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There are two types of waterways in the Netherlands. The first type is the canals and the key to these are the maps of the ANWB. The maps cover the numerous inland waterways in the style of a road map. Every bridge is represented and each buoy (which will have its own identifying label) is shown. As the ANWB is the national motoring organization of the Netherlands it is membership based and operates a reciprocal policy with the motoring organisations of various other countries. Consequently persons who are not members or do not belong to their own country’s national motoring organization will be slightly inconvenienced as although the maps are usually available through various book stores and chandleries, the key overview chart for yachts crossing the Netherlands “Openingstijden spoorbruggen Staande mastroute door Nederland” is only available for members and furthermore is available without charge. This seems to present a problem as the ANWB does not make it available to other outlets to sell, and will only give it out to members at the ANWB outlets. The only hope is to smile and request, in our case we pointed out that we were buying virtually all the charts there were through the the ANWB store in Middleburg and suggested that possibly the overview map could be thrown in free. The person on the cash register was not convinced and managerial dispensation was still necessary. The main reason for getting the members only “Openingstijden spoorbruggen Staande mastroute door Nederland” map is that on the reverse side it lists the opening times for each bridge and lock in the canal system. Entering from the south the first chance to access the ANWB is Middleburg, entering from the north there is an outlet in Delfzijl. The second type of waterway in the Netherlands is the inland seas (Ijsselmeer, Veersemeer etc.). Proper hydrographic charts are produced which show the buoyage, depths etc just as any other chart would do. These charts are available through the ANWB, some bookstores and chandleries. Together the maps and charts allow a vessel to cross the country. The hydrographic charts also cover the North Sea coast of the Netherlands. Buoyage in the Netherlands is excellent. Each buoy throughout this immense system has an identifying label on it which is also shown on the map or chart. This means that no matter how busy the water gets with buoys one can absolutely identify the buoy against the map or chart.
Following the standard mast-up route (Staande mastroute) across the country takes one through various generations of facilities. Some of the newer waters such as the Oosterschelde have large fairways and large locks while the passages through the towns of Haarlem and Leeuwarden pass through centuries old waterways with corresponding narrow widths. Following the standard mast-up route covers three sections: the southern waterways; the passage through Amsterdam (which implies a night passage) or alternately through Haarlem in the daytime; the passage across Friesland. The south is typically large locks, much commercial traffic, large inland waters. The central section passes through heavy population centers with intermittent heavy and light levels of commercial barging. Finally the Friesland passage which is as long in distance as the other two together passes through pastoral areas with the yachts being kept off the major commercial shipping canals. In fact at one point the small canal used by the yachts actually goes through a set of locks as it crosses the main commercial canal. Depending on ones objective the Friesland crossing will either be seen as time consuming or a lovely countryside experience. The area around Dokkum gets quite rural and countrified and it is possible to find bridges where the operator has just disappeared. Also the published depth of 2 metres is somewhat optimistic as we crossed certain points in the canal and never registered more than 1.4 meters. The mooring docks outside the bridges which are standard in the south are often absent on the Friesland canals, this compounds the fact that the canals are also much narrower so one must keep your boat under control in severely constricted waters while waiting for a bridge attendant who may not be in attendance. Having said this there is no choice between alternative routes across Friesland for a yacht wishing to keep its mast up. Based on our experience we would consider locking out into the North Sea from the Ijsselmer and returning to the canal system at Lauwersoog which would seem to avoid the shallowest canals and most cantankerous bridge keepers. The buoyage in the Netherlands is excellent, both in quantity and in thoroughness of labeling. As described in the travelogue above we used both ANWB canal maps and Dutch Hydrographic charts and found both to be excellent.
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