Boat trip offers unique experiences

by Sandy Paige
Contributing writer
Courtesy photoTourists cruise under a bridge opening at Breukelen, Netherlands.
Courtesy photo
Tourists cruise under a bridge opening at Breukelen, Netherlands.

Windmills, flower-lined canals, tunnels of trees, locks, bridges, bicycles everywhere, cheeses galore, friendly smiles and wonderful memories — this was our weeklong boat trip in Holland.

We started June 18 in Loosdrecht near Amsterdam and made a complete loop through Loenen, Woerden, Gouda, Utrecht and Breukelen for a total of 170 kilometers under 48 lifting bridges and through 14 locks. Some bridges opened vertically from the middle, some rotated horizontally and some were high enough that our boat could cruise under them.

Most bridges were manned in a contiguous bridge house and seemed to magically open for us. We maneuvered the boat to a post where we pushed a button to open the bridge. A few were operated remotely when we came into view of a camera. At some bridge houses, the operator lowered a wooden shoe in which we could drop our passing fee.

As we waited at one lock, a smiling lady played a folksong on her accordion to our delight.
The recommended cruising speed was 9 kph, ideal for savoring the beautiful scenery. Our boat offered four bedrooms each with a toilet, a kitchen, dining area and outside deck with lounge chairs. It was comfortable and convenient for seven of us.

We docked at least once a day and sometimes several times if we spotted a city market, restaurant or museum to explore. Each night we moored at a marina for about €20 on average parking fee and most often used the shower facilities, although each toilet on the boat offered a hand-held shower. At the marinas, we filled our water reservoir and plugged into electric power to recharge batteries for lights and computer use when cruising. We also found great restaurants and bakeries. Each morning one of our group went out for fresh bread, fruit and drinking water for the day.
It was a week of amazing experiences off the beaten path.