The crew of Skookum became land lubbers during the month of July:
We are back on board Skookum after several weeks of motoring in Scarlet (our 1997 Toyota red Starlet) looking forward to a few weeks on the water. We live primarily on the water and miss the feeling of buoyancy (it is always good to be a bit wobbly – keeps one alert). We have been driving around Europe (we drove through 4 countries the other day) attending to family and friends. This included a couple of weeks in England taking care of my mum, connecting with my cousins and a long weekend in Germany. We had visitors, my mum and my cousin Paul, as soon as we got back on the boat and set out for the wilds of Holland in The Biesbosch. We were about 10 kms from the nearest marina, on a shallow lake – back into the watercolour painting. More about that next time.
We left Amsterdam at the end of June and headed to the coast through Northern Holland. Haarlem is a beautiful medieval city founded in 1245, although the walls were not constructed until 1270. This city was built on a strip of elevated land – very unusual in this area. The city did not survive the Spanish siege of 1573 and was razed to the ground in 1576 but it grew into a thriving trading centre and by 1577 was a major trading centre in linen and silk during the Dutch Golden Age (1573 – 1632). The city is home to the Teyler museum is the oldest museum in the Netherlands and houses painting from the Dutch Masters.
Haarlem was the home of the painter Frans Hals and the inventor Laurens Jansgood Costa who developed a form of the printing press using wood blocks, at least ten years before Johannes Gutenburg in 1450. As communications were not what they are today, so it is quite conceivable to me that ideas and inventions develop in parallel in different locations and both men invented a form of the printing press – maybe Gutenberg had a better publicist.
The city has declined in importance but still houses a population of over 200,000. It acts as a bedroom community for Amsterdam and has a thriving tourist trade and local market.
Of course Harlem NY is named after this Haarlem, during the Golden Age when the Dutch merchants ruled the seas and founded New Amsterdam in the New Netherlands. In 1658, Peter Stuyvesant, the Director General of the new Dutch colony in what is today the northeast United States, founded the farming settlement of Haarlem. It was captured by the English in 1664, and was renamed Harlem, but remained an agricultural centre it became the African-American suburb of New York City after 1905.
After we left Haarlem we followed the canal to Leiden. We had been there before and felt familiar with the city. You can check the previous blog for the history of this lovely city.
We made our way to the seaside after Leiden – following a canal to Katwijk am Zee. The lovely late June weather was perfect for a day on the beach. There are ten miles of wide flat pristine sand and lots of sand dunes.
The miles of beach and the side town were very reminiscent of sea-side towns on the east coast of England like Albrough and Bridlington. This town is also the mouth of the Rhine – the grand old man of Europe enters the North Sea with a whimper and ends as a trickle through the barrage.
There was a lot of construction going on in Katwijk am Zee including a huge parking lot being built under the dunes near the centre of town. We spent a sunny Canada Day here – wearing silly hats and sporting maple leaf stick on tattoos. Such a hoot – people on other boats thought we were rather silly having a lovely dinner of mussels and champagne, with a bunch of red and white roses on the table, wearing red and white clothes (with ‘Canada’ written all over them) and giggling at our selfies in the silly hats!
We were on our way back to Dordrecht via Rotterdam to pick up Scarlet (our red Toyota Starlet) when we came across a huge wreckers yard on the side of canal. It was perfect because we needed a rear-view mirror for the passenger side of the car. This mirror was essential for the UK as the passenger side of our right hand drive car was on the outside of the car when we drove on the left in the UK. Martin said it was the most organized yard he had ever seen and they found a mirror that just did the job (although it was for a Starlet two years older than ours). It was not very pretty but it was very legal.
Our route to Rotterdam took us via Delft, where we spent a night beside the main road then moved to a quiet neighbourhood of the big city.
Rotterdam, as we mentioned a couple of years ago was almost completely flattened in World War II, and has been rebuilt from the ashes of that conflict to become an architectural gem that is both interesting and amusing. We moored at a local yacht club, rode the transportation system in and out of the downtown. Our moorage was in one of the local immigrant areas which was relatively quiet and felt very safe – even when Holland won another of its World Cup matches.
We were able to buy bread from the Turkish supermarket and enjoy some very fresh vegetables. Moving on to Dordrecht after a day or so, we were back in the Royal Harbour in the place we consider to be homeport.
We love Dordrecht – it is a nice size town, historically fascinating and highly accessible by all forms of transportation. The only problem is that we seem to end up in Dordrecht when it rains (or maybe the Rain Queen’s powers are at their height in this town). As we mentioned before, Dordrecht is the birthplace of the modern Netherlands, and could even be considered the founding city of the European community. It is the confluence of three rivers (Waal, old and new Maas rivers), and the busiest waterway in the world. We moored the boat in the Royal Harbour and prepared for our trip to the UK. Martin had to take the train to Sneek to pick up Scarlet and I spent the day tidying up and securing Skookum in preparation for being away for three weeks.
Then, one wet morning, we set off to the Hook of Holland where we caught the Stena Line Ferry to Harwich. The ferry took 7 hours (including the hour time change); we left about 14:30 in the afternoon arriving about 20:30 into Harwich (aka the middle of nowhere). The ferry was excellent – we rented a stateroom (£20) for the duration of the journey so we could snooze and watch TV in relative comfort. There was lots of entertainment and activities on the ferry, which battled the choppy North Sea with almost no sway or wobbliness. We took the country roads for a couple hours, north to Wisbech to stay with my cousin – and she did not seem to mind that we arrived around 11:00 pm. I wanted to speak with her, as my mum (her aunty) is moving into a cottage on her property in September. It was important to get some dates sorted out, because I want to help with the move and see that my mum is settled in for the winter.
My mother’s move from Hull has had a surprising effect on me. Wisbech is about 150 miles from Hull. I left Hull over forty years ago and have lived in Canada for almost that long, but suddenly my roots are disappearing with my mum moving. I don’t have many contacts left in my home town – a dear friend Anita who has been my pal since we were about 8 years old and my cousin Vincent and his family. I have other cousins in East Yorkshire but we are not as close and they too have moved away from the city. Hull always seemed to be a town people move from rather than to. All that is changing; Hull is a major centre for the new technologies of wind and tide power, has a FA Premier League soccer team (now in the European Cup early stages) and has been declared the 2017 City of Culture by the UK government. The city has certain come up in the world since I left in 1972.
My mothers move will mean that I have much less reason to go to Hull, and very few places to stay. It feels, in some ways, like my personal history is being extinguished. I know that my mum has to move to a place she feels safe, and I am happy that other members of my family have stepped up to help with her aging. In fact I am eternally grateful for their love, generosity, support and assistance, nevertheless it still feels rather strange to have my childhood hometown less available than it was. I think I will miss the roots that at this moment, are still in the ground.
My feelings are, I am sure, nothing compared to my mothers sense of up-rootedness and the change she will experience. She has lived in Hull for over 87 years and has her life history tied to the city. As a geriatric social worker I know that older people move more often than younger people and that their main concern is continuing life (i.e. waking up in the morning) in a place of security, love and comfort. Moving is a stress for all of us, but it is particularly difficult for the over eighty set. Octogenarians (and older elders) tend to be concerned about themselves and don’t have much time or energy for much else. Fair enough; they have done their bit, lived full and productive lives and now their prime directive and energy focus is joyful low stress survival. Hopefully we will all feel the same way when we are over eighty.
Hull will be a loss for both of us.
Regardless life goes on. Martin and I are in full swing – the swinging sixties (age that is) making sure that every breath counts. We spent a couple of weeks in the UK – Martin went off to visit his sister in London and I stayed in Hull to help my mum. She has made a fantastic recovery from her broken shoulder. I am impressed by the health care system in these parts because once it kicks in it works well. The major problem seems to be getting services going. I am beginning to think we all need a health advocate to navigate the system. We left Hull and headed south to catch our ferry from Dover on July 23. It was a long drive (about 270 miles) so we stopped in a lovely village near Welwyn, (just outside London) for lunch with my friend Abigail. We went to a lovely English country pub in the same place that George Bernard Shaw went to elementary school.
After lunch we made the arduous and very slow journey over the M25 (east of London) and the Dartford toll bridge to Kent , then drove like crazy to catch our ferry from Dover to Dunkirk in France. The ferry arrived about 21:30 in France and we then drove through Belgium to Holland and our boat in Dordrecht (about 120 miles). This part of the trip took almost three hours. Needless to say we were beat by the time we arrived at Skookum. Even Kerry was exhausted and she had not done any driving!
But we did not dally long in Dordrecht. After spending a day working on the boat and couple of hours with friends at a bar called Finns we set off to Freiburg for a party at Brigitte and Peter’s house. This was another 8 hour road trip. The trip through Germany got exciting around Koblenz all the way to Karlsruhe when the storm came in – talk about Donner und Blitzen and some very heavy lumps of hail pinging on the top of the car. This, plus about 50kms of road works here and there, made the journey quite lively. We put on some travelling music and tried to see the road through the torrential rain and hail. Pictures of Karlsruhe posted on the internet made it look as though winter had arrived about 5 months early. Although I did see some pictures of the Aug 9 snow storm in Calgary……………..
We spent a wonderful weekend with our friends – Brigitte had organized a big garden party – unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. The evening was cool and a little rainy. They pitched a shelter in their lovely garden and we all (about 25 people) enjoyed a sit-down dinner of hors d’oervs , chicken and fries and fennel in cream sauce, followed by fruit and ice cream all washed down with lashings of lovely Baden wine. Apparently the Germans in southern Germany drink all their own wine and only export 3% of their wine production which explains why we could never find those spectacular Rhine wines more than 20 Kms from where they were made. No doubt keeping the best for themselves!
The next day (in the sunshine) we all ate the left overs (my favourite) and had another party, this time with children added. It was great to help with this event – because Brigitte, who works like a slave to serve her guests, needed some support as well as an opportunity for productive chatting (talk-time fest).
The statistics about wine production come from my friends’ son-in-law who works as a sommelier. We had dinner one night with Michael, Jana and their two year old daughter Lara. Jana had just had her new kitchen completed so she treated us to a lovely meal of parsnip soup with scallops, baked pike and potatoes and the cutiest dessert I have seen in years. Needless to say we also had some more excellent wine and a few nips of the Schnapps to wash it all down ………..after that we stopped drinking alcohol for a few days!
It was a great visit and we hope to see our friends again somewhere in France, and yes we did load up on Baden wine from the local giant supermarket to take back to Holland with us (it could have increased the export level of wines to 4%).
Our return journey was much less eventful and we arrived back quite late at night into Dordrecht. We were back on the boat and after a day of preparation, Scarlet was put away in the local marina car-park and we welcomed for our third visitors; my mum and cousin Paul. Back into boating life with new parts of the Dutch waterworld to explore as we head down to the Delta.