Monday, October 14, 2019

Back to busyness

In the past few weeks since we returned from Poland, things have been pretty busy here in our corner of the Flatlands. Quite apart from work, which I won't go into just now, we've been gearing up to installing the engine we bought as a replacement for our old Hanomag (which now lies at rest in our passage at the crumbly cottage). If you remember, I wrote about the great engine exchange here. Well, after that and because we were going away, we didn't do anything further until we came back from our trip. Since then, however, the activity has been quite intense.

Koos has won my gold award for ingenuity and sheer brilliance by designing and building a hoist that could be put on board the Hennie H so as to manoeuvre the engine from the back deck into its bay. The thing is, much measuring is needed before Koos can fit new mountings in place and to do that, he needs to see where the engine needs to sit. There is also the small matter of having it in exactly the right place to align it with the prop shaft. The latter has some flexibility because it has a thing called a Python on it (technicians will know what this is), which means it doesn't have to be exactly straight, but even so, there isn't a great margin for error.

Anyway, to cut the story short, the last month has been one of creative problem solving for Koos with me as the sounding board producing my usual list of (sometimes useful) 'what if' questions. The result of all his labours is this mighty construction:

The hoist in position on the back deck
It's been quite an evolutionary process involving much rethinking and redesigning, but it fits perfectly and makes it possible for Koos (with me as assistant) to lower the engine in and out of its place in the bay without asking anyone else for help. Genius, isn't it? Well, I think so. The upper spar is there to hold the tent over the deck, which also makes it possible for us (mostly Koos, though) to work in most weathers. From outside, it looks a bit like we've erected a tipi on board.

The wild West has come to Sas
Finally, then, we got to test it today. With the problem of shifting the block and tackle pulley along the bar overcome by using the kind of tensioning straps found on trailers (you know, the ones that can be made super tight with those ratchet things), Koos inched it along the bar until it was hanging over the opening.


Going down
And then lowered it into position so he could measure where it would need to 'sit' on its mountings. My job was to keep things straight and stop the tensioning straps twisting and the pulley chain getting stuck on anything...heavy burdens indeed.

And into the 'ole she goes
Once Koos was satisfied the motor would fit and he'd marked its position, we hoisted it out again and inched it back to its position on the deck. The whole operation felt like a major triumph, especially for Koos. There's still plenty to do before the real installation, but at least we know the system works, which is immensely rewarding. Now for cleaning the bottom and preparing the mounts. 

As for the other project, my Vereeniging, rain has stopped much of my play and I've been confined to working on the floor of the roef, or back cabin. You may (or may not) remember I had to remove the entire floor because of woodworm. I'm still battling to eliminate the last of the little blighters from inside the cupboards, but I'm getting there. Nevertheless, I've finally managed to put in a new floor base, this time made of thick ply wood (which woodworm don't like) that I've painted on both sides (which they like even less). 

It's hard to see it well from the photo below as it's quite dark in there, and I haven't put the piece in the gap in the middle yet as I've got to reroute the bilge pump hosepipe. But it's ready for the next time I have a free hour and it's raining. I'm pretty pleased with the result as the shape made it very difficult. I'm planning to finish it with easy-to-roll-back lino. Before that, though, I'll revarnish the cupboards. It will be great to be able to use this little room again. 


Well, that's it for this week's updates. A bit of coming down to earth after all the exoticness of Poland, but it's real life, it's hard work and it's also very rewarding. I just need the rain to stop so I can finish my painting...ho hum.

Just for some colour, here's a photo of my ultra fancy wellies. These are the ones I keep for best. I have a tartan pair that I do my real work in!



Have a good week, allemaal, and I'll be back with more on boats, boots and maybe even books soon.


Sunday, October 06, 2019

Before I forget...Gdansk, Gdynia and a little place called Hel

It's now a month since we were in Poland and I'm in danger of forgetting what a lovely time we had there and how beautiful the weather was. It's been cold, wet and miserable here for the last ten days or more so Poland seems like a distant dream. Before it slips my mind completely then, I shall present you with the last stage of our trip, which consisted of two days and three nights in the Tri-City coastal urban area of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia.

We arrived in Gdynia Orłowo, which was where we were staying on Monday evening and found our way to our accommodation in a quiet backstreet of the suburb. Actually, we arrived in Sopot and took a taxi to Gdynia Orłowo, which was a mistake as it was pretty expensive by Polish (or anyone's) standards for such a short trip, but the driver was so friendly we didn't have the heart to question the price. That aside, our room was in a house divided into guest rooms, officially a hostel, with a shared bathroom on each floor and a kitchen where we could cook our meals. We like this kind of accommodation as it gives us more freedom and to our delight, there was even a kettle and coffee in the room itself. It was all quite simple, but fine for us.

That evening, all we did was take the train into Gydinia proper and do some grocery shopping. I can't say I was all that taken with Gydinia as it didn't seem to have any discernible centre and seemed to consist mostly of modern apartment blocks with shops beneath them. Nevertheless, it gave us the chance to buy a three day ticket for the trains and we went home and cooked a meal. On that note, we were helped at Orłowo station by a lovely Polish lady who told us she lived in South Africa but was back for a visit. Small world, isn't it? To randomly meet someone in Poland with whom I'd have an instant connection was true serendipity! By this time too, I'd decided I really liked the area where we were staying. It seemed like a lovely peaceful place to live. The roads and paving were a bit unkempt but most of the homes were large, well maintained and looked very pleasant.

'Our' street

A local business. No prize for guessing what they do


On the way to 'our' street from the station

The following day we'd decided to do our next boat trip, which was the ferry to Hel. Gdansk and Gdynia are in a lagoon and Hel is at the furthest point on the peninsula. We woke to a lovely morning, so after a quick breakfast, we set off for the pier in Gdynia to catch the 10:30 ferry. This time we caught a bus, as it was quicker and more direct than the train. Once again, the transport proved to be great: fast, clean, modern and efficient.

Gydinia pier is the usual tourist trap with dozens of small shops all selling the same things, but it was lively and colourful. What made it different was all the large craft moored up to it and there was even a very fine many-masted sailing ship plus a kind of mock Spanish galleon.

Masted sailing ships on the pier

view across the harbour at Gdynia

The serious stuff (modern marina) in Gdynia

The trip to Hel was fun. We sat in the bows of the catamaran with several other passengers as we ploughed our way across the lagoon to the peninsula. It was beautiful although quite cold, but I realised as we were going that I am a river and canal girl. I had that feeling of 'seen one sea, seen 'em all' as there isn't very much to occupy the eyes other than the horizon with a few big container ships passing by. Give me the excitement of locks, passing barges and beautiful scenery close by any time.

Hel itself wasn't hell at all and was a pretty place, albeit heaving with tourists. No sooner had we arrived than we were lured into doing another boat trip by a friendly skipper who offered Koos a private view of his tugboat's engine. Well, we couldn't refuse and spent another hour or so cruising around the lagoon during which we slipped briefly out into the Baltic Sea. Woohoo!

Back in Hel, we wandered round, had coffee, an ice or two and then pottered down to the station for the return trip to Gdynia. Appealing though it is, Hel is for tourists, not sinners, and the town is dedicated to selling fridge magnets, hats and key rings telling us so – from one end of its main street to the other.

Sitting in the bows of the catamaran


Entrance to the harbour in Hel

An attractive sight


And then onto another boat out into the lagoon again


Speaks for itself really, doesn't it?


A colourful sight in Hel

Fiery Hel? Maybe not, but vivid all the same
 The train trip back to Gdynia was uneventful, but interesting in that the whole of the narrow strip that forms the peninsula is effectively one big camp site. It sprawls along endless dunes interspersed with villages where there are chalets and other holiday accommodation. This seems to be where the Poles go on holiday. I found it pleasantly informal and could imagine how nice it would be to relax there in good summer weather. It took us an hour to do the entire ride back to Gdynia, which was, coincidentally, the same as the boat trip.

Then we went a bit further on to Sopot, another of Poland's favourite holiday spots. Rather upmarket and boasting another fine pier that you have to pay to enter, Sopot is Poland's answer to the Belgian coast. Full of rather genteel hotels and guest houses, this is where the well-to-do come to enjoy the seaside in comfort. Still, I realise it can't have done anything much for me as I didn't take a single photo of it. Sorry Sopot! It probably didn't help that it was raining by this time, so we headed back to our hostel to cook supper and turn in for the night. We were getting quite fond of our cosy neighbourhood and it really felt like going home.

The following day was our last, so we decided to spend it in Gdansk, the northern Polish equivalent of Krakow. It's a lovely place, but like many beautiful cities, it was very touristy. Koos and I infinitely preferred the back streets with their less obvious but quietly captivating charms. I could describe it all, but I think I'll let the photos speak for themselves. Much of Gdansk is reconstructed 'fake' old buildings, but some of the centre is genuinely old and there are still some wartime ruins yet to be restored.


A shipyard on the outskirts of Gdansk

A renovated old warehouse

Tourist photo opportunity

Another restored old tower

One of the backstreets we so enjoyed

Looking the other way
My favourite view of all

The lesser known gems of Gdansk

in the reconstructed harbour area. All these buildings are new

One of the most famous views in the city and justifiably so 
This time with a few more boats on the move




A ruin still to be renovated

In the central square, classical beauty 
Almost Flemish





There nowt wrong with this. Magnificent, isn't it?

Just a channel on the way from the station

Red brick was definitely in here. The fine Jacek Tower
originally built for the city's defence, now used by
a photgraphic business

The market hall. An amazing building in daily use by a variety of shops

And for some, it's a hard life

And for others, an interesting one

While others play hard to make their crust

They were really really good. I enjoyed the free concert

We didn't actually spend too long in the centre and after meandering around the elegant back streets, we decided to go back to our hostel. That evening, though, we had the biggest surprise of the trip. Koos had mentioned to me that there was a beach and a pier close to Gdynia Orłowo, so we decided to take a walk down the hill to see what it was like. The evening was balmy and ideal for a stroll. Even so, we decided not to take cameras and just walk. I suppose it took us fifteen minutes to get there, so not much, but we were completely unprepared for how lovely it was.

The road to the beach was lined with glorious trees that ended right at the sea front where the pier stretched out ahead. To each side there were small beaches backed by steep tree covered cliffs. It was intimate, picturesque and very attractive. Busy with couples (notably several brides and grooms on photo shoots) as well as people with dogs simply strolling or sitting chatting, I was really charmed. And we both regretted leaving our cameras behind. Still, the internet is a wonderful source and I've found a couple of photos to show what it was like.

Thanks to Karen64 for this photo

I couldn't find the photographer of this one, but it's lovely
and shows the fishing boats that are always 'parked' there

Again, no photographer, but this is the pier. I'll remove
these photos later as they aren't mine. They are all
visible on Google search, though

By the time we'd walked back to the hostel, it was getting dark and it seemed the right moment to call it a day, and a week. This was the end of our journey as the following morning we were up early to go to the airport. All told, it was a fantastic trip and I enjoyed every minute of it. Travelling is not always relaxing, but it's full of wonderful experiences, isn't it?

I'll leave you with these thoughts and images now and wish you a great week, allemaal. 
It'll be back to normal posts and stories next time.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A walk along the river Brda at Bydgoszcz

Work has started again with a vengeance and when I'm not teaching, I'm preparing materials for my courses. As a result I don't have much time this week and I've missed my usual weekly posting. I've been wanting to finish off my Polish travel story, but even that will need to be curtailed a little (I can hear you all breathe again), so I thought that for this week, I'd just take you on a walk along the River Brda at Bydgoszcz with me. 

We stopped at Bydgoszcz on our way to Gdansk as Koos wanted to show me the canalised river with its rather special former lock, and I must say I was very glad we did because it was really lovely. Bydgoszcz is a fine city, not quite as charming as Torun, but maybe that was the weather. As you can see from these photos, it was cloudy and quite cool, so that always changes the atmosphere. It even rained a bit but not enough to affect our walk.

I love waterways and locks and to my delight, there was a boat going through the one we came to as soon as we reached the waterside. Follow the path with me and enjoy scenery.

Looking upstream from the lock


A small park near the lock. The glass topped box behind the
bin is full of books that you can exchange. A mini library

See the boat in the lock? What a nice surprise!

Rising to the upper reach

It was a trip boat and we were sorry we didn't have time to do an excursion
I would have loved that

And off she goes with a throng of happy passengers


This is the interesting bit. I hope you can read the text below as it explain
it all.

Essentially the in and out of this lock were on the same side, as the river
and canal were split into two parallel levels at the time. The English
is a bit odd, but I hope you get the idea

The old lock is no longer in use but has been kept as a monument. The new
lock we saw has replaced it and has rerouted the river to make the transition
easier

The new and the old lock from the other side

Then we crossed a few streets to find the real river
and how charming it was

By this time, it was quite gloomy, hence the dark scene, but it was lovely to walk
the path and see the students on the bench enjoying being outside

Looking back along the river from a café terrace where we stopped for coffee


Zooming out a bit.

This was from a bridge over the river showing where the canal and Brda
merge again. You can see the weir to the left

The cleanup crew on the water. Nice job!
Looking downstream where there are trip boats and restaurant boats moored


Lovely to see the water being used by canoeists too

Some of the grander buildings that line the river
After our walk, we strolled back up the hill to the station and continued on our way to Gdansk, but this was a lovely interlude. I think I could bear another visit to Bydgoszcz, so maybe one day I'll persuade Koos to go back and we can do a boat trip and explore more of the city.

Enjoy the rest of your week allemaal! The final stage will be coming soon.