In 2020, following on from the completion of our circumnavigation of the UK, we crossed the Channel to Calais and sailed northeastwards up the coasts of France and Belgium until we came to Vlissingen in the Netherlands.
There we began our transit through the Staande Mastroute, a route through the waterways and canals of the Netherlands in which it is not necessary to take down the mast of a sail boat. All bridges en route (and there are a lot of them!) are either high enough to pass underneath, or can be lifted or swung aside to allow yachts through. Similarly, water depths throughout (with perhaps one excepton) are sufficient for our 2 m draft – the one exception was in the Kaag Lakes north of Leiden, where we grounded gently into soft mud.
The route passes through the vast river estuaries of Zeeland in the south, and through rivers and canals in the provinces of South Holland and North Holland, until it joins the North Sea canal from IJmuiden to Amsterdam, then from there to the Markermeer, a large shallow artificial lake to the north-east of Amsterdam. It then continues from there into the IJsselmeer, through the provinces of Friesland and Groningen, ending at Defzijl on the Ems river in the north.
All along the way are old picturesque towns and cities, many of which it is possible to moor right in the city centres, either in marinas or just by the riverside in places, making it exceptionally convenient to explore them and enjoy the food, drink, shopping and other delights they have to offer. We also had our folding bikes with us, so used them to cycle out into the surrounding countryside and to the coast on occasion. We were fortunate that almost the whole time throughout the route we had perfect weather, which made it even more enjoyable.
There are actually two route options in the south – either directly north from Gouda to Amsterdam to do the night passage through the city to avoid disrupting daytime traffic with opening bridges, or to the west through the cities of Leiden and Haarlem, ending up north of Amsterdam. We opted for the second of these, as we wanted to see Leiden and Haarlem. The night route through Amsterdam is quite strenuous by all accounts, and you don’t see very much in the darkness anyway. But each to his or her own.
The following links lead to our blog posts of the various stages of the journey (including the Channel crossing), where you can read in more detail of our experiences, sights, thoughts, musings and conversations along the way:
- Ipswich-Dover: Two crossings
- Dover-Calais: Calais, burghers and a tragedy
- Calais-Dunkirque-Vlissingen: An evacuation and clever seagulls
- Vlissingen-Veere: The Staande Mastroute and a cycle ride
- Veere-Volkerat: We lose a map but find a haven
- Volkerat-Dordrecht: Two tight fits
- Dordrecht-Gouda: Noah’s Ark, cheese and liveaboards
- Gouda-Leiden: A lock mishap, a besieged castle and an alms-house
- Leiden-Haarlem: Tree trimming, enlightenment and groupthink
- Haarlem-Volendam: An intruder, authoritarian populism, and sailing again
- Volendam-Hoorn: A Golden Age, and leaving for the winter