We started our summer with our Cedar canoe practicing at the Westeinder Plassen. This lake is the remnants of the old Haarmlemeer meer (Harlem Lake) that was drained, diked and tamed in the 1800’s. Now this wonderful lake leads into the ringvaart canal that can take you for miles in any direction within the Netherlands by boat or by paddle The lake is also located next to the town of Aalsmeer this once agricultural area is now the playground for boaters and vacationers that want to escape the busy city of Amsterdam.
The wide open water provides big waves and wind to practice paddling on open water. The smaller protected canals on the west part of the lake that were once home to greenhouses and plant nurseries now offer protection from the wind while providing a more relaxing scenic paddle. These small canals have island vacation plots and still contain island lilac nurseries that can only be reached by boat.
Our first launch on the Westeinder Plassen was at the beach area. This is also the same location for the surf club and swimming beach. The beach location has a nice parking lot and easy access to the lake. There is also a small public boat launch located next to the Aalsmeer water tower but the access is easy to miss and crazy to get in and out of with the constant street traffic. The beach was a great place to get our canoe and paddling arms finally “wet”.
Since we knew we needed to practice all summer we looked into our other available access options. We looked for someplace that had available canoe/kayak storage and daily water access. There are a number of harbors that cater to the motorized/pleasure boat users but we had a hard time finding a place that would let us store our canoe and kayak and also had a good safe place to launch our equipment. We finally located one in late June, Jachthaven ‘t Drijfhuis. This location had a nice spot to safely launch both the canoe and the kayak plus we were able to store the equipment. Now, we didn’t have to haul it to the lake each time. This family run harbor was friendly and easy to work with our special canoe/kayak situation. The harbor was not busy in the early mornings when we mostly were paddling.
Once we had our launch location secured for the summer we spent hours on the water practicing in the early morning and sometimes in the late afternoon after work. We had short distances mapped out and longer distances. The other boat traffic also made us constantly think about changing conditions. We soon realized it was best to be off the water prior to 11 am as the motorized boat traffic started to increase.
One morning, I noticed how still the wind was (something we rarely experience in our part of the country). We quickly hopped in the car and speeded towards Aalsmeer. Sometimes, the conditions where we live don’t always reflect the conditions on the Westeinder Plassen so we were excited as we pulled into the harbor to see a mirror like lake. Not to disappoint, the lake continued our entire paddle that morning to be our special gift.
By August we were at the end of our summer season on the Westeinder Plassen. We had taken so many trips that our GPS routes looked like someone had done a crazy drawing on the map. We had logged near 60 miles in all our practice sessions.
Our last paddle, in August, did challenge our skills. The wind blew hard on the Westeinder Plassen. We struggled to paddle against the wind and fought the white capped waves knowing that we would have the same sort of conditions on the bigger lakes of Northern Minnesota.
We thought that this lake was excellent for practicing our new canoe paddle skills. We loved that our cedar canoe had become a regular on the Westeinder Plassen. By the end of the summer, people commented to us how beautiful of a boat she was and that they enjoyed watching us paddle.
If you visit The Netherlands or already live here, we recommend seeing it from a boat of any kind. It gives you a view into this wonderful country that most never experience. If boating isn’t your thing, the town of Aalsmeer is a wonderful place to visit with plenty to see. The Royal FloraHolland Flower auction, The Historical Horticulture Garden Museum (aka Historische Tuin), and the De Leeuw windmill are all worth your time to visit each giving a view into this special area of The Netherlands.