Antigua gets quite hot during the summer months and is in the “hurricane belt” so we decided that somewhere else was the place to be. We put Mermaid on the hard in Jolly Harbor and flew to Grenada for a few weeks R&R before flying to Alaska. We spent a month in Juneau sightseeing and enjoying Stacy, Frank, Autumn and Kaash. Lots of hiking, playing with the grand kids and enjoying the cooler weather.
We flew to Italy where we skippered a LeBoat charter with friends in the Venice Canal for a week and toured Rome, Florence, Sienna and more with Jessamine. It was shocking how packed Venice was but it was still great to see all the history and we even took a gondola ride.
Finally it was time to go to Holland! The plan was to find and purchase a boat to cruise the canals and rivers of Europe. We had been doing lots of research on canal boats. We’d been speaking with a broker in Rotterdam as well as talking with friends who own canal boats and reading everything we could get our hands on about buying a boat keeping it in the Netherlands.
We spent a week in Rotterdam before moving to Utrecht, which was a more central Holland location and allowed us to view boats all over the Netherlands. We used the fantastic train system in the Netherlands to get around and also traveled by bus and even rented a car one day. We fell in love with Holland and its people. The language on the other hand was a tough one for us… kinda like choking on lots of consonants. Fortunately almost everyone there speaks English!
Its official, we are crazy! We bought another boat! We found a Marak 1060 that fit our wish list in Roremond, down in the southern part of the country between Germany and Belgium. She is a 35 ft, steel canal boat with two staterooms, a nice size bathroom with a full shower. It has two steering stations (one inside and one outside) and isn’t too big, tall or deep. This is important for transiting shallow waters with low bridges.
We took the train and made two “big haul” trips to IKEA for all the necessities like linens, dishes, etc. Then the former owner took us shopping in his camper (which we filled!) to buy odds & ends as well as bicycles and even took us to Germany to purchase liquor because it was much cheaper there.
Back aboard Compagnon (the name the boat came with) we got everything washed and put away and took off for an adventure. We first went to a nearby lake and tied up to the side where we stayed for three wonderful nights. We couldn’t figure out why so many people were naked and wondered if it was a European thing, but on a walk we translated a sign that said Nude Beach. It all made so much sense after that! We met new friends, ate and drank while having a funny time trying to translate their German to figure out what they were saying. Finally some friends of theirs showed up, speaking English and the evening was a great one.
We spent a week or so in a marina in the town of Roremond. We just couldn’t seem to tear ourselves away because it was such a lovely place. Finally we decided it was time to see more of Holland. Mike’s brother David and our friend Kathy were coming to join us in Utrecht so we headed that way.
We learned to navigate the rivers, canals, locks and bridges sometimes having to take down our mast, bimini and even windshields to fit under some of the bridges. Every town was a little different from the one before and very special in its own way! It was amazing passing some of the buildings, churches and bridges that were centuries old. There was so much history at every turn of the river. The windmills (old and new) were quite fascinating and it was odd to be traveling on the water that was higher than many of the homes and buildings. And, the boats! Some of the boats were just beautiful! Oh, and did we mention the weather? It was perfect for the most part. Lovely and warm during the day and nice and cool at night.
David and Kathy had scheduled a visit and we decided that Utrecht was a great place to start their time. We had spent a week in Utrecht while searching for a boat and loved the town with its beautiful sites and history so we headed that way. We headed north on the Maas river and on the way we went through many beautiful little villages and even spent one night anchored in a lake. We got many strange looks and found out that most people never anchor but we are cruisers and that’s what we do best. From there we passed through a short canal to Nijmegen, which is on the Waal River, a distributary of the Rhine. On the Waal we moored for a couple of nights in the public marina in the shadow of the famous bridge that the 82nd airborne captured during Operation Market Garden. We navigated down the Waal for around 20 miles going with a three knot current but conditions were far from ideal. There was intermittent rain, constant barge traffic and a 15 to 20 knot wind blowing opposite the current setting up a nasty chop (not great for a boat basically shaped like a shoe box). Mike watched the barge traffic looking forward and Robin called the traffic overtaking us from behind. We were quite relieved to reach the lock for the canal that would take us up to Utrecht and get off that busy, rolling river!
We arrived in Utrecht and got a lovely box mooring (basically stern tie to a dock with two bowlines and spring lines on pylons) in town. The weather, which had been warm and sunny until this point, was becoming cooler and cooler. We got laundry done, provisioned and went to the train station to meet David and Kathy. We spent a couple of days in Utrecht touring the city. Then it was off on further adventures.
We took on water at the public dock and headed through the city under some very short bridges. We knew that we’d only have a couple of inches of space to pass under the bridges but what we didn’t count on was that the bridges were arches and the height listed on charts is the center part of the bridge. One of the bridges made an S shaped curve making it hard to stay under the highest part of the bridge. We made it under on only because David and Robin used their hands overhead to guide Compagnon right down the middle. We decided to remove the bimini and windshield for bridges of that height. Learning curve was getting less steep, maybe…
We stopped for the night in Odewater and were lucky enough to tie up at the last available tie in town. Long ago Odewater was the site of several witch trials. It sounds silly now but to discover if the accused was a witch the women were weighed. If they were too heavy to fly a broom, they were set free. Not surprisingly, no witches were ever found. We decided it was a good thing to be fat back then. We wandered through the town discovering the history, visiting a couple of pubs and returned to Compagnon for the evening.
We set out the following day for Gouda. As we made our way down the Lek we came up to an area where they were dredging the river and as we got near the engine came to a very sudden stop and died. The tug had lost a two-inch mooring line and our prop found it. We drifted to the bank where David and Robin jumped off with lines to hold her. The tug captain told us we needed to go to the other side so we explained the situation. He pushed us across while phoning his boss and David hopped off and tied us up. The only thing to do was go in the water, which was cold, thick, and dark (we were by the dredge). Compagnon doesn’t have dive gear because no one would ever go in the water. Mike went over the back with our new bread knife because it was sharp and serrated. After diving under Compagnon several times he was able to cut the huge line off our prop and jumped into a hot shower. About this time the boss showed up and was amazed that Mike had taken care of the situation. He asked who Mike was and when David told him that Mike was the owner it confused the boss. He assumed we were chartering Compagnon because she is a Dutch boat and we are Americans. We all had a good laugh. Mike had some hot coffee and we continued along our way. The weather had gotten even cooler, windy and rained off and on.
When we reached Gouda we found the lock to get to the city moorings in town from the Lek was closed until mid-January. No worries. We went past the town through several locks and came in the other side. Gouda is famous for the cheese of the same name. In the past all the farmers brought their cheese to Gouda where it was weighed in the town center and sold in an open-air market. We discovered that we Americans have been mispronouncing it. We had always said Goo-da but it turns out that in Holland they say Khow-da. Who knew? We toured museums, cathedrals and ate cheese fondue. David and Kathy departed by train and we decided to spend another night in Gouda. It turns out that the bridges and locks in Gouda do not operate on Sunday so we decided to stay another day since we were too tall to pass under. Then the rains came… we spent a few more days in Gouda which gave us a chance to contact marinas to find a winter home for Compagnon and explore the town a bit more. They had a lovely market in the square and even had livestock being shown and sold. Finally the rains passed, the bridges and locks were open and it was time to move on. We backtracked back to Utrecht and turned north to cruise down the Vecht. We stopped in Broukelin, which is the city Brooklyn, NY was named after when New York was still New Amsterdam. Compagnon passed through the original Broukelin Bridge and found a lovely spot to tie up and wandered through the town. We realized that our prescriptions were going to run out soon. They had been issued on the Dutch side in St Maarten and that area had been destroyed by a hurricane. We took them to a pharmacy that told us we needed to visit the doctor. We walked into the doctor’s office were we found no appointment was needed, prescription written and no charge! Back to the pharmacy where they agreed to fill for six months since we didn’t know if we would be able to fill in the Caribbean for a while. The prescriptions cost about ¼ of what they did in St Maarten, which was less than ½ of what they were in Panama, which was a huge discount, compared to the USA.
We left Broukelin and headed further down the Vecht stopping along the way in front of a restaurant called Charlie’s American Diner… how could we pass that up?! We met an Australian couple who had been spending summers here for several years. We enjoyed a good burger, cold beer and learned much from our new friends.
We bid our new friends farewell and headed on to Weesp Yacht Club and a nice end tie. The Yacht Club was very welcoming and it was a busy day for them. It was the end of the season with Opti regattas for all ages followed by… not a bbq… but crepes, how Dutch. We were able to get lots of laundry and shopping done as well as touring Weesp. We decided to leave Compagnon on the hard in a marina in Weesp and now had some time to kill since we weren’t going further this season. We backtracked a bit to a spot outside of town we had seen and thought would be nice to visit. From there we had some good bicycle adventures. A cat from a nearby house came by the boat each morning and night but we had nothing to feed it and tried butter. Cats love butter or at least this cat did! It decided to hop aboard but we ran it off. We don’t need a pet aboard.
We returned to Weesp and began getting Compagnon ready for winter, which by the way was much easier than getting Mermaid ready for summer! We vacuum packed all the clothes, linens and towels. We ate and drank what provisions we had left; got Compagnon cleaned and enjoyed our vantage point near the lifting bridges. The later in the season it got the cooler the weather became and we really enjoyed our central heat aboard! Our entertainment was watching the charter boats navigate the lifting bridge, we watched a few hit it, one run aground and even one man overboard trying to push off. Fortunately only egos were hurt. Our last preparation for hauling out for the winter was to fuel up so down river to Muiden we went. We got diesel from a dock right under a big castle and decided that might be our first stop next season. We hauled Compagnon and checked into a hotel for a few nights. Since this is our first experience winterizing a boat and a powerboat at that we decided to hire a mechanic to do the job while we watched and learned. There will be a couple of jobs to have done before our return. Our huge rope woven around a big cable that runs around the hull had broken. The cable inside of it had rusted through and isn’t fixable so will have to be replaced. Also, when the boat came out of the water we saw to our shock that our bottom paint had fallen off! It seems that primer may not have been applied. So… new bottom paint will have to be put on before we return.
The EU has this thing called Schengen (which basically means that as Americans we can only spend 90 days in a six month period in the EU), which meant it was time to leave our Compagnon. We took a fast train from Amsterdam to Paris, spent one night and flew to Los Angeles for a week. It was about $1000 each less to fly from Paris to LA then Antigua than it would have been to fly from Amsterdam to Antigua… and, we got to spend some time in LA before returning to Mermaid.