Thursday, June 02, 2011

Ever-decreasing circles

I spent the afternoon of my birthday (Tuesday) trying to work out the best option for where to leave the boat for three weeks while we return to the UK by ferry (we'll be giving moral support to Ben during the worst of his A-levels). We are thinking of heading inland through the Frisian canals, revisiting the scene of a couple of happy holidays almost 20 years ago. Leeuwarden looks nice, but on closer examination it appears the only mooring options are almost completely insecure. So instead we are heading for Enkhuizen, which we know well, and which has one large and one vast marina so we are very likely to be able to find a suitable berth. It's closer to Amsterdam so we should be there by Friday.

We nearly skipped Amsterdam, as we spent so much time there two years ago, but in the end felt it was a shame to miss out. We reached the Sixhaven Marina at almost exactly the same time we did on the last visit, about 11.30am, as we found it a good time to get a berth. The Sixhaven has changed, however. No longer are there box berths between wobbly posts - instead there are very solid, new finger pontoons. This must reduce the number of boats they can cram in on busy days, but the rate had increased only 40 cents from the €15 of two years ago.

We had no special destination in mind as we drifted around Amsterdam in glorious warmth and sunshine, but decided to climb the tower of the Westerkerk - the church whose bells Anne Frank used to hear from her attic. You have to go in groups of six with a guide, which wouldn't have been our first choice, but in fact it was a really excellent and informative half hour, with a potted social history of the Netherlands thrown in. The view was great too.

This is the Westerkerk...

...and here's the view.
Today we decided to try to get to Edam, an option we've always fancied but it only has a little marina and shallow town moorings. Heading out of the IJ into the Markermeer it was a wonderful, calm morning with clear blue skies and very little wind.

Backtrack a bit. We had to hand-steer all the way across the North Sea because both of our (identical) autopilots refused to work properly, which is an absolute pain as it means at least one person has to hold the tiller at all times. Today was the perfect day to try calibrating the autopilots and see if that solved the problem. To calibrate them you attach the autopilot to the tiller, then motor in very slow tight circles until it decides it knows where it is going. We have done this before and it normally takes about one-and-a-half circuits. After three circuits nothing had happened so it was clear something else was wrong. We removed one of our brand new cockpit speakers and tried again. Fantastic, it worked. So we know the problem, but fixing it leaves us with two further problems: (1) a big hole in the side of the cockpit and (2) no external speaker connected to the VHF. Fortunately we can do without the autopilot for the next few weeks so for now Sam has re-fixed the speaker. Perhaps we could wrap it in lead sheeting?

Anyway after that the wind freshened and we had an excellent beat up to Edam, and found a good (tight!) berth in the marina after being chased away from one which was too big for us. Edam is a really lovely little town about 20 minutes' walk inland, with not much cheese in evidence, but the usual mix of little canals, gabled houses, big churches and boats. We were entertained by the progress of an enormous two-masted vessel called Atalanta, complete with two bagpipe players, up the little canal - it barely fitted in the lock, and turning and parking it was quite a challenge.

Camilla in Edam
Atalanta jams into the Edam lock
Tomorrow, straight into the strengthening NE wind, heading for Enkhuizen.

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