Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s down the coast we go…


Monday-Friday. May 13-17, 2019

Favorable winds from the north encouraged us to leave our adopted Dutch country and head down the southern part of the North Sea. As opposed to doing one long overnight passage we decided to do daily hops of 40 to 60 miles, landing us in a new port each night.

Covering miles only during daylight made it a heck of lot easier for coastal sailing. If sailing at night, I’d rather be out in the middle of the ocean:  when you see a light, there’s no question it’s attached to a ship, oil platform, or UFO. When you’re near the coast it could be an onshore beacon, street light, reef, or even a low-flying airplane (which occurred in 2004 sailing by Boston’s Logan Airport…).

As our AIS shows, we were amidst a lot of ships,

some requiring a close watch, the ship named CAUSEWAY being one of them. According to the CPA (‘Closest Point of Approach’) of 0.0 miles, if neither of our courses changed in the next 3.7 miles, we’d see a bold ‘Collision warning!’ flashing on the screen.

By the second day we’d established a routine of rising, checking the wind forecast, reviewing the currents and tides as well as shipping lanes* then heading out of the harbor to follow the coastline south and west.

* To facilitate  commercial traffic while lessening the chances of collision with pleasure boats the authorities have established shipping channels, typically a lane in each direction with a TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) in between. To accomplish the fastest crossing of these lanes, we need to do so at a ninety-degree angle. And, trust me, when crossing the lanes extending out of Rotterdam, the busiest port in Europe, we wanted to be on the other side of them as quickly as possible. You can see the solid line of ships heading south in one of the AIS photos above.

With only a few, all-weather ports (many man-made) along this stretch of the coast we based our selection of marinas on their ability to accommodate our 2-meter (6’ 6″) draft and the ease of entering and exiting the harbor (strong currents can play havoc when docking and undocking). For three mornings we exchanged one port for another:  Scheveningen (Netherlands) for Zeebrugge (Belgium) – the teal blue dot is where we docked;

Zeebrugge for Dunkirk (France)–the green is where JUANONA was,

and Dunkirk for Boulogne Sur Mer (France), not to be confused with Bologna, Italy…

It got to the point where I’d wake up and try to remember the previous port’s layout by visualizing the dock, and the toilet-shower facilities.

A ritual we carry out at sea is exchanging one country’s courtesy flag (flown on one of our spreaders) for another’s. In this case it was our Dutch flag

for France’s.

Having covered a fair bit of miles in three days and seeing the favorable forecast of northerly winds continuing for a few more days we decided to stop for 36 hours in Boulonge, a port other cruisers had recommended.

Being one of the few American boats around we managed to attract the attention of the French law enforcement. Four officials boarded the boat upon our arrival in Boulogne, and for an hour they perused our paperwork trying to decide if we needed to pay V.A.T. on JUANONA.*

* Just to give you a quick synopsis of issues facing foreign boaters in European waters, we would have to pay a 20% Value Added Tax (basically a sales tax) on Juanona if she had been in the European Union for more than 18 months. The only way to avoid this tax is by taking her to a non-EU port (which is why we always touched the coast of Norway prior to returning to an EU country).
On top of this is a restriction on foreigners themselves in Schengen countries (currently, all EU and Scandinavian countries except for the UK). If you’re not a Schengen resident, then you’re only allowed three months within those countries; and, once you’re reached that limit, you have to leave and not return for three months.
These regulations mean your boat is allowed for 18 months and yourself, three. You can see how tricky of a dance this is if you plan to cruise these European waters.
By obtaining temporary Dutch residency in the Netherlands, Max and I are considered Schengen residents. And, thanks to the advice of fellow cruisers, Gus and Helen Wilson, we were able to temporarily import JUANONA into the EU. Due to those two actions we’ve protected ourselves and JUANONA from the EU and Schengen restrictions.
However, the French customs officers weren’t familiar with the Dutch paperwork stating we had temporarily imported JUANONA into the EU, thus the hour sitting in our cockpit trying to decipher another country’s government form.

It all ended well with their providing us a French document approving our temporary import. Since 2014 we’ve been boarded five times by custom officials:  twice by the Brits, once by Germans, once by the Dutch, and now by the French. And, we were hailed over VHF by the Norwegians.

As the French Customs officials were leaving I realized I had actually seen them as we made our way south. Fortunately they didn’t board us then as it would not have been fun maneuvering, especially for an hour…

Like most European cities and towns we visit, Boulogne’s history includes centuries of different occupants who desired this strategic port. Situated at the mouth of the Liane River, the Romans called it Gesoiacum. Later it became known as Bonoia and switched hands often:  Normans destroyed it in 882; it was rebuilt in 912 and became a desirable harbor for the Burgundian Dukes, then French kings beginnng with Louis XI in 1477; England got hold of it in 1544 after a two-month siege and ruled for a short while before it reverted back to France in 1550 via the Treaty of Boulogne. Napoleon used this as his headquarters when planning to invade England (but didn’t); and, the British used it in WWI; the Germans overtook this port in the 1940 Battle of Boulogne just a few weeks before Operation Dynamo (evacuation of Dunkirk); finally, the city was liberated in 1944.

We explored the upper city or ‘old city’, which features preserved buildings from earlier times including the fortified gate.

Max, in search of an MDT (Max Disaster Tour), read two reviews saying there’s ‘a must-see’ crypt under the Basilica of Notre Dame de Boulogne.

I joined him for the above ground walk-around but, having read in a guidebook that the crypt was ‘imminently skippable’, I opted out of paying the 5 euro fee to visit below ground.

Considering Max found me down the street within 15 minutes of his MDT, I think the LONELY PLANET guide book provided a more accurate description of that site…

But, the real highlight of Boulogne was a modern building perched above the beach:  a fabulous aquarium.

With a 2018 expansion the Nausicaá became the largest aquarium in Europe. Its mission not only focuses on raising awareness of the marine environment but also encourages action to improve global management of this vital resource. This French National Sea Centre is now a UNESCO site due to its promoting of healthy oceans and seas.

The design of the new Nausicaá replicates a manta ray, although my photo of it as we’re leaving the harbor doesn’t provide the aerial view to show it as such…

The admittance fee of 25 euros each gave us pause, but a second look at recent reviews convinced us to take the plunge. And, we are very glad we did.

We weren’t the only ones anticipating a fun day of exploring the mysteries our oceans.

In spite of kid mobs, who always seem to carry their own peculiar smells and exuberant noise levels,


the displays handled crowds well with easy-to-follow signage creating a smooth flow of people throughout the exhibits.

Imagine oceanography, marine biology, and environmental studies combined into one semester of school. That’s what it felt like when peering in the tanks and reading the signage.

The mission of Nausicaá focuses primarily on the relationship between mankind and the sea; and, in each area the aquarium presented the effects of climate change and its disastrous consequences,

while acknowledging those without a political voice or monetary resources are the ones paying the price caused by those with that power.

Yet, as opposed to being totally depressed by the way we’re destroying our world, Nausicaá offers hope in the forms of activism, both on the parts of individuals as well as organizations. For example, a partnership between The Environmental Advisory Company and the Four Seasons Hotels has funded the Reefscapes Programme (at the end of 2011 160,000 cuttings were transplanted onto 200 coral structures).

To encourage visitors’ participation in these efforts, the aquarium provided websites as well as coin drops so visitors could donate to various causes, which we did for one (Andrea, this was for you :).


It was difficult to avoid being caught in a hypnoptic trance gazing at tanks populated by ballooning jellyfish…



and swirling highways of fish,


with the pièce de résistance being the soaring ray.


All with New Age music (which you can’t hear in my clips) enhancing the otherworldliness in front of us.

We had seen a similar exhibit but on a much smaller scale at the Ozeaneum in Straslund, Germany  last year. There, the focus was on a specific body of water, the Baltic Sea, versus Nausicaá’s global coverage. Both are stellar examples of using entertaining displays to teach those of all ages about our watery world.

From simple explanations of tides…

and displays on oil rigs…

to communing with marine life,

we found ourselves stopping at almost every display, only skipping those geared towards young children, with one exception as seen in the top photo of this post…

The exhibits did include flora and fauna associated with the water but not necessarily in it. One being the stick insect hiding in this photo.

This aquarium would be worth seeing just to surround yourself with fantastical marine life. In one of the largest tanks in Europe we became encased in blue,

with smaller tanks showcasing otherworldly critters, both bizarre

and lovely.

After three house of meandering through exhiibits of above and below the oceans, we reluctantly left.

I find it easy to be overwhelmed by the richness of information available in sites such as these. If we were going to be here for any length of time, I would get a season pass and peruse one small section at a time. Or, simply sit and watch a world swim by.

When leaving the next day it seemed so appropriate that Nausicaá was one of the last landmarks we saw exiting the harbor. A reminder of the precious resource on which we sail as we continue cruising…












Wait, HOW do you pronounce it ?


Monday-Friday, May 6-13, 2019

With seemingly favorable winds we untied from Haarlem’s town wall.

After three bridges…

and two locks, with Sarah paying the lock master at one…

then her steering us down the main canal to the industrial lock of Ijmuiden…

we tied up

opposite a group of Russians heading to southern Norway…

then exited into the North Sea. The first time  JUANONA’s hull felt salt water on her hull since last September when Max and I finished our 2018 cruising.

Hugging the coast to stay out of the busy shipping lanes,

the winds turned out to be less west and more southwest along with residual waves from a previous storm resulting in a bouncy ride vs. winds perpendicular to the hull providing a smoother sail. With five hours of washing-machine waters (less than 60 feet depth) behind us we thankfully entered calmer waters when turning into Scheveningen’s Marina, Den Haag’s (The Hague’s) port.

Difficult (make that impossible) to pronounce we later discovered this city’s name was used to tell a German from a Dutchman during WWII. When trying to get my mouth around the ups and downs of this word, I saw locals invisibly cringing and envisioned them covering their ears as protection from a foreigner’s inept attempt.

Yet, that was the only difficult part of this port. Friendly marina managers, such as Roger,

and welcoming locals, including Leane*, who had spotted us entering the harbor from her apartment (where we took this photo, JUANONA s the furthest boat on the right with blue sail cover) and her husband Rob,

soon made JUANONA’s crew feel like we had found another home. With great facilities including two machines and dryers :) the three of us settled in.

*Sarah first met Leane at Dierckx & Dierckx, the cafe she and her sons own. Like me Sarah searches for the perfect spot to write while enjoying the ambiance of an aromatic cup of coffee, the opportunity to taste delicious food, and warm hosts and patrons,  including Nicole whom we also met there.
I joined Sarah when she returned to the cafe and instantly understood why she raved about this locale.

In full disclosure we did have a bit of a tough docking scenario with strong winds and a tight turning radius. I was thinking at least we didn’t entertain anyone since no one was around. Wrong. Leanne looking out from their apartment saw us approach and also land. She added, though, another, earlier boat had similar issues.

Her seeing us land reminded me of our friend Gunnar, who also had spotted us coming in and docking not so well. However, I’ll gladly perform that exercise if it means we can meet folk like them.

From Scheveninger we introduced Sarah to one of our favorite Dutch museums:  Mauritshuis (where Johann Vermeer’s 1665’The Girl with the Pearl Earring’ and Rembrandt’s 1632 ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ reside).

With Rembrandt’s 350th Anniversary (he died 1669) the museum hosted a special exhibit of his work. In addition to self-portraits (the room added the light halo, not him) and others of his works,

the museum featured paintings attributed to him but found to be by someone else (possibly a student of his).

The exhibit also explained how a painting became part of the museum’s collection, such as the anatomy lesson work:

commissioned by the surgeon’s guild, 26-year-old Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp originally hung in Amsterdam’s Weigh House (the Waag). Yet, having been moved from the surgeon’s guildhall to the kitchen, the painting wasn’t looking its best by 1817. Ten years later the powers-that-be considered selling it. Fortunately art connoisseurs decided otherwise, and the Dutch State purchased it. Rather than landing in the Rijksmuseum, the obvious choice, King William I (1772-1843)* stipulated it to go to the Mauritshuis.

*He was actually the first king of the Netherlands. Prior to him the de facto leader of the country was a stadholder, a position similar to a duke or earl.

Other paintings that caught my eye included Vermeer’s 1660 beautiful cityscape of his hometown, Delft,

which prompted the three of us to hop the train to show Sarah another quintessential Dutch town, one where William the Silent (1533-84) was assassinated during the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule. His tomb [another painting in Mauristhuis, by Gerard Houckgeest (1600-61)]

is found in Delft’s Nieuwe Kerk where Max and Sarah are standing.

Sarah wasn’t the only folk from home we were lucky enough to meet up with. Our friends Rod and Jo from NH were visiting their daughter Kim who lives in Amsterdam with her husband Pete.

With Jo and Max sharing common ancestors off the Mayflower, Max led us on a pilgrimage through Leiden’s sites. From where they stepped into boats to take them down the canal to meet the Speedwell (the ship that would take them to the Mayflower in England)

to the church where they worshipped…

to the lane where Max and Jo’s common ancestor (William Brewster) had lived…

to the Pilgrim Museum, a small 14th century home first used by parish priests in the nearby Hooglandse Kerk (Church) and later serving as two apartments in the 1600s.  Sarah, an enthusiastic young woman, served as our guide in spaces not much larger than JUANONA, pointing out specific objects related to the Pilgrims. One being a reference book describing America. The Pilgrims most definitely read this as they decided to go to North America.

Our host helped Max with locating some specific documents associated with his ancestor.

Anyone interested in the Pilgrim’s history, check out Max’s blogThe day wandering in the sun was delightful and only one slight mishap of which you’ll have to ask Rod when you see him…

Catching up with family and friends overseas is always a treat, and seeing the Joneses made our last days in the Netherlands special. Our Sarah would have enjoyed meeting them, but she had finally obtained a prized ticket for the Van Gogh Museum. Yet, she did stop in Leiden on her return to Scheveninger for a brief exploration.

The next day Sarah and I enjoyed coffee and Leane’s traditional Dutch apple cake

before we saw her off for the next leg of her journey, this time to meet up with her sister Hannah in Spain.

Waiting for weather we used a rental car to retrieve our re-certified life raft (a French requirement for sailing in their waters) and explored the small town Brielle. The history museum in this town reacquainted us with the Eighty Years War, including Queen Elizabeth’s sending of Robert Dudley (1532/33-88) with 6,000 troops to the Netherlands in 1585 to help them fight the Spanish (yet, his incompentcy and arrogance caused her to recall him).

Surprisingly we also noted a 17th-century portrait of Christina of Sweden (1626-89) (posing as the goddess Diana). She was briefly queen until forced to abdicate with her first cousin, Charles X, stepping up to the throne. If I recall from our last summer’s travels, she had quite a colorful, rebellious life. The picture hangs in this small museum because a local merchant purchased it in the 1700s to hang above his fireplace.


On our last full day in Scheveningen we took the tram, train, and metro to Rotterdam and visited the Maritime Museum (Max is posing with Captain Splash below...).

The highlight of this museum is a simulation of working on an energy platform in the North Sea. Thinking this would be a bit of a kids’ activity when I donned my yellow helmet and vest, I was pleased to find how interesting it was.

Before we entered the simulation platform we noticed a video loop featuring Trump regarding climate change. An interesting intro. One we quickly absented ourselves from.

Punching our tickets into various machines that track your personal performance and either give you encouragement

or something else …

Not that I’m really competitive but it did make me feel better when Max got a similar message…

So, we tried our hand at loading containers (Max’s work on this one)

identifying locations for a wind farm…

and directing a helicopter landing where Max first made it disappear (into the sea)

but made it ascend again into the heavens for a proper landing.

Having dismally failed our rig work we left for Deltshaven, a 30-minute stroll from the museum. It was here the Pilgrims (those who could fit aboard) took off on the SPEEDWELL to Plymouth, England.

Waiting for the church to open

we enjoyed the sun, some beers and coffee

while meeting a young English-Russian couple who had just moved to Amsterdam. He’s IT, and she’s a capital market lawyer. She shared with us that her father had a sailboat on a Russian lake and she enjoyed being on it. As we walked away Max whispered, “I bet she’s one of those oligarchs”.

A service was being held at the church (the same one the Pilgrim’s worshipped in prior to their departure). Luckily, we were able to quietly enter and take a few shots before the service got underway.

We returned to JUANONA and began preparing for an early morning departure, destination Zeebrugge, Belgium, the old harbor of Brugge. But, before I end this post I wanted to mention the famous boat we saw moored opposite ours at the marina:  MAVERICK.

Sailed by Dutchman Mark Slats in the 2018 Golden Globe Race (a non-stop, single-handed round-the-world competition) it was a tight finish with his just missing first place.

The guy had also participated in the 2017 Transatlantic Rowing Race in a two-man boat; however, he finished solo because his rowing partner couldn’t take it and jumped off in the Canaries Islands. Mark continued, taking first place in the solo division and fourth behind three, four-man (!) boats. I remember we actually saw one of the racing boats in the 2003 rowing race docked in Barbados. A homey spatula and toothbrush hung in the little cockpit.

Max spoke with him when he saw him on the dock earlier. Slats told him he signed up for the rowing race to give hope to his mom battling cancer and raising funds for a charity. In the brief conversation he also mentioned he was leaving to bring a VOLVO-race boat back. Max would have loved to join him but didn’t ask.

As we were leaving the next morning we spotted it in the outer harbor and was just able to pop a shot off before entering the seas.

With that we left our Dutch home behind and headed southwest to explore new harbors and lands.

Next, a change from ‘Goedenmorgen’ to ‘Bonjour’…





Launched (for real)!


Friday-Monday, April 26-29, 2019

After sprucing up JUANONA with new bottom paint

and John’s repairing of the keel,

Jim carefully launched her

after Max taking a ride to the top of the mast for affixing the repaired wind instrument.

A successful launch and some good-byes

And, we’re off! Although, only for a short distance(16 miles) to Amsterdam Marina located a free ferry ride

across the harbor to the city center.

This marina offers great amenities, including, Anne, a bathtub (!), private showers, AND my fav:  washing machines!

We took the opportunity to revisit some sites and explore new ones, such as Micropia, a museum focused on microbes.

And, where’s there an opportunity to use my most agreeable model…


A bit bizarre and one I’d recommend as a second (third?) tier museum; but, it provided some interesting tidbits such as the fact that all species on earth “share a single ancestor:  an ancient bacterium… the same hereditary material within their cells:  DNA.”

The museum featured a microbe body scan where Max discovered he carried 168 trillion microbes.

By selecting a specific body part details we found that the small intestine trains our immune system to recognize the good and the bad bacteria. And, that Brevibacterium linens, which digest dead skin cells such as between the toes resulting in stinky feet, also produce some of the strong-smelling cheese some of us enjoy. That can give one a bit of a pause…

Being a holiday weekend (April 27 is King’s Day, celebrating his birthday) we found some lines intensely long (such as the Rijks Museum) and the city crowded (typical, though, especially in tulip season). Remembering a great Asian restaurant we decided to get take-out for dinner

where we peered through the window into a tiny kitchen where three to four people managed to choreograph delicious dishes. And, incredibly (too) filling.


Continuing onto HAARLEM…

Monday-Monday, April 29-May 6, 2019

Knowing we could easily access Amsterdam and its sites from one of our favorite Dutch cities, we decided to head off to Haarlem, just a few bridges and one lock a further 12 miles down the canals.

Three years ago  this city seduced us in the loveliness of the Netherlands, from the abundance of flowers to its famous Golden-Age Dutch master Frans Hals to its 16th-century charm, prompting us to apply for temporary residency and making Holland our winter home from 2016-19. It felt appropriate to return, making our stay here a full-circle.

We tied to the town wall on the other side of the windmill where we were on our first visit. And, the perfect introduction to Holland for our young friend, Sarah Arndt.

One of John and Leslie Arndt’s daughters, Sarah had worked as one of the program leaders shepherding 20 college students through a semester of accessing Ecuador’s, Malawi’s, and Italy’s food policies. With time between the end of her job and meeting her sister Hannah, she joined us adding a zest to JUANONA’s crew.

And, it was wonderful.

Seeing familiar haunts through the eyes of a newcomer inspires renewed appreciation for all we’ve experienced, and Sarah’s interest in different cultures gave us that gift. During her stay we toured Haarlem,

enjoyed local beers,

and requested poses, which she kindly agreed to do.

With a shared interest in Dutch history and art, we visited some of Haarlem’s museums–Frans Hals, Teylors, Corrie Ten Boom’s House–while taking in the city’s ambiance of what some call the small Amsterdam.

Our daily excurions would often begin as a trio, then duo, ending as singles when specific areas would draw us into solo journeys.

One example of our divergent courses began when we couldn’t get into the new David Hockney exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum. This led us to the Rijks Museum’s Gallery of Honor featuring stellar work by the Dutch Masters of the country’s Golden Age (17th century), with Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ covering the entire back wall.

Exiting we heard music drawing us to a group of street musicians. Having mentioned to Sarah we usually hear some beautiful classical tunes, I couldn’t identify these notes (not unusual for me). I decided to record it in order to ask some knowledgeable, musical friends, Melanie and Anthony. Then I heard a familiar tune and laughed…

yep, the score from ‘Game of Thrones’! Soon followed by the theme from ‘Mission Impossible’.

But, back to the Van Gogh Museum, one Sarah really wanted to see. So, while Sarah decided to take her chances of garnering a ticket from any possible no-shows, Max and I headed to the Neue Kerk (New Church) to see the World Press 2019 photographs. Finding that closed, we turned to the Palace just to the left of the church.

Never having been tempted to tour this site, the short entry line enticed us in, and we’re glad we did. The palace is a stunning example of the imperial style created during Louis Bonaparte’s brief reign as King of Holland (1806-10) during his brother Napoleon’s occupation of the area (1806-13) .

Initially constructed in 1648-55, this building served as the Amsterdam’s Town Hall and came to represent Holland’s independence from Spain and the end of the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648).

Designed by architect Jacob van Campen and featuring over 100 sculptures by Antwerp sculptor Artus Quellinus, considered in the same league as Italy’s Bernini, the building was pronounced the eighth wonder of the world by the residents of Amsterdam.

Beginning with the impressive Citizen’s Hall,

we wandered through 21 rooms–many containing the original furniture from Louis’ time.

Now, it’s a tourist attraction as well as the official reception Palace of the Royal House of the Netherlands (one of government’s three palaces). It also is where foreign dignities may stay during their welcome here.

With the Tribunal room located on the ground floor we discovered an MDT (Max Disaster Tour) site. In this surprisingly small but elaborately sculpted room judges reviewed and announced death sentences four times a year. Here the accused would be tried, sentenced, and the type of execution chosen – hanging, strangulation, beheading, or drawn (big ugh).

This led upstairs to the Justice Chamber where all knelt in prayer upon which the accused stepped through the window to the balcony (installed during Louis’ times) where he/she was executed.

Max and I also saw the special exhibit at the Hermitage, a small sister museum to the one in St. Petersburg. Catherine the Great (1729-96) began collecting art and in 1764 displayed it in the ‘Small Hermitage’. Her grandson Tsar Nicholas I expanded it by building a larger museum 88 years later. This was renamed the State Hermitage Museum after the 1918 Russian Revolution. In 2009 Amsterdam opened its Hermitage, a sister museum we’ve frequented often when in Amsterdam.

Unfortunately we had only an hour before closing but the art was tremendous, and some was intriguingly juxtaposed with two similar items yet from two distinctly different time periods. One example being the statue of Egypt’s King Amenemhat III with the affable bust of Catherine the Great; both were created during their lifetime and both reflected the monarch’s desires to be approachable. Catherine’s even smiling!

The exhibit included a wide range of items, from a rather disturbing portrait, ‘Donna Nuda’, by Leonardo da VInci…

to a wasp-waisted dress worn by Tsar Nicolas II’s mother, Empress Maria Fyodorovna (1847-1928)…

to a musical desk created for Catherine the Great.

With a video demonstrating this lyrical desk’s sliding doors and hidden drawers we ended our too-brief tour and began our trek back to JUANONA.

Memorial & Liberation Days (Saturday & Sunday, May 4 & 5, 2019)

On the weekend we observed the two-minute silence at 8pm. Initiated at the end of WWII this joint event has grown into recognizing the sacrifices of all who have died to protect the freedom of others.

We thought this time would be extremely powerful if surrounded by a stilled, hustle-and-bustle crowd; but, unable to locate one we wandered into St. Bavo, Haarlem’s imposing church anchoring its main square. There we stood with a small group as they tolled a bell up to the time,

then listened to the quiet sound of thankfulness to be where we were because of the sacrifices by others.

The next day the mood flipped 180º from the somberness of memories to a fiesta associated with Liberation Day. Since 2016 this time has been a keynote in our Dutch experience and truly the one that cinched our decision to use this delightful country as a home base. Yet, unlike in Amsterdam’s Dam Square 2016, this time the celebrations mainly offered loud music, food and drink carts, and a horde.

As you can see from an overflowing receptacle,

the public urinals came in handy with Max demonstrating his single-hander.

And, a mixed signal with a young entrepreneur dressed as a hot dog selling hamburgers…

Sarah, too, found it underwhelming in culture and overwhelming in crowds as she tried it out after a day in Amsterdam.

Back aboard we enjoyed another evening of shared meals, some augmented with treats from Sarah, and conversation

then retreated into our private thoughts and projects as the late evening sun turned to night.

With a decent weather forecast we decided to give Sarah a taste of canal cruising then sailing in the open sea. Tomorrow:  On the move again with favorable winds, and even better, more friends to see!



One’s downfall is Another’s windfall…

ANVERS in French, ANTWERPEN in Flemish

Monday-Wednesday, April 15-17, 2019

Having left Bruges we headed east to Antwerp. We had come close to touring this city when visiting our Belgium family while checking out Bastogne and  Waterloo in the fall of 2016. But, we didn’t make it as we needed to return to JUANONA to get ready to return to Maine.

This time, Antwerp was our original destination in between boat errands, yet we had added in Bruges because it was close to where we had to be Sunday. The only drawback concerned the lengths of our visits. Both seemed way too brief. We definitely could have enjoyed at least one more night, if not two, in both cities. If you’re thinking of visiting either, add on days!

Because of being short-timers here we wanted to be within easy walking distance of the sites we planned to see. And, we wanted to be able to park the car without having to pay half our room budget. AND, we wanted a comfortable place to crash with good wifi that wasn’t too expensive. Oh, and the ability to make a cup of joe in the morning… Good luck, right?

Well, we found one:  “Because the Night” B&B.

Not only did our room meet all the above criteria but also included one of the warmest and most helpful hosts you could find. Paul and Ann have an inn with three rooms available in a quiet neighborhood close to the city center. He greeted us, helped us park (free on the street!), and spent time showing us the best walking routes to reach our destinations as well as pointing out some good, but inexpensive eateries (one only served spaghetti, and, boy, was it tasty and filling :). In short, we found it the perfect place for our 36-hour touring of Antwerp.

Antwerp is the unofficial capital of Flanders, the northern region of Belgium populated by predominantly Flemish (Dutch) speaking people.

Its name originates (some say) in a legend involving a Roman soldier (Silvius Brabo) and an evil giant, Druon Antigoon, a toll-keeper living in a fortress beside the Scheldt River. Antigoon would cut off the hands of those unfortunate boaters who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the toll and toss the bodiless appendanges in the river. As you can gather, manly Brabo killed this despot and threw HIS amputated hand in the river. Now that’s a helping hand… Thus, the city carries the name derived from the Flemish word (Antwerpen) and Dutch (hand werpen) for hand throwing. Which a statue on the main square commemorates.

Considering Romans settled here in the 2nd and 3rd centuries you can see how this could be true, right? Right.

Skipping ahead 12+ centuries Antwerp became a Spanish enclave after the Netherlands won their independence from the Spanish King Philip II

whose father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, bequeathed him the Low Countries. Catholicism remained the official religion; yet, today similar to many Western European capitals, the city’s population features multiple religious affiliations.

Antwerp’s strength grew out of its opportunistic location of being where three rivers–the Scheldt, Meuse and Rhine–flow together into the North Sea, forming the largest estuary of Western Europe. Its growth as a shipping port, second today only to Rotterdam, began when Bruges’ water access began to silt up in the 15th century. This loss of watery transportation caused merchants and businesses to relocate east to Antwerp (reason for the title of this post). Add in the increased trade due to colonization and Spain’s exploitation of the Americas and you have a booming commercial city. Population grew five-fold from 20,000 at the end of the 14th century to 100,00 in the mid-16th century.

During this economic growth the city’s Golden Age blossomed with the Flemish School of painting. And, for those, like moi, who need a definition of this style, here it is: “Flemish painting is characterized by extraordinary subtlety, attention to detail, vivid colours, and inspired technique.” (http://www.historyofpainters.com)

With such a rich history during the 15th and 16th centuries, it’s not surprising two of the museums we targeted featured amazing feats by two local sons:  a printer and an artist.

But, before we began our cultural experiences we were on the hunt for a good breakfast while walking towards our first site. We reached a small plaza where the museum stood but no cafes seemed to be open with the exception of one, only because he was waiting for a repairman. And, he only served alcohol… He did point us to the other side of the square and down a block, and, voila! the perfect spot for an excellent cup of coffee (or two) and a healthy breakfast of fruit and bread items (my type of meal). Although, Max wasn’t too keen on being the photo subject…

After satisfying our stomachs, on to food for the mind:  MUSEUM PLANTIN-MORETUS.

Two friends had told us about this museum: Seppe, one of our Belgian Family members who visited it with his school group, and Deborah, one of our Dutch Family members who knew it from her touring. Two good recommend-ers.

The name comes from the founding printer, Christophe Plantin (1520-89), a Frenchman who began as a bookbinder and leather maker, and emigrated to Antwerp around 1500, Antwerp’s Golden Age.

He opened his printing shop, Officina Plantiniana, and within 20 years had expanded his business to Frankfurt, Leiden (actually he printed marine charts there), and Paris garnering the distinction of being among Europe’s industrial leaders. He operated 16 printing presses, and the museum’s collection included two of the oldest in the world (Max and I assume ‘Western’ may need to be added as a qualifier)

and employed 50 operators as well as shop assistants.

But, he definitely established a family business which included Plantin and his wife Jeanne Rivière (not the happiest looking creature) and five daughters.

During their childhood he ensured they could contribute to the family enterprise, which also included making lace, with an education in reading and writing and languages. What I found pretty wonderful was the involvement of these women in the business world. One daughter, Martine (1550-1616), begins working in the lace shop and eventually is put in charge.

Another daughter, Madeleine  (1557-99), holds an important position as a proofreader for one of his major achievements, the polyglot Bible (the proofreaders’ room is pictured below and an actual sample of proofing work)

If you’re wondering about the second name of the museum, Moretus, it’s Plantin’s successor:  Jan Moretus (1543-1610). He began work here at the age of 14 and became the boss’ right-hand man partly due to his language ability (he knew Dutch, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French and German) as well as his managerial skills. He also married Martine, the boss’s daughter, with whom he fathered 11 children.

Delightfully, we literally stepped and explored where these families had lived and worked. Over two floors and several hours we walked through this history.

The ground floor included a portrait gallery featuring family faces, many of which were painted by family friend Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). I tired to keep who was who straight but after awhile I gave up and just enjoyed gazing at the actual founders seen above, as well as influential friends, one being Justis Lipsius (1547-1606), a humanist who favored the Roman stoic Seneca (4 B.C.E.-65 C.E.).

In the painting below Lipsius (in the fur collar) is explaining a classic text with a bust of Seneca in the background and Rubens looking on.

The family kept a study for this guy, which attests to Plantin and Moretus’ honoring intellectual pursuits. Balthasar I Moretus (1547-1641), considered the intellectual of the family, printed Lipsius’ collected works of Seneca with illustrations by Rubens.

Plantin’s belief was ‘With hard work, perseverance and patience one is able to surmount any hardship.’ He did experience hardships throughout his career (one being when he had all his possessions auctioned off due to a run-in with the authorities). Yet, he lived by his motto and continued to build his business with the bulk of the Plantin’s printing featured religion (35%), Humanism and Literation (35%), Science (10%), Governmental publications (8.5%), Pamphlets (4.5%), and Other (7%).

He also knew how to network, acquiring the lucrative contract as the appointed typographer royal to King Philip II of Spain (the one who fought William I of the Netherlands at the beginning of the Eighty Years War). It was with the death of Philip II’s father, Charles V, that helped Plantin establish his reputation with a book covering the 1558 funeral procession (also sold as a 12-meter roll). It was printed in the five languages (Dutch, French, German, Spanish, and Italian) spoken in the Holy Roman Empire.

Although he printed for the Catholic King, including the church’s Index of Prohibited Books in 1569*,

he also was a businessman who would print competing religious teachings, such as Hendrik Barrefelt’s preaching of tolerance in 1584. But, Plantin wasn’t stupid:  he did so using the pseudonym Jacobus Villanus.

* This listing of banned books began in 1559 and didn’t end until 1966 (!).

In addition to the humanist and religious works the company published atlases by Abraham Ortelius (1527-98). Ortelius first atlas contained 53 maps, growing to 117 eight years later. Because maps were printed individually one could build their own atlas based on which maps they collected.

‘Atlas’, by the way, is a term first coined by Gerard Mercator whose maps would eventually be seen as more accurate than Ortelius’.

Plantin and his successors kept a competitive edge by constantly improving the printed word. He would use engravings over woodcuts to ensure a better quality of illustration.

And, typography was another of the company’s key strengths. He used the best designers for his typefaces (for example, Robert Granjon’s modern Times New Roman and Claude Garamont’s Garamond), and he ensured no other printer could use them because Plantin literally owned the metal type. Eventually, the company had 90 fonts enabling them to print in a variety of languages, which they did:  Latin (62%), Dutch (14%), French (14%), Greek (5%), Spanish (2%), Hebrew (2%), and ‘Other’ comprised of German, Italian, English, Old Syriac, and Aramaic (1.8%). The typefaces were stored in large wall drawers.

Balthasar, mentioned earlier, went one step further by building a foundry which operated between 1622-60 and 1736-60.

A staff member–who saw us peering at minute type with quizzical expressionswondering how the hell did they do that?!–

kindly explained some of the printing and fonts. He asked us why capital letters were called ‘upper case’? It’s because they stored those less-frequently-used letters in the upper case of the cabinet holding the alphabet of a particular font.

To ease the arm movement of the typesetters they placed the most commonly used letters in the lower center to avoid unnecessary movements.

Plantin’s masterpiece was the Biblia polyglotta or Biblia regia. Under the sponsorship of King Phillip II (who sent theologian Benedictus Arias Montanus to overseer it), this work composed of eight volumes gained international fame. An original set shows the interesting clasps used to bind them.

During our wanderings I discovered quite a few business women assisted in running this business, such as Anna Good (1624-1691)… Anna Maria de Neuf (1654-1714) who grows the business during difficult times… and, Maria Theresa Borrekens (1728-1797) who married François-Jean Moretus.

Nine generations of this family managed to produce amazing work. Edward Moretus (1804-80), grandson of Maria and François-Jean mentioned above, publishing the last book, the breviary of Saint Francis. He sold the house and contents, including a rare musical instrument–a combination of  a harpsichord and virginal (one of the only four known in the world),

to the city who, thankfully, turns it into a museum.

By now my eyes are rolling sloppily in my head and I’m feeling very, very uneducated and, definitely, not very linguistic. But, wow, did this museum exceed all expectations.

It wasn’t all serious pondering. We managed to get into the spirit of it all when I persuaded Max (didn’t take much) to don an outfit of the time…

After lunch at a laundromat (great idea and one my sister and a friend almost started),

we headed for our second museum of the day, RUEBENSHUIS. In actuality, a mansion.

Unlike Plantin’s abode, Peter Paul Rubens’ home didn’t survive the four centuries without major renovations by subsequent owners. The only remaining parts are those Rubens, himself, commissioned:  the garden portico and the garden pavilion, heavily influenced by his study in Rome.

Yet, the ‘house’ Rubens inhabited beginning in 1610 until his death 30 years later definitely felt like he’d been there.

Although he was born to a Calvinist father who fled with his family from the Southern Netherlands to avoid religious persecution, Rubens was raised a Catholic (his mother’s religion) after his father’s death in 1587. With a classical education and apprenticeship to Antwerp’s leading artist, Otto van Veen (1557-1629)– one of Ruben’s earliest paintings (of Adam and Eve) reflects van Veen’s influence with the use of cool blue and green color hues as well as a more static background –

Rubens eventually left for Italy in 1600 where he continued to perfect his talent, marrying the styles of Renaissance to Baroque.

When he returned to Antwerp in 1608 he gained local fame with his 1609 commission Adoration of the Magi for the Town Hall, which found its way to the King of Spain in Madrid in 1628 (now in Madrid’s Prada Museum).

Like Plantin, Rubens obtained the patronage of royalty, the Hapsburg regents Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella, enabling him to amass even more wealth. At the time of his death he owned this mansion and several country properties.

His studio became the largest and best known in Europe, helping him to become a superstar at the time of his death.

We learned apprentices would use Rubens’ preliminary oil sketches to do the large scale versions. Then Rubens would fine-tune the most important elements–people and flesh tones. Yet, the master painted the entire piece of his most important commissions.

One of his most successful apprentices was Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) who became more of a collaborator with Rubens as opposed to pupil. Later considered a rival to his teacher, Van Dyck became a court painter to Charles I in London, who knighted him in 1632. Below is a portrait by van Dyck.

Royalty is definitely one’s ticket to success…

We meandered with a small booklet through rooms showcasing a variety of paintings, Rubens’ as well as his contemporaries’.

Later, in reading about this artist it’s not surprising he became a friend of Plantin and other famous residents of the city. Rubens spoke five languages, was a scholar, a humanist, a diplomat and possessed extraordinary energy.

Speaking of energy, ours was flagging. We had filled our heads with the art of printing and of oil painting, both fields represented by two genuises, one I had heard of and one I hadn’t. Time for that full plate of spaghetti, bed, and home to JUANONA.

With a stop for a libation

in the shadow of the cathedral,

we slowly strolled back to our B&B stopping to gaze at some art along the way.

Unfortunately, we missed touring a third site on our list, the Red Star Line Museum covering the emigration of several million folks to Canada and the United States between 1837 and 1934. We learned afterwards what a mistake this was when two friends told us how rewarding their visit thad been.

Next time, for Antwerp along with Bruges and other historical, thriving places are on our list for repeat visits.

Now, back to JUANONA and prepping her for summer cruising… and a visitor!







The Venice of the North

BRUGES in French, BRUGGE in Flemish

Sunday-Monday, April 14-15, 2019

To make the most of our out-of-town boat errands we sandwiched between the tasks two Belgium cities we wanted to explore:  Bruges and Antwerp. We had visited the former when visiting with our Belgium family (Ta, Koen, Seppe, Frieke, & Wannes and pup Cuba) in 2002. But, Max didn’t feel well, it was cold, and early Christmas shoppers packed the streets. And, we had missed Antwerp in our previous travels, making it now a prime destination before starting summer cruising.

So, off we drove early Sunday morning, first dropping off Scandinavian cruising guides to some friends in Blankenberge, Belgium then to Bruges.

This once-fortified city was one of the richest in Europe during the Middle Ages thanks to the trade of cloth. And, the city wears this mantle of medieval entitlement well, starting with its stately buildings

and scenic canals, which give Bruges its well-earned descriptor Venice of the North*.

*Another nickname this city earned is Brugse Zotten (The Bruges’ Crazies) from the time of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519). Due to his having been held captive here for four months, he denied Bruges the right to hold fairs. The residents tried to appease him with a huge party in his honor. In addition to being allowed to have fairs again as well as levy taxes, the townsmen requested the right to build a madhouse. Reportedly he replied, “Close all the city gates and it is a madhouse”. By the way, the local beer is called Brugse Zot and, since the early 2000s, is sent by pipe out of the city to be bottled, as we saw in the Brewery’s floor.

For an excellent background of Bruges during its medieval period read Dorothy Dunnett’s eight-book series THE HOUSE OF NICCOLIÒ. I hated reaching the last page of the final book. Frankly, I think it would rival “The Game of Thrones” if someone managed to translate her story into a TV show.

But, you can see Bruges on the screen in the film noir “In Bruges” with Colin Farrell. Definitely another worthwhile view of this town, although we later met two travelers who hated it, so consider my recommendations as very subjective.

The history of Bruges and the province of Flanders becomes clear as mud when you start reading about the power struggles between various rulers and wanna-be-rulers over control of this European territory. So, below are excerpts providing a glimpse of this city’s past:

  • The site began as a landing on the Zwijn estuary of the Reie River (Bruges’ name is derived from a Roman bridge over the river). Later flooding of the area created channels as well as a link to the North Sea and an opportunity to increase trade.
  • The town later served as the fortification of Baldwin the Iron Arm (love these names), the count of Flanders, against Vikings/Norman invaders in the 9th century.
  • The House of Burgundy entered into the picture when Count Louis II of Flanders’s heiress Margaret III (1350-1405), the last Countess of Flanders, married Philip the Bold (1342-1404), the youngest son of French King John II and Duke of Burgundy.
  • Due to its monopoly on English wool (considered the finest grade) used in the weaving of Flemish cloth, Bruges became one of the richest European cities during the 13th- and 14th-centuries, along with nearby Ghent and Ypres.  With such a reputation, it’s not surprising to hear of the royals purchasing Flemish tapestries to warm their damp and chilly castles. Some of the most famous and stunning ones- black & white as well as full color -are the Jagiellonian tapestries ordered by Polish Kings Sigismund I & II in the mid-1500s for their Krakow royal residence, the Wawel Castle. Out of the approximately 170 made, miraculously over 100 still remain.
  • The city’s wealth led to internal struggles including one between the guilds and the governing power, resulting in the Brugse Metten (Bruges Matins) May 18, 1302:  guildsmen murdered anyone who couldn’t pronounce the Flemish phrase ’schild en friend’ (shield and friend). A statue in the main square memorializes the two leaders of this revolt, Pieter de Doninck (head of the Weavers Guild) and Jan Breeder (head of the Butchers Guild).

  • Bruges, whose status in the cloth trade attracted the attention of the economic powerhouse, the german Hanseatic League, joined this commercial organization in the 14th century.
  • In the 15th century the Dukes of Burgundy helped foster Bruges’ trade dominance. Not only aristocrats and merchants prospered but also artists, such as  Jan van Eyck (1370-1441) who became the court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1396-1467) (not sure why he acquired the nickname ‘the good’ but I did read he had at least 18 illegitimate kids so he was obviously good at something besides begetting riches).
  • But, just as water positioned Bruges as a vital trading port on the North Sea, it also took this gift away when the Zwijn waterway began silting up. The Hanseatic League moved to Antwerp with merchants soon following, and by the end of the 15th century Bruges slipped into dormancy.
  • The Eighty Years War (1566-1646) between the Spanish rulers and the Dutch created a split between a Protestant secular governance in the Netherlands and a Catholic royal rule in the Spanish Netherlands (basically, present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and a part of northern France).
  • Bruges began its revitalization in the 1800s when wealthy tourists discovered this idyllic city wreathed by canals.

  • Spared during German occupations in WWI and II Bruges became a UNESCO site in 2000 and was designated the European City of Culture in 2002.
  • In 2015 the city hosted 7.8 million tourists. A bit overwhelming considering only 20,000 of the just under 120,000 residents inhabit the city center.

Okay, I’m finished with the history lesson, now off to explore.

With less than 24 hours to see the sights we booked a room within easy walking distances of the sites, which isn’t difficult since one can cover the whole area within two hours of walking. We quickly stashed our luggage and exited into medieval times.

Believe it or not, we didn’t tour many museums because we wanted to simply soak up the ambiance during our short stay here. Which meant we strolled the streets in spring sun beginning in the Markt, (the main square) where the Halle with its famous, 83-meter (272 feet) belfry stands.

The belfry was added in 1282 with the octagonal upper section completed 200 years later.

With 366 steps to climb we opted out of that exertion but did peek into the courtyard

and snapped a photo of a photo showing the view if we had climbed all those steps.

Similar to other cities we’ve toured a small carnival plopped itself on the main square flashing colorful lights advertising kiddie rides and games.

All a bit surreal against a backdrop of imposing buildings; yet the modern fair added a light-hearted touch to the surroundings dominated not only by the 13th-century Belfry but also the late 19th-century, Neo-Gothic Provinciall Hof (seat of the provincial government).

Spotting a city tour bus

we hopped on for 50 minutes of a bored driver who would pull up to a site, point his arm and let the multi-lingual headphones provide their limited commentary. The only time he smiled occurred as we were exiting next to the tip jar.

Just to give you an idea of the throngs milling about this spring day (foretelling the mob scenes to come as spring turns into summer), I took a photo out of the window:

Not too informative of a ride but it did provide an opportunity for our picking out where we’d want to go next.

And, two sites we selected centered on the importance of religion (not unusual since churches seem to sprout like mushrooms in these medieval towns), the first being Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (aka O.L.V.-Kerk, aka The Church of Our Lady)

Built on a plot inhabited by previous churches (first from the 9th-century, followed by a Romanesque one in the 12th-century) the current structure began 1210 in the Gothic style and continued birthing additional parts (steeple tower, chapels, etc.) into the 16th and 17th centuries. Bizarrely (to me) in the 18th century, after the French Revolution, the church was for sale resulting in the parishioners buying it back.

During the centuries saintly relics, those pilgrim magnets, i.e., money-makers, pumped up attendance and the church’s coffers insuring O.L.V.’s religious importance. But, entering structures of this magnitude with their soaring ceilings and impressive decor, such as the 12 apostles lining the main aisle of the nave, one doesn’t need dead people’s organs to feel spirituality hovering in the air.

Today the church serves as a museum with one of its most notable pieces being the statue ‘Madonna and Child’ by Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564). Commissioned by a Cardinal who later became Pope Pius III for the main alter of Siena, Italy’s cathedral, it ended up as a gift by Bruges merchant Jan Mouscron to O.L.V.

Because you can’t get within less than 20 feet of this guarded piece of art (I zoomed in to capture the image above), there’s an unimpressive duplicate, although, that, too, is encased in a glass box. When I noticed Max peering at it, I pointed to the real one. He was happy to hear it wasn’t the original as he didn’t think the copy looked too great. (Nor did this statue replace Michelangelo’s Pieta as his all-time favorite.)

The need for security is understandable considering the statue was stolen in 1794 during the French Occupation, returned in 1816 following the Peace of Vienna, only to be seized by the Nazis in 1945, then found along other priceless pieces of art in an Austrian salt mine. And, it was placed back in its original site for paying visitors to now see.

Other notable work catching my eye included:

two elaborate oaken confessionals carved over two years in High Baroque style (1697-98)…

two ceremonial tombs of Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) who died falling off her horse and whose husband, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian of Austria (1459-1519), commissioned this tomb in 1502 with her son, Philip the Fair (1478-1506), adding the gilt-work,

all on top of her bricked-in remains (empty burial tomb seen below through glass floor)

and lying nearby is Charles the Bold (1433-1477), Duke of Burgundy who died at the Battle of Nancy, in the other glittery tomb after Charles V brought his remains to Bruges in 1558 and his son,  Philip II (who fought William I of the Netherlands for control of the Low Countries during the 80-year war) commissioned this one in 1562.

Unlike Michelangelo’s statue these monuments were safely squirreled away during the French Revolution only to be returned in 1806, and you could get with ten feet of them…

The pulpit created in the mid-1700s features a woman (‘Faith’) sitting on a globe who’s proclaiming the ‘Good News’ while holding the proverb “Understand what is wise, O ye of little wisdom; listen, and I will tell you many great things; for what passes my lips is righteous and true”, obviously what’s true has something to do with Jesus or God and not advertising Burger King’s Impossible Whopper…

finally, lots of paintings hung on the walls with one, to me, of the most striking being ‘The Crucifixion’ attributed to Antoon van Djick (1599-1641).


Of course, we can not not tour something with even a whisper of an MDT (Max Disaster Tour ), and we found one of those in The Basilica of the Precious Blood (a 19th-century photo of this building appears earlier in this post)

The Chapel sits on the 9th-century fortification occupied by the first count of Flanders, Baldwin Iron Arm.

Crusading Count Thierry of Alsace (1099-1168) built a Romanesque, two-story chapel. Dedicated to St. Basil, the lower chapel creates a sombre and muted atmosphere with its unadorned stone walls and dim lighting,

while the upper story, added in 1530’s, matches the exterior with regards to ornate architectual elements. With no flash allowed some of my photos, as you’ll see, are unfortunately blurry but will give you a hint of the richness within these walls.

And, it’s in the Upper Chapel where one can witness and partake of the bizarre, daily ritual of parading past a cylindrical vial holding some of Jesus’ blood; and, those who know me can probably imagine my eye roll at that bit of ‘truth’. But, hearing this event would occur in 15 minutes we decided to take one of the seats in a small area (seen below) off to the right of the main altar (seen above) to get our dose of sacredness.

Supposedly the Patriarch of Jerusalem bestowed this valuable bit of Jesus to Count Thierry, a fanatical crusader, to thank him for his bravery during the Second Crusade (1147-49).

However, later research indicates the relic most likely came to Bruges from Constantinople in the early 13th century. Oh well, at least the Jesus’ blood part is true…

By the time the relic made its appearance on the altar, a guard motioned people, by now standing as well as sitting in front of the altar, to begin lining up one by one. When my turn came I climbed the eight steps or so, approached the relic, smiled at the woman overseeing it, then dropped my eyes to see a stained bit of cloth.

A bit anti-climatic for me but I can only imagine how powerful this must be for those who believe in it.

However, for me, all I can imagine is the power of the all-mighty coin; yet, to be fair, surprisingly we were not charged extra to see the relic.

When not being brought out for 30 minutes of homage by tourists such as ourselves, the encapsulated blood resides in a gold and silver, gem-encrusted reliquary.

The highlight of this worship occurs every Ascension Day (when Christ finally goes to Heaven 40 days after his resurrection).

After our holy episode, it was time to leave Bruge, but not without gazing once more at this sumptuous jewel of a Medieval city and saying to one another, we’d love to come back. Only this time I can skip the blood.

And, that ends our 24-hour stroll through this medieval treasure.

Next, Antwerp!




Back in the water… well, sort of


Wednesday-Sunday, April 10-14, 2019

On Tuesday we left a snow-covered Orr’s Island

to catch the bus to Boston and fly to Amsterdam a day earlier than planned due to a last-minute booking on Aer Lingus (our WOW tickets went belly-up with the airlines, and we’ll miss the inexpensive fares but not the lack of amenities!).

We trained back to Hoorn where an artistic display and much appreciated gift of breakfast food from our Dutch family, Deborah, Thijs, and Tika, welcomed us,

a thoughtfulness we’ve received from them several times over, as Tika’s handmade cards attest.

We’ll miss them and others, such as Maartje and Ingo with whom we’ve spent some time. One issue with cruising comes from making friends and then having to leave them. At least there’s digital communication now for keeping in touch.

Within 24 hours JUANONA acquired a live-aboard atmosphere always enhanced with fresh flowers. Spring is here and summer is coming!

But, what really got us back into the cruising mode was an impromptu social hour(s) with some neighbors, owners of a brand new catamaran they designed and just launched.

The three guys in the photo met in school while studying engineering and have kept in touch since then in spite of one living in the Philippines, another in France, and one here in Holland. And, what’s really wonderful is they are only one-fifth of a larger group who frequently gather for class reunions.

I had stopped to talk with them earlier in the day due to noticing their new boat but not seeing a port of call or name on her. They pointed out they did have a name, “H”, written in band-aids on the stern.

Seeing my quizzical look they explained the logistics…. With the Christening and name application occurring Saturday they needed a quick fix to comply with the Dutch requirement that all vessels sport a name. Since all are engineers I have no doubt they used waterproof band-aids.

The next morning I met Deborah at Jesse’s cafe, Het Koffielokaal.

As my friends know, these type of establishments become a mental and physical haven for me when boat living. I found Jesse’s just after he opened in the fall of 2018. And, how I got to know him was due to my totally spacing out and forgetting to pay the first time I was there. As you can read below he graciously accepted my apology. Since then it’s been my go-to place in Hoorn for writing enveloped in the comfort of peaceful and friendly coffee aromas.

Het Koffielokaal is where Deborah and I rendezvous if not at her home or on JUANONA, and this morning we stayed for several hours talking about our winters. She’s the co-author of a book informing how to get a better night’s sleep (September 2018). She’s on the fourth reprint, so it’s slowly but surely picking up momentum. I just wish it was in English.

Knowing boat errands would limit our time in Hoorn we planned a Saturday dinner aboard JUANONA with the piece de résistance being

Tika demonstrating how to crown Max with extra hair…

Sunday we left for those boat errands, one being to drop off the life raft for its three-year inspection in Rotterdam and another leaving Scandinavian guides for some cruisers in Blankenberge, Belgium. In between we managed to explore two other places in Belgium, both of which I’ll cover in later blogs (oh, lucky you.. but, you may want to scan one of them because our B&B owner in Antwerp is a superb host).


Friday-Sunday, April 19-21, 2019

After a too-brief catch-up Thursday night with our friends Richard and Linda from England (pictured 2nd and 3rd from the left in the August 2018 photo on the Danish Island of Møns), we prepped JUANONA for her 2019 inaugural sail to our haul-out port 11 miles south the next morning.

What made this voyage truly memorable, and poignant, was our crew-Deborah, Thijs, and Tika. Memorable, because we were leaving a port we’d called home for the past three winters,

and poignant because our time with our Dutch family was counted in hours, not days or months or years. If Thijs hadn’t stopped by our boat May 2016 when we were tied to the wall in the old harbor we never would have thought of wintering in their small, volunteer club. So, you can understand how wonderfully apt it was to have them aboard for our last sail out of Hoorn.

Tika served often as both photographer

and helmsman (helmswoman?).

We reached 7 knots speed in 10-15 knots of wind on the beam (perpendicular to the boat) in a gentle sail. In short, a glorious day on the water :)

Within two hours we had arrived at Monnickendam, an old Dutch town we had visited a few years ago with our friend Anne (March 2017).

With their bus to catch and our organizing for haul-out, we had to say good-bye to our friends, something I never enjoy. Like removing a bandaid, it’s best to just rip it off and then not think about it until later. They’ve been our home port and close friends since 2016. We’ve sung ‘Do re mi’ cycling through Hindeloopen, shared many a meal both on land and water, seen Tika grow into a teenager, and traveled in conversations through many topics. The hugs were powerful reminders of what we were leaving behind, but also what we’ll have when we meet again.

The next day we motored the short distance to the lift for haul-out with Max watching a competent team of two at Marina Monnickendam handle the crane…

and later power washing the hull.

It’s been three years since we’ve had her out of the water and we were pleasantly surprised to see relatively little marine life adhered to her.

The two winters in Ipswich’s brackish water and the three in Hoorn’s fresh water kept barnacles to a minimum. In 2015 and 2016 we managed to remove the one-year growth with an hour of gentle sponging by hand. However, this time a forceful spray managed to remove all the algae within ten minutes. A nice reprieve for our four arms.






Next, a ladder delivered by, what else, but a bicycle…

and on Easter morning we were ready to start the work of preparing JUANONA for a summer cruise:  with Max working on the garboard drain hole (water drips down the mast into the bilge, which can freeze during the winter if on land; the garboard allows it to drain),

and my doing some laundry…

thanks to our new crew member:

Now, with just a few more days and nights ‘on the hard’ * we’ll be back in the water and primed for summer!

But, not before we celebrate with a chocolate Easter bunny from Tika! :)

*’Hard’ in nautical terms means being on the land versus in the water. For me, it means trying to remember NOT to brush one’s teeth only to realize you can’t spit it out in the sink since it’d just drain out of one of the seacocks, dropping eight feet or so to splatter on the pavement for all to see. Don’t ask me how they got THAT term but I will tell you a seacock allows water to drain out of the boat such as from a faucet, as well as into the boat such as for a saltwater sink. And, if you’re wondering, toothpaste water is not a pleasant nightcap…


Wintery Holiday: Finale


December 26, 2018 – January 2, 2019

Deciding to extend our time in the Baltic we researched the best way to reach Tallinn (Estonian for ‘Danish Town/Fortress’), Estonia’s capital and another Old Town jewel. A bus seemed to be the fastest and the easiest, so we purchased tickets and the next day experienced an extremely comfortable, four-hour ride outfitted with reclining seats, plenty of legroom, and individual screens with Wifi.

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