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Kerr Barging Blogs

We have spent a fair bit of time cruising in the South Pacific aboard our 33 years young 11.1metre yacht, Pastime of Sydney. We are now cruising through the canals and rivers of France on our old barge, "Anja", which was built in the North of the Netherlands in 1903. Anja was 110 years old in May 2013 and we celebrated with good French Champagne- but the boat did not get any! In 2014, for Anja's 111th, we took her back to where she was built in the North of the Netherlands.
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Well, we are catching up on the blogs. Only a few behind now. We are still sponging water out but hope to have it all gone within another week. It is a slow and tedious job.


Friesland forms the North West of the Netherlands, to the West of Groningen. The land is very low and very flat, with a great deal of agriculture including large numbers of Frisian cattle. The land has a mixed history of being above and below sea level, of being built up then washed away, and of large lakes being formed by digging out peat. As a result there have been many floods and there is a constant battle to keep the water behind the levees and in the canals and lakes. The soil keeps sinking and the water level rising. Windmills, wind turbines and straightforward pumps have a great role to play.

There is a remarkable flag and a separate language, Frisian, still in use and greatly treasured and studied. Many towns are shown on maps with both the Dutch and the Frisian spelling. For example the town whose name we love best, Sneek in Dutch is Snits in Frisian.

IMG 9828A HOUSE travelling down this major canal (with Frisian flag)

We visited two major towns, Leeuwarden (Ljouwert) and Stavoren and we enjoyed sailing through the canals and especially the lakes. We snuck through the huge fleet of boats on the lake at at Sneek, and at Grou it was like dodgem cars and going to become even more crowded as a convoy of old tjalks passed us heading that way for two weeks of wooden sailing boat festival.

IMG 9775Canals in Leeuwarden

Most of the canals by- pass the towns as they are historically built on higher ground. At one stage we responded to an invitation (on a large sign) to divert from the main route to go through a little town, a route that seemed shorter and avoided a long wait at a lifting bridge and promised a width of 5.5 metres- we need 4.2 metres so 5.5 seemed generous enough. It was a very pretty detour but the canal was only just wide enough to accommodate us on some of the twists and turns. No wonder there were people leaning out of their windows watching us pass.

IMG 9817Quaint old town- off the normal routes

The first city we visited was Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland. We found a good shady spot to stop outside town and after an hour's walk to the city centre on a very hot day (the temperature hit 33 degrees) we found that the museum had moved to a new spot. In fact, a Frisian architect Abe Bonnema had bequeathed 18 million Euros to construct a new modern building, opened in 2013, so everything was very new and beautifully laid out and fortunately only another ten minutes walk away. There were two main exhibitions that interested us: the story of Friesland, which displayed photos and artefacts of a wide spectrum of Frisian life going back to the earliest times; and the story of the Resistance in Friesland which allowed us a glimpse of the every day experiences of the people of this area during World War 11 as well as the stories of those who provided resistance to the German occupation. Every display had an excellent English translation.

IMG 9805Resistance kit for false documents

Stavoren was a complete contrast to Leeuwarden as it is quite small with few houses but hundreds of visiting boats. It is full of cafés and antique stores. Times have changed since the 13th century when it was the first Frisian city, very wealthy because of its excellent trading position on the coast of the Zuider Zee. However its Harbour silted up in the 14th century so the trade went elsewhere and the city lost its wealth and its prestige. While in Stavoren we climbed the dike which separates Friesland from the Ijsselmeer, part of what was the Zuider Zee. As children we had heard stories of the little Dutch boy who valiantly saved his country from the sea using his hand to plug a hole in the dike- and here we were, walking on just such a structure. And looking at the large body of water which we would be crossing tomorrow.

IMG 9842Stavoren, more boats than houses and us squeezed in on the left

 IMG 9846The Dike along the Ijsselmeer

IMG 9833A convoy of sailing tjalks

IMG 9834Traditional Tjalks sailing on a lake


Best Regards,

Penny and Dave

Location (Map)

8715 Stavoren, The Netherlands
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Crossing the Ijsselmeer
Going by bike


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Monday, 22 July 2024

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