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To the Bottom of the Sea

When the Zuiderzee was closed off from the Noordzee and the polders were ringed with dikes to begin creating new land, a chain of lakes was left between them and the old coast. These are called the Randmeren, which means rim or margin lakes. The ancient towns around the Randmeren have well-equipped and maintained public mooring facilities, but after 1600, fees are charged, and the fees are expensive.

Because Zonder Zorg is equipped with all modern conveniences, I need nothing but a place to pause for the night. I don't like paying for toilets, showers, laundry, electricity and other facilities I don't use, so I explored the towns, did my shopping, and in the late afternoon, before fees were due, I headed out into the lakes to find secluded places to anchor.

It's common to see complex dredging operations through this area. The shallow parts of the lakes are being deepened for safer navigation, and the dredgings are sorted by type as sand, gravel and clay before being loaded into huge barges. The material is used for construction and to continue building the land.

After crossing the mouth of the IJssel River at the northern end of the chain of lakes, I headed toward the Zwarte Meer along the southern edge of Noordoostpolder. Near Ramspol, I marvelled at the huge works across the navigational channels. This is an inflatable emergency dike, and it's the largest in Europe. It takes only an hour to fill with three and a half million litres of water, expanding to ten metres in diameter and standing three and a half metres above mean water level. Let's hope it's never needed.

At De Voorst, I locked down four point three metres to the level of the southern part of Noordoostpolder. A few kilometres along, another lock drops the canal a further one point two metres.

Out of the lock, I cruised across the bottom of the former Zuiderzee, past virgin forests, grain fields and rows of potatoes. The encircling dikes were closed in late 1940, and the pumping stations started draining in early 1941. The land was considered to be sufficiently drained in September 1942, and settlement began on the new lands shortly after.

During the draining, two former islands, Urk and Schokland, merged with the new land. I'll talk more about them in a future post.

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