Almost open sea again

Wednesday 28 March

We made an early start and were soon passing through the huge sea lock at Stavoren, without difficulty, and out into the IJsselmeer once again. We turned right and made our way North along the coast, in the usual grey and murky conditions, but with just enough wind to give the genoa an airing. It was good to feel like a sailing boat again.

A couple of hours later, we arrived at the next lock, that would take us through the Afsluitsdijk and out into the North Sea proper. In fact, this area, between the Frisian Islands and the North Dutch mainland, is the Waddenzee – ‘wadden’ are sandbanks, of which we could see several, well-populated by a variety of waders and gulls.

Once again we were obliged to follow clearly marked channels all the way to Harlingen. This is a large port, accommodating the KNRM: the Dutch RNLI, ferries to the offlying islands, fishing trawlers and a variety of cargo vessels. The electronic chart plotter made easy work of finding the correct channel to the lock that would allow us to enter the Harinxma canal to reach Leeuwarden from the other side. Frustratingly for Mate, this is the route she’d originally suggested, before it was decided to explore inland from Lemmer.

We had to pause at the waiting posts of one bridge on the outskirts of the town, while the bridgekeeper took his afternoon break and let the rush hour traffic flow. It was a good opportunity to enjoy a hot drink to alleviate the discomfort of wet and cold. This former had been mitigated by Mate’s brainwave to open out the bimini, usually a sunshade, which does a great job of sheltering the cockpit from the worst of the rain.

Eventually we were able to make our way through the city, the capital of this region of Friesland, waiting for the attendant to cycle from one bridge to the next. He held out a clog on a fishing line at one bridge, for us to make a contribution to his holiday fund. [look very closely!]

We decided to carry on beyond the outskirts of Leeuwarden to find a peaceful spot on the Dokkummer Ee. We made a tidy landfall at the end of a long day, covering 45 miles in eleven hours.