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Shangri La moored in Groningen at the Oosterhaven

This part of the trip would be the first real test of Shangri La.

We wanted to go to Groningen primarily to visit the IKEA shop.

It took 3 days with the 2 overnight stops in open berths or moorings with no facilities.
We had to rely entirely on our own equipment for power, water, cooking, toilet and shower.

Waiting for the water jetty

To be sure we had enough water, we topped up our 750 litre tank last thing before leaving. (first of many waits – waiting for the water jetty to be free)

Shangri La performed brilliantly.
I have to admit I was anxious in the beginning, but once we have got the hang of how things worked, everthing was perfect.

One thing about cruising along canals is that you don’t exactly travel very fast.

Swing bridge

The route was along the Drentsche Hoofdvaart and the Noord-Willemskanaal, where the speed limits are 6 or 9 km per hour, via the towns of Dieverbrug and Assen.

There are also a lot of bridges and locks. Considering how flat the Netherlands is, the are a surprisingly large number of them.

It was quite noticeable as we moved further inland, how much more wooded the landscape became. Even saw ostriches!

Wittelterbrug – one of many lift bridges

In the 3 days, we traveled 72 kms, went under 48 bridges and negotiated 9 locks.

Actual motoring time was about 13.5 hrs so we averaged an amazing 5.3 kms per hour.

The first day and part of the second, was on the Drentsche Hoofdvaart which is almost straight and not particularly interesting.

Wooded areas and ostriches

First overnight stop was at Dieverbrug – a miniscule little town.

I took a walk up to the bigger town of Diever, about 2 kms away, where there was not a lot going on either.

When we set out in the morning, we tucked in behind a rather dilapidated looking little motor cruiser, which we ended up following all the way to Groningen.

Locking up in Dieversluis

In the first lock, we got chatting to the skipper.

He was a retired Dutch lorry driver, who had spent quite a bit of time in UK so spoke English well.

He had bought the boat some years ago in its un-renovated state, as it was apparently only one of two of this kind built.

He was taking her back to his home to restore it.

Sluis Peelo – and our dilapidated little friend

Anyway, he seemed to know the workings of the canals, which was why we stuck behind him.

The bridges and locks are often operated remotely from a central point, or the bridge operator cycles along from one to another.

Occasionally there is a short wait.

They also only operate from 0700 to 1200 and 1300 to 1700.

Convoy bound for Groningen

During day 2 we passed the larger town of Assen, where we changed to the Noord-Willemskanaal.

Previously, the canal went through the town, but the new one skirts round it. We could have gone up the branch canal into the town but we wanted to push on to Groningen.

We arrived at Sluis de Punt at 1700. Too late to get through so had to overnight here.

Next morning – one it was raining, and secondly it was Sunday and there was some doubt as to whether the locks would be operating.

Groningen bridge operator on his bike!

But they were – and we set off sharp at 0900, in the rain, following our dilapidated little friend. Fortunately it cleared up during the day.

About 1030 we reached the Ketvich-Verscheurbrug, on outskirts of Groningen, which is where things rather fell apart.

There are a lot of bridges in Groningen. We had been trying to make sense of the information in the Water Almanak about the opening times – without much success.

It seemed they operated a convoy system in each direction, only at certain limited times, with the next convoy in at 1300. Long lunch stop!

Sure enough at 1300 the bridge opened, and we moved through 6 bridges with the bridge operator moving along from bridge to bridge on his cycle.

Arrived in the Zuiderhaven where we had another half hour wait for the next convoy eastbound through the last five bridges. Finally got to our destination, the Oosterhaven in Groningen, at about half past three. Moored up in a lovely spot alongside the quay – showers and wifi available, although the wifi was rather intermittent, and exceptionally slow – and only a short walk to the town centre, or to IKEA.

All in all a busy three days boating – but great fun.

To read Part 2 – click here

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