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.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

15th - 18th June. Rural Netherlands in the Weeribben - Wieden National Park.

Gradually travelling northwards on a smaller waterway, this farm mooring was perfect for Shannon, with an impenetrable wire fence. She enjoyed the freedom here, though she was disappointed that the gate was firmly shut!
Carrying on, we followed the markers along a deep channel, skirting the edge of the shallow Zwarte Meer, to get to the Zwarte Water, which is both wide and deep enough for commercial traffic. However there was none about today.
Having gone through a small lock with two other boats, we were glad to be on a smaller waterway again, but still heading north. We are now in the Weeribben - Wieden National Park, which is unique in that it is the largest freshwater wetland in the north-west of Europe. It is a rural area which specialises in reed cutting for thatched roofs, the cut reeds being stored in barns such as this once they are dry enough.

The reeds are transported in boats like this one, seen inside the shelter of the barn.
We are on the Arembergracht waterway here, and the green sails opposite our mooring are covering the cut reeds, to protect them from the rain, as they dry out. They will have been cut last December.

These reeds are on the move, but are they going from the canal side stores to the barns, or are they off to rethatch a house? We will never know!

Crossing Beulaker Wijde was a little rough, but The Puzzler did not mind. These lakes are wide but never very rough, so far anyway!

Having continued across Giethoornse Meer, we took a right turn into Roomsloot, which is the smallest waterway for us so far in The Netherlands. We met this sharp left turn in the tiny hamlet of Nederland. but managed to squeeze round it safely.
The water village of Kalenberg is at the other end of Roomsloot. On this side of the canal, the houses can only be accessed by water, or by bicycle. Most of the houses are thatched, or part-thatched, like this splendid property. Thatch does not do well under trees, as it needs air to keep it dry, hence the part thatch.

All the houses in Kalenberg are rather special.

The canal is not very wide through the village, but is one of the main routes north to Friesland. However, you never know what you are going to meet round the next corner!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

12th - 14th June. Cherry picking, then across the Ketelmeer, on to the River Ijssel / Rhine.

Sailing on along Hoge Vaart, the canal in the south of Flevoland polder, we reached the mooring known locally as Cherry Wood. We explored and found out why!

Sadly there were many cherries out of reach, but we still managed to collect nearly 2 kg. Wild cherry gin should be good!

Much of the eastern part of the Flevoland polder is planted with wheat, which is nearly ready to harvest.
Reaching Ketelhaven, we went straight into the sluis, to go up five metres, and out on to Ketelmeer. It is quite a short crossing, with wind force 2 - 3, but we were glad to get across. It was uncomfortable, but not at all dangerous.

This fishing boat was at anchor, but looked ready to go.
Seeing this signpost reassured us that we had followed the correct markers, and were now entering the mouth of the River Ijssel, known further upstream as the mighty River Rhine.
Shannon was pleased to be allowed up on the roof of The Puzzler again, as it is out of bounds when out on the big waters. The marker above her left ear says 1003, as we are 1003 kilometres from the start of the navigable Rhine.

This is a new bridge over the River Ijssel, which has been built within the last five years. Despite its height, there is still an opening section needed in the bridge.
A little further on, our alternator belt screamed and then started to break. Luckily we were very near to a marina, so we pulled in for an hour to let the engine cool down. With a new belt fitted, we went back a short way to get fuel and gas from this bunker boat. It was not cheap, but was very handy.

This tall ship appeared behind us as we set off again and no doubt the new bridge was lifted for her. The little yacht to her right gives an idea of her size.
At Kampen we turned off the River Ijssel on to a smaller waterway, Ganzen Diep.

Friday, 13 June 2014

9th - 11th June. A visit to Almere-Stad, then back across Flevoland on the Hoge Vaart.

From the Lage Vaart, which is a canal stretching across Northern Flevoland, we continued into the lake, Noorde Plassen, to get to the town of Almere. We joined all the small hire boats from the resort there, which came in many different designs. We saw one big round inflatable one, with a barbeque in the middle, holding ten happy people.

In Almere we managed to find Ed and Olga's house, and moored The Puzzler at the bottom of their garden. They had kindly moved their boat to a neighbour's mooring, to make room for us. Every house here has its own waterfront, by some very imaginative designing.

We all went to the supermarket by boat, with Ed at the wheel.

We enjoyed crossing the Noorde Plassen in the sloop, and are heading for the far shore, to reach the shops. This lake is bigger than it looked on the chart!
As we arrived back at the house, Shannon was very pleased to see us again. I completed sewing our new mosquito nets on Olga's sewing machine, saving myself a few hours of hand sewing! This was a great help and was much appreciated.

Next morning we sailed to the far end of the lake Noorde Plassen, to go through the centre of Almere-Stad, on the canals. As The Puzzler can manage a bridge of 1.9 metres, the standard height here of 2.5 metres was not a problem. We found the modern architecture of the new town of Almere very interesting and varied.

As we were leaving Almere-Stad, across another lake, the view back to the town shows some more of this varied architecture.
We sailed on to the Hoge Vaart, which is the main canal running right across the southern half of Flevoland. We found this lagoon mooring, off the main canal, just to the south of Almere. We have been so lucky with the weather, with little daytime rain, and plenty of sun.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

5th - 8th June. Back down the River Eem and across the Randmeren to Flevoland, dropping 20 feet below sea level!

We carried on down the River Eem, and enjoyed another lovely evening here. The cycle path makes very good walking, and we saw a spoonbill for the first time. He was the size of a heron, but with a different pattern of flight, and he also had the distinctive spoon shape on the end of his long bill.

From the Eem, we went back on to the Randmeren. Here the windmills are modern ones, alongside this wide water.

This barge looked as though it was too heavily laden to stay afloat. There must be about 12 feet of boat under the water here.
We left the Randmeren to enter Flevoland at Lovink Sluis, where we kept on going down and down! This sluis is over 5 metres deep, so with a further drop of another metre at the next lock, we are now nearly 20 feet below sea level. Let us hope that there is not a breach in the dyke!

The weather is very hot now so a spot of relaxation on the jetty seemed to be a good idea.
There is a great deal of woodland in Flevoland. This polder was made completely out of sand, which was piped here out of the Ijsselmeer, and under these trees this can be seen clearly.
This is Lage Knarsluis, which was used during the construction of Flevoland, and could still be used today, in an emergency, to control the water.
It is Whit Monday, or Tweede Pinksterdag, so it is quite busy. We found some new friends, who allowed us to moor alongside, and then later plied us with Irish coffe and wine, until after 1am! A good time was had by all.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

1st - 4th June. Lost on the Loosedrechtsche Plassen, then on down the Vecht to Muiden. At sea on the Ijmeer, and via the Randmeren to the Eem and Amersfoort.

From Widje Blik, we turned right towards Hilversum, then right again to find this charming lock, which we had to work ourselves. It is very unusual in The Netherlands to do your own work! This led on to a small canal, which in turn led on to the Loosedrechtsche Plassen.
This is a large lake, with many small islands. We had to follow a line of these islands to get to the sluis on the other side, but turned too soon, on entering the lake, and then managed to get completely lost! We hailed a passing cruiser, and they put us right, though the route they gave us took us rather too close to these racing yachts.
Eventually we reached the lock, sharing it with eight small boats. Do the crowd of gongoozlers ( non-boaters who idle their time away watching boats) remind you of Foxton Locks in England on a Sunday?

This staithe was the only type of mooring available on this part of The River Vecht, with no land access. Shannon did not approve!
At Muiden we followed the Vecht past many marinas. This jachthaven is The Royal Netherlands Sailing and Rowing Club, and is the home of the Royal Yacht, De Groene Draeck, but sadly we did not see it!
Then it was out on to the Ijmeer, on a lovely calm day. By taking the inner route, we avoid commercial traffic on the first part of this wide water, which leads to the south of Flevoland. The polder which is Flevoland was created out of part of the Zuider Zee in the 1950's. Our route takes us along the Randmeren, a well buoyed channel through the various meers which separate the mainland from Flevoland. Having first crossed Gooimeer, we head right in Eemmeer, and on to the River Eem.

This was a better mooring on the River Eem, both for us and for Shannon.
The barge Cascade was one of at least six passing our mooring that evening, all carrying sand or earth for dyke improvement. It makes all our boats look small, when some of these barges carry up to 1000 tons.

On Wednesday it was on into Amersfoort, where the Koppelpoort seen here dates back to the year 1400. Amersfoort is the second largest town in the Utrecht province. We visited the Mondriaanhuis art gallery, as well as the  Museum Flehite, which told the history of the town. Both of them were very interesting, in different ways. 

Sint Joriskerk, or St. George's Church, dominates the main town square. The small roofed area in front of it is still the site of the fish market.
This street claims to be the best street in Amersfoort. Sally is making mosquito curtains for the windows, and we bought our final Velcro for these here. It was a fascinating shop, selling absolutely anything that could be needed for sewing. We                                get the impression that the Dutch do a lot of dressmaking.
While we were in Amersfoort a local reporter interviewed us for an article in the local paper. This is his picture to accompany the article.
Leaving Amersfoort, the Fietsboet overtook us, then we both met a fully laden barge, Fiat V Luntas. The gunnels of the barge are nearly underwater, due to the heavy cargo of sand. The Fietsboet is a cycle ferry, which can hold up to 125 people, presumably all with their bikes. It goes up and down the River Eem from Amersfoort, then out into the Randermeer to other towns too.

At another riverside mooring, the barge Cascade seemed to be very close to our window! We are getting used to these emormous barges.
The reason for all this barge traffic on the River Eem just now can be seen here. They are transporting the earth needed to strengthen the dyke all along this section of the river.