Sunday, November 09, 2008
Canals are for cruising, rivers for watching
My Vereeniging was built as a delivery vessel for the smaller waterways of inland Holland - specifically for the Oude Rijn, which in the area of Utrecht is narrow and winding, and in fact is the original course of the Rhine in this part of the world. Its now larger and more important successor is a re-routing of that waterway, widened and deepened to accommodate the heavy traffic that it now bears across the continent from East to West and vice versa.
In the days when the Vereeniging was used for transporting goods, it pottered along the Oude Rijn and the Vecht rivers, carrying goods from one town to the next, very much as a local delivery service would do today by road. Indeed it was in use up until the 1960's, but then road transport took over as faster and more economical, and so my little barge was put aside by the family firm that owned it. It was only at the end of the 1990's that they finally agreed to sell what was now a rotting hulk to the old boy from whom I bought it. This remarkable old man set about restoring it to what it was in the days of its cargo carrying glory, and when I eventually bought it from him in 2001, the exterior had been substantially if not sufficiently restored (as I was to find out later).
Since I've had it, though, there's one thing I've learnt through harsh experience. The Vereeniging does not like faring the big waters, and as a result, neither do I. It is long and narrow with a flat bottom that causes it to roll like a porpoise on the swell, and if the waves break over it too strongly, then water gets in. I've partially cured that risk now by having steel welded under the side panels which used to be completely removable, but even now, water could still get in between the sides and the roof hatches. It has always been a canal boat, and it always will be, and for me, these smaller waterways, passing through quiet rural scenery, are what I love the most.
Nevertheless, I live in a city dominated by its river - the Nieuwe Maas - a magnificent river that I never fail to enjoy. I walk a length of it every day with Sindy, and the sight of heavily laden barges ploughing deep through the channels and massive container carriers steaming alongside hefty tugs and push barges never fails to fascinate me. The light can change in a second and you see the weather rolling in from the west or the sun breaking through towering clouds over the water. I have taken many many photos of the Nieuwe Maas myself, but none so breathtaking as this one of Koos's that I've published here. For me it sums up the drama, the magnificence and the beauty of the Maas. I maybe a canal cruiser by choice, but for sheer inspiration, it is this river that I am drawn to daily and irresistibly.