buildings and monuments are brilliantly lit, the stores and streets were bustling. Arriving back at 7 PM just as the restaurants were opening for dinner, we had an excellent dinner in a local restaurant.
To update my last letter:
After we left our "wild mooring" to the French army on Oct. 5, we traveled only 21.5 km to the town of Le Chesne. Le Chesne is the last town to buy supplies before entering the series of 26 automated, descending locks. Martin calculated that we had risen 46 meters from sea level to Maastricht in 21 locks from Maastricht to Le Chesne 11.6 meters in 42 locks, a total of 162 meters (531 feet) in 63 locks.
It rained continuously at Le Chesne, so we stayed for 2 days and left on the morning of the 8th. The lock keeper at the first lock followed us on his bike for the first two locks to make sure we were doing everything all right then after that we were on our own. We would go in, throw lines around the bollards, activate the mechanism, and then exit and go right on to the next. The locks were spaced from 50 to 150 meters apart, so you just kept repeating the procedure. Each lock had its lock keeper's house, but now that the locks were automated, some of the houses were abandoned. These houses are usually so nice that this seem a shame.
The locking through process was really quite easy. The locks were small and we occupied each one alone. Since we were descending, when we entered the bollards were within easy reach. You just had to be careful not to let the line get caught as you descended. It would tighten and you couldn't release it. It happened to me once when I got distracted but luckily Martin was able to free it. You see cartoons of a boat hanging from the top of a lock while the water is 3 feet below it. The cartoon is funny, but when I got my line caught, the reality was quite frightening.
We left Le Chesne at 7:40 AM and arrived Attigny at 2:20 PM after going through the 26 automated locks plus 2 more, a total distance of only 16 km, but we descended 81 meters. Attigny was a pleasant little village with one of the nicest dock areas we had seen. There was a moored barge and us but practically no canal traffic due to the weather. It rained continuously for two days with extremely high winds. We called David in Texas and learned all about his new house. He and Vonnie sounded happy and healthy. We also called Paula in Annapolis and made arrangements for her visit. Then we left on the 10th and went only 18.5 km to the town of Rethel because it had a railroad station where we could meet Paula.
Two or three trains arrive each day from Paris. We expected Paula and her friend, Don Perkins, to make the late afternoon train. On the off chance that she might make the first train, I rode over to the station on my bike and left Martin washing the boat. I was actually quite shocked to see them descending from the train. They had raced from the airport to the train station and had just made the early connection. It was quite an event considering they had to first get the right bus and then figure out the French to make sure they took the correct train. It is all so difficult when you don't know the language.
The one taxi outside the Rethel station pulled out just as we walked out. We loaded one of their suitcases on the back of my bike and I rode off to get Martin, but they reached us by the time we got his bike off the boat.
Paula and Don brought the sun. We had lovely fall weather for the entire week. The section of the canal that they saw was narrow, winding and rural. We were traveling through sugar beet territory. The harvest was in and we saw truck after truck taking the beets to the sugar factories which were scattered along our route belching white smoke. We stopped in a variety of small towns, nothing spectacular but pleasant and typically French.
Oct. 12 Rethel to Asfeld,
Oct. 13 Asfeld to Berry au Bac,
Oct. 14 on to Vailly Sur Aisne,
Oct. 15 to Soissons.
Soissons is a small city. This area and town has been racked by wars - recent and centuries past. The church at Rethel and the one at Soissons showed photos of the ruins left by the shelling. The damage was unbelievable. The guide book said that Soissons was almost completely destroyed and didn't recommend the place, but the more I saw, the more I was glad we had stopped.
The four of us had a magnificent dinner in a very lovely restaurant that they had chosen. We had enjoyed their company and believe they enjoyed the trip although our accommodations were somewhat primitive. On the 17th they caught a train back to Paris which gave them a day and a half to see some of the big city sights. With us they saw a part of France that few tourists normally see. Of course few tourists would pay the fare to fly over to see sugar beets and farm lands.
Martin and I spent the 17th and 18th in Soissons. We took a bike ride & went exploring. One of the most spectacular sights in town is the facade of the church of St. Jean of the Vines. Imagine a magnificent cathedral with just the front remaining leaving only the twin spires, the large main entrance, statues - some minus their heads, and empty windows. This church was not destroyed in WW I or in WW II, but during the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. Then over the years the stones were carted off to build houses and barns. The church is spot-lighted at night and from the boat we didn't realize that there was nothing behind that beautiful facade.
We left Soissons on the l9th and tied up at a silo wharf for the night. Martin was not feeling well but on the next day we traveled to Compiegne. I explored Compiegne on my own while Martin rested. That town was worth a few days. It has a huge castle/palace and unfortunately I did not get a chance to see it, but perhaps that can be one of our excursions during the winter.
Back to the present. Evening of the 4th of November. After working all morning in very tight quarters to install our new reading light over the bed, Martin is too tired to use it.
We took the Metro and checked out the General Pershing Building which houses a variety of American organizations plus a restaurant. The American Club is having a party sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans and we wanted to get information, but no one was in the office. Harry's Bar and other American drinking and eating places also have election eve parties with TV returns, but considering the time difference I doubt whether we want to stay up all night.
After that we found the American Library. This is a private library and we paid the fee and joined even though we have been too busy to do much reading. We will pack away the books we have and use the library books while we are here and we can always stop in to read the magazines.
Marcia and Martin
A General Summary Letter
Greetings from Paris:
Well, when we first envisioned a European canal trip, we never thought we would end up in Paris, but it is certainly an outstanding spot to spend the winter. We arrived in Paris on Oct. 22 and are living at a marina just off the Seine at the beginning of the Canal St. Martin. This canal was built during Napoleon's reign to by-pass the Seine's curves, however on our arrival we took the long way around on the Seine through the heart of Paris passing all the magnificent monuments, buildings, and churches. The entrance to the canal is just past Notre Dame with the marina located between the river and the Place de la Bastille. The Bastille was torn down after the Revolution, but we have a fine view of the monument and of the new Paris Opera House which is being constructed on the Place.
We have spent part of the past five weeks working on our boat. Martin has installed a 220 volt shore electrical system with outlets and lights to take advantage of the available electricity. During our journeys we used battery power for the water pumps and lights. Now we have regular electricity for lights, heat, and refrigeration. We bought two oil filled electric heaters to supplement our diesel heater and should be warm and cozy all winter.
And, of course, we have been exploring Paris. Since we have all winter, we haven't been pushing ourselves, but are slowly taking in the sights. We stop into the Louvre or the Gare d'Orsay for two hours at a time. We toured the State Rooms at the fabulous Hôtel de Ville, visited St. Chapelle, saw Napoleon's tomb in the Dome Church at the Invalides, sat in the Luxembourg Gardens, etc. The Arc de Triomphe is undergoing reconstruction and is covered in a red, white, and blue cloth, but we went to the Champs Élysées on Armistice Day and watched Prince Charles drive past with the French President.
Our trip from The Netherlands to Paris was marvelous. We left Enkhuizen on June 21st and traveled north on the "open water" of the Ijsselmeer for an hour or two in order to reach the town of Medemblik. Medemblik, a lovely little harbor town, was about to host the world championship "Flying Dutchman" sailboat races. These are small open - and very wet- racers. We enjoyed talking to the Australian entries, who like many of the participants had arrived early in order to practice. Also while we were there, the Dutch soccer team beat the Russian team and won the World Soccer Championship. Everyone was glued to their TV's during the game and every time the Dutch team scored, the town erupted with joyous shouts. After the Dutch won the town went wild. Parades of people surged through the streets, shouting and cheering. It had been years since the last Dutch victory and for such a tiny size country to triumph over the immense USSR was a truly sweet victory.
After a lovely week in Medemblik we started on our canal journey and approached our first of many drawbridges. Two canal greenhorns. The bridge light was both green and red and we could see a sailboat approaching from the other side, so we waited, but too long. The bridge opened, the sailboat went through, but before we could, the bridge closed again! We blew our horn. Nothing. We moved forward, then back. Martin struggled to keep the boat in mid stream and away from the bridge and the docks. Eventually the bridge keeper returned from his coffee break or whatever and again opened the bridge. Two young tourists who had been watching our struggles ran down the bank and took a picture of our triumphant passage through the open bridge. We wish we had that photo!
We then traveled 5 or 6 blocks to our first lock. The gates were closed so we waited. When they slowly opened they disclosed a lock filled with half a dozen large rowing prams, the Dutch farmer's workboat. The boats were packed with young people out for a day's outing. We waited until they left and then entered our first lock. Luckily the water level change in this lock was very small. We were able to get in and out without too much difficulty. We traveled a few more blocks and came to a railroad bridge and lock combination. This lock had huge sides towering above the water. There was a grab line along the side which would be underwater when the lock filled up and there were crossed bars to thread a rope through. I knew that you couldn't tie a knot because when the boat went up the knot would be under water and you couldn't get it off. The trick was to thread the line through the crossed bars, bring the end back to the boat and then feed it out as the boat rose in the lock. But first I had to get the line through and the boat was still moving. Eventually Martin slowed the boat and I got the line through and attached to the boat's bollard. Another boat came in, tied up, the gates closed and the water began to pour in. As we went up the lock keeper reached down with a boat hook. At first this mystified me until I realized that he wanted me to unfasten my line and put a loop on his hook. And here I had just succeeded in getting it fastened! He then put the loop on a bollard at the top of the wall while I kept shortening the line as the boat rose. We went up about 4 meters in that sluis (lock).
We did not go very far that first day but we managed 3 locks and 3 opening bridges. Later this would be nothing to us, but on our first day that was quite enough. We reached a small village and pulled over to the side and tied up.
From here we moved on toward Alkmaar. Outside of the town we found a lovely grass covered bank. Other boats were moored there so we decided to join them. We spent over a week there mainly due to the weather. The Netherlands is a great country, very beautiful but very wet, windy, and chilly. We had had a lovely spring in Enkhuizen and we expected summer to follow spring. Unfortunately in Holland it doesn't. A wet cold spring follows spring. Our trip therefore consisted of long pauses waiting for a break in the weather, but the pauses were seldom boring. They were filled with bike rides and explorations. We became quite Dutch; putting on our foul weather gear and riding off ignoring the rain drops.
Day after day of rain however made the earth very soft. We were moored to the bank using metal stakes. We had hammered in 2 metal poles and also a small anchor. Plus we had placed on the ground our enormous ship's anchor and tied a line to that. One day, in between rain storms, we got the bikes off and were just setting off to the grocery store when a huge freight barge went by creating a large wake. We watched in horror as our boat surged against the canal. The large anchor just lifted up off the ground and tumbled over where it dangled from the side of the boat. The stakes and the little anchor were yanked out of the soft earth and the boat began to take off. We dropped the bikes and ran for the lines. People from the other boats ran to help us and we all held on. Afterwards everyone helped us reset our stakes and retie our lines. One man had a gigantic sledgehammer and he hammered our big anchor into the ground.
Eventually the sun did shine again and we continued south toward Haarlem. Everything was going along quite peacefully when we saw a small barge crossing the canal carrying passengers and cars. A yellow light was flashing but the ferry would be on the other side by the time we reached it so we didn't reduce our speed, which is only about 6 mph anyway. Suddenly we saw that this was a cable ferry and the cables were just a few feet above the water and we were headed right into them! Martin quickly turned the throttle down, threw the gear into neutral, then reverse and then screwed the throttle up again to try to stop our forward motion. We slowed and the ferry reached the shore. The captain, who had been watching us nervously, lowered the cables and we passed safely over them. We met many other ferries on our journey, but after that we knew what to expect.
Before we reached Haarlem we stopped in a town called Krommene to attend to a number of things. While there we traveled by train twice to Amsterdam to visit the Van Gogh Museum and "The Palace", the 16th century city hall. Just fantastic!
In Haarlem we visited the Frans Hals Museum (twice) and the Tyler Museum again both outstanding in their own ways. We stayed about a week in Haarlem, partly due to the weather and partly due to Haarlem, which is a lovely town. Eventually we reached Gouda which was one of our favorite towns. Our mooring was right in the heart of the city and yet beautiful and peaceful. The canals go right through these towns and in Gouda they were lined with pleasure boats. Everyone is so friendly and nice. We made many new friends plus we called old friends and they came and visited.
Gouda has The Netherlands longest church, St. John's, and this church has the most beautiful stained glass windows. So many churches have been damaged in the various wars over the centuries and their windows destroyed. This beauty has been spared.
From Gouda we took a train trip to The Hague and the adjoining beach city of Scheveningen where we actually won money in the casino! Leaving Gouda we stopped next at Oudewater, a very popular village for cruising canal boats and tourists. All cities and towns in The Netherlands have weighing houses. These were used to weigh cheeses or vegetables or fish. In Oudewater they were used to weigh witches! During the 16th century the persecution of witches was all the rage and witches were being burned in all the town squares. The people of Oudewater got a little bothered by this. They passed an ordinance requiring any accused witch to come to town to be examined. There they would be set upon the scale in a paper witch's costume with a paper broom. The mayor would then declare that the person was too heavy to ride safely on a broomstick and issue a certificate stating that the person had been examined and proved not to be a witch. This valuable service is still available, during the tourist season.
As we traveled south we began to reach bigger and bigger locks. The smallest lock we had been in measured 6 by 25 meters (19.3 feet by 32.5 feet). Now we were using 12 by 120 meter locks (about 40' by 396'). We would even use one that was 16 by 142! The canals in The Netherlands, Belgium and France are still heavily used for freight transport. On the large rivers and canals these barges can be 90 meters long. The majority of the French canals are only 40 meters long, so in France the barges are 39 meters. On the large waterways two of these barges are lashed together, bow to stern, so their captains can transport double loads. During the summer months these monsters have to share the locks with the pleasure boats including many, many rented boats with inexperienced pilots. At times the confusion and chaos at the locks was unbelievable especially when 30 or 40 boats might be using one lock together! The professionals knew what they were doing, but the rest of us looked like bumper cars at the carnival. Frequently it would take an hour to pass through a lock, because the boats were loading from the other side when we arrived. Then you had to find a place to wait. Usually there was some type of bulkhead but these were constructed for the convenience of the professional barges and the bollards were so far apart that we couldn't reach two. If we were lucky there would be a special place for pleasure boats - and room for us. Sometimes you just tied up alongside one of the freight barges.
The scenery alongside 90% of the canals was bucolic. Lots of sheep, cows, and pasture land. The Dutch don't need fences. Each field was surrounded by drainage ditches most of the land having been reclaimed from the water. The northern farmhouses were beautiful and enormous; the house and barn being connected so that the farmer did not have to go out in the winter to care for the animals. Roofs were tiled in black or orange and often on the farmhouses, the house part of the roof would be one color while the barn part would be in the other color. There were of course lots of windmills, although the traditional type are now mainly ornamental, and pump stations. The Dutch have to pump water off their land constantly.
Dutch towns and villages are spotless. Cleanliness is next to Godliness is taken very seriously in The Netherlands and it is a pleasure. And wooden shoes - these are still worn by everyday people working in their gardens or on their farms. People would walk the dog wearing their wooden shoes and on one boat we visited, there was a pair of wooden shoes outside the cabin door so the owner could put them on when he went out. Wooden shoes were for sale in all the garden stores; obviously they are very practical.
Our next main stop in The Netherlands was Heusden on the Maas (the river is called the Meuse in France). Heusden was a delight. The entire town was reconstructed after the damages of WW II to look like it did in the 16th century with ramparts, moats, towers, and bastions. The boating facilities were excellent plus at last we got some summer weather. (beginning of August) We stayed on the Mass/Meuse for almost three months. From Heusden to Belgium and then from Belgium to the Ardennes in northern France.
In The Netherlands there were a number of offshoots of the river containing "bays", side streams, and lakes. The Dutch had developed these areas as water sport resorts. They were filled with sailboards, sail and power boats and lined with beaches and camping grounds. While traveling on the Maas we stayed in 3 or 4 of these and had many different adventures. Along this stretch our daughter, Lesley, joined us for a two week stay. She was with us when we reached our last Dutch city, Maastricht. This city provides a great mooring place right in the heart of the city, and right in the middle of the river! A huge wall runs between two bridges and divides the river into two parts. The main channel is on the other side of the wall so the waters beside the mooring wall were fairly calm.
Maastricht outdid itself on our entertainment. The college students paraded through town in wild costumes. There was an enormous food festival in one of the main squares with bands and entertainment. The music spread through town as bands paraded. The outdoor cafes were lovely and the outdoor sculpture, like in all Dutch towns was a delight.
On a serious note, we rode a bus out to the American WW II military cemetery located near Maastricht. This was a very moving experience. The cemetery is very well maintained and has a continuous stream of Dutch visitors, many bringing flowers to place on the graves. They have not forgotten.
From Maastricht we crossed the border to Liège , Belgium presenting our papers at the Douane and receiving our temporary transit pass. The lock at the border raised the boat 14 meters - 46 feet. We certainly were on our way up.
Lesley caught a train from Liège to Paris and after a short visit left for NY. We stayed in Liège for 2 weeks before moving on. Then we visited Huy, Namur, and Dinant all towns located below old forts. This is the French speaking area of Belgium, the Walloon area, and in September the towns were having Walloon Festivals. We enjoyed the street festivities in Huy; lots of food, music and happy people.
The scenery from Maastricht on had been spectacular. We had left behind the low lying farm lands of Holland and were ascending into the mountains. At times rocky cliffs towered above us with their old castles and forts; at times wood covered hills. Numerous quarries lined the river and the barges stopped to pick up their loads of sand and gravel. Each captain and his family lived aboard his barge. On the 39 meter boats their living quarters looked tight, but on the 70, 80, and 90 meter boats they looked palatial. We saw a number of boats with enormous "gorilla cages" on their sterns. These contained swing sets and toys providing safe play areas for the children. When the barges were transporting sand, the children had giant size sand boxes. The barge dwellers keep their boats spotless. They were forever hosing down the boat and each boat's coat of paint glowed.
We crossed the border into France at Givet, stopped in a number of lovely places and traveled through beautiful woods and forests but finally left the Meuse to enter the Canal des Ardennes around the beginning of October. Le Chesne, a small hamlet in the Ardennes, was our highest elevation. We had risen from sea level (or below) to Maastricht 46 meters (151.5 ft.) in 21 locks and from Maastricht to Le Chesne 11.6 meters (38.25 ft.) in 42 locks! Plus we had gone through 3 tunnels, a very interesting experience.
Now we got on the down elevator. In one day we went through 26 small automated locks (self service) plus 2 more attended locks traveling a grand total of 16 km (10 miles) but descending 81 meters (267'). When you entered these locks you had to let your boat hit and spring back a pole that extended part way out into your path at water level. You then stopped your boat in the lock and threw lines around the bollards. After getting off the boat, you lifted a pole to activate the lock. The gates you had just entered closed, the water level dropped (while you kept loosening your lines- very important!) and then the forward gates opened. You then freed your lines and left, again hitting and deflecting an exit pole which caused the gates to close behind you. You traveled 50 to 150 meters and then entered the next lock. We were all alone in each lock so it really wasn't too difficult, plus going down is easier than going up because the bollards for your lines are within easy reach. It took us 7 hours to go through the 28 locks.
We picked up more visitors at the town of Rethel. My sister, Paula, and a friend of hers had flown into Paris and then taken a train in order to join us. They were with us for a week of glorious, crisp fall weather. We were passing through sugar beet territory. The beets were being harvested and taken to the sugar refineries that were scattered along our route. Truck load after truck load poured into those refineries which work day and night.
We stopped in a number of small towns, nothing spectacular, but pleasant and typically French. They ended their week with us at Soisson which is quite an interesting little city and a pleasant stop. From Soisson we went to Compiegne and entered the river Oise following that to the Seine at Conflans-St. Honorine. Then the Seine to Paris.
Paris is fantastic, but already we are thinking about spring. After the boat is hauled so the bottom and sides can be painted and after we have painted the topsides, we will take off again. The question is where. There are so many routes to chose from: north, south, east, or west. Well we have all winter to dream, plan and decide --- and to be thankful for our good fortune and happiness.
We wish all our friends Happy Holidays, Peace, Health, and Happiness now and in 1989.
Marcia and Martin Reff
We are experiencing a gentle rain from heaven, but it seems quite warm today (11/30). It should be a good day to write a letter. We haven't received any mail from the USA. My last letters and post cards, giving our address, were held up on this side of the Atlantic because of a strike by French Postal truck drivers. The strike lasted 7 weeks. Paula had warned us about the French and their strikes. We don't have anyway of knowing whether the worker's grievances are legitimate or not, but now that we know the French word for strike (grève), we notice it in the paper frequently. Yesterday the paper said to expect disruptions on the Metro, but we didn't use it anyway. We saw one demonstration last week. Six or seven buses stopped in a rough line from the sidewalk to the monument circle at the Place de la Bastille blocking the traffic. The men from the buses (no women) carried banners across the street to the monument and pounded on a few cars that tried to squeeze by. But after awhile the buses pulled off to the side and the normal flow of traffic resumed. We walked back to the boat to get the video camera but by the time we returned (10 min. later) the demonstrators had marched off - perhaps toward one of the government buildings.
The percentage of Parisians who work for the government must be astronomical. Police and military, postal workers, transportation workers on the RR, buses, and Metro, garbage collectors and street cleaners, the national government workers, 20 different city halls with their local government workers, plus the overall city administration, museum workers... the list could go on and on. No wonder taxes are high!
We went over to the Hilton on Election Night (American) to check on the election Night Party, but it looked very dull. We did stop in the bar with some Americans we had met on the Metro and had an enjoyable conversation, but then decided to go home. The six hour time difference just to the East Coast is too much. We heard the results on the radio the next morning.
Gare d'Orsay . This is a beautiful building, an old railroad station facing the Seine opposite the Tuileries/Louvre area. It now houses the city's collection of 19th century sculpture and art. The transformation from railroad station to museum was done with taste and style. The main concourse provides an outstanding display area for the monumental sculpture pieces.
Les Halles. The old market area was used for a modern multi-level (mostly underground) shopping mall. With all the shops in Paris, I don't know why they need a shopping mall, but it will be a nice place to visit on some cold wintry day. There is a swimming pool on the lowest level and lots of movie theaters.
The Marais and the Jewish Quarter. We live just to the side of the Marais (the swamp). It became the fashionable place to live sometime before the fall of the Bastille and has many old mansions (called hotels). Some are now government buildings: archives, historical libraries, and museums. Others are still private houses and some are schools. There are a number of small synagogues in the "Jewish Quarter" and kosher shops and restaurants.
The Rue de Rivoli becomes Rue St. Antoine in the Marais area. We shop on this street and walk, rather than ride the two Metro stops to the main city hall (Hotel de Ville) and our favorite department store the Bazaar Hotel de Ville (BHV). This 8 storey store has become our home away from home as we winterize and improve our boat.
The Hotel de Ville . There are 20 arrondissements (sub sections of the city) with 20 individual city halls providing lots of city jobs and then there is The Hotel de Ville. This is a magnificent building on our side of the river, "Le Rive Droit" (The Right Bank) connected by a bridge to the Ile de la Cité where Notre Dame and the main police station is located. The Hotel de Ville is also used for ceremonial city events such as welcoming kings and visiting Indian chiefs. It has been the scene of many important events in French history - the site has been used since 1357. The present building was rebuilt between 1874 and 1882 after it was set afire in the 1871 revolution. We took the free guided tour (in French) of the State Rooms given at 10:30 AM on Monday mornings. Quite impressive. The French may have gotten rid of their King but they kept the royal style. So much for revolutionaries. The exterior of the building is adorned with 146 statues!
November 11. We tried to buy a French newspaper to find out about the Armistice Day Parade and events, but there was a strike and papers were unavailable. Therefore we just took the Metro to the Champs Elysees. The police had closed the stops nearest to the Arc de Triomphe so we had to walk part of the way. We stopped near some WW 11 military vehicles: hospital wagons, carrier pigeon wagons, jeeps, tanks, and some old American Army vehicles. The drivers were in old military uniforms.
The army had sharpshooters on the roofs and the parade route was lined with police. At first there were more police and army personnel than spectators. We waited over an hour and then there was a very brief parade. The trucks, two groups of horsemen in flamboyant costumes and the cars carrying the dignitaries including Pres. Mitterand, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, the Mayor of Paris, etc. We kept expecting a big parade but after awhile the cars returned and that was it.
Georges-Pompidou Center. A monstrous modern building, a few blocks from the Hotel de Ville. The large plaza is popular with street performers and on our two visits they had big crowds. November was the "Month of the Photo" in Paris, so we saw an exhibit of award winning news photos. We returned on Sunday morning (it is free from 10 to 2) to visit the 20th century art museum on the 4th floor. Quite impressive if you like modern art. Martin appreciates more of it than I do, but I always get a kick out of looking even if I sometimes wonder why 90 % of it is hanging in a museum.
In the Pompidou Center there are 3 or 4 floors containing libraries, lecture halls, and theaters. On both our visits there were lines of people waiting to get into events, but we didn't ask for what.
The Louvre. So far we have made two Sunday visits to the Louvre. Because it is free on Sundays it is unbelievably crowded but if you get there early enough and get away from the main area quickly, the trip is worthwhile. The new glass pyramid entrance is still not being used and there seems to be only one entrance open to the entire museum, a quite intolerable situation. We could hope that when the new entrance is finally used it can relieve the congestion, but if all the other entrances are closed I don't see how it can. Perhaps they will at least have new and larger restrooms inside that glass dirt catcher.
The restroom situation at the Louvre is ridiculous, but then the brand new Pompidou Center has atrocious restroom facilities and only one entrance and only one exit, so I don't expect miracles.
Speaking of restrooms. The men of Belgium and France are like dogs; they all use public walls. Even fairly affluent people. They stop their cars at the marina corner and go out and use the wall or the sides of the construction sheds. There are plenty of outdoor restrooms. The new ones cost two francs (about 40 cents) and are modern and spotless. The cafes have facilities. There are some nice attended facilities in some Metro stops and in various public areas (i.e. under the Notre Dame Plaza). But the men are too cheap to spend the money. As to dogs, the situation is intolerable, yet the streets, sidewalks and gutters are washed frequently.
St. Chapelle. This beautiful church is on the Ile de la Cité inside a government building (the buildings expanded around it). In order to visit it you have to submit to a search, opening your coat so the policeman can go over you with a hand held metal detector, opening your purse and bags, even taking off your hat just in case you are concealing a gun under it! Quite a bother.
The windows of St. Chapelle are considered the best in Paris. Unfortunately we went on a dull day and since the building is hemmed in, you really need to go on a very bright day. You enter first into a lower church and then climb winding stone steps to the main upper chapel. The ceiling is very beautiful and the windows extremely elaborate, but I still think the best stained glass windows are in St. Jan's Church in Gouda.
Vincennes. At the last stop on "our" Metro line (#1) is the "mediaeval Versailles''. The castle was started in the 14th century, later it was used as a prison (16th c. to 1784), Napoleon used it as an arsenal, and during WW 11 the Germans used it for various unpleasant purposes. They blew parts of it up and burned parts when they left.
We toured The Keep (Donjon). We climbed the winding stone steps, 3 or 4 storeys up to the King's Chamber and then out on the ramparts and walked all the way around. The rooms were aIl empty but you could still see traces of painted decoration on the walls. Scratched on the walls of the smaller side rooms were the names of various visitors, prisoners and dates. The small cells/rooms still had barred doors.
There were many other buildings, most probably being used as government offices and a small museum that was interesting. In the court there was a church modeled on St. Chapelle. We got the guard to open the door for us. The church was empty but very nice. The chancel windows had been removed during the war and then replaced. They were very old and beautiful. The side windows had not been saved.
Well we have seen many other things, but I don't want to bore you with my travelogue. We had turkey for Thanksgiving. We had the poultry store roast it on their barbecue. It was delicious and certainly easy on the cook, but we had to forgo stuffing and gravy. I did bake an apple pie and we froze the left over turkey.
We have been having fun in the galley. Martin has been cooking all sorts of fish dishes. The fish markets have a huge selection some of which we know, but many are new experiences.
I discovered that the top of the diesel heater makes a great stove. We brown beef on the regular stove and then put the beef bourguignon on the diesel and let it cook. Martin keeps telling me about some silly physical law about conservation of energy, but I think this is a great method of cooking. I am saving propane and besides I feel like a pioneer woman cooking over her fire. We cooked rabbit twice using this method. The second time was better than the first. I used a better recipe and cooked it longer and it was delicious. At first I thought I could use the diesel as a "slow cooker"' but the heat is too intense. You just cook for the normal amount of time.
We had a few cold days where we kept the diesel on all day but most days we only use it in the morning and then again between 4:00 PM and bedtime. Some days like today (Dec. 1) we didn't even put it on in the morning. We bought a second oil filled electric heater for the forward cabin and leave that on at a low setting all the time. It keeps the chill out of the boat at night and when we aren't using the diesel. The first heater we bought has done an excellent job for the aft cabin.
We are in the process of putting up "storm windows". We bought plastic window sheets and are fastening them inside the boat with double faced tape. Then we use the hair dryer to shrink and tighten them. We also cut up a plastic ice cube tray and put some dehumidifying crystals into the cups and then placed the cups between the plastic and the windows. This seems to have solved the problem of window condensation.
The biggest problem with living on a boat is the moisture problem. We have managed to keep this to a minimum right from the start. In Enkhuizen we bought 6 pounds of moisture absorbing crystals and since then have bought another 10 pounds. I have containers in all the closets and cupboards and just have to empty out the water twice a month. Crackers, cookies, flour, rice, etc. have to be kept in plastic containers. Paper is a problem. It likes to absorb moisture. I had to throw away a stack of envelopes that glued themselves shut and almost lost 50 francs worth of postage stamps.
Martin has at last gotten some time for his art work. He has been making some small sketches working with colored pencils. He has just completed a lovely drawing of our mooring in Dinant in Belgium. When Les was with us she did a very fine sketch of one of our marina moorings. Now we will have to find some empty wall space to display these pieces.
The strike situation in France seems to be worsening. This is from The International Herald Tribune, Nov. 30, 1988
"Army trucks were deployed Tuesday to ferry suburban Parisians to work as traffic on two regional rail lines remained paralyzed for the second day in a maintenance worker's strike called by the Communist led CGT union. ...one line of the Metro was canceled. Other lines were disrupted... 365 army trucks and more than 1000 soldiers would be mobilized to provide relief transport for commuters."
Yesterday's and today's paper had photos. Many of the army drivers were unfamiliar with Paris roads and had to get help from their passengers to get into town. The newspaper also reported a tremendous backup of mail, especially airmail. Maintenance workers on the airlines are also striking. Air France flights are being canceled.
"The strikes are widely perceived as a duel between the Communist Party and the ruling Socialist Party."
All I know is that I've sent out a lot of letters, but don't know if any ever left France. We rode the Metro last night without any difficulty. Signs were posted telling what lines were canceled and the percentage of trains running on the other lines. We went up to "Opera" and walked around. We even splurged and stopped into Harry's Bar - a little too expensive for us, but something that every visiting American has to do at least once.
Love to all,
The 1989 Letters