Don’t Drink The Canal Water

Amsterdam is well known for its canals and although they are one of the cities main attractions they are well known for not being very clean. It’s not a desirable place to go for a quick swim even if you are diving for abandoned bikes. Drinking the water would most likely end up in the mutation of a third arm or eleventh toe. Given my accident prone nature it might be surprising to know that I have never fallen into a canal myself. However, I do know someone who has.

After leaving a house warming party late one night with a small group of friends we stumbled around the streets of Amsterdam looking for something to do while we waited for the trains started running again.

When a pile of bricks was discovered by a canal an impromptu game of ‘throw the brick in the water’ began. Despite the very simplistic rules I did not want to not take part. The first of the group picked up and threw his brick, almost reaching the other side of the canal. The second person grabbed a brick and did the same but his did not go as far. Then the drunkest person in the group decided it was his turn.

The drunken Scotsman picked up a brick, pulled back his arm and flung out as hard as he could in an awkward move that looked like it might dislocate his shoulder. The brick tumbled forward a few inches and landed just in front of his toes. However, he did not let the rather girly throw dull his determination and another brick was picked up for a second attempt. This time he decided a run up would give his projectile the acceleration it needed.

He took a few steps back, breathed in a deep breath, held the brick up high and ran towards the canal edge. Using the momentum of the run he extended his arm out into a powerful throw. He used all his strength to send the brick into the air. It looked like it could fly for miles. At least it might have if he had not forgotten one important thing. He forgot to let go.

The brick with the Scotsman still firmly attached flew a short distance before plunging into the brown water of the canal. There was panic all around but most of it was coming from the now soaking wet Scotsman who was trying to paddle back towards us. Baywatch might have made life guard duty seem glamorous but there is nothing sexy about fishing a drunk Scottish friend out of a murky Dutch canal at 3am on a Saturday night.

It only lasted a few seconds but as you can imagine he was very happy to be back on dry land again. He let us know this by screaming, “I’m alive,” every few minutes and sounding very surprised of the fact himself. Sadly the same could not be said of his mobile phone which was announced dead on arrival.

We dragged him back to a nearby friend’s house so he could dry off and shout out a few more times about his mortal status. This also gave the owner of the house (and the bathrobe the Scotsman had to borrow) a surprise when we turned up on the door step. The joke, “you look like you’ve been swimming in a canal,” didn’t really work at the time.

The next morning we were all very hung over but still amazed by what had happened. There was a lot of talk about what might have happened over breakfast as well as a few failed attempts to revive the drowned phone. Since that day I think the Scotsman has had a new respect for canals and to my knowledge he has never grown a third arm or eleventh toe, not yet at least.

23 responses to “Don’t Drink The Canal Water”

  1. Ale says:

    you have fun friends! is it true that the canals are actually really shallow?? like waist deep at most?

  2. BlondebutBright says:

    What a story! This is also one of my worst nightmares. The few times I’ve been on boats I haven’t even dared to trail my fingers in the water.

  3. Tina Dealy says:

    Ok,,don’t think that I am an alarmist,,,but with three children, 7 years, 3 years and 10 mos,,,I worry about all of this water! I can see myself being the dorky mom that makes her children walk around town with life jackets on haahaa!

  4. Invader_Stu says:

    Ale – I think there might be some but this one was deeper. Some parts might be waist if you are standing on all the old bikes that have been dumped in it.

    Tina Dealy – There no barriers to any of the canals so I don’t think its dorky to worry about it. Just keep an eye on them and make sure they know not to go to close to the edge.

  5. ellen says:

    Must’ve been his bagpipes that kept him afloat, huh? *SNORF*

  6. bill says:

    haha That’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read. If I ever make it to Europe, you’re gonna need to show me around.

  7. Invader_Stu says:

    BlondebutBright – I fell in a canal once but that was in England. Luckily it was not while in a lock. That would be really bed. The thought of that always scared the crap out of me.

    Ellen – If he had them on him at the time they were well hidden.

  8. Invader_Stu says:

    bill – I can show you the spot where he fell in too :p

  9. Maurits says:

    Haha, yeah, these things happen. Not very regular. At least I haven’t fallen in yet. I’m not going to try either. :)

    Anyway, good story.

    -Maurits

  10. Tina Dealy says:

    Just visited San Antonio,Texas and Downtown they have “rivers” everywhere….ok, they are nothing but canals…..I got the feeling that I am going to freak out for a while in the Netherlands,,,,Does Rotterdam have any many canals,,as Amsterdam?

  11. Invader_Stu says:

    Maurits – I don’t plan to either :)

    Tina Dealy – No, Rotterdam has a lot less canals but it dose have a big river. You could check them out on google earth: http://earth.google.com/

  12. Andrew Tingle says:

    Ah yes – he may not have grown a third arm and such like, but don’t ask him what’s under his kilt!!

  13. Rose says:

    Wow that’s some story red. I was laughing at your comment. “Baywatch might have made life guard duty seem glamorous but there is nothing sexy about fishing a drunk Scottish friend out of a murky Dutch canal at 3am on a Saturday night.”

  14. Bonestorm says:

    New game – see how far you can throw the Scotsman carrying the brick.

  15. Invader_Stu says:

    Andrew Tingle – Never have. Never will.

    Rose – That was a line I came up with after I went to bed and had to wake up to do a quick edit.

    Bonestorm – Does self throwing count?

  16. Excellent site!
    Would love a transfer to our NL office altho my not speaking Dutch means it’s a case of nice story grandma!

  17. ChickyBabe says:

    So canal water doesn’t affect drunken Scotts but kills mobile phones? :P

  18. Stella says:

    That is so true and so …Dutch !!
    During Koninginnendag, there is also a lot of unvolonteer swimmers… And this is probably the worse moment to fall in the Amsterdam canals. huhuhu

  19. Invader_Stu says:

    Broken Biscuits – It’s been five years and I can still only speak very little Dutch :)

    ChickyBabe – That only leaves one option… mutation.

    Stella – lol. You’re not joking. That would be a bad time to fall in.

  20. LN says:

    ah ah ah!

    this story reminds me one…last year I was in delft, mid april or even earlier, some spanish friends just went voluntarily swiming into the canal! it was freezing outside and when watching these canals I have always thought “I really dont want to fall in it”…but they really enjoyed that, except the few days after when almost everyone was sick!

    about amsterdam’s canal, I have always been impressed that not so many cars are falling when parking just on the edge, perfectly! i guess people must be used to it…

    well to conclude, i think i will come back sometimes to read your blog, will remind me some good time passed over there

    cheers
    LN

  21. Dutchie says:

    Fantastic story. Loved to have seen it. And for Tina’s reassurance; I live in Rotterdam and we have far less canals (downtown that is)!

  22. R&R says:

    Don’t know the exact figure, but I heard that most of the houseboats are not connected to the sewer system — and you know what that means for the canals. Also, for every outdoor urinal there seems to be 4 guys peeing in the canals (or about 5 times that on Queen’s Day). Would love to see the canals examined on Grime Scene Investigation (a great show on one of the BBCs that I just discovered now that we have digital cable).

  23. Invader_Stu says:

    LN – I’m not surprised they were ill. Even bacteria must get ill in that water.

    Dutchie – I think I’ve only spotted one or two of them.

    R&R – I realized that one day when I was sitting by the canal side with some friends eating lunch. Basically we were eating our lunch by an open sewer.

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