These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

8th - 19th December. In Schagen. Hail and Christmas lights, a new bin, swimming in the lake, and a Christmas Concert.

The centre of Schagen is only half a mile from the harbour, and we are enjoying our time here. We still play bridge twice a week, cycling to get there. We have been lucky not to have a really wet bridge evening yet!
On 11th December we thought it had been snowing, but it was hail along the side of The Puzzler. At this point our Christmas lights were supported at the front on our boathook, which was tied to the front of the cratch. Strong winds blew it over however, and it landed on the satellite dish, destroying it! As the pole was wooden, it floated happily to the stern of the boat, together with all the Christmas lights. They went up on the roof again, and are twinkling away merrily, just not so high up.

We used to have a large metal wheelie bin for rubbish at the harbour. However, a new one has recently been installed. This entailed lifting the bricks, then excavating a large hole in the underlying sand. Once the supporting box was in place, then this removable bin was lowered into the ground.
After tidying up, with the sand back down around the new structure, and the bricks back in place, it looks as though it has always been there. All this was done in one day!

This lake, behind the swimming pool, is not too far from the harbour, on the west side of town.
It takes about half an hour to get to the beach beside the lake, so Shannon is always ready for a lie down in the water when we get there, even if it means breaking the ice!
There have been some lovely sunsets recently. This is looking across the car park from the boat. We buy our diesel from the garage on the other side of the road, and the lighted building at the far end of the road opposite, is the vets' surgery for Shannon, should she need a visit. It is all very convenient.
We have replaced our old satellite dish with a new larger one, which is working very well. When we were near to the German border, our old dish could not get a good signal, but this one should be all right any where in Europe. With the strong winds we have had, tied onto the jetty is the best place for it!

The fine church of St Gregorius overlooks the centre of Schagen and we went to a Christmas Concert here this week. There was a brass band with two different choirs in the concert, and the music was wonderful, with the acoustics of the church helping a superb performance.

Monday, 15 December 2014

25th Nov - 7th Dec. With Debbie in Amsterdam, then cold weather in Schagen.

Debbie came to stay with us for a week and we started in the red light district of Amsterdam. There were a few ladies sitting in their windows, but it was quiet here this morning.

The Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) dominates Dam Square, and is an impressive building. The old centre of Amsterdam is quite compact, and we enjoyed exploring it.

We decided to continue walking round the city, rather than taking the horse and carriage.

This white house is called the Kleine Trippenhuis, and is one of the narrowest houses in Amsterdam. Legend has it that it was built for Mr. Trip's coachman, who was so taken aback by the size of the new family mansion, that he exclaimed he would be happy with one no wider than the Trips' front door - which is exactly what he got!
We had coffee at the Waag, a multi-turreted building which dates from the 1480s, when it was one of the city's fortified gates. After that it became a weighing house (waag), and is now a coffee house and restaurant. The coffee was extremely strong!

Amsterdam Central Station was built in the 1880s and is an impressive building. It took us about an hour on the train to return to Schagen
Sinterklaas came back to visit the Makado shopping centre in Schagen. His Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) band played and there were dancers too to entertain us. This week it has sadly been too cold to do much during Debbie's visit.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

14th - 24th November. At Schagen in North Holland. Night roadworks and autumn colours, while Sinterklaas arrives with Zwarte Piet.

The orange dot on this map of Holland shows where Schagen can be found. Schagen lies almost level with King's Lynn in Norfolk.
We have joined two bridge clubs in the town, deciding that two out of six was plenty! Everyone is very friendly at both clubs, and we have been made most welcome. Our folding bikes have come in very useful to get to bridge. One evening I counted over 20 bikes outside the bridge club, as cycling is the way everyone travels.
Since 10th November the road which lies parallel to our mooring has been in the process of being resurfaced. This work has been going on between 8pm and 5am, and it has been extremely noisy for the last two weeks. We saw this work going on at 11.30pm one night, on our way back from bridge, and are delighted that it is nearly finished!
There are several good walks in and around Schagen, with lovely autumn colours. The boats beyond this bank are lying in a second marina on the edge of town.
On 22nd November Sinterklaas was due to arrive in our harbour in Schagen. Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) is Santa's helper. He is all black from the sooty chimneys. There is a football in the air above him, and his skill with it was really appreciated by the crowd.

At last Sinterklaas has arrived by boat. He has travelled all the way from Spain, according to Dutch custom!

Sinterklaas has brought his band with him on the boat, and many more Zwarte Piets can be seen. All the children dress up too.
The band are performing, while sweets are given out to the children. From now until Christmas all good Dutch children will put out their shoes, made of paper, and will find sweets in them each day.

Sinterklaas leaves the harbour on his white horse, to ride to the centre of Schagen for more celebrations.
Now that Sinterklaas and his boat have gone, we have moved The Puzzler into his space on the other side of the harbour, near to the service block, which should be a good place to spend the winter.

Shannon has discovered that the top of the cratch cover is quite comfortable.

Friday, 14 November 2014

1st - 14th November. In Recreativiehaven Schagen, North Holland. Wood delivery and local news.

We are currently moored on the east wall of the harbour at Recreativiehaven Schagen, opposite the boat Veritas. The sky here is threatening, but on the whole the weather has been good since we arrived here in Schagen.
As coal is not readily available in Holland, we ordered a cubic metre of hardwood. We had wondered how you measure a cubic metre of wood, so now we know! The sawhorse was only needed to cut the pallet wood, as the rest was ready for the fire.
This wood is all oak, and has come from France. The cratch has never been stacked as full as this, with the rest of the wood on top of The Puzzler.
Less than a week after we arrived in Schagen, local reporter, Martijn Gijsbertsen, came to interview us for the maritime page in the local paper, Noordhollands Dagblad. We really liked the article and felt he had done a good piece of work.
The main headline says, "Overwintering in a narrow floating house". Above that the subheading tells us, "Wooden  jigsaw puzzle business sold in order to be able to cruise round Europe with a colourful motor ship". With the remark to the right about our being British bridge players, moored in Schagen harbour, that just about says it all!

Friday, 31 October 2014

26th - 31st October. On to the Noord Holland kanaal, then on to Schagen, our winter mooring.

We are heading northwards on the Noord Holland Kanaal. It is wide and straight for a long way here, but is our most direct route to Schagen, our ultimate destination.
Passing through Alkmaar, this tall ship adds a touch of history to the canalside.
We like the unusual thatching on the houses on this part of the Noord Holland Canal.
This strange structure is a litter bin for passing cyclists!
It is a good thing that we are turning off the Noord Holland Kanaal here as the bridge ahead does not look too inviting! We could possibly have squeezed through to the left side of the bridge.
Turning off on to the Stolpen - Schagen canal, there is also work going on here, but it is no problem.
At last we have reached our winter mooring in Schagen. Everyone is very helpful and there are all the facilities which we might need here.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

21st - 25th October. From Zaandam up the river Zaan to Zaanse Schans, then on to a country mooring.

This interesting hotel in Zaandam includes all sorts of Dutch architecture.
After a couple of days in Zaandam, we continued on up the river Zaan. It was interesting to see a house boat on the move. On the far bank can be seen the traditional green of the Zaandam houses.
We were lucky to find this jetty free, as it is the only mooring at Zaanse Schans. Originally there were about 100 windmills in the Zaan district of Holland, making it the oldest industrial area of the world. In 1928 the windmill society De Zaanshe Molen founded this unique and fascinating Windmill Museum, with six working windmills, along the river Zaan.
Het Jonge Schaap is a windmill which was newly built in 2007, using detailed drawings to copy one which was demolished in 1942. This is a cap windmill, with the sails turning on the very top part of the windmill.
Inside this new windmill is a working sawmill. There are several enormous saw blades running parallel to each other, which slice a tree trunk into planks.

Kalver Polder lies behind and below the windmills, which are all on the Kalverringdijk. This dike is alongside the River Zaan, seen beyond them here.

In the farm section, Shannon met a goat.
The museum here told us all about the history of local produce, mainly food, including a whole section about Verkade, the chocolate specialists. This is a vat of melted chocolate, ready to pour into the moulds.
The Verkade Chocolate company has factories both in Zaandam, and also further upstream, and we saw a lot of chocolate on the move. On this journey, the tug is pulling four great vats of chocolate on the barges.
Carrying on, the river Zaan became a canal, as Dutch rivers tend to, and we continued along Markervaart to moor on an island. There is room here for over 60 boats, but we are the only boat here today!.

We were treated to a really pretty sky on Saturday evening.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

20th October. Amsterdam, and shipping on the North Sea Canal while going to Zaandam.

At last we have reached Amsterdam, with stylish modern buildings on the approach to the city.

Further on, traditional styles take over.
This is a typical side canal, with two trip boats approaching us. These canals were much wider than we had expected, and the trip boats were not aggressive, as we had been warned they could be. I expect that it is more difficult for them in the summer, when there will be many more visiting boats to get in their way.

This city mooring had a waterpoint, which was fortunate, as we were down to 4" in the tank!

Many of the streets are lined with houseboats which are said to be very expensive to purchase.

On the side canals, all of the bridges are this height, which is no problem for The Puzzzler.
Here we are on Prinsengracht, which is one of the main routes through Amsterdam. The church ahead is Westerkerk, near to the Anne Frank house. The queue there went right round the block!

Many of the houses in Amsterdam have traditional Dutch Gables.
Having left the canals of Amsterdam under an extremely low bridge, we reached West Dock. All the flowers had to be removed from the top of The Puzzler in order to get under this bridge. It was very lucky we had filled the water tank, and so lowered the bows in the water. It would have been a long way back through the city to find a different route.

You can stay on this hotel boat for E44.84 a night. Not a bad deal!

It was a surprise to see a submarine!

In the next dock was a Monrovian freighter.

This seemed to be a cable laying boat. We have enjoyed seeing all these different vessels at close quarters.

In the distance I was not sure whether this was a building or a boat! The barge to its right shows how big it is.

The barges approaching us did not disturb the water a great deal.

However, the swell from a barge passing us can be seen approaching, and will not be very comfortable!

As we left the North Sea canal, going on to the river Zaan, we passed this floating dry dock. The man was photographing us, as I took his picture!

In Wilhelmina lock we were in with two barges. The gravel barge stretched from way behind The Puzzler.

It carried on in front of us, and must have been nearly twice our length. The other barge was small by comparison.
We moored just above the lock in Zaandam, which is a big city, lying close to Amsterdam, but on the north bank of the North Sea Canal. Passing barges do not throw us about at all, as we are so close to the lock.