Sunday, July 29, 2018
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Sunday, July 15, 2018
The faring has begun and today we’ve arrived in Geraardsbergen on the Dender river in Belgium. It’s the last town in Flanders and tomorrow we will be in Wallonia, the French speaking area of Belgium so I will be able to stop struggling with the Flemish accent and switch to struggling with French...haha. It’s been a lovely trip so far. We had a bit of excitement when we left Gent. We’d noticed the cooling system on the Hennie Ha had been acting up, so when we were in the first lock taking us onto the tidal Schelde river on Friday morning, Koos decided to investigate the water pump impeller, a part with a known limited life. Luckily we had a spare, because it transpired the old one was in a bad way, a VERY bad way. Still replacing it in the lock was a bit nerve wracking and he didn’t finish in time, so we had to pull ourselves out of the lock and tie up to the wall until The job was done. That also meant we missed much of our advantage on the ebb tide. We’d wanted to leave at 7:30, but the lock in Gent didn’t open until 8:30 (owing to the Gent festival) and then we had to sit in the big lock onto the river until 10:30 while a huge passenger boat filled with water; hence Koos’ decision to change the impeller. High tide was at 8:30 and we only got going at 11:00. Luckily, the current helped us do the 33kms to Dendermonde in 2,5 hours (normally, it would take us about 4hours to do that on a canal) and we arrived at the lowest of low water). I was fascinated to see the mud flats and banks. They looked as if they’s been sculpted into shape by a huge pallet knife. It was also interesting to see there were no ducks or coots on this tidal section; only seagulls. How do they know? I shall have to look this up!
Geraardsbergen Square, where I’m drinking coffee as I post this blog
The first lock on the Dender is massive. It’s 168m long and very wide. We were the only ones going through. I expected to see huge 2000 tonne barges on the other side, but there was nothing — not a thing anywhere. It was also interesting to see the different water lines on the lock wall. If the tide is very high, the farer will go down to the Dender on the other side; there is a distinct high water mark on the lock wall, but it was quite dry. Normal tide is visibly at the normal level of the river and then there is the low tide mark. Because of the dry weather, we did not rise very high even though we were there at low water, but at high tide on the Schelde, we would probably have gone down to the Dender a bit, even though we were heading upstream. We spent our first night at Aalst at a gorgeous free mooring that announced ‘For a chat and a smile, you can stay for a while’. It was lovely and very peaceful. The river is too beautiful, and is picturesque in a typically Flemish pastoral way. There are reeds, bushes, wild flowers and trees along the banks, and the coots and ducks were back. The baby coots were just adorable scooting along after their mums. They haven’t yet got the hang of walking on water, so seeing them hurry after their mothers was both funny and sweet. The next day, we headed further upstream through Aalst to Ninove. We did all the locks and several low bridges with an English couple and a German couple on their cruisers. It wasn’t very comfortable in the locks as it was a tight fit for the three of us. The German man was a really boys’ own type and while he was cheerfully yelling commands to his long suffering wife, Koos was yelling at me too. What with the noise from the lock gates, the pouring water and the general cacophony, neither of us could really hear what our respective skippers were saying, so we just turned to each other and shrugged. A nice bit of cross cultural connection.
At Ninove, there was nowhere for Koos and I to moor up, so we had to find a shady bank with some trees to fasten our lines to. There really was nothing else to be done. Sadly this also meant there was nowhere to go. Ninove is not the most appealing place in Belgium, so we stayed on board. I read while Koos played his guitar with his brand new birthday amp. On reflection, it was probably as well that we weren’t at a real mooring. This morning, we started late. The cooling still leaks and there are another few leaks that are niggling, but even after trying to fix those, we still left before anyone else. We suspected they might have been nursing hangovers celebrating or commiserating over the football. I’m sad England lost the game, but happy for Belgium that they won.
The river to Geraardsbergen is, if anything, even more beautiful. It winds its way theough stunning scenery and we saw real hills for the first time too. What a gorgeous stretch of country this is. We’ve done three locks and a bridge with delightful lockkeepers to help us and are now moored up at an informal spot...once again, no room for us at the inn. Still we are in the shade of some trees; there is a path nearby; we are comfortable and at rest. Have a great week, allemaal!
Our informal mooring today in Geraardsbergen
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
The thing I don't get is how so many people are critics first. People can be so mean about their own sides and the sportsmen and women they follow. If they could do better, why aren't they out there doing it themselves? How about being an encourager and not a destroyer?
I was so pleased for Belgium that they got to the WC semi-finals. What a great achievement for a small country. They played so bravely, and it's such a shame they lost to big brother next door, France, but they did an amazing job. And as for England, I am listening to the match now and it doesn't sound hopeful for the land of my birth, but heck, they made it this far which is further than they've done in close on thirty years. Well done guys!! I, like thousands of others, am thrilled for what you have done even if you don't make it any further.
All the same, the whole competition has seen some major upsets, which has made it quite interesting for a non football fan like me.
Then when it comes to motor racing, it seems that the top drivers can never do anything right. Lewis Hamilton is either 'too nice to be real' or a 'bad loser'; the press have a go at him whatever he does. The same goes for Max Verstappen, the young Dutch driver. He's a real go-getter for sure, but isn't that what you're supposed to be at that level? The media never seem to give him a break and I find that a real shame.
Lastly, there's Wimbledon, which has been a bit submerged by all this World Cup fever, but even there I hear some upsets have occurred and Roger Federer lost to a South African player I've never heard of before. Who would have expected that? Still, Mr Federer's had an amazingly good innings (sorry for mixing my sporting metaphors) and it's great to see someone else coming up.
Well it will all be over soon and we can get back to normal life again; in other words, I can go back to my boats and my cricket again, but I'm going to hold on to that 'encouragement' idea. I think there's far too little of it about these days. Whatever makes people smile and gives them a lift is surely more rewarding for all concerned, isn't it?
On a more local note, we've had quite a busy week socially too. Last weekend was my elder daughter's birthday celebration. We had a great family gathering at her house and a delicious vegan meal. Of course, the 'boys' had to watch the football.
|Here they are watching whatever match it was on a smart |
I might be a bit more rare in my blogging appearances than usual in the coming weeks; it's fair weather, so it's faring weather, but whatever you all are doing, have a great summer/winter allemaal. I will be here, but just a little more sporadically.
Wednesday, July 04, 2018
|My view from the crumbly cottage. I'm missing it1|
|A happy Koos with his birthday gift|
A small amplifier for making a big noise!
Rock on Koos!
But to back track, while he was here, we did a very good deed that turned out to be a very dirty job. I don't know if I've mentioned before that the Vereeniging had the dreaded diesel bug? Well, for anyone who doesn't know what this is, it's a bacterial infection that the modern bio-diesels get if they've been sitting a long time and condensation has occurred in the tank. It seems this creates an ideal breeding ground for the most horrible fungal growth and it gets into the systems and ultimately stops the engine from running. It can be quite catastrophic.
Well having solved this problem and had the engine running again, we still noticed that it smoked too much, so I'd asked our favourite diesel man to look at it. His first suggestion was that we take it out, get it to his workshop and let him overhaul it. As you might imagine, I was not so eager, mentally seeing the euros skyrocketing at just the process of removing and replacing the motor, let alone the costs of overhauling it. He must have heard my alarm bells clanging (or else saw the look of frozen horror on my face) because he then relented and suggested we first change the oil and use V-Power diesel (a sort of super fuel that apparently burns more cleanly) and just go faring to see what happened.
|A not very clear photo, but you can get an idea|
My engine doesn't have a sump plug for draining the oil; it has its own hand pump which unfortunately wasn't working as the rubber gasket that creates the suction had perished. After spending a morning trying to find one, we ended up making our own, and that was the first major achievement. A real thumbs up woohoo feeling that we'd creatively overcome such an obstacle.
With the oil out, Koos then opened up the side cover on the engine to remove the filter. That was our second shock. The gauze of the filter was completely blocked with muck and the only reason it had worked at all was down to the holes in it. Awful. There was also a thick layer of black sludge at the bottom of the block. What a horrible mess! I was amazed the motor had run at all and very glad we hadn't tried faring anywhere. No wonder it smoked so much.
Koos, bless him, cleaned out all the ghastly gunk from the bottom while I cleaned the filter with turps. We then bought some new steel gauze to replace the old and put everything back in place. With about six litres of fresh new oil, we got the engine running again, and were delighted to see the amount of smoke was massively reduced. Now we just have to try the super V-Power diesel on a trip out and see if that eliminates it altogether. Go us...or something like that! We are at least significantly closer to that dream trip to Utrecht.
Anyway, that was before the weekend, and then on Saturday, we celebrated Koos' other achievement (that of reaching 70, which is quite something) with family and friends at our favourite Rotterdam pub. I can now officially call him my old man, or OM as social media would have it. It was a lovely, cheerful and happy occasion.
|Some guests found it all too tiring|
|Missing my garden too|
Never mind, it will all get back to normal again soon, I suppose, but then of course, we'll be off faring to France...
|Here we are on the Vereeniging, though. From the inside looking out|
Have a good week allemaal. Enjoy this glorious weather we're having...long may it last!