Belt-Schutsloot - Blokzijl

Marsh Harrier

Monday the 29th of May we, as a matter of speaking, ‘lifted anchor’ and left Belt-Schutsloot at 8:30AM. Just a short stretch on the Beukersgracht and negotiating the Beukerssluis we re-entered the Meppelerdiep. All of this is, though we love our way of life, not all that exciting. Until our attention was attracted by a hunting Bruine Kiekendief ((Western) Marsh Harrier). The large bird, a male we think, is seen here in full action. We had to video him while attending the wheel too, reason we missed the few moments that he dived down into the high vegetation. To no avail – unless it was a matter of immediately swallowing small pray! The bird was not at all bothered by our proximity.

We arrived at Meppel 1:10PM – just 10 minutes too late to pass the lock, leading to the town’s attractive harbour. The lock operation times are limited – at least still in May, when it is 9-10AM, 1-2 and 5-6PM. Well, we are in no hurry whatsoever so we waited patiently, passed the lock and moored in front of one of Netherlands’ well-known landmarks, a windmill, at 1:12PM. Two locks in one day! Yes, it’s hard work in The Netherlands.

The weather is summer-like already for an extended period, causing young daring boys -never girls!- to have a swim where it’s not really without danger to do so, in this case opposite from where we were moored.

Meppel offered us the opportunity to travel to Zwolle by train, rent a car, travel to the centre of our home-country, buy diesel (jerrycans), do extensive shopping, bring back the car and return to Meppel by train. We used the (white! ugly!) car two days and left on Thursday the 1st of June at 12:31PM. Here we are in the lock we already described with the second picture.

Almost immediately after returning on the Meppelerdiep we encountered this impressive ship. A party-ship, as far as we remember. It’s worth mentioning it, if only for her name: Abel Tasman, the Dutch discoverer that gave Tasmania its name. See, as usual highly interesting.

The second lock that day was encountered at the beginning of the Arembergergracht at Zwartsluis. After descending a metre or something and leaving the lock this is the view when looking back.

On the way one gets almost literally ‘bombarded’ with beautiful views. This is just one of them – it’s almost a problem to make a choice.

We moored at Belt-Schutsloos again on 4:15PM, only this time on the Arembergergracht – a little change of environment so to speak. The idea was to stay here for, say, at least two nights. We changed plans almost immediately because hurdles of very small, almost invisible, gnats attacked us permanently, causing an irritating itching feeling wherever the skin was not covered. Scratching is supposed to be done occasionally, not permanently…

The next day we left, almost: fled, at 10:47AM. The art of thatching is visible all over in the area we are travelling now. The material that is used for a thatched roof gets harvested ‘en masse’ during the winter and sometimes is stacked up underneath a protecting piece of tarpaulin, like here. Only one-year-old reed is useable for thatching. For more about reed (‘riet’) see (sorry, only in Dutch).

Another stunning view on the way. Note the thatched roofs of the houses. One’s privileged to live here, isn’t one? (Although, in the winter and without a car…)

And one taken when passing a hamlet called Jonen. On the left a small ferry for walkers and cyclists is visible. We are allowed to pass when the ferry-cable is submerged again and the ferryman switches a flashing light on top of his ferry.

We reached Blokzijl, after having cruised on Beulakker Wijde (a lake), Walengracht (a canal), Giethoornse Meer (a lake), Valsche Trog and Noorderdiep (both canals), at 12:51PM. Bridge and lock in front of us were both out of operation but only because the bridge-/lock-keeper had a lunch break. After returning at 1:00PM we thought to be able to negotiate the lock. Alas, two (faster) boats jumped the queue (that’s not cricket, the Brits would say), leaving us behind in negative astonishment. The first one, being the launch that is visible in front of us, was do-able, the second one, a cruiser, did not move to the front of the lock (afraid of the incoming water, therefore a sissy), thus making it impossible for us to join the lock-crowd. (While ‘illegally’ overtaking and hearing our protest he assured us that he would leave enough room for us.) Well, let’s say that this cruiser’s unavoidable stop inside the lock offered one of us the opportunity to walk towards him and make unmistakable clear why he is a 100% a**hole.

A look from the lock back to where we had to wait. Order of operation when descending: letting the waiting boats in, emptying the lock, lifting the bridge, opening the bottom gates and leaving the boats out (see the picture). After that first the bridge is closed again to avoid a possible riot, caused by the waiting traffic. After that the ascending procedure (us) can start: lifting the bridge, letting the waiting boats in, closing the bridge (riot-avoiding), closing the bottom gates, filling the lock chamber, opening the upper gates, letting the boats out. Because we were forced to wait for the ascending as well as the descending procedure we reached our mooring, immediately behind the lock in Blokzijl’s pretty port, only around 2:10PM. We are not in a hurry, don’t misunderstand us. We only despise queue-jumpers; that's all.

The lock as seen from the downstream-side. Our little ship, well her wheelhouse, is visible on the right side behind the lock – exactly underneath the colourful Overlijsselse flag. We are greatly obscured by the high (5,5 meters?) white boat that is breasted up to ours. They’re almost (repeat: almost) capable of peeping into our bed(room) through the front dog-box.

(© VTRB Blokzijl i.s.m. de Ondernemers) A drone-view of Blokzijl’s port. A pretty one, as noticed before. The lock is visible at 2 o’clock, we are moored against the east-wall in front of the little green. There’s a stop-lock in the foreground, dating from the Zuiderzee-era, but in still use when a strong wind drives the water too high. The port is now virtually ‘sold out’; emphasized by the fact that another ship is breasted up to ours. One must accept a ship breasting up by law in The Netherlands (at least that’s what we learned while instructed for obtaining a ‘Vaarbewijs’). We don’t mind, by the way, and think that boaters pretending to have an interest in things on dry land exclusively when we’re looking for a mooring-possibility all have the divine right to be described as anti-socials.

There we are – we immediately booked for four nights. The huge white vessel still hadn’t arrived yet – and will leave this afternoon (Sunday) around 5:00PM. Al least, that’s what the skipper promised. Our view on the harbour will be there again – unless another interested party approaches us, in that case hopefully not as high as the present one.

The stop-lock, photographed from close range. No further comment, we just like this sort of constructions, showing the possible level of the water when disaster strikes. Hopefully not.

This are the houses at the south-side of the port, visible at the far end of the overall picture…

…and we end with the road and houses at the west-side of the port, the reason being that we absolutely love this composition of pretty houses, the partly cobbled street, the trees, the sun, the light in the leaves. Great. See you soon, we hope.