Travelling the Oudegracht Canal in the tender

From the tranquillity of the Vecht and another Slot (castle), there’s-lots of slots (sorry!), we squeezed into a narrow flood gate and ejected with high speed onto the busy Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, before one of the commercial barges could collect us. Rocking on 1 metre waves created by passing traffic we headed towards Utrecht. We had chosen to enter from the South as the medieval centre of town is full of very low bridges  inaccessible to the Freshwater. However the last bridge coming from the South still required us to take our roof and windows down before entering the harbour. We stopped at a long pontoon to prepare for this bridge, when we heard that due to the persistent dry, hot weather big tree branches had broken off at the harbour making mooring there too dangerous. There for everyone was now permitted to stay at these much nicer commercial pontoons for as many days as one liked and free of charge.

We didn’t need to be told this twice, as taking the roof and windows down is not an easy task and here we were right next to the old town.

Old Utrecht was a former fortress and religious capital. It even has a pope house built for the only ever Dutch pope, Pope Adrian IV. 

Today the busy university city is full of young people. They gather on these hot nights in front of the cellar- like storehouses and work shops of the Oudegracht. Many of these cellars are now beeing used as restaurants, student flats and art galleries. At sundown the gracht fills with paddle boats and tenders. 

The Dutch do so many things right. They not only cycle everywhere, but also use non smoke or noise creating electric boats in the city! Fortunately Austin and I together with other boat owners taking their fuel charged tenders or boats for a ride are also tolerated in the Oudegracht. 


Orientation in town is easy as in its midst stands the solitary tall bell tower of the Dome. Due to the heat we didn’t have the energy to climb the 465 steps but chose to stay on even ground and visit the Speelklok Museum. An amazing collection of self-playing musical instruments awaited us there. From a 15th century turret clock with carillon of bells and hammers to dance organs, right to the most recent invention of music playing robots it was a world full of wonder. We learned how “organ books” -mere strips of cardboard- were programmed, so diverse songs and instruments could be played by one organ. We even saw and heard the 1910 world exhibition entry of a violin playing “Violina”.

Still happily laying on the long stable pontoon we were joined by some very nice people on a  Linssen boat, Clare and Jeremy from the UK, who happened to have their Aussie friends Sue and Peter from Melbourne on board. We spent a lovely evening on their deck, probably out- staying our welcome!

Just in front of our mooring, steps go up to the old bridge keepers house. In passing we noticed that it is now a barber shop full of old barber paraphernalia and turn of century photos of men with strange hairdos, beards and moustaches.

Austin would have liked to have his hair cut there, but unfortunately it was fully booked out.

Music playing robots from the 1930’s

© Austin Robinson 2019