Monday, August 20, 2012

Back in action

The photo above was taken on a happy day in September 2008 when the the barge in the picture, the Hennie Ha, was newly ours and we had just finished sprucing it up to take it to its new home in Sas van Gent. We were celebrating our delight with the work we had done. However, the four years since have seen troubled times for our little barge. At the insurance inspection we'd had done in Rotterdam, the inspector told us we would have to have the steel plates that had been used to 'double' the bottom removed and replaced. They were too thin to be acceptable and we were given one year to have the work done.

Shortly after this happier photo was snapped, we made the journey through Zeeland as far as Hansweert, where I left Koos to go back to work in Rotterdam. Koos continued across the Westerschelde, an estuary so busy with sea-going ships and so riddled with sandbanks and shallows that you need a special licence to navigate it. He made the crossing without mishap, but just as he turned into the big sea canal from Terneuzen to Gent, the steering shaft broke. Some of you who have been reading my blog a long time might remember this episode. It was traumatic for Koos but a blessing that it happened so close to a lock and not out in the middle of the main shipping channel.

He was given a tow to Sas van Gent, and since then, the furthest the Hennie Ha has travelled under its own steam is from Zelzate (four kilometres towards Gent) back to Sas after having spent nearly a year at the shipyard having its bottom replaced (so to speak).

It took close to the year we were given to organise these very necessary repairs as we couldn't find anyone to do the work at a price we could afford.  Some of you might also remember that at the first attempt, the yard at Zelzate could not lift the Hennie Ha with their crane because it was too heavy, so she had to be towed back to Sas by our narrow-boating friends, Olly and Anne on the Wandering Snail. That was on 2 July 2009

The second attempt  was made early in 2010.  In the intervening months, we had looked at several other options, all of which were too costly and the Hennie Ha just lay sadly at its berth. Except for the fact that Koos managed to fix the steering and I did my best to keep up with the maintenance, it could not go anywhere. Had any problems occurred with the hull, we would not have been insured, hence we were effectively 'gated'.  In the end, another arrangement was made with the yard at Zelzate and Koos risked the trip back. This time the barge was pulled up the slipway - where it remained until February 2011.

On that cold, but exciting day, we brought the Hennie Ha back to Sas van Gent again, but that was not the end of the story. The steering was still giving problems and we needed to set up the cooling system. It had only ever been a botch job, so now it needed doing properly.

In May 2011, we attempted a trip out with some friends, but once again, the steering gave problems. By this time, our confidence in the little barge had dropped again, and it never really recovered sufficiently to get things moving again during 2011. Apart from that, the rest of the year brought other priorities that needed our attention and so the Hennie Ha lay in its berth again.

This summer did not really materialise until this month, weather wise, and again, there were other priorities that prevented us from testing out the new cooling system that Koos had set up in June. Still, (and yes, you knew I'd come to the point eventually) we finally did it.

As I mentioned in my last post, after some very necessary testing  - and I won't bore you with the details - we were finally satisfied the Hennie Ha was ready to go again. So, today, we did it. It took some resolve - after all, our faith in the boat had taken some knocks - but we finally cast off and went for a test run. The silly thing is that it was so thrilling and so exhilerating I totally forgot to take any photos!

We didn't go far. Bit by bit, you understand. Next time, it will be further, and we have a special trip in September to aim for. The point is, though, we did it. Out and back without a problem. Are we pleased? We are. More than just a bit.


  1. A very much needed bit of encouragement.

  2. Congratulations on your mishap free trip!! I know that when we almost sunk 'Carpe Diem' in the middle of the North Sea it took a while for me to feel confident again. I am sure you will now have many happy hours on her xxx

  3. Great to see Hennie Ha again.She's looking good. Praps we'll manage a cruise together soon??? xxxx

  4. It was, wasn't it Koosje?

    Fran, that must have been scary! How did you get out of that one?

    Anne, I hope so too! xx

  5. Yay, even if it was short, it was "back in action". What a trip it's taken to get to this point.

  6. Grace! So nice to see you here. I must come and visit you too, dear. I think you've been off blog for a while, no? Big hugs xxx

  7. It must be a hell of a worry val to have such a huge expensive responsibility .
    But it must be lovely when its all up and running ,luv to come and see your barge some time.
    Take care
    Lots of luv

  8. Thank you...errr...Hamish? Somehow, I feel you know me quite well, which means I must know you quite well too, but I can't quite place the

  9. That's brilliant news. I knew you would get it working again eventually. I'm confident that there is nothing Koos can't fix.

    It might have only been a short trip out we got to experience but I can see why you like the boat so much (even if it was slightly less when it was giving you all the problems).


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