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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Archive for June 6th, 2017

YESTERDAY, a real time blog and a taste of Holland

Posted by contentedsouls on 06/06/2017

5th June. Race track out of Arkel to Vianen

18 kms, 0 locks, 6 lift bridges, 3 hours

I thought you might be wondering about how things are going in Holland – so here’s an account of yesterday’s cruise.

Arkel itself may have been dull, but our departure certainly wasn’t! With no boats behind or in front of us G hovered the boat in the stop lock whilst I clambered up the steep steps to reach the rubbish skip – the first we’d seen in Holland – and jump back on (the bin is up here and Francoise was down there).

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By the time we reached the first lift bridge we had been caught up by a large cruiser and we hovered together outside the pretty canalside gardens while we waited for the bridge to lift after a request on the radio for passage.

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The next obstacle was a rail bridge and we, unusually, weren’t answered on the radio. The cruiser behind came passed us and said something I couldn’t catch followed by “……. in 20 minutes” before tying up in front of us. Later we found out this bridge was controlled by the rail company and they had to be called on an intercom on the waiting mooring, marked by a tiny sign; how we were meant to know this I don’t know. I took this on zoom and then enlarged it! If they hadn’t been there I don’t know how we would have found out, because it was so close to the bridge we would have been unlikely to pull up alongside.

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By the time this train crossed over (only about 10 minutes) our two boats had become 15; by the time the second train crossed and the bridge lifted I counted up to 21 before losing count. All cruisers, bar one, and they were milling about all over the place like horses at the starting line.

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As soon as the bridge was swinging they straightened up and were off as the green light came on – they started over taking us within a minute (G likened it to the start of a Grand Prix). They were right across the Kanaal. In the 2nd pic these 2 roared up to us whilst we were already being overtaken and, in the 3rd pic, the boat on the far side was overtaking the boat that was overtaking us, whilst the nearside boat undercut him to overtake all of us up through the middle. Crazy.

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The inevitable then happened …. a commercial came round the corner towards us. They scuttled back like ants to the right hand side, cutting each other up in the process. This gave the back runners a gap and an opportunity to make up some lost ground.

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Of course, all this jostling and posturing didn’t get them very far as they all piled up in a heap at the next lift bridge on a red light. We continued sedately behind them as if we were following the safety car (to use the Grand Prix analogy again); no such thing as forming an orderly queue. We were first to the train bridge; at the lift bridge 1.5 kms on we were 16th – within minutes of leaving that one, another 10 overtook us. At this point G had a chronic attack of cramp which gave me a chance to play dodgems – terrific fun. So now we’re last (because any newcomers from behind would be detained waiting for the next opening of the train bridge) and all we need to do is trundle along at our old girl’s sensible speed in time to sail straight under the bridges without any delays or mucking about. The knack, of course, is not to let them get so far ahead of you that they close the bridge again. I have no idea, yet, if this is normal behaviour or if it’s just a bank holiday thing, but it was the most pure fun and excitement I’ve had in ages.

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Once they’d all gone by, we had a chance to enjoy the scenery and, in particular, a towpath tractor parade – there must have been at least 30, plus the (by now) obligatory windmill and thatched cottage (sometimes 2 out of 3 in the same pic).

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The icing on the cake in all this madness was the beautiful little fully rigged Tjalk waiting to come the other way through the bridge as the race pack charged out passing him at high speed on both sides and very close. He tried to flag them down but they took no notice and we exchanged polite faces of agreed despair as we slowly passed him whilst admiring each other’s boats. Look at this beauty.

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