By Anje Valk
The relationship between the Dutch and the English, being close opposite neighbours, has not always been a fully friendly one. Yet nowadays there is a busy traffic in both directions of cruising yachts. For the Dutch, England’s east and south coasts are popular destinations, and vice versa, the Dutch shores for the British. Crossing from Dover to Flushing (Vlissingen) is 90 NM, from Lowestoft to IJmuiden is 100 NM. The Netherlands coastline may not be very spectacular: low lying, beach, sand dunes. But the attractions lie behind: the Zeeland waters, the IJsselmeer and the Waddenzee with the Friesian Isles.
From Dover, Flushing (Vlissingen) in the SW of the Netherlands (called Zeeland) is the most likely port of entrance. Zeeland is a cruising area of nicely sheltered waters, former sea arms that have been closed off by the Delta Works. (This project of dikes and sluices was started after the terrible flooding disaster of Febrary 1953, when almost 1.800 people lost their lives.) From Vlissingen, the Canal through Walcheren leads to Middelburg, the monumental capital of Zeeland, very worthwile seeing. Further on, it leads into the Veerse Meer, Oosterschelde and Grevelingen. Veere, Zierikzee, Goes, Kortgene, Bruinisse, Brouwershaven, Willemstad and other historical towns are real monumental gems. From the Zeeland waters, the inshore standing mast route to Amsterdam goes via Dordrecht. The route takes a few days, but offers a wonderful view into inshore Holland.
IJmuiden is the entrance of the Noordzeekanaal, leading to Amsterdam and beyond, into the IJsselmeer. In IJmuiden is the Seaport Marina. Amsterdam: a few miles before the good old, but always very crowded Sixhaven there is the new Amsterdam Marina, on the previously industrial north shore, now developing and booming. Easy connection with the Central Station and the city centre with a free ferry nearby, which runs every half an hour.
Entrance to the Waddenzee is the Marsdiep, with Den Helder to starboard and the isle of Texel (Oudeschild) to port. Den Helder is a naval port and a useful stop over, but not much more. It has a nice little marina, very hospitable. IShops etc. are far away though. The old Navy Shipyard with shipdocks, the Navy Museum and the Lifeboatmuseum is nearby and worth seeing.
Waddenzee: useful marinas on the Friesian Isles ofTexel (Oudeschild), Vlieland and Terschelling. These get extremely busy during the holiday season (July and August). On http://www.waddenhavens.nl/ one can find out whether there is still space. Anchoring on the Waddenzee is, apart from Vlieland, not recommended.
See for a webcam: http://www.waddenhavenvlieland.nl/webcam/
The best way to do these isles is renting a bicycle. Texel is rather large and has a typical North Holland polder landscape. Lots of sheep, little villages. Vlieland and Terschelling are more typical small scale Wadden isles, with wonderful sand dune landscape, salt marshes, nature reserves, almost endless beaches, and picturesque villages.
On the mainland side, the friendly fishing village of Den Oever offers good pontoons to tie up. Harlingen is a very pretty, well preserved smallmonumental town with a large history. The marina Noorderhaven is right in the middle of the centre, surrounded by monumental canal houses. For the quieter, small scale club marina HWSV, go through the Tjerk Hiddes locks and then immediately with a U-turn to the right.
Harlingen has a lot to offer: a relaxed atmosphere, pubs, restaurants, terraces, a museum, a historic boatyard where a replica of the ship of the 17tyh century Dutch arctic explorer Willem Barends is built. And an easy half hourly train connection to Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland.
The IJsselmeer is the former Zuiderzee. From the south, it can be reached via Amsterdam. From the north, there are two entrances in the Afsluitdike: via the locks of Den Oever (near Den Helder) and those of Kornwerderzand (near Harlingen). IJsselmeer is a cruising area in its own right, where it is easy to spend a couple of weeks without being bored. It is non-tidal, fresh water, with a wide choice of interesting destinations on short daytrip distances. Pretty old harbour towns and villages are (from S to N) Durgerdam, Marken, Volendam, Edam, Monnikendam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Medemblik on the west (North Holland) side, and (from N to S) Makkum, Workum, Hindeloopen and Stavoren on the east (Friesian) side. Lelystad and Almere are new towns in the Flevoland Polder, offering good and useful marinas, but lacking history and atmosphere.
Charts: the 1800 series of the Dutch Hydrographical Office
NV Verlag Atlasses NL 1-5
Mast Up Route (staande mast route): useful info and downloads at http://www.varendoejesamen.nl/?language=en
Imray Cruising Guide to the Netherlands by Brian Navin
Imray Inland Waterways of the Netherlands by Louise Busby and David Broad
Cruising in the Netherlands
The Lady of Stavoren statue, Stavoren town harbour
Paying bridge fee in the traditional way (Mast up Route Dokkum)
Paard van Marken (Horse of Marken, IJsselmeer)