The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - Cruise 2015, Part II, Leiden & North
Updated May, 2015

Reflections, Leiden

Spring came to Leiden, of course, just as it does everywhere, even if it seems at times that it will never come. On sunny days the entire city wanted to sit outside at any bar or cafe with a "terrace," which was sometimes a deck barge in the river. The intrepid Dutch sit drinking their coffee in their down jackets, and the bars have stacks of blankets ready for the jacket-less.
Spring in Leiden - Everyone Wants to Sit Outside

Spring in Leiden - Crocuses in the Garden Where the City Walls Used to Be

By the end of February, the crocuses were by and it was time for daffodils; I had been assured that this would be the case, but found it hard to believe.

We still found the weather to be raw, and were glad of our heater and woodstove. When the wood supply ran low, our blessed friend Liz gave us as much firewood as we cared to haul away, and expressed regret that we had not taken more.

The 5th Inner Fortification Canal - Leiden

The City Hall Tower - Leiden

I continued my explorations of Leiden, and our social life continued as well.

One happy evening, Hanneke and Wilbert and family came to dinner, and their daughter, Elvira, played her violin for us, and played some duets with Barbara. The music was very nice, and the whole evening very pleasant.

One Sunday afternoon we took the train to Amsterdam to see Balanchine's Jewels performed by the National Ballet. We went early enough to explore a little first, and we found, against the odds, a lovely traditional "brown cafe" right in the tourist heart of Amsterdam and had an excellent lunch of pea soup and sausage.

Part of a Memorial to the People Deported Under the German Occupation

I always find Balanchine's work more interesting than the more traditional Russian-style ballet, and Jewels was no exception. And the Dutch National Ballet is clearly a major organization, with many very talented dancers.
The Old City Lumberyard and Carpenters' Shop - Leiden

Amsterdam Central Station

Walking around Amsterdam was fun, but I found that I enjoyed the smaller scale of Leiden, which makes the city more accessible to the short-term visitor. No doubt Amsterdam would reward years of study and acquaintanceship, and perhaps Leiden would not, but I am quite content that we spent the winter in Leiden and not in Amsterdam.
An Old Lock - Amsterdam

The Amsterdam Waag, or Weigh House

One day in February, a converted freight barge named Blijde Ankomst arived in the Singel and turned to moor across the canal from us. The owners turned out to be a young (at least from our perspective) family, and of course we invited them for a drink. Jan-Willem works at Deltares, a private institute that studies the whole area of water resources and water management, something in which Holland is very interested.

They had come to Leiden to see friends and do a little shopping, reminding us that Leiden is still the market town for a large area, just as it was in the Middle Ages, but they live on the boat in Gouda, halfway between their places of work.

Barbara had arranged to speak at a conference in Stockholm the third week of April, and she also agreed to speak in Uppsala, at the University, the day before the conference. After a little research, I determined that we needed to leave Leiden at the end of March in order to be there on time, so March was a month of winding down and closure.

March was busy, too, with preparing the boat: engine maintenance (oil change, checking all belts, changing the raw water pump impeller), beginning to stow some of the loose gear that had accumulated while we lay alongside, and assembling a set of Baltic charts and installing the electronic versions on the navigation computer. Then I had to replace the nav. computer keyboard. And late in March the current propane tank ran out, so I made one more bicycle trip to Jongeneel Transport to get it filled. This was actually good, because it meant that we started out the season with all tanks full.

Tourist in Amsterdam (BNP Photo)

Decoration on the Bridge by the Opera - Amsterdam

In the middle of all this, our grandchildren arrived for a visit. Barbara went to Schiphol to meet them, while I went to the opening of an exhibit of paintings by our friend Nicoline. They are 16 and 20 years old, and have turned into real adults.

We had a very good time with them, and were sorry to see them go on to London -- and I think it possible that they were too, a little.

The Road to Jongeneel Transport, our Propane Supplier

We also had social occasions, of course, and other appointments, as well. Barbara agreed to do an introduction to the Old Babylonian epic Gilgamesh, principally for a group of archaeology students, and then there was the Nawruz (New Year's) festival at the university, hosted by the Tajikistan ambassador to the Netherlands.
Blijde Ankomst Turning Next to Our Mooring

Our friend Ruud, who is a musician as welll as a retired chemistry teacher, played a gig with his small group Katvanger, meaning more-or-less "fall guys" as I understand it, at a local pub, so we invited Liz and her German friend Barbara for dinner, and all went on to the pub afterwards. It was a great evening, though I did hear afterwards that Ruud was not happy about the musical side of things. The lead guitarist was perhaps a little out of things, but Ruud himself, the bass player, is clearly the rock on which the group rests.
Interior of the Waag - Leiden (BNP Photo)

Just before we left, we had one more party aboard the boat. The weather was most uncooperative -- it poured -- but a lot of people came anyway. We have friends from several different circles, Barbara's church, the university, where she moves among two or three disciplines, and our neighborhood, including the other boats moored near us. It was great fun to introduce these worlds to each other and find that most of them got along fine. As far as we can tell, several new friendships were formed, which is always good.
A Good Party

We delayed our departure for a day, because there was a steady 30-knot breeze, and I was a little concerned about the situation of waiting for bridges and locks with that much wind, but on March 31 the wind moderated. There were still some gusts, but by late afternoon it looked OK, so we cast off and went through the Clerk's Bridge for the last time for a while, turned left into the Zijl, and by 1900 were secured alongside Aad and Nicoline's wharf in Warmond.
Another View of the Party

Becasue we had spent our first two or three nights in the area in Warmond, it seemed somehow symmetrical that we should leave from there, as well. We had a very nice visit with our hosts, filled our water tanks, and at 10:30 the next morning, Barbara's birthday, we were on our way to Haarlem.

Our road led us through De Kaag, a lake that is a sailing center, the Ringvaart van de Haarlemmermeeerpolder, and finally to the Sparne, the river that runs through Haarlem.

The Clerk's Bridge Opening for Us as We Leave (BNP Photo)

It was a short trip, so we had time to walk around the city and enjoyed visiting the enormous "Big Church," otherwise known as St. Bavo's. This is a 15th century church, finished as the Reformation was already well underway, so it becams a protestant church shortly after it was built. The ceiling is particularly beautiful.
Rainbow in Warmond

The St. Bavo Church (Grote Kerk), Haarlem

Haarlem has a fine nucleus of 17th- and 18th-century buildings, and it was a pleasure to walk among them and imagine what it was like when they were new.

We found a good and obviously very popular restaurant for Barbara's birthday dinner, and had a very pleasant evening.

Haarlem is a very old city. It is one of the few places in Holland above sea level, on a ridge running from north to south between a large lake (the Haarlemmermeer) and the dunes on the coast. The city grew and became prosperous originally because it could collect tolls from travelers and freight moving along this ridge. Since it is also on the river Sparne, it became a port in the early days, rivaling Amsterdam. Although he had a place in Leiden the Count of Holland had his main seat in Haarlem, which added to the city's importance.

St. Bavo Church Ceiling (BNP Photo)

Votive Ships in the St. Bavo Church (BNP Photo)

We liked Haarlem. It clearly has some social/societal problems, like any European city in these days of unrest in the "third world," but it is an active, bustling town. The Sparne, running through the middle of it, is still a commercial thoroughfare. We went though the bridges in company with a working tug.

On April 2nd we left our berth, and an hour later, after a brief wait, were tied alongside in the Spaarndammersluis, the Spaarndam Lock, where I walked over to the tender's cabin and paid our sluisgeld, three euros fifty.

The Haarlem Waag

The Spaarndam Lock separates the Sparne River from the North Sea Canal, that connects Amsterdam with the sea at Ijmuiden. the North Sea Canal carries a great amount of traffic; in the Fall we had already seen large cruise ships heading into Amsterdam. So it was with some caution that we moved out into the flow.
Tourist Photographer in Haarlem (BNP Photo)

I was a little concerned, since we had to make a left turn across the oncoming traffic to reach our road north, the North Holland Canal, but in the event we found an opening and all went well. An hour after we left the Spaarndam Lock we were in the Wilhelmina Lock, in company with a small tug, where the lock tender waved me away when I went to pay.

There was not much traffic in the North Holland Canal, and we proceeded in a relaxed way past fields full of cows, and an occasional small town.

The Vleeshal, or Butchers' Hall - Haarlem

The River Sparne Across from Our Berth - Haarlem

There is always a little question as we approach a new mooring; we study the charts, of course, and the ANWB Almanac, with its descriptions of every mooring in the Netherlands, is invaluable, and maybe we have looked at the spot in Google Earth, but we still never know exactly what we will find.

In Alkmaar, the canal runs into the town, then takes a sharp right turn, and just after the turn is the mooring quay. A smaller boat might go on into the center of town, but we are much too big.

Canalside Street - Haarlem

So we made the turn and laid Barbara alongside the quay and got our lines ashore. Happily, there were solid bollards for us to tie to instead of rings, as there are in too many places. One can tie to a bollard by throwing a loop over it from the boat, but if there are only rings, someone must be put ashore before the boat is secure, which can be difficult and/or dangerous.
Soap Factory on the Sparne - Haarlem (BNP Photo)

The Alkmaar Waag

We came to Alkmaar principally to see the Kaasmarkt, the cheese market, held nowadays every Friday in the summer season. This used to be a real market, where local farmers brought their cheeses to sell, but today, as we found, it is pure theater. Two trailer-truck loads of Gouda cheese are supplied by a major cheese wholesaler, and they are stacked neatly in rows in the market square early Friday morning.

An elaborate pantomime ensues; pairs of cheese porters, in their white coats and variously-colored hats, stack several cheeses on their trays and then pick up the trays using the leather harnesses over their shoulders and hustle them off the the Waag, where they are weighed.

Carver of Wooden Shoes - Alkmaar

They then take the trayful off to the side where the cheeses are packed in the rolling carts the Dutch use to organize the contents of semi-trailers.

There was also the herald and his lady, both on high stilts, in period costume and making announcements (imcomprehensible to us) with a megaphone. And we mustn't forget the Kaasmeisjes, the "cheese girls" in traditional Dutch costume, who pass by the fence that keeps the crowd at bay, offering sample bites and packets of cheese for sale.

It is all very hokey, but still good fun, and with a certain familial air. There was, for example, a very young Kaasmeisje making the rounds with her older sister, or perhaps aunt.

North of Alkmaar, the North Holland canal runs close behind the dunes that protect Holland from the North Sea, and the air felt a little different, one could sense the openness of the sea.

Heralds of the Cheese Market

There are several bridges, and here was our first meeting with floating bridges. The bridges float on pontoons, and the two half-sections are pulled aside and slid underneath fixed sections on each bank so there is room for a boat to pass. I expect they are cheaper than regular drawbridges, but of course they have to be opened for every boat that comes along, even for rowboats or canoes.
Cheese Porters Heading for the Scales - Alkmaar

It was not long, about three hours, before we entered the Koopvarderssluis, the lock that separates the canal from the harbor, open to the sea, at Den Helder.

Den Helder is a very interesting harbor. It is the main Dutch navy base, but it is also a support base for the North Sea oil and gas platforms. The big, state-of-the-art platform supply vessels that one reads about in Workboat and naval architecture journals are here and working. There is also a large number of museum ships and a whole vibrant culture centered on the Napoleonic era naval facility called Willemsord.

We wanted to leave on a Sunday, and Easter Sunday at that, and since we remembered vividly the plight of an Austrian boat owner in Leiden who had to leave his boat and fly home because the Clerk's Bridge did not operate on Sundays in the off season, we did not want any bridges or locks between us and the open ocean. We decided on a berth in the Royal Navy Yacht Club, which is now open to visiting yachts as well as members.

Pallet of Cheeses Being Weighed

Our Berth on the Edge of the Old Town - Alkmaar

It was definitely off-season in the yacht club, and in the town as well. We needed to do a little shopping, so a yacht club member kindly explained to us how to work the navy base gate, and how to call base securitywhen we returned, and we set off.

The base is a fair way from the town center, and we would have done well to take our bikes, but we didn't know that. We walked quite a way, but finally did find a medium-sized grocery store and resupplied.

Canals in Alkmaar Are Still Used by Small Craft

We walked back through the old base area, looking briefly at the various museum ships, and decided we wanted to return when we could spend more time and were not driven by a schedule. Experienced cruisers will say that one should neve have a schedule, and that is fine when one is cruising, when one has set apart a period, perhaps a vacation, dedicated to a trip on the boat, but when one is actually living on a boat and in the real world at the same time, schedules are a part of life, and one has to meet them.
The Cheese Scales - Alkmaar

In the Sunday morning, with no one else stirring, we let go our lines and headed out into the North Sea. It seemed at first a little strange to be following compass courses and heading to waypoints instead of going down the canal "roads," but Barbara soon remembered that she knew how to do this, and it was not long before we were looking for the markers in the somewhat convoluted approach to the Stevins Locks at Den Oever.
Cherry Trees and a Purple Wall - Alkmaar

Dutch Customs Boat Passing naval Ships - Den Helder

In the 1930s, the former Zuider Zee was cut off from the ocean and made into a fresh-water lake, the Ijsselmeer, by the Afsluits- dijk, both for protection against storms and to provide more (and more secure) land for agriculture. There are locks at each end of the 20-mile long dike to let ships through, and they are quite busy.

When the lock gates opened, there was a bit of a free-for-all as the waiting boats squeezed into the lock chamber, relatively small by modern standards, but we all managed and nobody lost any paint.

A Big Offshore Buoy Tender - Den Helder

Soon the gates at the far end of the lock opened and we moved out into the Ijsselmeer. We followed the buoyed channel past a shoal and then turned left, toward Stavoren, in Friesland on the east side of the Ijsselmeer.

Once through the Stavoren Lock and into the Johan Friso Canal, we made a sharp left turn into the Stavoren Harbor and found a berth on a grassy island that is also a park.

Large Platform Supply Vessel with "Axe Bow" - Den Helder

Crowded in the Lock in Den Oever

Alongside in a Park in Stavoren

There we were met by Jack and Linda and their dog, Wolf Charro de la Casa Negra, who drove down from Delfzijl to ride with us for the last couple of days. Jack was so happy steering Barbara that I had little to do but watch the scenery.

Stavoren was a major port in the 13th century, but the world later passed it by, and now it is a small village that we enjoyed walking around. Like many towns on the east side of the Ijsselmeer, it has a large marina where land- locked boat owners (many of them German) keep their boats, but that has not spoiled the village atmosphere.

Backstreet Canal - Stavoren

The Town Harbor - Stavoren

One cannot visit Stavoren without hearing the story of the "Woman of Stavoren," who caused her own downfall and that of the town through her inordinate pride.

From Stavoren we took first the Johan Friso Canal, and then retraced our steps on the Prinses Margriet and the Van Starkenborgh canals before turning into the Eemskanaal for Delfzijl.

Jack, Linda, and Wolf in Grou (BNP Photo)

To see our track in Google Earth click:
here for Leiden to Warmond
here for Warmond to Haarlem
here for Haarlem to Alkmaar
here for Alkmaar to Den Helder
here for Den Helder to Stavoren
here for Stavoren to Grou
here for Grou to Delfzijl

Cruise 2015
Part I
Part III