We are sitting still in Donkerbroek (“Dark Pants”) for a couple of days. It’s raining, and we’ve been on the go since last weekend, so just taking a breather, doing a little work on the boat, and probably go for a bike ride sometime today. Gorredijk is to Point Richmond as Donkerbroek is to Fremont (for those of you from the Bay Area).

We left Gorredijk in the morning and went further east into deep Friesland (i.e. most of the people here speak Frisian, but not always great English if any). This part of the trip included 12 bridges (fixed, most of them lifting, and a couple of “self service”) as well as 4 locks. Some of the locks do not show up on the map, and are right on the other side of a lifting bridge. The only indication we have is looking under the bridge and seeing a wall.

We’re Not in France

We are traveling on the ‘Compagnonsvaart” (Compagnon’s Canal). Compagnon on Compagnon’s Canal.

The canals are getting thinner and much prettier. There are bike paths down both sides, and if we had little cafes and patisseries, I would swear we were in France.

The amount of focus that goes into driving on these parts of the canal with a boat that has a flat bottom and needs to be managed is immense. Thankfully David and I are both very good drivers as well as line handlers.

Coming up on a bridge with a bridge keeper usually involves a waiting area where you can temporarily wrap your spring line around the pole. When the bridge is a “self-service” bridge, there’s a tad bit of choreography involved, because one of you has to get off, open the bridge, someone has to drive through the opening (which is barely wider than the width of the boat), pull up to the waiting area on the other side, close the bridge, and then continue.

David opening one of the self-service bridges. We have read that little kids hang out around these bridges and for a little change will do the bridge for you. There were no kids out yesterday.

Locks, Locks, Locks and Locks

Locks are a little bit of a challenge also, because they require going through a very small opening (again barely wider than the boat), doubling back the spring line and wrapping it around a bar (so you can let the line out as the boat rises), and once the lock keeper opens the lock, going through another very small opening. So far, we have not hit anything, though we do have a long barge pole that helps to push the boat off the side of the lock before we depart.

We are rising 4m from Akkrum to Aachen (from west to east on the Turf Route), which means we have to go 13 feet back down when we start to close the circle (I’m guessing we have another 6-8 locks ahead of us).

You could make a life goal out of traveling through cool locks: Falkirk Wheel, Caen Hill Locks, and of course Panama.

Compagnon in the last lock of the day. Note that the mast and windows are down – some of the fixed bridges are barely higher than the flagpole at the back.

Another Magical Cruiser’s Kind of Evening

I was gearing up for an evening meeting when David got back onto the boat and told me that I should reschedule my meeting because there was going to be a 25 piece brass band setting up just off our port side, and it would be too loud to have a meeting. I thought he was kidding, but sure enough there they were gathering for their once a year performance on the lawn next to our boat.

The band from the balcony

Out of curiosity, I went over to chat with the few earlybirds and ask if they knew who Sousa was (they did). I also chatted with a woman (named Klaaska) who was there for the performance all the way from “almost Utrecht”, and we invited her to join us in the “balcony” on our boat stern to watch the performance and have a glass of wine. She told me she’d never been on the canal on a boat either! We had a marvelous hour laughing, talking and listening to this brass band play Dutch favorites as well as “Sweet Caroline”.

Donkerbroek Local Knowledge

From Gorredijk, I’m not sure we could have gone much farther than Donkerbroek. It was a lot of focusing and work. Klein Groningen (where the canal takes a right turn) looks like a decent place to stay for the night, but there’s nothing there other than 49 houses and some horses.

There is a grocery store in Donkerbroek called “Coop”. It’s a convenience store, and it’s not inexpensive. Oosterwolde is 18 minutes bike ride south, and much larger. There are at least 3 bridges between here and Oosterwolde.

Mooring in Donkerbroek, coming from west to east, is beyond the second bridge on the left side. There are maybe 8 tieups. It’s free, and electricity is free.

If you stay here, Sannie the harbormaster will come out and chat (a lot) with you. She’s lovely. Buy a Donkerbroek flag from here – it helps the mooring, and it will make her happy.