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We will begin our 2010 cruise on April 6th mainly because that is when the winter mooring rates finish and it will cost us €24 a night rather than the winter rate of €120 a month! We plan to head downstream on the Scheldt to its junction with the Rupel then upstream to Lier and back down the Albert canal towards Antwerp.
We then propose to turn right onto the Dessel-Turnhout- Schotel Canal which we have not yet explored and is reckoned to be quite pretty, before returning to the place we first started cruising with Harmonie at Blauwe Kei. It is then a straightforward lock free 80km cruise into Maastricht in Holland.
Still in familiar territory we will then head north following the river Maas downstream as far as Mook where we leave the river to continue north to Nijmegen. Heading into new territory now we will battle the River Rhine upstream until we reach the Pannendens Canal which will take us to Arnhem. From here we take the Gelderschle Ijssel which will take us as far north as Zwolle where we turn right onto the Zwarte Water to Zwartsluis. We follow the Meppelerdiep as far as Meppel then the Drentsche Hoofdvaart to Assen and finally the North Willems Canal to Groningen.
We will now be in the Friesland region of Holland, a place renowned for its cruising potential with a population that has a dialect different from anywhere else, some would tell you they are a different breed! We plan to spend most of the summer in this area as there are hundreds of kilometers of waterways to be explored. Where exactly we visit will depend on the weather and our air draft but we might visit Franeker, Harlingen, Delfzijl, Appingedam, Leek, Bergum, Drachten, Bolsward, Heerenveen, Joure, Workum and Heeg, just to name a few. There are so many lakes and canals to choose from up there it will just be a question of the time we have available and our ability to navigate which will determine our final itinerary.
We have planned our return from Groningen to Gent for the winter by a different route. We will first head north following the Aduarderdiep and the Rietdiep out into the Lauwersmeer which is a nature reserve and the most northerly point of our planned cruise. Then westwards along the Grootdiep to Dokkum and the Dokkumer Ee into Leeuwarden. From here we would head south down the Langdeel to Wartena where we join the Prinses Margreitkanaal which takes us down into the Sneeker Meer and the lovely little town of Sneek.
Our journey south continues through the myriad of lakes and canals back to Zwartsluis which will complete the circuit of Friesland, then out into Zwart Meer, south via the Goot and Ganzendiep to Ijsselmuiden and Kampen before emerging into the Ketelmeer then down through a series of lakes and lock collectively known as the Randmeren to Harderwijk, finally entering the Ijsselmeer at Muiderberg. After a short voyage over this open stretch of water we arrive at Muiden harbour and navigate the Vecht to Weesp then the Weespertrekvaart into the outskirts of Amsterdam before joining the river Amstel into the centre.
The final leg of our journey back to Gent will be first to retrace our steps as far as Weesp then down the Amsterdam-Rhine canal to its junction with the Vecht which will take us to Utrecht. The Merwede Canal will take us as far as Gorinchem where Harmonie was originally converted from a commercial vessel then through the Biesbosch, over the River Maas and up the Amer to join the Wilhelmina and Mark canal to Breda. We continue west along the Mark until we enter the Volkerak and eventually the Scheldt-Rhine canal which will take us to Antwerp. The final leg of the journey will be to catch the flood tide for a race up the River Scheldt back to Gent. If we only do what we have planned we will have travelled 1290km but then there is always the possibility we might find a new owner for Harmonie during our travels.