“Every day has the potential to be the best day of your life”


Nr 50. A boat is not a car

After having had good times in Stellendam, where we also met a lot of family and friends on the boat, we made a plan to sail to Goes. We didn’t want to go via the North Sea route, but instead pass the islands in the province of Sealand, so in the waters between Goeree-Overflakkee, Schouwen-Duiveland, Tholen and Noord-Beveland.

To get to the city of Goes this way, we had to pass some bridges and locks. This always means, before the trip, check the opening times of the bridges and locks, width of the locks (our catamaran is 8 meters wide) and height of the bridges (we have a mast of 22 meters).

Well, this trip from Stellendam to Goes didn’t go very smoothly! We are used to adapting our sailing plan according to nature, because nature defines by it’s wind and current, your direction, speed, etc. But that day we experienced what it is like when water infrastructure isn’t working very well…..

We left Stellendam harbor at 7.30u, because we wanted to sail under the Haringvlietburg (height 13 meters) at their first opening time of 10.00h. It would take 2 hours to sail from Stellendam to the Haringvlietburg . The bridge would open at 10.00h or 20.00h, so only 2 times a day, because of ongoing proceedings on the surface on the bridge road surface. So we wanted to make sure to catch the 10.00h moment.

When we arrived at the bridge at 9.30h, we called the bridge keeper. No answer. Then we checked via the VHF Radio the area if someone could answer us. We got an answer from a monitoring station in the neighborhood, that the bridge keeper forgot that on this day (1 April) the new season time had started and he was used to the opening time of the bridge at 11.00h from October to March 31, so he wasn’t present yet….The opening would be at 11.00h now That frustrated us a bit, because there was no jetty or pier on the Haringvliet where you can tie up your boat. It’s open water. So after circling around in the water for 1,5 hours, it was 11.00h.

The bridge still didn’t open at 11.00h. They found out there were some unfinished repairs at the moving part of the bridge. So now it would be 12.00h to open the bridge. Another hour of waiting. We heard fishermen on the VHF radio at the other side of the bridge complain to the bridge keeper, because they wanted to go out to work, and now already 2 hours behind their schedule is literally costing them money. And for us, we had some slack in our time schedule to get to Goes, but now it would become difficult to complete the rest of the trajectory in time, because the coming bridges and locks also had specific opening times.

 At 12.30u we arrived at the next bridge and lock, the Volkerak. It was quite windy that day and the bridge at the Volkerak would not open at more than 6 Beaufort. We saw windgusts of 23 knots on our navigation system, which is under 6 Bft, but the bridge keep wouldn’t open the bridge right now. We could wait at the pier. It was 15.00h and we checked again with them. No, too much wind for the bridge and by the way, rush hour started with cars, so the bridge would be closed for the next 3 hours, till 18.00h….

This killed our plan to get to Goes, because the next ‘obstacle’ would be the Krammer locks (only 1 hour sailing from the Volkerak) and they mentioned on their website 4-8 hours possible waiting time because of one of the two the lock doors was stuck and needed specialized repair. And our last hurdle to take would be the lock at Goes, right in front of the harbor, and that lock would be open that day till 20.00h. So anyhow, we would never be in time for the last lock at Goes before 20.00u….

At 18.00h, the bridgekeeper at Volkerak finally opened the bridge for us, since the wind was ok by their standards. Now being at the Volkerak waters, we had to find a refuge harbor for the night, because it would be dark soon. We called the harbor at Dintelmond, they were fully booked, because of the start of the season (1 April), all boats were in the water in the harbor. The next harbor we called had an entrance that was too small for us (6 meters).

Now what to do? Because there were no more harbors that could accommodate our boat during the night in this area before we would enter the Krammer locks. We called back one of the harbors for some advice, because they knew the area. We were advised to go to a small nature harbor, there were a couple of poles and a small jetty of about 20 meters where we could tie our boat up for the next day. Shallow area in the middle of nature with reed, of course no electricity available, but it sounded very good to us! We found the place, beautiful situated and we were very happy after this day full of disappointing moments to have a safe place for ourselves and the boat. So we turned on some disco music, made ourselves a gin tonic and started to fry some burgers and wedges to make the best of the situation 😊. And because we saved 1 night of harbor fee, we wanted to treat ourselves to a nice dinner at a restaurant in Goes the next day, something to look forward to!

The next day we got up at 8.00u, because we still had 2 locks to go before being in the harbor of Goes: Krammer locks with their 4-8 hours possible waiting time and then the small lock before the harbor of Goes, which now on this Saturday, would be open from 8.00-10.00u and 16.00-18.00h only in stead of till 20.00h!

When we came at Krammer locks at 9.30h, we were kindley received by the lock keeper, and at 11.00h we had passed the locks. No way, we thought! No waiting time, no troubles, nothing! So that motivated us to sail further into the Krammer waters. We passed the nice village of Bruinisse, we saw the famous Sealand bridge and at 13.00h we arrived at Goes at the small lock in front of the harbor. So we had to wait to 16.00h before the lock would open. But there was a good waiting pontoon and we got our ebike and roller out and went to Goes to do some grocery shopping and visit the brother of Gilles who lives in the city of Goes. A surprise visit to him, because we would meet with him the next day! At 16.00h we were back at the catamaran, we went through the lock and entered the cute harbor of Goese Sas.

3 lessons learned today:
1. checking opening times of bridges, locks, harbors is always good to do in preparing your trip, but waterinfrastructure objects are like nature, sometimes unpredictable. So never be in a hurry or make fixed appointments during your sailing trip: a boat is not a car, you cannot set a place + time to arrive somewhere, never combine these two, always keep flexibility in time or place.  
2. always be friendly and keep good relations with harbor masters, lock keepers, bridge guards. Locals can help you out, they know the area or can organize something for you.
3. there is ALWAYS a solution to a problem, you just haven’t found it yet! So stay optimistic and do the work that is needed to find a solution: research via Google or in your navigation system, call people, be flexible looking at your plan, be creative to find a solution that can also fit your needs.

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