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

  • April 2018
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Still in Blighty on the River Thames

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/04/2018

Well here we still are and it’s the 2nd April – nothing much changes. Still it rains and all dog walks are a sea of mud again after a 3 day respite in the weather which let the ground dry out enough for me to walk right around the lake at last on a day when the sun came out; such a treat. There are signs of spring everywhere around me except for the weather itself.


Meanwhile, back in the Netherlands, Francoise’s free winter mooring in Dokkum was about to convert to the visitor rate of 90 euros per week from yesterday. After a bit of juggling with dates when Sue and Vic could visit again and avoiding the inflated cost of Easter weekend ferry crossings, G managed to drop S & V back at Portsmouth on the Wednesday, then leave here late Thursday to catch the 2.00 am ferry for Dunkirk on Friday, leaving me here with the menagerie; did I mind? Was I jealous that he was going to get a two day cruise? YES; VERY MUCH! It just wouldn’t have been fair on Baxter though to drag him out and back and there is no such thing as travelling light or travelling quickly when we move en famille. It was awfully nice having the boat to myself for a week though with only Baxter’s tune to dance to.

Our good Dutch friends, Gerrit and Gezina, arranged for us to moor at the end of (the other) Gerrit and Saskia’s garden again in Aldeboarn and G and Gerrit had a two day ‘man cruise and sleepover’ to get there (you have to go a long way round due to low bridges). G & G spoilt my G rotten; feeding him and taking him out to ‘boys’ night’ cards. I tried not to mind, but I do miss Gezina’s hugs. In our absence, our friend Gary will be putting a new floor down in our bedroom and making good the wall linings which had been water damaged from small leaks when we bought her – at last the renovations commence. I shall be able to start decorating when I get home….hurrah!

Meanwhile, back on NoProblem XL, Muttley was happy enough playing chase with his neighbour Matilda; Baxter peed and slept (nothing new there then) and Daisy sulked because I wouldn’t let her out due to the fast flowing river and the fact that she keeps trying to run up and down NoProblem’s very narrow gunwhales – despite her diminutive size, she is not the most agile or sure footed of cats


The river has risen over a meter in the last 48 hours as I post this; we now jump down off of the rear deck instead of up.


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If you don’t want to see Sue wearing G’s pants ……….

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/03/2018

……… then look away now.

Have had a number of disappointments re potential visits from Sue and Vic as we daren’t risk her health and G keeps picking up bugs from his family. However, ‘tis nice that they have been able to join us this week; particularly as today was our 29th wedding anniversary – we had hoped that Kevin Too would be able to join us too but, he too, started with the snuffles and – she is going to kill me for this – we all have to be really careful not to compromise the health of a lady we love and cherish so much and who is doing so well on her final stages to recovery; we will not risk her recovery.

In the meantime we have been off a gallivanting and a visiting. 4 years out of the country means loads more catching up.

I also have to admit to turning into a first class anorak re the little train that runs up and down between Marlow and Bourne End; beeps at each approach to each crossing and starts at 05.50 in the mornings. Having got up to take Mr B out for a pee – and therefore being wide awake – I often inform G that the 0610 is 3 minutes late. I don’t understand why he shows no interest in the matter; nor does he show any interest in the number of the passengers on each train which has become a matter of great importance to me – they are frequently completely empty.

After walking the dogs I was given a day off from cooking so I cleaned Vic’s boots – not totally to his satisfaction; but beggars can’t be choosers, so he firtled under the bed and tried to look busy


Penny’s eyes continue to stalk Daisy’s every movement and Daisy’s every existence; she cannot comprehend something that is soooo far out of her control. We never need to ‘find’ the cat anymore; we just follow Penny’s eyes.


We had lunch with George and Carole; stayed with my dear friends Wendy and John, lunched with my gorgeous Helen and Chris and my incredible workmate and post people Sally and Pete. Slept with 8 greyhounds and discovered that their Mum {Sarah the pirate} can, actually, cook – Sarah is now stuffed; off the helm Sarah, you are now on the cooking rota next visit.

Had some snow and Mr B just wants to be out there eating it bless him


Now for the shocker! Sometimes – when you share a space – the laundry gets a bit mixed up. Sue quickly realised that these were not her pants.


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Settling in on NoProblemXL and her owners’ return

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/02/2018

Although we’d been down to see Sue & Vic for an overnighter, this was a good week for them to come up for a few days and have a bit of R & R in the soothing environs of their own watery home – despite the fact that she can’t find anything in the galley as I’ve re-arranged it to suit my cooking style!

On Sunday we were all looking forward to a pint and a Sunday roast at the local (G and I had had a superb meal when we ate up there with Gill and John last week). Sadly it was an almighty let down – started with an ‘off’ pint of Doombar and deteriorated from there with totally raw parsnips and cabbage and a ropey old piece of tough beef. The waitresses appalling attitude to our polite complaint only served to p us off even more! As Sue said, if it wasn’t her local she would have refused to pay. I escalated it to the manageress and she knocked 25% off of the bill, but it was poor compensation. Hey ho, you can’t win them all and the company was first class as always.


Meanwhile I’ve been enjoying sunny skies, the local scenery and the splendid sunsets in between the ridiculous amount of appointments for our MOTs. I now, of course, have had a couple of pints of Doombar, fish and chips and M&S Chinese ‘take away’ – I love their Chinese crispy lemon chicken; the last time I had any was when Vos and I went to M&S in Paris.


So far, apart from Sue & Vic, we have only caught up with loads of friends that we met in France, all of whom are back in the UK at the moment for a variety of reasons. Next week our MOT appointments start to ease off and we can catch up with some of our British mates.

Meg, Penny, Muttley and Baxter have been as good as gold together and Muttley really enjoys Penny’s company on walks – he can still keep up with her for an hour or so, despite the fact that he’ll be eleven this year.


Still bemused by the amazing array of towns and shops within a short drive from here; I’m really not used to it and the local availability of just about anything you want is a delight.

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A bit of a do (written 04/02–post when I have Wi-Fi)

Posted by contentedsouls on 06/02/2018

As most of you now know (if you follow Sue’s blog) my boaty besty mate is in a spot of trouble; G and I both need dental work doing; my passport runs out in March and I haven’t had any kind of routine health checks in 4 years so another change of plans – we had intended to head South in the new camper van to Spain or Portugal but, instead, we are now heading back to the UK for a little while. Dogs are all vaccinated now, so just wormers to sort out and then we are fit to travel when the festive season is over.

In the interim we have had some fun, adventures and new experiences – life is ever thus! We had planned to spend a week in Dokkum with Jill and Gary before moving into Aldeboarn to spend Christmas day with our Dutch friends, but we have had to postpone Dokkum until Wednesday.

I trundled off to walk Muttley, turning the generator off as I left; batteries being fully charged. G then heard the generator start and thought I had returned and re-started it for some reason – I hadn’t. He tried pressing the stop button again but it wouldn’t stop so went down to the forepeak – opening up the hatch, he found the generator on fire. With only the weeny generator from Matilda Rose to sustain us, we moved straight to Aldeboarn and have been plugged into No 70’s house. Fortunately it was only the wiring loom that was damaged and we were ‘fixed’ in the nick of time before Christmas.

On the cruise from Akkrum to Aldeboarn, G heard a loud bang. He stopped the boat and found me flat on the floor and more than a bit confused – let’s face it, I’ve always been easily confused! With hindsight I realise that it’s at least the third time it’s happened. Definitely needed to return to UK – a CT scan in NL was going to cost around 1,400 euros.

On Christmas Eve afternoon Jill and Gary drove over to see us with Gem and Chula, decided a bevy might be required so they stayed over and Jill and I went to the Carol service with Gezina and Thea; first time I’ve sung Silent Night in Dutch! It was fabulous and I’m so glad I went.

We had a fabulous Christmas day with G & G at No 70 with her 3 sons, partners and grandchild and the most amazing food; spiced pork and heaps of vegetables and all sorts of other goodies. a fabulous day and one that neither of us will ever forget. Thank you guys for sharing your special family time with us.

Christmas day 2 (as the Dutch call Boxing Day), we drove across to see Dutch boating friends Marijke and Jans; Baxter was quite taken with their girl dogs and had quite a spring in his step and a twinkle in his cataracts – it took him two days to recover though. We thought we were popping around for the afternoon, but we were plied with a fabulous meal again and didn’t leave until gone 11. Another memorable day; it is such a generous thing to include us like this and we are honoured.

Dokkum was very pretty still all lit up for Christmas when we returned for New Year.


So here are a few pretty pictures from all the missing months (just realised Baxter is missing from the photos but, worry not, he is still with us!)


Sunday 7th January we left Francoise on a bitterly cold day and headed for Bruges to catch up with Andy and Vos. As usual we enjoyed the most fabulous meal (can that lady cook!) and spent the evening in hoots of giggles. Sadly saying our goodbyes after lunch on Monday we headed towards the port just across the Belgian border into France. Given the temperatures were sub zero, there was no way I was staying in the camper overnight without heat (which requires electric), so I thought we’d have a treat and stay overnight in an hotel; baths, luxury, comfort, swimming through my poor deluded brain. Well; it was the shittiest whole I have ever stayed in – and, trust me, I have stayed in some pretty shitty holes. It was too late to find another hotel which would take two dogs and a cat.


Having kicked off about the cigarette stinking midden of a room we were were first put in, we at least were given a smoke free shit hole, so dragged our duvet and pillows out of the van into the room. However, the most amazing and vast Oriental restaurant was just a few paces away. Freshly cooked, eat all you like buffet with masses of seafood, sushi, and Chinese, which somewhat softened the blow. I started with the cold seafood. Followed by hot seafood, plus some duck and puds and ice cream ( G managed to throw in a few extra courses ) and a couple of beers washed down with port (supplied by Vos and Andy) and we slept quite well.


By the time I finished my meal I was starting to get a bit of a toothache and by the time my breakfast of eggs benedict arrived on the DFDS ferry (payed the extra for the private lounge – worth every penny) I couldn’t even eat the ‘thinly sliced’ ham and my face was beginning to resemble a football.

Once off of the ferry we headed to G’s sons at Northampton but, despite my being distracted by trying to Google emergency dentists, I couldn’t help but be appalled by the disgusting rubbish on the side of the motorway. I guess I had become accustomed to it before I left but, having spent 4 years in Countries that take pride in themselves, I could not – and still cannot – believe the amount of filth and discarded litter that lines British roads – what must visitors to the UK think of us. No question mark; I don’t want to know the answer.

A couple of nights plugged into Antony’s electric – during which time I was able to have the treat of taking the littlies to school – and we found that our next planned destination was not to be; so we had to do a quick re-think. In less than 24 hours Sue contacted neighbours and key holders and arranged for us to take over NoProblemXL, complete with wine, flowers and a ‘welcome’ card. Bloody superwoman; gets on your nerves.

So we are now happily ensconced and have been to Portsmouth to see Sue and Vic; had a grand reunion, delicious roast lamb and an overnight stop which allowed Sue and I to walk the dogs for an hour and a half. Penny and Muttley never stopped playing during that walk. Sue and Vic are coming back to the boat, all being well, for a week next Saturday in her post chemo ‘safe’ period. A lovely, lovely mooring here on the Thames, but the walking is a touch limited at the moment due to mud – not used to it as the Dutch do not allow mud; paving or duckboard are the order of the day and the Dutch do like order!

Pictures from Blighty


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A blog from Mrs misery arse; messing about on the river

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/12/2017

I know I’m not doing very well with this blogging at the moment – sorry. I seem to have gone into hibernation; just pack me a tea chest full of straw. I do suffer from SAD and, to be honest, much as I love the Netherlands and the people, I am struggling to cope with this relentless grey sky and constant rain. When, very rarely, we get a frosty sunny day I am charged with energy and enthusiasm, but the rest of the time it’s a bit pants.

On the upside, we get to meet up with our fellow Thunderbirds team, Jill and Gary and their dogs Gem and Chula (blue boat, Norderzoon in the pics) as we both have transport and also our Dutch friends at No 70 with their dog Diesel, but I crave some sunlight now. I am rubbish at ‘grey’.

Trundled into the supermarket and adjacent DIY store yesterday and put my shopping list on the counter of the latter; turned around and the shopping list was gone – the young man, seeing me searching, said a lady had walked off with it. I wonder what she will make of a British shopping list but, more intriguingly, my menu plan for the week; we had Gill and John coming out to join us but they went down with stinky fluey colds so had to cancel, all my food ideas were on the back of the shopping list; I wonder if they will be trying out Yorkshire puddings this weekend.

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Onwards to find Pirammima

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/11/2017

On the Saturday morning we set off to catch up with Veronica and Richard for our long planned cruise together.


After a bit of remote mooring we headed into the city of Leeuwarden where we also managed to catch up with Petra but failed to catch up with Jill and Gary. A great city, with the most amazing hardware shop (where, incidentally, I bought the most amazing pair of working gloves – strong, but with huge sensitivity). The weather was ridiculously foul and it chucked it down with rain a lot of the time which, somewhat, curtailed our adventures. We (that would be me) thought that we would have, at least, ten days to play together; but I hadn’t reckoned on the Dutch efficiency. When Nieko booked us into the yard for the beginning of September he meant just that – the 1st of September so our trip together was somewhat curtailed. Hey ho, next year.

Here’s some pics


What this extraordinary cavalcade was about I have no idea; but nobody doused us in water!


The artwork is on the undersides of the bridges – sadly we had to leave to get to the yard


G reversed MR up a side cutting and we banged pins in to get just one extra night of peace and quiet before cruising in the last Kilometre for our lift out the next day.


You all know how we spent the next few weeks! One pic for those that missed it or have just joined us.


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Gondelvaart (water ‘pram’ carnival)

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/11/2017

Whilst Graham and the team were rescuing MR, I stayed on in Aldeboarn and was fascinated to watch the amazing amount of work that was going on in the village in preparation for the Gondelvaart festival. Gondels are basically floating, flat, iron platform barges built over 100 years ago. They have neither superstructures nor engines and were built to shift peat. Once a year the gondels are dug out of little inlets and reeds, dusted off and superstructures created, to turn them into carnival floats for the last Friday in August. Well in advance of that date, work commences in the village with herringbone road cobbles being carefully removed and lighting cables being laid. Guys turn up to remove any weeds on the mooring walls and the entire (not inconsiderable) length of the main canal street is pressure hosed, cleaned and polished to within an inch of it’s existence. The guys on the water platform cleaning the mooring walls kindly lent G their platform when they went to lunch so that he could use it to finish cleaning our rudder in safety.


Each street in the village picks a theme for their gondel and then dress their houses accordingly. For example, our friends’ street picked the great Dutch Bake Off for their Gondel so all their houses were displaying menus of local delicacies. Other streets were draped with scarecrows, dreamcatchers, etc. The amount of work that went into these displays for weeks before hand was a m a z i n g.


On the day of the actual festival, a massive market and food stalls open from the lunchtime with all kind of bands and entertainers. The most incredible of which, for me, was a band of drummers that moved around the village all dressed in primitive skins (G says like something out of Mad Max – I’m not familiar). The beat was totally hypnotic and I followed them about like a rat following the Pied Piper.

As dusk drew in, all the lighting went out and the drummers climbed onto an unadorned gondel from our left – beat their way down the canal to the waiting, dressed gondels, at the other end of the village which then started their slow passage towards us; towed by little tugs – sometimes two huge gondels to one tug. We did, of course, dress Francoise for the occasion.


Pulled by the tugs, they ‘steered’ with punt poles and boat hooks. A lot of my night pics are out of focus, so I can’t show you them all, but you get the idea. Our seats had been put up outside G & G’s house first thing in the morning (perks of being friends of canalside dwellers) so we could watch in comfort. Supper and wine courtesy of G & G too; an amazing and unforgettable day.


Even writing this so long after the event has brought a lump to my throat but, for me, the most amazing thing was that they towed them down to the very small turning circle by Francoise; turned them and came back the other way whilst more gondels were still coming down – so then they were coming in both directions on this narrow canal with it’s tiny bridge holes. Such skill. I wish I’d been up on that bridge to watch the turning; if only I’d known – maybe next year.

The next day we waved our goodbyes and it was, almost, as if it had all been a dream as we passed the gondels being dismantled and put away again for 10 months; the cobbles being taken up again and lighting removed. Within 48 hours it would be as if none of it ever happened – the cost and the work for just those few hours. Incredible.


The blow was softened by the fact that we had a hot date to meet up with Veronica and Richard on Pirammima who had returned in time to do a bit of cruising with us before we headed into the yard at Franeker.

See, I’ve nearly caught up again now!

With apologies to Gerrit and Gezina for any inaccuracies in this post.

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The recovery of Matilda Rose

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/10/2017

We clearly needed to get MR out of where she was and sorted back to her beautiful self. With heartfelt thanks to Graham’s son Antony, Andy and Sarah, the intrepid crew moved her, polished her and repainted the roof. Putting in massive cruising hours over 4 days and moving her to Rugby boats at Stowe Hill where, within a few weeks, she quickly sold. The survey was all good, as one would expect, and she is now owned by people who will live aboard, so give them a wave if you see them. A part of my heart left with her when she was shipped out of France so now I am just glad that she has someone new to cherish her.

Whilst hatching the rescue mission, our lovely friends, G & G at Aldeboarn, asked around the village and came up with the option of two moorings at the end of peoples’ gardens where Francoise, the menagerie and I could stay in his absence. I had a ball with Gezina making pickles and stuff and also offers from the local bar to drive me to the nearby nature park and phone when I was ready to be picked up. It was such a joy to have some lovely female company over the two weeks – poor Gerrit had to put up with the giggling. We made it up to him though by taking them (and their dog Diesel) on a day trip to one of the islands in weather that we should probably not have been out in!!!!!!!!!!!!


These sailboats are Skutjes practicing for the racing season. The races are extremely popular and people just turn up to watch in anything and everything and just beach their boats to watch. some are then able to hoist their grandstands! Amazing spectacle – I only took six zillion photos.


By the time G returned from the MR rescue it was nearly time for the annual Gondelvaart and that was an experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

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Highlights from the missing bits

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/10/2017

We arrived at the fabulous village of Aldeboarn in time for the school children’s leaving ‘do’s’. Needless to say, with the usual Dutch passion for water, this involved boats and making sure as many people as possible got very wet as the kids doused everyone with water pistols and anything else they could lay their hands on. We quickly managed to get revenge for our soaking by plugging in our deck hose and drowning the lot of them. This could have backfired on us badly, being mere visitors and British at that, but it actually had the reverse effect and endeared us to the villagers who went out of their way to help us thereafter. It also made lifetime friends of Gerrit & Gezina whose house we were moored outside at the time (hereafter referred to as G & G).


We loved this little village and ended up returning to pick Sarah and Andy up here; leaving their car at G & G’s. In fact, we returned here more than once. A quirky little place with a nice little bar, small supermarket and second hand shop.


Once we collected Sarah and Andy, we were off on long daily cruises. Trying to ring the changes with big lakes and smaller canals. The trouble with long cruising days at the height of the holiday season is that, by the time we could prise Sarah off of the wheel, most of the ‘favourite’ moorings had been taken (no Sarah, we are not cruising through the night – this is not the BCN challenge). None of our stops were shoddy though.


At one point Sarah reckoned that she saw more boats in one day than she had seen in most of her life. As always our time together flew passed, but I think they both left having thoroughly enjoyed a bit of pirating in the Netherlands.

The only downside was that they informed us that they had been to check out MR on our behalf and that the boatyard she had been brokered with wasn’t doing MR or us  any favours – I will not say more on here. A recovery plan was quickly hatched for a couple of weeks on.

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Thunderbirds are go!

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/10/2017

We stayed in the water at the yard overnight in order to sort out the paperwork empty our bank account and say our goodbyes before leaving Tuesday morning. I will not miss either the steps, the lack of dog walking or the bloody wind turbine; but I shall miss the friendship and companionship freely given plus the amazing amount of knowledge and professionalism available in Nieko’s yard. Dwaine and Susannah offered me lifts to get provisions and directed me as to where I could get what. Dower came with us and negotiated a deal with an elderly, non English speaking, elderly Friesian gentleman to help find me a 2nd hand bike that fitted and suited me – which G then left me to cycle home on in the dark. I went shopping on it the next day and somewhat overloaded the panniers, falling off it in the yard as I came to a halt. I’m still rubbish at landings but, hey ho, I didn’t smash any wine and the holes in my knee and thumb are healing.

Back into Leeuwarden again where we had parted company with Veronica and Richard, we moored parkside opposite Jill and Gary on Noorderzon whom we had been trying to catch up with, but narrowly missing each other, for quite some time. so we cycled around to their side for tea and cuddles with their dogs and they delayed their departure so we could all go out and have dinner in the Irish bar. That was the first time I’d drunk Guinness in years and years – it used to be my drink of choice – jolly nice it was too.


Then we moved out onto the free Marrekrite moorings joining Noorderzon. Next morning G was down the forepeak ‘ole when he heard a loud bang and clambered out to see a pusher tug with a gondel (flat platform for loading stuff onto) drifting towards us, sideways, with the tug engine on fire. My immediate reflex reaction to this was a selfish, ‘nooooo, not my new paintwork!’.


The wind spun him and drifted him against the reeds on the far bank and we could see him making a phone call/calls. He had shouted to a couple of Dutch guys on the towpath our side that he had no fire extinguisher and no anchor (he did have a spud pole but that was adjacent to the on fire engine). I shouted Gary from next door and the 3 of us set off on Francoise to the other side of the river armed with fire extinguishers to get him off. By the time we reached him, he’d made an almighty adrenaline fuelled leap across the gap to the bank and, try as we might, the 3 of us could not operate the boat in shallow waters and get in with the fire extinguishers – as we were alongside to his burning engine (but not close enough to be effective or leap across) it did occur to me that there could be something on there that could explode. Somewhere around here Gary shouted that the fire fighters had turned up, but they were on the wrong side of the bank!


Given that the chap was safely on the bank and no longer in danger, we returned to pick up the young, fit, professionals. The easiest and quickest way to do that was to pull alongside Noorderzon so that they could ferry themselves and their equipment across her and onto Francoise so we could take them back across to the stricken vessel (I’ve always wanted to use that expression). It was at this point that the other Jill woke up and appeared in her dressing gown in time to see her boat being boarded by hunky fireman – I bet she had to pinch herself!

With the three of us free to position and crew the boat and leaving the fit young professionals to do what they were trained for, it was considerably easier (sorry, the words ‘fit’ and ‘young’ keep cropping up). Let’s face it, between us three we sported one knee replacement, one hip replacement and someone that would probably benefit from one of each!


Fire dealt with, the skipper had to be recovered from the bank, there was no way he was going to leap back on. We tried to push the gondel into the bank but, due to shallow waters, all we achieved was more holes in our new paint. We still had the dinghy, but no battery for the electric outboard and the rowlocks for the oars had broken away, only being lightly re-attached with super glue! So the oars were unearthed and the boss fireman was despatched down our rudder into the dinghy with distinct instructions not to row hard – his crew were, at this point, in hysterics.


He dutifully returned with the skipper and both returned up the rudder and we returned to our original mooring where the rest of the fire crew were waiting to pull us in – plus a couple of policemen. It was then necessary for everyone to shake hands with everyone – which took some time – and big fusses made of both our and Jill and Gary’s dogs whom we let out because, as you can imagine, were all going a bit nuts from having had their boats invaded.  


More than enough excitement for one morning before coffee! Should we rename Francoise, ‘Thunderbirds’, European rescue?

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