Departure: Helgoland, June 8, 6 AM Arrival: Delfzijl, June 8, 9 PM Nautical miles: 95
When thinking of the Netherlands, one might not think of sailing. Back in the day maybe, as the Dutch sailors had their own legacy, but today? Nowadays, for a lot of cruisers it’s just a long stretch of coast in the North Sea one has to pass quickly to get to the warm south or back home to the north.
But if some spare time is available one should definitely consider sailing the Netherlands – we promise you won’t be disappointed. As the North Sea is often roaring and the coasts of the Netherlands are not too tempting for shorter stretches, the Dutch have us covered; the standing mast route – a network of fresh water canals navigable with drafts of up to 2 m – offers perhaps the most picturesque and relaxing way to discover this beautiful country.
The canals meander through pretty grasslands and fields, beautiful towns and little harbours filled with the loveliest classic Dutch sailing boats and houseboats.
Some of the best parts include:
- Minimal costs for bridges and locks (< 20 euros for the entire canal)
- Cheap harbours as well as many free docking options in nature.
- Easy to navigate, with hardly any waiting times for bridges and locks.
- Super friendly people.
Unless you have a small draft or a motorboat, you are somewhat restricted to the main channels and mostly to the engine. A shallow drafted vessel will give you more freedom. We imagine especially for a motorboat that this must be the ultimate cruising paradise. Although this route requires a lot of motoring, however the Dutch have already set up quite a network of charging stations along the way, leading to a cleaner electric future in boating. We hope that next time we will be part of it, cruising silently and clean through the canals.
Although the canals are filled with fresh water, with limited circulation and relatively murky, they appear clean enough for swimming and they are already pretty warm, with kids and adults swimming in them in every town. We followed the trend and enjoyed perhaps our last fresh water swims for a while. We assume that swimming is a bonus for the early birds, as often the summer heat causes large algae growth in the canals, making them less inviting.
We nearly forgot to mention the negatives, bugs and mosquitoes everywhere, especially on windless days a proper invasion is guaranteed, they stick and crawl everywhere; sails, railing, your body. Luckily we found a mosquito net for one hatch. In the afternoon, we close up all doors and hatches except our bedroom one with the net and with Kai’s help killing any intruders left.
Lastly, we have to mention/admit to our contacts with the underworld, aka groundings. We managed to establish contact 3 times, twice trying to dock and once upon entering the marked canal coming from an inner lake, depths change and vary from maps, so slow steaming is your only friend, we managed to reverse out all three times as the contact was rather gentle.