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Saturday, 9 March 2013

We’re on the road again, first to Groningen

A bit earlier than planned we left Amersfoort last wednesday.
Before we can go down south, to la douce France, we first have to do a quickie to Groningen and back (almost a yearly ritual).
Last year I didn’t write a blog about our last leg, I’ll make up for that now and explain Groningen as well.

Last year we went up the Sambre river as far as Landrecies where we had to make a U-turn because the road to Paris is blocked by a broken-down bridge.
The nice thing about waterways is that going one way offers a completely different sight from going the other way, so a return-trip is no problem at all.
Plenty to see and do on this trip to Charleroi and back, taking us about 190 kilometres.

On the way we ran into bicyclists, who came onboard and stayed in our guest cabin. They were a German father and his 13 year old daughter, making the trip from Magdenburg to Paris. It was her birthday present, at her request!

‘t Majeur being used as a diving board for the local youth in Thuin, a city built up against the mountain
't Majeur is the barge on the left
providing a splendid view of the river and, just then, ‘t Majeur as well.
't Majeur, the Goede Verwachting and the Emmanuel in Berlaimont
In Berlaimont we met, pre-arranged, friends that also cruised the Sambre and spent a lovely evening together.

In Berlaimont we met the people that live in the former vicarage, a beautiful house that almost gave us doubts about living on-board; it even had its own island in the Sambre at the back of the garden.
A great spot for a BBQ, conviviality and French conversation.

Leaving the Sambre, going North, we twice made the Belgian artefacts-tour, each time with different guests.
It is so nice and special that it no problem at all to do it more than once. This year we are offering it again as a special trip on-board, look at this page on our website.
For those amongst our readers who are from Amsterdam: the Canal du Centre, in between the old elevators, is swept regularly by a boat with a logo: “Keep the IJ free of litter” (the IJ is a big water in Amsterdam)

And then we took the Dendre river going North, this really was a year for up-and-downs. And here also the view was different from going South, not in the least because we cruised together with our English friends on their barge, Esme.
't Majeur and Esme on the Dender
In Ath there is a yearly parade of giants. Huge rattan built giants, propelled by people on the inside. A tourist trap, attracting thousands.

To our luck now, in the aft season, there was another parade to celebrate the 100th anniversary of one of the societies. Yes, a parade with all of those beautiful giants and no, no tourists except us; and the giants were put together on the quay right in front of us, great!

Again a few days in Antwerp, having visitors, and it’s really a nice town to be. Lovely berth in the marina next to the MAS (the new museum).

By then it was the end of September and we were on our way to Amersfoort; summer was drawing to an end and the pleasures of wintering for a few months at a fixed mooring were luring us.
We left Antwerp in calm conditions planning to spend the night in Dinteloord, which we did.
Alas, the wind picked up on the way, not such to prevent us from moving on, but not very calm sailing.
As we cruised the Volkerak we were treated to a cracking sound, we were inside and the noise came from outside.
When we looked back it appeared that the canopy had disappeared completely, torn from its hinges by a whirlwind. 24 Square metres heavy steel frame-work, covered by also heavy tarpaulin, flower pots, bronze bell and the lights. The second it hits the water it sinks, we’ve heard it happen but never spotted it again.
't Majeur without its sunroof
We could deduct from the fact that everything that was on the aft deck - chairs, BBQ, candelabras - hadn’t moved an inch, that it was a whirlwind and not a heavy gust. And on the VHF we heard a commercial skipper, cruising in the opposite direction, announcing that he had lost 2 covers of his hold in a similar manner.

So now we are on our way to Groningen where Willem de Vries is going to build us a new canopy.

We have really enjoyed Amersfoort and we plan to return this winter, but first we will spend a hopefully warm summer in France and an equally enjoyable spring and autumn on the way up and back.


 After a season cruising my gloves look like this, but I’m all geared up: new season, new gloves.