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Monday, 11 June 2012


Though my last posting is only 4 weeks ago, a lot has happened since.
Our planning so far has been a bit much, not so practical but there you are.
Dry dock – repairs in the yard – marriage on board – Oostende-at-Anchor – DBA-rally in Paris (without our barge) – Rebecca going to Amsterdam for a few days – the one after the other and in between barging from one place to the other.
All of it was nice or useful or fun or special, but not exactly the laidback living we have been saying praise off.
Oh well, this is part of life as well and we will take things veèèèèry slowly for the remainder of this years cruising season.

My previous entry was about the marriage on board and I was reluctant to show this photo then, but now I will.
A few days before the wedding, pictures of another bride were taken on board. First they were on the quay-side, but on board was nicer.
Her dress was in honour of her Henna-celebration, the civil ceremony had taken place already and the really big party will take place in Turkey – and we thought two happenings was a lot!

completely different from Malka but she looked just as happy
After departing from Amersfoort we went along the Randmeren, the river Amstel, the Aarcanal and the river Gouwe to Gouda and then to Dordrecht.
De Gouwe knew a lot of commercial traffic so we were cruising convoy-stile because the commercials don’t go very fast and the bridges were only operated for all ships together.
keep the fingers crossed this one won't com down
One of the lifting bridges – the one that crashed down last year, just missing a yacht that was passing underneath - was replaced by a ferry.
Apparently they are building a new one, but the whole looked like one of Cristo’s works of art.
Cristo on the Gouwe
Just like it is when driving your car, other peoples behaviour is more threatening and dangerous than what you do yourself.
Especially smaller craft take lots of risk, thus causing problems to others; often they have no notion of the limited manoeuvrability or breaking speed of a big, heavy barge and they certainly don’t take it into account.
Our ship weighs some 70 tonnes, hard to break or get around a corner, not mentioning the length that makes it hard to get bow and stern going in the same direction at the same time. So imagine what it is like for the commercials, being even bigger than we are.
This picture shows the perfect stupidity of the sailing boat and the positive outcome was no thanks to them.
passing just before him, don't think of what could happen
People who had been sailing behind the big barge told us afterwards that they were covered with soot, because the barge had to go full-rev’s to stop, only because the sailing boat slipped in, in front of him.

In Dordrecht we were accompanied by friends on their own barge and from there we had to sail up speed so as to reach Oostende in time.
Being experienced sailors by now – ho-ho – we were not nearly as impressed by Antwerp’s enormous harbour as had been the case last year. Not so for our friends, theirs was the first time.


We even found time to fiddle around with our new camera, showing below how tiny we are compared to the real biggies.
we are on the left foto taken from the Twister, our friends barge
In Antwerp we went through the lock to the Scheldt river, first awaiting the right tide together with all other ships that were also waiting for the tide; and we all had to go through the Royerssluis, not really too big.
You have to announce yourself and are given a number they use to call you. Not necessarily in that sequence  because the lock keeper puzzles a lot to get as many ships in as possible at each turn.
Entering the Scheldt at low tide and having the flow behind you towards Ghent really works wonders for your speed, over 16,5 k/h at moderate rev’s, speedboat-like J.

We – that is Rebecca – had been a bit frightened by the prospect of cruising the Scheldt, but in practice it went smoothly.
Things went well, easy cruising, thanks to the skipper and even time to spare for looking at the surroundings and discovering some-one had a plane in his garden ….
I prefer plant and flowers
Cruising from Brugge we were joined by other boats going to Oostend, all using the only waterway to get there. Convoy-stile again, going through locks and bridges together.
All happy people on their way to a party, all in a good mood.
convoi on the canal circling Brugges

they really know how to pack a lock
In the canal circling Brugges there are quite a few artefacts (denoting locks and bridges), bridges opening in a fashion we had not seen before. They are lifting bridges, so no room for masts there. All sailing boats have to lower their masts or go via the sea.

the whole road goes up but turned a quarter circle as to used

swinging from left to right like one of those things on the fairy
In order to enter Oostend you have to go from the canal through a lock to sea, that is the harbour front open to sea, and then another lock so as to get to the inner harbour.
For 't Majeur it was her first salt water experience and we could pretend setting out for sea, but not really so as she is not sea-worthy.
straight on and we are on open sea
Oostend-at-Anchor is a yearly ships festival in the last weekend of May.
All sailing boats that are normally moored in the inner harbour have to leave for the occasion and the pontoons are dismantled, only the ones parallel to the quay remain.
in the centre of Oostende with view on the beautiful station building
The inner harbour is filled up completely with little tjalks, sloops, small and big barges, powerboats (some nice looking) and all kinds of ships worth looking at.
Four, five abreast.
In the outer harbour – open to sea – all tall ships (at least 5 with three masts) steam ships, kotters and Navy ships are moored.
the harbour is full as can be and very lively
The town of Oostende is pampering skippers and crew and the public (each year a quarter of a million) saunters through town and quays, looking at ships and sometimes boarding.
There are stands with all kinds of things and there is live music all over.
This year it lasted for three days because of Pentecost and the weather was beautiful every day.
We were third ship from the jetty and had the advantage that most people didn’t bother climbing over, although …
We quickly rigged up – copying from others who had been there before – a notice board with information on ‘t Majeur. Pictures and a bit of text explaining the ship and her history looked very well and were well read.

there is lots to tell about 't Majeur
As soon as Oostende was at an end we sailed to Veurne where we could moor after consulting the harbourmaster whilst we went to Paris leaving poor Panache in a kennel.

Paris was host to a DBA-rally (Dutch Barge Association), a UK-based society of people with boats like ours or narrow boats.
In order to celebrate their twentieth anniversary this rally was set up, next to a party in the UK.
Over thirty barges – anywhere between 15 to 30 meters – belonging to people who cruise the continental inland waters – had gathered in the Bassin de la Vilette in Paris.
all the barges in the Bassin
The Bassin de la Villette is just a huge rectangular pond in the North of Paris where the Canal St Martin, cutting off a huge bend in the Seine river, is connected.
Five years ago a special arrangement between the DBA and the town council has been made, allowing  mooring in the Bassin, which was appreciated enormously by the Parisiens.
Until then the big pond, where ships had been unloading meat for the slaughterhouses on the one side and wood on the other side, had been bare since 1974 when all activities ceased.

Now, five years afterwards, slowly activities are re-appearing in the Bassin and the DBA was allowed to organise a rally again.
lunch on the quay for about 100 people, everybody contributed something
The days were just packed; we stayed on board with friends and we have met lots of new (to us) people.
We took part in the barge handling competition and The Big Lunch on the quay, but also found time to sniff at the real Paris.
breakfast in the café with coffe and croissant, that's Paris
On the last day we cruised – onboard our friends barge – the Canal St Martin to the Seine and disembarked there, going back to our own barge again.
The canal is a beautiful stretch of old Paris with cast-iron foot bridges.
The last part is a long tunnel underneath the boulevard Richard Lenoir ending in the Arsenal, the Paris harbour on the Seine, a special outing.
the canal St Martin, worth a visit and to stroll along
Now a week of DIY for Michel and a week away to Amsterdam for Rebecca and then we are off to discover more of Belgium.