Netherlands -Amsterdam, Travel

Cruising the Friesland Canals – Pt 1

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.

Heading out of the marina_edited

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.

Wyn relaxing

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.

De Kuilart

Danielle parked up in the marina - pick up day_edited

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!


Parked up in Starvoren_edited

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”.


Workum - the mermaid on the underside of the bridge_edited

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.

Workum .jpg

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!

Bolsward - heading off_edited

It’s a grand way to arrive into a new place via the canals and so the process repeats with each departure.


Bolsward street_1_edited

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.

Bolsward building_edited

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.


Iljst windmill.jpg

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.


Sneek entrance 2

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.

Sneek mechanical bridge

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.

Cruising the Friesland Canals

Links for further information:
Friesland Boating
Sneek – Waterpoort

52 thoughts on “Cruising the Friesland Canals – Pt 1”

  1. What a great trip through Fryslรขn. Leeuwarden- where my father was born and I spent my youth. I’ve unfortunately never learnt the Frisian language ( not a dialect by the way) but can understand it partially. Enjoy Nederland. I have many favourite places in Aotearoa and love visiting my family there – but this wee overpopulated but beautiful country still remains my home and place to be ( for now)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More to come Anita. Thanks very much for your comment. Great isn’t it that we can feel comfortable in more than one place in the world. We feel very comfortable living over here and have done so for the last 3 years. Though New Zealand will always be home.


  2. What a wonderful and unique way to see Friesland. Iโ€™m sure this perspective was quite special. Your photos are beautiful and inviting! I donโ€™t think Iโ€™ve ever been to Friesland, but I do know they speak a dialect there that is very different from Dutch (I donโ€™t understand a word of it) and Iโ€™m slightly familiar with the โ€œ11-city-tripโ€ skaters can do during fierce winters. Those must be the same 11 cities you were talking about. Or, maybe this race covers other parts of Holland as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Liesbet, you were correct. It is the 11 cities that do the skating. Though it hasn’t happened for a few years due to the ice not being thicker enough to skate on. Boating is a brilliant way to see the area. We loved the experience. I can now see why you loved the yachting life so much!


  3. Once again a good accountability of your travels Suz. So pleased for you both to be enjoying your time in Europe and keep doing different things in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful. We were in Friesland a couple of years ago. My friend runs a stable of 16 Friesian horses and we went over for the big KFPS stud book inspections and proms in Leeuwarden.I was really taken by the windmills and waterways. I never made it to a cheese factory, though. Iโ€™ll have to go back!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Will do. Friesian horses are quite a breed. Think the big black horses that appear in the Lloyds Bank adverts in the UK. The KPFS safeguard the purity of the breed so only horses that meet stringent standards make it into the stud book. If they do, their value skyrockets so the inspections in Leeuwarden are quite a tense time for the breeders. The show they put on is magnificent (and Iโ€™m not even a horsey person). Iโ€™ll keep you posted on the cheese factory. Would love to travel the waterways like you did.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Janis, it was a great way to travel and we enjoyed it. We felt the same they just took our word for it that one of us had some boating experience. Though it’s insured and the company certainly would not lose out after an accident. Our recommendation before hiring one is to gain some experience in berthing a boat in various weather conditions.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The boat is much bigger than I was expecting when you said you were going on the canals.

    Did you visit the cheese factory and will there be a post about it? I’m very envious that you went into a working windmill.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. April, the boat was a great space especially as there were 4 of us. The canals around Friesland were mostly much wider than the ones in the UK. Various sized boats and quite a few yachts. Not to mention very large barges.

      No cheese factory visit. The working windmill was amazing will write more about it at a later stage.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oooh what a lovely trip! I love travelling on canals, but it looks like you had a perfect day as well as perfect views!

    You just need a dog for that boat!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The Netherlands, generally, are where I taught myself to sail and practised sailing when I didnโ€™t have the necessary certificates for sailing in Germany. The Dutch were/are so much more lenient and common-sense.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Made me smile when you talk about tying the boat to the mooring bollards, because I still struggle with the knots. Just when I think I’ve got it, Jon always has a sneaky check of my knotting and usually smiles, then when I’m not looking undoes it and ties it again ๐Ÿ™‚ Looking forward to all your future posts on this holiday Suzanne, Sneek looks beautiful especially the watergate ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny that you should mention the checking and redoing. That was done on more than one occasion ๐Ÿ˜Š Sneek was interesting as were all of them and each had their character. The trip gave me a slight idea what it’s like to live on a boat and your lifestyle ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, the Squire has the patience of a saint, well most of the time. Working on the knots is an ongoing challenge ๐Ÿ˜Š I’m sure you would love it. We have no wifi and very limited data, which has been more of a challenge than the knots ๐Ÿ™„ Nilla, hope alls well with you!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s