The Grand Old Duke of York…or Snakes and ladders

where we set off from Leeuwarden to Groningen, have a planned stop at Dokkum, sail to Engwerium, rain and wind send us back to Dokkum, try again to get to Groningen but stopped by rain and closed bridges at Garnwerd.

Last Monday, after a taste of summer in Leeuwarden, the plan was to go to another fantastic city, Groningen, sailing for as much of the journey as possible. It started well, we sailed along the canal to Dokkum, amazed at how fast we were going ( we call 3-4 knots fast) and also feeling pretty smug about not using fossil fuels or making any noise. Have you heard the racket that Cruiser engines make?

Dokkum is a fortified town, built of a terp (artificial hill) and the old part of the town is completely surrounded by water. You can walk along the Noord, Zuid, Oost and West Bolwerks and get a good view of the town.  Dokkum has a link with the UK. It’s where St Boniface was murdered in 754 AD.  Who? Born in Crediton (Devon) and later sent as a Christian missionary to all sorts of places, but Friesland was his last. We asked the knowledgeable woman in the museum why he was murdered. She said that in Friesland, the natives are fiercely independent and can’t stand anyone telling them what to do. Don’t try and pull the Brexit trick here then! These days, there’s a St Boniface Chapel and statue and St Boniface Beer to remember him.

Dokkum was supposed to be just a stop-off, so next morning, up went the sails again, the wind increased we got as far as Engwierum and moored, just before a forecasted shower of rain, which actually continued for the next seven hours. Then the wind had a go: howling through the shrouds, bouncing the boat on her mooring, trying to rip the covers off. We were awake,drinking coffee and consulting the weather forecast before 7am!

So, back to Dokkum.  Moored in a shltered spot and all ready for Koningsdag on Friday. This is a national holiday, to celebrate their monarch’s birthday, when the whole country becomes a giant Flea Market and outdoor performance venue.

It’s pretty much obligatory to wear orange and we were given some orange bunting in Blokker the day before. (Blokker is a chain store, a meld of Woolworths, Wilko, with a bit of B&Q thrown in.)

It’s also usual to drink coffee and eat ‘Orange Coeken, so of course, we did.

The next morning, the Duck Race livened up our mooring,

before we set off for the second attempt on Groningen. We had to cross the Lauwersmeer, a beautiful man-made lake, formed in1969 when the dyke between the Lauwers Sea and the Wadden sea was closed. It’s designated as a ‘Dark Sky’ area and  a National Park. It lived up to it’s description, with huge flocks of geese flying over, also Oystercatchers, Lapwings, a couple of Hen Harriers and the usual Grebes, Terns, Mallards, Coots. As it’s a large stretch of open water, it can be a bit ‘wild’,

but we were fortunate in that we’d reefed the sails and the wind was only Force 4, but unfortunate in that they’d removed some of the buoys marking the safe channel, so we temporarily ground to a halt and had to free the keel from the sand at the bottom. We saw the boat following us do exactly the same thing!

The rain returned  in the afternoon,

but by then, Dave was sailing the boat and holding an umbrella over his head. Why so? We’d had to abandon the idea of getting to Groningen that day, because the bridges in groningen Province close at 4pm and all day Sunday, at this time of year. The umbrella was due to the rain, not to an emotional reaction toour voyage being disrupted yet again. I haven’t got a photo, unfortunately.

So Saturday evening found us moored at Garnwerd, a delightful village, where, in the spirit of deciding that what you’re forced to do always turns out to be what you should have done all along, we’re very happy.

Groningen tomorrow!

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