2014 A LOG OF OUR TRAVELS IN BELGIUM

 

 

route

 

The route

 

APRIL
On the 14th of April 2014 at 09-45 hrs we left our winter mooring at Dukra marina Zaandam for the last time.

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Our aim for this seasons cruising was to head for Belgium there to spend a year before heading further south to France. Our first call was to the bunker boat on the confluence of the Zaan and the North Sea canal, where we took on 237ltrs of fuel filling our tanks to capacity before we set off on the year’s adventure. From the North Sea Canal we turned on to the Spaarn to be held up at Spaarndam Sluis, this was a little hairy as there was an extremely strong cross wind blowing off the waiting poles. Divers were down in the lock doing an emergency repair because of the wind it took three attempts to enter the lock. Late afternoon saw us in Haarlem and we spent the evening and next day here.

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On the 16th we slipped our mooring and headed towards Braassemermeer to meet up with friends Ruud and Trish and Ad and Tineke on their barges. passing through Gouda on the way it was  on a routine inspection of the stern gear that I found we had a leak yet again!

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Luckily the harbour we were to stay in had a crane. Next morning we were lifted out and it was found that the repairs we had done in Zaandam had failed the weld had cracked. It appeared that the steel used was not heavy enough a repair was effected but we were told it would fail again and that when it did the whole thing would have to be replaced. 423 euros later we are afloat again, we considered ourselves lucky that it happened when it did the yard Meerzicht owners were so helpful and considerate and sorted us out straight away. 18th April we said good bye to our friends and headed off across the Meer at 10-14 mooring on a free 3×24 hour mooring in Alphen on the Rjin.

alphen on de rijn eddited  Alphen on de Rijn

The next day we covered another 17km before mooring again. 22 April saw us cover another 21km and we stopped in Montfort overnight, moving on next morning crossing the Lek at 12-41 and mooring in Vianen good moorings here with water and electric although not free.

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24th April slipped mooring and made our way to Meerkirk free moorings this time, and the following day 25t we set off with the intention of stopping in Woodrichem an historic harbour on the Waal. We crossed the Waal from Gronichem this river part of the Rhine is wide and used by commercial, cruise ships, fast ferries, and pleasure craft alike. Arriving in Woodrichem historic haven we moored up at 12.00 hrs distance covered to date 146km. We stayed here for 3 days taking the ferry back to Gronichem for a look around the town.

The busy Waal, and Woodrichem historic harbour

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28th saw us on our way again towards Den Bosh to give it short name and we arrived at the Gementhaven passing under a low bridge and mooring at 13-29pm. Having spent the evening here we left the following morning and took the opportunity to follow a commercial through the one way system saving some time as the bridges were opened with no delay. Having covered another 30km 9 bridges and 3 locks we moored for the night 208km now on the clock. 30th April on our way again 09-30 we ended the month after another 27km at 237km mooring on a DB recommended 3×22 over 17 meter mooring.

May
1/05/2014 on our way by 09-41 we are now within reach of the Border with Belgium and at midday we crossed the Border and on reaching the Sluice at Bocholt in company now with Nils and Torild on Pase-lagom we entered the lock and went to the office to but our licence for Friesland. By taking the route we had we were to save over 30 euros as both the Belgium and Netherlands governments gave a subsidy to promote the less used waterways and help keep private boats off the major waterways. We discovered that it was cash only and had to lend Nils the cost of his licence as he had only a card. Tried to moor in Bocholt itself but there was no room so ended up on St Huibrech town moorings, here we found a memorial to soldiers killed during the liberation of the town. the moorings were

The Mooring in St Huibrech.

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free but no services so next morning we moved on to Neerpelt just 4km and moored on the jetty having been met by the townspeople who were very welcoming. Apparently the jetty was built for a hotel trip boat which no longer existed and we were welcome to stay as long as we wished. Great place to stop free electric, and shops in the town close to hand. 4th May left the town at 09-08 and 33km later after a 30 min delay at one of the locks we now had 308km on the clock. Next morning we left at 09-20 and were soon on the Albert canal for a short time this has flat walled sides so as with other waterways of its kind tends to be a little choppy from reflected waves. However we were soon off and into Viersal sluice and a much quieter waterway the Netekanaal. We finally moored at a VPF club site on the outskirts of Lier just short of Sluis Duffel having covered 35km.

Left to right- The clock Tower Lier, Believe it or not a blacksmith made this, The approach to town, A flock of steel sheep.

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after mooring we walked into town a very pretty place with some wonderful buildings and Museums, they also have a speciality tart which looked so good we bought 4 to enjoy at leisure the next day. They turned out to be quite disgusting at least to our taste, and to the swans that were invited to eat what was left. Here we had to make some tidal calculations as we were about to enter the tidal section between us and Gent. 06/05/14 the calculations told us we had to leave to go through the Sluis at 14-30 to get the tide down to Ruppelmond on the Bovenshelde where we would have to wait on a mooring for the next favourable tide to take us up to Gent. Still in company with Passé we left the lock and had to make a dash through the lock approach to avoid a commercial coming upstream. (AIS Automatic Identification System) is useful in these situation.

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We arrived at Ruppelmond 17-15p after a fast trip down with the outgoing tide, and moored on the jetty just managing to get on. The harbourmaster met us and gave us some tips on how and when to depart the next day, and also warn us that the passing commercials cause meter high waves to hit the mooring. He was right, much to Carol’s disgust we had quite a rough night. Further calculations told us that we would have to catch the tide as it turned and that would be approximately 8am however we knew from the advice given by the harbourmaster that the best time to slip was as the buoy adjacent to the mooring came upright, slack water because we had to clear the old light ship moored directly in front of us. I got away clean but poor Passé got caught by the flow as h backed off and was flung around twice before regaining control. To explain there is no slack water here it goes from ebb to flow almost instantaneously. We knew we had it right when two commercial boats left at the same time so we took the decision to follow at a distance as they would know the channel.

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It turned out that we would not have been able to stay ahead as Passé was restricted in speed due to a liberal covering of weed and zebra mussel on her bottom, top speed 6-8k hour. We arrived at Sluis Merelbeke where the tidal section ends and you join the Gent Ringvart at 14-38 seven hours later and entered with the three commercial ships here we were asked if we had our Licence and sent on our way we had booked a mooring in Portus Ganda marina Gent and arrived there at 15-50pm a total distance of 70km we stayed here for 5 days and met up with our friends on Eugenie who had travelled down from Eeklo.

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We were to travel together now until after the DBA rally in Diksmuide which was being held to commemorate the outbreak of the 1914-18 war. We decided to take a touristic route to the rally at a leisurely pace and so planned to take the Leie down to Deinze then up the Afleidingskanaal left on to Gent Oostende kanaal into Brugge on to Nieuwpoort, Veurne, (here I took on Diesel from a Lorry at 1.185 euros ltr) mooring overnight just short of Fintele at Fortumbrug where we had an excellent meal in the Old Brewery Museum cafe.

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Old Brewery Museum cafe.                       Fintele Mooring
June
Leaving for Fintele on the 1st June and onwards to Ypres

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On the 4th, and finally Diksmuide. This would take us up to 11-06-14 having now covered 635km. We had a great and thought provoking time at the rally visiting Ypres and attending the last post where the DBA laid a wreath, and a trip to the Death Trenches where the Belgium army faced the German army and lost many men.

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On 17-06 we left Diksmuide and headed for Nieuwpoort mooring in Westhoek marina at 11-55 during our stay here we were boarded by the Water Police who checked all our papers and insisted we needed to do a Schengen paper. Now you only need this if entering the Schengen area of Europe from a non-Schengen country such as the UK not when crossing borders within the Schengen area. When we first arrived in Dunkirk from UK I tried to submit my Schengen papers and no one wanted to know. Now having come to Belgium from the Netherlands when no papers are required I had fill one in that’s EU thinking at its best. 19th 06 we left heading for Gent and moored for the day in Oudenburg an old Roman town on the Plassendale Nieuwpoort kanaal the following day we moved on to Brugge and reversed into the Coupure moorings off the ring kanaal at 13-55pm.

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We stayed here for eight days to enjoy the town while we had a visit from our Daughter and Son I Law Emma and Steve and set off once again on the 31-06 at 09-50am to join the tail of the convoy heading for Gent, arriving here at 16-00hrs in Gent Centrum and paid for a weeks stay. We had now covered 741km.
July
On the 8th July we again headed for Brugge this time to moor in Flandria as we were expecting a visit from some friends we had not seen for many years we wanted to sus out the train connections as this is how they were to join us. The marina is adjacent to the main station about a five minute walk and so more convenient than Coupure. Our visitors Bill and Grace arrived on the 9th and left here again on the 12th back to Gent Centrum so as to give them an idea of what life is all about when you live on a Barge.

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15th July we again left for Brugge each journo is 46km and by now we had covered 878 km. Bill and Grace then had the chance to explore both of these Medieval City’s, and the culture they have to offer and they left us for the UK on the 16th. On the 19th we left Brugge to explore the rest of Belgium before the autumn. Next stop Deinze then on down the Leie through Kortrijk and its one way traffic system ten we moored in Menin 14-15pm staying here for 2 nights. Leaving here on the 23rd we head down to the Bunker boat at Comines reaching here on the 23rd refilling our tanks again we returned to the arm at Menin to overnight, before setting off next morning towards Kortrijk we booked passage through the junction lock on the Kanaal Bossuit-Kortrijk. When we arrived at the control point I radioed for permission to enter the one way system and was told to wait for a commercial coming the other way when I could proceed. On arrival at the junction I again contacted traffic control on VHF 20 to inform them I was clear of the channel and we waited a few minutes for the lock keeper to start us up through the first flight. We moored above Sluis Bossuit 14-00 hrs having now covered 998km. 25-07-14 09-37 saw us underway again heading for Sluis Herinnes which is the border between Flanders and Wallonia. Here Carol had to climb a tall ladder to take our papers to the lock keeper for checking although there is no Licence in this part of Belgium you have to log your journey and have a MET number we already had one 4569 so they found us on the system quite quickly, though they do like you to have a planned route as Carol explained we liked to explore all waterways they put us down as (le grand tour) but that we were eventually heading for Namur. Now on the Haut Escaut we passed through Tournai after some delays as Commercial Traffic takes precedence, through the ancient arched bridge

DSC_1912 DSC_1915 DSC_1920 DSC_1928 DSC_1930   te old bridge and Industrial ruins  old Lime Kilns

and tried to moor on the Visitor moorings but decided we were a bit too heavy and so moved on and Moored in Antoing on the quay at 15-45 1024km. 27 th Leaving at 09-42 we travelled 18km mooring in the port de pleasance de Pervweiz at 12-12.

DSC_1964  our Friends on Avonture leaving the Grand LargemonsmonkeyMons

 

Next morning we set off at 09-30 down the canal Nimy towards Mons arriving at 13-30 in le grand Large and mooring against the wall by the slipway, 26km covered. We booked in for 4 nights and on the 30th late afternoon were again boarded by the Water Police who wanted our papers again this time we gave them everything we could think of fuel log, fire inspection sheets, Life jacket maintenance records and all ships papers to look through all in order so after 45 mins they left happy. It seems to make no difference that you tell them you have already been inspected, they still insist on checking.31-07-14 and we set off at 09-05 heading for the Ascenseur de Thieu this monumental structure is a boat lift that lifts you and your boat 70 metres vertically and is a must do when in Belgium.

historic DSC_1974 DSC_1981  going-up DSC_1998Pictures the Historic Lifts Out of use now and the New lift there were four of us in the lift which takes 20 minutes to accend

Leaving the lift we turned off the Canal du Centre on to the Canal Charleroi Bruxelles and after traveling for 45 km we moored for the night under lock 3 versville. Here when doing my usual checks I found we had again got a leak around the stern gear, the weld had failed on the other side. Panic! We are at least 60 km away from help and this is a serious failure. The Canal we are on and the River Sambre beyond have concrete banks with deep water to the side so in the event of complete failure you cannot put the boat aground. We are in trouble! Frantic phone calls and postings on the DBA Facebook page and Website eventually we phoned Ray Bowen who built our narrow boat and who delivers boats by road to Europe. He was cruising on the Mosel with a friend who is also a surveyor and said hang on a minute and I will get back to you. Within 5 minutes he was back in touch with a recommendation we contact the shipyard in Namur the Meuse and Sambre this we did first thing next morning and they were very helpful, though the yard was officially closed for Holidays they would get us out of the water first thing Monday giving me a few days to limp down to them. I have never sweated so much in my life it was the most nerve wracking time if the weld had failed altogether we would have sunk.
August

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01-08-14 we left with trepidation and reduced revolutions at 09-13 and at 10-45 was blue boarded by a commercial I replied with my blue board and altered to port to pass on his starboard side. We started passing through Charleroi at approx. 11-30 it is a city that reminds you of Hades’ dark, grimy, with steel mills and furnaces belching smoke and flames and you pass right through between the blast furnaces. 14-52 we decided to moor next to the railway bridge marked on the map as a designated stopping place and found it a secure and good mooring if a little noisy. They were working on the bridge grit blasting and repainting until after 7 in the evening. On checking the leak I found it to be worse and decided to try and reinforce / slow it down with some plastic metal I had in the tool kit, this did help a little and served to stiffen the metal. Next morning off again at 09-19 we eased our way to Namur

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and with great relief moored alongside just inside the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse at 15-00 having now covered 1170 km we now had two days to wait before going to the ship yard for repair.04-08-2014 we left the mooring at 06-57 clearing the lock and arriving at the shipyard 07-30 a brief wait while they prepared the trollies and on the signal I meneuverd over the top and we started to lift out of the water at 09-20 great relief! We would be out of the water for four days while they worked out the best way to do the job and fabricate the parts. This Yard builds Viking River Cruise ships so I now have a lot more faith in the job you will see from the pictures what the problem was.

DSC_2045 Up the sideways slipway

DSC_2041 Cracked weld

DSC_2050 - CopyDSC_2052DSC_2055DSC_2057 Shims to hold shaft in line

old bearing cut out new part fabricated and ready again for the water.

The cost of repair here was far less than originally paid for the botch job done in Zaandam. 8th August back in the water and after a wait to make sure the welding was waterproof we waived goodbye to the staff on the yard and went back to Namur to await the arrival of our friends Bill and Vicky. We paid for a week and settled down to de stress and enjoy the town. Once again on the 13th we are boarded by the Police who insisted on checking our papers, so once again out they came this time they physically checked the VHF sets and asked us for zee little book we could not understand what they wanted and in the end we said we were a British ship and did not need zee little book. It was not until they had left that it dawned on me that what they want to see was the Part one Bienavaart Police regulations which we are required to carry and do have on board. At last we heard from our friends who were now running a few days behind so we arranged to meet them in Dinant. 15th slipped our mooring at 09-15 to travel upstream to Dinant no problem through locks 9-8 and 7 but on reaching Ecluse 6 Hun could not get a response on the VHF and after hovering around and repeated calls eventually had a response which was Ecluse Kaput! Returning downstream managed to find a mooring in Godinne a low steiger, pontoon, jetty, whatever you like to call them with 3 of its 4 cleats broken so secured to some posts and my own mooring spikes. 19km run a light day. Next morning off again to try the lock this time no problem and we were through by 10-03am then on up to Dinant. We moored on the town quay at 11-38 this town is famous for being the birth place of Mr Sax inventor of the Saxophone. It also has a Citadel perched high above the town.

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After meeting up with Eugenie we headed back downstream on the 19th in company mooring that evening in Profondeville the town has two small but fantastic moorings for visitors.

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20th August we both moved down to Namur staying here until 22nd. 09-31 and once again we are on our way turning into the Sambre heading back upstream we ended the day back on the mooring at the railway bridge or Pont de rail. Here we had a barbeque in the rain.1261 km now on the log. 23rd off we go again back through Charleroi

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and on to the Charleroi-Bruxelles canal passing through the first lock we find lock 2 closed with a coffer dam across the entrance. We managed to moor for the night on a high wall commercial mooring with a big climb up a ladder to get off the boat. Myself and Bill walked up to the lock and talked to the keeper who we thought told us it would be open again at 6am. Next morning we walked up again and saw that the dam was still in place with much activity and welding going on in the lock, more discussion and we found out that it would be closed for another three days. Now what to do? So we decided to backtrack and travel up the Sambre to a mooring shown on the map this was a good little mooring worthy of mention as it lies alongside a public park just above a church boat. No electric or water but safe and secure nonetheless. 26-08-14 we set of at 09-32 to try again and although there were a few commercials that had also been waiting we were through lock 3 by 12-50 and arrived at the Streppy boat lift at 18-02 to find a big backlog of boats waiting for the decent, we covered 52km that day mooring below the lift. Next morning 27th we left at 09-16 with fishermen setting up all around and impatient to see us leave. That afternoon we turned into the disused arm at Pommeroeul and moored up against what would have been the lock waiting moorings at 13-30. This could be a great way into France the lock is modern and manned but the French did not complete the link so it is now declining again. 28th we left at 08-09 to meet the team who were to take both of us up the canal Blaton-Ath we went through 14 locks and then broke the journey at 14-45 in Laduze 1391km next morning leaving

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September
01-09-14 at 09-02 the team met us at the next lock and we continued for another 9km mooring under lock 21 here arrangements were made to meet the next team the following day to take us on. 2nd September continued along this very pretty canal for a further 20km mooring at 12-00 on a fantastic grassy bank mooring with power and water. 04-09-14 on our way again by 09-00 another 24km and mooring by Church in Denderleeuw 13-00 hrs 5th Sep having done our tidal calculations we arrived at slues Dender 12-30 an hour before high water and enter the Boven Zeeschelde once again and shoot up with the tide to Gent. Passing through Sluis Merelbeke and onto the Ringvart we moored at Konnkluke Gentse pay for Electric Water free 16-15 now covered 1505km 60km today. 6th left the mooring at 09-20 and travelled to Brugge mooring yacht haven Flandria 14-40 43km later. Next morning we leave passing through Brugge towards Nieuwpoort and moor at Stalhille Brug for the night. 8th Sep 09-42 off again passing through Sluis Plassendale 11-23 and right down to Veurne mooring in the harbour at 17-39 we stay here for 5 days and refuel from a Bunker Lorry taking 711 ltr White Diesel at 1 Euro 18 ltr we have now covered 1599km so far this year. 13th on the move again to moor 15km later at Fintele leaving at 09-22 next morning and arriving in Westhoek marina at 13-15 another 30km we stay here until 17th the fish here in Nieuwpoort is to die for. We say goodbye to Bill and Vicky who are putting Eugenie to bed for the winter here on a very foggy morning I radio the lock and we gingerly make our way by feel into the lock visibility is about 100ft we make our way to the first bridge and wait for the convoy north on the Plassendale the fog clears as we set off 10-15 mooring in Oudenburg 12-15. Staying here for a couple of days we visit the town a good walk away and on the 19th set off towards Brugge mooring again by Stalhille Brug 10-47 we enjoy a meal in the hostelry next to the Bridge. 20th and we leave 10-56 in the morning arriving Brugge Coupure at 14-15 and reversed into the harbour under the lifting bridge to moor. We stay here now for 10 days and get to fully enjoy the City that’s when you can get past the tourists! On the 30th September we say goodbye to Brugge and head for our Winter mooring in Gent arriving at 13-58pm we tied up for the last time this year having covered a total of 1731 km the engine had another 258hrs on it and we had run the generator for a total of 95 hours.

 

Our Mooring in Get

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Our Friends Marg and Dave on their visit in October

 

 

 

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Mobile Entertainment and This is the way to do a pub crawl

 

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DSC_2140   Inevitable at rest

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