Cruising Around Holland In a Meridian 459 Sedan - 04/13/2011
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Few countries boast more waterways than the beautiful Netherlands, which is probably why the Dutch are some of the most avid boaters in the world. So then, how would an American-designed and -built motor yacht do in these waters when owned and operated by a local couple?

Meridian in Holland
Who said a motoryacht with a flying bridge couldn't cruise all over Holland?

From a slip in downtown Amsterdam, boaters can head north toward the saltwater Waddenzee—an intertidal zone hugging the North Sea with numerous small islands to explore—or they can cruise up various inland rivers. “Wherever you go, you will find harbors and restaurants on the sides of rivers and lakes,” says Thomas Rijnbeek, head of Holland Sport Boat Centre.

Given that an increase of a few meters in water level could effectively sink the nation, the Dutch have become experts at flood control; dozens of dams and locks have been built to help maintain consistent water levels, and passage through them is often carefully timed to correspond with tidal behavior. (With so many locks to negotiate, a Meridian—say, a Zeus-powered 441 with Skyhook station-keeping technology—only makes more sense for Netherlands boating.)

Meridian in Holland
Well, yes, there are some bridges that the Meridian 459 can't get under -- but that's why God made tenders!

Joost Bekkering is very familiar with the nuances of navigating Dutch waters—and quick to praise his country for its rich maritime potential. A 459 Motoryacht owner, Joost upgraded to a Meridian soon after the brand arrived in Holland. “I think there are better places to be with a Meridian,” Joost smiles, feigning envy, “like America, or where the weather may be a little bit better. But it sure isn’t that bad to be in Holland with this kind of ship,” he laughs. “I love it.”

Meridian in Holland
Balloon "A" marks downtown Amsterdam. Thanks to Google Earth we can see to the north and all of the open, protected water for cruising.

Joost lives with his wife, Hnja, and 18-year-old daughter, Anouk, in the Dutch city of Leiden, about 30 miles southwest of Amsterdam. The family has several boating friends in Leiden—and no shortage of local waterways to cruise—but Joost chooses to keep his Meridian at a slip in the HSBC marina, which is in the heart of Amsterdam. “For me, it’s more of a pleasure to be in Amsterdam,” he says. For one thing, on day rides he is permitted to use his PWC—stowed on a hydraulic platform installed on the stern of the 459—on the Markermeer and IJsselmeer, the large freshwater lakes that border the city.

Meridian in Holland
Holland has hundreds of miles of navigable waterways and canals that all go by cities and towns with a rich history.

Most often, though, the family cruises beyond Amsterdam to cities all over the southern Netherlands and nearby Belgium. “For summer holiday, we go out for three or four weeks,” Joost says. Before the boating season begins, the Bekkerings and their friends meet at one of their homes and debate where to visit next. He hopes this season or the subsequent one takes him to the Waddenzee, one of the few water bodies in the region the Bekkerings have yet to explore.

Meridian in Holland
Taking advantage of a photo opportunity before shopping in Antwerp.

On a recent excursion, they spent days snaking through the country’s network of waterways, stopping briefly in Rotterdam and then on to Antwerp, Belgium—a popular destination for his wife and daughter. “It sure is the girls’ favorite,” Joost laughs. “It’s famous for its nice shops and exclusive brands and luxurious jewelry, so the girls love to go to Antwerp with the boat.” High on Joost’s personal list is the city of Maastricht, in southeast Holland. “It’s famous for its restaurants and bars,” he says. “It’s a very nice place to boat.”

Meridian in Holland
There are scores of quaint little towns all over Holland to discover.

After so many years of exploring the Netherlands by boat, Joost has learned that making the best of the experience doesn’t beg so much for patience as it does a creative approach to occupying free time. “It’s very normal in Holland when you go out for more than a few days, you have to use the locks,” he explains. “Going from my place in Amsterdam to the south of Holland, the total amount of height we go up is 60 meters.”

Meridian in Holland
Google Earth again puts everything in perspective. Note the inland lakes of Holland to the right. The land to the left is England, just 150 miles away from Amsterdam. Farther north Denmark, Norway, and Sweden can be seen.

Because recreational vessels must yield to commercial traffic through the locks, wait times can vary from 30 minutes to sometimes two hours or more. What do you do? “We sit upstairs when the weather is good, we put away the sun top, we have something to eat and we put on music,” Joost says. “It’s part of the holiday. You can be cranky about it and hate it.” He pauses, then adds, “But just get used to it and enjoy your time on the water—even when you are waiting for a lock.”

Meridian in Holland
Locks provide an opportunity for boaters to get ashore, stretch their legs and do some sightseeing.

Written by Roger Kamholz | Photography by Mihai-Bogdan Lazăr and courtesy of Holland Sport Boat Centre

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