Friday, 28 November 2014

The Return - Netherlands North

The Homeward Journey - original plans

When setting out on this cruise I had in mind returning to the Solent in time for the Yarmouth 23 Owners Association rally on the 16th -17th August and/or the annual KYC/LTSC cross-channel cruise to St. Vaast on the 21st-25th August. To attend the Y23 event requires a return passage via the North Sea and favourable weather for the complete return jouney, this is now unlikely given the North Sea is a no-go area for the next few days, but still worth a try if I can get back onto the North Sea at Ijmuiden.

The strong SW winds are due to continue for some days, with gale warnings in effect. I am not sure how tenable the inland waters will be in these conditions but decide give it a try.

Sunday, 10th August - from Den Helder to Woudaap (30 Nm)

Most skippers are still considering plans for the day as the SW wind is now reaching gale force, however, Barabara opts to tag along with Moon River and we set off at 09:00 heading south on the Noordhollandsch Kanaal. Neither of us have a specific destination other than to make as much distance as conditions and time sensibly allow. Getting within easy reach of Ijmuiden and Amsterdam would be good either to access the North Sea or leave the boats parked up.   

The Nordhollandsch Kanaal has surprisingly little traffic and for the most part is easily managed


 If you want to make good time it pays to set out prepared, "Jan Blank" one of the Dutch gaffers who took the time to lower their mast at Den Helder in company with Hyrst. No bridge waits for them.

With no locks to negotiate and my radio communication with the bridge operators proving adequate we make good progress, the rail bridges at Koegrass (7) and Alkmaar (23) open at 30 minute intervals and do not cause undue delay.  The strong wind is only an issue when holding station for the bridges.

 Alkmaar looks worthy of a visit if passing this way again.

 When we reach Alkmaarder Meer (31) and move into open water the full strength of the wind becomes apparent with the short choppy sea and head wind requiring almost full throttle to maintain progress. A rescue boat and helicopter arrive on scene as we are crossing and go to the assistance of what appears to be a sunken keel boat, possibly swamped in the conditions. A dutch motorboat is also assisting and we continue on passage.

We reach Woudaap at 17:00 and have a choice of route onward to the Nordzeekanaal but I have not done any detail route planning for either option. Barbara and I agree that we have had enough for one day and reconnoiter the local options for mooring, most of which look hazardous in the conditions. We settle for an alongside pontoon with space for both boats at a canal side restaurant. Mooring fee €17 for both boats on the understanding we patronise the restaurant.


Monday, 11th August - Woudaap to Kaag (28 Nm)

The North Sea is still a no-go so no point in going to Ijmuiden and if we can maintain good progress then no point in leaving the boat at Amsterdam, so press on south. We depart Woudaap just after 09:00, and retrace our path back through the Beatrix bridge (2) having decideed that the locks and bridges on the Nauernasche Vaart are suitable and offer the best route. The wind is still strong and continues to make bridge waits a concern but does not hinder progress along the canal. I have no wind measurement instruments on Hyrst but receive a report from Dave (Alice Pellow) that they are recording wind speeds of 40 Kts at their location around 20 miles further south (they left Den Helder a day earlier). At a later bridge wait I raft alongside a large Dutch Hallberg Rassy and the skipper shows me the graphic record on his instruments showing winds consistently above 50Km/h (F7) during the day.


We make good progress and reach the only lock on this canal at Naurna (9) by late morning, then suffer a delay of approximately 30 mins waiting for the road bridge (10) south of it to open. The waiting points are not tenable single-handed so we both have a trying time holding position. Once through this bridge we are back onto the Noordzeekanaal and retracing our route of the 2nd August, entering the Zijkanaal at (12) heading for the time critical Spaarndam bridge and lock.

We reach the Spaarndam bridge in time for the 12:00 opening, this time uneventful for Hyrst, and have plenty of space in the lock without a fleet of boats for company. Given the conditions there are few local boats underway. Haarlem is reached at 13:30 and we duly moor up and pay our transit fee, with Barbara making the payments whilst I tend the boats (only €9.70 this time, must have omitted the bowsprit length). We agree on a destination of Braassemer Meer for the night and push on south along the Spaarne, Haarlemmermeerpolder and Ringvart to the road/rail bridges at Sassenheim in time for the 18:30 opening.

The Belgian gaffer "Theodosia" joined us at the Sassenheim bridge wait.
Once clear of the bridge we make good speed towards Braassemer Meer but on reaching Weteringbrug we find the bridge into the Oude Wetering canal toward Braassemer Meer is closed/defective. Theodosia chooses to pick up a canal side mooring near the bridge, Barbara and I turn around and head in search of a quieter spot on the Kever Water at Kaarg.

Lake side overnight moorings for Hyrst of Eremue and Moon River at Kaarg. A lovely spot but somewhat spoilt by severe thunderstorms during most of the night!

No facilities and no charge.

Tuesday, 12th August - Kaag via Goude to Ijsselmonde (30 Nm)

The wind is SW F5-6 and rain threatening as we get underway at 08:30 and head to Weteringbrug, only to meet Theodosia coming toward us and passing the message that the bridge is still closed and we have to find an alternative route. As a contingency I had plotted an alternative route last night, going south via Kagerplassen and the Oude Rijn waterways through Leiderdorp to rejoin our intended route at Avifauna. So we turn around and head for Kaarg again, now with torrential rain coming almost horizontally in the head wind. Full marks to the Gill suit, I stayed dry.

The detour proves to be an attractive route (once the rain stops) but has several bridges, one of which delays us by forty minutes. The detour and additional bridge delays extend our passage time to the critical rail bridge at Gouda and we miss the 14:27 opening by ten minutes, with the next scheduled lift at 20:27! There is no option but to moor at the waiting point and then make an overnight stop at Gouda - frustrating.

 The Gouda bridges, this time from the north as I settle in for a six hour wait ..

I am settled below having a snack when I hear the bridge warning bells sounding and come on deck to find the bridges opening for a commercial craft. A call to Barbara to get underway quickly and we both manage to tag onto the commercial boat lift and get through along with the Dutch boat shown in picture. The crew on Theodosia are having a siesta and miss the opportunity.

A quick rework of the route plan shows that we should (just) be able to make the last lock/bridge openings between 19:00 and 20:00 at Algerasluis on the southern end of the Hollandse Ijssel and get into the marina at Ijsselmonde. The slog down the Hollandse Ijssel in the wind and rain seems to drag on and there are no obvious overnight stops in the event we don't make the bridge/lock openings. Sighs of relief when we reach the lock at 19:15 and I radio them to be told there is an opening at 19:20 and to standby for it. While holding for the lock opening Barbara tells me that we have a dinner invite to join Marion on East Breeze who is already in the marina, having made her way back from Enkhuizen with a crew pick up en-route. Once through the lock it is a short distance across the Noord waterway to the marina, where the manager is on the outer pontoon waiting to help us berth at 19:45. Shortly after we are enjoying the luxury of a meal aboard East Breeze, very welcome it was too.

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