Too exhausted to cook—and yes, a bit discouraged—we walked to the old town, which turned out to be a charming waterfront warren of shops and cottages where we enjoyed a hearty Dutch supper.
The next morning we cobbled together an itinerary, no mean feat with neither cruising guide nor viable chart. Exiting the harbor, we were confronted with the first of many mysterious channel markers. We guessed correctly at this one’s meaning and soon pulled into the charming fishing village of Elburg. It being Sunday morning, things were quiet, which gave us space to explore. We were admiring the decorative colored fish traps suspended overhead when a Harley-Davidson shattered the silence, signaling it was time for coffee and the delectable Dutch pastries.
We departed around noon and immediately came upon a lock-cum-drawbridge. Despite total ignorance of the protocols, we manage to negotiate it, giant rubrails unscathed. Around 2 p.m. we reached Geithoorn, "Holland’s Venice,” where we tied up to some bollards along the narrow waterway, across from group of auto campers. A lady on a bicycle instantly appeared, identifying herself as the dockmaster and asking us for 10.75 euro for our night’s stay. She also offered us directions to the town center. Geithoorn may not be Venice, but it is undeniably charming, a cluster of storybook-quaint cottages and narrow, tree-lined canals. For 10 euro we rented a canoe powered by an electric outboard and silently wound our way through the canals. Then, after a delicious lunch of snoekbaars (the local whitefish) and a couple of Amsterdammers (the superb Dutch brew), it was back to the boat.
It got chilly overnight—no shore power, no heat—so the next morning we headed back into town for a Dutch specialty, apple pie and coffee, before heading north. Leaving town, we were shocked to encounter a planing boat—the first we’d seen. Like everyone else we saw, all aboard waved hello. As we traversed seemingly endless farmland, some of it below water level, the morning dragged until we encountered our first automatic drawbridge. Activated by an electric eye, it’s unbidden raising was most disconcerting until we later figured out what had made the bridge go up on its own.
At about 6:30 p.m. we raised the town of Echtenerbrug in the state of Friesland, reputedly one of Holland’s most picturesque areas. We were delighted to find coin-operated utility hook-ups on the sea wall—for 1 euro we enjoyed our first toasty night. The town is small—just five shops and two restaurants, one of which turned out to be great.
The next morning brought a twist to the drawbridge scene, which we were lucky enough to witness ahead of time. We had to slow to idle so the bridge tender could dangle a wooden shoe into which we deposited a euro. We then entered the Tjeukemeer (meer means lake in Dutch), then Sloten, a small, quaint town dating from the 1700’s, where we met a man dressed in period clothing for no reason we could discern. After an hour we’d fully explored the town, including its windmill, and after dropping 2 euro into another swinging shoe, we headed across the choppy Slotermeer to Woudsend, which has two windmills and not much else. We again tied up to the sea wall, dropped another euro into the shore-power outlet, and enjoyed another toasty night.
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.