The wind doesn’t seem to bad to start with: should be OK till late afternoon, then increasing up to 60 kts early evening. Leeuwarden is the obvious destination via Dokkumer Niewe Zijlen & Dokkum & Burdaard. The wind is beginning to increase as I pass through Burdaard: I should have stopped but Leeuwarden can’t be that far off. But suddenly there’s low cloud streaking across the fields & I just have time to get the wets on. The wind howls and the rain hammers and now how to get into town. Mostly it’s a stern wind, so I can’t stop. Luckily I find a lee-bank stage with another boat on it. The couple come out of Beluga (Mulheim/Rhein) and assist to secure my lines as I drop onto the stage, barely in control. Everyone disappears inside. Photo from the cabin shows the angle of the dangle. An early night as it’s the middle of nowhere and, of course, no WiFi. Waking at midnight I see the loom of Brandaris lighthouse off to the NW 25 miles away. (The Netherlands are flat.)
Discover I’m still alive and continue towards Leeuwarden. Arrive late morning and get stopped at 1 bridge because I didn’t have the bridge money ready, and again at the next because it’s ‘broken’. A convoy builds, at least a dozen boats. The bridge eventually opens & we struggle/straggle onwards: all the bridges seem tardy. Finally we clear the last Leeuwarden bridge. On no it isn’t! There’s 4 more: 2 railway bridges & 2 road bridges. Officially they belong to the canal authority not the town so they sort of get ignored in the passage notes. The 1st railway bridge is also ‘broken’ but repairs itself after a short wait. Only 3 to go & it’s about 13:30. The notice says the bridge should open 15:16.Then we hear that it’s also broken. Time passes & the rumour says that it won’t open till 20:00 which is too late for any normal purpose. Some boats give up to return through the 1st railway bridge & try for Harlingen instead. Some of us are more obstinate & just sit there. The next rumour comes along & says that it won’t be fixed until the following afternoon. More leave. It’s now raining again, miserable, and we’re staring at Leeuwarden’s industrial backside with no WiFi for entertainment.
The newest rumour comes round just about 08:10; they’ve fixed the bridge and there’s a commercial opening scheduled for 08:35. Scramble through breakfast and get cleared away just in time to catch the (sailing) barge.The bridge opens & we pass through. The next bridge is scheduled for 09:00 so the new trick is now to scamper along the canal to about 400 m short of the 3rd bridge, tie up, run ashore to the supermarket (Lidl, but you can’t have everything), shop, run back to the boat and get underway again without missing the opening. It’s still raining, miserable & cold. No problem at bridge #4. Arrive at Grou at midday. It’s still raining, miserable & cold, so I just grab a berth in the municipal marina and try to dry out. It’s still raining. There is however free public WiFi (none last 2 nights) so I get to write a few more lines.
Carry on down the canals to Heeg. The usual marina (Eendracht) is full so I drift around looking woebegone & see an adjacent dock which has a notice “Passanten Welkom”. It also has a notice saying “Seniors & families only”. Does it actually have any places? I tie on the woebegone look & the HM comes out on his bicycle to inspect me: am I suitably Senior? Apparently so. Does he actually have a place? I can’t see one but he cycles off to manufacture a gap along the side by moving a couple of boats, then signals me into a different gap, in the corner. It looks a bit tight but I give it a go and find myself stuck in the mud. I report this to the HM & back out. He waves me in again, takes my lines and drags me almost alongside, which is as far as I get. No need for fenders then, but I can step ashore. Apparently facilities are limited: there’s mooring & electricity & that’s it. It will have to do. Walk across the canal, & use the Eendracht’s facilities instead. That’ll teach them to be full! Find a chandler’s and buy some waterproof waterproofs. A couple of doors along & I find the home shop of my chart-plotter system: pop in & pick up an electronic “English Channel” which wasn’t available on their web-site. I now have a full set to take me anywhere.
The weather forecast is still strong WSW & wet so I don’t want to go out into the open water of the IJssel Meer. The alternative is to go back & head for the Overijssel route which wanders around & comes out behind the SW Flevo Polder. Don’t get quite that far and find a small yacht haven at Giethoorn. It’s still raining but the new waterproofs are doing their job properly & I find a restaurant before I get soaked.
Continue the back route to Zwarte Sluis & the Zwarte Water. A long straight channel leads to the Ketel Meer where I cross to the Flevo Meer & start the circuit of the Flevo polder. Get as far as Elburg where I’ve been before by bicycle. The community HM isn’t helpful on the radio (it does look full) but get a berth in a box in an independent marina.
The back route behind the polder is about 100 km long & 100 m wide so it’s not just set the autopilot and go to sleep: even a few moments inattention takes you out of or the wrong side of the channel. And there are bridges (both fixed & opening) & locks. The Elburg bridge, after the harbour, has a large notice saying to use VHF channel 85 & a small notice saying to phone them. I use the VHF & get told that’s no good: I have to phone! I refuse (I haven’t got one,) & they reluctantly open it anyway. Follow the channel & stop at Almere Haven, on the polder side. I always thought the polder was boring: it’s pretty new and has no history or old buildings. Almere haven doesn’t seem too bad: the town centre seems quite reasonable but the yacht harbour advertises pontoon electricity & WiFi & doesn’t have either. (OK, it does have electricity but only 4 sockets per 14 berths, which is pretty poor arithmetic.)