The way it happened was that Koos had heard from Bill (the erstwhile) that I was hankering for a boat trip that would take me somewhat further than up and down the harbour in a rowing boat with a dodgy seagull engine (see Lights Out post). Now in those days, Koos was the owner of two boats: a gorgeous tugboat called Loeki, on which he lived, and his newly acquired (at the time) Luxor, the dumb barge he was building up and converting into a home. Also in those days, he lived in Leiden, a beautiful Dutch university city between The Hague and Amsterdam. We knew him because he'd been in Rotterdam working on the Luxor, but it was the end of both his contract and his holiday, so he had to take it back to Leiden until the following year.
Word got round, Bill conferred with him and before I knew it, I was booked on a mission to accompany Koos on his trip back.
Well, it was a journey to remember, that's for sure. The day dawned dry, but it was grey and the sky was heavy. I can recall looking at the clouds dubiously and wondering if I really wanted to do this. Still, I reasoned, Koos' son would be there too, so we could take turns in crewing.
Some reasoning that turned out to be.
I joined Koos and son, Sanne, on board early on that dreary Saturday morning. All went well as Koos steered us deftly out of the harbour and onto the river. I don't exactly remember when it started raining, but it can't have been immediately or I might not have been happy to go at all. In fact I was visibly thrilled to be there. Somewhere or other, there is a photo of me sitting smiling on the engine room roof as we motored west along the Nieuwe Maas toward the entrance to the Delftse Schie, so it was still dry then. Nevertheless, before we had left the outskirts of Rotterdam it was definitely precipitating with purpose.
In response to the general inclemency and with no sign of guilty hesitation whatsoever, Sanne disappeared inside the Luxor, found the only chair in an otherwise empty hull and promptly went to sleep. That left me trying my best to help Koos - a thoroughly noble duty that entailed holding a large green and white striped Amstel umbrella over most of him and a part of me. Meanwhile the rain thundered down and bounced off all the shiny steel surfaces rather like a million ping pong balls. It wasn't long before we were both drenched from both ends - bottom and top.
How Koos managed to steer through the downpour I'm not quite sure. He did though. Stoically and even cheerfully despite the fact that his glasses were spattered with rain and kept steaming up. Every now and then, I would wipe the worst of it off with a soggy hanky, but of course it didn't help much.
And so in this style, we crawled our way north to Delft - the odd couple on the odd barge with the odd and incongruous protective cover of a beer garden umbrella. I mean you can just picture it, can't you?
It was also in Delft that I decided I was one of the faint-hearted ones and that I wouldn't make it to Leiden. So I abandoned ship (in this case, barge) and caught the train back to Rotterdam after some much needed coffee. All this makes it even stranger that later, when looking for my own barge, I ignored everything I'd learnt about the drawbacks of open steering positions and fell in love with the Vereeniging, a very obviously wheelhouse-free boat. I'm still wondering about my sanity to this day, but I'm afraid it can't be cured.
I still have no wheelhouse.
And I still love the Vereeniging.