A bridge too far….

Our plan today (Wednesday) was to get through the railway bridge at Gouda at the start of our journey and then the one at Kaag at the end of the trip and then on to Lisse. This would put us in a good position to reach Haarlem on Thursday and an easy run into Amsterdam on Friday.

It is 1015 and we made a smooth exit out of our berth at Gouda Marina. There was only one boat length of space in the fairway. I swing Gracie out without the benefit of bow thrusters. Ace! I really am getting overconfident……As they say ‘pride comes before a fall’.

Confident helming out of the Marina

Back out in the main channel and heading towards our first bridge of the day for its opening at 1028 I noticed a large barge packed high with containers – our dilemma is do we go through the bridge before him or after. With two minutes to go that question was answered. He dropped his mooring lines and pushed to the front of the queue. I’m not going to argue with a 7000 tonne barge in my 7 tonne yacht! 

For Ever, our guide for the next 5 miles

It was a good plan to hang back as commercial traffic get priority at bridges and locks and we get green lights all the way! Along with 4 other yachts we rattle along at 6.5 knots in convoy behind the For-Ever and through the bridges:

1. Railway bridge at Gouda

2. Boskoop bridge and the narrow one way 500m section 

3. Waddinxeen bridge

4. Coenecoop bridge

5. Gouwsluis rail bridge 

6. Gouwsluis road bridge 

It was here that we lose our guide at  the container terminal just before the start of the Old Rhine.

A swift convoy following the container barge

Once on the Old Rhine, we reached Alphen a/d Rijn and the bridge shuffle started again as we Have to wait for the bridges to open for us:

Going well so far! At Alphen a/d Rijn

7. Swaenswijk bridge

It is at our 8th bridge of the day that disaster almost befalls us; as my overconfidence leads us into near catastrophe. At the Alphense bridge, its roadway is coming up slowly, there is not much space in the channel and the wind is blowing from behind and Grace is slowly but steadily and inexorably moving towards the bridge. The span is now fully open but the lights are still red but we are right there ready to shoot through. I don’t have much space left so I go, then I see it, the bows of a big barge pushing towards us. It fills the entire bridge span. We are in trouble. The bridge loudspeakers are shouting, the VHF is shouting but I don’t hear anything! Full astern, but the yacht behind us has pulled out to follow us through and we are boxed in. I crab sideways, the people on a small red yacht realise there is a problem and we throw them our lines. We are safe but shaken as the barge powers passed us. Gingerly I edge out through the bridge. I have learnt my lesson now, always obey the lights, red really does mean stop and commercial traffic always go first! 

Our saviours and their little red yacht!

We carry on in convoy with Grace as ‘tail end charlie’ and  are pleased to be there! Then on through:

9. Juliana bridge

10. Albert Schwiter bridge 

11. Molenaars bridge

12. Woubrugge bridge

Water? Signs! With an interesting turning towards Hogsmead!
The Brassermeer

We now break out into the Braasermeer which is a pretty, wide but shallow lake. We have to follow the marked channel, it is no more than 1.5 to 2.0 m deep. Then out to Oud Wettering and the junction with the Ringwaart van de Haarlemer Meerpoulder. 

On the Ringwaart

Immediately we have to stop for our next bridges:

13. Basculebrug 

14. Meerbrug

For our treat of the day there are no more bridges but an aqueduct over the motorway instead!

Sailing over the motorway to Amsterdam!

It is now 1500 and our last railway bridge does not now open until 1932 and it is too late to push onto Lisse. 15 miles and 14 bridges means we are tired and looking for a stop. It really is a bridge too far! We have reach Kaag and pull into the Marina. We can always do the railway bridge tomorrow! 

Kaag island is very nice and once Grace is safely moored we have time to cool our feet on what turns out to be a beautiful evening!

Kaag island
Gone for a paddle!

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