December in Amsterdam

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After a whirlwind trip to the UAE and the US in late November, we spent December closer to Dirona in Amsterdam. Over a relaxing holiday season, we explored the city, completed some projects, and met with old friends and new, ending the month and year with a fabulous city-wide New Year’s celebration.

Below are trip highlights from December 6th through 31st in Amsterdam, NL. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

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Laurens van Zijp
Laurens van Zijp stopped by to interview us for Netherlands-based Motorboot magazine. We enjoyed meeting him and describing our travels and how we’ve setup Dirona. Laurens knows boats well and we had a great discussion.
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TV Lift Problems
Last night the TV lift developed a new problem. It would wind down normally, but would barely wind up. The motor barely had the power to wind the assembly up and, each time I tried it, it wound more slowly in the up direction. Read more …
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Air Intake Covers
When we’re moored for a while where the weather is cold, we cover the engine room air intakes with custom canvas covers to keep the boat a little warmer.
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Wing Tank Leak
James noticed a tiny whiff of diesel smell in the engine room and found a couple of drips on top of the wing/gen start batteries underneath the wing engine fuel tank. It was easy to fix: the lower sight-guage O-Ring on the wing engine fuel tank had failed.
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Black Water Level Sensor
Removing the third generation black water sensor to move to the fourth. Read more …
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Christmas Tree
In Amsterdam, people carry everything from large families to Christmas trees on their bikes.
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The police make a pass through the marine every week or so. With our foreign ensign, it’s rare that any police make an inspection of a marina and don’t stop by and check on Dirona. Perhaps it’s because of the the three visits the Dutch authorities have already made.
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Triskel Marine
An excellent evening on Dirona and later over dinner at De Gouden Reael with Triskel Marine directors Ken and Allison Wittamore (on either side of us) and their friends Pete and Ali. We met Ken and Allison at their METS booth and their boat Armorel, a Hallberg Rassy 42, is moored for the winter near us in Amsterdam City Marina.
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This is why we’d prefer to use electricity rather than diesel to power the boat: getting fuel on-board can be a real pain.
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Veterinary Clinic
Spitfire developed an upper respiratory infection and has been coughing a lot since we returned to Amsterdam. Dierenkliniek Westerpark saw him within a couple of hours of our calling and Dr. Elleke Frumau recognized the problem immediately and quickly had him doing much better. Ten days later he seemed fully recovered and back to his normal energetic self. Small illnesses start to get very dangerous quickly when a cat is as old as Spitfire is at 15 years.
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Transmission is one of 29 displays in the the 7th edition of the Amsterdam Light Festival. The displays are mostly along the interior canals and designed to be viewed from the water as well as the shore. This year’s theme is based on the famous quote by Canadian scientist Marshall McLuhan: “The Medium is the Message“. The Transmission display evokes modern telecommunications through 19 wave-shaped tubes programmed to make the light appear to be moving through the air.
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O.T. 976
Stefan Reiss’s Amsterdam Light Festival display O.T. 976 was inspired by string theory. But unlike string theory, this work is enjoyable evey when restricted to three dimensions. The work consists of three large planes folding over Eenhoornsluis bridge. Each plane containing dozens of cables onto which ever-changing colored geometric patterns are displayed. O.T. stands for Ohne Titel, (‘without title’) and 976 refers to the fact that this is Reiss’ 976th artwork.
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De Pizzabakkers
Back at De Pizzabakkers for another excellent meal. The food is delicious and we love the view over the balcony to the lower level and street.
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Lighted lips in the Desire entry in the Amsterdam Light Festival, the only one on the IJ River rather than inside the canals. When viewed from the side, the lips morph into heartbeats.
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Window Washing
This scaffolding to clean the windows has been out for a few days. Note the steadying post is unsecured over the water. The post is designed to ensure the scaffold doesn’t tip over, in this case into the water and onto our boat beyond. The system is made more interesting by being on roller wheels only one foot from the edge. Who says window cleaning is boring?
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Long Reach
This looks like a safer way to work than the window washing. These vehicles are remarkebly efficient, where both the passenger bucket can be raised and lowered from the bucket itself, but also the entire vehicle can be driven from there, even stretched out that far.
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Albert Heijn
A grocery delivery from Albert Heijn. Paying for the order was a bit of a challenge—they only accept local Maestro debit cards on delivery. None of our debit cards or credit cards would work and they don’t take cash. Eventually their customer-service person suggested the delivery person pay with his personal card and we pay him back in cash as a way to resolve it. Impressive commitment to customer service—we didn’t think we were going to get that one resolved.
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We much prefer box wines when a decent one is available, as they are so much lighter and more space-economic. Matua, a New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that we quite like, is available here in 1.5L boxes that consume half the space of two standard 750 mL bottles.
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The temperature was near-freezing overnight and we woke up to a beautiful snowy scene this morning.
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Hopeful swans looking for a handout.
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DHL Bicycle
We’ve seen a lot of different DHL delivery methods while in Amsterdam, so we starting to collect pictures of them.
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DHL Canal Boat
As part of our continuing collection of innovative DHL delivery vehicles, here is a DHL canal boat that moors at our marina.
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Steering Pump
Today we started the job of installing the second Accu-Steer HPU 200-24 steering pump, that arrived in our sea freight pallet. Here, the old Accu-Steer HPU212 pump is partially removed. We’ll blog the details.
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Kema Meat
At Kema Meat to pickup a turkey for Christmas dinner. They have an excellent selection of good-quality meats.
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Westerkerk Protestant church, completed in 1631. The ornate 286 ft (87 m) tower, Westertoren (“Western tower”), is the highest church tower in Amsterdam.
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Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House, famous world-wide as the house where Anne Frank hid with her family during the World War II German Occupation of the Netherlands. We plan to take the popular tour while we’re in Amsterdam.
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Dirty Chicken Club
Yummy beer-can-roasted chicken at the Dirty Chicken Club on restaurant-lined Warmoesstraat.
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Cafe Kobalt
Dinner at perpetually-packed Cafe Kobalt, a short walk from our marina.
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Broken Connector
While transiting the Kiel Canal, we had issues with our davit that we eventually traced down to the pendant. At this time, we changed pendants and were back in business. It’s a bit hard to believe, but that third never-been-used pendant that costs just under $1000, had a broken connector, probably due to aging plastic or perhaps it was broken since new. The good news is that it worked and it’s the only one of the three that still does. The connector is permanently installed on the end of the cable, so we decided to repair it by gluing it up rather than replacing it. This worked out remarkably well as you can see in the picture.
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Kar-Tech Davit Remote
We’ve had three pendants fail on our Steelhead crane over the last 9 years. They cost just under $1000 each, so we really need a different solution. Steelhead does sell a remote-control for this crane, but it was sufficiently expensive that we decided to do what we did with the TV Lift: adapt a commodity remote control to drive the equipment. The remote control we are using on TV lift is working well, but the crane is more complex with 8 different motions, and its remote also needs to be sealed against weather.

We’ve not yet figured the entire thing out, but here we’re associating the Kar-Tech Proportional Mini GUIDER wireless remote with its base station and testing to make sure the assembly is working. This project will require some warm, non-rainy weather to complete and it’s far from figured out at this point. But we’re optimistic and, succeed or fail, we will blog the details and show how the system can be integrated easily by others.

Update 02/24/2019: We’ve described the install at Steelhead Wireless Remote

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Bistrot Neuf
We were planning to have dinner somewhere new in one of the many restaurants along Haarmlemstraat, but everything that appealed to us was packed even though it was only 6:30pm. We must be into the Christmas restaurant rush. In the end, we reached Michelin Bib Gourmand Bistrot Neuf and opted for another excellent meal there. Here we are sharing a delicious Beef Rib with a bottle of Bordeaux.
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My Version of a TV Lift
Just after we sat down to dinner at Bistrot Neuf, we received an email from Chris Allard, CEO of Metal Shark Boats and ex-owner of Nordhavn 62 Pendana. Chris had read the post describing our TV lift problems and sent us a video response titled “My Version of a TV Lift”, where he showed a highly-reliable TV lift design that’s he’s using on his boat. We both laughed so uproariously that everyone in the restaurant was looking.
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Stainless Steel Fabricator
Update 12/25/2018: Solved problem. It’s great to be hanging out in a nation of people willing to help others with even fairly obscure challenges. Thanks to Daniel Boekel of ShipCraft Engineering and Jan Pieterse, we’ll get the brackets in early January. Thanks!

To replace one of our failed side flood lights, we’re moving to a slightly higher output light and that requires a larger support bracket. The support bracket that comes with the lights (pictured) is painted steel and won’t last more than a few months in a marine environment before rusting. We need a stainless steel fabricator in the Amsterdam area to build a few of these brackets for us. Does anyone have any experience with fabricators in the Amsterdam area?

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Happy Holidays
Wishing you all a Happy Holidays and that the New Year brings you plenty of success and fresh tuna.
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Reverse-Engineering Davit
Today we started on installing a Kar-Tech Davit Remote. We don’t have a wiring diagram for the existing crane controls, so the first step is to determine the functionality of each of the twelve wires. We’ll need to find power, ground, proportional, pump, boom extend/retract, boom swing left/right, boom up/down and line extend/retract.
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Christmas Breakfast
Fresh-made waffles with whipped cream and berries for Christmas breakfast.
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Whipped Cream
Spitfire enjoying a little whipped cream from our Christmas breakfast.
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Walking Tours
About a hundred people appeared on the street across the marina, possibly a cruise ship load out for a Christmas walking tour.
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Davit Remote
We got our new davit remote working today, just in time for a Christmas run through the canals in the tender. We’ll blog the details.
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Corroded Pin
Good thing we got the new davit control working—the leftmost pin in the pendant connector has corroded away and none of our existing pendants work anymore.
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Amsterdam Canal Tour
Amsterdam has 165 canals, more than Venice at about 150, with a total length of 31 miles (50km). The city also has three times as many bridges over these canals than Venice, 1201 compared to 409. A canal tour of the city is a highlight of an Amsterdam visit&mcash;night and day, canal boats carrying tourists and locals alike constantly are plying the waterways. The canals were a little less busy than normal when on our Christmas Day cruise by tender, but plenty of boats still were out. It definitely was a great way to see the city. Read more …
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Christmas Dinner
After smelling the turkey cooking for several hours, everyone is ready for Christmas dinner. Spitfire sat down at the open place setting.
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Ice Festival Amsterdam
Christmas Markets, selling decorations, gifts, food, and drink, originated in Middle Ages Germany but now are common throughout Europe. A number of major markets are held in the Netherlands during the holiday season. Ice Village Amsterdam combines a market with another popular Dutch winter tradition, ice skating. An enjoyable 40-minute walking tour through central Amsterdam on Boxing Day brought us to the market, and on our evening return trip we took in the holiday lights and some of the Amsterdam Light Festival displays. Read more …
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Up the Stack
James, wearing a climbing harness, lifting himself up the stack by crane to drill a hole for a new aft-facing camera. The current bullet camera under the winglet gets bumped too easily and as a consequence its hinge will no longer secure it in place. It’s also too close to the courtesy flag.
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New Camera
The new dome camera in place near the top of the stack as James lowers himself back down.
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Nieuwe Kerk, Amsteram
Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) on DAM square in Amsterdam dates back to 1408. That may seem pretty old, but it’s a century newer than Oude Kerk (Old Church). Nieuwe Kerk’s spectacular 17th-century choir screen was the first to be made entirely of brass and its panelled main organ, lavishly decorated with gilding, paintings and statuary, is the largest historic pipe organ in the Netherlands.

As part of a walk into town to tour Nieuwe Kerk, we also stopped by Rokin Metro station to view some of the centuries of artifacts uncovered during the nine-year excavation along the Amstel River for the new North-South Metro line and checked out a couple of the Amsterdam Light Festival displays nearby. Read more …

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Paul van Meegen
Coffee with Paul van Meegen, whose boat is moored just down the dock from ours. Paul is a retired barge captain who lives aboard a converted German survey vessel from which he runs his company Copula Promotions. He’s retrofitted his boat to fit through the French canals and added some commercial features rather unique in a pleasure craft, such as legs that telescope down and allow the boat to effectively “park” anywhere he wants as long as the water isn’t too deep.
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Replacing Outlet
When we installed the dual power system, we didn’t have a male outlet on board, so we’re using a female outlet with an adapter (blue cord at right). Here James is building the mounting base for the new male outlet.
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Disassembling Pigtail
With the new male outlet mounted (visible at the right of the picture), James is dissembling the female-female pigtail we no longer need.
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Maestro Card
After being unable to pay for delivered groceries using a foreign card, we opened a Netherlands bank account. We just received our Maestro card, the main debit card accepted in the Netherlands. We typically open a local bank account when we are going to be in a country for a while anyway, as it also simplifies online payments to local vendors.
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Museum Cards
We also just received our Museum Cards, which give us free or discounted entry to about 400 Netherlands museums.
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Radio for Tender
One of the items we brought back from our trip to the US was a VHF radio for the tender. We always carry a hand-held VHF radio when out in the tender, but having a permanent one means we don’t have to remember and will always have a radio with us.
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Vesper Marine AIS
We believe an AIS is one of the most important safety devices. We use it constantly on Dirona and have decided to install one on our tender as well. Here James is installing a Vesper Marine XB-8000 AIS (small blue box visible in the top left of the locker). The tender now broadcasts AIS.
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Corroded Pin
The most recent crane pendant failure was caused by a corroded electrical pin. The bad news is that without the power pin, the crane is inoperative. The slightly worse news is that with the corroded pin stuck in the pendant socket, you can’t even use that pendant once the pin has been replaced. We used a needle to slowly work the pin to the top of the hole and a small pair of tweezers to remove it.
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Deb and Jan
In Zaandam with Jan Pieterse and Deb Richardson. They live part time in the US and the rest of the time on board their canal barge Jan-kees (it’s a clever name, pronounced “Yankees“). Jan has been giving us all sorts of useful advice for the Netherlands and beyond and it was wonderful to finally meet in person.
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Daniel Boekel
Daniel Boekel, owner of ShipCraft Engineering in Alkmaar. Daniel is an unusually talented engineer, here holding open an electric car battery that he’s recycling. Daniel buys the batteries from wrecked cars and uses them in boat propulsion systems and energy storage supporting solar power deployments.
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New Bracket
Daniel Boekel of ShipCraft Engineering was able to get us new mounting brackets for our side floodlights. His work in lithium ion energy storage has him frequently ordering fabricated parts. Our brackets were added to his order last week and its already all done and ready to go. The new stainless steel brackets not only won’t rust, but also are much beefier than the painted steel originals so won’t rattle as much.
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Happy New Year
The Dutch LOVE their fireworks. The city literally erupted for several hours before and after midnight on New Year’s Eve. The main show didn’t exceed others we’ve seen, but the breadth of the displays was absolutely unrivaled. We walked more than five miles throughout town enjoying and taking pictures of the celebrations and fireworks leading up to midnight, and the main display. More on both: Amsterdam Fireworks

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Massive bonfires are popular in the Netherlands on New Year’s. Jan Pieterse sent us a link to one that got out of control this year, sending off a “firenado”, captured on video, that sparked multiple fires.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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