By now we were daring to hope that we might actually make it back to the UK in the time that we had available, rather than having to leave Lizzie somewhere in the Netherlands and come back later in the year. It would all depend on getting a good weather slot to cross the North Sea, but in the meantime we would push on towards our chosen port of departure at Texel as fast as we could.
We had an uneventful trip through all the lifting bridges at Leeuwarden and out along the canal to the coast at Harlingen. In Harlingen it took a long time to get moored up… we had chosen a small marina jammed in the canal system rather than heading into town through lifting bridges and locks and mooring alongside.
The entrance to the marina was exciting, with a very narrow channel and a 90 degree blind bend. Inside there was very little room.
We paused at the designated “calling berth” to talk to the harbourmaster and be assigned to a berth. The harbourmaster was nowhere to be found and the office had a note saying that he would be back soon. We waited around for 30 minutes but eventually gave up and started manoeuvring ourselves into a box berth with a green tag. The space was very tight, even for a 26 foot boat, and it required a lot of planning and nerve in the strong gusty cross wind with a boat which doesn’t go backwards, particularly with an outboard engine mounted on one quarter.
Just as we were finally in the berth and about to start adjusting the lines, the harbourmaster arrived and told us that we had to move across two places. Another complicated manoeuvre was stressfully, but successfully, executed and we were finally allowed to tie up. Sure enough, we had barely tied up when the owner of our original berth arrived in his boat.
By this time we were both extremely hungry, and we headed into town in search of food. There was a festival going on in town, with some good live music, a trials mountain bike display, and some kind of home-built-boat race.
Harlingen is a lovely place, and we spent the rest of the day exploring it, including walking around the massive (extended several times) harbour. We finished the day with some great fish and chips near the ferry terminal.
The next morning there we woke to the sound of distant crowds and cheering, getting closer and closer. We eventually worked out that there were two separate things going on:
1: A guy was doing a huge multi-day swim around lots of the canals of Friesland. He passed a few feet from the stern of Lizzie, together with an escort boat and various TV cameras etc.
2: There was a swimming race around the canals of Harlingen, which had a turnpoint just up the canal from where we were moored. We went and watched this for a while.
We had a relaxing morning in Harlingen while we waited for the tide to be right to head out into the Waddensea.