Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Haarlem to Amsterdam, with some "Drama & Pride"

Saturday, 2nd August

Today is the last of the canal journeys with a trip of 11Nm from Haarlem to Amsterdam via the Noordzeekanaal (11 - 13). The route takes us North from Haarlem on the Noorder Buiten Spaarne to the Spaarndam lock (6) then the Spaarndam road bridge (7). Being a bridge for the busy A9 Autoroute openings are restricted to 09:00, 13:00 and 19:00 on Saturdays so exit timing from our overnight berth is important. The guide warns us to expect large commercial vessels on the Noordzeekanaal and to keep well in to the side of the canal, also that our engines must be running.

Due to the convoy system operating in Haarlem the bridge opening times are neither precise nor on-demand and rather than risk delays the gaffer fleet starts to depart from around 09:30. I take a 10:25 opening of the Catharijnebrug, with a further four bridges to negotiate prior to reaching the Spaarndam lock at 11:30.

Unusually, once the lock opens for entry I find myself at the front and moor off to port with Bonify taking the starboard wall. There is a €3 fee to pay at this lock but I am saved a clamber to the lock keepers control room when Kay collects my payment en-route to pay for Alice Pellow, much appreciated as it saves the usual single-hander rushing about and I make ready for the lock departure. The lock duly opens and I cast off, the bridge over the exit gates lifts and the skipper of a dutch boat alongside indicates for me to go ahead of him as the lights go green, so I set out keeping to port of Bonify. Then .... BEDLAM from astern, I look back to see the remaining crews shouting and gesticulating up at the bridge. I look up to find the bridge descending and just in contact with Hyrst's masthead fittings whilst Bonify has her topmast scraping along the underside of the bridge. Howard elects to keep going ahead in an attempt to get free and I choose to go astern as I am barely under the bridge. With bursts of full astern I manage to recover far enough to avoid the bridge making heavy contact with the mast, although the Windex and VHF antennae look decidedly out of position. Once out of danger I hold with the other boats while the bridge reverts to fully open then exit deciding on my next action. Moments of self doubt follow, but I have been assured the lights were green and Howard is not one to anticipate lights. One of our Dutch event orgainisers is also present in the lock and immediately confronts the lock operator to ascertain what occured and is informed that there was a "system problem" and any resultant damage/costs will be their responsibility - information that is communicated to me later in Amsterdam. After "pinging" all the rigging, doing a visual damage check with binoculars and checking that my VHF radio can still transmit and receive I decide to continue to Amsterdam where a further assessment of any damage can be made.

With the drama behind me (literally) I join the boats waiting for the A9 roadbridge to open while we do extended holding practice.

Just waiting......
betwixt the bridges at Spaarndam.

This lift and the final one into the Noordzeekanaal go without incident and I join the convoy heading for Amsterdam Marina. Once again the AIS comes into use for observing the activity of vessels in the many arms of the canal, ensuring that nothing large is due to exit into my path close to the canal side.

The position of the newly opened marina is not indicated clearly on any of our charts but a local skipper has given guidance and from his description the marina is readily identifiable on approach.

 Amsterdam Marina building with the gaffers taking some of the prime moorings.

The marina facilities are first class, although filling water tanks takes some hunting down of hoses and outlets. Marina fee €14.50 for Hyrst.

To add to the entertainment we discover that it is the weekend of  the Amsterdam Gay Pride event and we are treated to boatloads of music playing pink clad folk in full party mode cruising (?) around the waterways. All very good humoured even if a bit overt and loud! A large group from the gaffer crews also went by boat into the old city canals for an evening of entertainment, not much pink in evidence on them though. The only downer, the local supermarket had shut by the time I was moored up, it does not open on Sundays and I need to restock my larder.

Navigation simplified - mind the traffic as you leave!

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