The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - Cruise 2014, Part V, Delfzijl to Dokkum
Updated October, 2014

The Oude Eemskanaal

In Delfzijl we had a visit from Jack Mulder and Linda Jellema, whom Barbara had met at the morning coffee sessions. We found them a very pleasant couple, easy to spend time with.

We stayed on to attend the Captains' Dinner party, that traditionally marks the end of the season for the Boat Club, and at first sat with two more of Barbara's friends, Mary and Johan. Mary is originally Irish, and so speaks English easily. We also spent some time talking with Frits van Gent, the president of the club, a retired inland cruise ship captain. His last command was a ship on the Danube, running from Passau, in Austria, down the Danube and back. We remembered seeing the piles of expensive-looking luggage piled in the square in Passau as passengers waited to board one of these ships.

Later in the evening, after the dinner, Jack and Linda moved over to sit with us, and we alternated talking and dancing until quite late -- in fact we stayed until the music stopped and the singer packed up to go home.

We also took advantage of Open Monuments Day to visit the Farnsum church. Interestingly, we found 17th century gravestones lining the walls, and learned from our friend Henk Kemminck (whom we discovered showing his church to family members) that they had been found under the modern floor when it was pulled up for repairs.

In Delfzijl we also met a Swiss coulple, Walti and Elsbeth, originally simply because Walti came by and asked if I could help with the connection between his GPS and autopilot. We would later see more of them.

Two People at a Party (Linda photo)

Barbara Examining Gravestones

Although some of our friends urged us to stay, and Barbara had made a strong connection with the local Baptist church, the day finally came when we would leave Delfzijl after staying for three weeks. The morning was very still, and a little foggy, but at 08:55 on September 15th we let go our lines, pulled out of our slip, and hailed the Oude Eemskanaal Brug, just past the shipyard, for an opening.

We were headed west on the Eemskanaal for Groningen, the provincial capital and a university town.

Our Last Morning in Delfzijl

For most of the trip we were right behind a big freighter, Arcturus, so when the bridges opened for her we slipped in behind. Unfortunately, however, we had not lowered our mast and other appendages in Delfzijl, so we had to wait for half an hour for the Driebondsbrug, that was high enough for Arcturus to slide under. The Eemskanaal is part of the "standing mast route" through the Netherlands, so all the bridges do open, but there are no promises about how long one might have to wait.
Linda and Barbara


Barbara in the Oosterhaven, Groningen

As we went along, we saw a couple of huge pipe manifolds grouped with tanks, and we learned that they were fields of gas wells. A huge reservoir of natural gas under the northern part of the Netherlands and adjacent waters in the North Sea has been a great boon to the Dutch economy.

The ground is sinking however, and this is a cause for concern, since a good deal of it is below sea level anyway. The local people attribute this to excessive removal of gas; perhaps they are right.

Once we were settled in Groningen, and had found the Harbormaster's office (in a marine supply store), my first concern was to rig the boat for canal cruising; we wanted to wait for as few bridges as possible.

The mast came down with no problems, as did the pylon that holds the SSB antenna, but the radar mast was a different story. The hinge had frozen, as it turned out, and broke when I tried to lower the mast, dropping it across my hand. We shall have to see if our friend Aad Heemskerk, a metal-working genius, will make us a new arrangement.

The St. Anthony Guest House

St. Anthony Courtyard

My hand was briefly painful, but not enough to bother us for long, and after finishing with the boat (we could now get under bridges with 3.6-meter clearance), we set out to renew our acquaintance with Groningen. We unpacked our bicycles from the forepeak, unfolded them, and set out to explore.

We found the town little changed, although our friend who taught at the university had retired and moved back to his native Belgium. We stopped at the Saint Anthony "guesthouse," built like many such establishments in the Netherlands, in the later 16th century to house the old people and later, plague victims.

Canal-side Street, Groningen

Somewhat modernized, they continue to this day as housing in small snug apartments for the elderly.

It is in the nature of canal trips that one travels with a particular group of boats for some days; one can go only so fast, and the boats are bunched together by locks and bridge openings.

On our first day we noticed the boat Adorna, Walti and Elsbeth's boat from Delfzijl, near us in the marina, and that afternoon Walti came by to invite us for a drink. It was a very pleasant evening; they are about our age and retired, and have always had a boat of some kind. From Winterthur, near Zürich, they first kept a boat on Lake Zürich, but now keep their (larger) boat in the Netherlands and spend the summers cruising. Our conversation swung back and forth between German and French, and always very pleasantly.

The next evening we went to a restaurant we remembered from an earlier trip, in the tiny Klein Pelsterstraat, and found it as good as we had remembered.

We also went to Ikea, just around the corner from our berth (even if we had a little trouble finding the entrance), where we bought some new gear for Barbara's galley and a few other odds and ends, like candles and doormats.

The biggest problem we are finding in the Netherlands is money-related; one simply cannot pay for anything with an American credit card. Dutch bank cards are all "smart cards" with a chip, and without one, you simply have to pay in cash, and some places will not even take cash.

Tower of the Stadhuis (Provincial Capital), Groningen

Market Day, Groningen, Martinikerk Tower in Background

Back in Delfzijl, Barbara had had a problem; she got stuck in a bathroom stall because the lock jammed in some way, bringing to mind an improper song. Well, here in Groningen we had to go out to get Wi-fi, becasue the marina's system only worked on 5 gHz, and we found a very pleasant café near the main market. The day we were to leave, Barbara went off there to check her email one more time, and seemed to take forever to come back. Turned out that when she wanted to leave her restroom stall, the door handle came off in her hand. Fortunately, being resourceful, she managed to get it to work anyway, but we think she is being followed by an evil fairy.
Houseboats along a Canal, Groningen

We left Groningen on the 18th, and with our new rig went under the bridges, and only had to stop at the Oostersluis, the lock that leads into the Van Starkenborgh canal. Here we waited for opposing traffic to come out, and for a freighter to go in from our side, and then slipped behind her into the huge lock.
A Retired Fishing Boat, Now Used as a House, Opposite Our Berth

The Martinikerk Tower

Like the Eemskanaal, the Van Starkenborgh is meant for big vessels, and its bridges are all high enough that they need not open for us, but as soon as we turned off into the smaller Reitdiep the situation changed.

The Reitdiep carries almost no commercial traffic and wanders through the countryside and through sleepy small towns. Judging by its curves, it was a river, not a purpose-made canal. The bridges are all remotely controlled from a central station, and we call on the VHF:

Typical Scene on the Reitdiep

"Lauwersoog Centrale, hier motorjacht Barbara, bij de Garnwerder brug, richting Zoutkamp. Even een opening alstublieft." Evidently I have a German accent in Dutch (not surprising); one of the operators answers in German each time.

The trip takes us just over four hours, and a little after five we are coming up on the little fishing village of Zoutkamp. A young man from the Havenmeester's office interrupts his supper to take our spring line and we do the rest. We lie on the outside of the jetty that protects the inner harbor, along with other large boats.

A Beautiful Little Sailboat We Passed

Zoutkamp is a pretty little village, one of many whose fishermen have had to adapt to fresh-water fisheries after their access to the sea was either cut off completely or made much more remote. There used to be a thriving shrimp fishery, but that had to move out to Lauwersoog when the Lauwersmeer was created out of the former Lauwerzee in 1969.

First Look at Zoutkamp

Zoutkamp Binnenhaven

The town is behind a high dike, and there are huge gates below and behind the drawbridge, a reminder of the days when everything to the north was open to the sea. There were great floods in 1953, and eventually the decision was made to move the boundary between ocean and land further away by closing off the former Lauwerzee (actually a large bay) and making it into a freshwater lake.
Alongside in Zoutkamp, Rigged for Canals

The Museum-ship Albatros, Zoutkamp


The shrimpers moved their boats to the new village at the former mouth of the bay, Lauwersoog, and the land east of the bay, now secured by the dikes, is shared (like many other open areas around the world) in an uneasy partnership between a national park and a military exercise area

We stayed two nights in Zoutkamp, to give me time to explore the pretty little town and Barbara some time for some academic work.

A Specialized Marine Railway for Lock Gates, Zoutkamp

Among the old arrangements, I was particularly interested in the special marine railway for lock gates, with its hand-operated winch for hauling them up, and its turntable for moving them off to a work area.

We planned to leave on Saturday, the 20th, but that morning the fog was quite thick, and I did wonder if we would be able to go. Not having a radar makes me a little less confident in unknown water in the fog.

Foggy Morning, Zoutkamp

By noon, however, the fog had scaled snough that I thought it would be OK, so we let go our lines and hailed the drawbridge for an opening.

We moved out into the Lauwersmeer, and after being a little confused by its various arms, we found our way across to the branch of the bay that leads to the Dokkumer Diep. This arm turned out not to be very deep at all in some spots. There were buoys, but there may have been shoaling since they were set, because we (and a Swedish sailboat behind us) spent some time cruising around looking for deeper water.

Out in the Middle of the Lauwersmeer

Farm Along the Dokkumer Dijp

We got through it all right, and although we had to wait a few minutes for the Willem Lorésluis (the lock is named for an 18th century expert on dikes and drainage), we got to Dokkum with no further problems, arriving just after 15:00.

It was not clear where we should go, as there is no marina as such in Dokkum, just stretches of canal where mooring is allowed. There was a note in the Almanak (the Dutch canal guide) to the effect that big deep-draft boats should lie to a wooden stage on the north side of the Woudpoortsgracht. That sounded like us, and when we arrived we saw such a landing stage, and with space on it, so that is where we went.

Alongside, Dokkum

In a pattern that held throughout Friesland, the Harbormaster came around on his bicycle sometime between 16:00 and 17:00, and we paid our dues and picked up some information about the town. We had originally planned to stay for two nights, to give ourselves a day to see the town, but the Harbormaster told us one of the bridges ahead of us in Burdaard had mechanical problems and would not open for maybe three days. Since it was a Saturday, we concluded that nothing would be done until Monday, so we decided to stay for three nights instead, and then see what the situation was.
In the Center of Dokkum


Dokkum has been a town since sometime in the 9th century and was an important fortified place in the 17th and 18th. Before the Lauwersmeer was shut off, the Dokkumer Diep was a river running to the sea, and in the 17th century the Frisian Admiralty set up its headquarters there. The former admiraliteitshuis is now the local museum.
The View Over Our Bow, Dokkum

Old Warehouses, Dokkum

The day after we arrived, we saw Adorna with Walti and Elsbeth coming in to moor just across from us on the other side of the canal. They left Groningen before us, but had gone out to Lauwersoog, so we passed them again.

On Monday we learned that the bridge was fixed, but our mooring was very quiet and pleasant, and everything we needed was within easy reach, so we decided to lay over until Wednesday. That night Walti and Elsbeth came over for another pleasant evening of wine and conversation.

Canalside Street, Dokkum

We discovered one problem in Dokkum. I had to change propane tanks, and I thought the change came a little soon, so I investigated and found a little leak in the high-pressure hose from the tank to the regulator. Later I discovered that these hoses haave a short life, which, if I had known it earlier, would have suggested that we carry a spare or two.

Well, that situation was easily controlled in the short run by turning off the valve on the tank whenever the stove was not in use, instead of relying just on the solenoid valve, but it pushed the whole propane question to the forefront.

A Traditional Charter Boat -- One of the "Brown Fleet"

We ordered new hoses from the U.S., but the bigger problem was that European propane tanks have different connectors, and we would need to adapt our system in some way or other. Some telephoning (by this time we both had phones with Netherlands SIM cards) seemed to offer a solution in the nearby city Leeuwarden, and since we were headed that way anyway, that was good.
Our Mooring in Dokkum

As we were parked in Dokkum, a couple of interesting boats came along and moored near us, both of them painted light blue, with white superstructures and international orange house-tops; we learned that they were former Rescue Boats, and that there was to be a meeting of owners of retired rescue boats in Lemmer on the coming weekend.
A Back Canal in Dokkum

Evening, Dokkum

On Wednesday, the 24th, we set out along the canal in the direction of Leeuwarden, the Frisian capital. At the last bridge in Dokkum we had our first experience with Bruggeld, the toll for passing through a town or under its bridges. The bridge-keeper swings a wooden shoe attached to a fishing rod out over the boat, and the crew catches it and puts in the required amount, here € 5.
Classic Boat in Her Secure Harbor (BNP Photo)

Canalside, Burdaard (BNP Photo)

We went on, and through the little canal-side town Burdaard and through the troublesome bridge without incident, paid its bridge-keeper his required € 3.50, and headed south and west along the Dokkumer Ee toward Leeuwarden.
Waiting for a Bridge (BNP Photo)

To see our track in Google Earth click:
here for Delfzijl Outer Harbor to Abel Tasman Marina.
here for Groningen to Zoutkamp.
here for Zoutkamp to Leeuwarden.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part VI