March in Amsterdam

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In our last couple of weeks in Amsterdam, we visited The Hague, completed a few boat projects, finalized our preparations for our summer cruise to the Baltic and hosted a few visitors. We’d initially planned to depart Amsterdam for the Baltic Sea on March 1st, but extended our stay until the 15th to give us a little more time in the city and ended up not actually leaving until the 19th as we waited for good weather to cross the German Bight.

Below are trip highlights from March 1st through 18th, 2019 in Amsterdam. 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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Another advantage of having a Dutch bank account is we can make payments using iDEAL, a Netherlands e-commerce system. iDEAL allows real-time online payments without sharing sensitive information such as credit card numbers with the vendor and is used for over 50% of online transactions in the Netherlands. Some vendors we’ve used here either couldn’t process a US credit card, required several days to process transactions other than iDEAL, or the use of other payment methods imposed a surcharge.

When we’ve used iDEAL, the vendor displays a code, pictured, that we scan using the bank app on our mobile phone. This generates a debit request from the vendor to our account that we approve in the mobile app and that completes the transaction.

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Eetcafe Rosereijn
We’ve walked past Eetcafe Rosereijn on Haarlemmerdijk many times, but it usually was pretty full. We stopped in for an early meal today and had an excellent evening. The meal was delicious and reasonably-priced.
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KVH V7hts Service
James up the mast replacing the V7hts GPRS modem. This cellular modem isn’t mission critical in that it’s only used by KVH to get to the V7 for service but it’s still worth having it working.
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V7hts GPRS Modem
The failed GPRS Modem removed from the KVH V7hts radome. It appears to have developed a leak and a few ounces of a thin oil leaked out and the modem no longer works.
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Davit Wireless Remote
We’d originally mounted the new davit wireless remote control base on the starboard side of the davit suppport, but the crane partially partially blocked the signal between the remote and the base antenna. So we removed the mounting magnets to minimize the depth of the package and attached it on the swing motor with the antenna up above the heavy metal components.
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Mike Spits
Mike Spits, who owns a classic Feadship, stopped by for a visit. We had a great time talking boats and sharing travel experiences. Mike is from the Netherlands, but currently lives in Thailand and owns Wiseguy Suspenders. We’re not much into suspenders, but the product looks edgy and high-quality, and one person who does know is Warren Buffet, who commented that “Charlie and I love them … These will definitely upgrade our appearance”.
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Finding a Wire
Have you ever wanted to find a specific wire in a large wire bundle? Since wires are seldom labeled in the middle, it can be hard to find the one you are looking for. Here James is looking for a specific signal that is carried by one of the wires in this bundle, but which one? Pulling an additional cable would solve the problem but that would take a half day. He had a good idea that worked very quickly.

He disconnected both ends of the wire being searched for, put an alternating voltage on the cable, and then found it using an oscilloscope lead. What’s kind of surprising here is the alternating current signal isn’t grounded and James is just touching the oscilloscope probe against the insulation on each wire. If the AC current is turned off and on, it’s easy to confirm the oscilloscope lead is touch the outside of the right wire. It’s a fast solution that we’ll definitely use again.

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The Hague
James has long had an interest in the famous Dutch graphics artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, whose work features mathematical objects and optical illusions. Naturally, the Escher in the Palace exhibit was high on our list for a visit to The Hague. Read more …
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Tight Quarters
More than a dozen canal boats moor at City Marina. The boats are quite long for the small marina and the skippers are experts at maneuvering in tight places. Here they are working out of the spot in front of Dirona.
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It’s a Head-Banger
These little clips hold in place very large openings in the salon floor for removing the engine. These are well-made little clips, but they do stick down into the engine room and, well, can be a bit of a head-banger. From day one we were planning on removing the tabs and did today. Read more …
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Heater Hanging
We heard a loud bang today and went aft to find our Heatstrip patio heater hanging by its cord. The mounts had corroded and tore off in a 42-knot gust.. The heater and mounts have lasted incredibly well for the past five years, surviving a salt-water drenching during our 69.1° rollover and countless soakings during several north Atlantic gales, so we have no complaint there. The heater put a slight nick in our patio table as it came down, but otherwise no damage was done. It’s a good thing we went with a heavy-duty locking plug and socket, otherwise the damage done by the heavy heater would have been much worse.
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Spare Heater
After installing the Heatstrip patio heater in Brisbane back in 2014, we bought two spares as we weren’t optimistic that the heaters would last more than two or three years in the corrosive saltwater environment. But the Heatstrip apparently is built like a tank and today is the first failure we’ve seen. Here James is transferring the socket from the old heater to the new.
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Chantal & Folkert
Folkert Schoots and his partner Chantal stopped by for a visit and a tour of Dirona. They are considering options for eventually making extensive sailing trips and wanted to learn more about Nordhavn and the boat’s operation and maintenance. Folkert works for Feadship, and we had a great time sharing our experiences and learning a little bit more about 100m-plus yachts.
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Replacing Heater
We replaced the patio heater today once the winds settled down for a bit. The failure was caused by a corroded bracket and heavy winds.
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Warning Lights
Whenever we make an operational mistake on the boat, we always look to find ways to automate the task away or alarm or warn on it. Today we installed three new warning lights in the engine room. Read more …
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Containers Blown Off Dock
We’ve been having quite a bit of wind where we are in Amsterdam and apparently nearby Antwerp, Belgium is as well. In this video, a stack of 40ft containers blows over in winds reported to be Beaufort 12 (more than 64 kts) winds. Full containers can run 70,000 lbs. Presumably these are empty but, even empty, that’s more than 8,000 lbs each. What we find particularly scary is how nicely the container that landed in the water floats away.

The world shipping council might be motivated to under-report containers losses off ships but, even in their estimates, 1,582 containers are lost each year. We’ve seen estimates as low as 320 and has high as 10,000 but the 1,500 containers per year is a credible data point.

The video shows how well a light container can float. Keep in mind that most cargo is relatively light—far lighter than water—so even relatively heavy containers float distressingly well.

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We’ve been watching the weather for the past week in preparation for our departure from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea. After wonderfully warm, clear and calm weather mid-February, storm after storm has rolled through the area over the past few weeks. This screenshot from shows the winds at Heligoland, Germany over the next six days. Conditions look pretty miserable in the German Bight short-term, but it looks like the winds will be settling down early next week. When they do, we plan to go to to Heligoland to pickup a load of duty-free fuel and then continue into the Kiel Canal, through Denmark, and north to Sweden.
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Wing Oil Change
The wing engine is due for an oil change every 12 months or 150 hours. Tt’s been a light-usage year on the wing engine, with only 68 hours. Our last oil change was in London a year ago.
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Watermaker Filters
The watermaker filters are due for their annual change.
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Fighters Over Amsterdam
Yesterdam afternoon a KLM passenger plane swooped in over the marina with two fighter jets on each wing. They were MUCH lower than any passenger jet normally flys away from an airport, banking harder than they normally would, and on a route they don’t normally fly. A jet escort of a commercial plane had last happened in The Netherlands on October 6, 2018 when a KLM passenger plane en route from Dubai became violent.

We couldn’t find any air shows scheduled or news reports of why the fighters were scrambled, but this morning found a write-up in the NL Times: Fighter Jets Escort KML Plane Across Amsterdam. It turns out it was an unannounced part of the celebration of 100 years of Dutch Aviation.

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StoneTech Sealer
We have marble counters in the galley and both heads. We have several water marks and the counters are dulling with time. We gave Bulletproof Sealer a try but generally it didn’t seem to make a difference. The overall counters weren’t shinier and the water marks were still there. Back to the drawing board on that one.
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Since the stone sealer wasn’t effective, we decided to take an unusual approach. Our logic is that, over time, lots of microscrath dull the surface of the counter and this is similar to what happens to the outside of a fiberglass boat. We decided to try waxing the counter using 3M One-Step Restorer and Wax. This removed the marks and brought back a nice shine—the counters look better than they have in years. And, now that they are waxed they are much less sensitive to liquids and are much more resistant to marking. This looks like a real win and it’s a quick and easy operation.
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The dramatic Pontsteiger building in Amsterdam, viewed from the ferry to NDSM Wharf. We decided to head over to the north shore for lunch.
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Hail started falling just as we were pulling into the dock at NDSM Wharf.
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Submarine B80
The Russian Zulu class submarine B-80 moored off the ferry dock at NDSM wharf as we return back to Amsterdam Centraal. The vessel was brought to the Netherlands by submarine enthusiasts and later sold as a party boat. We liked the idea of a waterfront party, but we’re not sure that a small tube with no windows is the right venue.
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De Bijenkorf
We’d walked past de Bijenkorf department store in Amsterdam several times, but had never gone in. The complex is huge, covering multiple floors and selling brands ranging from Swarovski Jewelry to Levis jeans. We went for the jeans. :)
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Formula 1: Drive to Survive
We’ve been really enjoying the show Formula 1: Drive to Survive, covering the 2018 Formula 1 season. The race footage, interviews, and commentary really bring you into the center of the competition. The final episode covers the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. As we watched, we were commenting on how fun it was to be there in Abu Dhabi to see many of the scenes, events and places covered in this episode. We were walking along pit road when the Red Bull team got together for an end-of-season photograph and then posed for a more lighthearted one with departing driver Daniel Ricciardo. We were standing only ten feet behind the camera operator when this scene was shot.
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Hey, that’s Us!
After showing the Red Bull team photo on Formula 1: Drive to Survive, the scene backed away from the team and swept across the sea of photographers getting that shot. That’s us in the ace viewing position, partway up the stairs to the official’s position over the start-finish line.
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Testing LED Lights
We have rope lighting installed behind the teak window valances in the salon. The lighting had become too dim over time, so we’re considering replacing it with the LED light strips that we use on the boat exterior. Here we are testing for brightness and color in the dark engine room.
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Damaged Rope Light
It’s no wonder the rope lighting was getting dim—it appears to be failing with dark brown overheated sections every six inches along its length. It’s definitely time that one came down.
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Investigating Power Source
We know the rope light string runs on 24VDC, but we haven’t chased down the source yet.
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Departing City Marina
We plan to depart Amsterdam at 5am tomorrow morning and decided to moor on the other side of the bridge tonight to not waste any time waiting for a bridge opening. The bridge is operated remotely on a central system by dailing a number and supplying the bridge code. After testing the number this morning, we couldn’t connect to the system on two different phones and neither could the harbourmaster. He eventually telephoned someone who was able to open the bridge. If that had happened tomorrow morning when we left, our departure would have been delayed for hours.
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Aitana Hotel
After being in Amsterdam for over four months, it’s strange to see the Aitana Hotel without Dirona in front of it.
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Outside Mooring
We moored for the night on an outside wall that is part of City Marina. It was a fun place to be, with a great view of the river. With no power, water or security, it’s not a good spot for a long-term stay, but it’s a pretty awesome place to visit.
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Adrian Van Velsen
California resident Adrian Van Velsen came by for a visit and a tour of Dirona. Adrian is from the Netherlands, but now operates Pacific Yacht Electric, specializing in boat electronic installations. Andrian knows both software and hardware systems well and has worked extensively with many of the system we use on Dirona. We had a fun and wide-ranging discussion.
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Cafe Kobalt
A final dinner in Amsterdam at Cafe Kobalt, with their highly-relaxed resident cat visible behind.
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Amsterdam At Night
Dirona and the city, aglow at dusk, as we return from dinner. What a fabulous berth, and Amsterdam has been an amazing home base over the last four months.
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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4 comments on “March in Amsterdam
  1. Peter says:

    RE buffing counter , Seems a good solution if the wax is safe for human consumption.

    • I definitely wouldn’t want to sign up to consume a bottle of wax and I suspect 3M wouldn’t be interested in certifying their wax as food safe so I think our solution might fail that test in the strictness definition. But I’m also pretty sure that waxing a boat even with breathing filters would expose you to more wax than what would transfer off the counter. I’m not sure if that is an argument to not wax the boat or that the counter is safe :-)

  2. Jonathan says:

    Re: Floating containers
    Given the number of containers in use worldwide, I’d be pleasantly surprised to find that the number lost each year was as low as 1,500.
    I’ve heard stories of problems from other debris hitting ships underway and I assume that containers cause problems as well. Can your radar detect a floating container? Would it depend on how much of the container is out of the water?

    • I’ve seen estimates as high as 10,000 which seems a bit hard to be believe but I agree with you that 1,500 is on the low side of what I would have guessed. The RADAR question is a good one — I’ve not yet seen a container in the water but I would expect that it would be highly visible if floating high. If floating low or at the water line which does seem likely to be the common case, it highly likely to be missed. In even a mid-sized swell “small” boats like a container disappear into the wave clutter and are easy to miss.

      The good news is that there isn’t much out there relative to the surface area of all oceans — we’ve seen very little debris that was big enough to cause a problem. The bad news is that even if you are quite vigilant, much of it might go undetected. The really bad news is the negative outcome of hitting something of this size is pretty big. Perhaps that’s why we don’t hear about that many boats that have hit a container and made it back to report on it :-).

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