Haarlem & Amsterdam

Cruising due north we stopped for a day of R & R, or so I thought, at the local WV marina in Lisse. Austin had other ideas. He decided to dig out the rubber tender which had been under the bow bed together with all it’s parts ever since we bought our boat more than 6 years ago.

The floor boards presented a bit of an IKEA puzzle, but soon the boat was pumped up, the motor tested and it was ready to go. One of the friendly club members in the marina took Austin to the local service station to fetch petrol adding his own 2 stroke oil into the mix and off Austin went, tearing up and down the harbour.

Pleased with our Zodiac dangling from the davits, we cruised on to Haarlem the next morning. As we crossed some beautiful water basins, the number of sail boats was incrementally increasing and finally we sailed through the many lift bridges of Haarlem in convoy with 8 sailing yachts. 

It was love at first sight with this beautiful city and we were glad to have taken our boat friend's advise to make this our next stop. The old houses with their sunken unevenness and step gables, the renaissance buildings with decorative stucco and the picturesque draw bridges were reminding us of Amsterdam, just a smaller version and minus the crowds.

We found a good mooring past the local windmill. A short cycle took us to the centre and the Grote Markt (the big market) where as usual we collected information from the VVV (tourist office). 

I have to say, that foremost on our minds was to find an Irish pub to watch the Semi Final of the World Cup, England versus Croatia. Sorry to our English friends and a couple of football savvy C-sisters that England had to bow out. But you were probably caught up in the hype of “Allez les Bleus!!” and horns blazing all night down in France on Sunday!

The semi final done and dusted we could concentrate on checking out Haarlem.

Almshouses take a special place in this city. They were built in 17th and 18th centuries by wealthy citizens as accommodation for elderly, single women. Later on the church and council provided further almshouses for the needy. These small communities of row houses have hidden entrances to lovely green courtyards. We stumbled onto some rare almshouses for older men opposite the “Frans Hals” Museum.

Not many people may know the name Frans Hals, but most have seen one or the other of his paintings. Frans Hals was a portrait painter who painted the wealthy on commission. In order to feed his 11 children and his drinking habit he also sold some of his work on markets. The Gipsy Girl and Laughing Cavalier are two of his most noted paintings. 

Many streets head back to the Big Market and the impressive St. Bavo’s Church. On entering the church one is immediately struck by the beauty and size of the Christian Müller organ. It consists of 5068 pipes, the largest standing 30 metres high. We were lucky to hear the resident organist play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor while we were there. The sound of the instrument, which by the way had been played by Mozart at the age of 10, was amazing!

Another sunny weekend was ahead and our friend, Eva, was arriving by train in Amsterdam. As we hadn’t made it by boat to Amsterdam yet, we took the train to re-unite with the Freshwater’s very first crew member.

Back on deck in Haarlem Austin mixed some Aperol Spritz’s, his new favourite drink, and we celebrated our reunion. We spent the evening talking, laughing and crying and had a few red wines too, then taking two days to slowly sail around the South to Amsterdam. Stopping a few kms out off Amsterdam for the night, Austin talked me into having a first go in the rubber duckie while Eva decided to stay on board the Freshwater and record ‘wife drowning’ for posterity. 

We arrived at Sixhaven Marina which lays opposite Amsterdam Central Station just after 12 noon the next day and were guided by the harbour master to a narrow mooring between two yachts, squashing our fenders to bursting point with hardly a millimetre to spare! How great our mooring was, we only realised as we relaxed on deck watching boat after boat coming in and being allotted places which hardly left any water surface of the harbour free. Even more exciting was to watch the re-shuffling of boats in the morning. As some left, others who had been triple moored filled the vacancies while as soon as the clock struck 12 more and more yachts and cruisers started to arrive. 12 noon is check-out time here at Sixhaven, so if you want a reasonable place for your boat it is best to arrive as close after 12 pm as you can. Sitting in the warm sun we could have watched the to-ing and fro-ing all day, but felt obligated to take at least a stroll through the old town of Amsterdam.

Our walk along the Grachten, pubs and certain coffee shops was interrupted by taking turns to poke our heads through pub doors to check on the latest World Cup Final score. We finally settled on an outdoor table right next to the water for a Thai dinner.

Unfortunately Eva had to leave halfway through the next day which only left time for a 1 hour Boat Cruise and a quick coffee at the railway station. After saying a sad goodbye, Austin dragged me to the Heineken Museum to drown our sorrows. That didn’t do a thing for us as the whole "Heineken Experience" seemed aimed at 18 to 25 year olds!

We spent another day at Sixhaven with the pleasurable job of cleaning out our bathroom drains and waiting for a marine electrician to check on our faulty GPS wiring. Maaike and Harrie from Groningen, the nice people moored next to us, gave us some good tips and their contact should we have more questions on our way north. Richard, the electrician, came and promised to return tomorrow morning and rewire our GPS. Provided all goes well, we should be able to find our way out of Amsterdam harbour and towards the Vecht River. Watch this spot.

Who is towing who???

Two ways to save diesel and have fun!

© Austin Robinson 2019