Saturday, October 31, 2009

Painting the Dinghy

The second boat to the left of my sensible hat (the yacht with the blue main boom cover) is the good ship Mariner. She was glad to see me return, in fact she tugged at her mooring lines in the gentle wind, winked at me and implored me to go sailing - with the caveat that I scrub and paint the dinghy first.

One of the happy tasks that fell to me as I left a Netherlands northern hemisphere Indian Summer moving reluctantly into Autumn - was to embrace a New Zealand / Whangarei Spring that had out foxed Winter with its warm embrace and bold proclamation of Summer. I love the Northern summers on the coast, sailing, the light bright, bright, bright - the water iridescent, the sky huge, Mariner leaning into the afternoon lugging a big sail - I like all that - a lot.

There was a warm wind blowing up the river as I made my way down the jetty to the pontoon to Mariners dinghy. It was a good sailing breeze and I would have liked to have gone sailing but first things first - The dinghy needed some repairs and the bottom painted with anti fouling paint.

One of the advantages of spending four years building a yacht and living the blood, sweat and tears of that experience is that it makes the easy jobs - well, easy, outrageously easy and enjoyable - painting a dinghy in the sun is a relaxing meditative occasion compared with the white knuckle stress of heating and pouring 2 tons of lead ballast, or carting a 12 meter mast illegally tied to the side of a Morris 1100 car at 3 o'clock in the morning. Yes, it was an easy and enjoyable job.

When I started training for my cycling in the Netherlands I weighed 97 kilograms. When I returned I weighed 89.7 kilograms. This picture shows that I am but a shadow of my former self - which is a really corny line isn't it, but I can't think of a better line than that and I quite like the photo and wanted to use it on this post.
The repairs included some gluing up of the gunwales which have cracked in places - yacht dinghies are real work horses and really do get a battering, especially if they are permanently moored to a pontoon all the time.

The completed paint job. The blue anti fouling paint should keep the dinghy reasonably clean of barnacles and weed for a year or so - with the odd hauling out and scrubbing.
When I had finished painting I heard Mariner shout out 'yippee' - I know what that means - she wants a rollicking good sail down the harbour - and who am I to deny her, her hearts desire.

The Noorde Zee (North Sea) Coastal Route

I began the North Sea route at Vlissingen which is close to the Belgium border. The route hugs the coastline from the province of Zeeland to the port of Den Helder in the north.

You don't bike on the motorways, you bike under them on the well signed network of paths.

Small, now obsolete lighthouse near Rotterdam.

I counted over thirty ships anchored in the stream on the North Sea coast waiting to berth at Rotterdam one of the worlds biggest ports. On the map Rotterdam looked like a formidable place to have to navigate on a bike, but by following the route numbers it was a cinch.

It is very hard to find wilderness in the Netherlands, in fact there isn't any to speak of. As I cycled through the sand dunes on the coastal route I would come across something like this - a large tea / coffee house / restaurant in the middle of nowhere with road access and filled to the gunwales with nice Dutch people taking tea.

The large canal that allows access to Rotterdam from the North Sea.

The natural and artificial landscapes are always in close proximity.

Coastal town. This boat was permanently sited for children to play on.

How do you head north? Just follow the arrows on the signs - easy peasy :-)


Zeeland - Land of the Big Dijkes

This is one of the very big dijkes that was built in Zeeland after the disastrous flooding of 1953. The 'Delta Scheme' was completed to protect Zeeland from inundation from the North Sea.

Huge sluice gates are able to be lifted up and down to regulate the flow of water. One third of The Netherlands is below sea level. Many large cities and huge areas of farmland would be flooded if the dijkes ever failed. The 'Polders' are areas of reclaimed land - it was interesting when biking to come upon, from time to time a fishing village that was once on the shores of the sea and was now many kilometers inland.

Early morning in Zeeland - a place of water, boats, tall deciduous trees changing with the growing Autumn, picturesque villages, farmland and the ubiquitous cycling paths and country lanes that made the trip so pleasurable. In Zeeland many of the cycling paths were on the tops of the old earth dijkes, which gave you the same view you would get from a Mack truck cab.

You can't bike very far in The Netherlands without seeing one of these.

Zeeland ice creams were very yummy and came in the biggest ice cream cones I have ever seen. I took this cone back to NZ to make into an axe handle.
From a distance it looked like a large collection of bats, dive bombing each other. Closer inspection revealed a bevy of wind driven carts racing on the sand - the wind from the kites are harnessed to power the carts.

I stopped in Zeeland to eat an apple and look at this house - before I knew it I had purchased it, redecorated it with a maritime theme complete with a maritime library and was building a traditional dutch Botter yacht in the shed.

After completing the traditional Botter yacht I completed a circumnavigation passing south of Cape Horn (as you do) and then became the director of the Amsterdam Maritime Museum. This is my summer residence - nice eh.

Early morning start in Zeeland. I had a few mornings here where I woke to ice on the inside of the tent and ice on the end of my sleeping bag - with a few days of light rain as well as the temperature drop Autumn seemed to be on its way - then the weather fined up again - there is always an upside to global warming when you want to keep biking.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Land of the Long High Dijke

This photo was taken from the dijke - behind me and level with me was the North Sea - when the dijkes broke in Zeeland in 1953 most of this land and its houses were completely submerged.

I arrived home from the Netherlands today after a long flight from Schipol Airport Amsterdam - One of my last trips was to New Zealands namesake 'Zeeland' - The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa which means 'The land of the long white cloud' - Zeeland would suit the Maori name for 'The land of the long high dijke'. --- I will post again soon about this pretty part of The Netherlands - for now its a good long sleep - tomorrow I will post again - my brain will be unclogged and I will be less inclined to write double dutch.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Road To Terschelling (The Netherlands [5] )

The world is all islands, each with its own quality and character. This island ambience ranges from the luxuriant, dusky, tropical, lagoon paradise with coconut trees swaying in the trade winds - a lazy place of swimming and sunbathing - to the rugged, lonely, windswept, sand dune, slow motion tussock grass blowing, bleak, cold surf breaking on barren shores, collar turned up, hunkering down ambience.
Terschelling is a hunkering down island - Its sublties glow under the sunlight which make this place a delight, golden tussock waving in slow motion to the hungry wind - surf, rocks, dunes, little forests, bird life under a big sky forever changing. When the sun shines it seems a wild but friendly to the soul place - when the sun falls back into a bleak North Sea sky it becomes a place forlorn, wild, untameable, a place of roaring wind, driven rain - misty, lonely - during this weather Terschelling seems to be saying, "Don't look at me, look at the elemental forces that have shaped me. I am wild and moody, but with good reason."

A country lane close to Den Over before the crossing of the 40km dyke across the IJesselmeer to Harlingin which is the port where the ferry leaves for Terschelling in the Frisian Islands.

The van on the left had passed me in a very fast and furious manner 5 minutes earlier on the narrow country road to Den Over. When I came upon this crash it was apparent by the tone of voice and the body language that the young man in the van was to blame. The front of the station wagon on the right was completely ripped off. Luckily no one was injured.

Typical Dutch house on the highways and byways of country lanes close to Den Over.

The dyke across the IJesselmeer. 40km of straight flat road. Noisy, monotonous riding and a huge challenge on this trip on the way back to Nord Holland, as I was riding into failing light in a head wind all the way from Harlingin. You cannot camp on the dyke.

This statue is a tribute to the hard working Dutch dyke builders - When it comes to building the geography of a country the Dutch are the true sub creators - God created planet Earth, the Dutch created The Netherlands.

The only other place I have ever seen such a forest of wooden masts is in old black and white photographs of the golden age of sail. Here at Harlingin the harbour is thick with masts and all the boats are authentic working boats - authenticity in The Netherlands is picturesque and enchanting.The bowels of the good ship Friesland is entered by the bow. The trip to Terschelling takes over two hours.
Leaving Harlingins marine forests for Terschelling.

Bicycles arriving at the port at West Terschelling.

The tenting lifestyle has shown me that fundamental needs are relatively simple - food, a dry bed and the hope that tomorrow will as interesting as today - I haven't been disappointed yet.

These are the conning towers of two WW2 British submarines - They have survived the years because they are made of bronze plate and haven't rusted at all. I was unable to understand the story of these old artifacts written on the information boards. As with everything in a foreign country, Johnny Foreigner is at a disadvantage unless he can read and talk the language.

Quaint village streets - Terschelling.

I wondered why there was a windmill on Terschelling as there is no reclaimed land and the island is above sea level - perhaps its a mill for grinding wheat? or maybe the house of a Dutch eccentric who likes windmills - just the sort of house I am going to build for myself when I get back to New Zealand.

Terschelling garden. Hands up those that love The Netherlands - both my hands were up when I took this photo.
If you want to have your photograph taken with a photoframe that looks like you are appearing on the cover of National Geographic magazine then stand in the frame and smile.

Quiet country lane North Eastern Terschelling.

Much of my time here was amongst the moody mistiness of the place.

There are two methods I use in attempting to have a significant conversation when I am travelling alone. The first is to get lost or pretend to be lost and ask for directions (don't ask me to define 'pretend' you bloody well know it means lost) - the Kiwi accent then takes its usual conversational catalystic path. The other is to ask a couple taking photographs of each other if they would like a photograph taken together, this also works very well. This is Hans from Hanover in Germany. In this conversational case I simply asked him if I could take a photo of him with the Kinderen trailer - a good conversation ensured with the usual gasps of amazement that I would come from New Zealand to bike in such an out of the way place.

The north side of Terschelling is a vast beach bordering the North Sea. The structure to the left in the distance is something that is a feature of Dutch beach life - it is a temporary restuarant assembled each summer on poles fixed in the sand - these restuarants are very popular as summer meeting places. In the late Autumn they are disassembled before the winter storms and assemble again in the spring.

What sort of trip back to the mainland would it be if the Dutch didn't take the time to show off their beautiful traditional craft especially for me? Well I will tell you, it would have been dull and boring but they turned out in force and the trip back was a delight!

The Netherlands is a country of 16 million people in a landmass the size of Canterbury, New Zealand - despite this small size it is impossible to see everything in an indepth way in a 6 week holiday. I have seen much of the province of Nord Holland and will soon move south to the namesake of my own country New Zealand. This Dutch province is Zeeland, a place of islands and dykes and windmills - the place where the land was inundated with water during the 1954 collapse of the dykes. This had catastropic consequences and is the subject of a current film in The Netherlands called 'The Storm' - I am on my way there now - there is still much to see and experience - I shall keep you posted :-)