Navigating to Venlo

  Thursday, August 27, 2015 / Stephanie / Sailing  

Traveling the Maas River into the Netherlands we'd entered a very different watery world in comparison to France and Belgium.  The river was wide and the surrounding scenery flat with scatterings of homes, trees, and livestock.  There was much commercial traffic, large locks, and oodles of pleasure boats.  We'd been maintaining a tally of commercial and pleasure vessels spotted while underway and in the Netherlands that tally quickly ceased when a lock emptied at a crossroads and Brian began a conversation that went something like this, "I counted those behind us, and that dinghy, did you get those in front?  There are boats in that side channel too, here comes a commercial vessel."  OK!  NO - MORE - TALLY...I had been attempting to make some tea, but with all the passing boats it would have required all eyes on deck to keep an accurate count!  And that was just the beginning...there would be oh, so many more boats to come!The locks in the Netherlands were thus far all quite large, the same traffic lighting system applied, most had floating bollards that were clearly numbered, and each lock had a VHF channel clearly posted.  There were long, waiting platforms available at either side of the locks.  Locks here are called sluis, pronounced "slice" with slightly varying regional accents.  Lock-keepers actually respond when hailed on the VHF, although they seem rarely contacted as most boats simply follow the traffic light system and many small pleasure boats and dinghies do not have VHF radios on board.  Occasionally, lock-keepers make announcements over a loudspeaker while boats are locking through; these announcements have been spoken in Dutch and so we keep the VHF tuned to the appropriate channel while in the lock just in case we actually need to check-in to know what is happening.  Locks wait for boats on either end, there seems to be no immediate rush for entering and exiting, and they pack into the lock as many commercial and pleasure vessels as possible per locking.  Some locks have had attendants walking the walls to ensure everyone is securing their boats smoothly.  Sometimes the attendants chat with us while locking through as the process is somewhat slow.  Boats turn off their engines while locking through; one lock in particular we even had time enough to cook and eat lunch while other boats entered and then the lock slowly lowered us down. We traveled 40nm from Maastricht to the port of Venlo, through four locks.  During a portion of the day, we traveled the Lateraalkanaal; a canal which via Sluis Maasbracht branched away from the natural Maas and then via Sluis Heel rejoined the natural Maas.  We spotted our first windmill (molen) named Grey Bear.And spotted an interesting conversion from old to new in progress.  We continue to use our subscription to EuroCanals to plan ahead for routes and stops.  In addition, we were extremely fortunate to have been given a variety of paper charts for the Netherlands from fellow cruisers including canal charts, coastal charts, the standing mast route, and a canal loops book.  We have on board the obligatory Wateralmanak; provided by the ANWB, book #1 which provides rules and regulations for the Netherlands' waterways (however it is completely written in Dutch so although it is packed with useful and mandatory information we cannot read it). We also have Wateralmanak #2, not obligatory and also written in Dutch, which provides detailed information pertaining to marinas.  Think of the ANWB as the Dutch version of the United States' travel agency AAA.  The ANWB provides travel planning, ticket booking, road maps, water charts, camping guides, etc. covering the entire country.  A Dutch couple tipped us off to the ANWB's navigational app for the iPad; using a link from the EuroCanals we were able to find and obtain the app.  The app provides a brief free trial which we used for this day from Maastricht to Venlo.  After the trial ended for 10-Euros we now have a year-long subscription and are, once again, navigating via the iPad. It is fantastic!  For those familiar with Active Captain in the United States, this app similarly compiles current info about bridges, locks, marinas, and mooring places onto the charts. And so, we arrived at Venlo and just barely fit into the town's port which has about 2-slips for 12m boats.  Detour is 12.5m and let's not forget that overhanging mast which puts us closer to 14.5m overall length.  Still feels a bit strange being the BIG boat in the marina, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts! Venlo offered us a hoppin' town square that evening as we browsed the streets of this quaint town.