Category Archives: 2016 05 NETHERLANDS


Monday, May 9

Rudy arrived and we introduce him to the quick ferry ride across to Sixhaven Marina then whisk him back across the river for a walk-about, which ended at the Van Gogh Museum covering this artist’s life (1853-90).


Renovated in 2014-15 this museum provides an easy to digest biography of this artist’s life, beginning with his childhood in the mid-1800s.


The space was crowded but not overwhelmingly, so it was easy to stroll from one floor to the next. Some of the most fascinating tidbits to me were how he interacted with his fellow artists, many of whom being his friends, and how much of a craftsman he was in relation to learning his art. I had always assumed he was an impulsive artist, splashing and coloring his canvases without much preparation. I quickly understood this guy practiced and practiced and honed his skill, experimenting with various techniques and subject matter, one being a japanese interest.

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What was truly wonderful was the love he had for his brother, Theodore, a successful art seller who supported Vincent financially and, even more importantly, emotionally.

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With beautiful weather beckoning us we finished our fairly quick review of Van Gogh then strolled to our ferry and home to JUANONA.


Tuesday, May 10

We had been keeping an eye on weather for heading to another historical site further north. Hoorn, once a port of the Dutch East India Company (the West India Company was created in 1621) , sits on the Markermeer, a lake due to the dyke built in 1932.

It was an easy sail involving an initial lock out of Amsterdam. Within six hours we were approaching the narrow opening to Hoorn’s 13th century harbor under the watchful gaze of the Hoofdtoren, dating from 1532. This tower served not only as one of Hoorn’s defenses but also as the home of the Northern Company (a cartel founded in 1614 and operated until 1642) focused on whaling.

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Entering this historical harbor was magical with a lovely park on one side and the old buildings on the other. We love tieing up to town walls because you simply step off the boat and immediately become part of the local landscape. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to meet people walking along the water’s edge.

We found the Tourist Information Office, purchased a walking tour map for the next day’s exploring, then settled into an easy night ending with the obligatory OH HELL game, something Max and I had been missing since the last time a third crew was aboard.

Wednesday, May 11

Another lovely day dawned and off we went matching our route with noted sites listed in two tourist brochures. With my two companions willing to dramatize the brochures’ descriptions I was thoroughly entertained as we traipsed through this beautiful town.

We walked to the oldest house in Hoorn constructed in 1593 only to read it burnt down in 1945 and was rebuilt two years later. Hmmm.

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As Max likes to recount, this falls in the same category as the sign we had heard about:  Antiques made to order.

You can’t walk down these streets without noticing the decidedly forward tilt to the buildings. Several theories have arisen for these ‘in flight’ houses, from rainwater drainage to gain more space above to presenting a more imposing appearance, the latter supposedly being one reason why they weren’t straightened.

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Then, a puzzling description about plaques like a ‘comic strip’ atop three joined houses or Bossuhuizen dating from the 17th century). Comic Strip? Well, that turned out to be a bas-relief frieze depicting the October 12th 1573 historic Battle on the Zuiderzee between the Dutch and the Spanish led by Count Bossu with the Dutch as victors. Not too comical. What was intriguing was identifying the harbor entrance (check out the second panel) that we passed through the day before.

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Another stop placed us in the main square opposite the Waag (Weigh House from 1609) and next to a statue of a prominent resident, J.P. Coen (1587-1629), a Dutch merchant and governor-general of the Dutch East India Company. Yet, then the brochure continued saying the guy wasn’t liked very much due to his use of violence to achieve his goal of a trade monopoly. Sounds like a great opportunity for replacement while stowing him in a museum.

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Another historical building showcased a coat-and-arms facade,

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while an elaborate entrance provided the perfect spot for two men in repose:

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I mean how lucky can a women get?! :)

And, then there was the aviary we stumbled upon where my husband further endeared himself to me when he tried to get a little birdie to join him in whistling…

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while one nearby displayed her distaste in ruffled pink plumage.

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Of course, when in the Netherlands one must try on wooden shoes; and, my fellow walkers obliged me by doing just that.
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At times we felt the tourist bureau had been really searching for tourist sites such as listing the 18th century wallpaper one could see. This was hung in the antiquities room located at the Dutch Cape Horners Foundation. (Captain Willem Schouten who, with Jacob Le Maire, named that part of South America having sailed from here in 1615. We couldn’t help but think of our friends Rob and Shawn due to Rob having rounded the horn with Max in 1985).

We did end up seeing the wallpaper and, I must admit, it was pretty spectacular; plus, the two members who greeted us made us feel very welcomed. Definitely a return visit is warranted.

All antics aside, Hoorn is a lovely port to visit. We strolled by an old gate topped by a residence

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and a remnant (the 1508 defense tower called the Mary Tower due to the Mary Convent, which helped pay for the defense of the city) from when the city was rimmed by a wall.

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One of the most puzzling and sobering sites we saw was a sculpture depicting two hands in chains clasping one another. We tried to read the bronze plaque written in Dutch but to no avail.

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Later we inquired about this as well as similar sculptures we had seen around town. A local recounted the atrocity, which occurred during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. On January 4th, 1944, five POWs were taken from their prison, walked through the streets to the Grote Kerk (church) and executed. The killings were in retaliation for the assassination of a Nazi collaborator by the resistance. In 1990 four, hand sculptures representing departure, anger, despair, and support were placed along this route of remembrance where it ended at an earlier monument of a bound man mounted in 1947 at the place of execution.

Gazing at those held hands in chains one can only imagine the feeling of helplessness and the men’s poignant determination to share this tragic destiny as one. Astonishingly, neither of the two tourist brochure bothered to mention this event. Would be well worth adding.

We ended with asking our boat neighbors, Kiki and Henk, aboard and had another wonderful time sharing cockpit conversations. They also gave us some pointers regarding marinas and places to cruise.

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Friday, May 13

Tied to a town’s quay provides one of the best ways to become immersed in the local habitat, which is what occurred when Thijs, a local sailor, stopped by after spotting our American flag. He had cruised the South Pacific in the early 2000s and was eager to talk with fellow cruisers.

Thijs told us about his marina just on the other side of the park from us. Mentioning it could be a possible winter berth, he took us over there and kindly introduced us to the harbor master.

Wanting to spend more time with Thijs, we asked him and his family to join us after his wife returned from work; and, later that day Thijs, his wife Debra and young daughter Tika came aboard with some traditional Dutch fare and a lively exchange began.

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I have to say these conversations typically beginning with cruising then meandering through a range of topics become one of the gems of cruising. I can never get enough of hearing how others live their lives, many with fascinating episodes.

Saturday-Monday, May 14-16

The next morning we awoke anticipating a reunion long overdue. Our friends known to us as our Belgian family–Ta, Koen and their three children, Seppe, Frieke, and Wannes–were visiting for the weekend. Not having seen them since 2009 we eagerly awaited their arrival.

Because JUANONA couldn’t offer enough berths they had booked rooms on Oostreiland (Eastern Island), a short walk across a bridge to the main harbor. The hotel previously served as 17th-century residences and warehouses, which were converted to a poorhouse (1817-28) and later a prison until 2003 (Seppe’s basement-level room still had the bars on the window and original cell door.).

They arrived around noon, and the celebrations began after Max and I got over the shock of seeing now three teenagers who were small children the last time we had set eyes on them seven years ago…

Frieke Wannes Seppe NOV 2009

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After a walk around town we headed back to JUANONA for some card games and Max’s famous (and only) card trick.

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We discovered it was Ta and Koen’s wedding anniversary, which enhanced the festivities and toasts with the bottle of champagne brought by Koen. (FYI:  this is one of the few appearances Ta made below due to getting extremely seasick; she normally is perched on the top step of the hatchway.)

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A Belgian team hat was presented to Max who quickly donned it yet realized wearing it off the boat may not be appreciated by our Dutch hosts.

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The next day was cloudy but another stroll around town and through the park offered a chance to catch up. We learned about Seppe’s fascination with astronomy, Frieke’s interest in art and history, and Wannes’ eagerness to travel US Route 66. Ta was continuing her photography degree with an upcoming trip to Peru on a paid assignment while Koen was working towards a pilot’s license. To say we were thrilled to be with them doesn’t do their visit justice.

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Although there were many memories shared one anecdote does stand out:  this family has been traveling all over the world since Seppe was less than two months old; and, they were telling us about one of their more recent trips, this time to Sicily. One of the kids was flipping through a book in a museum shop and finally called Ta over. With a puzzled expression the child asked who was this guy? Followed by, ‘whoever he was he must have been really popular’ because he was featured in so many paintings. Ta peered over the shoulder, then quietly mentioned he was Jesus… Got to love it.

On Monday we were sailing up to Enkuizen (about 11 miles north of Hoorn) in order to leave JUANONA at a marina for an upcoming trip home. Steppe, Frieke, and Wannes joined us, and we arranged to meet Ta and Koen there after they made a quick trip to Amsterdam. We had just left the harbor when Seppe’s cell phone rang. It was his parents calling asking for the car keys. Good timing!

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A wind kicked up enough for a wonderful sail, and the six of us enjoyed a morning out on the water with some hot chocolate to take the chill out.

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Captain Max shared the helm with Rudy

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with the sail ending in a group portrait:

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A spectacular ending to a memorable visit with some Belgian chocolate labeled ‘Norway’  and ‘FOBF’ (from our Belgian family) (they had been a bit stunned when I told them I had separated our provisioning last summer between non-Norway & Norway)…   IMG_7995

and a thoughtful gift from Seppe as a reminder of time spent with our Belgian Family.

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Wednesday, May 18

We had heard from several other cruisers about Zuiderzee, a must-see, living museum located in Enkhuizen. We decided to visit this site while here, which we did under another warm blue sky.

First, just a bit of background on the history of the Zuiderzee… Enkuizen once sat on an inland sea due to salt water constantly breaching flimsy land barriers creating the Zuiderzee (literally ‘South Sea’). Today, this town straddles the waters of two, large lakes, the Ijseelmeer in the north and Markermeer in the south, created by two dykes: one in 1932 following a devastating flood in 1916;

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the other in 1976 to reclaim more arable land.

This immense watery engineering saved the Netherlands but at a price of the Zuider Zee fishing fleet; yet, these fresh water lakes provide a lovely playground for vessels and waterfowl alike.

A short stroll from the marina brought us to the entrance of the Binnenmuseum (indoor museum) housed in a former Dutch shipping merchant’s residence and warehouse and Peperhuis (where pepper was stored). The rooms featured customs and costumes of various fishing villages on the shores of the Zuiderzee.

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It was here I learned that the women’s stiff-winged bonnet symbolizing all of Holland to many actually is from just one small region whose village is Volendam (just south of Enkhuizen and next to Edam).

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Exhibits provided examples and information about residents’  lives and the various forms of commerce, such as herring fishing, harvesting of rush–documented by a short feature film, which I think could have used better editing,…

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tile factories, and merchant trading.

Like many small villages, prosperity ebbed and flowed with the times. Yet, the human spirit survived as witnessed by a poem, which captured both Rudy’s and my attention:

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Continuing in the spirit of levity, we took advantage of some exhibits begging for visitors’ particiipation, which Rudy and I jumped at:

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Max, however, showed more reserve.

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Exiting the Bennenmuseum we headed to the Buitenmuseum. This outdoor site opened in 1983 and is composed of a collection of transported buildings placed in a re-created village to show life as it was from 1880-1932. Here, we could travel back in time as we walked along the streets stopping to explore various shops and homes.

It’s also where we found more ways to entertain ourselves, beginning with the display on the lifesaving crews…

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followed by an impressive demonstration on creating a fishing net…

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obtaining sustenance in company of wandering ducks

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(where some patrons had yet to learn the danger of feeding spare crumbs to feathered friends)…

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mailing a card to Max’s mom from a former post office…

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and ending with my two manly cohorts trying their hand at bailing water the way windmills did,

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One manly man tried to outdo the other manly man…

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I’d say it was a draw.

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Our tour of the Zuiderzee Museum had come to a close but not before one visual captured our attention by summing up the challenge facing the Netherlands. Here, truly, a picture is a 1,000 words:

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Next up:  Well, who knows? We keep adjusting our plans. Welcome to cruising life :) 

Further north to Amsterdam


Wednesday, May 5

(Remembrance Day)

Our time in Haarlem ended as we untied under a bright sky and retraced our steps up to the Noordzeekanaal, only this time turning right towards Amsterdam versus left for IJmuiden and the North Sea.

Due to a timed bridge opening, we hurriedly went through the first lock only to be put on hold awhile for the second. For the latter we really didn’t have to tie up to wait because we discovered we were gently ‘resting’ on the bottom of the canal…

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Further up in Spaardnam that lock became a can of sardines (or herring, more appropriately here) with everyone jockeying for position as the Lock Keeper waved for the stragglers to hurry up. There was a bridge up ahead opening at 10:30am with the next one not until 2:15pm. We piled in amongst a plethora of motorboats, headed off on a rally together.

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But, all of us did make it (note the traffic having to stop on this major highway crossing but the Dutch take it in stride),

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and we followed the canal to our destination.

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Since it’s difficult to tie up to a canal wall in Amsterdam this time we entered the Sixhaven Marina suggested by friends. With only a short (free) ferry ride to the center of town, docking here offered a perfect spot for exploring the city. Many others thought the same as we joined a herd of boats in this jammed marina. Although, we were once again stunned by how easily and comfortably the Dutch seem to pack in boats, such as waking up the next morning to find a sailboat docked behind the sterns of two other boats.

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We were welcomed by Joise and Hennie, who thankfully alerted us to a two-minute of silence at 8:00pm in honor of those who died during WWII. It would have been great to have experienced this in the city (where everyone and everything comes to a halt, and the popular King and Queen make an appearance) but we were a bit late in planning so we just observed this aboard. Tomorrow we’d begin our exploring.

Thursday, May 6

(Liberation Day)

Folks in Haarlem had warned us about the crowds in Amsterdam; yet, it was still surprising just how many people fit into this city space. Being another holiday leading into a beautiful spring weekend increased the flow of pedestrians and bikes and cars; but, we enjoyed the places we had mapped out:  Rembrandt’s home and studio after he moved from Leiden with two excellent demonstrations, one being how he mixed his paints, another how he created his prints (FYI: Anyone interested in the 17th century art business and bankruptcy should read about Rembrandt’s life from a commercial aspect. It would be a fascinating look into those times.)

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the Resistance Museum, featuring some very brave souls, such as Hannie Schaft, known as ’The Girl with the Red Hair’.

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and, the Gassan Diamond Tour (which was really a two-minute breeze-through of trying to watch some employees polishing the stones and a thirty-minute sales job… at least we managed to skip the Madame Trousseau ‘Museum’).

During our walk from one exhibit to the next we met a friendly pup who reminded us of our friend Sue H.’s Portuguese Water Dog. So, we had to stop and pet him while talking with his even friendlier owner.

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After a day of soaking up some of Amsterdam’s history we opted to grab a beer and glass of wine in the Waag’s square (because a lot of trade was conducted via bartering most municipalities had these Weigh Houses to ensure one was truly getting the correct of amount of cheese, butter, etc, bartered for). With trucks offering refreshments and picnic tables providing seating, we found a seat and then sat back to enjoy the partying going on around us.

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We had thought we’d only be there for one drink then head back to JUANONA, but, we were wrong, oh so very wrong. Within thirty minutes the table changed over and we found ourselves with a German Couple (Ilse and Werner) here for the weekend and three, thirty-year-old locals who had grown up together (Ditske, Koen, and Erik who’s taking the picture).

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We decided to participate as one of the table team’s in the trivia pop-quizzes (five rounds of ten questions each),

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and, well, one thing led to another,

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ending with our strolling through the Red Light District to a local pub

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for one last beer.

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We made it home by 1:00 am along with other revelers enjoying Amsterdam’s night (and morning) life.


Friday, May 7

Well, we DID get up the next morning (Friday) and continued our sight-seeing with the focus being the impressive Rijksmuseum. A major, ten-year renovation meant the art housed here was splendidly showcased. In fact there is so much art and history (1100-present day) covered in this beautiful building that we limited our ogling to several centuries while casing the joint for hopefully a return visit.

Not wanting to overload you with tidbits I picked up, I will post one portrait painted by Theresa Schwartze (1851-1918) who, I believe is our artist friend Ellen’s ancestor. She was the go-to painter for the Dutch elite and one of the few, recognized females during that time. Below is one she painted of her niece, Lizzy Ansingh, also an artist.

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As you can imagine on a beautiful holiday weekend the galleries were wall-to-wall people with Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” painting drawing such a crowd I just peeped over some shoulders then moved on. After two hours we exited to the garden with its nearby water pool and walked through the park connecting the Rijks with the Van Gogh Museum, another extraordinary art feast,

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one we decided to save for another day.

Sunday, May 10

Having felt the elbow-to-elbow squeeze on the sidewalks as well as in museums, we opted out of Saturday sight-seeing and toured on Sunday. We ended up at one of Amsterdam’s House Churches, the Lord in the Attic House museum (love the name as it compliments what mom said we use to call the guy in Sunday School, “Jesus in the basement”, which basically was the end of my religious instruction). This site offers a fascinating view of how Catholics worshipped when they, along with some other non-Calvinist, religious groups, could practice their religions but just not in public. Consequently, some ‘secret’ churches were constructed in homes, this being one of them.

The self-guided tour takes you up three flights of narrow stairs, where you stop on each floor to walk around rooms furnished from the 1600s. On the top floor you step into a three-story-high ‘attic’ that features a beautiful altar. This house church was in use until the late 1800s when Catholics could again worship in public.

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I had also read about the World Press Photo Exhibition being held in the Nieuve Kerk, so we stopped in there for some eye-opening pictures. It made for a relaxed stroll surrounded by current events.

Then back to JUANONA while spotting a rather unique mode of transportation:  a centipede of beer guzzling partiers propelling a cart by pumping with their legs while enjoying some brew…

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with women doing the same.

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Monday, May 11

Our brother-in-law Doug mentioned his brother John and wife Bette had toured the Flower Auction just outside of town. Saying that it had been the highlight of their trip we caught an early morning bus to Flora Holland.

Billboards provided background info and explained the process but it was enough just watching a beehive of buzzing human bees moving here and there.

Following a suspended walkway over the warehouse floor we landed outside the glass-enclosed auction room where buyers bid electronically on flowers from around the world (also possible to do remotely).

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And, it’s complicated.

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I tried following the little red dot but my eyes started spinning in my head alerting me it was time for a coffee break.

Outside we saw more evidence of the commercial trafficking of flowers as we watched truck after truck stream towards the highway loaded with freshly cut flowers. If only that natural floral scent could be bottled for JUANONA’s head.

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Back in town we met our crewmate Rudy, who had arrived from a two-week archaeological dig at Vindolanda, a Roman fortress town at Hadrian’s Wall.  We were fortunate to have him aboard in between his dig and visiting his Belgium Family (whom we also call our Belgium Family :) and were looking forward to some cruising, exploring, and games of OH HELL.

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To say life can be grand just doesn’t do it justice.

Pumping Holland Dry by Max



Monday, May 2

Fascinated by Holland’s history with water, I walked 3 miles south from Haarlem to visit one of the 3 pump houses that drained a major area of Holland from 1849-52. The journey entailed taking a free ferry across what I later learned was part of the “Ring Canal” built to drain a lake.

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In prehistoric times, what is now the North Sea was largely land: one could walk from present day Holland to England. Rising ocean levels gradually covered the land, but even as recently as the Roman era, much of present day Holland was comprised of low lying land interspersed with lakes. However, the shoreline became an increasingly changing and dangerous landscape as the ocean continue to rise and storms battered the coast. Early inhabitants started living on mounds (whether natural or man made) called terps, to which they retreated when the inevitable floods occurred. The first known dike was constructed around the time of Christ.

Inland from the ocean were mounds of peat standing higher than the surrounding bogs. In the 10th century humans began moving from the coast into this area, and found that by digging trenches and draining water from the sodden peat domes, they could farm the land. The problem was that drying the peat causes it to lose its ability to hold back the rush of storm water; as it dries it shrinks, becomes fluffy, and the top layer oxidizes and turns sour. Once the old land becomes too sour for farming, the inhabitants looked to new peat mounds to drain.

Compounding the problem, peat became an important commodity: it was used for heating, to fire brick-making kilns, to dye cloth, to brew beer. The more the peat was harvested, the more the ground sank, and the less resistant to flooding it became. In response, towns that had ruined the land with their appetite for fuel, started to build dikes and dams to protect themselves; Amsterdam was one such town. Yet the peat harvesting continued.

(An aside to this story is described in an interesting recent book given to us by our friend Ginger, “The Edge of the World” by Michael Pye, describing the influence the North Sea has had on western civilization. After the peat became unsuitable for agriculture, it was used for cattle grazing. Families began keeping cows, and to eke out a living on the infertile land they produced butter for export. Butter requires immaculate conditions or it will spoil; it is far less forgiving than cheese. The Dutch reputation for cleanliness began with the requirement that the dairy barn, usually an extension of the house, be kept immaculate.)

With land that was now below sea level in many areas, Holland developed techniques to pump it out. In one of the most significant developments of the time, windmills previously used for grinding grain were set up to raise water over dikes and into drainage ditches. Windmills sprouted up everywhere, and enabled the inhabitants to keep their feet dry on land situated below sea level.

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Model of a ’tjasker’ which could pump water into a ditch, where a larger windmill would pump it into a canal to carry it to the ocean.

Nevertheless, terrible storms occurred from time to time over the centuries, causing catastrophic damage and destroying entire cities.In 1506 and 1509 there were terrible storm surges which broke through ditches and canals and formed a huge new lake south of Amsterdam, called the Haarlemmer (you can seethe beige expanse of the “Groote Haarlemmer” in the middle of the map below). By 1647 this lake had grown to 66 square miles, swallowing towns as it expanded.

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Map of Haarlemmer Lake

Pumping out the Haarlemermeer was originally proposed in the 1600s, but there was widespread public resistance, especially by the fishermen. But in 1836 massive storms devastated the region. In November a hurricane drove water to the gates of Amsterdam, and on Christmas Day the water was driven in the opposite direction, flooding the streets of Leiden. It became clear something had to be done: The lake needed to be pumped out. There was natural sentiment to do the job by traditional windmills, but it would have taken 160 windmills 30 years to do the job. King Willem I pushed The Netherlands to advance its technology and insisted that steam engines be used.

The first step was to build a 61 km (38 mile) elevated ring canal to carry the pumped water away, and to carry ship traffic which previously would cross the lake. It took 8 years to build, as the work was done entirely  by hand. The earth that was removed was used to build a 120 ft wide dike around the entire lake.

Three pumping stations were built. The pump at De Cruquius, with a cylinder diameter of 12 feet, was the largest Watt style steam engine ever built.

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Each stroke raises 8,000 liters 5 meters high. There are 8 levers. They run at 5 strokes per minute. The water is raised to the ring canal, from which it flows to the Spaarn River and eventually to the Zuider Zee and out to the ocean.

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One of the valves which let water enter the chamber on the downward stroke and closed on the upward stroke:

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They were paid by the stroke. A meter counted them out:

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Pumping began in 1848 and the lake was dry by July 1852. In the end, 800 million tons of water were removed.

Holland carefully monitors water levels to this day. Using more modern pumps, they pump out the lowlands when it rains through a vast network of drainage ditches and canals. Since there is still salt in the land left over from prehistoric times, they intentionally flood areas of land occasionally to freshen the soil. Massive dikes and dams have been built in recent decades, some of which have been designated amongst the most impressive modern engineering wonders if the world. I felt fortunate to visit this one and look forward to seeing others.