Nederland 2008

Return to the “Land without a Horizon”

After eight years, we returned for a one week cruise to Friesland, the Netherlands, which has managed to preserve its informal reputation of a canalboating paradise. This time, we invited our old Dutch friends, Carla, Ingrid and Alan, on board. I would like to offer you a few observations and experience from our cruise…


…Perhaps the memories of our first cruise eight years ago or the fact that the Van der Velde charter company rents fine boats for the best prices possibly throughout the Netherlands persuaded us to choose the small town of Grou as the starting point of our cruise once again. Grou lies almost in the centre of Friesland and it offers practically unlimited canalboating opportunities on the surrounding waterways and “water paths”. We rented a “Capri” motor yacht (11.5 m) – it was big enough to accommodate five boatmen and a dog, perfectly steerable, and equipped with all we needed. Feeling as “experts” on the Friesland water bodies, we set out on our one week cruise.

…The Dutch are a water people and it is therefore not uncommon that some water bodies tend to resemble
a “noodle soup” in August. But what was happening on Lake Sneekermeer and the canals in the historical town of Sneek that we wanted to cruise around and admire on Saturday? The traditional “Sneek Week” festival, of course. The festival featured a sort of a “canal dance party” – the water surface surrounding a floating stage disappeared under hundreds of boats, their crews duly preparing for the night music show with heaps of decibels and beer. As the bridges were not raised throughout the festivities and kept us from sailing ahead, we called for retreat back to “open air”.

…One of the main navigation canals passes through Friesland, i.e the Prinses Margrietkanaal, starting in Lemmer on the shore of Lake Ijsselmeer in the southwest and continuing up to the mouth of the Eems River in the east. We set sailing up the canal to Groningen, the capital city of the province of Groningen, neighbouring with the province of Friesland. The canal is quite busy with cargo traffic, yet its advantage is that almost all its bridges are passable for small boats and there is no need to wait for them to open. Moreover, there are two big lock chambers with moderate lift on the route, which are mainly used to compensate the canal water level with the sea level. In Groningen, we managed to berth at the town marina in the town centre and we made the best of it by thoroughly exploring the town.

…You simply cannot cruise the Netherlands without noticing something so typical as the lifting bridges… There are so many of them and each is different, interesting in their own special way. I have chosen three: It was quite crowded in Sloten, there were boats on both side and everyone was quite nervous for having to wait so long at the stop lights. What a mess! You still have to pay at some of the town bridges. You have to throw a euro or 1.50 into a lowered wooden bucket, so make sure to have the coins at hand. The bridge in Leeuwarden is an example of latest technology – or design. Its asymmetrical lifting structure is quite extraordinary, in fact, the only of its kind we have ever seen. Speaking of bridges, when planning your cruise route, you ought to study the map in detail to find out whether there are any fixed bridges, the height of which compared to the height of your boat would put a stop to your journey.

…Even after eight year I insist on Friesland being a “land without a horizon”, and, for example, the term “Elbe Lowlands” is only based on the fact that we do not actually know what proper lowlands are. The surrounding countryside is only a few decimetres above the water level – often even below – and it is no rare sight to see a sailboat or a yacht in the distance, “sailing on a green pasture among grazing cattle”. It goes without saying that the picturesque countryside is complemented with silhouettes of windmills. Cruising through the small towns of Friesland is an unforgettable experience, nevertheless, only in case if you decide to explore the smaller and side canals.

…The weather in August is nothing much. Even if it was sunny for most of the time, it was rather cold and windy. Nature put us to a test in the afternoon on the last but one day of our cruise when we were on the Van Harinxmakanaal heading to Leeuwarden and at the same place on our way back the next day. The last time we experienced such a windstorm with pouring rain, thunder and lightning was many years ago in high mountains. We could even see a funnel of a small tornado lowering to the ground from the low black clouds. But these are experiences any waterman has to go through.

It is enough to visit some canal regions once in your life. With Friesland, however, and all the Netherlands, you will keep coming back more often and you will be thrilled every time.


August 2008


Několik rad pro plavbu:
Charter: – among other things, the company also offers free and safe parking of your car during your cruise
Navigation maps: ANWB Wateratlas – part A: Groningen and Drente, part B:Friesland, the Netherlands: Niederland
Berthing during cruise: town marinas with necessary facilities (mainly water) or natural Marekrite landing places (a wide network of unequipped, yet very)
Our one week route: Grou, Sneek, Woudsend, Sloten, Echtenburg, Heerenveen, Akkrum, Burgum, Stroobos, Groningen, Leeuwarden, Grou