Saturday, November 10, 2018

Between the tide and the traffic

Last week, I wrote about the joys (or otherwise) of living in a tidal harbour. I talked about ropes coming loose and the other ups and downs (sorry), didn't I?

Well, when I arrived back after the weekend this last week, I had a new surprise. My gangplank was no longer attached to the bow of the barge and instead was sitting next to it. Fortunately, the chain I have to keep it from falling off completely when such things occur prevented it from disappearing into the depths, but I was glad I noticed it before I bounced merrily off and into the drink myself. I suspect some kind soul had stood on its quay end at low tide and had levered it off the post on which it fits...another job for me to sort out.

Anyway, I did, sort it that is, temporarily anyway. And I also managed to fit the new panel and 'winterise' my teak back entrance and steering wheel by wrapping them well in their own tarpaulins. I shall see on Monday whether my attempts have stood the test of the gale we had last night...there's always something at this time of year and it's not unusual to see harbour residents wandering round looking for bits of their barges in the water after one of our autumn hoolies.

However, on my way down to Zeeland on Friday, I took a route I think I've mentioned before which takes me along the dyke between the sea canal to Antwerp and the tidal Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt). I really love this road. On the one side is the wide expanse of the tidal estuary with its mud flats, waves and wildness; on the other is the major shipping lane where the huge barges plough through the waters as they head south into the great locks (kreekraksluizen) leading to the Antwerp docks, or north towards Rotterdam. I see the best of both worlds and the road seems to disappear into a wilderness of tranquillity, which I love. It always lifts my spirits to travel this route, so for once, I stopped to take a couple of photos. They don't really do it justice, but I hope you get some kind of impression of what it is like.

The dyke to nowhere

Traffic on the major shipping route on the canal to Antwerp

Meanwhile, mudflats at low tide on the other side

And there in the distance on the left are the big locks

Hoping you are all enjoying whatever the season brings wherever you are! Have a good week to come allemaal and I'll catch up with you all soon.

Friday, November 02, 2018

The sighs and lows of a tidal harbour

This time last month, I was in a state of bemused dismay as to where September had gone. Now I'm feeling much the same about October, although I haven't lost it quite so completely.

It's been a busy month boat wise. Koos and I have been doing jobs on the Hennie H at weekends, we took the Vereeniging out for a revival run, and I've been working on the her during the week between teaching and sleeping. You'll notice the absence of green in one of the side panels below. That's because I'm taking them out one by one and replacing them with new panels. I've done three on each side now, although number 3 on this side is awaiting re-fitting. But aside from my seasonal disinclination (see last week's moan), the weather hasn't been helping and it's caused me some unnecessary time messing about in the little boat rescuing ropes that have gone astray; hence the sighs. Let me explain:

The pink section is where I've removed a panel for replacement.
Note small boat: the vehicle of my venturing
When I moved from being neighbours with the clipper in the pic below to my current neighbour above, I also had to move a few ropes. You'll notice in the picture below that there's a bollard set into the wall. Well I needed to transfer my front rope from there to the bollard you can just see on the quay in the top right corner.

And then I had to place another one on the bollard set in the wall to the right of the Vereeniging (see further below). Last week, then, I climbed into my little dinghy and paddled over to lift off and replace said ropes. It was all good fun and I enjoyed messing around in the water despite the rain and cold. For once I felt inclined. Wrapped up in a warm coat and feet tucked into my tartan wellies, I was ready for an adventure of Wind in the Willows proportions and while it wasn't quite in the scale of Rat and Mole's escapades, it made me feel good scooting about between the barges.

My favourite tartan wellies

But this last Tuesday, when I was teaching, we had a phenomenal storm. The wind howled, the rain thundered down and I won't even go into how long it took me to get home after work.

Anyway, along with the deluge, the tide rose much higher than normal and my carefully laid wall-side rope floated off its bollard. Meanwhile, the wind played havoc with everything else and my other ropes got stretched to the point that when I emerged in the morning, the loopplank was teetering on the edge of the quay and I needed to do quite a rescue job. So back in my little boat I climbed to spuddle up to the bows, fish my errant rope out of the water and pull it back to the wall.

You can see the normal high tide mark on the bricks, but this time it was so high I couldn't even see the bollard, so it was well above its normal mark. This photo was taken when the tide was on its way down. When I performed my scoop up job, however, I could barely reach the bollard, which goes to show what an up and down world we live in during the October storms. I made sure I put a double loop in my rope and pulled it tight, so I'm hoping that, together with the heavy cable that's lying across it, this will prevent it from floating off again. If not, I'll have to put a weight on it to keep it down.

All this takes time, though, and while I enjoy it, I'm aware there are other jobs that need my attention...such as the new pin prick of light I can see through a place in the back cabin (the roef) where I should only be seeing solid steel...oh dear. I keep reminding myself she is 120 years old; these things will happen.

Anyway, next week I hope I'll have some further progress to report, or at least another new panel :)
Have a great weekend allemaal and here’s a fitting song to go with this post. I’ve loved this since I first heard it as a child.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Hectic doldrums

Blogging, in my world, is a bit of a micro thingy of life...thingy because I’m not quite sure what it’s a micro of, but maybe an explanation of this odd claim will help.

This whole year I’ve been blogging along, faithfully writing and publishing my weekly posts and relishing every word of it. See where the life thing comes in yet? No? Okay, I shall try a different approach. 

Since the beginning of 2018, I’ve been busy enjoying a very productive working and leisure life. I really have. I’ve taught some great courses, met some wonderful students (notably my Syrian refugees but many others too) travelled some beautiful waterways and enjoyed working on both the Hennie H and my beloved Vereeniging. A bit like my blog, which indeed is a reflection of my life...that micro thingy I was referring to.

But now, suddenly, I feel disinclined; yes. I feel disinclined about everything: disinclined to work, to make the effort, to prepare the classes, do the jobs, paint the boats, even enjoy life. 

And the same applies to my blog. I’ve had no idea what to write and no real desire to write it this week. 

So what, though! Does it matter? Why bother?

But like life, it does matter and I do bother. It’s just one of those doldrums that I have to struggle out of. I know when I have these spells — they’re like being mentally becalmed —  it’s always after the summer and it’s always during my most hectic time of year’s also always autumn (sorry, that’s obvious, isn’t it?). I call them my hectic doldrums because I am busy, should be busy and need to make myself be busy, especially when I don’t feel like it. But autumn is my doldrum time of year...I don’t know why. I suppose I should have been a badger or a squirrel because what I feel like doing hibernating. But I can’t and I won’t as the best way out of the doldrums is to write. Anything. 

And writing is doing, so it solves both problems: life and blogging.

Despite my disinclination then, I am writing this deeply philosophical treatise on a comparative analysis of life as it relates to the micro thingy that blogging other words, a load of twaddle. 

Now... do you think that’s enough for the moment? 

Okay, just to put you in the real picture, here are some more photos of our recent activities. See, I’m only kidding. Have a good weekend allemaal. I’ll be back with something sensible next week.

Replacing panels on the Vereeniging one by one

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Vereeniging fares again

My blog is a little late this week, late as in slow in arriving but maybe that's fitting this time because it had to wait for a venerable old lady to get going. No, I'm not talking about myself in this case, although I confess that by the time I manage to get going every day, I feel I'm becoming quite old myself, if not actually venerable.

The old lady in this case is the Vereeniging. She has lain dormant for several years now, victim of a viral bug that it took far too long to diagnose. Still, treatment has been applied and at 120 years old this year, she has recovered to fare another day and fare well too.

Today, because one of my neighbours is leaving this weekend for his annual sail around Zeeland in the Bietentocht (see my blog about it here), I had to move the Vereeniging from her position in the harbour to a few metres the other way. Well, this seemed too good an opportunity to miss for a spuddle of a momentous kind. After the nursing and nurturing we'd done on bringing the old dameschip back to life, a gentle rondvaart of the harbour areas seemed just the thing. Which is what we did. With great grins and purposeful pride.

It was a magic to be steering out of the harbour. The weather was sublime...


We puttered gently along the Scheepmakershaven and round the Leuvenhaven before returning back along the Wijnhaven to base.

 Rotterdam from the water is Rotterdam at its best...

Approaching the Leuvenhaven
 And there are barges as far as the eye can see and the soul can wish for...

the Leuvenhaven
The vibrancy and the colour of the inner city harbours are a sight for sore eyes... so we feasted them, as I hope these photos show ....


the Leuvenhaven

the Leuvenhaven

Turning into the Wijnhaven

Back home, but a few metres to the left or the north or....

Had I not had commitments of the paying kind to attend to, we would have gone on with great pleasure. But this was a start; we broke the spell of immobility; the Vereeniging has fared again.... and she didn't miss a beat. The dream of going to Utrecht is looking considerably brighter.

Enjoy the rest of your week allemaal.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The last of the summer sunshine

Despite the cold nights and mornings we've been having, I have to admit the daytimes are just lovely at the moment. I probably shouldn't say that, should I? No doubt it will be perverse and change just because I've mentioned it. But we're enjoying it over the weekends and are having lovely walks now we can't go faring for a while, which brings me to the Hennie H.

Our lovely little barge will remain immobile until the spring, I'm afraid. What happened was that following the fitting of a new oil cooler, one of the connections began leaking while we were on the way to a weekend on the Moervaart in Belgium. Unfortunately, we have no 'dashboard' with gauges, so didn't see the oil pressure was dropping until a nasty tapping sound alerted us that all was not well. We stopped as soon as it started, but it seems the damage was done. According to the diesel mechanic who's promised to fix it for us, it's probably a piston ring problem, but of course it could be something else. We won't know until he's taken it further apart. Nevertheless, he's confident it's fixable (at least it still runs!) and as he's officially retired, he's also promised it won't break us (financially). It's been a depressing few weeks, but at least we know and have real hope we'll be up and running again by next summer. We're now consolidating and saving our pennies, which brings me back to our walks.

On Saturday, we did a rather circuitous but pleasant drive around until we reached the Moervaart at a bridge called Kalverbrug. From there we walked along the waterway for some distance. This was where we were heading when the Hennie H died, so it was a bit poignant, but very beautiful for all that. I think my photos speak for themselves as even though I took them with my phone, it still looks lovely. The colours aren't quite as rich as I really saw them, though, and I can't intensify them without giving them a phoney hue, but you get the idea.

On Sunday, we did some cleaning on the Hennie H. There is plenty of work to do still, so I hope the good weather lasts a bit longer! I also have heaps to do on the Vereeniging too....ah well, it keeps me off the streets. Have a great week, allemaal and I'll fill you in on the any new developments next week

Monday, October 01, 2018

September, I (don't) remember....

September. Where did it go? Today it's the first of the month again and I find it's already October. Even if I didn't believe it, the weather is reminding me. It's just cold. The wind is cold, the nights are cold, the air round my ankles in the morning is more than cold. But September must have sprouted wings. I cannot for the life of me think what I did with it other than work. It's still that way.

It's a bit of a merry-go-round in truth. I have to drive to Roosendaal on Tuesdays, teach teachers there, then up to Rotterdam Tuesday night for an early start on Wednesday where I have two individual lessons back to back followed by a group of PhDers. Wednesday ends late. On Thursday mornings I have another PhD group; then in the afternoon, I head down to Steenbergen for duty at my daughter's business. Add to that a trip to Amsterdam to give a class there (a day that involved eight hours travelling for four hours teaching; there's something wrong with that ratio); many useful hours working on the Vereeniging (replacing more outer panels) and some rather less useful days fretting over the Hennie H.

Is there anything I've missed? Well, maybe a couple of nice walks, so I'll post some photos of the one we took yesterday. I call it our Windmill walk. It's on a kind of no-man's land between the Gent docklands and a Belgian suburb. We used to walk there with Sindy and it's remained special to us, but we see they are trying to 'improve' it and make it a proper nature reserve. It's peaceful, wonderfully so.

Widened and dredged

The windmill walk

A railqueduct

Rails to rove by

The industry line

No man's strip

Shapes I like

See what I mean?

Oh one more thing...I am writing again and enjoying the journey back in time. More African Ways are on the way. As for September,  I'll do better in October, I promise.

Have a great week allemaal!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Museum pieces of a special kind

It's just over a month now since we arrived back from our summer travels, and today at least, autumn has been showing its hand. Up to this point, though, we've had nothing to complain about weather wise. The rainy days have been few and often confined very conveniently to the night. We've been able to enjoy some lovely spells to help ease us into the shorter days and chillier nights.

During this time, various activities and events have kept us occupied, not least of which has been that I've had to go back to work. I started again on 4 September, just after Monumentendagen, the day when anything of a heritagyl flavour gets brought out, polished up and shown off to eager public eyes like ours.

On one of these days, Saturday it was, the first of the month, we came across this eye-catching collection of very beautiful old cars. Being English, I have a bit of a thing about motor racing, and classic sports cars get me going quite easily. I absolutely loved these, especially the MGA and the Austin Healey. The old Volvos were gorgeous too...well, they were all gorgeous to be honest. And I have a very special affection for old Beetles as well, so look at the photos and admire away.

I can't remember what this was, but it's very oooh worthy

The oooh worthy from its profile

Wonderful old Volvos from the back

And front

Very lust worthy too

And this Austin Healy was just it.

A stunning Cabrio Beetle

And a standard, gorgeous classic
The following day, we decided to visit another open monument at Beernem not far from Brugge/Bruges. We took a very circuitous route, quite accidentally on purpose of course, and stopped to consider our options in this lovely avenue.

Belgium at its best

Lovely barn house converted beautifully

The open monument we were seeking was a fabulous museum on an old barge, the Tordino. It is the brainchild and project of a friend of ours, Frederic Logghe, who felt there was far too little attention paid to barge and inland waterways heritage in Belgium. The result is this magnificent waterways museum on the barge. Here is a link to his Facebook page about the project. What is remarkable is that he has funded this entire enterprise himself and relies purely on voluntary donations to keep it going; he receives no government or authority support at all. Despite what my photos suggest, it was VERY busy and wonderful to see how many people had cycled to the museum. Its location is not, shall we say, prominent.

An entire wheelhouse inside the barge

An incredible array of waterways equipment and old technology

Models, old photos, paintings, barge name-boards. It's all here

Diplomas of female crew

The Tordino has a long term mooring here, just beyond the safety lock
between Beernem and Brugge

The safety lock doors are behind the barge

Local history about the ferry boat community that lived here
And lastly, our own bit of history, the Hennie H is still unwell. I don't want to go into details as it's a problem we have yet to solve, but the photo below shows where she is currently lying in Zelzate until we can get a tow home. The view is great...that much I can say.

Have a good week allemaal and I'll hopefully have some brighter news to tell you soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the autumn if you are in north and the spring if you're in the south. May it rain plenty of sun on you wherever you are.