The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - Cruise 2014, Part VI, Leeuwarden to Lemmer
Updated October, 2014

The Oldehove Church Tower (the Leaning Tower), Leeuwarden

It is not really very far from Dokkum to Leeuwarden along the Dokkumer Ee. We left in mid-morning on a drizzly September 24th, went through the few bridges without incident, and at about 13:00 we came to the Eebrug, the first of the Leeuwarden bridges, where we tucked our 7.00 bruggeld into the bridge-keeper's wooden shoe. Leeuwarden is a medium-sized city, and we had already been passing through obvious suburbs for a while.
Canal-Side, Leeuwarden

We did not know what kind of moorings to expect from the laconic description in the Wateralmanak, but after we passed through the Noorderbrug we saw that the whole port bank of the canal was parkland with boats moored along it. In quick order we saw two old friends from Delfzijl, Adorna and Tsamaya. The canal followed the zig-zag line of the old city walls, and we followed it, thinking we'd get nearer to the center of the city. We went through the Vrouwenpoortsbrug, and on the spur of the moment decided to moor almost at the end of the parkland.
De Waag, Leeuwarden

Later in the afternoon, the duty harbormaster, a young man on a bicycle, came along and told us we should pay our harbor dues via a machine a little farther along. He came with us to show us, and it turned out that the machine would not take cash, but would only accept a Dutch bankcard with a chip in it, just like the railroad. The machine would not even look at any of our cards, and there was no question of paying in cash, so it turned out that our stay of two nights was free.
Barbara in Leeuwarden, Considering a Tree-Lined Canal-Side

Back Canal, Leeuwarden (Not the Low-rent Area)

It seems that we will really have to get a Dutch bank card, but I am loath to, because the Dutch banks have yet to impress me positively in any way.

Leeuwarden is the capital of Friesland, and as the home of William of Orange, who played a major role in the Dutch wars against their Spanish occupiers, it is also the seat of half the Dutch Royal Family. In fact, the park where we moored was formerly part of the grounds of the palace.

Imposing Official Building, Leeuwarden

Like many of the old Dutch cities, Leeuwarden has many canals, and the main canal in the center has broad streets on either side lined with trees and cafes.

I walked around, playing tourist, and took pictures while Barbara caught up with her email and worked on her research plan for the winter.

Canal-Side With Cafes, Leeuwarden

Our main business in Leeuwarden, however, was to get our propane tanks filled, or at least in some way replenish our gas supply. My first thought was to get a European regulator that would fit the readily-available exchange tanks, and so I found my way by bicycle to Hemrik Marine, where I thought we might find what we needed.

That is an excellent marine store, and did indeed have regulators, but the problem would then be to find a 3/8" NPT hose connector that would fit into our shut-off solenoid.

A Corner of the Grote Kerk, Leeuwarden

Of course, they are easily obtainable in the U.S., and in fact I have two or three in the shop, but that did not help us here. The helpful salesman at Hemrik, however, suggested we go to Gas Centrum Noord, in Grou, a commercial gas supplier who could fill "anything." Since Grou was on our route anyway, we decided to try that.
Typical Side-Street

Moored in Leeuwarden

All of these northern towns were important centers (and often ports) in the 17th century, and the towns derived much of their revenue from trade goods passing through. This was also the period when weights and measures were beginning to be standardized, but the process was not complete, so it was very important that each town have its own scale for weighing wagons, both loaded and empty. In the center of every town is a smallish building, usually quite ornate, that was the weigh-house, the Waag.
The Vrouwenpoortsbrug

Looking Down from the Park

Our park is the preferred dog-walking location for much of Leeuwarden, so there was a fairly steady procession of passers-by. While I was away at Hemrik Marine, Barbara met a gentleman who was very proud of his echt Friis dog, a shepherd that was "truly Frisian." Local pride in Friesland is very much alive and well.

In Delfzijl, Barbara (with the assistance of her coffee-circle at the marina) found and bought for me a Groningen provincial flag that we were happy to fly along with our Dutch courtesy flag.

Friend with Echt Friis Dog (BNP Photo)

Then, In Zoutkamp a gentleman named van Dyke (no relation to the pirate of British Virgin Islands fame) gave us a small Frisian flag, so we flew both. Since the two provinces are fierce rivals, this did raise some questions, but that was all right.
Two Old Sailors Comparing Notes Aboard Soulmates (BNP Photo)

Barbara met another dog-wallker, Walleke and her dog Kyrna. They, together with her husband Umberto, live on Soulmates, a converted and restored steilsteven that had spent its working life as a small freighter. We went along to their berth a little further along the canal for a very pleasant evening of drinks and discussion of the many issues involved in making or converting a live-aboard boat.

We stayed two nights in Leeuwarden. we would have happily stayed longer, but the clock was ticking on the 90-day limit imposed on foreigners by the "Schengen" treaty, which covers most of Continental Europe. Our fallback position was to go to Britain (not a Schengen country, although a member of the European Union), but we really did not want to face a situation where our schedule forced us to cross the English Channel in bad weather.

So it was that we left Leeuwarden on the morning of September 26th. The day was overcast, but not actually raining, and we could not complain anyway. We have really had the most amazing weather, a real Indian Summer, with warm sunny days, and if the nights were a little cool that just made it easier to sleep.

Gravestone (BNP Photo)

Walleke and Umberto waved as we passed Soulmates, and we left Leeuwarden through the Verlaatsbrug and soon took the sharp left turn into the Van Harinxma Kanaal that would lead us east.

Small Houses Along the Van Harinxma Kanaal

We did not take the most direct route south to Grou, because that was a little and somewhat shallow canal, and while it would no doubt be scenic, it would also require waiting for several bridges and careful attention to the depth sounder. Instead, wanting to make time, we went a little farther east to the Prinses Margriet-Kanaal, a big-ship route whose bridges are high enough that we can slip under them without having to wait for an opening.
Elegant House on the Van Harinxma

Barbara Moored in Grou

There is another sharp turn from the Van Harinxma to the Prinses Margriet, and it is a little like an entrance-ramp to an interstate highway, but we slid in between two large cargo ships and joined the parade.

Tjalk Sailing in the Pikmar (BNP Photo)

Experienced canal-travelers may scorn the scenery on the big canals, but we are still new enough that it continues to be different and delightful.

Just over two hours after leaving Leeuwarden, we came out into the Pikmar, a small lake full of boats of all sorts. I could see an obvious committee-boat and a launch setting out what looked like turning-marks for a race.

Bicycles With Gas Tanks

Grou lies on the west side of the Pikmar, and is obviously a sailing center, with many, many marinas. It is a picturesque small village, but one with both interstate highway and railroad service, so there is a concentration of distributors and light industry on its outskirts.

A phone call to the Harbormaster had assured us that there would be room for us in Section "H" of the marina, just off the Pikmar, so we idled in slowly, and sure enough found an "H" sign on a piling.

St. Peter's Church, Grou

We backed ourselves into a slip, and were moored, with the engine stopped, just three hours, almost to the minute, after leaving Leeuwarden.

We phoned Gas Centrum and confirmed that they could indeed fill our tanks if they were still certified (which they are), so we unfolded our bicycles and tied one gas tank to each. It took us some false casts to find our way, but eventually I saw a stack of obvious gas bottles across a field, so we took a bearing and homed in on them.


It did not take long to get the tanks filled, once there, and soon we were on out way back to the boat. We stopped briefly at the VVV (tourist office) for maps, but even with the stop the return trip was much faster.

With most of the afternoon before us, we wandered through the village, taking pictures and doing a little shopping. We also filled our water tanks. We could see that Grou, with its good facilities, would be an excellent base for exploring Friesland, but we were bound.

The Old Parsonage (BNP Photo)

The next morning we dropped our lines, dodged the two power boats that insisted on coming into the confined space of the marina just as we were getting turned to head out, and continued on down the Prinses Margriet toward Lemmer.

Looking at the Wateralmanak, with its descriptions of all facilitites in the Netherlands, it seemed that the best place for us would be on the Zijlroede, the river/canal that runs through the town. We called the Harbormaster shortly before arriving and received clear directions to a Tee-head mooring.

St. Peter's Church, Grou

A Garden Corner (BNP Photo)

Residential Canal

We found ourselves in a large marina with more sailboats than we were used to, since Lemmer is directly on the Ijsselmeer. It was quiet, and this suited us just fine, although it was less picturesque than the center of town. The center was, in any case, just about one kilometer (a 5-minute bike ride) away, and was that weekend full of former rescue boats.
Catania, a Converted Steilsteven Leaving the Marina

The Lemmer Skyline

The Lock Between Lemmer and the Ijsselmeer

I found the lock-gate mechanism, a great piece of 19th-century engineering, quite interesting. From each gate, a bar with gear teeth on one edge leads to a small turret looking for all the world like a salt-shaker on the canal-side. The bars are actually the "rack" part of a rack-and-pinion arrangement; nowdays an electric moter in the "salt-shaker" turns a gear (the "pinion") that engages with the teeth on the bar and pulls it back or forth, opening or closing the gate, but before there were electric motors, the pinion was turned by a crank-handle on top of the gear housing.
Canalside With Church, Lemmer

The Rack-and-Pinion Lock Mechanism, Lemmer

Lemmer is another of those fishing villages that had to adapt when its body of water was cut off from the ocean and became a fresh-water lake. In this case it was the Zuider Zee that became the Ijsselmeer. There are fresh-water fisheries, but for the most part Lemmer appears to be a base for yachts, many of them German. It is not far from Lemmer to the open ocean via the locks in the Afsluitsdijk, and it is about an hour by major highway from the German border.

We had a very good dinner at a canal-side pub, and on Sunday, Barbara found the local Baptist church and went for the service and the coffee afterwards. While she was away, I got a message that we would have to move; the rightful owner of our space was returning earlier than expected. A boat just across the Tee-head was about to leave, however, so we could go there. This was all fine, and once I saw that boat leave I let our lines go and shifted to the other berth. Barbara returned to find us in a different place, but near enough that she did not get lost.

Lock-Keeper's Station, Lemmer

Like Zoutkamp, Lemmer still has some the atmosphere of a fishing village, and it still has its lock connecting it to the Ijsselmeer. The canal through the town is too small for the current generation of cargo ships, however, so they use the Prinses Margriet that acts, with its huge lock, for all the world like a highway bypass.

On Monday, we too doubled back on our track and headed out through the Prinses Margriet lock instead of trying to work our way through the tight spaces of the inner town.

The Zijlroede, Lemmer, Full of Former Rescue Boats

We went through the enormous lock in company with a few other boats, and out to the Ijsselmeer and Urk, an interim stop on our way to Amsterdam.
The Back River, Lemmer, Where the Charter-Boats and Houseboats are Moored

Our Marina on the Outskirts of Lemmer

To see our track in Google Earth click:
here for Dokkum to Leeuwarden.
here for Leeuwarden to Grou.
here for Grou to Lemmer.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VII