2014 Barging Netherlands

Welcome to the Netherlands!

This post takes us from Amersfoort to Geithoorn (9/9 – 15/9/2014)

Amersfoort to Geithoorn

Amersfoort to Elburg

Other than gaining experience, and heading towards our eventual destination of Groningen, this phase of cruising was intended to deliver us at a chandlery where we could buy a couple of items. There was a chance to find one at a place called Hardewijk, and a better chance at Elberg.

The cruise was uneventful, if quite long, spoilt only a little by a very hard landing as Ian hit a mooring post on the quay at Hardewijk – which made a distinct cracking sound. The kids that were adjacent welcomed us “to the Netherlands” and we had a chat about novice bargees and Australia.

Construction appeared to have obliterated the chandlery, so we left the next day for Elburg: it was now Wednesday. Again, an uneventful cruise, congratulating ourselves (prematurely), on how easy it was to handle the relatively open water of the Randenmeer. We hove into the moorings and made a nice landing!

Turns out we had arrived just at the right time. There was to be a three day festival of boats, music, dancing, markets, open houses from Thursday to Saturday. Lisette will cover the fun in a separate posting.

What it also meant to us was that the port was going to get busy, with expensive craft. We had moored facing into the port, but when we wanted to leave, we (novices) might have to turn around in a tight spot with lots of expensive craft around. Not a pleasant thought.

We thought the prudent course would be to pivot 180°, face the way we wanted to leave, while the harbour was not too busy. But by the time we arrived back a Neo Vita we were “boxed in”. The turn would now have the additional challenge of a tight mooring. Still, we decided to have a go. Explaining the situation (including our level of experience) to our neighbours, we set off cautiously.

Neo Vita in Elburg

The result was very pleasing (the photo is a day later when our rear neighbours had moved), with only a little help with ropes from the shore, we snugged back in again. The neighbours were congratulatory, or perhaps just relieved, and we were content that whatever happened with crowding in the next few days, we would have an easy exit. Thus relaxed, we set about three solid days of R & R.

Third time (UN)lucky

Whilst we took in the easy life, we did a little bit of route planning on our navigation software, PC Navigo. It’s quite sophisticated and well regarded in barging community. We are still gaining experience with using this tool (as with everything else).

Deciding that we had time to spare, we thought to head into South Friesland, to get a foretaste of next year.

We set off in our well-planned direction, the only hitch was that we forgot to unhook shore power. This was picked up in time, and a helpful landlubber passed it to us. Have to update that checklist …

All went well until we noticed that our plotted route was going to take us through towns, out of our way, and delay us. So we did a quick bit of recalculating and the software came up with a route, that, while outside of the ship canal that was adjacent to the open water, would get us along the route close to what we had expected.

This was the route we took – the GPS track.


At (1) we grounded. The depth gauge had been showing that it was shallow, and we had slowed sufficiently that reversing off worked. So we headed towards the stretch of water just outside the ship canal. You can see the dyke wall and the canal at the top. Of course, we could not enter.

Depth was shallow, but acceptable until we grounded again at (2). This was much more solid and took about ten minutes of reversing and “wobbling” the bow with the bow thrusters before we came off. Just as we came free, the bow thruster batteries gave up.

Third time lucky, we (well let’s be fair, Ian was at the helm, so his decision) decided to travel the middle ground. At (3) we grounded again. Stuck, and unable to pivot, we were set for a mid-water picnic.

Lonely picnic

Anyhow, our VHF training came to the fore; we made contact with the nearby bridge; then with the rescue centre who took all our details; they then dispatched a “saving boot”; and in under 30 min from making first contact, help sped into view.

Help on the way

As they drew up, once again we heard the cheery phrase “Welcome to the Netherlands!” Same as from the chap who cut us free from our first lock; same as the discussion with a local about nearly losing the wheelhouse; same as from the kid on the quay we hit; I’m not sure, but perhaps it might even have been one of the gestures that the barge skipper used as we hit his barge in Amsterdam.

“Welcome to the Netherlands!” is how these lovely people put us at ease after we have stuffed up and inconvenienced them. They then go about sorting us out.

The rest was quite simple. Jon stepped on board, assesses the situation, and a rope from one boat was attached to the bow, and we were easily pulled off. He asked if we were insured (we are) and proceeded to start taking photos. “Is that for the insurance claim?” we asked. “No, that’s for our album. We keep a collection.” So we felt it was OK to take snaps ourselves. Like the SES at home, these guys (and gals I’m sure) are volunteers. This was a simple Sunday outing for them.

Pulled Off

They towed us to the bridge, and left us in clear water, with a cheery wave and a pamphlet from one of the other rescuers, “In case you get in problems again.” He might be a busy man!

We’d lost some time but found a quiet wild mooring near Blokzil, at which we had some more practice in tight mooring, and had a successful end to a challenging day. Helm and Crew had a beer in good spirits, one more notch in the belt!

Misty Mooring

Next day, we ambled off to our next destination, Geithoorn, “The Venice of the Netherlands” for a short stay.

A quiet village at the moment, as it is September and during the week – so we don’t have the usual crowds to deal with. It will be the eventual subject of a “tourist” posting.

So a couple of locks, several bridges, four moorings, three groundings and 132 km since the last posting, we are that bit more experienced, and really beginning to have lots of fun!

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    10 Responses

  1. Wow you guys are certainly getting a few notches in your belts ! Keep up the posts , I wait with baited breath on the next installments..


    1. Hi Peter, should be quieter for a few days. We’re now on a smallish, sedate, relatively rural canal (Meppel to Groningen) Just 6 kph, bridges and the occasional 2 m rise sluis – into which only we can fit at one time. Quite pretty, and nice to have the DAF just ticking over. Almost routine!

    1. Thanks Rob, we have commented once or twice on the fact that while we are dwarfed by some of the big barges, it is nothing like the disparity between your little yacht and the container ships in Port Phillip Bay – and you didn’t seem intimidated!

  2. Hi, seems your getting your money’s worth! I suppose you set the right dimensions for Neo Vita in Navigo? As to the big lakes, always bear in mind that the wind can sweep the water considerably,
    either up or down for as much as 10-20 centimetres. Navigo calculates your passage based on averages. Anyway, you’ll be experienced sailors within one season’s barging. Keep it up!! Michel

    1. Yes Michel we have the correct dimensions, and we understand that PC Navigo is not mm accurate. and now we better understand the limits. In fact Jon the rescuer, told us there was a narrow channel, but not recommended, because of course there is the canal next to it. The main learning is simply to thoroughly review the route, and any route changes, before putting the engine in gear!

  3. Wow, what adventures you guys are having. It beats sitting in an office. Well done in getting out of all those challenges.

    1. Amen Silvia! Mr Anderson would be disappointed, but I just can’t quite remember the term for the function that rises steeply from the origin, flattens and eventually slowly approaches, but never reaches an asymptote (but perhaps he’d give me 50% for the description). We feel we are well along the steep bit, and flattening off – but not at all complacent.

      Are you in Austria now – or back in Aussie? I think we only have a week to go. 8-(

  4. This post is great. We arrived in Dwarsgracht, 8 km on a bike from Blojzijl, a few days ago. Been in Holland for 4 days, seen 6 boats and are pursuing one. This will be us in a few weeks, hopefully

    1. Great news Anne – how exciting! Do let us know how you get on either directly or through your blog.

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