Amsterdam By Sail

Amsterdam By Sail

Our Dutch friends Herman & Lydia have been asking us to come on their boat for a weekend of sailing ever since the moved from Eindhoven to Amsterdam a little over a year ago – now we were going to make it a reality!

On our previous trip to the Netherlands in April (2018), we had caught up with Herman & Lydia for dinner – turned out to be more of an effort than I first anticipated! You see, we were staying in Meppel which is north east of Amsterdam and what I did not realise when I confirmed a dinner date with them was that Meppel was 160km away from Amsterdam!

Anyhow, we had a great evening with them & got to see their new home in Amsterdam, so the drive was totally worth it!

It was at that dinner that Herman & I decided that this summer would be the perfect time to organise a sailing weekend onboard their yacht the Jacob Van Berlijn. It’s an old clipper sailing boat that used to carry freight but has been converted to be able to comfortably sleep 20 people and it is Herman’s pride & joy!

So, we eventually settled on a weekend in the latter part of July. We would be arriving on a Thursday & leave the following Monday evening. Sailing would be on the weekend, with some sightseeing around Amsterdam thrown in for good measure.

Getting to Amsterdam was going to be a little different for us also – we decide that we would try catching a Coach there – why not? We had already driven there a couple of times & although we could also go by rail or air, we have never used a coach service during our time in Europe – so this was an opportunity for a new experience!

The time between April & July flew by &, before we knew it, Iris & I were seated on our Flix bus coach & on our way to Amsterdam. The journey was uneventful & I must say that I was impressed with the overall service – the bus left on time & arrived into Amsterdam a little ahead of schedule. We had one stop for a mini break along the way where we decided to grab a coffee.

Our disembarkation point was Amsterdam’s Sloterdijk station, where we caught the Metro to Centraal & from there a tram to the Museumplein stop – which was only a 5 min walk to Herman & Lydia’s place.

This was pretty straightford, apart from a little confusion regarding Metro & Train tickets – they are not interchangeable! Once we realised this, everything went like clockwork.

We got to Herman & Lydia’s place a little after 7pm. It was Lydia’s sister’s birthday so there was a bit of a family gathering,  which we were included in. It was a pleasant evening with much laughter & engaging conversation!

Next day was Friday & Herman & Lydia were working – both from home. They let us get on with our own thing – our plan being to explore the Museum quarter a little, with our main focus being on the Van Gogh museum which had bought tickets for online for 2pm that day. There are a few attractions in Amsterdam where booking in advance, online, is essential – especially during the summer months. Van Gogh’s museum is one & Anne Frank House is the other.

The Museum quarter is a great public space featuring museums (of course), parks & open space. It is only a five minute stroll from Herman & Lydia’s place to there, which was fantastic! Iris & I spent a few hours wandering around the area, having coffee at a local café & just generally soaking up the atmosphere.

We stopped for a bite to eat at a restaurant adjacent to the Museum Square called “Small Talk. Then we were off for our allotted entry time to the Van Gogh museum at 2pm.

This was a truly amazing experience – so many works of art from Van Gogh & his contemporaries that provide some real background & substance to the man’s story. The highlight for me was to sit in one of the galleries, plug in my headphones & listen to Don McLean singing “Vincent” whilst looking at the painting Starry Night – priceless!

From there we took a walk to the main shopping area before heading back to Herman & Lydias.

Herman greeted us with the news that he was going to take us for a “Canal cruise” in his little runabout, once we had recovered from our exertions. So, after dinner we all got into the small boat (Myself, Iris, Herman, Lydia & their youngest daughter Nikki) & were treated to a locals inside story on the various canals and suburbs of Amsterdam.

On our way back to their place we pulled up to the jetty of one of the many cafes & restaurants that line these canals and had a drink before returning back to Herman & Lydia’s place – what a great day!

Next day was Saturday & the day we had all been waiting for – to get onboard the Jacob Van Berlijn!

Once we had completed breakfast we got into the car to head for the marina where the boat is moored. It was a pleasant 20 minute drive to the north of the city. Parking was a bit of a problem at the Marina so Herman dropped us all off (Iris, Myself, Lydia & Nikki) whilst he went to find a parking spot.

The walk to the boat was a short one – just over 5 minutes, & there she was in all her splendour! I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. The boat was much larger than I had imagined & the galley/living area was very much larger than I had pictured it! It would comfortably seat 15-20 people & was well equipped.

Lydia organised us with some pre-sailing tasks that need to be completed, such as putting fresh linen on all of the beds & checking that the kitchen appliances were all in working order.

Once Herman arrived he set to getting the boat ready for our journey – which was going to be to cross the body of water known as the  Ijsselmeer heading for Hoorn.

There were some other couples joining with us, so we had to wait from them to arrive before we “Cast off” & got underway. Seeing Herman navigate such a large vessel safely away from its moorings was quite impressive – he made it look really easy (obviously had a lot of practice!).

We stayed under motor power for about 30 minutes before Herman gave the instruction to hoist the sails. Although the boat is large, it features a single mast (a big one though!) with a mainsail & a jib. Motorised winches do a lot of the heavy lifting with this, but there is still quite a bit of “Muscle power” required to get everything in its right place.

Once the sails were set Herman cut the engine & the resulting silence was eerie for a few minutes – until you got used to just hearing the sound of the boat cutting through the water & the sails tensing against the breeze.

It was a glorious day – sun shining, with hardly a cloud to be seen & just enough breeze to power the boat’s sails but not so much that you had to work hard to make sure that the boat stayed true to course. We spent the next few hours just relaxing in the sun & getting to know each other through conversation.

Plenty of other people had the same idea as us, there were a lot of other sails visible on the horizons around us – but not so many as to be crowded. This is a huge expanse of water & it’s all fresh as the channel that opened out to sea was deliberately closed off many years ago. Hard to believe that such a large body of water could be freshwater – land was so far away as to be almost invisible!

Herman did most of the helm work but did give those that were interested (myself included) some lessons on basic “sailsmanship” & navigation.

Lunch was a healthy serving of soup with plenty of crusty bread. Tea & coffee were in never ending supply!

By late afternoon it was time to take down the sails so that we could use motor power to head into port at Hoorn. Taking the sails down is quite an exercise but, as there were quite a few of us lending a hand, it was completed in no time – & with hardly a hiccup!

Again Herman demonstrated his expertise at the helm by navigating into our mooring for the night without a hitch – and that was no mean feat as we had to position our boat alongside another vessel of similar size & in between two other boats that were moored in front & behind!

Once we had everything secured & stowed it was time to head out for dinner. Lydia had found a restaurant that was close by & that was prepared to take a party of 13 people – thanks largely to Google!

So, off we went into Hoorn which was buzzing with people. This is obviously a popular spot with “Boaties” – the small harbour was full of boats, masts bobbing around with the movement of the water & people enjoying the delights of a warm summer evening being cooled through the intake of plenty of fluids!

We arrived at the restaurant at a little after 8pm. Nice place called “Marque” – a little more upmarket than I was expecting but obviously popular. Rather than an A’ La Carte menu, the restaurant served up a series of dishes that were designed to complement each other. There were a total of 7 dishes served, with our waitress providing a description of each.

Seven courses would normally be out of the question for me but the tastes & portion sizes kept you wanting more. By the time the dessert dish was served I was quite full!

Whilst a little more expensive than I would like, it was a different experience & you certainly couldn’t complain about the tastes or presentation of each course.

We didn’t get back to the boat until close to midnight, so we had to be very quiet when getting back onboard, as you had to walk over the deck of the boat next to us to gain entry to our boat!

Everyone was tired from such a big day so, no sooner had we got onboard, everyone was in their cabins & sleeping in no time!

Breakfast next morning consisted of fresh bread, croissants & a variety of cheeses, with the obligatory coffee, tea & juices. By 10am all the boats around us were starting to prepare to leave their moorings for another day out on this freshwater sea.

Our mooring had us sandwiched between boats to port, starboard, aft & front, so we had to wait our turn to leave but, when called upon, Herman once again did us proud in navigating out to open water – we almost felt like seasoned sailors!

Today (Sunday) we would be heading back to Amsterdam. Herman was unsure as to how we would go under sail as the weather forecast was for relatively calm conditions – albeit a little more overcast than the previous day. However, once we hoisted the sails we had enough wind to cut the engine & once again enjoy those sounds of the boat cutting through the water, sails flapping in the gentle breeze.

I took on the role of helmsman for our journey back &, once I got used to the responsiveness of the rudder, really enjoyed myself! Mind you, we had to work a lot harder with the sails this day as the wind was not only far weaker than yesterday but was also changing direction at regular intervals – which meant that Herman was kept busy with the winches!

We sailed for several hours before lowering sails & anchoring near a small bay so that those who wished it could go for a swim. I had a bit of a breather & read my book!

Then we motored back the rest of the way to the Jacob Van Berlijn’s permanent mooring.

Once moored, we spent some time tidying up the boat & preparing it for the next set of passengers (whomever & whenever that may turn out to be) before we disembarked & said our farewells to our fellow crew.

Once back at Herman & Lydia’s it was time for a shower before dinner – tonight, being Sunday, is family night. Lydia’s Mum usually cooks dinner & which ever family members are around have an open invitation to attend. On this occasion Lydia’s eldest daughter, Tess & her boyfriend, are joining us, along with Herman, Lydia, Nikki & Lydia’s sister.

Another great evening & a great way to finish the weekend!

Monday comes around way too quickly – today Iris & I will be doing some more exploring before heading back to Frankfurt. We are booked on the “Midnight express” with Flixbus, which departs Amsterdam at just before midnight, arriving in Frankfurt a little after 5am.

This gives us the whole day to do whatever we want!

After a leisurely breakfast we head out a bit after 10am. We have decided to visit another museum, the Rijksmuseum, also located in the Museum Quarter, it displays 8,000 objects of art and history, from a total national collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000. Probably the most famous being Rembrandts “Night Watch”.

It’s an impressive building with even more impressive displays! Each floor is organised by date starting at the 12th century & moving towards modern times. You could, literally, spend days here!

We spent hours there before venturing back to the outside world. We had a late lunch at Bagels coffee shop before doing some more wandering and ending up at a canal side bar/café where we had a couple of cocktails & watched the passing parade of boats & barges.

We got back to Herman & Lydia’s around 5pm where we met a couple of their friends from when they were living in Eindhoven. They were all going out for a meal, which we were invited to but politely declined. Even though we had plenty of time we did not want to impose on Herman & Lydia’s fabulous hospitality any more than we already had.

So, we got our belongings & bade everyone farewell. They all got into Herman & Lydia’s runabout & headed off to dinner. We headed up to the Metro to catch the train to Centraal where we found a locker to store our bags, so that we could do some more exploring!

From Centraal we were able to catch the free ferry across the harbour to the EYE film & movie museum & A’Dam lookout. Both are interesting attractions. The Eye film museum features posters from doth Dutch & international movies.

The A’Dam lookout is atop a highrise tower & provides spectacular views of Amsterdam & surrounds. It also features a swing that swings out over the edge of the building for a bit of an adrenalin hit. However, you are best to book that in advance online as it often sells out – as it did on this evening!

We ended up grabbing a bite to eat & a drink at a nearby beer garden & watched the passing parade with Amsterdam harbour in the background.

Then it was back to Centraal on the ferry to grab our bags & from where we caught the Metro to Sloterdijk station – which is where we board our Flixbus back to Frankfurt.

Once we had made it to Sloterdijk station we headed to the bus area to be met by a large crowd of people who were obviously doing the same as us. It was hectic! Coaches arriving & leaving, people not really sure if their coach was there or not, drivers yelling out their destination – what an experience!

It was also clear that these late night trips are very popular with those backpacking around Europe – and why not? It makes sense when you think about it, they can travel from point A to B, not lose any valuable daylight time doing so & not having to pay for a night’s accommodation!

Every coach (& I counted over 10 in the time we were waiting) was full to bursting!

I was so glad that we had paid extra to have our seating place reserved!

Our coach arrived a little late but still managed to get us back on time & the journey was uneventful – I slept through most of it!

Originally we were booked to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof but we discovered that the bus also stopped at the airport, so we got of there as it was easier for us to then catch the bus home.

So, another journey completed & one more adventure added to our growing list!

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