Monday, September 08, 2014

Wonderful World Harbour Days

I mentioned in my last post that I had to vacate the helling early this time round because the harbour management wanted to use the slipway as part of the World Harbour Days celebrations. I am happy to report they did just that…and it was truly amazing. In fact, I think I can honestly say this year's event in the Oude Haven was one of the best ever…and we've had a few!

Normally at this event, Koos and I, together with members of the family, take the Vereeniging on a lap of honour of the five harbours that make up our outdoor museum complex. But this year, even though we fixed the engine problem (see last post), we found our departure was blocked by a row of barges and tugboats right across the entrances (or exits) on both sides, so we couldn't leave our mooring. We didn't mind though. We just climbed in my little rowing boat with an electric outboard motor instead, and wove our way between the other vessels to see what was going on.

Our exit was blocked by boats 
I've published many of these photos elsewhere, but to really explain what was going on needs a few words as well. For that, you can't beat a blog!

Sunday's event was what was called a toeterconcert. Apparently, these are not unusual in Holland, probably because there are so many boats with horns, but what happened was this: a collection of brass bands gathered on a huge pontoon barge which was set halfway up the slipway (which I'd vacated last Friday). They were directed by a conductor from one of the boats in the harbour by means of a microphone and loudspeaker. They played a number of pieces with great enthusiasm if not much finesse, and at intervals they were joined by the barges and boats hooting their horns.

A collection of brass bands gathered on a pontoon
halfway up the slipway
It was a marvellous cacophony. I just loved it. Small boats were filled with people just hovering in the harbour listening to this vivid, slightly out of tune, but crazily vibrant music. The jetties, bridges and terraces were packed. Everyone was spellbound. And smiling broadly.

Small boats filled with onlookers

People watched from the bridges and terraces

Harbour families watching from their rowing boats

Then at one point, a trumpeter standing high on the platform of a fire-fighting tugboat, played a magnificent solo. It was quite breathtaking. The whole show ended with the same boat creating a huge fountain of spray with its high pressure hose. What a fitting end!

A trumpeter plays on the fire-extinguisher platform of
a fire boat/tugboat

The tug's fire extinguishers create a fountain of spray
Throughout the event, we wove our way through the pontoons and barges in my little plastic rowing boat taking photos and enjoying the atmosphere.

All in all it was a great day and another fabulous World Harbour Days celebration to add to the memory collection. In fact, I haven't missed one now for several years as the event marks the end of summer for most of us here. Isn't it great it always does so with so much aplomb?

I describe other, former World Habour Days in my book, Harbour Ways. If you would like to read a sample of the book, you can find it here


  1. How fabulous, I really would love to see that. A watery equivalent of a street party! Great that you enjoyed your weekend so much, especially after all your hard work last week xxx

  2. Oh no, some of your photos wouldn't appear on my iPad - but I'm in an airport hotel so may have a wobbly internet connection. Shame - you obviously had a wonderful time.

  3. Hi Val - looks totally amazing and the weather has been glorious ... lucky you - and the brass band and tooters .. what fun .. cheers Hilary

  4. Fran, you must come one of these days! And World Harbour Days would be a good excuse! Perhaps you could sail over :) xx

    Jo, it will still be here when you're back from the Irish! Have a wonderful time!

    Hilary, it was super super fun. I just loved it…out of tune bands and all! It was so cheerful! Thanks!

  5. Seems to have been a very entertaining day Val. I have never heard of this being done elsewhere is it singular to the Netherlands do you think ?

  6. Mel, I don't know if it's done elsewhere, but I can't imagine toeterconcerts are unique to Holland. However, Rotterdam is the only city in NL to have the World Harbour Days. It may of course happen elsewhere too!

  7. Sounds awesome - a perfect way to spend the day!

  8. There's a lovely gathering of narrow boats on the Regents Canal every year and it always looks such fun. I can't help thinking about the logistics of getting all those boats in and out for a party though! :)

  9. Carol, it's the best fun of the whole year!

    Jenny, it requires lots of cooperation and skills in manaoeuvring…which I don't have myself, but most of these bargees do!

  10. What an exciting place you live in Val.

  11. I love this! Fine way to end the summer season in style.


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