We stayed in Dordrecht for about 11 days (nine with rain, two without) which allow us to spend much more money, enjoy this lovely little city and study rain. Our decision to stay a while in Dordrecht allowed us (or rather Martin) to continue the improvements to the boat. We spent several days continuing our clean up, playing with the washing machine, working on the hot water system and continuing our search for connectivity (which is fast becoming the holy grail of travel).
Dordrecht is a city of about 120,000 people and claims to be the birthplace of the Netherlands. For your information the country we commonly call Holland is more properly called the Netherlands, as North and South Holland are only two ( the biggest two) of the fourteen provinces that constitute the Netherlands. I guess because Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam are all in Holland we may be forgiven for not knowing much about the rest.
Dordrecht is the meeting place of three large rivers which made it a major trading centre in the middle ages. In 1220 the Count of Holland granted Dordrecht city status and the subsequent granting of special trading rights allowed it to flourish. About this time they began building a large cathedral known as the Grote Kerk (a beautiful ecclesiastical piece of architecture that played happy carillon music through some of the most dreary weather I have ever experienced – more about that later). Dordrecht was the birthplace of Netherlands in 1572 when twelve of the trading cities of Holland joined forces to create an independent state and throw off their Spanish rulers and created the House of Orange. About the same time Holland went from being a Catholic state to being a Protestant one, and trade was it most prolific activity.
Like most Dutch cities the centre of Dordrecht is mostly car-free. The bicycle is the transportation mode of choice. So the bikes we bought have been very handy (but I need a more comfy seat). Dordrecht has a market twice per week – loads of fresh fish, cheese, flowers, veg, and fabrics so it was fun shopping. On our bike trips around Dordrecht we found a great chandlery and of course bought more stuff – like fenders, a lovely teak coffee table and other bits and bobs. We discovered, just across from the chandlery, a very prophetic boat – we found ‘Noah’’s Ark’
Given the amount of rain we have had, we were not surprised about someone building an Ark in Dordrecht.
I thought (just for fun and to make sense of the dismal weather) I would use my geographic experience and classify the types rain that we have in Holland (yes Dordrecht is in South Holland). I needed to make sense of the weather and had been listening to the BBC Shipping forecast to try to predict the weather coming towards us ( the prevailing winds were from the west) . After a couple of days – I thought Beaufort be damned, I will make my own rain and wind scale.
The Golder Rain Classification System identifies the quantity and quality of rain using the following gauge:
1. Highly humid – the air was very damp and clothes on the line won’t dry
2. Fine mist which was quite tolerable but damper than a 1
3. Gentle rain that was still tolerable but certainly wet
4. Big rain – the raindrops were getting bigger and wetter – steady rain
5. Bigger rain in which the raindrops splashed on the water and made ripples and it is pissing down,
6. Very big rain in which the raindrops were small the size of small puddles (aka torrential) with a howling gale.
7. Really really big rain that felt like the cloudmen (from James and the Giant Peach) are dumping huge buckets of water onto of us, together with a howling that was so loud that we could not hear the TV (even at full volume).
We classified the days of rain according to this new system and concluded we had too many 6’s or 7’s days so we were getting both cold and depressed, and it was time to head south.
After developing this new taxonomy, I remembered I was also a counseling psychologist so I thought I could connect this rain classification system to classifications and diagnoses in the DSM IV (the psychologist’s bible) to show the direct relationship between dismal weather and depression! (Not quite making lemonade of lemons but when you are trapped in a small boat by the weather you need to do something for amusement).
Of the 11 days we were in Dordrecht, the hardest part was the weekend of the Three Rivers Blues music festival, which featured eight stages in the old town and loads of really good bands. We walked around and listened to a few bands over the course of this free festival. I felt sorry for the organizers who had put so much effort in producing the festival. The Dutch are resilient people and the crowds were out despite the dark skies and intermittent rain ( 4 to 6 on the rain scale). There was one sunny evening on the last day of the festival – I was so pleased for both the bands (who played on despite the downpours) and the audience who supported them enthusiastically.
In the meantime the hot water and heating system posed another technological challenge that is still not resolved despite a very large expenditure on a new hot water pump. Martin has developed a relationship with the English speaking heating engineer at the company that originally supplied the system of radiators and hot water. We did have hot water but only when we put the heating system on (which was a good idea when we had a 7) Despite Martin’s incredible engineering talents, numerous conversations and a visit from one of the company staff who installed a new heating pump at enormous expense, our problem remains unchanged. We were able to have hot showers one day, which was a wonderful experience, but if anyone has any ideas of how to use a Maritime Booster heating /hot water system, please drop us a line and we can have a chat.
One day we decided to take a day off and took the Waterbus to Rotterdam. It was a good excursion as we learned at lot about the traffic on the river route to Rotterdam (lots more juggernaut barges traveling at 25 knots). Rotterdam was a new city – the ravages of World War II meant the city was almost completely rebuilt. Martin thought it was an architectural education (and a couple of hours in architectural heaven) – so many new and very innovative buildings. It was hard to know where to start –so we went cubist.
Rotterdam also had great shopping , while we did visit the local marine museum, we spent quite some time walking around the down town shopping mall ( another architectural marvel) and ended up for an hour and half in the local AMac ( the Mac shop). Here Martin bought himself a present (to compensate for all the incidents and accidents) – yes he bought an iPad – we call it the Ipaddy. Very delighted with his new toy, Martin also bought some KPN wifi time on a simcard – but, yes, you guessed it – it did not work!
Undaunted Martin decided to battle with the local WiFi providers spending untold hours talking with the guys in the local phone/wifi stores. However we are not really any further ahead. We have tried 4 different providers to date – but the lack of a Dutch address is a major hurdle. Connectivity remains problem – even using the marina wifi ,we had, at best, intermittent connections. So now we are trying T mobile – 1 GB for 20 Euros – not a bad deal – if it works. The quest for connectivity continues – personally I think a cell phone and telepathy may be just as good.
Back in Dordrecht , things started to look up when Martin took Kerry for a walk one day and saw a Canadian flag hanging from the window of a house (about 80 meters from our boat). So he knocked on the door and asked it was the Canadian Embassy (LOL). Keri, the young woman who answered the door, answered that a bunch of family members had landed to visit with them. Keri and her mum, Heather, were Canadian, so they put out the flag in recognition of the Tour de Canadiens (all from Ontario) . Having our flag in common, these friendly people invited us to Keri’s 18th birthday party. Heather was from also Ontario and had had a life of travelling between Canada, Aruba and the Netherlands, which had resulted in her marrying a Dutchman (Irwin), moving to Dordrecht and becoming the welcome wagon for Canadians in the city. We had a great time with them, the party was lovely, and we met a gaggle of Canucks who were all enjoying the Netherlands, as well as Irwin’s family and friends. The party and warmth of the invitation cheered us up so much that the weather became a secondary issue.
In addition to meeting Heather and Irwin and their lovely family we had a serendipitous phone call to Martin’s long time friend and fellow sailor Charlton Bullock. Charlton was in Victoria at the time of the call, shopping for a new raincoat (he must have known something we didn’t). To our surprise (and his) Charlton and his tango partner Trudy would be in the vicinity of Holland in the next week. So we made a plan for them to come to Dordrecht and be our first visitors from home.
Charlton and Trudy made their way to soggy Dordrecht a couple of days after they arrived in Amsterdam. Still a little jet lagged and without a plan (other than to end up in the UK for a week) they took the train for an hour and a half to see us. It was lovely to see some familiar friendly faces, so we went out for lunch at a restaurant that over looked the junction of two of the three rivers around the town to watch the juggernaut barges go by. We walked by the old harbour (especially reserved for the old sailing and steam barges) and showed them some of the city – then we had an afternoon rainstorm of a 6-7 on the rain scale. They too had never seen rain like it.
However the next day we decided, with Charlton on board (as he was also an expert sailor), that we would set sail to Gouda. The sun came out as we navigated down the main rivers to turn off onto to a quiet canal and back to a place that was familiar to Martin and I (we were in Gouda last year). We came to Gouda (home to the cheese if the same name) on a lovely sunny afternoon – and weather-wise all was forgiven (for now anyway). Charlton and Trudy were just delighted with their short adventure into the Dutch hinterland and left us to catch the train back to Amsterdam in the late afternoon.
So here (on July 21 2012) we sit in Gouda doing more improvements to the boat.
Our third Canadian event was our decision to change the name of our boat from Dolfijn. In the depths of our misery about the weather we mused over what we could call the boat. There are hundreds of boats in the Netherlands called Dolfijn, (the old name of the boat) but I am sure there is only one called ………….. SKOOKUM
For people who don’t speak Canadian (Chinook) – Skookum means ‘really good ‘ or ‘right on’ with connotations of being good hearted, tough, brave, trustworthy, durable and having purpose.
So that’s the new name of our boat – because that’s what it is- just skookum!