contentedsouls

Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

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Aldeboarn Gondelvaart 2018

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/10/2018

We moored just outside Herenveen and Gerrit and Gezina brought the van back so that G could leave for the UK on Monday. Fabulous walking all around the lakes, but too far to go into town (limited to how long I can leave Mr B on his own) and G ended up being gone for just over 2 weeks. Despite hardly speaking to another human being in that time, it was amazing how the days’ flew by. We had another couple of seriously hot days and Muttley had a good time on all the beaches.

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As you can imagine, once G returned I was pretty keen to move on and have some company! We cruised to find Jill and Gary on Noorderzon for the night as they were about to go back to the UK for a little while and then they came on board Francoise for a cruise back to Aldeboarn ready for the annual Gondelvaart.

The 4 dogs are so good together but I shut Daisy away in the bedroom as she has a tendency to wind up visiting dogs!!

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I think I have moved on from my, ‘I wish we had a sail boat’ phase; I now want this immaculate tug.

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I managed to sponge a lift off of Gezina and Jill who had arranged to have hair cuts. This gave me a, much appreciated, hour and a half to have a wander around the shops in Herenveen and do a bit of people watching over a coffee without worrying about getting back to Mr B.

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Meanwhile, back in Aldeboarn, preparations for the upcoming Gondelvaart were well underway. Each street in the town picks a theme for their Gondel (sort of big, flat top decked, punt) and then they decorate the houses on the street in the same theme. Walking around the village I thought, at first, that the place had been the victim of fly tippers.

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That was until I spotted the corresponding gondel being built – clearly ‘plastic in the ocean’ is very topical here too

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So here are a few pictures from the event – sadly the quality of the night time ones are not good

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How to drown your visitors. Skutsje Racing 2018

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/08/2018

The Skutsje racing is a very big deal in Friesland and positioning your boat to get a good view takes a fair bit of planning. In addition we had invited Gezina & Gerrit out for the day which meant we needed land access. It worked out rather well, with ‘Rachel’ moored on the mainland and us on the island adjacent to the racing and a tender apiece to collect visitor’s and get back and forth. We were very lucky to get a mooring and we only managed by being naughty and mooring by the bin, in a space that’s reserved for access by the bin emptying boats – no way would they be along to empty it on a race day.

So part of the planning involved getting out of the boatyard and catching up with Rachel. By then, the heatwave had hit us and pretty much pinned us to the decks. Here’s some pretty pictures of our cruises en route to watch Wednesday’s race – and some not so pretty pictures of the mess left behind from the post race party on Monday. Appalling and not something often seen in the NL.

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Tuesday’s race was abandoned as there wasn’t a breath of wind. Wednesday the heatwave broke and we had strong winds and some lively water – so lively that our little electric motor on our tender wasn’t man enough to cross the lake to pick up G & G. Malcolm kindly picked them up in his sturdier tender with his more powerful outboard and brought them across to us. To say it was rough doesn’t really fully express the conditions, however they arrived safe and sound … but wet….very wet… wetter than wet things. In fact I don’t think they could have been wetter if they had swam across.

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By the time we provided Gerrit with a towel and a change of clothes, Gezina discovered that both there phones had drowned and, far worse, her essential medication inside a pill box which was inside her handbag which was inside a plastic bag; had dissolved. So there was no choice but for the intrepid duo of Malcolm and Gezina to turn around and head back to shore so that Gezina could drive back and get replacements.

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When they arrived back the next time, they had made modifications to their transport!

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After a rocky start (pun intended), we had a lovely day watching the racing from the vantage point of Francoise’ roofs (including Diesel the dog). Malcolm, again, transporting them back to land after we all enjoyed supper together – thank you.

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After a lovely day I was quite tired when I went to bed and looking forward to a nice lie in and a lazy day … hmm.. remember that bit at the beginning where I said we’d parked illegally in the Bin Man’s space? Here he is…bright and early, bless him.

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So we held off until he’d finished and then tied up again. After that the weather rapidly started to deteriorate

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We spent a very uncomfortable and noisy night with the anchor down – our other friends around the corner broke free of their anchor, but we were fortunate enough to ‘hold’. They, and we, scuttled off through the bridge in the morning to quieter waters and had a lovely evening together. Quite tired now.

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An unexpected visit from the family

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/08/2018

On our way to Groningen – again – and we had a phone call saying that our friends Malcolm and Annette on barge ‘Rachel’ were not that far behind us on their way up from France. So we turned around – again – and went back to meet them. Both the small boats either side of the last, not quite big enough, mooring space happily moved along a bit so we could moor and be  ‘friends re-united’.

It was only a few days later that they called on the Thunderbirds Rescue team. They toddled off in their tender to visit other friends of theirs moored a few kilometres away and ended up running out of fuel for their outboard – right in the middle of a dirty great lake and a sailing race (I bet they weren’t very popular!) Rowing all the way back wasn’t an option, so they ‘phoned Thunderbirds and we formulated a rescue plan. G would set off in our tender (with electric motor) with spare fuel on board for them; it was likely to be a one way trip for him as the battery wouldn’t have enough power for the return journey; the idea being to top them up and then they could tow him home. Just as he was setting off they turned up – a lovely man on a houseboat spotted their predicament and they rowed across to him and he gave them fuel for their return journey. Thunderbirds was back on stand down.

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We shared several pretty and remote moorings with them over the next few days.

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Whilst out walking Muttley, I came across a small brocante with a lovely little chair for sale – the perfect size and shape for our bedroom. The only problem being that I had to walk it (and Muttley) 2.5 kms home along a busy cycle track.

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No problems; when I got tired or cyclists were coming, I just sat on it and called Muttley back to me which caused much hilarity amongst the locals – the irony is that, had I been competent enough to cycle with it under my arm, nobody would have batted an eyelid! ‘Re-furbing the chair’ is another job now added to my list, although G says, “why bother; you can’t see it buried under discarded clothes anyway’’. Hmmm…..he has a point.

On the subject of decoration and refurbishment, I have added a new skill to my repertoire – picking spider poo out of curtains. I took down the 8 large, very pale, cream curtains in the saloon to see if they could be salvaged from the water stains. They came up remarkably well, apart from the copious black marks of splattered spider poo. Spider poo picking is, I’ll have you know, a very skilled job so, if you want expert advice on the subject, I’m yer man woman. During the heatwave I had to iron those curtains before re-hanging them (having first found the iron and unpacking it); I’d just hung the ones by the dining table when Jill and Gary popped by. Jill sat at the table to eat her lunch and had a bit of a mishap whilst opening a sachet of salad dressing – yep; straight up the curtain! The look of horror on her face was pricelessly funny, but at least the curtains and dressing were a very similar colour. Not wishing to be ‘outdone’, two days later I opened a bottle of pink beer which, unbeknown to me, had partially frozen in the fridge. It exploded as I opened it, so I shoved my thumb on the top as the contents headed towards the window; this ensured that the sticky pink liquid spread over an even wider area; running down the window and, literally, dripping off the ceiling. Bloody Murphy!!!

There has been a fair bit of discussion on previous blogs about our bed being a long way off of the ground – in addition to the additional storage created below it, I have found another advantage; you can paint the bedroom ceiling whilst lying on your back – no more arm ache; how cool is that? Gezina has given me a new nickname, ‘Jillyangelo’!

Anyway, enough of all that or you’ll be moaning that there aren’t enough pictures. I’m bemused by the, apparently, random gate posts (taken from a cycle path which isn’t wide enough for a car) and notice that Graham and Gezina have been throwing dog leads into the pot again.

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One afternoon, G popped his head outside (for the first time all day) just in time to see a familiar name on a yacht passing by; the same as the name on his cousins’ UK based yacht….of all the yachts in all the waters…. it was his cousin Robert and Alison. One minute either side and we would have missed them altogether (nice try guys; you nearly got away with it!).

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We had a good old natter over coffee and a promise to meet up with them in Franeker in a few days time – as it happened they kept popping up almost everywhere we went. In the end, we enjoyed a great meal out together one evening (also joined by Jill and Gary) and various cups of coffee, before they headed off out of our area. Great to see you guys; we really enjoyed your company.

The initial reason for going to Franeker was to introduce Malcolm to Nieko at the shipyard to discuss the work he wanted doing on ‘Rachel’ this winter. By the time we got to the shipyard, Francoise was also in need of Nieko’s expertise. Our old engine has always smoked a bit on start up but, normally, settles down once it’s warmed up a bit – not anymore; you couldn’t see us for the clouds of smoke and the fumes were actually rolling down into the cabin. We appeared to only be running on a fraction of our 6 cylinders. Rachel carried on for a few days whilst we sat about in the boatyard getting fixed. How I hate the noise from that bloody wind turbine overhead. Interesting boats and work going on though but not much fun getting Baxter across the boat we were breasted up to.

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A few pictures of Rachel following us and our trip to, and through, Leeuwarden and the art work under the lift bridges

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Island living and Friesian horses

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/08/2018

We (and that includes Daisy) love mooring on these tiny island moorings but the only drawback is that there isn’t enough ‘area’ to walk Muttley; this is where the boat’s tender comes into its own. Muttley prefers the destination rather than the journey though when it gets at all rough; on this trip we got beached going to the beach and getting G off of the bottom again after he dropped Muttley and I off wasn’t easy.

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You never know who or what is going to arrive; it’s common place to see dogs in tenders, but this visitor surprised us.

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The duck sat there quite happily whilst the chap chatted to his mate in a canoe before driving off again – bizarre.

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We managed to reserve a mooring at Eastermar for the annual horse fair as I adore the Friesian horses and hoped I might get ‘up close and personal’ and that I might be able to persuade himself that we had, ’room for a pony’. It turned out that the horse fair was also when the village had it’s annual fete and there were all sorts of fun and games and music happening over the weekend. I must admit that the Scottish pipers and drummers were another surprise.

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I was up soooo early that even the market stalls were still unpacking

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But it was worth it to get there early and watch the deals being done before all the tourists arrived. Many of the livestock changed hands more than once. A Friesian riding horse will set you back upwards of 5/6,000 euros apparently; no idea what the foals and unbacked ponies fetched. All of the animals were in good condition and well looked after. Peace reigned with the mares being led through the streets and their foals running free; that is until a chap came through with an entire pony that smelt the mares and then went berserk – rearing up and kicking out, catching it’s handler on her backside and sending her flying; she’ll be needing the Arnica. So, if you are not into horses (llamas, donkeys, etc.), scroll on down because here come a lot of pictures.

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Gezina & Gerrit came out for the day and then G’s ‘other woman’, Marijke and Jan came out on the Sunday to give their new car a spin.

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We found a new, idyllic, mooring in reach of a beach for Baxter – Mr B is on a lead because he could go the wrong way and wander off into the deep!

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Over the next few days the beach turned into this

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So we decided to move on before the assault on our eardrums started.

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The bin man cometh

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/08/2018

Before we left Sue’s boat for the other Sue’s boat, I put a mail re-direction in to divert my (NHS) post from NoProblemXL’s winter mooring address to my friend Sally’s in Norfolk (Sally has been our postal address for years and provides us with a service second to none). I had to use NP’s address as I needed a GP and to be living in that hospital catchment area (little did I know at the time that, once in the system, I could have just changed my address with the hospital …. sigh). The hospital letters still kept going to NP, so I rang the Re-direction customer service line knowing that, by this time, Sue had moved NP off her winter mooring. I was advised that they couldn’t re-direct my mail from Sue’s mooring address as the address ‘didn’t exist’ (despite the fact that I had been receiving mail there regularly) and that hey had sent me a cheque to reimburse me. “Where did you send it?” I enquired – yep, you’ve got it; to the non existent address 4 weeks after the date I’d given for redirection. It took nearly 3 months and two more phone calls before I finally got my refund. Whilst I’m having a moan, I should mention that I still haven’t managed to get the results of my cardiac tests that were carried out on 4th and 6th of May – as its now the 2nd August I presume everything was OK; especially as I’m still here and have had no further black outs.

Anyway, here’s some of what we’ve been up to during my prolonged silence. We spent an entertaining wet and windy weekend moored by the bend in a river watching the sailboats tacking back and forth at almost 90 degrees to the bank to get round the bend – this was particularly entertaining when hire cruisers and hotel boats came the other way from around the blind bend. Sorry, I missed the shot of one of those big hotel river cruisers coming around the bend and trying to do an emergency stop as two sailboats cut across his nose from opposite directions! Quite a few of the sailboats didn’t hack it either.

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Then the bogey man arrived and I thought he was coming to get us – but, fortunately, it was the bin that he was after and not Francoise. Nearly all of these Marrekrite free moorings – even the islands – have waste bins and we wondered how they were emptied. They put down spud poles, grab them, empty them and then they dunk them in the water to clean them before putting them back in a slightly different place to let the grass recover. The skipper says he empties about 60 a day. If you’re into boating then, being a bin man in Friesland, is a pretty cool job.

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We set off in the general direction of Groningen again and our weather started to slowly improve, but until this last week or so we continued to have cold winds if you were out of the sun. We have only just started to experience the ‘pin you to the floor’ heat that most of the rest of Europe are still experiencing. We have had some amazing skies though.

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We also had some stowaways on the tender which we liberated

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We went into the industrial area of Drachten which, whilst not the prettiest of moorings, gave us good access to the town, supermarkets and parkland for dog walking. It also meant Gezina and Gerrit could park right next to the boat so that we could borrow their very large and heavy clamps when they joined us for a meal out one evening. We didn’t have to pay for our mooring either – but I realised later that we were camouflaged in amongst the van rental company, so perhaps we weren’t spotted! The town moorings  were a euro a metre (6th photo) and we didn’t think we’d get under this fixed bridge to reach them anyway (last photo); the height isn’t listed in any of our info.

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We had a fabulous Lebanese meze meal out (it started off warm enough to sit outside) but, returning to the boat just after 10pm, we discovered that a refrigerated lorry had parked next to us and was running a very noisy generator. The driver was a very polite Polish man and we established he was on a 48 hour compulsory break – so we moved. Well Graham and Gerrit moved Francoise whilst Gezina and I trotted down the bank with the dogs. He did us a favour actually because, just a bit further along where we parked up again, there was a water tap which seemed to dispense unlimited water for a euro.

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Our next lucky find was on a little canal through 3 low, narrow and oddly angled bridges at Opeinde; The Golden Wok restaurant. An amazing array of cooked and raw food, especially the seafood. Select what you want and take it to the griddle and wok to be freshly cooked to your liking. The puddings and choice of icecreams were to die for, including a chocolate fountain where I parked myself for awhile to dunk strawberries and profiteroles. Eat and drink all you like in 2 1/2hrs for 24.5 euros. I’m delighted to say that my appetite has, after some years, finally returned and I was able to get my money’s worth! The local cat was as attracted by all that seafood as I was. Nice little mooring too.

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G insisted on moving the next morning; I think he was afraid I’d sneak back to the restaurant again. He was probably just being kind and thinking of my, rapidly expanding, waistline.

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There was a plan…..and then there was a rescue

Posted by contentedsouls on 17/06/2018

The plan was to remove ourselves to one of the isolated moorings and do some work – himself working outside on the superstructure (weather permitting) and myself decorating the bedroom. After we’d put a few days work in, we would cruise a day then work a day.

You’ll be surprised (well, we certainly were!) to know that this plan started off very well. We removed ourselves to a solitary spot where the animals could wander about safely and we could run power tools without disturbing anyone.

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The weather, however, didn’t hold up for long and we scurried about to get everything indoors as this lot approached us

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It really did get quite unpleasant and uncovered a few more leaks that we didn’t know we had. Within 10 minutes our peaceful lake had turned into a raging ‘sea’, complete with breaking waves and no, I didn’t go outside to take the photos.

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After a couple of days we thought we’d pop in to Grou for a day for a little R & R – last time we tried was in August and there was no hope of getting a mooring then. We were lucky this time and bagged the only mooring big enough for us – luckier than we realised as it was the official opening of a new stretch of waterway and there was ‘a bit of a celebratory do’ going on. Grou is pretty as you approach it, but the town itself was a disappointment to us consisting largely of restaurants and up market clothes shops and the weather was too cold to tempt us to stay – definitely not a day for people watching over a coffee. Having failed to get what we wanted, we did a quick food top up and left within 2 hours.

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Another working day (during which the klik, finally, was re-united with the rudder) and I expressed a desire to visit the nature park at Earnewald hoping to see the nesting Storks still with their young before they fledged. This suited G as he wanted to go to the Skutsje Museum.

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Tuesday morning got hotter and hotter as Muttley and I set off round the gorgeous nature park in pursuit of baby storks – wildlife and babies abounded, but not a stork nest was seen – just the one fully grown version. Incidentally, storks are now thriving in the NL and no longer protected.

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Somewhere during that morning we discovered that good friends of ours were in a little bit of trouble (Betty). They couldn’t start their engine and had spent the night at anchor with half of them into the main shipping lane – a situation that doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep. So we abandoned our intention of heading to Groningen and got the chance to don our Thunderbirds costumes again – re-tracing our route and then beetling down the PMK – the main shipping canal that’s the fastest way to get anywhere in this neck of the woods. I love it as you see so many different craft; it’s a bit like the M25 but without the traffic jams. Before we joined the main canal, we saw this little house up for sale – we looked up the details later; 450,000 euros.

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We picked up Noorderzon’s AIS quite away out – but even without the AIS we could hardly miss them; not many people choose to ‘park’ in such a daft place!!!!!!!!!!

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Ah, that sign explains it – a shame for them that the ‘help’ was only the mottley crew of Francoise. We moored alongside and, like all good Brits, Jill put the kettle on. Noorderzon is big – a proper ship – and you get a fab view from up top.

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A quick planning/strategy meeting and we left them there and headed for nearby land because we couldn’t agree the salvage terms we couldn’t attempt to move them until the wind had dropped. They weigh 70 tons to our 36 so it was going to be a bit tricky. Equally, we couldn’t stay with them as we didn’t want to add our 36 tons onto their anchor; increasing the risk of them being dragged further into the shipping lane. So we sat on the pontoon and waited…and waited….and waited. Eventually (around 9.30pm) the wind dropped sufficiently for us to go back and give it a whirl. With Noorderzon strapped to us (we felt very small) she weighed anchor and we headed slowly towards land in the setting sun.

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Unfortunately, ‘towards’ land was as good as it got as she is deep drafted and there wasn’t the water to get her all the way in; none-the-less we left her anchored in safe waters as the sun set.

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The next morning we took Francoise across and picked up Jill, Gary, Chula and Gem (and, of course, the recalcitrant starter motor) and set off for land and the Archbold car. The ladies (that includes me) walked the dogs and retired to the local hotel for liquid refreshments in the heat of the glorious sun whilst watching the traffic roaring up and down the PMK – it was the first time I’d felt like we were properly ‘back’. Whilst we were relaxing, our intrepid skippers took the starter motor into Grou and then went on to do, “a few other bits and pieces”; looking very pleased with themselves on their return. Gary had ‘acquired’ an outboard for his tender.

It was no surprise then when Gary came across to us in the morning in the tender to see if G wanted to go out and play little ships – G, of course, couldn’t because he was far too busy.

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So where has G gone – his equivalent of a Reggie Perry? Oh look; there he is!

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They just can’t help themselves!

G took us across to Gary’s car by tender the next day and dog sat Baxter and Muttley whilst we went shopping around DIY stores for paint, curtain rings, tender bailers and goodness knows what else; it took forever but it was nice to get away from the boat for a day.

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Gary made us new seats for our tender too and the repaired starter motor was recovered – we even found time to have a drink together one evening and sat watching the hot air balloons going over; some so low that we could talk to them. I think it must have been quite late when they returned to Noorderzon.

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I had noticed that Baxter hadn’t come out on deck to join us for the evening (he normally likes company whilst he sleeps!) and G had had to carry him up the steps and off the boat before bedtime. He was no better on Saturday morning (back legs still not working) and Francoise was a very sad boat as G and I agreed to go back to Aldeboarn on Sunday to pick up the van so that we could take him to the vet on Monday. Living with a very old dog is like living with the sword of Damocles hanging over your head. Baxter, however, had stayed awake long enough to overhear our conversation and clearly had other ideas for his end of life plan. Sunday morning he took himself up the steps and off out for a wee, returning with a waggly tail looking for his breakfast biscuits (we took him to the vets on Monday anyway and got him a steroid injection – he’s now eating us out of boat and home).

We shared dinner with Gerrit and Gezina the two evenings we were in Aldeboarn but then had to leave as we weren’t actually getting any work on the boat done – so it was back off to ‘nowhere’ and the power tools.

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Home, smelly home

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/05/2018

We arrived back at Francoise 11.30am (local time) on Friday and it’s fair to say we had a bit of a mould problem, pretty much everywhere; so our priority was to de-mould the bedroom and make up a bed on the floor and sort out what we needed for the animals and us for the day and in the morning. Our bedroom had been emptied so that Gary could fit a new floor for us and the spare room, therefore, wasn’t an option either – as you can see from the second photo. Fortunately Gerrit and Gezina made us dinner (they also offered us a bed for the night but it seemed easier to be home rather than uproot the animals again).

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Saturday morning I set about washing walls, floors, cupboards, all our clothes, bedding, china, pots and pans, etc., an ongoing situation which still hasn’t been completely finished – but I’m getting close now. G set about building a new, higher bed (a very high bed) with a rather cleverly engineered lift up system which allows you to lift it from the top, bottom, or either side. Fortunately Gerrit (The Other One) was on hand to help out and, miraculously, they completed it in one day. The bedroom is complete with new bedding and curtains now; just new curtain poles/hanging system for the portholes, painting and carpet to fit. I also rather fancy sewing contrasting covered buttons to some of the curtain pleats.

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I’ve also taken the opportunity to throw out a load of stuff we never use and have re-organised everything to leave surfaces clear (particularly in the galley). My triumphs’ have not been quite so dramatic as ‘the rise of the bed’ but are none-the-less satisfying to me. Just look at my drawers Matron!

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Boats being boats we have had a few set backs along the way; last Friday we noticed that the hot water tank above the boiler was tilting at an alarming angle from the wall. In the evening it fell off. Due to limited access the fridge/freezer had to come out (not a simple job) and all the water drained down on the Saturday morning. G thought this would be a good day to invite both sets of Dutch neighbours (from both moorings) around for food and drinks to say a heartfelt thank you; not only for offering us safe harbour and regularly checking the boat and her batteries, but for countless other acts of kindness. My suggestion that Sunday might be a better day was dismissed (amazingly we are still married). By the skin of our teeth Francoise’s rear deck was transformed back into party boat, the salon made respectable and food of a fashion cobbled together – bolstered by very welcome contributions from Gezina. We did have a lovely evening in the most perfect weather and it was good to unwind and relax for a change; I also managed to stay awake beyond 10pm!

Sunday morning we had lost all pressure in the water system and discovered water pouring out of the connection to the boiler and filling the bilges (purely co-incidental apparently). Out came the fridge/freezer again and a good half a day was spent pumping out under the galley floor – maybe it was a good job we did entertain on the Saturday!

That first week wasn’t all work though. Apart from our little party, G had a day out with G & G off-roading/hill climbing in the mud and Gerrit and he went out playing with little boats looking for a tender to buy. G also managed not to miss the Grand Prix or qualifying.

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I went to school with Gezina on the Thursday afternoon where Gezina teaches the children to grow veg on their allotments; the children’s English was excellent but they were too busy to chat for long. It was nice to be back doing a bit of weeding on the terre; I was an avid gardener in a former – pre boat – life.  I also took 2 hours out to go to the supermarket and check out a writing bureau that two of the three male Gs had seen in a second hand shop (whilst doing massive fuel runs to re-fuel Francoise). I have been looking out for a small bureau ever since we bought this boat and the one they found was perfik. I added the little red reclining chair whilst we were there; 32.50 euros for the two – result.

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Not surprisingly, neither of us cooked Sunday lunch, so we retired to the village bar for an hour for a beer and a toasted sandwich. Regular readers may remember that G had been able to research some of Francoise’s history whilst we were on the hard in Franeker last September, but that we had reached a dead end tracing the second family, by the name of Mud. A chance remark, whilst chatting in the bar, and there was a chap in there of the name of Mud who had been researching his geneology (you couldn’t make it up). He said that, in the late 1800s, there had been a split in his family tree, with one lot going down the boat route and the other lot (of which he was one) staying on the land. He is now going to see if he can find a link between his family and ‘Pax’ as Francoise was then called. Extraordinary chance meeting.

Given that Francoise is the third boat we’ve lived on in as many weeks it’s, perhaps, not surprising that we are living in some confusion. Wanting to check our water levels, I spent a considerable period of time looking for the water tank gauge before G pointed out that I needed to roll back the salon carpet, undo the cap and poke the dipstick in the ‘ole! I had similar difficulties when trying to turn the invertor on. Neither of us had any idea where we kept the dustpan and brush or the cat litter. Being a snail nomad is a doddle; being a boat squatting nomad is a lot trickier for my poor little, easily confused, brain. Each boat I’ve lived on has had specific things I’ve loved and the one thing that both NoProblemXL and Indigo Dream had that I really miss on Francoise is a side hatch. It’s so handy for letting Daisy out, emptying out your dustpan and having a thoroughly good nose as to what’s happening outside……now where do we keep the metal cutters?

By Tuesday morning we were just about sanitised, had food in the fridge and said our goodbyes; not for long this time though, as Friesland is a small place with a lot of waterways, so we’ll never be far away – time to go.

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Ouch, ouch!

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/05/2018

All locked out and hurting.

Before we left the Cape of Good Hope we got chatting to a couple with a beautiful dog – actually, we got chatting to the dog and then the people said they thought they knew us; but not the boat we were on. They remembered us from way back when, when we had been into their boatyard to get Matilda Rose’s engine mounts fixed which had sheared off. In an attempt to save us money, they had fitted us with alternative – cheaper – mounts than the ridiculously over-priced Vetus mounts. Unfortunately Matilda Rose didn’t appreciate our budget measures; vibrating her socks off and shivering Daisy’s food off of the work surface and opening all the cupboard doors and drawers. We were forced to return to Sarah and Gary at Lyons boatyard and refit with the original Vetus parts. It cost them money as their engineer, David, had to remove and replace the old ones and we only paid for the difference in the spare parts. They remembered us – get this – because we didn’t get angry and gave them good reviews for their service. A lovely catch up and big hugs from Sarah before we left them. Brilliant.

Meanwhile, back at our very tight mooring, Daisy introduced us to our ‘overlapping’ neighbours who, fortunately, are avid cat owners and lovers; Graham (I know, they get everywhere these Grahams) and Jan. We agreed in principle to do the Hatton 21 the next morning but we couldn’t commit to a time as toilet emptying had now become our highest priority. We phoned the Saltisford Arm boatyard and they advised us to reverse in for a pump out. G reversed her in perfectly and pump out achieved for a mere £15. Job done, we headed to the bottom of the Hatton flight to find our lock buddies just tucking themselves in and ready for us to join them. Unfortunately their Graham wasn’t well and my G was suffering from sciatica so Jan and I had a bit of a workout ahead of us with every lock against us.

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Just over halfway up we encountered a volunteer lockie which allowed Jan or I to go ahead and set the next lock; 3 people makes such a difference. Hard work, but the fun company of Jan made the time fly by although it was the slowest time we had taken to do this flight; it didn’t matter – we were in no rush and we did it at a comfortable speed, rewarding ourselves with toasties and bacon butties, respectively, with icecreams all round to follow.

En route we encountered the most extraordinary couple coming down. He was on his own on a shortish boat and wouldn’t come out until our pair had left the lock below him; but, as a pair, there was nowhere for them to go unless he came out and pulled over to the side. Eventually he did, with great reluctance. I stayed back to close a gate for him and he then pulled out ramming the concrete adjacent to the entrance to the lock and ending up sideways across the gates, so I asked his lady lockwheeler if she would like me to leave both gates open. It took awhile before she could be persuaded to peel her earphones out of her lug’oles, so I repeated the question. Her response was, “whatever” (it’s the first time anyone has actually said that to me and I had a job to supress my giggles). I pointed out that I really did need to know if she wanted me to close the off-side gate or not. Her response was, “don’t care, whatever makes you happiest”. So I left ‘Mr and Mrs we’ve clearly had a row and would rather be anywhere else on this planet than doing the Hatton together’ to it – later finding out that Jan had had a similarly stimulating conversation with her at the lock above!!!!

We moored overnight on the embankment at one of our favourite spots and spent a leisurely day there before moving the tiny hop to the Tom O’ The Woods pub to pick up my friend Wendy for a sleepover additional crew to do the Knowle locks. For reference, the pub has been refurbished and is delightfully dog friendly.

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All 3 of us were wacked, so it was an early night after a thrown together pasta supper. Wendy never changes (nor would I want her to) and she didn’t disappoint when she finished off the left-over cold pasta for breakfast in the morning – she is renowned for it.

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We had not done the Knowle locks before (previously going the Lapworth route) and they were really pretty; despite a dull and chilly start to the day. Wendy, an avid gardener, had to be recalled at one point having spotted the lovely lock side border.

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Shortly afterwards we reached the point where we had agreed to leave Indigo Dream and G drove Wendy back to her car. I know we didn’t have much time together but, that we did have, was very precious time.

So that was it for us; Just the packing and cleaning to do. The plan (yeah, I know. The ‘p’ word again) was to finish off everything we needed to do by around mid-day the following day, have lunch in the pub and sleep in the afternoon before leaving about 10pm to catch the 4am ferry from Dover. Around 12 ish on the Thursday we were just about done and G came up with a much betterer plan; so we skipped lunch and sleeping and headed off to Cookham to scrounge dinner off of say goodbye to Sue and Vic and the girls. The nearest point to their mooring that we could park the van was quite a walk for Baxter, but he managed it – just – in his own time and was very pleased to reach Penny’s new bed. Muttley was off like a rocket as soon as he spotted NoProblemXL.

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Leaving them at 9.30 we were in time to catch the 2.00am ferry and we were very glad we had upgraded to the Premier lounge as the ferry was rammed with 500 teenage passengers from 10 unexpected coaches (due to a problem on another Company’s crossings). I must admit to travelling with some trepidation as my Dutch friend, Gezina, had forewarned me that Francoise was in, ‘a bit of a mess’. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the ‘essence of unloved boat’ that assaulted my nostrils as we opened the doors.

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Holiday boaters–that’s us

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/05/2018

We stayed in Braunston Friday night so that G could watch his grandson play in a big ‘finals’ footie match. Unfortunately a player was injured near the start of the game and couldn’t be moved until the ambulance arrived – 2 hours later! So the match was called off. Just as I was throwing dinner together to feed G in a rush before he had to leave, ‘Halfie’ (John and Jan) turned up, but we had only time for a quick natter. They told us that they had seen Matilda Rose turn off up the Oxford canal; so that put paid to any chance of a meet up with the new owners – perhaps it’s just as well.

Saturday morning we were holiday boaters in a hurry and left at 7.30 am; unfortunately it took us half an hour to top off the water and, by the time we reached the Calcutt locks, our friends on Funky Fish were paired off and locking down. Even that early in the morning there was a boat waiting for us to finish watering so that they could get in. I did manage to prise himself off the tiller eventually (after whacking him over the knuckles with a monkey wrench), but not for long.

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We caught up with Funky Fish at the top of the Stockton flight and had just started locking down with them when Richard appeared on his bike to give us a hand.

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We moored by the Two Boats and took delivery of the marmalade and chutney that had been overlooked (thank you so much Sue ID and eat your heart out Sue NP). After eating lunch at the pub, Richard kindly drove G back to Braunston to pick up our van; taking it onwards to our destination and returning G to the boat. This left us free to cruise our little socks off like holiday boaters in a hurry – we didn’t though, we stayed the night; well we had done 11 miles and 13 locks.

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Daisy quickly recovered from an assault on the boat by an Alsatian which spotted her from the pub terrace and came hurtling down the towpath at her. She gave it the evil eye as it approached, before casually popping back onto the roof of ID. The Alsatian went demented; barking, growling and leaping in the air to try and get to her. Eventually, the owner sent a small girl (smaller than the dog) down to the dog which, by this time, had wound itself into a frenzy – Muttley and Baxter joined in the mayhem of course, whilst Daisy spat. I asked the girl to pick up the dog’s lead (still attached) and take the dog away, but she ignored me and looked back to her parents (still at the pub) for assistance. In the end it calmed down and trotted back to the pub. Extraordinary behaviour from the owners whose only response was to call it from time to time.

Sunday we had a lie in and didn’t leave until 8.45. We locked down the 10 locks with some pleasant people on a hire boat with their dog Zeta; the latter falling in at one point and having to be fished out by her life jacket. We warned them that we would be stopping at Kate’s boats for a pump out; we weren’t desperate, but wanted to be sure to get the job done (as it were) before we left ID. Not a soul around the boatyard anywhere so we gave up on that and carried on through Warwick to the last two locks of the day. Needless to say, the first flush of the loo after failing to get a pump out and the red ‘tank full’ warning light came on.

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As I approached the Cape Locks G went up to work the one side for me and then I was joined by another boat – a single hander and an uphill lock, so G had to work both sides himself – how I laughed. My amusement quickly faded though when I realised that I was physically challenged on the helm of ID. With the tiller fully to the right I couldn’t reach the throttle; so I’m now restricted to the left hand side of locks! This boat swims so well that you really do have to be very light on the throttle.

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We were looking to moor by the pub before doing the Hatton 21 in the morning. As usual it was very busy but G spied a space that he reckoned was just about big enough – I happily relinquished the tiller and, as always, he was right…nice parking skipper! It seemed that it would be a good idea to pop into the pub, so that was us done for the day.

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Whilst we were sat outside enjoying the sun, the hire boat we’d locked with went past us. They’d already done the 10 Stockton locks before joining us for 10 more and were heading on to do the Hatton 21 at 3.30pm – what it is to be young and enthusiastic. It seems we’re still a bit too lightweight to be holiday boaters!

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Who would believe that one tiny switch could cause so much chaos!

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/05/2018

Having got everything sorted and ship shape on Indigo Dream in G’s absence, he arrived back to say that Jill and Gary were hot on his heels – Jill and Gary being our winter neighbours in the NL. They are back in the UK due to the imminent arrival of Princess Archbold; grandchild number ….? Can’t keep up with the numbers; it’s like with Chas and Liz Faux – a positive epidemic and world take-over bid.

They arrived with Chula the French Basset and Gem the greyhoundy, Collie, Sheperdy, rescue dogs. Dinner at the pub and then it was way too late for them to go off and find a campsite and pitch a tent; so we investigated Sue and Richards sofa which turned out to be a sofa bed; so that was that sorted for the night (no, we weren’t taking liberties with Indigo Dream; Sue and Richard were adamant that we didn’t pussyfoot around and should just enjoy her and treat her like home). Now one of the mysteries of the learning curve on Indigo Dream has been finding the light switches.  Eventually we turned the lights off (they hide behind curtains!) and we all turned in for the night. The next morning I went to flush the loo (sorry if this conjures up too much detail or you are eating) and nothing happened. Checked the water pump fuses and all the usual culprits….no water. Checked the water tank gauge and it was showing empty – this was crazy as it was 3/4 full when we went to bed. Had we sprung a leak? Nothing for it but to pull on our clothes (not as much as a cup of tea or coffee between us) and hot boat it back to the marina to fill with water. Attached the hose to the tap back in the marina and within 5 minutes the tank was overflowing. So we all sat down and re-thought it through logically trying to make sense of it – there’s a little switch that hides behind the wine glass rack

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and then we realised we had twiddled it whilst looking for the ‘off’ switch for the saloon lights. We pressed it back to ‘on’ and hey ho we had water. Later on in the day I spoke to Richard and mentioned the switch, before I could say anymore, he said, “oh, the one that turns the water off? We never touch it”. How bloody daft did we feel – especially as we were under some pressure for me to make a dental appointment in Northampton at 10.30. By the time we got to the appointment G and I were gibbering wrecks.

Given that Jill and Gary were there with their car (and itching for a cruise), we hatched a plan to position a vehicle at Braunston and headed off. 13 double locks (I think) – my first locks in over 4 years and we arrived in Braunston around 7pm. What a heavenly, heavenly day. We shared the locks up the Buckby flight with a delightful couple and then picked up another delightful couple to share down with. We were all deliciously physically wrecked (my first locks in over 4 years) and I just about managed to stay on my feet long enough to throw some food at a pan before we fell into bed – remembering not to touch the water switch!

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Gem had fallen in and had to be rescued. I was working ahead to set the next locks (and all the Buckby top gates had swung open of course – no change there then), with every one of the locks, but the first, against us. The paddles on the top gates coming down into Braunston were almost immovable with a blackboard sign saying, “ C & RT are aware that these paddles are stiff – the problem has been reported”. 4 European softies had a bit of a workout and also had a ball.

We woke in the morning to a normal, panic free day (where water flowed freely) and indulged ourselves at the Goongoozlers Rest narrowboat cafe for giant sized breakfasts – G couldn’t finish his; this has to be a first.

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We waved fond farewells to the motley crew of Norderzoon yesterday morning, made another trip to the dentist and found narrowboat Funky Fish had arrived with Colin and Eva and their Norwegian friend, single handler, Kirsty on our return. Colin and Eva have a cat Diesel and two dogs Mutley and Misty. We haven’t seen them for 7 years when we poled up in Birmingham for a two night stop (for a concert) and got stuck in the ice there for 53 nights – we made friends when they kept us supplied with water during the freeze up from their Birmingham mooring. Later going to their wedding. We only made it to their wedding courtesy of Richard’s help locking us up the 21 through the Aston and Farmers’ flights after I had been unwell and wasn’t allowed to do much – amazing how things and people all tie up! So it was off to the pub for a good old catch up.

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In the galley doing the washing up this morning, G shouted look, look! Couldn’t believe it; of all the boats and all the canals and this brief time of ours on the Grand Union. Nice to see that they hadn’t painted over my birds on the side shutters …yet.

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So it’s onwards in the general direction of the Hatton flight tomorrow; early start and a long cruise. Perfik!

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