Just about to leave.
It will be no surprise that we have themed this year’s cruse “Returning Catharina Elisabeth”: – to her original name, – her original home, – and her original cargo.
So this will be a short discourse. Everything seems to be arranged, and having the luxury of a weekend to pack, and an evening departure, we are not as rushed as usual. We’ve had frequent detailed emails from Willem and Andrew describing the work that they, Claudia, Alco and others have, or have nearly completed on Catharina, and we’re confident she will be ready when we arrive. They have also been wonderfully helpful with offers to meet us in Groningen; take us around to shop for significant items; even loan us a car. Fantastic, generous people.
Apart from the more relaxed pace, we also have the benefit of last year’s trip to reduce the amount we have to take. Along with a slightly higher baggage allowance of 30 kg on Etihad Airlines, this allowed me to only reach 25 kg on my trial pack. More room for food.
And that is one of the key items in the baggage, the tea (about 3 kg), the peanut butter, the curry paste, and the Tim Tams and Macadamia nuts for sharing overseas. The rest is the usual mixture of clothes and shoes, electronics, flags, and books of course.
The German military theorist Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke is paraphrased as saying “No plan of operations survives contact with the enemy”. As we said in our previous posting, plans for cruising are made with jelly, and contact with the feared enemies of recommendations by friends, and research, rapidly alters those early intentions, and will continue to do so – we hope!
So briefly our current plans are to take off from Groningen, head north a little and then south through Friesland with its mixture of lakes with wild moorings, and small towns and villages. Everyone says it’s a delightful place to cruise. Then we will head south and west towards Amsterdam.
Here we made our first big change to our earlier plans, which are now informed by all that we have learned about Catharina Elisabeth’s history. We will make a journey along the routes that she originally plied, starting from Zaandam; heading north past her home of Wormerveer; along to the cheese market town of Alkmaar, to once again pick up some cheese; and then to Purmerend before heading southwards towards Amsterdam.
We also want to visit some of the pretty towns in South Holland, so we intend to stay closer to the coast than originally planned, and visit Leiden and Gouda. Then head towards Rotterdam.
Again, we had originally planned to go very coastal to get to Belgium, but a number of well-informed friends have advised that the last part of the trip, across the Westershelde, involves cutting across one of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe with huge cargo ships arriving and departing Antwerp, in exposed tidal waters and subject to bad weather. We retreated immediately we were confronted with the prospect of big ships!
Instead we will either travel a more direct route to Antwerp if we are short of time, or, take a long swing inland and travel on some quieter canals.
From Antwerp, we ride the rising tide on the Scheldt river up towards Ghent then Bruges. If we are in a hurry, we may not stop for touristing, as we are moored over the European winter in the town of Veurne, just north of the French border from Dunquerke. So we can catch these pretty places next year quite easily.
Next posting from Catharina!