Ferry hopping in the Kaag en Braassem wetlands

Living with water ,Trade routes ,

With all the water in Kaag en Braassem it can sometimes be difficult to get places. In order to help cyclists and pedestrians from having to go kilometres out of their way through the polders, ferries are used at various points. In most cases this very handy.

An exception is the ferry to the Kaag: it is the only access to the island. The ferry to Kaageiland is the only one in the municipality which operates day and night. Cancellation is not an option.

One minute

The Kaag ferry connects the villages Buitenkaag en Kaag, the municpalities of Haarlemmermeer and Kaag en Braassem and the provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland with each other. This takes one minute, as it only involves crossing over the Ringvaart which is 38 metres across. A trip that the ferry makes hundreds of times a day in the summer.

Familiar faces

Most people making the crossing are residents of Kaag and the employees of companies and restaurants on the island. The employees of ship builder Van Lent are the biggest group. ‘After a while you get to know the faces of most of the residents’, says ferryman Michel Monster. ‘From the time they are children, as all children go to school in Buitenkaag, you see them leave in the morning and return in the afternoon. There are some 500 mensen, so it's not too hard to keep track.’

Back and forth

The most important differences with other ferries in the municipalities are the 24-hour service and the possibility of taking the car over. With 200 cars on the island, the ferry would have to go back and forth 50 times to get them all on the shore. In the summer it can get very busy. Visitors are advised not to take the car along. Everything can be reached on foot on the island and there are bicycles for hire.

Indian food

That you can always get off the island is great if you want to have an extra nightcap at one of the restaurants. For residents it is an absolute necessity. ‘That is why we run night services’, legt Michel uit. ‘On the side of the Kaag we have a ferryman cottage with TV and internet. When someone wants to go to the other side, he can knock on the door, and if you are on the other side you can ring a bell. We sail back and forth some 30 times at night.’ That Michel knows the residents appears from the many friendly greetings. ‘I know precisely who has an account, so that I do not have to walk over needlessly to settle up. And of course you see precisely who is crossing over with whom - and they don't always belong together!’, he laughs. The residents know their ferrymen well, there are eight of them, and appreciate their work. ‘You regularly get a little extra, like an Easter egg or a bottle of wine at Christmas. Every Wednesday Restaurant De Twee Wilgen brings a plate of Indian food for the on-duty ferryman. It's delicious!’

Into the water

Operating a ferry is easier than it looks. ‘It took a few weeks before I had really mastered it. It matters whether you are standing with your back to the east or to the west; it makes a difference when steering toward the shore. If the wind is blowing hard, you really have to watch out. The ferry is untethered in the water. I have been blown some way in the direction of Leimuiden.’ In the winter the water remains open and it is difficult to sail in between ice floes. ‘Those things can really get in the way, especially when mooring. But with the 80 hp diesel engine I can give a good push.’ Car drivers have to put the car on the handbrake, as the trip can be a little unstable. ‘You sometimes see a tap, but usually everything goes smoothly. I once saw someone wanting to drive onto the ferry from the shore, while I was on the other side. He just kept driving!’

Shady figures

No one is waiting for a bridge connection. ‘The residents like the idea that not just anyone can get on to the island. I recently saw a few shady figures standing on the shore. They did not really have an explanation as to why they wanted to be on the island in the middle of the night. I assume the burglary figures are low.’

In addition to the Kaag ferry there are three more ferries in the municipality. From the Kaag there is a bicycle ferry sailing from May through September to Oud Ade. The Paddegat ferry sails between Woubrugge and Roelofarendsveen and the Oude Wetering ferry takes you from Oude Wetering to Leimuiden.