As the North Sea promised pretty strong winds the upcoming days we decided to go on the inland water ways of Netherlands, the Fixed mast route (Staande Mast Route) instead. So after our visit in Norderney we headed towards the Fixed Mast Route entrance in Delfzijl. We first thought about taking the route over the Wadden Sea, where you can go if you time the tide. You could also get stuck if you calculate wrong. We decided to take the longer way around Borkum as this was a bit safer, we thought. If you want to see our way through the canals you can go to Our Route, and zoom in over Netherlands.
Day 0 – Arriving at the ENtrance (23 September)
We arrived in Delfzijl in the evening and anchored in the harbor, and shortly after anchoring we talked to a Swedish guy who just passed through the fixed mast route and he told us that there was an issue with one of the bridges before Groningen and that it hadn’t been able to open in a couple of days. He had taken a long detour to be able to get out of the canals (a route that wouldn’t have been possible for us as our boat has a deeper drought). It was late and no one we could call that day so we had to wait for morning to learn more about how this would affect us.
Costs: Harbor fee Delfzijl: 17€
Day 1 – Entering the canal (24 September)
The following morning we called a number we found and learned that they would operate the bridge between 10-12 every day from now on, so that was our window to pass the bridge. As we wouldn’t have made it to the bridge the day after our arrival in Delfzijl, we spent the morning doing some last minute planning for the canals and went on a walk to find some thing we needed, and we actually manage to find most of them. For the planning of going through the Fixed Mast Route we found this blog post very helpful: HERE.
After lunch we took company with a German sailboat and passed through the first lock into the canal. The first leg of the canal is shared with the professional shipping and except for the cool canal boats this part is pretty boring. We passed under a lot of bridges, most opened straight away when we arrived, some took a bit longer.
We finally arrived to the bridge that was under repair and we had to stop. We anchored at one of the waiting places for pleasure boats together with the German sailboat. It was a pretty boring place to spend the night as it was a lot of big boats passing close by and not possible to go ashore, but at least we would be ready to pass the bridge at 10 the following morning. We had a beer and a nice chat with our neighbors for the night before we ate dinner and fell asleep.
Day 2 – Groningen – Dokkum (25 September)
The following morning we woke up and ate breakfast and at 10 the bridge opened and we could pass through it and into Groningen. We wouldn’t stop in Groningen as we wanted to get further, but when passing through it looked like a really nice town. We took the route past the old town with a lot of small bridges, but that didn’t take long as they just opened the bridges when we passed through.
After Groningen we continued up north through the canals, most of the time through the countryside with a lot of sheep and cows. During this day we passed through 3 locks, and in one of them we had a big ship poking our mizzen mast with their bowsprit because there was so little room in the lock.
We also had one “almost-got-stuck-in-the-mud”-moment. We drifted a bit off course from the buoys and suddenly it was hard to steer the boat. We added some extra gas and got loose from the mud. Our drought is 1.7 meters and the rest of the canal was not an issue, we kept in the middle of the canal as much as we could.
We had hoped that we would have reached the village Dokkum that evening but the bridges before Dokkum closed at 18, and we arrived at the last bridge shortly after, so instead we anchored at one of the anchor spots next to the canal. This was really cosy and free!
Day 3 – Dokkum-LEMMER (26 September)
The next morning we got up and passed under the bridge as soon as it opened. We passed through many cosy villages this day and this part of the canal was the most scenic one. In Leauwaarden we stopped for lunch (as the bridges closed for lunch 12-13) and walked a bit and had a really amazing poke bowl. By 13 we where back at the boat and passed through Leauwaarden. After Leauwaarden we sailed at an aqueduct over the highway, pretty cool!
Shortly after Leauwaarden the Fixed Mast Route re-joined with the professional shipping route. We arrived in Lemmer shortly after dark and found a berth there. It was very windy that night and we didn’t get a very good sleep because of all the sound that comes with strong winds.
Costs: 8,5€ (for bridge openings)
Day 4 – LEMMER-Amsterdam (27 September)
We left our berth in Lemmer early and departed for the locks towards IJesselmeer. Once we got into the lake we set sails and sailed towards the locks between IJesselmeer and Markenmeer.
Once we had passed the locks once more we set sails again and headed towards Amsterdam. Before reaching the marina in Amsterdam we had to pass one more lock, and then we found a spot in a marina close to the city centre. We took a well-needed shower and took one of the ferries to the city centre. We walked around in the town and ate dinner before heading back to the boat. We would have liked to stay longer and explore Amsterdam more but as we had a good weather window the following day to start our sail to France we only spent one evening in Amsterdam.
We departed early from Amsterdam and followed the canal to Ijmuiden, where we would pass the last lock before entering the sea once more.
Costs: 20€ (Amsterdam marina)