Sunday, November 09, 2008

Canals are for cruising, rivers for watching

My Vereeniging was built as a delivery vessel for the smaller waterways of inland Holland - specifically for the Oude Rijn, which in the area of Utrecht is narrow and winding, and in fact is the original course of the Rhine in this part of the world. Its now larger and more important successor is a re-routing of that waterway, widened and deepened to accommodate the heavy traffic that it now bears across the continent from East to West and vice versa.

In the days when the Vereeniging was used for transporting goods, it pottered along the Oude Rijn and the Vecht rivers, carrying goods from one town to the next, very much as a local delivery service would do today by road. Indeed it was in use up until the 1960's, but then road transport took over as faster and more economical, and so my little barge was put aside by the family firm that owned it. It was only at the end of the 1990's that they finally agreed to sell what was now a rotting hulk to the old boy from whom I bought it. This remarkable old man set about restoring it to what it was in the days of its cargo carrying glory, and when I eventually bought it from him in 2001, the exterior had been substantially if not sufficiently restored (as I was to find out later).

Since I've had it, though, there's one thing I've learnt through harsh experience. The Vereeniging does not like faring the big waters, and as a result, neither do I. It is long and narrow with a flat bottom that causes it to roll like a porpoise on the swell, and if the waves break over it too strongly, then water gets in. I've partially cured that risk now by having steel welded under the side panels which used to be completely removable, but even now, water could still get in between the sides and the roof hatches. It has always been a canal boat, and it always will be, and for me, these smaller waterways, passing through quiet rural scenery, are what I love the most.

Nevertheless, I live in a city dominated by its river - the Nieuwe Maas - a magnificent river that I never fail to enjoy. I walk a length of it every day with Sindy, and the sight of heavily laden barges ploughing deep through the channels and massive container carriers steaming alongside hefty tugs and push barges never fails to fascinate me. The light can change in a second and you see the weather rolling in from the west or the sun breaking through towering clouds over the water. I have taken many many photos of the Nieuwe Maas myself, but none so breathtaking as this one of Koos's that I've published here. For me it sums up the drama, the magnificence and the beauty of the Maas. I maybe a canal cruiser by choice, but for sheer inspiration, it is this river that I am drawn to daily and irresistibly.


  1. Thanks for compelling writing and a great compliment for my photography. That's a wonderful post, Val.

  2. Wonderful writing again Val :) There really is nothing like living in or by the water. Beautiful picture Koos!


  3. Val! Keep Vereeniging on the canals!
    I cannot imagine your lovely geraniums and pansies being tossed overboard into the roil of the Nieuwe Maas...
    Walk the river's shore with Sindy and enjoy the view, as you have always done, from its banks.
    I, too, would wonder from where those laden barges hail and attempt to guess their exotic destinations. But I think leaving all that to the imagination would be half the fun!

    Koos' photo is amazing! I can feel the wind and the weather from here.

    I am never far away.


  4. Glad to give credit where it's due Koosje xx

    Thank you Grace. I agree...with both remarks.

    Dale! Thanks for coming by again. It's always so good to hear from you.The Vereeniging's destiny is the quiet backwaters. That's for sure! I knew you would sense the mystery and romance of the river - and Koos's photo!

  5. Oh Val... I cannot wait to see this in person. I think perhaps I will become a real gypsy when Scott graduates. then I will see it all for real, and walk with you and Sindy.

  6. Hi Val,
    I look forward to hopefully cruising those canals with you next summer. Despite all the rumblings about moving (mostly mine), I have not given up the dream of Euro 2009.



    my niece Margery Rose's blog... oh do go see it if you have a moment... I would love for her to get to know all of you....

    I am putting this on Val's blog as we all congregate here eventually!

  8. I have missed you too Vally! I have just read your last few posts here and felt quite teary at what I've really been missing out on lately.

    The thing is, there are so many projects, responsibilities and commitments and I have been attending to - or trying to - that I've lately decided that only withdrawal would do the job. I haven't so much as looked a a blog for weeks.

    My loss. I really will get back to this. I value my bloggy friends very highly, and you more than ever.

    Thing is, I lack discipline. If I sit down to type, nothing else happens for hours, and whole days diappear. I just can't afford to do that at the moment. If I could drop in for ten minutes at a time it would be fine.

    Lots of love to you and Koos, and I will be back as soon as .. .

  9. Hi Val,

    interesting story. The pic from Koos is wonderful. If I read your posts and see the pics I can understand your love for this country and the waterways. I hope to find some free time in the future to see this all with my own eyes again. The last time I stood in Dutchcountry is so long ago. Mostly I have no longer holidays for years. Only one or two of free days. I hope it will be better, sometimes.

    Love Stefan

  10. This made me think how rivers that run through cities are integral parts of those cities in so many ways. Not just in the practical sense of transport, livelihood (both in history and now) and leisure sailing; but also in the sense that the rivers are part of consciousness, the consciousness of those who live there and also the kind of collective consciousness and identity of the city. I think this is true of every city with a major river running through it, whether it be your city or London and its Thames or whatever.

  11. Stevie, you are welcome as you know, and yes, I will check out your niece's blog. It's always good to see new faces in blogdom.

    Anne Marie, it would be wonderful to see you next year. I am taking a few months off work (which is why I'm working double time at the moment) in 2009, so hopefully this will coincide with your visit if and when you come over!

    Margie, it makes me quite teary to see you here again. I have missed you very much. Blogdom is not the same without you here, but I quite understand what it's like, having been through such spells myelf. These days I seem to manage by just doing one post a week, but even so, it's quite difficult to find the time. No apologies needed then my friend. Just don't disappear completely.

    Stefan, thanks so much for your comment. I think you must work too hard! It's time you took a decent break and came up to see us ;)

    Maria, I agree with you totally. A river is something akin to a city's main artery..the lifeblood of its physical and spiritual well being. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    I so wish Gypsy would come back too.

  12. Hi Val,

    Just stopped by to say hello. I've read your last few posts and they are just beautiful - as are the photos, especially the one of the river. Wow.

    Koos has the ability to capture beauty on film - whether it's a unique perspective on buildings, bridges or manhole covers, or simply capturing the light at a moment in time.

    And your ability to create equally beautiful pictures with your writing never fails. You create detailed images in the mind with your words - from the farm in South Africa to the Vereeniging on rough waters!

    Both of you have incredible gifts. Thank you so much for sharing.

    As for me, not much has changed, but I'm still hopeful. As to where I've been, except for lurking a bit, I couldn't say it any better than Margie has...especially the teary part...

    Keep on cruisin', Val. I'd love to join you sometime.


  13. so wonderful to see you here again Rache. I've really answered over at yours, but I am very very glad to see that you are still lurking around blogland. It would be a sad place without you here at


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