Antipole cruises

Dordrecht and The Biesbosch

After the buzz of Willemstad we sailed a short distance to a quiet shore of the Hollands Diep and anchored off for two days.  It was good to rest up and do nothing much but watch the shipping movements.  I have marked the four barges in the photo below.  Note how the long one spans the others.

On Monday we set sail further eastward along the Hollands Diep and set the cruising ‘chute for the first tie since the English South Coast.  It certainly gave us a turn  of speed – so much so that the apparent wind moved forward and we were quite close hauled.  Suddenly there was a bang and the bow sprit that holds the tack of the ‘chute had broken, not buckled but snapped open – a curious kind of failure.  So we had to make the rest of the passage with the genoa goose-winged.  At the end of the Hollands Diep, where there is a fixed bridge that impeded us, we turned north into the Dordste Kil and thence to Dordrecht, where we had to pass through lifting road and rail bridges (below left).

Dordrecht claims to be the oldest city on Holland.  It has certainly been historically important.  We found our way into the Maartensgat, a small and ancient harbour right under the shadow of the Grote Kerk.  You can see this in the picture below centre and right (taken from the top of the Grote Kerk tower). In this last picture you can spot Antipole by her red canvas.  The harbour seems to be run as a kind of club, with bike sheds on the pontoon for members and, Tony notes, a big work bench with two heavy vices in case of need.

Sadly our bow sprit was beyond that, but we were directed to a blacksmith and metal works just a few streets away, and after various discussions a repair has been effected.

The Grote Kerk has a carillon which, since the millennium  is the largest anywhere.  It plays every quarter hour throughout the day and there are concerts every Thursday evening.  As we sat aboard having our lunch on Tuesday we realised it  was being played by a carillonier (or bieraardier in Dutch) and we were beautifully entertained.  After lunch we climbed the tower and found our way to the chamber, where we were able to watch and listen.  Although the keyboard resembles an organ with peddles, it has to be played with the fists and feet and not the fingers, so only four notes can be struck simultaneously.  Even so, chords can be played by striking the keys in rapid succession.  Play this video recording that we made – it is worth viewing.  We had quite a chat with the bieraardier, who knew about English change-ringing.  To acknowledge our visit he then broke into a rather wild improvisation based on God Save The Queen – sadly we did not record it, but it was heard by the whole of Dordrecht!


On Wednesday we set off on an excursion to The Biesbosch.  This is a substantial area of some 300 square kilometres that was lost to the waters back in 1421 during the St. Elizabeth Flood.  By tradition this included 72 villages, while Dordrecht survived as an island.  Over the centuries since, the area has gradually been reclaimed, but there remain a maze of islands with substantial areas of water two or less metres deep.  The islands are largely willow forest and the water margins reed beds – hence Biesbosch [Reed woods in old Dutch].  The area is tidal but with fresh water because of the flow down the great rivers (Rijn, Maas, Waal) – perhaps the only such area in Europe.  During the war it was a hide-out for the Dutch resistance.  It is now a National Park and an important nature and recreational area.  Since the completion of the Haringvleet Dam in 1970 the tidal height has been reduced from some two meters to 20-80cm.  Following dangerously high river levels in 1993 & 1995, the decision has been taken to de-polder parts of the Biesbosch, so it can flood at such times and absorb some of the waters.  There are also plans to open the Haringvliet Dam to allow tidal flow again (apart from storm surges) so the Haringvliet, Hollands Diep and Biesbosch will become naturally tidal again.

We had thought we could not visit the area because of fixed bridges, but we discovered a way round via the Beneden Merwede and Niewe Merwede rivers.  We found the Biesbosch delightful and quiet, with no road access, other than by a couple of basic ferries. Most yachts are excluded by the depths.  Here Antipole with her 58cm draft came into her own and we found a lovely quiet anchorage tucked up a side channel.

This is a haven for wildlife and we are surrounded by numerous water fowl and their young – swans, geese. ducks, coots, and grebes, to mention just the obvious ones.  These are joined several times each day by Ynskje and Tony flopping into the water as the weather is really lovely and the water warm.  On our last evening, as we sat out in the dusk, a beaver swam by.  On the way back we stopped off at the Biesbosch Museum, which tells about the area and its history.  We then crossed over the Niew Merwede river and took a shortcut through a very rural and shallow canal back to the Beneden Merwede and hence to Dordrecht and the Maartensgaat harbour.

We are making an appeal for crew reinforcements for our return passage in September.  Please have a look at the Cruise Plan section if you might be interested.
That’s the news for now.
Much love from Tony & Ynskje

3 thoughts on “Dordrecht and The Biesbosch

  1. heleen

    he (dutch)sailors, it’s so nice to go that way through the country to the ijsselmeer…. although without sailing. There is so much to see!
    Anyway, when you are in Amsterdam…I be there! We keep in touch, love for both, heleen

  2. Nicky

    Dordrecht – goodness I have not heard that name for years. I was probably only 10 when we were there. Your description of these places really makes me wish I had been older to absorb all the uniqueness and history of these places. I do remember seeing ladies in traditional costume and wear clogs though. I know we also went to Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Den Hague. Really enjoy your blogs. Nicky

  3. heleen

    Monday, the 9th of july: almost in Amsterdam?
    Tony, if I do not see you before friday: have a good trip and weekend in Bristol.
    Ine, kijk even op je e-mail. Tot snel

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