Antipole cruises

Zierikzee & Ouwerkerk and a passage to Willemstad

We eventually left Goes on Monday and had a fast short sail westwards to the Zeelandbrug across the Oosterschelde.  We are too tall to pass under the bridge and the opening span closed just as we arrived, so we hove to for an hour until the next chance, while avoiding getting swept onto the bridge by the tide.  Eventually the traffic was all halted and we passed through and then up a canal to Zierikzee.

Zierkizee was another ancient fortified trading port, with very picturesque gates and bridges (below left).  We explored all round by cycle (below centre).  It is also home to a substantial fleet of traditional boats and we visited the museum afloat (below right) and also the workshops where boats are being restored.  It is very well equipped with separate workshops for wood, engineering (engines) and paint.

Zierkizee and neighbouring Ouwerkerk were particularly badly hit by the 1953 floods, which were much worse in Zeeland than in the UK.  We cycled the few miles along the dyke to Ouwerkerk and the Watersnoodmuseum, a museum of that emergency.  The dyke at Ouwerkerk was the last to be closed after the disaster as the tide was rushing in and out through the gap.

It took several years, and was eventually achieved by shipping in four giant Phoenix caissons (floating concrete tanks) from the UK and sinking them into the gap.  The technology was a development of the Mullberry harbours that were built to create temporary shelters for the Normandy landings during World War II.  Today a new dyke has been built further out and the caissons have been turned into a series of halls for the museum – a very fitting and impressive record and resource.

On Thursday we set sail eastwards from Zierkizee, passing back through the Zeelandbrug, and through the Keeten Mastgat.  It was a perfect day with sun and a Force 3-4 breeze, albeit against us.  It was lovely sailing in sheltered waters with no swell and little or no tidal current and we made a fast passage.  Around  lunchtime we passed through the Krammersluis (lock) into a part of the Grevelingmeer (now non-tidal) and later through the Volkeratsluizen into the tidal Hollands Diep – a total passage of 36nm.

There is a lot of barge traffic in this region, particularly going between Antwerp and Rotterdam, and it is good to see water being used so much for transporting bulk cargoes.  Many of the barges are mind-bogglingly long and one wonders how they are manoeuvred into the locks.  Even more startling was seeing one very long barge pushing another very long one.  We have learnt that these are 193m long and carry the equivalent of 440 juggernaut lorries each.  [This evening we cycled back to the Volkeratsluizen to watch barges coming and going.  There are three locks operating in parallel for the commercial traffic, each taking up to four ships at a time; two yacht locks and four spuisluis for letting water pass according to tidal needs.]

After a fantastic sail we arrived in the historic town of Willemstad.  This was built as a fort town to guard the Hollands Diep and is surrounded by ramparts and moat.  Unusually, this is still complete (see bellow left) and today is a picturesque and popular destination.  Despite its military purpose it is beautifully laid out with tree-lined avenues and at the centre a church within its own moat.  We moored in the old Binnenhaven (below centre) and were lucky to find space as today Friday is the start of the school holiday period and it is filling up rapidly.  We are right outside a café which has a wedding gathering today, so it has been quite lively.

After Willemstad we shall anchor off somewhere for a while before we start through the canals northwards, leaving Zeeland.  So here is our track during our time in Zeeland from when we started at Vliesingen through to Willemstad.

Vliesingen to Willemstad 3

That’s the news for now.  Love to all.

Y&T xxx

One thought on “Zierikzee & Ouwerkerk and a passage to Willemstad

  1. Alison

    Great to hear of your progress, thanks for all the pics. & map, so interesting. We are find, getting ready for Debby’s arrival tomorrow. going to BBQ lunchtime, & to watch Spanish F/B semifinal at are in square in evening with D & Tony.
    Much love, A .

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