Canal cruising: The journey continues

Michelle and Karl Teel

The classic Amsterdam experience includes bicycles, bridges, canals, and 17th-century buildings.

See a photo gallery from the cruise here.

A canal yacht vacation on Locaboat was relatively easy to pull together from a transportation perspective.

Iceland-based WOW Air has bargain basement airline deals to Amsterdam and other European destinations from Baltimore-Washington International Airport for as little as $99 one-way. The Locaboat personnel based in Holland set up a taxi to take us from the airport in Schiphol to the Locaboat base, which is located approximately 30 minutes from the airport.

A typical day on the trip included a peaceful float on the canal, passing through a village with our bicycles on the bow, and Michelle busily taking pictures.
A typical day on the trip included a peaceful float on the canal, passing through a village with our bicycles on the bow, and Michelle busily taking pictures.

We were even able to make a stop at a large grocery store to pick up a few necessary supplies and groceries.

Insider Tip: Take with you some provisions that are small, yet will save you from having to purchase more than you need for your week-long holiday. Good examples include about 10 trash bags, picnic-size salt and pepper shakers, a small bottle of dish soap, a couple of dish towels, a sponge, a small bottle of cooking oil, storage baggies, and the like.

Upon arrival at the Loosdrecht boat base, located on a huge marshy lake filled with wildlife, the Locaboat personnel teach “the crew” how to operate the boat and navigation basics. (It’s a good idea to take notes directly on the map as they go over the route, as what you learn will come in handy and sleep deprivation from the overnight flight may affect your memory.)

While some travelers may choose to overnight at the boat base, we chose to start off right away.

Scenic beauty and easy navigation

We were immediately amazed by the beauty that surrounded us on all sides. Windmills, charming towns, and pastoral scenery wrapped itself around us. We traveled on the canal toward Amsterdam, until we reached Weesp as the afternoon faded.

The route was relatively easy to navigate. We were traveling at the end of the fall season when there was very little boat traffic. This was both a blessing and a curse because, while there were plenty of slips to dock in at the marinas where we overnighted and the canals did not have many fellow boaters, there were longer waits at some of the bridges and locks because the schedule is seasonally adjusted.

Weesp has a beautiful historical center with canals that wind through it and has buildings that date from the 17th and 18th centuries. We dined in a lovely restaurant that served delicious French food. Everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful and spoke very good English.

We overnighted in the heart of Weesp, paid the harbor master a small fee for the overnight mooring, and sailed for Amsterdam in the morning.

Reaching the marina in Amsterdam required traveling under 13 bridges! We learned to carefully review the navigation maps and confirm clearances. Sometimes clearance was as little as an inch-and-a-half from our roof to the underside of the bridge — a bit challenging, exciting, and a little stressful. But the trip was filled with amazing scenery as the bucolic outskirts blended into the suburbs and eventually turned into the heart of Amsterdam, with its inimitable 17th-century architecture and picturesque sights.

Take an extra day in Amsterdam

We recommend at least one extra day in Amsterdam, the melting pot of Europe, where the average resident typically speaks about five languages comfortably, almost always including English.

The classic Amsterdam experience includes bicycles, bridges, canals, and 17th-century buildings.
The classic Amsterdam experience includes bicycles, bridges, canals, and 17th-century buildings.

Stroll the streets and take in the 400-year-old buildings that list from side to side because their roots are in reclaimed swampland. View the classics canals which are roughly at every third or fourth street. You don’t necessarily need a game plan, but be sure not to miss the Anne Frank House, Wynand Fockink, Dam Square, the Van Gogh Museum, The Rijksmuseum, the Rembrandt House, and the myriad neighborhoods.

A few hours in the Amsterdam Museum explains how the city was built on reclaimed swampland, the water pumped out by windmills — many of which are still there. Another must is a canal boat tour with an English narrator explaining the sights and their significance. The IAmsterdam card, available at the tourist office by the central station, offers significant discounts on all these attractions.

Another city that’s worth spending time in is Gouda. (Begin by referring to it as “HOW-duh,” as they pronounce it locally.)

Like many places in Holland, Gouda is known for its cheeses. And, you shouldn’t miss spending an evening dining at one of the many restaurants facing the town square and having a meal that includes dipping fresh breads, vegetables, and meats into a fondue pot containing — you guessed it — Gouda cheese.

Think of Gouda as a lite version of Amsterdam. Smaller, but still with canals, 16th- to 18th-century buildings, a town square, lots of bicycles, and tons of charm. With fewer crowds than Amsterdam, this city is an ideal place to explore by bicycle.

You control your itinerary

Part of what makes a canal yacht holiday so wonderful is that the itinerary is in your control.

Four to five hours of slowly cruising through the canals is all that is needed to visit any and all of the lovely villages and cities along the way. We chose to cruise the Southern Holland route and enjoyed the stops immensely, but like everyone else that has a limited amount of time we had to wrestle with how to best spend it. We enjoyed the extended stays at certain towns and the depth of exploration it allowed for, but the cost was not spending enough time in some other potential stops along our route. These included Utrecht, Nieuwegein, and Oudewater. These will have to wait for next time.

Along the way, you’ll never tire of the constant bucolic scenery, windmills, bridges, locks, farmland, and old villages. Check out the online edition at RecreationNews.com for additional photos and videos, then visit locaboat.com to book your own trip.

Bon voyage!

 

 

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