I first left my home in South Africa at the end of 1998 to follow my husband to the Netherlands. He was working for a film company in Amsterdam at the time but was living in Rotterdam. He'd been gone for a year and decided he didn't want to go back to SA, so being ready for a new adventure myself, I agreed to shut up shop, leave my job and have a go at life in Europe again. No thoughts of boats and barges ever entered my head. I'd been living so long with SA drought and water restrictions the only boats I knew were the canoes on the puddle-that-used-to-be-a-lake in the park. But then when I arrived in Holland, I discovered this whole new world of life on the water. I was like a child in my own wonderland.
|The hold of the Hoop with Sindy as a puppy|
In any event, we bought an old barge that needed renovating some time that year - I forget exactly when. It was a beautiful hull, but the built up superstructure was horrible and anyway, by that time, we'd got to know some people in the Oude Haven, a harbour designated for restoring historic barges. We'd been lurking around the yard with serious intent as we hoped to get a place there to restore our own. Anyhow, this all took some time, a great deal of stress and more money than we'd ever imagined. The strain took its toll and to cut a long story discreetly short, we as a couple didn't survive.
Rescue for me came with an invitation to go back to South Africa to work at my old company. I'd already been back for a few spells to help them out and now they wanted me for a longer period. I knew it wouldn't be permanent but it was an offer I made no effort to resist. So in the course of 2000, I found myself back in Johannesburg. I loved being in my old home town again, and I was lucky enough to travel all over the country too, but as time went on I knew I had to make a decision about life.
I had nothing of my own in SA anymore; I was staying with friends; and the end of my contract was looming.
|The Hoop as she is now. Still in Rotterdam, but|
a different harbour
At the beginning of 2001, I headed back to Holland. This was, I thought, my chance to make something new for myself and of myself. I'd also found myself missing the boats and the barges, so I had this plan. It was to work, save money, buy my own boat and go to France.
A Godsend had come in the offer of a barge to rent. My dear friend, Philip, who saved my day rather often in those early years, had one I could rent. It wasn't very luxurious, he said, but it would be a roof when I had none. It was also a floating home. Since I hadn't had much chance to get a feel for life on the water before I hotfooted it back to South Africa, I wouldn't have cared if it had nothing of life's luxuries at all. As it happened, it didn't, and that's where the story of Watery Ways begins.
|The wheelhouse of the Hoop - where the toilet remained|
throughout my residence
The lovely Hoop on which I lived for a year and a half had no running water, no electricity, and no toilet when I moved on board. The electricity was my first challenge, the water came later, and the toilet remained where I found it for the duration of my occupancy - upside down on the seat in the wheelhouse. But that was all part of the charm - and so was Philip, and Koos, and a whole plethora of other wonderful, quirky people. This was my Watery Ways background.
And I never did get to France - although I haven't given up that dream yet...
If you'd like to read more about that first year of my watery adventure, my book is currently reduced to 99p or its equivalent on Amazon's Kindle.