passage report 62 Frankfurt, Rhine, Holland
25 August 2011 | Ostende
Passage Report: No. 62
Frankfurt on Main, Rhine and Holland
“You’re at Offenbach. Offenbach, how did you get there? To Frankfurtians, Offenbach is low brow.
Price resolves everything. (marina: 12 Euro a night – 60 Euro in central Frankfurt), Sahula is there a month (180 Euro) awaiting the arrival of Ben (Australian friend) crew to Holland. The marina is “home” to broken dreams – large, unfinished, yachts unlikely to see the sea.
Flying the “boxing kangaroo,” ensures Skipper meets the locals. Dieter and Anke (voluntary crew of heritage boat, “Gaby” and sailors), Stefan and his parents, Christel and Juergen, invite Skipper to their homes, dinner and use of the washing machine.
Tours of the city and countryside, display the festivals, food, history, and culture – recent and ancient.
Medieval, metal armour, head to toe and hoof, encapsulates an ancient “human tank” mounted in Schloss Braunfel’s armour room – challenges the imagination – and the horse. Home to descendants, its towers rise, Disney like above the surrounding village and forest.
The madness of war devastated Frankfurt. City of Germany’s highest “Manhattans” it mixes the medieval and new. City of museums (previously riverside mansions) and art galleries.
“Bavarians always say no (in Passau immigration refused a visa extension), I will help with a visa, I know who knows who” – in immigration.
Skipper’s visa was assumed to expire on the 30th July – 90 days after entering Hungary – a Schengen Agreement signatory.
“There is good news and bad – your visa expires next Tuesday but an extension is possible” Sahula leaves on Sunday! Skipper receives 6 weeks. It is Hesse not Bavaria.
It seems the visa is three months from entry into the EU not into an Agreement signatory, even though a non signatory cannot grant a Schengen visa.
“In time, our population will drop from 80 to 60 million; couples are too busy to have children – our culture will die out.” Offenbach citizens (migrant workers families -Turk, Middle East, and African) reflect Europes ethnic changing,
Ben arrives. Frankfurt friends farewell Sahula. Four locks to the Rhine.
At Mainz wharf, Skipper and Ben farewell Christel and Juergen (“crew” for the day) with a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda (compensation for forgoing a classical music concert) – tourists are wide eyed.
Rhine speeds by carrying busy traffic. This is a different river. Barges march in convoy, passing three abreast plus a small yacht.
Overtaking, towering bows, chomp by, metres from Sahula’s stern. It is not for the feint hearted.
“If Lorelly (a blond maiden) sings, disaster is nigh.” Silence prevailed in the notorious, fast and narrow, Lorelly gorge. Reputed as the Rhine’s most picturesque; Castles occupy every hill. Tax collecting occupiers demanded the coffers of ancient, passing traffic to lift cross river chains.
Sahula raced with the swift current, making Bonn (160km) in a day; in time to visit the IUCN Environmental Law Centre and friends.
On the third day, passing Cologne, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Sahula crossed into Holland and quieter canals.
Veche Canal is reputedly one of the Holland’s finest. Sahula’s first bridge encounter passes, hesitantly, slowly, under, with centimetres to spare. Depth sounder drops to and remains at 1.7m and remains – Skipper’s learning curve begins. Passed massed colourful blooms, boats and traditional houses and mansions, windmills, lifting bridges, ducks and geese interspersed with green polder fields in a Dutch agrarian vista.
It is relying on fate (and a phone) to not book marina berths. Summer ensures the canals are busy with private boats. There was no berth in the marina. “You can find one in town.” Sahula passed through two bridges to berth with locals, against the historic Weesp centre, town wall.
Bridges operate on arrival or phone and outside tea and lunch breaks and time to bike between.
Canal “masters” wave cautious Sahula on, “Faster, faster” – a convoy, awaits on the opposite side, an ambulance is in the waiting traffic, he is required at the other bridge. Green/ Red prepare to go – locals pass through the lock gates or rising bridge before the final green.
A toll (1-3 Euros) is placed in a wooden clog lowered from a fishing rod.
Canals raise challenges: turning, 360 degrees, a 12m yacht, in a narrow canal lined by boats – some now adorned with Sahula’s red ; confronted by a motor boat, nonchantly, cutting the corner, with the option to ground alongside, hope for a course change or full astern with another close astern or all three at once (proclaiming “steel” is irrelevant – all boats are steel); depth sounder alarm shrilly sounding - 2m dropping to 1.6m causing an underwater agrarian plough, crew to stumble forward or softly steadying to 1.7 (Sahula is 1.6), repeated again and again.
“This is Amsterdam” on a fine, summer day– massed crowds, backpackers, tourists.
Sahula heads to Monnickendam (historic fishing village on Markermeer inland sea) marina (110 Euro/week), enters the canal (“you will be ok”) - 1.3 m per the Guide book.
Returning to Amsterdam, Twellegea Nauticadam Marina, (in historic Nieuwendam village harbour) provides a quiet berth (120 Euro/ week and mast up facilities (100 Euro).
Skipper replaces the mast light and wind indicator (Dekker chandlery) - victims of the first lock in the Constanta canal, Romania.
“Wednesday morning, raise the mast.” Tuesday is fine, Wednesday is rain, wind and recurring Atlantic lows till Sunday. First lesson in Europe’s nemesis: weather (and tides).
“In Holland you need an umbrella, sometimes for the sun, normally for the rain.”
Sahula’s mast remains reclining on deck. Lows sweeping in from the Atlantic end the sun, usher in grey days of rain and wind.
Wood on boats (decks, spars and bright work) is smeared in light green algae.
“Autumn is fine but cloudy – nothing dries (after a long winter).”
Between the lows, a sunny day. The mast goes up. A spindly crane slowly lifts. Don’t worry” says Roy (marina manager) grasping the heel, wrestling it to its deck pad, “attach the stays”, “don’t worry it will stay up” – Skipper looks unconvinced. It does.
Sahula is becoming a sailing boat. “Becoming” requires stays fixed, rig firm and mast aligned, boom on, sheets, halyards in, electrics attached. A working ship.
In come other low, delays. “Spring was a perfect “summer” but now…it is global warming.”
Ad, Amsterdam wood carver, yoga teacher and yacht owner (45 foot Van de stadt), Ad, invites Skipper on a city bike tour, seeing the parts not known to tourists.
Radar screen registers a blank. Geert, Amsterdam’s sole radar engineer (it is holiday time, Roy phones to answering machines) says change the junction box. It works – Skipper registers embarrassment – simple solution to a complex problem). Wind registers, lights bare brightly – Skipper is relieved (again).
Sun shines - pacific Nieuwendam to busy Amsterdam harbour. Sahula follows the locals to the lock (8 yachts inside) (locks role is to keep the water level in Amsterdam constant – it varies in centimetres) to Markermeer (originally seawater, the Zuider See is divided by two dykes creating freshwater, Ijsselmeer and Markermeer).
Marken is a small, 15th century fishing village, originally on an island, its mostly dark green wooden houses are built on mounds amid canals. Sahula in the marina, enjoys its evening beauty free of tourist crowds.
Sun gone, wind increases, rain – Sahula sails for Hoorn (20 euros a night) – headquarters of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) past a fleet of two or three masted, gaff rigged, blunt bowed, trading (now charted) barges.
These Dutch yacht sailors are hardy. In full stormy, wet weather, families (school holidays) – adorned in full wet weather rig – head out. Undeterred by grey lows rolling in; ever hopeful for the sunshine.
Sundowners looks to Hoorn’s 17th century Harbour Tower and gravity defying town facades, across resting trading (now charter) barges.
A re-enacted Cheese Market in the city centre recalls Holland’s dairies. Ben dons a shoulder bucket holder and joins the costumed parade.
Mainsail up, before a freshening Markermeer, Sahula speeds to Enkhuizen, second port of the VOC, accompanied by a fleet of yachts and barges. A lock transports the fleet into the Ijsselmeer and harbour marina (25 Euro a night). A soulless place, it does no justice to the VOC fleet and merchants that traded here.
From all over Holland, relocated buildings, representative of the past, recreate a culture otherwise lost. 15 acres of street scapes represent a hard life. Freshly smoked herring makes up for a rainy day.
Marina berths are a “box,” between two poles into which the yacht enters bow to the wharf.
Winds are forecast to lessen (from 75 knots!). Sahula departs -alone. The only occupant of the lock, Tanya punches, spray flying, into a freshening gale and short steep sea (depth 3m), for Monnickendam but opts for a closer peace at Hoorn. Crew nervousness noticeably decreases.
Ben “escapes” for a hotel and conference in Bonn.
Dawn is blue skies, yachts pour out, Sahula (Di skippering) also – for Monnickendam. A rigger is available to set the mast (113 euro). UV cover on staysail is replaced (400 euro).
Fundamental – when in Holland do as the Dutch sailors do (or don’t). Full cover wet weather gear is de rigour – for all the family. Nothing deters. Inland seas do not have swells or large waves. Sailing before the gale, fleets leave port.
Monnickendam – evening rain showers (Marina – 20 Euros a night). Rigger aligns the mast. Expertise is difficult to find in summer school holidays.
Crew bicycle (supplied by each marina) to ancient Volendam, site of massed tourism. Gratefully return to Monnickendam.
Sahula is here for three nights awaiting Ben’s return. Then it is onto Amsterdam and the Mast Up canals route to Rotterdam.
Next Report: Mast Up Route