It was 7.00ish on a Tuesday morning in mid-September.
The sun was partially hiding behind clouds, casting small irresistible colours across the sky and water. A few ducks were making their presence known. Away in the distance, the wind was doing the same. Then an hour or so later under grey skies came a roar with the start of the boat engine.
This signified the start of our journey around the canals of Friesland.
Our first couple of days were changeable though we were to have a good run of weather considering it was September and we were in the Netherlands. No matter what the weather was like, it did not dampen our enthusiasm on the first leg of our boating journey.
For the crew, it was a totally new experience for the Captain [the Squire] it was not. As he has had 30 years or so boating [open sea fishing] experience in New Zealand, that had to cease as it became physically impossible to do. This trip he had 3 crew to do the work, and there were moments that I am sure he would have liked to have thrown us overboard when we were incorrectly tying the boat up to a bollard on shore. Yes, not all time spent on a boat is relaxing, so the crew were to find out.
One of the relaxing times while cruising down the canals, occurred when all four of us could sit up on the deck enjoying refreshments as we chatted and viewed the countryside, a handful of smaller villages and even a windmill or two. As the skipper or co-skipper steered us down the starboard side of the canal.
Regarding the driving position the boat has on the water, yes, some rules are not too dissimilar to being on land. For some peculiar reason yachts are given the right of way, and the ones we encountered undoubtedly made that clear as they shot past us. Later in the day when the sorting of a mooring becomes high on the agenda, patience by other boaties is sometimes threatened, and every boat and ‘man’ is out for themselves.
So, can anyone hire a boat to cruise the Friesland waters? The Skipper believes that a more experienced person is needed to manoeuvre the boat into shore if the wind picks up she is a bulky lass to move into position. Regarding the steering on the waterways, that is far easier, unless the wind picks up with steering on the lake been made more challenging with the wind-chop and the wake from other boats.
If you do want a relaxing holiday on the water, just make sure your skipper has had some boating experience as it does make a difference.
Where abouts in Friesland did we go?
We had a relaxed view of what we would venture to see, though we did have an end goal of visiting 10 out of 11 cities in Friesland. Including the 10 featured fountains that various artists were commissioned to do in each of the cities. More on those at a later stage.
To be honest, so much happened and there were times, when relaxing and being in the “moment” with friends, came before writing down all the details of this trip.
Starting off our time in the Netherlands we enjoyed a couple of nights back in Amsterdam and amazingly never covered the same ground. Then another two nights in Leeuwarden meeting up with our fellow boat companions and good friends, Wyn and Ross.
From there we headed to where our rental boat was moored which happened to be in De Kuilart.
As marina and camping grounds go, it seemed well equipped for us, and there were a few other “campers” enjoying the last of the good weather. It proved to be a peaceful environment to get to know “Danielle”, including discussing the route we were to take on the next day.
We picked up “Danielle” mid-afternoon on Monday, the consensus was that we needed to stay in the marina for our first night to familiarise ourselves with all things boating and to start off fresh and bushy tailed in the morning. We did start off on a crisp morning, being bushy-tailed and bright-eyed eluded us due to tough beds, I now have great sympathy for those hardy sailors that sleep on bunk beds for weeks on end!
Not far down the canal pathway is Staveren. It was the most convenient and closest town for us to stock up on food. Motoring down there from the marina was to be our first experience on how windy the Friesland area could become, or so we thought. During week two we would experience a storm!
It was also our first time at tying up “Danielle” to the mooring bollards, and we were all smiling once the engine was turned off. Some of us making a mental note to keep practising those knots!
Once a few primary food groups were brought including matches for the gas cooker,(why they were not on the boat when we picked her up was beyond us!). Of course, this included the necessary morning tea treat to be organised and enjoyed on the move which was one of the most notable differences between motorhoming and boating is that meal preparation can be executed while cruising.
While enjoying the well-deserved cuppa and treat, the skipper was smoothly steering her down the canal “highway” via the inland northeast route via De Fluezen [lake] then approximately two-thirds of the way up there we headed left to go northwest to Workum. Finally, we were now all set to explore our first Friesland “city”, the first of ten.
Indeed it had been a morning of many “firsts”.
A bit of a dismal day in Workum on our arrival late afternoon. Undeterred we wrapped up and wandered around town noting just how arty Workum really was, with its sculptures and beautifully decorative buildings. Not forgetting it’s unusua lion fountain, each city commissioned various artists to design individual fountains for all the 11 Friesland cities.
Until the early eighteenth century, Workum was a busy seaport. It has a bustling main street and a pretty central square anchored by a seventeenth-century building. Which is now home to both the tourist office and a small museum exhibiting a standard nautical-historical collection. It was closed.
That scenario was to be repeated on numerous occasions as we got closer to the end of the Friesland boating season.
It is to be noted is that Workum not only has an interesting array of buildings including a quirky foundation it has a cheese factory on the outskirts of the city. Said to be one of the largest and most modern in Europe. Worth a visit, just for that reason alone!
It’s a grand way to arrive into a new place via the canals and so the process repeats with each departure.
It was a late start due to wet weather, the time soon went with us all chatting away for hours on end. With a more settled afternoon, we set off to explore Bolsward.
We instantly liked the “feel” of this smallish city. Which has the title of a city only due to having a Cathedral, this began a few centuries ago. The architecture was worth the time to stop and admire especially the town hall.
As we were on a mission to capture all the fountains as well as see the cities, we went in search and before long located the Bat fountain [more on the fountains at a later stage]. Which happened to be next to a medieval church though not in its original state as it was destroyed by fire in the1990s. Now reroofed in glass and appears to be used as a concert venue going by the lighting around the sparse interior.
This was a small village that we visited twice and did not stay the night. It was made more memorable not due to being visited twice nor the scrumptious apple cake it was the place we experienced a personalised tour of a working wind-powered wood mill. We did feel incredibly fortunate to be there on a day that allowed us the opportunity to experience this. I will need to allocate more time and space to share what we saw in another post.
One of the unique experiences we all enjoyed was entering the cities.
Sneek was no exception. Overall it was a grand way to be welcomed by having a bridge open up as we slowly and quietly motored by the locals who waited patiently for us to enter so they could go about their daily activities.
Sneek has a unique feature, unlike the other cities. Its the decorative Manierist Waterpoort (Watergate) dating back to 1613, it was built to connect the new harbour with the rest of the city. Today, the Waterpoort with its two towers has become a symbol for the city and is one of the few remaining parts of the town walls, as much of it was demolished in the early 18th century.
As we moved slowly down the canal to find our next place to moor what became apparent was that Sneek is characterised by historic houses and mechanical looking bridges. Offering plenty of charming town views from our temporary overnight stay.
In part two, I will share a city in which lived many years ago a certain gentleman who just happened to build a planetarium in his ceiling. Including more on the cities, we encountered further around the canals of Friesland.