We were in Peace Corps Panama 2009-10. We worked with coffee producers. Some were using organic methods, switching after deeming chemicals too toxic for workers and the environment. One, Lito Lezcano, developed organic products to fertilize and fumigate the plants, which were shade grown under platanos and other trees. One of the things we did was search for a better outlet for Lito’s product and anyone else who cared to participate. Peggy was talking to another volunteer one day, mentioned this effort and he and his wife in fact were planning to import Panamanian coffee into their Vermont store. In fact they did and we bought some once when we passed by, and we stayed in their house a few nights while they were gone.
Lately Lito began selling directly to the public. His product is called Cafe Don Lito, and is some of the finest I have ever had, and that’s going some, as I have lived in Italy, Spain, France and other European countries I consider to have the finest products.
Photo of their ad shot, my comments on Instagram and their reply in English.
In 2000 we came to Dokkum, a small town in Friesland, the northeast section of the Nederlands. It has two thatched roof windmills whose sails are lit at night with a subtle purple light.
On the way to Dokkum we stopped in a tiny town called Wijns (wines). There are 258 residents as of the last official count. Many were in the small park next to the restaurant, which was booked for lunch and had no reservation space for dinner, although we got in as it turns out there is a section reserved for those without reservations – who would have thunk it? Children frolicked in the canal. Women changed clothes behind trees and sun bathed topless. Boats loped past. Sheep plead for dinner, not to be it.
To the southeast there is a route back to Leeuwarden, rather than the route we took to get here. There are 7 or 8 bridges that are barely high enough to pass under. We have to come to a complete stop and kneel on the deck as we pass under the bridge. Many of the bridges are lined with kids who dive or jump into the water on this hot day. At one bridge two older teens climbed onto our swim platform, talking to us as we proceeded. It was getting too far for a swim back to the bridge when they saw people coming towards us on a small boat. They asked for a ride back and were welcomed aboard. They swam over to the craft.
We came to a mooring that promised shade for the remainder of the day. We had just this boat with two people and a gaggle of noisy Canadian geese for neighbors. Wine and cheese on the deck!
After a night in Lemmer, on the Ijsselmeer side of the lock, we ventured forth onto the Ijsselmeer with Force 2-3 winds predicted. It all went well enough in the protected area, with just a slight chop as you would expect from that level of wind. Once we left the protected area waves began to build and soon we were in 1/2 meter (about 18″) waves. This is not enough to cause discomfort in our boat. However after about 30 minutes we were in 1 1/2 meter waves and Force 4 winds. Our progress slowed dramatically, the bow forced well up to get over the waves, air making the ride very uncomfortable. We discussed turning around for a few minutes when a bit of flat water appeared so I opened the throttle fully and made the turn as quickly as possible hoping to avoid some severe rocking. Suddenly it seemed as if the water was flatter and we rode comfortably back to Lemmer.
My concern was only our discomfort but also that the pounding we were getting would stir up dirt in the bottom of the fuel tanks and clog the fuel filter. Changing filters, especially for the first time for me on this boat, would not have been fun. I changed the filters about a week later and I am extra glad that I did as it took a few times to get all the air out of the system so the engine would start. Diesels will not run if there is any air in the fuel as the injectors will not pop the fuel into the cylinders. It took about 10 minutes of trying to get the motor going, and this was while in a quiet mooring. In a rough sea with sea sickness a real possibility, it would have been much longer.
We paid another 5 Euros to pass through Lemmer’s narrow canal running through the center then headed for an island near Woudsend. We met friends at a good free mooring at which to wait out the wind. After a day or two we went to a mooring on the lake. We fought the wind to moor and just stayed a night. There is a better mooring close to Joure, so we moved there the next day. Joure is the home of Douwe Egbert, founded in Joure in 1753 as a general store by Egbert Douwe and Akke Thijssesa, later moving into coffee, tea and tobacco. Their son Douwe and his wife Ymke Jacobs took over. The company is still in the family. The aroma of coffee permeates the air in the area of the plant, sitting on the outskirts of town. The original shop is now part of the museum complex.
Joure’s central street is lovely, as you can see in the photo. While we were there one of the bars had live rock and roll music – the lively group played Jail House Rock while we were there – with a enthusiastic crowd spilling onto the sidewalk in the sun.
The next day we moved to Sneek, mooring in front of the Waterpoort, the fabulous gorgeous gate facing the canal.
Dating from the 10th century, Sneek (pronounced ‘snake’) was built on a sandy peninsula at a waterway called the Magna Fossa, built when the now extinct Middelzee became silted. There was a dike at the juncture, reflected in the street layout and names such as “Hemdijk”, “Oude Dijk” and “Oosterdijk”. While we were there I was also allowed to visit the Gamma, so I could repair the mast clamp which was damaged by the pounding in the Ijsselmeer. The Gamma is a retailer of bolts, nuts, screws, tools, paint, wood, etc. I went by bike as its over a mile. It was a ride made longer by the wind and threats of rain.
Sneek seems to be a center of entrepreneurial activity. A major clother CandA was founded in the city in 1867. There is quite a bit of industry in the city to this day, including a candy factory, steel, rope and machinery production.
Giethoorn is a waterland fantasy, a tiny village founded by a flagellant sect from somewhere in the Mediterranean, per the wiki. I think they were Italians as I have read so somewhere a while back. Now it is a major tourist destination and often referred to as the Venice of the North, it is best seen from the punters, traditional flat bottom boats. it is the combination of thatched roofs, lush gardens, canals and the 150 foot bridges that makes the place so charming. There is a mere 2700 inhabitants so a walk, bike or boat tour does not take more than an hour and a half.
My paintings and drawings. Some are still available for sale.
Zwartesluis (Black lock) is a tiny village, so tiny that it’s main feature is the lock through which we passed. So where were all the cars, bikes and pedestrians passing by the boat going to? We got the bikes off the bow and followed the flow towards the bridge. There workers were collecting a paring fee from cars. I asked one where to go and the pointed over the bridge, telling us to look for the fairway, apparently referring to one of those small carnivals that visit country towns in the summer. There was always one in Pearl River, where I grew up and learned to dislike most of the rides.
Down the street about a mile we saw where most were turning left. We followed them into the crowd, where at yet another bridge over a canal, this a smaller one, there were vendors selling ice cream and fried fish (of course) and a large calliope belting out a polka. We followed the crowd along the canal to where the canal was lined with those awaiting the parade in front of thatched roof houses with beautiful flower gardens. I assumed it would be a parade of small motorized craft given the dimensions of the canal. I was wrong, as I learned as soon as the sun went down.
First came a floating band followed by someone in a boat making balloons for the kids. Then around the curve came this:
This all in the midst of a very friendly crowd with their children, dogs and bikes. We asked a man sitting on the grass in front of us about the parade. He said it was an annual affair. There are no sponsors indicated on any of the floats. Muck of the music on the floats was recorded, with some very amateurish dancing and acting to go along with it. But hey, they have never been to Broadway and this is a tiny tiny town, with more cows than people. Look at how elaborate these floats are! Bravo for them!
Here are the videos I took in the nearly dark skies. Video quality is limited.
Leaving Hoorn is an easy affair, passing by the wonderful old keep at the entrance to the old harbor. From there the crossing to Lelystad takes you across the Markermeer. We skipped the bird sanctuary just off the coast and then found the convoluted entrance to Lelystad. The bouys take you along the break water instead of directly to the entrance. Then there is a lock with a 5 meter (16′) drop to the polder, called Flevoland. The land that was recovered from the sea in the mid- 1960’s, thus all the towns are comparatively new and devoid of the traditional architecture that makes the country so interesting.
After the lock there is a bit of a ride to moorings outside town. We stayed a night at one but finding a poor internet signal we found another, and it turned out to be quite a lovely spot!
There is room for 4-5 boats, it is quiet and peaceful, and just a 5km ride to Lelystad, or you can take the bus whose stop is just 5 minutes by foot. There is a derelict boat, its windshield covered with paint, being the only blot on the scene. Someone is living on it, who is apparenty handicapped. A wheelchair sits on the dock. It came and went several times while we were there. We never saw the person, who must go to town to charge the chair as there is no electricity at this location. There were several friendly people on the other boats. Coming in, there was only room at the end of the dock, a difficult spot to secure. A woman came to us offering to move their boat, having just returned from their bike ride. They then helped us dock, as it was a tight fit.
We took the bus to the Batavialand Museum. It has several significant attractions. The Batavia is a replica of the flagship of the Dutch East India Company. The original was built in 1628. It carried a large cargo including spices from Indo-China, for which the people acquired a taste which remains to this day. Kip sate (chicken with a peanut sauce) is a popular offering. A rice tafel is an elaborate dining experience, with a wide variety of meats and veggies served on a lazy Susan.
Also in the museum is a huge tapestry, reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry. It is a history of the area, starting with prehistoric times. Link to video. It was done by a group of about 27 volunteers including artists, embroiderers and amateur historians.
Nearby there is an exhibit with an excellent English guide taking you through the exhibits of early settlements in the area, dating to 5000 BCE. They moved from place to place to find the high ground, often returning to the same locations once the waters receded.
Next we came to Dronten, a forgettable town with a pleasant harbor that is organized as an association, meaning in this case that everything is done by volunteers. One of them came from South Africa. He explained that there were conflicts between Africans and the white population, as well as between the Afrikaners who speak a form of Dutch and the English speaking population, of which he was a part. He was of Dutch heritage however. He also had huge properties in Mozambique. He lost them when the government forcibly removed control of land from foreigners.
Then came Zwolle, which we had visited in our boat Caprice in 2000. They were working on the harbor at the time. It is quite attractively done but from our point of view there are several shortcomings. The piers are short so when you dock you can easily come against the boats next to you. With the wind pushing us that is exactly what happened. However the people on the boat had anticipated the problem and were there to push us off and keep the bow from hitting the dock. Boaters always help one another like this. The second issue is the vertical ladder you need to get to the land. It is about 1.5 meters high. One slip and you could face a serious injury. Getting bikes up is quite a challenge. Fortunately our little bike is light so I was able to get it to the repair shop for a bit of wheel truing, although I had feared I would need a new wheel.
In the morning we went to the street market on Gasthausplein. Lots of vegetables and fruit, as well as the fish truck. A friendly shop owner repaired one of our phones. He spoke no English. We are finding more people here than elsewhere who speak little or no English.
After a quiet night we backed out, with the wind pushing us into the boat on the other side of us, then passed under the two bridges without much delay, unlike when we entered when we waited for 20 or more minutes with the wind pushing us about. We were heading to Giethoorn, the magical waterland, with a stop along the way near Zwartsluis, a tiny town on the canal the other side of a lock with barely room for two boats of our length. The friendly lock keeper told us of an event that evening and also of the predicted strong winds, which showed up the next morning.
There is a large mooring area just outside Zwartsluis, with perhaps 20 boats already moored but room for many more. After a while we noticed much increased activity on the road. Cars, bikes and pedestrians were going north towards the next bridge. I thought there was going to be a boat parade or something like that, but we were in quite the treat.
Hoorn (circa 1200) is another of Holland’s charming historical villages. It is on the Ijsselmeer south of Medemblik. On our boat it took about four hours. The sea was calm, fortunately, and the strong breeze kept us quite comfortable in another warm day of around 27c (80f). There were many people out sailing, mostly closer to shore that we were. In the photo below you see the ferry that goes between Medemblik and Enkhuizen.
The harbor in Hoorn is quite impressive, starting with the Hoofdtoren, a fortification dating from 1522, one of the last remaining. From here ships traveled around the world for the Dutch East- Indies Company VOC. There is a bronze sculpture of the characters of a popular 1924 novel about a 17th voyage to the East Indies.
We came to rest in the Binnenhaven, which we’d rejected at first as being fully occupied. However after calling the havenmeister (harbor master) we found that here you are expected to allow others to moor to your boat. He was there to meet us on his dinghy -I was expecting him to be in or near his office – which is equipped to help moor when necessary, and stayed with us as we docked just in case, as it was a close fit. We were moored with a youngish couple with two boys around 8 years old, very friendly and on the way to Lelystad in a few days, as were we, as well as a bird sanctuary just off the coast of that town. They have a 12 meter boat but only about 2 meters wide and close to the waterline, so they chose to move so they would be able to see out more readily.
Hoorn’s name may have come from Hornus, the stepson of King Radboud. However there are two other possibilities, one a sign depicting a post horn in an early 14th-century hanging in Roode Steen Square. A third claim is that the name comes the shape of an early port. Another is that the Hoorn derived from Damphoorn, a medieval name for a abundant local weed made into whistles. (see https://wikitravel.org/en/Hoorn).
There are several museums. We visited the Fries Museum, in the former (1632), the meeting place of the council of Westfriesland. There are a half dozen or so excellent group portraits in one of the rooms, and a significant number of portraits with out of proportion heads.
Between Hoorn and Medemblik you can travel by steam locomotive.
The volunteers have painstakingly restored the engine and cars. We enjoyed the company of a tall blond (there are many here) and her two girls, here depicted with the volunteer attendant in very well made traditional costume.
Next: dropping six meters from the Ijsselmeer into Flavoland.
Since Gouda we have been on the move, visiting interesting small towns. From Alphen on the Rhine we cruised to Oost-Graftdijk, which has a harbor whose entrance is barely wider than our boat. There was a friendly harbor master on duty that day. This marina is organized as a club so members have to contribute time. Managing the harbor is one of the things they do. He told us about boating in Germany. There is now a license requirement, so I will spend the next 10 days finding out how I can get the International Certificate of Competence, finally finding someone in Holland who can give me the practical test. Of this test the instructor said that if you have been boating for 10 years and have not divorced or be involved with lawyers then you will pass. It mainly consists of boat handling in tight quarters. I am good at that, the occasional scratch notwithstanding. The written test concerns the rules of the waterway, signs and signals, not too hard if you study enough.
Next was Haarlem again, there so our guest could tour the town and make it to Schipol Airport easily for his return flight.
Haarlem is home to the Franz Hals museum. Hals (1582 – 1666) was a Dutch Golden Age painter noted for his loose style, characterized by visible brush strokes, previously considered a fault. He painted in layers as was the common practice, although you might think he was more spontaneous given the visibility of his brush strokes. Mostly he painted portraits, and is best known for his group portrayals. When he began his career the market had disappeared for religious themes, deemed as being too Catholic, leaving portraiture as the major option for an artist wanting to make a living.
In the main plaza, aside from the church with its magnificent organ, there are the usual restaurants with outdoor seating, and a fish truck run by a friendly woman. The truck has been in the plaza for over 40 years. She took over from her father. There is herring, eaten raw after being freshly cleaned, as well as deep fried fish, smoked mackerel and Lekkerbeck, which is cod and served everywhere. Herring, she explained, is seldom served in restaurants, as it must be freshly cleaned. Other such trucks offer fries, which the Dutch do very well.
From Haarlem we went to to Pannekoek Eiland, Pancake Island, on a lake just outside Akersloot. The mooring is free with room perhaps for 6 boats. A walk around the island takes five minutes at the most. In front of us are two large boats and behind a nicely restored barge. It is a pretty spot. Unfortunately it was stormy the entire night. Conditions worsened around 0500 the next morning, forcing the boat against the dock thus squeezing the air out of two fenders. We were unable to sleep after that hour due to the howling wind and the motion of the boat.
We left for Alkmaar after the wind died down. This is a repeat visit to collect visitors. The following morning we took them through the lovely and winding canal to de Strook. This tiny village has some of the most beautiful gardens and charming houses we have encountered in our two journeys through the inland waterways of the country. Unfortunately I have no photos to share.
The next day we went north to Den Helder via the longer of the two routes, and more intersting. Once there, getting to the Jachthaven Willemsoord meant going through a lock connecting the fresh water canal with the salt water on the other side. This lead to difficulties in tying the boat within the lock as there is a strong current, which is not common in locks. When Peg tied to the middle cleat the stern popped way out towards the middle. I was unable to bring it back in. Next to us was a large barge, whose pilot and assistant were there to help. He told me about the current and said the way to get into that lock is to secure the stern first.
Den Helder has a naval museum that includes a Dutch submarine visit and a humorous sketch, that is judging by the audience reaction. It was entirely in Dutch so we only had hints of content from the context.
After our guests left I traced down a slow leak, which was coming from a fresh water pump (called an impeller) that sits on the engine. I have to get someone to replace the seal, as I am uncertain about how it is constructed. It is minor so no reason to delay our departure the next day.
July 26th broke to strong winds, about 50 kph/30mph coming from the east. We debated going into the Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea) to get to Medemblik. This is faster than the canal route, part of which we have already used in getting to Den Helden. There are no bridges and just one lock by the open route so it is faster than the canal and cooler, too, because of the breezes you get in open water. By 1300 the wind had abated some so we headed into the main area of the harbor where yesterday a sea lion approached the boat, taking a look at us as if to wonder if we had any goodies. Then we headed into the sea.
It started calmly enough as we headed northeast out of the harbor. The well marked channel takes you well off shore, as there the water can be shallow. We used an app on our phone as none of our plastic coated paper charts covered the area. The app worked quite well as it kept us on course, at least after I learned not to put the phone in the sun where it overheated and shut off. The wind kept us quite cool the entire time but the phone was not in the breeze, having to stay in the shade.
The waves mounted after a while. We began to pound. This means we were able to cut through the waves and not be heaved from side to side, which is less comfortable, but each time the bow would hit a wave it smacks into it. At just 2 or 3 feet (2/3 to 1 meter), this is not terribly uncomfortable but a flat sea is nicer. The bikes got some spray, and we had to close the portholes (windows) on the bow to keep salt spray out of the front cabin. In less than an hour the waters calmed, for a while only, as it turned out.
We were not alone in the wide expanse. Many sail boats joined the action, some motor sailing despite the adequate wind. The only power boat we saw in the 2.5 hours to Den Oever was a tug, who plowed up fast one meter waves. Seeing them coming, I shied away then turned back to meet the wave at a 45. We rocked, a drawer sprang open in the galley, but otherwise there was no problem. We store everything that can fall every time we depart, part of our coastal cruise training via the US Power Squadron in the early 1990’s. They offer excellent courses for very modest fees.
There is a lock in Den Oever. It allows you through the mighty dike that keeps the North Sea, of which the Wattenmeer is just an extension, providing little protection for the country, thus the need to build the dike. In 1953 the North Sea rose, flooding much of the Nederlands (‘Neder’ means ‘low’), killing thousands and causing billions in property damage. This lead to the extensive dike system they have today. Levels are constantly monitored and controlled by central computers. Hundreds of thousands of structures are just a few inches above the waterline of canals, some are below, as we have seen the tops of roofs go by as we sail.
Easy lock, built especially for pleasure craft. Now we are in the Ijsselmeer, in fresh water again, heading in a southerly direction. The wind was still strong from the east, so one can anticipate a beam sea. This means that the waves hit you from the side, causing boats like ours to roll. Sailboats have a deeper keel so they are less subject to rolling, and to make progress while under sail they tack back and forth anyway. After a while we had to do the same, moving from 45 degrees to the south east to 45 to the south west. This way you can cut through the waves and reduce the rolling. You have to travel farther so it takes more time to complete your journey, but the ship’s passengers are more comfortable. Our app kept us on course as we weaved our way through a long spell without buoyage to guide us. We could see land the entire time, but you have to know where you are headed and not just hug the shore close enough to identify your destination.
There are many boats in Medemblik and plenty of moorings, so when we arrived at 1800 we were able to find a spot. It was hot, around 30c, 86f but cooled off considerably by 2300. The next morning we got on our bikes, passing through the downtown shopping area just around the corner. There were scads of bicyclers having coffee and applegebak (apple pie) and shoppers everywhere, as is common on Saturdays. Not far from there we came to the windmill. It dates from circa 1700. It has been moved three times. They still make flour, which they sell in the shop and to several restaurants. It is staffed by volunteers. You see the main gears for grinding during your visit. I was struck by how the basic technology is so similar to automotive engines and transmissions. The sails (the engine’s pistons) turns a crankshaft. To turn the grinding stones you engage a gear composed of cogs, just like in a manual transmission.
The town has a castle dating from around 1200. It has been through at least two major renovations so the original look is not there anymore. Just two residential wings, two square towers and one round tower remain. Muiden Castle was built by the same man, a Count Floris. “The name Radboud has been derived from the popular assumption that the castle was built on the place where in the 8th century a castle from the Frisian king Radboud had been standing.” http://www.castles.nl/radboud-castle Several of the locals we’ve talked to refer to this area as West Friesland, although today it is part of North Holland. Friesland is on the other side of the Ijsselmeer, in the northeast part of the country, bordering Germany. It is from there where we plan to start next year’s excursions into the northern part of that country.
Gouda (pronounced as in ‘howda’) is 45 minute bus and train trip from our mooring on the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine, part of the Rhine river system) in Alfan aan Den Rihn. Aside from being the home of the well known cheese, much more varied and flavorful than the bland version sold in the U.S., it has a superb city hall, Stadhuis, dating from the 14th century, the oldest such in the country.
Today is a market day, with loads of activity. A woman’s chorus sang in front of the Stadhuis, a couple played a calliope while passing the hat. It was excellent. We made a contribution.
Aside from the rounds of Gouda cheese, much of the merchandise is the same from market to market. We did see a wooden shoe maker selling his wares in Delft. It is not an item the Dutch use much these days, although they do wear leather clogs, so the wooden version are marketed mostly to tourists.
The cheese is sold in several varieties. Jong Gouda is young, that is, aged just four weeks. There are various states of aging up to over 12 months. They become increasingly hard and sharp. They are all encased in a plastic coating to keep them from drying out. Most are industrially produced, however there are several hundred producers using traditional methods using unpasteurized cow milk, called Boerenkaas. Boerenkaas, Noord-Hollandse Gouda, and Gouda Holland have Protected Geographical Indication status in the EU.
Here’s another charming Dutch town, dating from the 13th century, important historically as well as being to this day the home of technological R&D in the Nederlands emanating from Delft’s University of Technology. It is also famous for Delft pottery, porcelain made using Chinese techniques developed in the 14th century and much prized in Europe from the moment of its arrival. Delft pottery came to be in the 16th century. It remains popular. Sales last year were in the $36M range.
Delft is a popular tourist destination, for its charming architecture and the excellent Delft porcelain museum, as well as shops galore. There are weekly street markets, at least in summer, like in many Dutch towns of this size.
Willem the Silent, the first of the House of Orange to reign in the country, is buried at the Nieuwe Kerk in 1584, where there is a monument to him. The succeeding members of the royal family are also buried there, the latest being Queen Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard. The church, dating from the 14th century, has a magnificent spire.
The Oude Kerk dates from 1246. It has a noticeable lean that builders tried to correct as it rose, without success. Its most massive bell dates from 1570. Due to its nine tons and the resultant vibrations, the ring it only on special occasions, such as the burial of a Dutch royal family.
We toured Prinsenhof, Willem’s residence during the revolt from Spain. Aside from some excellent portraits, it is also the interesting as the location of his assassination, ordered by the Duke of Alba, King Phillip’s representative. You can still see the bullet holes on the staircase, enlarged by probing fingers before it was protected by a plastic cover.
Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) was born in this city. Delft streets and home interiors were the subject of his fabulous paintings. We visited the Vermeer Center. There are no original paintings, while the reproductions are of modest quality. The narrative is excellent, however, and all the explanations and the short video are in English.
The Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602. Delft then became a trading center, producing its wealth of architecture.