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Zeeland is really beautiful and this was our first time in this part of the Netherlands. The Veerse Meer is a tideless salt water lake between the islands of Walcheren, Zuidbeveland and Noordbeveland, very close to England, actually. The area is popular with sailors and those who love the outdoor life and is often the first port of call for yachtsmen crossing the channel. There are numerous pretty island moorings in the meers where the peace of this lovely nature reserve can be appreciated. Being independent of ports and electricity means we can take Esme anywhere where we can tie up safely and the water is deep enough. It's great to take the bikes and explore the area on safe, flat, easy paths. Shopping is very simple with our panniers, too. The Dutch of all ages cycle in most weathers so we just join in. It's really good to have the company of Dave and Carol on their barge La Tulipe with their energetic and friendly labradors Coco and Rusty who come to our door every morning for a biscuit after their walk!

Warm enough for a barbeque Biscuit time
Warm enough for a barbeque?                   Biscuit time

Many of the island moorings have a safe sandy beach and woods to shelter us, a kind of paradise. The weather has been kind, the sun quite harsh and it's usually windy here in Netherlands. On a couple of occasions we have had big storms with rough water and salt spray. We used every available rope to tie up snugly and ride it out – talk about battening down the hatches!  Incredibly, the following day, we had perfect peace with the water like a mirror. After supper on the back deck we would sit outside till dusk, taking it all in and realising how lucky we are.

Our own sandy beach A bit of rough weather
Our own sandy beach                           A bit of rough weather

The little town of Arnemuiden is a typical Zeeland fishing community where some of the older women still wear traditional costume every day. We visited the old shipyard, now a wooden shipbuilding museum (it reminded us of our days at Woodbridge). We had a fascinating tour and met the men who still work there restoring the historic fishing boats. One of the volunteers Karel invited us back to see his ship where we passed a pleasant afternoon. At the excellent folk museum we discovered much of the local history and realised that Arnemuiden, with its pretty little shops, crafts and customs has hardly changed over the centuries. Another pretty village we visited was Kortgene, where it seems time has stood still, several big yacht harbours, super little bars and restaurants serving delicious fresh local seafood.

Wooden ship restoration Hoogenaars
Wooden ship restoration at Arnemuiden         The Hoogenaar - a traditional fishing boat

Having spent several weeks out in the wilds we decided it was time to move on. Esme was also finding the salt air not so kind to her paintwork, so we set off via the tidal Oosterschelde pausing for a couple of nights at Tholen then up the Volkerak for the fresh waters of Hollands Diep and north to Dordrecht. This trip took us amongst some really heavy commercial traffic – a bit of a change after the peace of the islands of Zeeland.  Dordrecht claims to be the oldest city in the Netherlands and we nested in to the historic ships' haven in a pleasant part of town for an extended stay. Essentially Dordrecht is an island and as well as being an ancient city with lots of see and do, nearby is the Biesbosch - a wild life nature reserve of marshes and lakes, the perfect place to sail, cycle and canoe. As usual we have been occupied with maintenance jobs inside or out as the weather allows, part and parcel of life on board. It is also easy from here to obtain parts and materials with good transport links to other places.

Tholen No, you can't adopt my dogs
Tholen                                        No, you can't adopt my dogs

This year we have not felt the need to rush anywhere - more relaxing and flexible. We shall make a short trip to England from here before returning for the next leg of our journey to Gouda.
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