Holland is less than 100 miles away from the UK's East Coast, making it the ideal cruising ground for a few weeks. Miranda Delmar-Morgan roughs out the best cruising itinerary

Sailing Holland allows you to experience so many beautiful small towns, although it will be impossible to visit them all!

The Standing Mast Route on the inland waterways allows easy passage up and down the interior, free from foul weather outside.

You can weave your way through the inland lakes and canals tying up in the centre of delightful towns, with handsome gabled houses and large squares, visiting museums and art galleries, and there is much to keep any novice crew feeling safe and occupied.

The Dutch keep their towns and marina facilities immaculate and their bridges and locks run like clockwork.

Vlissingen is the entry point for many routes when sailing Holland

Vlissingen is the entry point for many routes when sailing Holland. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

You need the ANWB Wasseratlas Staande Mastroute booklet which gives detailed route information.

The Ijsselmeer is covered by two volumes of the ANWB Wateralmanak.

The sea locks are huge and have sheltered waiting areas outside.

It is possible to enter the canal system at Vlissingen, and emerge at Delfzil on the Ems without ever putting to sea.

However, progress is slow given the meandering routes and waiting times for locks and bridges, so modify your daily mileage expectations and accept that you will do a lot of motoring.

Barges on the water in Holland

Dutch barges are proof of locals’ love of the water. Credit: Miranda Delmar-Morgan

Entering the canal system at Vlissingen will introduce you to the beautiful little town of Middleburg, which has a model village.

The night convoy through Amsterdam is a magical experience but can be avoided by taking the alternative Standing Mast Route through the very attractive town of Haarlem.

You can then join the North Sea Canal where you turn east for Sixhaven Marina and Amsterdam.

Just to the north is a remarkable landscape with several historic windmills forming part of the museum at Zaans Schans.

Moving on you then enter the Markermeer and Ijsselmeer where you have to get used to a mere three or four metres of depth.

Gouda cheese wrapped in wax on wooden shelves

The cheese at Gouda, just one of many Dutch attractions to visit while cruising Holland. Credit: Miranda Delmar-Morgan

Enkhuizen has the wonderful Zuiderzee Museum. Hoorn is another beautiful town.

At Harlingen, just outside the Ijsselmeer a branch of the Standing Mast Route joins the canal and takes you through Leeuwarden and up to Delfzil on the Ems.

This canal is slightly shallower, but yachts with 1.9m draught push their way through some of the patchier mud.

The shallow depths everywhere take some getting used to and anything more than 1m under the keel is quite a luxury.

Drought can affect canal depths and it is best to consult the HM at Harlingen before going north.

Continues below…

From Harlingen the pretty island of Vlieland often has a number of classic sailing barges in the harbour.

It is such an extensive cruising ground, with slow passages and so many places to visit that you can’t hope to get all the way up and back again in three weeks.

It would be best to keep your expectations modest, cruise in one direction and then go out to sea for your passage home from the other end of your trip.

A woman wearing a purple jacket holding smoked fish in Holland

Miranda Delmar-Morgan with local smoked fish in Enkhuizen. Credit: Miranda Delmar-Morgan

You can get back out to sea at several sea locks or through the North Sea Canal.

Crossing the cluttered North Sea is complicated and entire books are written about the routeing.

There are numerous wind farms, high-speed service craft, and very busy Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) controlling the incessant flow of ships to Rotterdam, northern waters and the Baltic.

Negotiating them is daunting and it is best to time your passages through the worst sections in daylight if possible.

An aerial view of the marina at Vieland

Vlieland is well worth visiting when sailing Holland, especially for lovers of classic boats. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The windfarms off Ijmuiden forbid passage after sunset. Yachts should avoid the Maas Junction which lines ships up for Rotterdam.

Use the ITZ and yacht crossing recommended tracks. The North Hinder Junction is a pivotal turning point.

From Harwich making for NHR-SE buoy is one approach.

Coming from Burnham-on-Crouch an alternative passage would be to head for Ostend in Belgium and then work up the coast to Vlissingen.

Sailing Holland

Time taken: 3 weeks

Harwich to Vlissingen – 90M
Harwich to Roompotsluis – 90M
Burnham-on-Crouch to Ostende – 85M
Burnham-on-Crouch to Vlissingen – 106M

Trains: London St Pancras to Amsterdam direct via Eurotunnel

Ferries: Zeebrugge to Hull and Ijmuiden to Newcastle

Airports: Schiphol Airport at Amsterdam, another at Rotterdam

Sailing Holland: Hazards

TSS Schemes and deep water shipping routes
High Speed vessels

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