Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's been an unexpected end to our original plans for the year. It turned out to be a year full of highs and rather low lows, but as my son said it was all experience and we are glad to have had it. Next Spring, probably Friesland then south through more of the Netherlands towards Belgium again. But who knows?

The next day the wind had dropped enough for us to make our way past the storm damaged trees, through the lock, under the lift bridge and into our slot at the marina where Snail would spend the winter.

We reached Electra earlier than expected so moored up on the river for a couple of days just before the lock and lift bridge that would take us to the marina which was just the other side. The weather was fine, the water calm. Until the storm finally reached us on the 28th.

Trees on the Van Starkenborg Canal against a stormy sky as we make our way back at the end of October to the Reitdiep and the marina at Electra. A gale has been forecast but apart from the sky, it seems to be staying away

                Our third crew member, or first according to him.

                  Have I done a white one yet?

Meppel turns out to be as interesting as everyone had said. As well as many historic boats and old buildings, it also boasted two windmills. I've spared you one.

We make for the old town of Meppel which many have said is worth a look. This is the nearest we can stop without incurring expense. It's a bit of a walk into town but the surroundings are unusual. These obsolete lime kiln chimneys have been taken over by storks as well as a restaurant.

We begin to realise just how popular ornamental gourds are in Holland at this time of year. There are many roadside stalls selling them as here at Smilde. We're pleased we've joined in with Snail sized gourds that we bought from Pieterburen.

     Happy bridgekeepers, pleased to see us. Germany, please take note.

Occasionally we come across a very new lift bridge such as this on the way out of Assen. That's the place where the famous motorbike track is, sadly too far for us to reach as, unusually for the Netherlands, no navigable waterways anywhere near.

Woody is not usually too impressed with city moorings, it's that grass obsession again, but even he couldn't believe his luck with this on the very edge of Groningen, just behind the mooring.

Back through Groningen city again with its fascinating mix of old and new.

Sadly not opening in a store near us soon - yes, I'm desperate. The choice is not too good around here.

      As well as farming, there's also serious ship-building happening here in north Holland.

Thankfully we made it and headed inland again. There are many large farms around here, many with extensive reed thatching on their enormous roofs.

Introductions and arrangements made, off we go again past Zoutkamp and on towards the sea. We're heading for the nature reserve of Lauwersmeer and stop on one of its islands in hot, glorious sunshine. The next day we get a taste of how quickly the weather can change here. It was very cold and the fog that had descended made it extremely difficult to find the marker buoys that we needed to find our way onto the canals again rather than out to sea.

We were very close in boating terms to the fishing village of Zoutkamp which was in turn very close to the marina where Snail was now booked in for the winter. Decision made to head that way and introduce ourselves, being so close, then carry on cruising until the end of the month.

Another popular pastime here is 'wadlopen', mud walking, where you get togged up to wade out towards the sea in the very far distance following a guide who hopefully knows where the mud will come no further up than your knees. There's a group heading out in the middle of the picture. It's a cold and windy day and we too have come prepared but don't feel inclined to join them. Woody is relieved, he has very short legs.

Opposite our mooring is a Seal Hospital. We leave a sulking Woody behind but see when we get there that dogs are catered for too at the entrance with cage and water provided. There are always plenty of inmates being nursed back to health here. Their problems are caused by pollution, viruses, fishing boats (the trawler net mountain is made from just a few of the tons of discarded nets that the seals can be trapped in) and nature when there are raging storms at sea which separate mother and pup.

It's a credit to Skipper's skills that we only get stuck in the mud on the tight bends once and with relief we find a wide enough place to turn around when we reach our destination at Pieterburen. We moor next to a prairie sized field covered in discarded onions from the recently harvested crop and claim gleaning rights that evening. What we have actually come to see is just over the wooden bridge behind us on the right bank.

We nearly miss the turn off under the bridge,the junction is so tiny compared with what we are now accustomed to over here. We are trying to get to Pieterburen near the coast but have been warned that the waterway is 'undiep' (shallow) and with several acute right angled bends. Snail may be too long to negotiate them and there's nowhere to reverse out again if that happens. But it's a lovely October day so let's give it a try and hope we don't meet anything.

This is the approach to Winsum, an interesting town and the canal takes us through it but we don't stop. We are on the way to somewhere a little more challenging to reach.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ever onwards and more reminders of how things used to be at Onderdendam.

There's another moated manor house in Uithuizen but sadly closed at this time of year. If the lions guarding the entrance were anything to go by, it would have been worth a visit!

And on to the head of navigation at Uithuizen. The white boat in front is taking us to his yachthaven where he is sure we will be able to turn around. He has already rescued us from an un-planned overnight stop at a non-functioning self service lock by calling his friend the lockkeeper out to get it going again. It's a Sunday and without his intervention we would have had to wait til Monday.

Through Bedum with its only claim to fame, its leaning tower. Apparently it leans more than Pisa but because it is shorter, it doesn't fall over.

                 Past rows of houseboats on the outskirts.

We pass briefly through the university city of  Groningen and some modern waterside architecture. We will return for a longer stay later.

Out of the windmill window we could see another one close by, a timber mill this time. Also restored by the same team and still in use, our new friend opened up this one for us to see too. Skipper was interested in the old tools and this display of klompen making.

And here he is. Note the klompen (clogs), common footwear around here.

                             Just glorious!