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.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

26th - 31st May. Passing the Amsterdam-Rijn Kanaal on the way to Breukelen. On down the River Vecht, then a detour to an island mooring on the Wijde Blik, for three sunny days.

From Maarsen on the River Vecht, we walked across to see barges on the Amsterdam Rijn Kanaal, which runs quite near to the Vecht at this point. We were glad not to be in the way of this barge, Elise!
We spent a couple of extremely wet days in Breukelen, which is the namesake of Brooklyn in New York. On the outskirts of town are houses such as this, which date from earlier times, when the very rich of Amsterdam had homes here too.

Moving on down the River Vecht in better weather, we took a detour into the Wijde Blik lake and found our own island. We have had three glorious days here.

Shannon was delighted to have her own swimming pool.

She retrieves well from the water.

Andy spent Saturday washing The Puzzler. It gleams now!

Sally made time to repair the back fender. This job was long overdue!

A white heron came near to The Puzzler, and caught a fish too. He was much bigger than an egret.
There have been some wonderful sunsets.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

24th - 25th May. The city of Utrecht.

The streets of Utrecht are full of bicycles, like all towns in The Netherlands. The main canal can be seen below the road at a lower level.

The lower street level, beside the canal, is full of cafes.

In the evening light, the great tower of the Dom looks very impressive. At 112 metres, this is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

Early on Sunday, we set off to cruise round the Singel, a circular route round the edge of the inner city.

Access to the Singel is restricted by the height of the bridges.

The bridges just get lower!

Back on the main canal, going through  the centre of the city, there are very few boats about this morning. The canal here is much wider.

The street lies up there above us, behind the cycles, with the houses towering even higher.

At one point, the canal goes right under the street. There is a wide bridge above us at this point.
Having returned to our previous mooring, we then walked across the city, to find the Railway Museum, which was very interesting. There were many old Dutch steam trains there.

On the way back, we found this narrow street. No space wasted here!
We sailed through the centre of the city again, and by mid afternoon the cafes are getting busy. There are several boats about too, making it more interesting through the bridges!
On the way out, we passed through this lock. The whole area shown is one immense lock, dropping us about a foot down to the river below. We sailed on out of the city.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

24th May. Crossing the Amsterdam - Rijn Kanaal and on into Utrecht.

Tree surgery is a real art in The Netherlands, with many interesting shapes being created, by training the branches.
We have to cross the Amsterdam - Rijn Kanaal, a major waterway which is best avoided. A barge crosses ahead of us, but will be gone soon.

Now on the way across, we should have plenty of time to be clear before the next barge gets to us.

We are safely across before the barge passes, well behind us.
We thought The Puzzler was small to be crossing the Amsterdam - Rijn Kanaal, but this little boat crossed, just ahead of us! He has just bought this boat, his first boat, and is taking it back to Amsterdam. Not far beyond the lock, his engine failed. It was a good thing that this did not happen when that barge was coming, a couple of minutes ago on the crossing!

In Utrecht we moored to the south west of the city, on Singelgracht, where there is plenty of room for boats.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

22nd - 23rd May.We have a garden! On past Uithoorn to Zomerlust. Down the Grecht, the Oude Rijn, and Dubbele Weiricke to rejoin the River Ijssel, then upstream to Oudewater.

We found a garden centre beside the canal and planted all our pots. We have never had such a good selection of bedding plants to choose from.
At the village of Zomerlust there is a cycle/pedestrian lift bridge crossing the canal. You must press the red button to tell it that you are there, if crossing on foot, otherwise it might open for a boat while you are on the bridge.
When we moved on with The Puzzler, we upset a motorcyclist, as he was caught on the bridge side of the barrier, on the right, as the bridge lifted. We suspect that he was in a hurry, and did not press the red button, hoping to be clear before the barrier came down. At least he was safely over the bridge.

We moved on down the river Grecht and came across this lovely mooring quite early on Thursday, but it was too good to pass by!

Upstream of our mooring was a DIY ferry, so we just had to go across and back!
From the Grecht, we joined the Oude Rijn, then south on Dubbele Wiericke, a smaller waterway. This area seems to be even flatter than the rest of the Netherlands, if that is possible! There are more sheep here, but lamb, as meat, is never seen in the shops, so are they just kept for wool?
At Hekendorp we rejoined the river Ijssel, and carried on to Oudewater, and another pleasant mooring. It does not seem as though this could be the same river, shown again below, which we sailed up, to Gouda, in April.

Oudewater is a town with lots of character. The house on the left here is the Witches Weigh House, where witches were weighed during the 16th and 17th centuries. If they weighed in really light, then they were proved to be witches, as a witch's soul is light, and so they could ride a broomstick. No doubt proven witches met a terrible end!
  The Rope Museum 'de Baanschuur' is also to be found in Oudewater, and it was thanks to the rope industry in the 17th Century that the town became an extremely rich city. The many beautiful gables in the town still show that wealth. This area was very suitable for the growing and production of hemp by the local farmers, although now the raw material is imported from the far east. The great ships of the east India company, the men-of-war of the Admiralty and the fishing boats of the herring-fleet, all went to sea with rope and sails from Oudewater.

We were sorry to be leaving this fascinating town.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

17th - 21st May. To Halfweg, to see a steam powered pumping station., and on past Schipol Airport. A visit to Aalsmeer flower auction.

Out in the country, we found a lovely quiet mooring near some woods. Unfortunately Shannon fell into a drainage ditch!
Moving on to Halfweg, we visited this steam powered pumping station, which was built in 1852 to empty the Harlemmermeer polder. Schipol airport was built on this polder. This is the oldest and largest still functioning paddle wheel pumping station in Europe.
The steam driven pump turns the two enormous cogged wheels, which have angled chevrons to keep them straight.
The cogged wheels drive the paddle wheels, of which there are six, linked together in two sets of three, which can pump 25,000 litres of water per second.

We moored opposite Schipol Airport that night.

Continuing southeastwards, we reached Aalsmeer, where there are very many marinas.
Most of these marinas, or jachthavens, are based on the island system in the large lake here. Each red marker on the map is a different marina, while the orange markers, on the southern island chain, are free 48 hour moorings, or safe anchor havens. (Click on the map to enlarge it) This is really a unique place.
We moored on one of these islands, and were pleasantly surprised to have visitors arrive in their narrowboat, from the marina opposite! Henk and Marjolein are also liveaboards and we hope to see them in the UK in a few years time.

We cycled to the Aalsmeer Flower Auction, which was fascinating. The flowers for sale are moved about in these trolleys.

In the auction room the flowers can be seen, moving across below the bidding screens. Each buyer has his own computer, linked in to the screen.
This is a real Dutch Auction. The price on the clock goes down until there is a bidder, who says how many he wants to buy. The clock then goes round again until someone else bids. His price may be higher or lower than the first bidder, but each buyer has the choice of buying all of the remaining flowers in that lot. If someone waits too long to bid, then he may not get any.

The trolleys come out of the auction room, and are collected by trolleymen on little motorised trollies. Each flower trolley is barcoded with the buyers barcode. They aim to deliver orders to the buyers transport, within 90 minutes of purchase.

On the other side of the hall it is rather like organised chaos, as all the different orders are collated.