Sunday, March 27, 2016

Open steering? Not for the faint-hearted

In that early phase of my watery life, the one where I was still with the erstwhile and before I embarked on single bargehood, I had my first experience of the not-so-joys of an open steering position. The occasion was also notable as it was my first ever trip with Koos, but at that stage I must stress that we were merely friends with no more than a mutual fondness for boats and barges to connect us.

The way it happened was that Koos had heard from Bill (the erstwhile) that I was hankering for a boat trip that would take me somewhat further than up and down the harbour in a rowing boat with a dodgy seagull engine (see Lights Out post). Now in those days, Koos was the owner of two boats: a gorgeous tugboat called Loeki, on which he lived, and his newly acquired (at the time) Luxor, the dumb barge he was building up and converting into a home. Also in those days, he lived in Leiden, a beautiful Dutch university city between The Hague and Amsterdam. We knew him because he'd been in Rotterdam working on the Luxor, but it was the end of both his contract and his holiday, so he had to take it back to Leiden until the following year.

Word got round, Bill conferred with him and before I knew it, I was booked on a mission to accompany Koos on his trip back.

Well, it was a journey to remember, that's for sure. The day dawned dry, but it was grey and the sky was heavy. I can recall looking at the clouds dubiously and wondering if I really wanted to do this. Still, I reasoned, Koos' son would be there too, so we could take turns in crewing.

Some reasoning that turned out to be.

I joined Koos and son, Sanne, on board early on that dreary Saturday morning. All went well as Koos steered us deftly out of the harbour and onto the river. I don't exactly remember when it started raining, but it can't have been immediately or I might not have been happy to go at all. In fact I was visibly thrilled to be there.  Somewhere or other, there is a photo of me sitting smiling on the engine room roof as we motored west along the Nieuwe Maas toward the entrance to the Delftse Schie, so it was still dry then. Nevertheless, before we had left the outskirts of Rotterdam it was definitely precipitating with purpose.

In response to the general inclemency and with no sign of guilty hesitation whatsoever, Sanne disappeared inside the Luxor, found the only chair in an otherwise empty hull and promptly went to sleep. That left me trying my best to help Koos - a thoroughly noble duty that entailed holding a large green and white striped Amstel umbrella over most of him and a part of me. Meanwhile the rain thundered down and bounced off all the shiny steel surfaces rather like a million ping pong balls. It wasn't long before we were both drenched from both ends - bottom and top.

How Koos managed to steer through the downpour I'm not quite sure. He did though. Stoically and even cheerfully despite the fact that his glasses were spattered with rain and kept steaming up.  Every now and then, I would wipe the worst of it off with a soggy hanky, but of course it didn't help much.

And so in this style, we crawled our way north to Delft - the odd couple on the odd barge with the odd and incongruous protective cover of a beer garden umbrella. I mean you can just picture it, can't you?

The Luxor
It should have been a beautiful rural trip, but I don't remember seeing much of the bankside at all; it was effectively obscured by the thick curtain of rain. By the time we reached Delft, my umbrella holding arm was flagging somewhat and the brolly was shaking. At the same time it sported a slightly drunken tilt - quite appropriate really given its origins. This meant we were even wetter (if that was possible), so it was a huge relief to me when Koos decided we needed some lunch and pulled into the quay.

It was also in Delft that I decided I was one of the faint-hearted ones and that I wouldn't make it to Leiden.  So I abandoned ship (in this case, barge) and caught the train back to Rotterdam after some much needed coffee. All this makes it even stranger that later, when looking for my own barge, I ignored everything I'd learnt about the drawbacks of open steering positions and fell in love with the Vereeniging, a very obviously wheelhouse-free boat. I'm still wondering about my sanity to this day, but I'm afraid it can't be cured.

I still have no wheelhouse.
And I still love the Vereeniging.


24 comments:

  1. I think I’d most definitely be in the faint-hearted category, Val :-) We seem to have had nothing but rain and wind since we moved in December, although to be fair, there have been a few sunny days. But after taking the dog for his morning constitutional in yet another downpour, I’ve seen enough rain to last me a good long while!

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    1. It's been awful this year, hasn't it, Cathy. As Jo quite rightly says, I still hate rain and so I'm something of a fair weather cruiser!

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  2. Many years ago I used to wear an immersion suit whenever I was afloat in open boats, for the risk of going overboard was quite high and frequent.
    So on reading this your latest blog post it seems to me that you definitely need to invest in one them ?

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    1. Is that like the jackets they put round immersion heaters? I've never heard of those, Mel. I definitely want one!

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    2. No, the immersion suit is made of neoprene and is very like the helicopter pilots suit, in that has a soft rubber collar at the neck and on the cuffs, there is a strong wide zip from the shoulder to mid waist and the boots are welded to the legs. A marvellous piece of equipment which allows the wearer to wear ordinary garments in under. Another name might be a Dry Suit.

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    1. Yes, I do, Jo. You're quite right. I should have added that too!

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  4. Ah life is funny like that - and you ended up with the guy, too :)
    Happy Easter, and I do hope it is not raining upon you today Val.

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    1. It's a lovely day today, thanks Patricia! Bright and sunny, but pretty windy.

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  5. You are an absolute marvel, Val! I'll chuckle over this great story for the rest of the day! And on another subject, I want to follow your blog, but I don't see a button or anything to press...it's probably right in front of me. When you get a chance, give me a clue about how to follow you. Thanks! And thanks for a wonderful story!

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    1. Thanks, Steph. I'm glad you enjoyed it :) The follow button is a bit further down on the right hand side between the Skipper's Child Trailer and the popular posts list. Maybe I should move it to the top and it would be easier to find. I'll do it later, so if you read this today, look down and if it's tomorrow, look up :-D

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  6. Your experience reminds us why we put up with Snail's carbuncle!xx

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    1. I think I need one, Anne but it would have to be specially made to fit round my horizontal wheel...expensive, I think.

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  7. Val. Thanks for sharing this journey. I felt as if I was on board. Also. there is nothing like a trusted friend. Lynn

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    1. Indeed, Lynn. And the friendship remains 😄

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  8. And you went back for more? Must be love ;) When Pete first built the yacht, some 25 years ago, he decided that a wheelhouse would hamper the speed and steering, now he is a little (!) older, he would give anything for a wheelhouse! Xxx

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    1. Haha, Fran. Love for the boat or the man? Okay, both :) xxx

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  9. Hi Val - after the weekend's squally storms here .. I can feel your dislike of rain and wet at times that are inconvenient to us ... but you're enjoying your time with the Vereeniging ... and the love of the canals hasn't changed ... cheers Hilary

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    1. All true, Hilary. In an idea world, I'd be drifting along on a canal in a country of constant sunshine, but that wasn't and isn't to be!

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  10. Val, it's good to see you have some wimpier spots and are not all superwoman!

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    1. Oh Stephanie, I am so far from being Superwoman it isn't even funny. I'm clumsy, bumbling and very unhandy with throwing ropes. I am ashamed when I see how dextrous and confident some other women are.

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  11. Rain does spoil most days out but we couldn't survive without it. We spend our lives in Scotland moaning about the rain. I wonder what you would have thought that day if someone had whispered in your ear that the man who was steering the boat would be your partner one day.

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    1. You are right about the rain, Anne! I loathe it, but know we are actually lucky to have so much when so many parts of the world are stricken with drought. About Koos, I don't think I would have believed it if someone had said that at all. We liked each other, but there was no spark at all then, so I would probably have muttered something like 'in your dreams' :)

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