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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Wijk bij Duurstede-Utrecht, via Hannover

As you can see on the map of our itinerary we travelled a different route from what I announced in my last blog.
This issue will be a lengthy one, but this years last one as well, as we made a U-turn in Hannover and then sailed back. More about that later.
In the beginning of May we continued on the same waterway, now called the Neder-Rijn (Lower Rhine) instead of Lek.
Our next stop was Arnhem and – as you can see on this picture – it is not going to be one of our favourite mooring stops.
to low, to much wash from commercials
Arnhem dressed in the colors of Vitesse

Vitesse - Arnhems local soccer club – had won the Cup Final which was extensively celebrated, a big party and a tour of the city in an open coach with the winning team. Unfortunately the rain was pouring down.
We had a nice experience in Arnhem as we suddenly received an email from a guy who lives quay side and looked down on us from his window.
He had looked us up, found our website and wrote just to tell us that he thought ‘t Majeur looked well organised and adventurous, wishing us happy cruising.
A nice thing to happen on a otherwise dreary day.

in the background historic Zutphen
in the historic harbour of Zutphen

After Arnhem we sailed down the Gelderse IJssel, back on familiar waters as we –a few years hence – had sailed up the IJssel and then continued towards the Meuse river.
Back then we had been lead to believe that we were too big for Zutphens local harbour, so we had sailed past. In the meantime we have learned differently.
We did fit, indeed, and provided a nice picture, being moored in Zutphens centre, but on a jetty that was too small for us. All passing commercials made us rock heavily.
The next day we found out that we were more than welcome in Zutphens historical harbour, far better suited for bigger ships. It was a bit downstream but near the town as well, so we moored there and toured the city.

more plush than dandelions

We not only toured the town but the surrounding country as well.
We came to a field where you could see from afar that it was covered with dandelions but we couldn’t make out the white flowers.
Coming closer we found that they were all dandelion plush, never seen so many together and a bit of wind would have blown all plush away.
It was a matter of being on the right spot in the right time, a wondrous view.

welcome to the KWAK

Just North of Zutphen we turned right and, by way of Almelo, cruised to the KWAK, (the Dutch acronymfor quack) the King William-Alexander Canal.
This is a six kilometre canal, opened in 2013. It had been dug to easier admit pleasure craft into the so called Veenkoloniƫn (Peat Colonies) and it also provides a much shorter route for boats to Haren in Germany than via the Northern approach via Ter Apel.
At the canals entrance you’re greeted by a huge wooden giraffe, actually situated on the highway, but not noticeably so.

several right angels and all very narrow

Maximum allowed ships length is 27 metres. So we just fit, having no problems with the locks.
There are though a few right angles, one just behind a bridge, but by careful manoeuvring, using a big fender for a pivot, and lots of patience from the bridge keeper and everyone that had to wait for the open bridge, we made it without a hitch.

It is a beautiful route, taking you right through the nature reserve the VeenkoloniĆ«n and even right through the middle of the Peat Museum where the days of old are relived; you can moor there for the night but we carried on to Emmer Compascuum. A name you typically know only from your schooldays  but it appears to exist in reality and Michel says it looks good on his curriculum, having been there.

once it must have been very busy here

We then had to hurry a bit as it was May 14th and we had to meet the rest of our party – ships and skippers – on the 15th. That was the party we would spend a week with in Berlin.
From Emmer Compascuum to Haren was a days cruise and we soon crossed the German border. Not very exciting, only marked now by the old customs office and our – now - German pennant.

this made the schooltrip special
all six boats together for the first time

Just behind the last lock before Harens harbour there was a crowd of youngsters – apparently a school outing – calling for us to take them aboard, their teacher supporting them.
At a small pontoon we could hoist them aboard and the 10 minute trip to the harbour was their outings summit.
All other ships were already moored, the Berlin flotilla was complete and the first palaver could begin.

Next day each of us, according to his own speed and timing, set course for the second palaver in four days time: Minden on the Mittelland Canal.
The stretch of the Dortmund-Ems-Canal leading South was not very interesting nature-wise and a bit tedious due to many locks and lots of commercials, but there you are; if you don’t have a Rhine “patent” (a license for cruising on the river Rhine in Germany) this route is the only option.

Peter and Michel in discussion with the police. We could not moore here but we could at the yellow arrow

Once we reached the Mittelland canal both the surroundings and the cruising improved;we were joined by the Linquenda, a barge of our own size.
We were soon to find out that we were in Germany where German rules & regs reign.
We are used to cruising in France and Belgium and the main rule – when mooring outside marinas – is to take care that you are moored safely, not hindering others. Not so in Germany, where mooring is only permitted where it says it is permitted.
Not a wrong approach, but there’s a myriad signs, all of them indicating something different, that do not apply to all ships but only to certain categories, and different lengths etc. etc.
Our first attempt to moor went wrong straightaway.
We were neatly moored, off the canal, just behind a sign that said we could and we had made fast to yellow railings on the quay.
What we didn’t know is, we were moored just opposite the Wasser Schutz Polizei, the water police, present on all waterways.
The had spotted us immediately and approached us straight away as it was ‘Verboten” (forbidden).
We had moored just past the sign, that should have been just before. We had used the yellow railings, they were indicators that there were ladders which were lifesavers for people that had fallen into the water. And it was completely uninteresting and of no consequence that we blocked two yellow railings when we moored a bit to the back (there are heaps of yellow railings and ladders).

The copper was a nice guy and quite helpful in explaining the rules, but rules are rules and so we were fined.

the spa in the middle of the village
on the side the saltcristals are formed
A nice spot on the way was Bad Essen, a nice little town with beautiful houses and well-known as a spa.
In the village there is a public place where you can breath the salt air and steam.
The salted earth is passed over weeds and twigs, that make up this mound, by means of steam, very commendable for a cold.
In Minden we were all together again, as good a reason as any for a get together where everybody brought not only his own food and drinks, but tables and chairs as well.

all six boats in a row

In MIiden the Mittelland canal crosses the River Weser, sporting a beautiful building, housing the locks. It is a so called Shaft-lock where you enter through a tunnel. Thus the lower side door doesn’t have to go up all the way. Locks with a serious difference in levels – here over 13 meters – are often built like this.

To save water they built ponds on either side and a siphon system pumps the water into the pond or into the lock chamber.
At each cycle some 7.300 cubic metres of water are saved out of 11.300, depositing it in the ponds.

Minden Wasserkreuz, the boats were moored at the arrow

that's how the lock works

On Sunday afternoon we happily cast off direction Hannover, having to moor for the night before we got there. Linquenda moored just behind.
Next morning our itinerary took a different turn because Michel woke up with limp left arm.
Although the possibility of a stroke didn’t cross our minds, the situation improved quickly, we still thought it wise to visit a doctor in Hannover.
Whilst cruising (Linquenda in keel line in case we should need help) we arranged for a visit at a hospitals EU.
We moored, got our bikes out and went to the hospital. After we waited for a solid five hours and still nobody had attended Michel, we biked home again.
Next morning Michel looked a bit worse but we cycled to a nearby GP. The man almost had a fit himself when he heard all this and immediately packed Michel off to a, different, hospital where he soon was admitted to the stroke unit and connected to monitors. So it was a stroke after all.
After ten days in hospital, lots of tests and examinations, Michel was released and by now is recovering well.

Fright and fear apart you also have to deal with all practicalities related to the boat and with being admitted to a hospital abroad.
For this blog I’ll dwell a bit on the first subject.

Almost invariably we are moored on public quays, we are too big for marinas, don’t need them for facilities and we don’t want to either.
That is an okay setup when we are together an for a few nights only, but I didn’t feel like it for an extended period, on my own, not feeling safe.
Sometimes one is lucky, having friendly people around that supported and helped me. Nearby our mooring there was a marina and the very day Michel was admitted the only berth suitable for a big barge became vacant.
Linquenda’s skipper took me and ‘t Majeur there and we could stay as long as was necessary.
My friends stayed with me for a few more days and then continued their voyage to Berlin. The other four had already carried on.

Hannover harbour

't Majeur flags Linquenda goodbye

For us it was quickly clear that we would return to Holland, but when and how was a bit vague; we would stay in Hannover meanwhile.
We were in touch with lots of friends and family, a few even came over to Hannover, very important at times like these.
Michel had, in hospital, quickly started his rehab.
I amused myself with the many boats, all sorts and sizes, that passed and lots of bicycle trips to the hospital.

one by one the tic tacs in the glass
all kinds of boats pass by

After being released from hospital we had to stay around for at least a fortnight, being checked and all that, but amusement was at hand.

 Rolland Garros
a beerfestival in Hannover

Although Michel’s restrictions improved he was easily tired, it will take a long time for that to improve.
So cruising back would be a problem. Michel is needed as a skipper to cruise, I am just a good mate, so just the two of us wouldn’t work out.
We could ask for help from friends or family, but even then the trip would take several weeks as we don’t have the licenses required for sailing the Rhine, which is the shortest route.
Plus, it would be a tiresome voyage and Michel needed to go back for rehab.
Our friends from Liquenda had kindly offered us the use of their mooring, a spot in Utrecht’s centre. We had to go back in any case, but this was not wrong!

After lots of phone calls, acquiring information and deliberations the solution was found.
A former professional skipper came over from Vreeswijk, together with his wife. They sailed the boat and us in no time to Utrecht, ‘cause now we could take the Rhine.
You can, on the map, see the different routes we took on the way up and the return trip.
Distance wise maybe not so much difference but it saved a lot of time. We would have spent at least three weeks on the return voyage, now we were home in six days. Long days, higher speeds because of less locks and bigger waterways.

for Michel it took some getting used to giving over the helm, but he soon saw it was alright
here the return journey became different, not star but port direction Rhine

Every disadvantage has a flipside, here as well because we now had our own trip on the Rhine.

this was a first, sitting together upfront while on the move

We were very pleased that the route we took was as interesting as the way up, lots to see.

the new bridge as bachground for the remnants of the old bridge

the former nuclear plant Kalkar, now a funfair, maybe our demonstrating for closure helped a little
So far we had not yet been on the Southern leg of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal so we were not familiar with the “plof-lock” phenomenon.
We sailed straight at it, it is the huge concrete span on the picture above.
The A-R-canal used to run straight underneath this building, now they have made a detour.
Building the A-R-canal (1933) had caused a breach in the Hollandse Waterlinie (it went right through) which is a means of flooding large areas as a way of defending the country. If there is a breach that is useless.
The solution found was to replace the former sluice with a “plof-lock” near Jutphaas. It is a concrete structure, having a relative weak belly that can hold 40.000 tons of debris and such.
Should during a war a decision be taken to flood the country then the bottom could be ignited in order to close of the canal and the Water-Linie.
It would be a rather irreversible, one time only action.
It never happened and now the building is in use as a shooting gallery.

the plof-lock
This years barging season did not turn out the way we hoped and thought it would, but with a little help from friends and family we are now moored in Utrecht on a nice spot, winding down, all the care we need is available and there’s plenty of things to do.
No way we get bored and coming winter we will be in Amersfoort again, pondering next years barging season.
Till then.