Utrecht kept us busy socializing and getting our local culture fix. We toured the exhibits at the Centraal Museum. The museum’s primary exhibit was celebrating Nijntje’s 60 Jaar (little rabbit’s 60th birthday, a.k.a. Miffy). Nijntje was created by author/illustrator Dick Bruna and this year celebrates 60 years of children’s stories. The exhibit was a fantastic children’s, interactive exhibit walking children through Miffy’s learning world. We also viewed Centraal Museum’s displayed collection of artwork, tested chairs designed by world famous architect, Gerrit Rietveld (not exactly a household name, I agree), saw a 1,000 year-old wooden ship, and at the crusaders and benefactors exhibit, learned about the Netherlands age-old order of knights who are still active today.
We met an author, celebrating his third published book, who was out cycling and spotted Detour moored at the town quayside. We were in the cockpit and waved to the cycling man from across the river. He detoured from his path to come and inquire how in the world an American flagged sailing ship had landed in Utrecht. We had a lovely conversation and are keeping in touch with our new friend. We also met a university student, recently graduated, and her mother who were so hospitable they invited us to their block party. Such a fantastic evening dancing, in the rain, and learning about many Netherlands foods and traditions. We hope to remain in touch with these new friends too, maybe even visit again in the fall. We thoroughly enjoyed the people, the history, the sights and sounds of Utrecht! And then, it was time to depart and continue our venture. Having observed the canal, walking the streets and watching other boats pass through, we’d planned our departure for a Sunday morning when we knew the traffic on the canal would be minimal. Fortunately for us, there actually was no traffic at all. We’d checked and double checked the air clearance of all the bridges; mast-down Detour would fit. We’d not anticipated maneuvering Detour through angled, tunnel bridges and quickly learned at the first left-hand turn through the first bridge that our width/length may actually be more troubling than our height. At the entrance to the first bridge, one of our fenders caught the wooden guide-post, and Detour‘s bow was gently pulled into the stone wall. So gently, the bump demolished the forward-most cross supporting the mast. WHOOPS! While I fended the bow, pushing off the mast, Brian released the fender and we proceeded through bridge #1 without further incident. One spectator, looking bewildered as though he was not quite awake yet on a Sunday morning, overheard our discussion once clear of the bridge about whether we should continue onward through 15 more bridges or back ourselves out through this #1 and select a new route. There was no turning around, this canal was too narrow! And, we remembered the bridge/tunnel we’d observed from atop the Dom Tower. Hmmmm…Onward! We continued, at crawling speed, through the center of Utrecht on a quiet morning with bow thruster at the ready and me pacing the deck ready to fend at a moment’s notice. Thank goodness we had no passing traffic! The canal, taken up by construction equipment, was even narrower at some places. We’d had a few interested spectators along the way, all very curious about our progress. One man took a photo of us as we approached a bridge, me not very photogenic, arms crossed anticipating disaster. I gave him a disheartened wave and he replied, “You guys are awesome! You’re from New Hampshire, right?” What, come again? Do I even know this guy? “Thanks, yea!” my spirits elevated, “I really needed that this morning!” Through that bridge with success, a wave and a smile from atop from another man accompanied by his wife riding their bicycles. This was going to be OK, just needed to get through that bridge/tunnel beneath the walking plaza. Brian was mastering this course as if it were a game and he held the joystick. At the dreaded bridge/tunnel another spectator awaited; a man and his young daughter. They both waved, “Goedemorgen!” I shouted back, “Good morning! Here we go!” as we entered the bridge. Just a bit of fending off the stern (both of us) from the guide-posts at the opposite end but no touches!!! Wheee Hooo! At the other end of the bridge/tunnel, the man and his daughter clapped and cheered along with us. Then, they rode away only to spot us again further along and say, “Vaarwel!” And from me, “Have a good day!”At the very last bridge, I’d spotted a tour boat approaching from the other side. “Boat coming!” I yelled to Brian from the bow. He moved Detour as close to the starboard side of the canal as he could. At that moment there happened to be an overhanging tree, followed by several overhanging kayaks awaiting the day’s renters. The tour boat, with its thrusters in all directions, quickly moved aside to our starboard side opposite the bridge and awaited us to come through first. Phew! But we were still very close to the side having tried to get out of the way, now pulling off leaves from the overhanging tree. The kayak shop guy was outside, “Great boat,” he said from the sidewalk, “what type of boat is that?” I calmly answered him, pushing a tree branch away before it smacked me in the face, leaves falling all over the deck. “It’s an Alliage, aluminium hull, French built.” And then our fenders started smacking into his overhanging kayak bows, “Oh, sorry!” I added. Really there was nothing we could do. “Don’t worry about that,” he said, “nice job getting through here.” Bump, bump, bump along the kayaks and then through the tunnel Brian and I both praised the tour boat driver for yielding for us. Big smiles from him and lots of Dutch. Just like that, we were through Utrecht and pulled aside to moor to the waiting place for the lock at the end of the city.
The lock was completely manual and took what seemed like days for us to be lowered about 18-inches then released. All the while we chatted with the woman aboard the motor yacht behind us. Immediately thereafter, a bascule bridge marked the end of a very hectic morning during the first hour of our day. And so we began the Vecht River.