|'Enterprise' Classic Yacht|
tHE cRUISING lIFE
The full route can be seen by following this link to Google Earth, enterprise_cruise_2004_-_1.kmz make sure that you have the ‘temporary places’ box ticked when it is open. Clicking on the yellow push pins will open log entries. However, if you do not wish to do that here is the picture.
We found Enterprise on the internet in 2003, went to see her later that year, burned our bridges and went to take up residence aboard in 2004. This is the story of our first trip, learning as we went around the waterways of North Holland ( see Enterprise's Story). Many pictures are links.
When we arrived to move on board, just one Dutch winter had blown the cover partly off and covered everything with green slime. If we had not burned our bridges we may have given up right there. But having no choice, we worked like dogs for the next 2 months, living aboard in difficult conditions such as when the engine sat in the middle of the cabin floor while a moonlighting Volvo mechanic stripped it down and rebuilt it over the course of a week. However, all this history is the subject of another blog (that is yet to be written).
By 24 May 2004 we were ready to cast off; it felt more like a sky diver's first jump for we were launching into the most difficult stretch of waterway in the Netherlands in a boat that we had never driven before. The Spaarne River has been canalised and flows through the centre of the picturesque city of Haarlem, therefore it is twisting, with 10 opening bridges squeezed into a short distance and was busy with commercial barges at that time
It could be an hour or 5 minutes. It is no good calling up on VHF as pleasure boats rarely get a reply. So we approached our first bridge and hovered and circled as the current and wind forced us into the bank. Then a commercial barge came up and 5 minutes later the bridge went up and we followed it through. Similarly for the next bridge but then came the start of the twisting narrow bit.
This jewel of a city, situated just 20km west of Amsterdam, has always been overshadowed by its big neighbour since 1245. Even when the Dutch founded Nieuw Amsterdam (New York) they created Haarlem (Harlem) as a suburb! Nowadays, with Amsterdam being afflicted by 'over tourism', this has turned out to be a blessing as tourists in the know stay here and commute to Amsterdam. Then they are seduced by the charm of Haarlem and don't bother with Amsterdam.
We stuck close to the big commercial barge 'Equivalent' and passed through the next three bridges without incident but the sting was in the tail because the next one was a railway bridge closely paired with a main road bridge with only space between them for one commercial barge to wait. Now railway bridges only open infrequently according to the train schedule. So 'Equivalent' waited and we hovered, finally it backed up and moored to piles but there was no where for us to moor which meant that we circled around in front of the picturesque windmill, Molen de Adriaan, going aground several times.
Eventually, over two hours after arriving we got through but we were always nervous about going through Haarlem after that. One last bridge had to be passed (another has since been built) before reaching our destination for the night and this was where one paid the tolls for all the preceding bridges. As we approached, the bridge keeper let down a wooden shoe on a fishing line, we put our fee in and sailed on through. Unfortunately, this colourful practice has since been discontinued.
The waterways of the Netherlands are complicated with their network of canals (some little more than drainage ditches and some capable of handling ocean liners) and multiple water levels connected by locks. A little history lesson is necessary to understand this cruise in North Holland.
When the Romans arrived this land was lakes and peat bogs protected from the North Sea by a band of sandy dunes. A branch of the Rhine River fed the water into a large lake called Lacus Flevo which in turned drained into the North Sea by the River IJ at IJmuiden (IJ Mouth). Other rivers flowed into it, notably the Amstel and the Spaarne.
By 850 AD the sandbars to the North were starting to erode letting in the North Sea tides and storm surges causing catastrophic floods in 838 AD. The people scrambled to build dikes and dams to protect themselves. One was a dam across the River Amstel and after that the place was called Amsterdam. A side effect of the breach in the sand dunes was that sea going vessels could now reach Amsterdam and its prosperity increased.
With rising sea levels in the Middle Ages the sandbars were further swept away and the lake became an arm of the North Sea called the Zuider Zee. Now North Holland was totally exposed to the North Sea storms. Catastrophic storms in 1404, 1412, 1530, 1570 and 1717 drowned over 10,000 people, swept away villages and permanently drowned coastal towns. After each storm the dikes were rebuilt higher, only to be breached in the next storm.
So it was diked, starting in 1840, and finally drained by 1852. Today it is Schiphol (Ship Hole) Airport which is 4 m below sea level.
Digging began in 1865 to connect Amsterdam to the North Sea by way of the IJ Bay and cutting through the dunes at the old location of IJmuiden. Dikes were buit on either side and the land outside reclaimed. Today there is no trace of the old IJ Bay, just a massive canal capable of taking cruise vessels right up to Amsterdam. This involved large locks at either end and locks on either side to manage water levels since Amsterdam is 2m below sea level.
Finally, in 1916 a huge tidal surge caused widespread flooding prompting the Government to activate an old scheme of closing the Zuider Zee with a dam, a massive undertaking involving a dam 32 km long with huge sluices and locks. Work began in 1920 and was completed in 1932. Gradually the impounded water became fresh. Another catastrophic flood occurred in 1953 but thanks to the enclosing of the Zuider Zee the worst damage was caused in the southern part of the country, prompting another huge engineering project called the Delta Works. There were plans to completely drain what was now called the IJsselmeer and to this end a second dike was constructed accross the middle and completed in 1976. The southern part was then called the Markermeer. The water of North Holland was now totally engineered into one vast hydraulic system.
The next day saw us tackling our first lock in Enterprise in order to drop down from the river Spaarne to the North Sea Canal on our way to Amsterdam. Like most things it sounds simple but is not. The object is to bring the ship to a halt precisely where you want it against the lock wall and get lines around the bollards to secures it. However, stopping a ship is not like a car for there are no brakes, only reverse gear. So bringing our 7.5 tonnes of ship to a stop a few feet from the ship in front was a challenge. Too much reverse and the bow kicked out from the wall out of reach of the bollard. Before you know where you are you can be crosswise in the lock, viewed with alarm and derision by everyone. When you are descending it is easier because the water is at the top of the top of the lock and the bollards easily reached without the need to lassoo them long distance. We managed our first lock without embarrassment, even though there were two commercial barges and 4 yachts packed in; embarrassment was for later!
Sailing down the North Sea canal was our first experience of meeting really big nieghbours close up. Later experiences were even closer but at this stage we were still intimidated.
One meets all sorts of interesting vessels on the Dutch waterways and this trip was no exception.
The approach to Amsterdam is disappointing for none of the pictuesque buildings can be seen. This is because the land in front of the old waterfront was reclaimed and a massive railway station built together with a traffic circulation area. That was obviously a time before tourism considerations. We had been told that the best Marina to go to was Sixhaven, right accross from the station and next to a free ferry. Well when we arrived it looked like everyone else had had the same idea! We were like sardines in a can, rafted eight deep.
What more can be said about Amsterdam that has not been said many times before. Suffice it to say we stayed 6 nights here. We finally got out of there after much juggling of yachts like a chess game and headed for Oranjesluizen to lock up into the Markermeer. This is the lock at the eastern end of the North Sea Canal and where we made a complete mess of it and were greatly embarrassed.
When the Zuider Zee was dammed up it was the begining of the end for the maritime history of ports like Hoorn and Enkhuizen that grew from fishing villages in the 700's to international maritime hubs in the Dutch Golden Age (around 1600 - 1700) only to decline back to fishing ports when their harbours silted up. However, what glorious cities remained! We first called at Hoorn, (after which Cape Horn was named by Willem Schouten in 1616), which was the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company with exclusive rights to the spice trade for a while. A native son of Hoorn founded the modern city of Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1619.
Then we locked through the Markerwaarddijk from the Markermeer to the IJsselmeer to visit Enkhuizen. This town mirrors Hoorn and has an almost identical history. The harbour is dominated by the town gate, The Drommedaris just like Hoorns' tower. However, this town hosts the Museum of the Zuiderzee which we found fascinating with its reconstructed village created from buildings and artifacts brought from all around the area.
From Enkhuizen we crossed the IJsselmeer to Stavoren in Friesland to be greeted by the Lady of Stavoren. The North side of the IJsselmeer is very different country, low pasture land that has been frequently flooded over the years which has however produced ideal agricultural conditions. This is much less populated country and may have more Friesian cows than people! We would return to Stavoren in a later cruise as it is on the 'Mast Up' route through the Netherlands. Next day we sailed for the 'Isle' of Urk and discovered a nasty little secret of the IJsselmeer. Because the water is fresh and when there is no wind and the temperature is just right you can have a sudden bloom of billions of tiny black flies. After leaving Stavoren that is what we experienced; they stuck to everything for they seemed to die where they landed, The sails were black, the decks were black and our clothes were black with flies. In a couple of hours the plague had passed but we spent most of our time in Urk washing down the sails ,decks and ourselves.
For a thousand years Urk was an island but in 1940 with the completion of the Noordoostpolder it joined the mainland. The inhabitants still think of themselves as 'islanders' and maintain their distinct cultural history.
The reclamation of the Zuider Zee was interupted by the Second World War but afterwards work continued on the East and South polders and was completed in 1957 and 1958. The three polders then became the new Dutch province of Flevoland. Our next destination was Lelystad the new capital of this province. As a young man in in 1951 I can remember taking a ferry from Kampen to Hoorn sailing over all this land; strange, it makes me feel ancient.
Approaching Lelystad we saw a full size replica of the 'Batavia', Abel Tasman's ship. This Dutch navigator discovered New Zealand, Tasmania and circumnavigated Australia 100 years before Captain Cook.
By this time we felt that we had tested Enterprise enough and learned to handle her. There was some concern about the reverse gear for it seemed to be slow to engage and that was our brake. So we decided to return to the boatyard in Haarlem where we could have it looked at and anyway we had committed to crew for a friend on a cruise fom the UK to Southern Eire in a few days time. We had learned a lot and all went smoothly until we reached the Catharijnebrug in Haarlem.
As had happened to us before, we tried to follow a loaded barge through but the light turned red and the bridge started to close but this time when we tried to engage reverse nothing happened! It looked like we were going to crash into this listed national monument. We tried to do a Uturn in the narrow space but hit a pile with a heavy, glancing blow and managed to stop at a second pile. What could have been a disaster ended up with paint damage and a lost boat hook. The most damage was to the confidence of the crew which had just recovered from the fiasco in the Oranjesluizen.
Finally tied up at the boatyard we breathed out, made supper and started packing for the next day's departure to the UK. Then a piercing alarm went off. We had no idea what it was because we did not know that we had such an alarm. Frantic searching revealed that the ship was sinking with water nearly up ro the floorboards. Hand cranking the bilge pump could lower it but within an hour it was back again. With the energy of desperation we ran around and arranged for her to be lifted out of the water in the evening. It turned out that the stern gland rubber gasket that prevents water coming in through the propeller shaft bearing had failed. A major repair job involving removal of the engine and prop shaft but that will be the subject of another blog. So ended our first cruise in Enterprise.
For other Cruising blogs see the Archive links in the sidebar at the top of this page.
Other blogs of interest are The Retirement Dream and How to Live Your Dream
June and I (David Phillips) have sailed the European and UK coasts for 30 years, the last 14 in Enterprise. It has been a continual exploration , inspiration and growth of experience. We would not have missed a minute of it.
It is a symbiotic relationship, you look after her and she looks after you and takes you into a fascinating world that is otherwise inaccessible. Ill health finally forced us to sell her.
On 2 September 2017 she was sold. We hope that she will bring the same life changing experiences to the new owners as she brought to us.