Friday, April 30, 2010

Helsinki, sunshine and Maria in one day...magic

Today has been a very memorable one. I have spent it in the company of the very special and lovely Maria in a beautifully sunny and charming Helsinki. I can't upload any photos today as I forgot to bring a cable or card reader with me, but as soon as I'm back in Rotterdam, I will post lots!

We had a truly lovely time walking first round the city harbour (water and boats always good), then through some very elegant tree lined streets (rather Parisian in style), finishing up at a delightful Italian restaurant where we had lunch served by an equally delightful patron. After that, we took the ferry to Suomelinna Island (I hope I've spelt that right) and walked round the old fortifications along its coastal path. The sun shone through the mist onto peaceful waters, and we watched the big sea going ferries pulling out of the harbour. It is really very beautiful and wonderfully peaceful....except for the occasional throngs of students already beginning their celebration of 'Vappu', a very singularly Finnish festival to mark Walpurgis night. The festival itself is celebrated in several countries, but the video link I've given here is the Finnish version (thanks for the link, Maria). Here's another link to its history.

When we arrived back in Helsinki, we actually watched and witnessed the event shown in the film clip, and it was great to see all the generations mingling in the city centre with their white caps on in honour of the occasion.

As the festivities then continue into a series of all night parties, Maria and I beat a retreat and took the tram out of the city. Probably a wise decision judging by the number of police vans I saw as I walked the last stretch back to the hostel. It looked very much as if they were preparing for a busy night!

Tomorrow I'm off to Vaasa to visit Hans and Ingela. More on that later...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yay!!! The Hennie Ha is 'vaarklaar' once again!

We've done it at last! This morning Koos and I fitted the steering mechanism back onto the HH after having fixed it so thoroughly there can now be no possibility that it will come apart again.

We took it for a test around the harbour here in Sas van Gent, and were thrilled that everything worked properly with no failures.

So after a good wash down and spring smoosh up, the little 'bootje' looks quite respectable. A closer look would reveal there's a lot of paintwork that needs doing, but we'll come to that soon. First a call to the yard for a spot on the slipway....are we happy or what!

PS For those of you who are confused, 'vaarklaar' means 'ready to go' in boat terms. Another point some of the newer readers might be wondering is where does this boat fit in? Well, Koos has his own barge, the Luxor, I have the Vereeniging (which Mo and Craig have just moved off) and we share the HH, which is much smaller and was intended for travelling on and not for living. Owing to aforesaid steering problems, we haven't done much travelling as, call that none, in fact..but soon, soon, I can feel it....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Adventures in our watery world

Operational discussions and the result: the engine is out

Koos and I manoeuvring the mast

These last two pics show the Vereeniging and the Marion Aagje first next to Nico's Luxe Motor (above) and secondly back home (below). You get to se what they look like from both ends this way!

So....we've been playing at boats again. This time, the Vereeniging was acting as tug boat for the Marion Aagje, Mo and Craig's cute little tjalk.

The only snag was the Vereeniging only has 25 horses in her engine room, which isn't really a lot when you are dragging an extra fifty tons of boat around. What with the current flowing in the wrong direction, and us having to go with the flow rather than against it (where you have more control), things got a bit hectic. First we got stuck between two ships while doing a three point turn (ship at bow end very cool, charming and relaxed - ship at stern end less so), then we managed to dunk a rowing boat under water (luckily it re-surfaced, full of water but without damage) and then we were faced with a large party ship coming in the opposite direction, who didn't seem inclined to wait until we'd lurched our way through the bridge. Still no harm done in the end. We bumped into the next two bridges in good dodgem style, but still managed to struggle our way to our destination, being friend Nico's barge.

The reason for all this adventuring was that he has a strong crane, and Mo and Craig had an appointment to have their oversized engine lifted out, their winch lifted on, and their mast hoisted out of the water and put in position too. The mast had been lying in the water next to the Luxor, so one of the pics shows Koos and I pulling it round to the crane with my rowing boat.

Today, we took them back again but luckily this time the current was in our favour, and no dodging other barges this time. Now, though, I really understand why the terms 'barging about' and 'barge into' came into being. This is also why 'barge poles' come in so handy too!

When all's said and done, however, the two little barges look pretty together, don't they? Shame the Marion Aagje has to go back over the river to its mooring in the yacht harbour. We'll miss Mo and Craig now they've moved. They've become harbour people in their own right since they've lived on the Vereeniging. Still, the upside is that now I can move back onto my ship again ;-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Westdorpe fun run

Just to prove I really did it! Koos took these photos this afternoon at the finish of the Westdorpe fun run. Okay, it was only five kms, but Jodie will vouch for the fact that I didn't stop once. True!

Of course you might notice there aren't many people behind us at the end....

Barry, Jo's husband, has legs that come up to my shoulders (he is almost 2 metres tall), so of course he came in just a tad earlier. And I am fully aware Jo would have finished earlier but held back for my sake, bless her, but I still managed it in 33 mins, Not too bad for a fifty plus-er. methinks.

Now of course, I'm inspired and want to do more...Weekends will never be the same again...poor Koos.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Hic hic hiccup with the Hennie Ha

With adrenalin running like a flood in spate, we started the Hennie Ha's engine today ready for the big 'test run'. Giving ourselves and the old motor time to settle down, we cleaned the little ship and waited patiently for the oil to flow warmly through its old veins. Then at last we were away - to test the dreaded steering that has given Koos his full quota of grey hairs this past year and a half. 'Maak lossen!' he called, and I threw off the line that held us safely to the shore. Now there was nothing between us and the 'big deep' except a couple of crossed fingers.

Backing out, all looked and sounded good. Pirouetting round, the HH turned as if on a coin and Koos gave me the thumbs up. We headed calmly up to the end of the harbour, to the junction where it meets the mighty "Ghent naar Terneuzen Zeekanaal". And then it went....oooh nooo!

There we were with the wind blowing us briskly towards the bank and no steering. Gone again. But being the master of manoeuvring, Koos knows a few tricks and after a few more graceful pirouettes, a confused looking yacht owner watched us moor up to some poles that define the end of the berths in our harbour.

Koos's head disappeared into the steering hatch, and a few minutes later, he looked out smiling. "I can fix it" said the smile. Koos just went to fetch his tools. Ten minutes after that, the steering was working again, so we untied and not wishing to tempt fate any further, made our way back to our own berth.

The long and the short of it is that there are still a couple of adjustments to be made to the steering mechanism before it can be pronounced fully fit again. The comforting part about today's exercise was that firstly, the engine ran like a dream for the first time in ages, and secondly, Koos was able to tighten up whatever bolts had come loose to make us mobile again.

All in all, not quite the raging success we'd been hoping for, but hey, we're on the way! And yes, it was really good to be out on the water again. That long summer trip to France is beginning to look quite promising after all...