Middenmeer to Akersloot
No, we are not going to post for each day of our cruise, but this was a special one – our first day of independent cruising. We started from our mooring in Middenmeer. We left at about 9:30 am, bidding a fond farewell to Paul and Marianne, who have been very patient, and incredibly helpful. It would have been impossible to get started for weeks without them, and it was very good of them to delay their trip down to Portugal to wait for us. Great examples of Dutch hospitality.
Our initial cruise was along a nice straight, wide canal – “this is pretty easy,” we quipped. At its end, about an hour in, we came to our very first lock. One of the relatively few ‘real’ locks in the Netherlands in that it was the second deepest in the country at 4.9 m rise. We had been given some indication that we would have to wrap our ropes around something in order to hold Neo Vita as she rose in the lock. One of those bits of information that wasn’t transmitted all that clearly given Paul’s precarious grip on English.
First, we looped our ropes around the hanging ropes on the lock wall, but these were just to keep the hulls of the boats away from the walls. Then we saw the vertical steel poles embedded in the walls, clearly, these would allow us to put our ropes around them and would allow to slide upwards as we rose. Still, we hadn’t had any training in how these were to be used. Ian thought it was best to loop the rope around the rising tube onto the bollard closer to the bow and hold run the rope back onto the bollard behind. So we had two lengths of ropes around the back of the tube. As we rose all went well until we came close the top. Then the two ropes crossed and bound together. Unable to slide and allow Neo Vita to rise, we were snagged and the water went up, while she stayed fixed to the wall.
Fortunately, we were almost at the top, so we ended up at a gentle tilt, not dangerous. However, the ropes were tightly snagged. A chap came over from a cruiser that was sharing the lock and confirmed the only solution was to cut the rope. We knew about rope snags, they occasionally happen, more often going down in a lock – happening when going up is uncommon. Still, we knew to have a knife on hand – so our first lock ended in us cutting our rope. So embarrassing.
We had a spare rope, so off we went down a relatively narrow canal with low, fixed bridges. Still, that went smoothly. Then we came to our next lock. This one was more typical of Dutch locks and the change in level was only about 15 cm. Still, Ian came in a bit fast and we banged about a bit. Ian cheerily informed the lock keeper that “we are new to this,” and he readily agreed! Another onlooker piped up and asked if this was Paul and Marianne’s boat. We said it was, but we were the new owners, desperately hoping that he wouldn’t report back to them how we were treating Neo Vita.
We made it through another lock without much of a problem then through two movable bridges – one requiring phone contact, and at the other one, we used our embryonic VHF radio skills to make arrangements. We were far from perfect but learnt a tremendous amount during the day and merely o the challenges did heaps for our confidence.
At times we were not certain whether we were in Holland or in Australia. We passed two lovely Dutch windmills; one, dating from 1868 had a Hills Hoist in the garden beside it; another, equally dated and picturesque, had a couple of emus in its yard! There were constructions made of Lego (TM), so perhaps we were in Denmark.
When to stop?
We left our decision to moor a bit long, and couldn’t stop as early as we wanted to, as all the moorings we passed were full. So it wasn’t until after 4 pm, at Akersloot, that we finally found a quiet ‘wild’ mooring, at which, tired, but elated, we drew into and moored quite nicely. Seven hours, and just over 31 km – believe it or not, a reasonably long cruise. We’ll sleep well, but contentedly, tonight.