From Den Helder, we sailed to Amsterdam. Before leaving Willemsoord, we filled up on diesel and water. It was 46,5 nm and took us almost 12 hours. First, it was the Noordhollandsch Kanaal. Depth 2,85 meters, 49 kilometres long, max speed 9 km/h. It was not so exciting, and for a long time, we sailed along a busy road. It took us 8 hours to sail 27 nm, where we reached the lake, Alkmaardermeer. So with an average speed of 3,3 knots, the stretch was not the fastest. Shortly before the lake, we got company by two huge barges carrying some large silos. It was quite the sight and gathered a lot of people along the canal. The lake was pretty with many boats on the water enjoying the sunshine. We continued down the Zaan. At 17 o’clock, we passed through a bridge, and we were just one lock away from entering the Noordzeekanaal, which would take us into Amsterdam.
“The lock is closed for several weeks”
Suddenly we were approached by a pilot boat from the canals. The staff told us that the next lock was closed and would be so for several weeks. But because of our shallow draft, we could take another canal, the Nauernasche Vaart, with a depth of only 2 meters. We had to go back a little to find the other canal. This part was almost a little TOO exciting with shallow depths, no waiting pontoons by the bridges, power lines which came a little too close to comfort and the smallest lock of the canals—not used very much as we had to call the lockkeeper on the cellphone. He was shocked that someone came this way. The little detour took us a couple of hours extra, but we finally arrived in Amsterdam Marina.
The next day we went sightseeing in the city, enjoying some local cuisine. In the evening we enjoyed a very delicious dinner at a restaurant in the marina. The food, service and view were excellent, and we watched the sun go down behind an impressive skyline.
Night convoy through Amsterdam
It is only possible to continue south through Amsterdam by participating in a night convoy. The reason for this is a railway bridge that is a part of the infrastructure in Amsterdam. In the afternoon, we moved the boat 1,5 nm to the waiting area. You have to be there at 2300 o’clock. Then you wait and listen on the VHF for the signal to go. At 0130 o’clock we got the call, and along with seven other sailboats, we started sailing. By 0237 o’clock it was all over, and we tied up to a waiting pontoon in a small lake, Nieuwe Meer.
After 4 hours of sleep, we continued towards Gouda. This part of the canals was one of our favourites with many exciting and beautiful things to see along the way. For example, the Schiphol Airport, huge lifting bridges, but also impressive estates along the water. It was late afternoon when we arrived in Gouda, and we had to stop for the night. It was a small marina, almost just a narrow canal, with only 2 meters of depth, but the friendly harbormaster at Gouda Watersportvereniging squeezed us in.
After Gouda, you exit the non-tidal canals and enter the Hollandsche IJssel, and the tides and currents begin again. The scenery becomes more industrial, there is commercial boat traffic, and the canals/rivers becomes bigger and bigger. The number of bridges decreases, however they now have fixed opening hours. We continued down to the Hollands Diep that some of our friends had recommended visiting Willemstad, a small historical town with well-preserved fortifications. Despite a full marina, we were able to tie up in the centre of the old city, only a few feet away from a beautiful old windmill. Moulds, tall trees surround the small town, underground bunkers and sheep are grazing on the hills. Worth a visit. (Gouda to Willemstad: 32,2 nm)
Towards the end
By now we had decided to continue on the canals to the end in Vlissingen or Breskens. Our Wateratlas didn’t cover the area south of Willemstad, but we had gathered some free brochures along the way, we had the app, and we always got to talk to somebody who could give advice or were going in the same direction.
The area south of Willemstad is more like lakes or fjords – only with tides, currents and locks. It was a lovely sunny day, unfortunately, no wind, so we had to motor. We had to go through 3 locks. Two of them in the commercial part, as our mast was too tall to go through the Jachtensluis. The third lock, Zandkreeksluis, lead into the Veerse Meer. This part was non-tidal again. For the first time since Kielerkanalen, we dropped the anchor for the night, just outside the city Veere. (Willemstad to Veere: 40,4 nm)
From here it was only 12 nm to Breskens, where we would end our canal adventure. There were a lot of boats on the canal past Middelburg and down to the final lock at Vlissingen. We were at least 25 boats in convoy. We arrived in Breskens at 1400 o’clock. It was a warm and sunny day, and we were excited to continue our trip down the English Channel.