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, 30 September 2014

28th - 30th September. On to Meppelerdiep and Zwartsluis. Across Ketelmeer to Ketelhaven on Flevoland.

It was a lovely day on Sunday so Andy and Shannon decided to do some sunbathing.

Moving on on Monday, we joined Meppelerdiep, a bigger waterway, but there were few ships about today.
There are speed limits on Meppelerdiep, with 9 kilometres per hour for laden barges, and 12 kph for unladen ones. Our usual speed is about 8kph, so they are all faster than The Puzzler!
Zwartsluis is a town of boating contrasts, with a marina full of small craft on the outskirts.
To get to the centre of town for shopping however, we take a right turn past several moored barges. There is an extremely good chandlery near to the mooring, which was useful. The museum was closed again! It closes on Mondays and this is our third visit to Zwartsluis, each time being on a Monday! I expect that it is a very good museum.

We left Zwartsluis by going through the open lock, under two low bridges there, out on to Zwarte Water, another big barge canal.

An empty barge overtook us soon after this, going at top speed. He was out of sight before we came round the corner, but we turned off on to a smaller canal, Ganzendiep, to go southwards to join the River Ijssel.
The new road bridge over the Ijssel dwarfs the mighty river below it. Having reached the mouth of the Ijssel, which is 1005 kilometres from the source of navigation on the Rhine, we went across Ketelmeer. It was a little breezy, but not too uncomfortable.

It was nice to be off the open water, and we were joined by a cruiser in the lock. In Ketelsluis we dropped 5 metres to get down to Flevoland.

There is a pleasant free mooring, quite near to Ketelhaven. The lock can be seen behind The Puzzler, with the dike protecting the polder from the waters of Ketelmeer.
Later on, we walked through the village of Ketelhaven, which seemed a very peaceful place to live. The gardens were lovely, with each house a different design. We continued on to the dike above the town, to look back across Ketelmeer, which we crossed earlier today. Were we really out there?

Coming back along the dike, we could see Ketelhaven marina, which was full of sailing boats.

Monday, 29 September 2014

26th - 27th September. Through Erica and Veenbrug, then on past Hoogeveen to Oostersluis.

Coming down Erica sluis, we reached the official end of the new Erica to Ter Apel canal.

Veenbrug, in the town of Veenoord, is a lifting railway bridge. As the bridge is lifted straight up, then the overhead cables are not disturbed.

The canal, Veerlenge Hoogeveensche vaart, goes on and on ahead of us, but the trees do help to break the monotony of it.

Beyond Klenkerbrug, the canal narrows by this pleasant mooring.

Alongside the canal there were many more of these big dwellings. From this we assume that this is a wealthy area.
Beside Noordscheschut sluis is a sculpture of a lockkeeper using his pole to close a lock gate. We have seen this method used on the Turf Route and on the Stadskanaal, but most lock gates are now powered.
The canal makes a detour to the south of Hoogeveen, one of the bigger cities in the province of Drenthe. These were some of the more unusual houses on the outskirts.

We descended about seven metres in Nieuwe Brugsluis. It certainly seemed a long way down!

We are now moored above Oostersluis until Monday. These locks and bridges do not operate on Sundays. Until the double red by the lock turns green, we will wait!

These storks seem to live in the field near to our mooring.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

24th - 25th September. On along the new Veenvaart canal, including the Koning Willem Alexander Kanaal.

We moored in the Hondsrug Geopark on Wednesday. This dates back 135,00 years, but surely these stones were polished more recently!

Not far from the canal was this eerie place, with the remains of trees in the sunken area, which is now filled with water.

Carrying on along the Scholtens canal, which is part of the new Veenvaart waterway, the oak trees, with the smaller silver birch trees behind, look lovely.

Having turned on to the Koning Willem Alexander kanaal through Trambrug, we moored and walked on to see Koppelsluis. This is a staircase lock with two chambers.
Beyond the lock is a marked walk. The first part was alongside this horse gallop, where the sand is a remnant of the last ice age. A glacier came south through this part of The Netherlands 150,000 years ago.

Our return route is through tracks and woods. This has to be one of our best walks since arriving in Holland in April.

Back with The Puzzler, we are now on our way into the bottom lock at  Koppelsluis.

Hold your boat securely as the paddles are raised!

There is a viewing platform on top of the control tower, for a good view of the lock. This lock takes us up to the summit level. We have now come up 15 locks (sluizen) and are 20 metres above sea level.

This giraffe was keeping an eye on things near to Spaarsluis.
Spaarsluis is another new lock, and has two side pounds in operation. These save a lot of water, when the lock is emptied, as half the water goes into these. This can then be used, next time the lock is filled up.
We moored below Oranjesluis, with two other boats. Oranjesluis is operated by remote control, possibly from Spaarsluis. As we approached the lock the lights went red and green, to say " I know you are there". The lock gates then opened for us and we were worked through, but not a person in sight. it is obviously very efficient, but still seems weird!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

22nd - 23rd September. South on the Ruiten Aakanaal to Ter Apel, where we joined the new Veenvaart, which opened in 2013.

On Monday we were the first to leave, at about midday, after an extremely wet morning.

Cees and Sam caught us up with Sambucca, below Zuidveldsluis, and we spent our third evening together. A good time was had by all!

Cheetah called round to see if Shannon was coming out to play.

Potatoes are now on the move, in from the fields. This was the third trailer load to pass us, on its way to the farm.

Further on there were three lorries queueing up to be loaded with sugar beet, another product of this region.

By Ter Apel sluis this marker told us that we were 10.5 metres above the Amsterdam water level .
All the locks on this canal were against us. We have a special key, so that we can work them ourselves, and each one took at least 30 minutes, from the first turn of the key. Electric motors do most of the work, but they work extremely slowly. Once the top lock gate is open, or nearly so, the bridge also has to be operated. Some are push button, once you have closed the road barriers, while some have to be wound up with a wheel. Sally takes The Puzzler out of the lock on those ones!

The canal continues to delight us, with its lining of trees.
After a brief shopping stop in Ter Apel, we carried on out of town. We left our special key with the bridge keeper in Ter Apel, as we do not need it any more, reclaiming our 25 euro deposit.
We had mentioned to the lock keeper that we were in need of diesel, and he told us what to do. The trouble was, he told us in Dutch! Our understanding of the language is not too good yet, so we were surprised to be ushered to the left, through this large bridge, on to the Haren-Rutenbrock canal, which leads into Germany. We had not planned to take The Puzzler into Germany!

However, just through the open lock beyond the bridge, before the German border, was a diesel point on the canal. The garage lady brought us a bucket of cleaning goodies too, in case we made a mess! This diesel was the cheapest we have found in Holland. We then backed back through the bridge, to rejoin the Stads-Compascum canal.

We are now joining the new Veenkanaal, which was opened in 2013. This has been our destination for the last month, and it is good to get here at last.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

20th - 21st September. Going southwards in Holland, near to the German border, to visit the fortified town of Bourtange.

On reaching Vrieschelooster sluis, we found the yacht Morse aground, as the water level was down here, which is unusual in Holland. By using some gentle manoeuvring, together with some full powered pulling, we managed to get him going again.

We carried on locking ourselves up the Ruiten Aakanaal, meeting Cees and Sam at Vlagtwedder sluis. Their boat is already at Bourtange.

The tree lined canal leading to Bourtange from the Ruiten Aakanaal was very pretty.

Approaching Bourtange harbour. We are very near to the German border here.

In the harbour at Bourtange we found Cees and Sam on Sambucca, which was originally a Swedish Baltic rescue boat.
This is an aerial view of  Bourtange, which was first built between 1580 and 1593.  Spain were adversaries of the Dutch at that time, and used this border crossing through the swampy area, to bring supplies to their troops at Groningen. Prince William of Orange hoped to isolate Groningen, by building this fortified town to close this road. Bourtange was dismantled as a fortress in 1851, but was rebuilt during the 1980s, to represent how it used to be in 1742. It is now a major tourist attraction.

There is one windmill within the city moat, near to one of the six diamond shaped "corners" of the city.

Canons are still in place, ready to repel  marauders.

Meanwhile Sally and Shannon are on lookout duty! Should they be looking the other way?

This weekend there was a market in the centre of the town, with musicians too.