Geting a move on
Circumstances had kept us in Northern Holland, and memorable and enjoyable as these days had been, we were very conscious of the time. Now seven weeks into our 13-week cruise; with a plane flight booked in six weeks; our navigation program stating that our planned route would take nearly four weeks – things were getting tight. We were very keen to get well into Belgium, closer to our winter port, quickly, and then loiter a bit as the time to leave got closer.
First, the plans changed again, and we decided not to take a long inland loop through the south of the Netherlands, but instead take the western route direct to Antwerp, then up the Scheldt to Ghent. At that point, we would only be a few days cruising away from Veurne. These changes slashed over a week off our previous plan.
The unfortunate consequence of this was that we would not have the time to stop at some places we really wanted to explore such as Haarlem, Rotterdam, Katwijk; to have to rush through others; and not spend time in the quiet, wilderness of the Biesbosch.
Regretfully we left Alkmaar, with the beer museum and other attractions unseen. Very keen to return sometime. We headed down towards Amsterdam, on the day which was ‘sail-out’.
We passed through Haarlem, sadly unwilling to stop and as the afternoon progressed found an easy, if unattractive mooring next to a block of flats in the town of Lisse, which technically was not for overnight stays, but these things are rarely policed. Strong winds were predicted for the following day and we wanted to tie up safely and wait it out if we needed to.
We were up early the next day so we could get to Leiden, our next destination early enough to fit in some sightseeing. Trouble was that when we arrived, the moorings were full. We waited for a boat to leave, but the gap left was very tight. We pulled up, and those moored offered to help us squeeze in. After some cautious manoeuvring and some panicked waving from the boat on our bow, whose rudder we came very close to hitting, but with a little luck plus our increasing skill, we tied up snugly.
We cycled off then into Leiden, and the intention was to see Leiden Natural History Museum. Sadly, it was closed for renovations. But the bike ride presented the opportunity to see some of the poems that are written on the houses in Leiden. Since 1992 over 100 poems in over 30 languages have been rendered on the walls around the town.
We spent a little time in a church, of course, and then we did what all experienced frustrated tourists do, when the museum of their choice is not available, we found ourselves somewhere to eat and drink; in the sun; next to the canal in the centre of town; and enjoyed ourselves with conversation and the activities around us. A very pleasant afternoon.
Another town we did not have time to visit was the nearby sea port of Katwijk – which I’m sure you’ll recognise is the town that originally developed the Katwijker style of barge, of which Catharina Elisabeth is an example. Also, unfortunately, I was back inside the salon of Catharina when two beautifully restored Katwijkers cruised past – too quickly for me to get up on deck with my camera. Wheelhouse down, with just the horizontal ship’s wheel, they showed off their low, sleek and gracile lines. Nice to see – they looked and pointed towards Catharina as they passed, recognising a cousin.
We stayed in Leiden that night before heading off for the next stage.
Back Tracking to Gouda
We intended to head further south along some quiet, scenic canals and then cut across to Gouda, passing through Alphen an den Rijn, but several weeks earlier a crane had collapsed across the canal, and the damage was not yet repaired. So we retraced our route north for a short distance and passed through a combination of scenic lakes and lovely quiet canals as well as a length of not so exciting very commercial canal.
Late in the afternoon, we moored in the famous cheese town of Gouda (the ‘G’ is not pronounced, and it is said more like ‘Houda’) where we planned to stay a couple of days and use it as a base while we visited some nearby attractions. Mooring was very cheap, even with power and water, and the train was only a short walk away, so it was more than convenient as a base.