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.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

25th - 27th July. On to Woudsend, across Slotermeer to Balk, then down the Luts canal to Wyldemerk Dragonfly reserve.

We are still in Friesland. We sailed on to Woudsend again, then went to the south west across Slotermeer. We have been lucky not to have too much wind on these lake crossings.
We liked Balk village very much. It was similar to Sloten, with the central canal, and traditional houses. However, we can cruise along the canal here and there are also two lift bridges.

The pretty canal to the south of Balk reminds us of the narrow English canals. We moored along this stretch and enjoyed a walk in the woods.

This is the only typical canal bridge that we have found in The Netherlands.
At the end of this canal lies a lovely lake, surrounded by woodland and the Wyldemerk Dragonfly reserve. Apparently sand was sucked from the bottom of this lake to create the major new road through this area, and the lake is now 60 metres deep.

In the dragonfly reserve we saw several frogs on the water lilies, but not many dragonflies!

We found really good walking in the woods here.

There were no streams in the woods so Shannon was delighted to be back at the lake.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

21st - 24th July 2014. On to Terherne for Skutje racing, then boats galore to and from Langweer.

From Heerenveen we returned to Akkrum for shopping, where we were interviewed for the local paper, although we have not yet seen the article. We know that it was in though, as various boaters have told us! The mooring here on the island of Terherne was a little tricky, as there was not much room left for our bows. We are secure with a mud weight at the stern, which is sitting on the bottom.

The weather is almost too hot for comfort. Sally went for a swim, and was then joined by Shannon, who was glad of a lift back to The Puzzler.
Most of the Skutjes and their backup boats arrived on Monday night for Tuesday's race here at Terherne. The whole competition started last Saturday in Grou, and there are a total of ten races on different lakes throughout Friesland, before the final at Sneek on  1st August. These skutjes are up to 100 years old, and each boat represents a town in Friesland.
Everywhere in the lake there are boats at anchor, waiting for the race to start. There is a terrific atmosphere everywhere round Sneekermeer.

Our chairs on the roof give a good view over the island to the course on the main lake.

Fourteen skutjes are lined up at the start.

The skutje from Joure was in the lead for much of the race, but finished fifth.
There is plenty of wind today, and the skipper's skill is all important. The course is four circuits long, with variations in the route. Drachten eventually won today's race.

What a contrast the next morning, with few boats to be seen!

Having left our mooring, we sailed across yesterday's course on Sneekermeer.
Today's race is at Langweer, but we are moored just over a kilometre from the lake there, so can watch boats on their way back from the race. This trip boat has had a good day out.

The procession of all types of craft goes on and on. Hundreds of boats passed us today, going to and from the race.
As the skutjes do not have an engine, they have to be taken to each race by their backup boat, in this case it is a large barge. Tomorrow's race is at Elahuizen on Fluessen, another large Friesian lake.

Not all skutjes have such a large vessel with them.

The skutje from Woudsend is dwarfed by the crane barge, which is there at the races in case it is needed.

A nearby thunderstorm today was followed by another glorious sunset.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

14th - 20th July 2014. Still in Friesland. From Akkrum to Grou, Sneek, Heeg, Woudsend and Sloten again, then back to Heerenveen.

We sailed back into Akkrum next morning to collect Martin and Jenny from the station, before heading north again. Further up the waterway capsize drill was going on.

Saturday evening brought another lovely sunset, after an unremarkable day.

This stork, standing by the water's edge, was very regal.
At Earnewald we went to find the Skutje museum. It was a short walk out of town but, as always, there was a cycle path along by the road for us to use. Skutjes are the very distinctive historic sailing boats of Friesland.

This modern skutje was built just a few years ago. It is really beautiful.

The builder of the boat insisted we all sat in the stern for a photo opportunity!
We sailed on further into the National Park of Alde Feanen. As the weather was improving, we bought iced lollies from the ice-cream boat!

As the chart shows, there is a great deal of water available for cruising in this park.

There are plenty of idyllic moorings to choose from too.
The Prinses Margriet Kanaal runs along the north west side of the park, and we followed it down to Grou. It is a commercial waterway, so we are in with the big boys here. The barge Meander was the largest one to overtake us.
There was not much space in Grou, as the first Skutje race of the season starts from here this Saturday. We pulled in to the Oostergoo Hotel to moor, and to have a cup of coffee, before looking round the town.
Continuing down the Prinses Margriet for a while, we saw this railway bridge start to swing for a tall yacht which was coming behind us. The height of this bridge is 71.5 metres, and the waterway here is part of the "Mast up" route through Friesland, from Lemmer, on the Ijsselmeer, to Delfzijl, far in the northeast of The Netherlands.

There are so many hydrangeas in this area. The Dutch are real flower gardeners, and it is lovely to see.

We cruised on across several different lakes and eventually reached Sneek. The houses in this part of town are very traditional.
We moored at the first available mooring, in the central part of Sneek. Directly behind us at the mooring is yacht Mintaka, a very different boat to The Puzzler. It was nice to see some fellow Brits, and we stayed out late to chat. It was a lovely warm evening, after a glorious day.

This lift bridge in Sneek is very decorative.

Shannon is finding the weather almost too hot for comfort. It is good that she was trimmed last week.
The cruiser to our left, behind us as we come in front of the Watergate Bridge, was in a real hurry, and overtook us as soon as he could. However, most people on the water have plenty of time to enjoy themselves.
In the village of Ijlst, we took a detour through a small waterway, which was interesting, especially when we met other boats in the narrows!
This old sailing barge is a museum piece, in the centre of Heeg. Our flag is down, and the front flowerpot moved to the side, as we have just been through a low bridge.

On Heegermeer there were a great many sailing dinghies to be seen.
We climbed up inside the 't Lamb windmill in Woudsend, to look out over the town. Sadly there was not enough wind to move the sails today.
Following another cruiser through the lift bridge, we hoped that the brugwachter would let us through, before turning the lights red, to stop any more boats.  He was kind to us and we did get through on this lift!

We moored on the long stretch, leading up to Sloten. There were at least forty boats of different types here.

It was a good place for a game of boules.

This was our best head so far, with all eight boules round the jack. On this length of grass we use a tennis ball for the jack, which does make it much easier to see.

This is our favourite view down the centre of Sloten, from the end bridge.

We cross the Prinses Margriet again, so once more it is "barge ahead!"
Crossing Tjeukermeer, we pass the island mooring. To the right of the island all these cruisers are at anchor, but we can see swimmers standing up amongst them, so it must be really shallow. We are on our way to Heerenveen, for Martin and Jenny to catch their train.