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den herraghty

Ameland - Waddensea

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Mods - if this is in the wrong place please move.

I've just completed some trips on the ferries of Wadenborg (Waddensea) and TESO (Texel). Here's the first report:-

My line manager has a somewhat ‘relaxed’ approach in producing our six weekly shift rota which is why, for the second time this year, I find my self making last minute plans. As I like to combine both of my passions (ferrying and flying) whenever I can it’s a bit more challenging this time as my week off is in the middle of August – height of the school holiday season.

The flying part is to the forefront this time as I only need one return Club Class flight with British Airways to keep my silver status for another year and, as some of their Gatwick flights are being operated by leased in aircraft, this is where my search begins. A reasonably priced Amsterdam flight is chosen as the outbound on the thursday will be operated by Titan Airways with the return on saturday evening operated by PrivatAir – both on Boeing 737’s.

Flying sorted – now for the ferrying. The island of Texel was the obvious choice (as it was the closest to Schiphol) but I needed something more challenging. The islands of the Wadden Sea in North Holland beckoned as I knew they were reasonably easy to get to – I had a trip to Terschelling last year – and some research revealed that Ameland was served by two vessels from Holwerd. Sorted!

Thursday 16th August

After a good night’s sleep in the Travelodge Central close to Gatwick, I had one of my quickest ever transits through check-in, security and in to the Lounge. (Luckily it wasn’t a week later when the departure screen system crashed causing chaos). My reward was a glass of ‘good’ champagne, rather than the normal offering of Castelnau, along with my breakfast.

En route to the departure gate my heart sank a little as I couldn’t see a Titan Airways plane. I think they have one of the more interesting liveries around (see here) so it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot. Further investigation revealed an all white aircraft parked by the stand – yep its mine.  It’s a relatively short flight today which makes the service a little hurried for the CSM who’s looking after the eight of us in Club.

At Schiphol it’s a loooong walk from the ‘D’ gate arrival area to immigration – where the automatic gates are firmly tensa barriered off – and through to the railway station for my onward travel to Leeuwaarden and Holwerd.  For a mid afternoon departure the train seems to be very busy – this was not the advice that the NS.nl website had displayed when I checked the times – and only got busier as we headed north. I found out on arrival that there was a ‘Cultural Festival’ taking place over the next few days which would also explain the high prices/lack of availability of hotels in the town.

Arriva route 66 provides the connection to the Ameland ferry at Holwerd and is advertised s a ‘schnelldienst’ (fast service). The driver tonight certainly took this to heart and as a challenge! About half an hour later we arrived at the ferry terminal and this is where I discovered that I should have got off 4 km earlier when the vehicle had circled into a bus stop…….kindly the driver let me travel back once the ferry had arrived – which was running 30 mins late. A common occurrence judging by his obvious disgust!

Holwerd Provinciaalweg is the stop for the town. It is eerily quiet as I try to find my hotel. I get the feeling that, if it was a village in Britain, curtains would be most certainly be twitching! I’m fortunate to arrive just before the kitchen closes (20.00) or it would have been a hungry night.


Friday 17th August

The small hotel I stayed in offered a simple breakfast and ‘let yourself out’ policy this morning.  With half an hour to spare before the bus, I wandered around the very quiet town providing some excitement for a bored small child – who ran to get his dad to look at the stranger!  I stopped at the church where I discovered a small Commonwealth War Graves plot containing five graves. One is clearly marked with the RAF insignia, the other four were unfamiliar. Not wishing to walk across other peoples resting places I duly paid my respects from the path.  An internet search on my return revealed that the four were RNZAF crew (all aged 23) and, along with the RAF crewman, were from bombers shot down over the Wadden Zee. There is also a monument to a resistance fighter.

A gentler bus ride takes me down to the ferry terminal. This is reasonably well appointed with a large shop (marketed as Wagenborg Plaza) and an adjacent panoramic restaurant. Tickets are only issued on the mainland and cost € 15 return. Access to the ship is by electronic gate – but – there’s no need to hurry as the vessel is late again. This gives me the opportunity to monitor her progress from Ameland. A twisting buoyed channel is evident and she can be seen slowly moving her way along it, the shallow water not assisting her progress. The vessel is due to depart at 09.30 but she doesn’t get alongside until then which is when the efficient disembarkation/embarkation comes into play. Footies have separate gangways onto the main passenger deck, situated below the car deck in true Wadden Sea style. Cyclists join along with the vehicles. There are a lot of us today – but nothing the ships’ 1200 capacity can’t handle and we sail 20 minutes late at 09.50.

I’m on the ‘OERD’ for this sailing which, along with her near sister ‘SIER’, provide an hourly service in the high season. Operated by Rederij Wagenborg she is the younger of the two coming into service in 2003 – her sister predating her by eight years. Both replace ships of the same name, these being moved eastwards to the company’s Lauwersoog – Schiermonnikoog service. They are augmented by a schnelldienst  (MS Fostaborg – 44 seats) and a bookable water taxi . Crossing times are advertised as 50/25/15 mins respectively with a supplement payable for the hi-speed craft.

I forego my traditional departure beer on this occasion as both of the café counters have long queues and make my way up to the small side deck above the car deck. The loading is just being completed with freight vehicles occupying one of the middle lanes and some smart positioning by the deck crew allows a couple of extra cars on board. As we leave, ‘Fostaborg’ arrives and ‘SIER’ has made good progress on her journey to the mainland. I’ve moved up to the sun deck which gives a greater appreciation of how much the channel meanders and indeed the depth of water is quite shallow. As we twist our way along, ‘SIER’ passes slowly on our starboard side whilst ‘Fostaborg’ does a very close high speed pass to port. A photographer does a very good job of capturing both craft!

Time to explore. As well as outdoor seating the Sun Deck has a functional lounge, directly under the bridge, offering a variety of vending machines. The ice cream one is doing good trade today.  Descending three sets of stairs brings me to the main passenger accommodation which, although below the car deck, is still above the waterline. It looks quite modern and has natural light from large windows. To starboard, on this particular sailing, is the mirror image café counters. The large queues have now dissipated and only the after section is open for service. A good selection of drinks is supplemented with hot snacks and main dishes and - more importantly – beer! Okay – it’s only Heineken and not one of the island brews but it does the job. The steward who serves me is probably the tallest I’ve ever seen on a ship.

Although the lounge is fairly busy there are still some seats free and, of course, there’s always the lower deck to try out. There are some stylish and quirky round tables (with toadstool style seating) adjacent to the counters with traditional style seating throughout the rest of the area. To one side are the clearly marked entry and exit points for both ports and the whole deck has an airy, open plan style as the toilets are located at either end of the lounge on the deck below. The lighting down there is an odd mixture of white and ultra violet fluorescent which gives it a calming/soothing – but slightly weird –ambience. The deckheads above the stairwells to this lounge feature a ‘starlit night’ effect and provide an additional opulent touch.

 A look at my watch tells me that we should be approaching the end of our journey however the view out of the windows show that we are still some way away. In all it takes us 1 hr 10 mins to complete the journey and ‘OERD’ berths in Nes at 11.00 – when she should have been halfway back to Holwerd.  She discharges reasonably quickly and sets sail again at 11.20, a delay she won’t make up later in the day. Indeed ‘SIER’ is already on her approach as she sails.

Nes is the main port on the island and it is an easy 15 min stroll to the town. As well as the ferry terminal (a very much simpler affair than Holwerd) there are three different companies offering sightseeing cruises, a marina with a large variety of vessels and a workboat pontoon. There are bus services– operated by full size electrically powered vehicles –to take you to other parts of the island.  The walk takes you past the ubiquitous bike hire facility, the VVV (tourist office) and then into the town.  Like most island capitals, it’s quite small and compact but with just the right amount of shops/restaurants to keep you entertained for a couple of hours. Which it did!

I made my way back to the port to catch the 14.00 sailing of ‘SIER’ (the departure times change in the afternoon) via the VVV office so that I could pick up a couple of fridge magnets for colleagues at work (Honest!!!!). The assistant was intrigued by my Scottish accent and was pleased that someone had come that far to see her island. I admitted that I had only travelled from Hampshire – but she was still impressed.

By the time I reached the ferry terminal, ‘OERD’ was just completing loading for her 13.00 sailing, still a hefty 40 odd minutes late. I have a seat in the ‘no frills’ terminal and await the arrival of my vessel. There’s not a great deal of footies for this sailing – but still a healthy load for the car deck. Familiar with the layout I head straight for the café and my departure beer. This safely in hand it’s off to the sun deck which is now living up to its name (it was a bit overcast on the outward). A short blast on the ships’ siren indicates that we are about to depart and gets a startled dog barking for Britain The Netherlands. We leave the island in brilliant sunshine soon beginning our elongated weave back to the mainland.

As already mentioned, ‘SIER’ is the elder sister although she certainly doesn’t show it. The main lounge has a less opulent feel about it – but is still very smart. The lights above the stairwells are simpler – but still eye-catching.  The biggest difference is in the lower lounge which has subtle lighting, partitions dividing the space up and a better ambience than that on ‘OERD’. Back up one deck and the light load lets me get a better impression of the main deck. It’s all about getting large number of people through catering (if desired) quickly, plenty of seating and quick ingress/egress at ports.

We’re now approaching Holwerd and the end of this part of the report. ‘SIER’ has completed this trip in her allocated 50 minutes so I’m not sure why ‘OERD’ has difficulty in doing so. Once alongside it’s a quick disembarkation and on to the bus to Leeuwaarden. Arriva is possibly a bit over optimistic about the number of passengers travelling – it’s a bendy bus and there are three of us!

Summary and Suggestions

It’s been a good day. Two new ferries/ports, one new island and several new ferry postcards for my collection. The buses ran to time/waited for ferries.

For a hastily arranged trip it’s gone pretty much to plan. If this has inspired you, I would recommend staying in Leeuwaarden where there is a greater choice of hotels and things to do of an evening. It’s also easy to get to the islands of Terschelling and Vlieland via Harlingen from here.

As always comments.observations are more than welcome.



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21 hours ago, Gardian said:

Well,  nobody else has said it, but really interesting.  Thanks.




20 hours ago, Tumnus2010 said:

Did this route a few years back. Only a day trip and would like to go back! Thanks for the report.

Thanks guys - it means a lot!

Tumnus - did you travel on the older twins or these two?



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