2015 European waterway cruise – Netherlands – Dordrecht to Belgian border
|Wet weather gear leaving Dordrecht|
Dordrecht was the last large town in the Netherlands till we crossed into Belgium at Antwerp.
Our route to Belgium was back onto the Oude Maas, down the Dortse Kil and the Hollandse Diep to Willemstad.
Then along the Volkerak and into the Schelde-Rijn Kanaal, stopping at Tholen, and into Antwerp.
|Furiously planning and reading the Water Almanak|
The rainy days continued and it was bucketing down again as we left Dordrecht.
It cleared later in the day, with the next few days having good weather, and in fact stinking hot by the time we arrived in Antwerp.
As any frequent reader will have gathered, I do a lot of planning.
This particular section into Belgium needed a lot of attention due to all sorts of new reporting requirements and checking of bridge or lock opening times.
|VHF Channel indicator board|
Much consulting of charts, guides and the Water Almanak.
More on that later.
Our passage to Willemstad was quite short (about 2.5 hours) and enjoyable.
The usual frequent changing of VHF stations to monitor.
|On the Hollandse Diep|
The Hollandse Diep is a very wide stretch of water with a main commercial channel in the middle with pleasure craft channels on either side.
As we came closer to the coast and the estuary areas, there were more and more pleasure boats of all types and sizes out on the water.
We arrived at Willemsatd about 13.00 hrs.
The harbour master directed us to the old port where we had to tie up alongside other boats as the place was already pretty full, or so we thought.
|Shangri La (with black canopy) stuck in the middle|
A couple of hours later they were still piling in and by about 5.00 pm the marina was completely gridlocked, with boats 5 or 6 deep and us right in the middle.
Despite this the marina was very good.
Euro 19 for the night, including electricity, water, showers and wifi which actually
Willemstad is a beautiful little town but with very little going on except one or two restaurants on the quayside.
As usual we chose to eat on board and took advantage of the wifi to catch up on life and emails etc.
Willemstad seems to be only an over-night stop for most boaters, so around 9.00 there was much activity aboard the boats and the outer
ones started to leave.
At 10.00 we had no option but to move to let other boats out, but this fitted in well with our plans.
|Waiting at Volkerak Sluis|
To get from Hollandse Diep into the Volkerak we needed to negotiate Volkerak Sluis.
This is a huge lock comples with 2 locks for commercial vessels and a third specifically for pleasure craft.
Outside the lock was a long waiting jetty, already nearly full with boats queueing up, and we waited just over an hour before our turn.
|Volkerak Jachtsluis – tightly packed with boats|
And it was the fullest we have ever seen a lock – the boats were double banking with each other inside.
Once clear of the lock, it was another pleasant trip along the Volkerak which is similar to Hollandse Diep with a commercial channel in the middle and side routes for pleasure boats.
Then into the Schelde-Rijn Kanaal which is rather straight and boring and full of commercial barges with only a handful of pleasure boats making the trip to or from Belgium.
|On the Schelde-Rijn Verbinding|
We made an overnight stop at Tholen.
Here we berthed at WSV De Kogge.
(Euro 23 including electricity, water, showers and wifi)
Tholen was even smaller than Willemstad.
We had wanted to do a last large shop up, but were a bit disappointed.
Part of the reporting requirements I mentioned earlier was that I had to be issued with a FD Number from the Antwerp Port.
While paying the dues here, I spoke to another boater who had just come from Antwerp and asked him about getting this number.
He said it was easy – just phone the harbour master at Willemdok in Antwerp and he would arrange.
Sounded simple. I phoned and was told no I must go to the Antwerp Port website and request the number. I had already been to this website, which had also told me that pleasure boats must get this from the Willemdok!!
After an hour of struggling with the internet, I did manage to send off a request for this number, and amazingly a few hours later I received it.
In the morning we set off on the last stretch to Belgium and Antwerp.
Our last Dutch lock was Kreekraksluis.
We had now also started wearing our working life-jackets when manouevring in locks.
It is actually good practice, but particularly in Belgium where the locks are much bigger and deeper and it is strongly recommended.
We crossed the border at 11.30. Surprisingly there was no sign or any indication that we were now in Belgium. At this point I lowered the Dutch courtesy flag and hoisted the Belgian one.