Here and on our website ’t Majeur we tell about our live aboard and the adventures to be as we barge trough Europe.

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Friday, 20 May 2011


We left indeed, as planned, Antwerp on the Friday. From the Willemdok to the Scheldt takes  as the crow flies no time at all but with all the bridges, waiting for the lock and the time it takes for the lock to fill (with ships, four large commercial ships and 2 like us) and empty (the water) it took more than three hours before we really were on the way.
from Willemdok to the Scheldt
But then we went, with the tide that  flows fast in the Scheldt.
We went through the lock at Klein Willebroek so we could sleep peacefully before the next day we joined the large commercial canal again. We had to wait more than half an hour, on the tidalside before we could enter the lock and that meant going down a bit with the flow and than increasing the power to go back, but Klein Willebroek was a nice place (the lock keeper wanted us to stay at least a week because he liked the boat).
quay at Klein Willebroek
Saturday, we continued and although the Sea Canal Brussels Scheldt is a major and commercial route all we met were two ships and we were overtaken by none.
So not to busy.
The route went through Brussels and once you pass the Budabridge you know you’re in Brussels, that one is really a gate to the city.
Buda closed
Buda open
We stopped in  Halle and on Sunday sailed the last piece to Ronquieres.
After Halle the scenery was greener and more rural, very  nice after a time in industrial surroundings and cities, although that certainly has its charm.
We still had to go through the lock at Ittre, 14 meters fall, but you can use floating bollards witch makes it very easy. 
floting bollard, sometimes it feels like they get stuck wich is scary
Quite different from the other lock where we had to go up only 4.5 m but there were no bollards in the wall so I had to go up a slippery ladder to the quay and  from there take the lines up from Michel who stayed aboard, brrrrrr. I hope I don’t have to do that to often.
The Ittre lock was very impressive, before we went in it looked big but once inside, when you look back and the doors are closed it looks like you're in a wet, gray gorge because you see only air and water.
Then they pump it full and all looks friendly again when you’re out
Ittre, seen from the north
Ittre, inside
After a while we rounded a bend and there was the Plan incliné de Ronquieres before us, in all its glory.
We were there in 2005 by car, we were impressed then and have since been looking forward to the moment we owned a ship and could go up ourselves.
Well it took a couple of years, a lot of money and a lot of energy ... ... ... ... ... but then you have some!
Ronquieres at the bottom, as seen from the north
The next day we went up, the ship sails into a tank and behind you the doors close. The whole tank, including quays, lock house and lanterns, is hoisted up on rails. There is a counter-weight that goes down underneath the tank, once up the front door opens and you exit.
The slope is 6% over a distance of 1500m and you go 70 meters up.
According to information on wikipedia is on the list GTI (grande traveaux inutile-great useless works).
looking back

the counterweight that passes under the tank

that is where we are going

looking back again, once outside
The next day we had our second lock we had been looking forward to, the Strépy-Thieu lift, that took us 76m down again and that’s how we crossed the mountain.
This lift is very different, very new it opened 2002.
't Majeur, heading for the Grand Ascenceur de Strépy-Thieu
The tower is 117m high, 130m long and 75m wide, a huge
colossus in the lovely countryside around it. There are two tanks, each weigh 1,000 tons
and are hoisted up and down by their own counterweight.
Inside you can see the huge cables that are used and you have, if you are in front in the tank, great views out.
't Majeur and ESME in the tank at Strépy
This lift replaces four attractive iron lifts, built late 19th and early 20th century, made to cover  the 96m difference between La Louviere and Mons that otherwise had required 130 locks.
the same building, seen from the south
In 2002 there was an accident at the highest of the four elevators, Ascenceur no 1. The door fell down on a ship that just came out, no personal injuries but extensive damage to the ship and lift.
Since then, the passage through this branch is closed and you can only go back and forth.
Ascenceur no.1
We had just met English bargees (the ship next to  us in the Strépy elevator), who live a similar live to ours on their barge ESME.
They had seen a ship go down the first lift and had heard that soon the elevator would be in use again.
Together we went down Strépy-Thieu lift and through all the little locks and lifts from Thieu back up the Canal du Centre historique or Branche Ancienne.
To start with, we had a very small tunnel into a lock, we really fit just.
we lowered the canopy 10cm and could just pass into the lock behind!
As we went together with ESME, we could take pretty pictures of each other going in or out elevators.
down in the lock, photographed by ESME from the elevator

leaving the lock

same view but now 't Majeur is in the elavator
At the end of that trip we were exactly the other side of that Ascenceur no.1, a lovely spot where we stayed for a few great days. Unfortunately it became clear that the elevator only opens May 24  so we went down again (even that was fun).
Canal de Centre and the Branche Ancienne
The way this lift system works is as simple as it is effective. Both tanks are the same size and  weight and function as each others counterweight.
 If a vessel is entering the weight in water is replaced by the weight of the ship, then the top bin (with or without ship in it)is filled, through two scuppers that are opened, with 
30 cm water so it is heavier, sinks and other tank comes up. 
From the lower tank the extra 30 cm are discharged and then the doors are opened.
Even the constructions of  these lifts are beautiful to see, they're for a reason on the world heritage list and worth a visit, even if you're not on a boat.
't Majeur in the lower tank

adding weight to the top tank

't Majeur about to leave the, now, top tank
Next year we might make a special boat holiday tour for it, because we can really go round thn (let us know and watch the site if you are interested).
ESME waiting to go in Ascenceur no.3 as seen from ascenceur no. 2

one of the many swing bridges
If you are going up the Canal du Centre historique you can look down to the Canal du Centre, where ships are coming from Strépy-Thieu elevator after they just got down.
Canal du Centre as seen from the Branche Ancienne
Once down in Thieu we said goodbye to ESME
We are now before a big lock going to the Canal Pommeroeul- Condé nice and rural where we stayed longer than we thought. We enjoy it and it’s a good spot  to do some work on and around the ship.
That we can be moored in this beautiful place is really quite bizarre. The lock is the beginning of a much shorter route, than used now, to France from the Canal du Centre and therefore commercially interesting. The Belgians have put a lot of money in it, it's big,  modern and has a decline of almost 14 meters.
Unfortunately, about 20 km beyond this lock is the French border and the French are not prepared themselves to spend money to make/keep their side of the canal navigable they want Europe to pay and this dispute has gone on for years.
This morning Michelle heard from the lock-keeper, who is frequently present, that there is talk now about the opening of the passage in
four years time. Who knows, for now it provides us with a beautiful mooring.
moored on the quay near Pommeroeul
We are very close to France now, noticeable by the fresh baguettes we get, by bike, from the boulangerie each morning, mmmmmm.
This is it for now, we hope we can sail the Somme in a few weeks time. For that we need to have enough water under the boat and that could well be a problem.
 W'll see by the time we get there, in the next blog more about this.

Friday, 6 May 2011


We left Dordrecht on Friday instead of Thursday, we had to wait for the paint we ordered  a little longer, we did not mind because Dordrecht is very nice. We liked it so much that we even have applied for a berth, we'll see what happens.
The water outlet on the side was broken in Dordrecht so espessially for us the waterboat came to the harbor water to fill up our tanks. They normally provide for the big boys who sail on the rivers and so their hose was a bit too big for us and the filling took very long.
the waterboat Dordrecht
The trip to the Biesbosch is very nice and you pass a few beautiful buildings on the edge of Dordrecht as well as the Ark of Noah. We had heard of it but never seen it before, the thing is really huge, we should look inside some other time.
Noah's Ark

Although we had the intention to stay a few days in the Biesbosch  we left after a night and decided to come back on the return journey. Than we go through the Biesbosch on the east side, where it is hopefully better sailing for us. The water was verry low, so we got stuck on the sand banks that 'walk' so you can not exactly see the depths on the map and moreover a berth was not so easy to find. it made the sailing was very restless here.
We did, with the small boat, make a trip to the Biesboschmuseum wich was rewarding.
Panache was thrilled that Edje (the name of the dinghy) was back into the water because this is his by far his favorite place.
Panache in Edje
After the Biesbosch we went to Willemstad, a small fortress town like Naarden. Because of the Easter day and beautiful weather it was very busy, so we left the next day.
Instead of going to Antwerp, we changed the route to the Grevelingenmeer.
We spent lots of holidays on Schouwen-so when the children where little so we were on familiar ground but now from the water.
There are many berths for large ships on the Grevellingen but in the working port of Bommenede in Zonnemaire we found a good place very convienend as we wanted to visit friends in Zonnemaire.

After the Easter we were there all alone, only occasionally did the fisherboat  Bru 6 drop off a few crates of oysters.
the Bru 6

Next to our ship, we could see some oysters grow in the midst of all the jellyfish that swim there. The water is so clear that even with our simple camera tI could take pictures of it.
Oyster from Zeeland

the jellyfish

We thought there were a lot of jellyfish around the ship (little ones), but were later in the lock were surrounded by large pink jellyfish clouds. Later the weed filter (where the engine cooling water passes through) proved completely clogged with a thick layer of jellyfish slime.
jellyfish clouds

Thursday the 28th we left direction Antwerp with a first stop in Tholen.
The time there was well spent because on the quay, I could repot all the flowerpots, the violets were really faded, especially after I had accidentally watered them with the brackish water from the Grevelingen, oops error!
Like the windows that I had cleaned and the next day you could not look through them because of the salt haze that covered them, oh well practice makes perfect -:)
Friday I had to watchTV to see all the dresses and hats in England, that was just enough so I skipped Queen's day on Saterday.

Saturday we went further and were soon on the Rhine-Scheldt canal, after the quiet in Zeeland where we big among the small boats were once again surrounded by the large commercial vessels.
In the Kreekraksluis entered behind us a ship with the same size bunk strapped to it's side  so it fitted thight into the lock, scraping along the sides. The entire ship was packed with cars and asit  later passed us we realized how many trucks on the road that would have been, that calls for water transport.

What I found funny was the playground that was made on the back deck, a big cage with a play house a few chairs and a sandbox, so much for life on board with small children.
playground or prison?

And then there was the moment that we actually for the first time crossed the border with  't Majeur. Weird maybe, but we found it a really memorable moment, it is that we do not drink while boating otherwise we had surely popped the champagne.
It's nothing special really but it was a milestone for us and really really different from crossing the border by car.
The boundary is marked by a traffic light on both sides of the water and luckily they were both green otherwise we would have wondered what to do. We changed the Amsterdam pennant now by a Belgian and then later a French.
the border

In this blog I have already mentioned a few times that we are regularly impressed by the big guys around us, although we are getting a bit of used to them it is still exciting. Well, now we have really seen some!
In the port of Antwerp, that starts just after the border, we were surrounded by the real  seaships, all huge and piled with containers .
On the Waal were long, low ships with a few layers of containers, here are the ships themselves already very high and wide and then even those containers.

We are now in the Willemdok in Antwerp, a nice part near the center and very much in development. When we come back a few years down here will be very trendy. We were brought to the harbor master to a place where he wondered if we would fit in well, indeed we have no room to spare and the flagpole does not fit anymore. He asked me if my husband could sail and after my confirmation he said: "then we try it." Later we heard from someone else that he had said "he knows how to drive ". Michel was happy with that and I as proud as a peacock.
Willemdok in Antwerp

From our berth, we have a beautiful view on the MAS, Museum on the Stream, an entirely new museum building and unfortunately not open until next week. It's a beautiful building, I think, although in Antwerp controversial, but yeah I don't live here.
What I've read about it I think it is worthwhile to come back and go there.

Friday we leave here, considering the tide so we have the Scheldt downstream to the point where we go to Brussels.
The next blog will be after the inclined plane of Ronquieres and Strépy-Thieu, another milestone.