The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - Cruise 2014, Part VII, Lemmer to Leiden
Updated November, 2014

First Approach to Urk (BNP Photo)

A Ketch-Rigged School Ship

It was sunny in Lemmer on the morning we left, but as we appproched the huge Prinses Margriet Locks we could see that out on the Ijsselmeer there was a little fog, and we hoped it would not get thicker, since in our canal rig we had no radar. It is unfortunately all too easy to get dependent on these wonderful aids to navigation.

We had to wait about a half-hour at the lock as a collection of smaller boats gradually accumulated, but by 12:30 we were through the lock and headed out into the Ijsselmeer.

Typical Houses in Urk

It was hazy, to be sure, but the visibility was pretty good, so we didn't worry much. It was a little strange, though, to be back in a situation where we had waypoints and compass courses instead of just going down the road, following a canal. But this is something we really do know how to do.

The Dutch and German edges of the North Sea are thick with wind towers, and as we went along the eastern edge of the Ijsselmeer we saw through the haze another long line of towers being assembled, sometimes the tower alone, sometimes a tower and nacelle.

One of Several Church Towers

Two hours after leaving the lock we made up the first buoys of the Urk entrance channel. Here we had to be careful and stay in the channel, because the water outside the channel is very shoal in places.
The Road to the Harbor, Urk

One of the Several Boatyards

We had read quite a bit about Urk over the years. It used to be an island until 1937, when the dike connecting Urk and Lemmer was closed and the water behind it was pumped out, making a polder. It was an island much like Chebeague, a place of fishermen and boatyards. The boatyards are still there, and some of the fishermen have made the transition to fresh water, but there are Urker boats in many seaports. We saw at least two big "UK" draggers in Delfzijl.
Alongside, Urk

The Urk fishermen played a a big role in rescuing people from some of the devastating floods of the early 20th century, and they were known for their excellent seamanship, and also for their refusal to play the authorities' games.

Quite a lot like Yankees, in fact, except that the Urkers are also very pious, spending all Sunday in church and wearing deliberately "simple" clothes. Because we were not there on a Sunday, we missed seeing the women in their traditional costumes, but we did see some of these costumes drying on the clotheslines.

Fishing Boats, Urk

On Tuesday, the 30th, we had a very nice surprise. Just as we were thinking of going out to look at a museum or something, there was a knock on the door, and our friends Jack and Linda from Delfzijl appeared, complete with their dog, Wolf.

Years ago Jack had put in to Urk with a disabled engine in his saiboat and had found the people very helpful. As he waited for parts to fix his engine, he was not charged for dockage, and once he was known around, he could not buy a drink in a pub.

We walked together around the town for a while, then had lunch on the boat. Jack and Linda are always good company, and we were very glad to see them.

We also found the people friendly and easy to get on with. Of course, in a sea-going community the boat speaks for us, and the Urkers certainly had eyes to see.

Shortly after we arrived, three large sailing ships arrived, full of young people. They looked a little like school-ships. The largest of these had a little trouble getting turned around in the tight harbor and almost backed into us as we lay alongside the wharf. Her dinghy, in davits astern, made a good fender.


We stayed two nights in Urk, and then head for Amsterdam as planned.

I am not sure about the history, but the Ijsselmeer is actually two bodies of water, separated by a long dike running approximately east-west. As we approached it, we were amused to see trucks and cars apparently driving over the water. We were reminded of the Lake Pontchartrain causeway north of New Orleans, except that it is a little shorter, only about 15 miles long instead of 35.

A Nicely-Detailed House, Urk

We had to cross this barrier, and luckily there are locks at both ends. We ran for the Houtribsluizen, the Houtrib Locks at the east end of the dike, which are enormous, designed for large ships. There are two chambers, each 190 meters long and 18 meters wide.
The Dike that Made Urk Part of the Mainland

The Lighthouse, Urk

We weren't entirely sure what the arrangements would be for "small craft," but we moved into the approach behind a tug called Statum pushing two barges and hailed the lock on the VHF. Back came the answer immediately (in Dutch):
" Barbara, after Statum and Scorpio in the port chamber." We saw on the AIS that Scorpio was a medium-sized inland ship moving up quickly behind us, so we waited and followed her into the lock chamber.

Another Boatyard, Urk

There was not much change in level, and pretty soon the gates opened, the lights turned green, and we folllowed Scorpio out of the lock into the Markermeer.

The lock is just outside the entirely new city of Lelystad, built on polder-land reclaimed from the former Zuider Zee and named for Cornelis Lely, the engineer who made the plans for shutting off the Zuider Zee.

Barbara Alongside in the West Haven

The Small-Craft Harbor, Urk

From the locks we ran about southwest, dodging dredging operations, toward the mouth of the Ij, the river that forms Amsterdam's harbor. The traffic increased as we came closer, as was to be expected, but we found our way through and followed the buoys up into the harbor.

There is a set of locks that closes the harbor off from the Ijsselmeer, the Oranjesluizen, and we had to wait a while in the approach to the smaller northern basin for a group of small boats to assemble.

Inshore Fishing Boats on the Railway

It seemed longer, but was really only a half-hour before we were through the lock and on our way to the shiny new Amsterdam Marina, where we would stay for a couple of days. A phone call had assured us that they had space, and gave us directions to our slip.

The biggest problem in approaching the marina was dodging the fast ferries that run back and forth across the Ij, the normal means of transport between Amsterdam, south of the river, and its northern suburbs.

Dinner Cruise, Amsterdam

Barbara In Amsterdam Marina

A great percentage of the traffic on the river seemed to be dinner cruise boats, crowded with dressed-up yuppies; apparently they are very popular. We also saw a steady procession of ships, both inland and sea-going. Thalassa, an inland tanker from Belgium, the inland cruise ship Aida, our old friend Statum with new barges for Rotterdam, MSC Magnifica, a sea-going cruise ship looking like a whole housing development in the confines of the river, just to name few. Just west of the marina is a busy shipyard, and along with a huge windfarm vessel we saw the Greenpeace ship Esperanza being repaired after her detention by Russia.
Nice Details on the Tjalk Next Door

The marina (well, really all marinas in Amsterdam) is on the north side of the Ij, across from the city center. We did not really visit Amsterdam this trip, reasoning that we would be in Leiden, just a short train-ride away for quite a while, and after a lay day we found a chance to nip across the river and into the Oude Houthaven, the "Old Wood Harbor," where we found the guard lock leading to the Kostverlorenvaart, the "Money-Wasted Canal," so named in the 15th century because a dispute between Amsterdam city and the surrounding country-side led to its being shut down for a time just after it was dug.
A Test Facility for Ships' Lifeboats in Aalsmere

The canal is not very wide, and at one draw-bridge we were held while a medium-sized inland boat came through from the other side. We were tied to piles on the side, so could not get any further out of the way, but we could have reached out and touched this high, unladen ship. We were just happy her captain knew his business.

The Money-Wasted Canal led us to another, the Ringvaart van de Harlemmermeer Polder, the "Ring-Canal Around the Lake Haarlem Polder," that took us along the edge of Schiphol Airport and through Aalsmeer, the site of a very famous cut flower auction.

Canal-Side House, Wetering

The View From Our Berth, Warmond

Aalsmeer is full of boats and little marinas, and the fields around it are alternately full of horses and enormous greenhouses. The Dutch always do very well in international dressage competitions, and we don't know if this is even one of the centers of the sport, but the facilities here are certainly excellent, with lush green fields, miles of white fences, and acres of tidy barns.

We do know that flowers are whisked from the auction to nearby Schiphol and flown to the US in time to be on sale when the florists open, even if some of them are now grown in North Africa, as a disenchanted Dutch friend insists.

Swans in De Kaag, Warmond (BNP Photo)

From Aalsmeer, our road led to the north end of the Kaag, the lake north of Leiden. We knew this pretty well, since we have often visited friends in Warmond, a yachting center on the lake. This time we went straight through, however, and on into the Rijn-Schiekanaal, the "Canal from the Rhine to the Schie (originally a swampy area near Delft)." We did not quite know what to expect in the Leiden harbor; we did know that we had to go through the Spanjaardsbrug and turn right, but we were just too late. the "Spaniards' Bridge" is closed during rush-hour, from 16:00 to 18:00, and we arrived at 16:17.
Street Scene, Warmond

Dorpstraat, Warmond

The Zijlpoort, Leiden

We moored to some pilings and shut off the engine. After a little thought, we decided to try calling to see if a marina in Warmond had room for us. There was actually only one that could handle boats of our size, but they did have a T-head free, so we turned around and ran back out to the Kaag and across to Fort Marina, formerly the Visch Brothers Boatyard.

It was a very pleasant situation, with cows in a field across the narrow canal, a supermarket in easy walking distance, and good friends living nearby, but it was also a little expensive (Warmond is something like the Marblehead of Dutch yachting), so we only stayed three nights.

The Iconic Museum-Windmill De Valk, Leiden

We arrived on a Friday evening (Oct 3rd), and on the Monday morning I went into Leiden by bicycle to check with the harbormaster in his office on the Schrijversbrug, the "Clerk's Bridge" that leads into Leiden harbor. There I had the welcome news that there was room for us, and that over-wintering was possible.

A bicycle is truly the best way to get around in the Netherlands. About every major street has a bicycle path on the side, usually separated by grass or a divider from the auto traffic. And there are paths through the countryside that often make a shorter trip than going by road. Only about a third of the trip from Warmond to Leiden (which is maybe 3-4 miles altogether) is along streets or roads. Our folding bicycles have really come into their own here.

Our stay in Warmond was quite social: we had visits from our friends Henk and Marijke, and from Aad and Nicoline. Nicoline noticed that her painting that hangs above our engine-room door was getting dry and needed a coat of varnish, and Aad readily agreed to help with our radar mount.

On Tuesday morning, in a light drizzle, we cast off and backed carefully out of the narrow canal. We retraced our steps across the Kaag and into the Rijn-Schiekanaal, and this time went through the Spaniards' Bridge without incident, turned right, and continued through the Sumatra Bridge and the Clerk's Bridge into the Leiden Municipal Harbor. This harbor has three piers with fingers along them, but two of them were being repaired and the third T-head was occupied, so we parked on the canal-side for the first night.

The Tower of the Marekerk, Leiden

This was all right, but the auto traffic inches from our decks was less than ideal, so when the chance offered, we moved to the remaining T-head.

Like most marinas in the Netherlands, this harbor has AC power, but the amperage available is not enough to run the boat on. Our incinerating head takes quite a bit of juice, and the harbor's toilets and showers close for the off season. Our solution was to get a 24-volt battery charger that runs on 230 volts and an adapter cable that allowed a connection between our shore-power inlet and the power connectors here, and this rig let us keep the

Houseboat Across the Canal, Leiden

batteries up while providing the necessary surge current from the batteries and inverter. We were lucky to find, in DG Rubber, a distributor willing to sell direct to us on the basis of our company at home. At METS, the Marine Equipment Trade Show in Amsterdam, we were later to meet several people in the marine business in the Netherlands, but that is getting ahead of our story.

In Leiden, we filled out a form registering us for an over-winter berth, and Barbara set about getting organized at the University. There too, there were forms to fill out and documents to submit. It turned out to be a good thing we had brought a scanner, since they mostly had to be submitted electronically.

We discovered the local supermarket, and where to buy extension cords and other hardware. Barbara began to find her way around the university and reveled in its richness, going to one conference or lecture after another. We discovered the Arslan Brothers bakery, a tiny nearby store, and every morning I would join the stream of bicycles coming into the city from the vast residential precincts to the east, ride the long block to their corner, and buy three crusty little Pistolet, rolls that would make my breakfast and lunch.

"What Love Can Do," Leiden

I found an industrial gas company in a suburb to the west that would fill our propane tanks, so our supply situation was assured. Since we had bunkered in Scotland, we had plenty of fuel, we had water and electricity on the wharf and a somewhat local gas supplier, and we had good local stores.

We also went sometimes to the market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, where excellent fresh vegetables could be bought from the farmers themselves.

Small Residential Alley, Leiden

One of the main problems for Americans cruising in Europe is the Schengen Treaty. This essentially removes customs barriers among its signatory countries (most of Europe), but it also limits visitors' stays in the entire area to 90 days, at the end of which one has to leave for another 90 days. Barbara's situation as a visiting scholar meant that the University would sponsor us in a request for temporary residence in the Netherlands, but that (of course) meant more forms to fill out. Even though we would probably not get a decision before our 90 days were up, the fact that we had applied meant we were allowed to stay, so that worry was pretty well taken care of.
Small Canal, Leiden

Houseboats on the Herengracht, Leiden

So we are getting settled in Leiden. Barbara goes to the University most days, while I work on the boat, or explore the city. I have found a nearby bar that has soccer and rugby games on the box on weekends, and one Sunday we went out to the University Sports Grounds and watched the student rugby club win a somewhat sloppy game.
A Fine Baroque Gate for a Graveyard, Leiden

Barbara in the Transient Harbor, Leiden

Proof That We Are Really Here

From Above (GvK Photo)

We have made plans to take the boat back to Warmond, this time to Aad and Nicoline's wharf, for a few days around Thanksgiving, when Barbara will cook a proper American Thanksgiving dinner for several of our friends. It is something of a challenge to find all the ingredients, but it will all work out.

We expect to stay in Leiden until the end of March, when our winter rate runs out, and then we will resume cruising, though we do not yet know exactly where. In the meantime, we are very much enjoying being here.

The Kerkbrug, Leiden

To see our track in Google Earth click:
here for Lemmer to Urk.
here for Urk to Amsterdam.
here for Amsterdam to Leiden.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI