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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Back in the water after 5 1/2 weeks

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/10/2017

It was Friday 1st September when we came out of the water and the first week, largely, disappeared on fire watch and the associated dismantling and re-assembling of our sleeping and cooking arrangements (but you already know that). Then the weather turned nasty on us, so work continued inside and G even patched the hole in our ceiling  (which he pulled down last year whilst trying to source and fix a leak around the window). By the 3rd week we were able to get into a pattern, with G outside working and me sorting dogs and our food for the day; then working outside with him after lunch, before getting us both fed and walking Muttley again in the evening. This seemed to be the most efficient way of working as I, obviously, do not have G’s strength to wield heavy power tools for very long to do the rubbing down. You would think we would both have slept well, but we didn’t really; it was just head down and work. Even walking Muttley gave me little respite as the options were to turn left down the road to the sewage plant and back, or turn right up the road to the town bridge and back. Neither option was traffic free. I think, in those first 3 weeks, they only respite was Friday evenings when the yard owner put on a crate of free beers at 5 o’clock and everybody knocked off early and nattered about boats, life and the meaning of the universe. Given the number of boats coming in and out of the yard (not just on the hard); Friday evenings introduced us to diverse and ever changing crews. Due to our presence, and always a few other non-Dutch speakers, the language swapped seamlessly into English – imagine the French doing that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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When I said the weather turned nasty, I meant it. G enquired if I was cold; sometimes a girl has to go a bit OTT to get his attention (I haven’t learnt the art/skill involved in lighting the Old Dutch stove that we put in last winter and, even if I had, I would have forgotten over the summer). How many times we went up and down those bloody steps I’ll never know; not to mention the intermediate and low ones that we went up and down and dragged around with us as we painted.P1240263P1240265 - CopyP1240266 - CopyP1240266P1240268 - Copy

By the end of the 3rd week we had pretty much finished our ‘out of the water’ stuff, although we had plenty more we could do. Looking around the yard at the boat of fellow ‘large crane’ sharer, it was clear we wouldn’t be going back in a rush

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His rudder was unattached, his engine was up the corner of the hangar and his new cooling system needed welding on under the entire length of the boat before blacking/painting. Given our previous experience of boat dismantling for fire watch, I was intrigued how this was going to work (he lives aboard too) – simples; they flooded him!!!!!!!!!!!! Just a ‘small’ matter then of him pumping himself out afterwards. He was such a nice chap and never stopped working until late into the evenings; very aware that he was the one we, and two boats due in shortly, were waiting for. He was still working on his engine at 10.30pm when I trotted across to the loo one night. Getting the crane in just for Francoise was not financially viable for us.

The upside of this was that we could back off a bit and have some fun. We had a look around Franeker and it’s Planetarium on a day when a festival was on with loads of cars and tractors. Then went out with two sets of friends who had turned up and moored in Franeker. We had dinner out with Jean, Phil, Annie and Mike and combined a visit to Harlingen chandlers by taking the latter with us and having a look at the seaport and a spot of lunch.

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G bought an electric outboard for the dinghy and borrowed a battery so he could go out for a test drive – happy to be back on the water in any way that he could!

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Our good Dutch friends Gerrit and Gezina from Aldeboarne came out for supper with us and delivered our new debit cards (one of many things which we have had delivered to their address). Now, because of the gap in this blog, you know nothing – yet – of these amazing warm and lovely guys who have done so much for us; you will.

Friday 6th October turned out to be good news day with 2 bits of, potentially, amazing news; one I can’t tell you about until later this week (no, I’m not pregnant); the other was that the big crane had been booked for mid day on the Monday 9th – provided that the strong winds abated. Poor old Dower was going back in minus his engine which would be fitted in the water; he was still slapping paint underneath as the crane arrived. Gerrit and Gezina came out to watch the excitement and although there was a delay in the crane’s arrival, the lift out itself was uneventful. I hadn’t realised that the setting up, counterbalancing, etc of the crane took soooo long – on our arrival that process had already happened and we were lifted straight out. We then had to disappear along the river for a bit (which gave Gerrit another chance to steer Francoise) whilst they put Dower’s boat back in and oiked the other two out. A long, long day.

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Just to finish; some of the sights seen whilst up on high.

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High rise living–life in the boatyard

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/09/2017

After a few lovely days (way too few) cruising with Veronica and Richard on Pirammima, we had a phone call calling us in to the boatyard Friday 1st. When we booked this lift out from France (way back in March) for the 1st week in September, the last thing I expected to happen was a lift out on 1st September! It’s not how these things normally work. So, here we are, roughly 15 feet up in the air with our fat bottom waving in the, not inconsiderable, winds and in a fair bit of chaos.

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The lift out itself was smooth, efficient and without drama

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Muttley and Daisy have no problems with the steps, but G has to carry Mr B up and down twice a day for the serious stuff; in between we have taught him to pee on the rear deck (drains and can be power hosed off) and are using dry nites bed sheets – I strongly suspect we won’t be able to ‘unteach’ it but you do what you have to. Life on the hard was never going to be easy with animals, but the people who own the yard have done everything they possibly can to make life as easy as possible.

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G is pleased to announce that he finally has a big one; even more brilliant as our neighbour on the hard has a particularly little one – ours is the big shiny one!!!!!!!

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Work progresses quite well; the professionals are doing the 3 overplates whilst we are doing the more routine reparation work. What we hadn’t banked on was us both doing 2 1/2 days of fire watch (one of us to each welder), which we hadn’t factored in and the chaos of having to take up floor boards after removing beds and pantry contents. It has, therefore, been a bit stressful and ‘ate’ the first week. We have a first coat on our bottom now but torrential rain and high winds are not helping. Might be here for awhile. Just the one fire and yes, those are two holes in the hull under the pantry floor (photo 6) where he cut the old plate out. G said he couldn’t service the genny in the rain under an open hatch and wasn’t impressed when I showed him a solution (photo 1). I even offered to hold the umbrella.

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Fun and games, but all pretty much within the anticipated budget and a huge boost when we found the original registration numbers; Hz1477N, original name Hoop op Welvaart. Then L2227N, renamed Pax. Beyond thrilled as now we can research her entire history.

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Cruising in and around Tjeukemeer

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/08/2017

Having picked Veronica and Richards’ brains for some of their favourite places, we set off into the Provence of Friesland in search of the larger waters which have moorings on little islands, encountering more acres of nature paths en route. P1230035P1230040P1230058P1230073P1230078P1230079P1230080

Everything here is to tidy and pristine. This is such a wealthy country; that’s a new complex being built below – all thatch roofed and with different roof pitches and balconies. That kind of build doesn’t come cheap.

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How’s this for a free mooring; the island of Marchjepolle with our very own beach; even Baxter managed a deep paddle to lift some weight off his old bones (he’s on a lead because he’s developing a tendency to wander in the wrong direction), whilst Muttley made great friends with the cutest little Shar Pei off another boat and had a ball making holes in the beach. They are very casual with dogs here; nobody expects anyone’s dog to be aggressive so there allowed to lay outside of their respective boats on the banks. It’s quite common to walk Muttley passed a line of boats and have 2 or 3 jump off and join us for a little way.

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I Also made a trip into Steenwijk on the kayak thinking I might visit the Jumbo supermarket, but it was closed. I frightened myself a bit on the way back because I wasn’t 100% sure of my route and it is ridiculously easy to get lost. A completely different perspective from down low and there are so many different waterways and junctions. In the UK and France we used to say, ‘you can run, but you can’t hide’; well you can hide here!

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I love the way they duckboard all the marshy bits in the nature park so that you can walk at anytime of the year without getting muddy boots. This stork was quite unperturbed by our presence; they are huge when you get close to them.

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The diversity of craft here continues to astound me – there seems to be little or no snobbery; everyone gets out on the water on anything they can. I have to admit I am growing a terrible urge for something with sails as a nice little holiday home up here for the summer. Look at this little beauty. Yeah, I know it’s too much maintenance and expense to run two boats and our joints are not up to it either; but a girl can dream.

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Leaving Flevoland and into Overijssel

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/07/2017

A considerably calmer day for a Meer crossing; so no need to pack glasses, remove mirrors, pictures etc. I came across the strangest of smart estates (definitely bungaloid dystopia) where this lady was actually polishing her railings!

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Leaving Ketelmeer for Grafhorst we had to go up 5 metres to reach sea level (that’s really weird), so I was able to pack away the snorkels and periscope for a bit. At the entrance to the lock was a bridge (not lifted) and we went in behind 3 cruisers who wouldn’t move up; we couldn’t rise the 5 metres without crunching ourselves under the bridge and the bridge keeper wasn’t going to stop the traffic to lift it. There were lots of long words over the loudspeaker (the Dutch really do like long words – why use 5 letters when you can use 25) of which we understood not one single word before eventually the man on the tannoy and me on the front of Francoise persuaded them to shuffle up sufficiently for us to clear the bridge as we rose. In all honesty it would have been quicker for either him to lift the bridge or us to wait for the next lock!

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Again flat calm with a huge diversity of craft. We were momentarily bewildered by this apparent ‘no through road’, before we realised that the channel lay sharp right. That thatched hay barn was quite something. By this time I had gained a really bad earworm, “don’t pay the ferryman” – there are ferries of all shapes, sizes and propulsion at every turn.

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We continued on to Grafhorst where we were able to meet up with my long time Facebook pals Veronica and Richard. So brilliant; we had planned to meet up and travel with them at the end of August when they returned to Friesland but we are so ahead of ourselves that we managed to meet up before they left – and there was I worrying about getting to Franeker by September! We also managed to meet up for lunch a couple of days later in Blokzijl and they brought us presents of the Marrekrite mooring flag and the Friesland Provence flag (water Lilly leaves – not hearts). Purchase of the Marrekrite flag entitles you to thousands of free mooring places in Friesland (think GOBA in the UK).

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It was leaving the town that I encountered my first bruggeld payment; man with ‘fishing rod’ swings a clog at you and you stick two euros in his clog. I can’t help wondering what would happen if I put my Mum’s old bus pass tokens in – probably the next bridge would land on our heads!

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15th June Utrecht to Maarssen

Posted by contentedsouls on 25/07/2017

10 kms, 0 locks, 5 LBs, 2 hours

The eagle eyed amongst you will realise that this post is one post out of sequence; I typed it, then accidentally deleted it, swore a lot, managed – just – to refrain from chucking the computer in the river, then forgot to post it!

Leaving Utrecht we passed behind the long line of ‘motels’ and, eventually, reached some really nice houseboats which showed what could be done.

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A short journey before mooring up just outside of the town centre (free). G found Mike and Annie having a nice quiet lunch at a nearby restaurant; we soon put paid to that and they advised us that the next bridge, beyond Maarssen had broken down. We had a word with the town lift bridge operator who said that the problem was serious and that they were ‘manufacturing parts’ to repair it. This sounded a bit serious.

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We made the decision to leave in the morning, turn around and back track to the big boy’s canal which, we had been warned, can be quite rough. Those of you who know me well, know that I like a bit of rough; provided it’s coming from the bow or stern … ooooo matron. Unfortunately Muttley doesn’t, so I took him for a nice long walk around the pretty town to ease my guilt.

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Having taken mirrors, pictures, glasswear etc., down into safe havens, we turned with a great deal of difficulty on this narrowish canal and much to the consternation of the people in the smart cruiser on the opposite bank. Our, ‘stick the nose on the bank and turn around it’ technique gave them apoplexy and they were trying to fend off 42 tons of Francoise with a boat hook – cruisers and barges are as different as chalk and cheese. Mission accomplished we set off back the way we had come, passing the chandlery where Mike and Annie were drinking coffee; we backed up to talk with them and they informed us that the errant lift bridge would be fixed later that day. We turned again and moored back up where we were before, putting everything fragile back in it’s rightful places. The look on the faces of the smart cruiser people was priceless – clearly convinced that they were moored opposite the local nutters.

Needless to say, the bridge didn’t re-open so I took the opportunity to go to the supermarket in the morning. I mentioned in the previous blog that I was gob smacked that the lockie had waved a credit card machine at me for his 5 euro locking fee; this is because the supermarkets (and very few shops) do not take any kind of card. Not debit, credit or pre-loaded cash cards. This can make life very embarrassing the first time you shop; arranging for a tanker of fuel to be paid for in cash is particularly challenging. We are used to it now and have adjusted, so you can imagine my shock horror when I proffered my euros at the check out of the afore mentioned supermarket only to be told, “we don’t take cash”. With great trepidation I handed over my credit card which, of course, they didn’t accept. Everyone in the queue is now showing considerable interest in my predicament, albeit in a jolly way – and one pointed out that there was a sign outside saying they don’t take cash (as if I could read it) – my relief was considerable when their machine reluctantly accepted my cash card!!!!

We decided to push on hopefully towards the recalcitrant bridge. As we entered the town lift bridge, a hire boat waiting to come through towards us pushed closer and closer to the point where we had to nudge his stern out of the way to get through – I quietly suggested that they held back a little on red lights to let the longer boats clear through. At the second town bridge we watched in amazement as our light turned green and an oncoming hire boat came through against their red light virtually sideways. Fortunately I was sat on the bow at the time so I was able to warn G; could have been a great deal of splintered fibreglass if I’d been inside doing chores.

I love the way they use their little boats to go to the supermarket, work, or just visit friends and pull over for a natter.

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We then passed Mike and Annie who knew the bridge hadn’t been fixed yesterday, but didn’t know what was happening today. In other countries it would be obvious whether boats were coming through or not, but here they all have end of garden moorings and zot up and down for the hell of it just because they can, so it’s difficult to tell. We trundled on to a pretty mooring where we watered, I dog walked and G nattered to passers by (the Heron was most unperturbed by my presence).

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Eventually a boat coming towards us confirmed that the bridge had re-opened.

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23rd June to Oostvaardersplassen then 26th to Lelystad

Posted by contentedsouls on 23/07/2017

7km, then 17kms

I completed my first solo major shop on the electric bike towing the trailer, as G was glued to the Grand Prix stuff, before moving to the outskirts of Almere to the massive national park area. It was on this shopping trip to Jumbo (one of two supermarket chains we have so far discovered) that I found these wonderful items. Forget your ‘part bakes’. The in store bakery makes up batches of rolls; some they bake and sell as normal, others they sell as raw dough. Take a bag home and just pop a couple in the oven so you can have fresh bread rolls anytime you want; they keep for about 5 days or you can freeze them. I also discovered their rare, finely sliced roast beef – the two make a heavenly lunch combination with a little horseradish sauce. Note to self, horseradish sauce could be the replacement Warburton’s currency.

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The park is vast; no I mean VAST. I walked Muttley for over 3 hours on Sunday and saw one couple on foot (who were lost) and one couple on a little moped (who were also lost). Both couples pounced on me for directions and I was relying on my GPS on Google Maps. The place is so isolated that there are no tracks on the maps so I had dropped a pin where the boat was moored and used the GPS to check my directions in relation to the pin – this wasn’t a lot of use to the two couples concerned, but I was alright Jack; very Handsel and Gretel/Babes in the Wood. All of this – being a polder – was once under the sea, but it didn’t make sense until we went to the museum in Lelystad. I later found out that you should never leave one of the three marked trails without a guide!

I’ve used the road map to give you an idea of the size of this Ostvaardersplassen; it’s about 25 kms long and you can see the size of the area given over to nature – pretty damn generous in my opinion when I discovered what they went through to reclaim that land for living space and agriculture

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Vast areas have boundary fences to keep deer in (or out?) and the gates in the fences were great; not so the grids- I had to carry Muttley over this or backtrack 2 miles. This was also where I found the info about the ponies that I didn’t understand.

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Many will be thinking why didn’t she look it up on itranslate? If you knew how many important things had to be translated on a daily basis just to get by; not to mention no, or limited, WiFi … so perhaps one of you guys with your luxury 4g service might be good enough to give it a whirl and let me know the gist.

As you can imagine, Muttley and I could have stayed here a great deal longer but it was time to move on to Lelystad. Rather than go back out to ‘sea’ and moor in Lelystad port (for ‘port’ read rubbish for the cat and bloody expensive), we took the scenic route in to the South. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to get under the low bridge, but the mooring just before it was perfect and put us 2kms from the southern edge of the town.

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Having recovered the car we, rather lazily, drove across the town over to the coast where we found all kinds of shipping including a huge Noah on his Ark!

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This huge lock takes you from the Markermeer onto the even bigger Ijsselmeer both of which were once open to the ‘tempestuous’ Zuider Zee. Now this is not the place for a history lesson (there is plenty of info on the web), but we visited the museum that showed how the land was recovered to provide both accommodation and food for the overflowing populace; it was all the dream of an architect called Lely and this year is the 50th anniversary of the first people moving onto the polder in the city of Lelystad. Totally fascinating to me and it made sense of things that I hadn’t, in my ignorance, made sense of previously. The polder towns have been carefully laid out, rather like Milton Keynes, with shopping areas, cycle networks, leisure facilities and parklands; the difference being that there are a lot of towns and cities and all the land had to be reclaimed first and all the infrastructure built from scratch. Again, highly amused by some of their zany statues. I have no idea why they would want to build a ginormous statue of a man squatting down to have a poo, nor why they would stick a man’s head in a kiddies paddling pool with a tiny man stood on top.

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17th June Maarssen to Overmeer then 21st to Almere in Flevoland

Posted by contentedsouls on 17/07/2017

16 kms, 4 LBs. 44kms 3 locks.

We originally moored up for the day at Loenon but, by the time we’d had lunch and sorted out washing, we discovered that we were going to be charged .75 euros per metre for no facilities. So we moved on. It is perfectly acceptable to pull into towns for free and use shops and restaurants; but if you stay near a town after 5pm you are very likely to get charged. The next 3 moorings were just post and rail fencing with no shore access; but at the 4th we were lucky and found a lovely mooring where we stayed for free for 4 nights whilst we waited for the right wind speed and direction to cross the Markemeer onto the polder (‘man made land’) of the province of Flevoland.

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A very affluent area – in fact all of the NLs seems very affluent and boating, particularly on a sunny day, seems to be it’s major leisure activity.

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By Wednesday we had a wind onto the bow at 14 kph, so I stowed the crystal and removed mirrors and anything precious that might jump off of shelves or walls and we went for it. The Markemeer is a huge inland freshwater lake which has been reclaimed from the sea – freshwater it may have been, but it still looked like sea to me!!!

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All was good until we had to turn across the wind into the canal and boy did we roll. Pitching is fun; rolling is very, very bad. Muttley hid under the bed as all hell broke loose inside the boat. Fortunately it was only a matter of a few minutes.

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05-13 June Vianen to Utrecht

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/07/2017

16km 5 locks 12 LBs 6 hours

Whilst everyone has heard of Utrecht, I suspect few have heard of Vianen. In Vianen we finally met up with Katinka and Scott on Tjalk Eendracht. They follow the blog and we are also Facebook friends; they were house sitting about 30 kms up the road and called round to say hello and provide us with masses of information. They also showed us how to tie up the maps with the Wateralmanak; this is the key to the mystery of  ‘how and when’ the bridges operate. Up until that point the Wateralmanak (which is a legal requirement) had been completely incomprehensible to us. We had hoped to get together with them for dinner but, sadly, couldn’t find a day when we were both free – next time! We were also joined by Annie (Facebook friend) and Mike on cruiser Nynke and did manage to get some evenings together. I also, rather rudely, bashed on the door of the beautiful Irish registered Tjalk parked opposite, Avesol II, and introduced myself to John and Win and dragged them back for a drink when they were contemplating bedtime!

There is nothing to put Vianen on the tourist trail but, as a boater with dogs, I loved it. Friendly, pretty little town with two medium sized supermarkets around the corner, numerous restaurants and amazing dog walking – it rather reminded me of the north Norfolk coast. We stayed 8 nights and, most unusually for me, I would have been more than happy to stay for several more days.

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All 3 of the afore mentioned boats left on the Tuesday morning – it hadn’t been planned that way – Annie and Mike whilst I was in the shower and John and Win whilst I topped up at the shops. We left a good hour later and found John and Win moored around the corner along with many others outside the town lock which had broken down (again!). There we sat, had lunch, walked dogs and – eventually – moved on through. We travelled in convoy with them for awhile but they pulled over before Utrecht whilst we continued on.

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Whilst we found the passing scenery fascinating, Baxter just decided to sleep through it.

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Then we hit Utrecht – with 15 very low and arched bridges, we tried not to make it too literal; we later found out that Mike and Annie had a bit of a woopsie on one of them. The plan was that I stood on the bow looking at G and made left a bit, right a bit, ahead as you are, signals. The super hero made it through all 15 without as much as a touch anywhere and you don’t get pictures of the tightest bits because my complete attention was required elsewhere! The bendy bridge was more like a tunnel and I swear, at the bend, there wasn’t more than an inch to spare either side of the corners of the  wheelhouse roof. Whilst we were snailing through each bridge with our now perfected technique, an oncoming hire boat crashed it’s starboard side bow into the other arch (thank goodness) at high speed in a spray of fibreglass before ricocheting off it’s port stern (that was their deposit gone – if they pay one in Holland).

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Princess Daisy was in charge of fending off with the boat hook if required and was later put on a court martial for dereliction of duty

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By going to the far end of town and through one lock we found a free mooring instead of paying 30 euros a night. The lockie charged us 5 euros to operate it and payment was by credit card only – bizarre; especially as they won’t take credit cards in supermarkets and the majority of shops – but I’ll tell you more about the peculiarities of the monetary system later. G walked into town with me the next day and we sat in the centre in glorious sunshine; sharing a sandwich, enjoying a beer, watching the busy world go by. We had our first kibbeling from a street stall too, a bit like our fish shop fish in little battered strips, absolutely delicious and good enough to banish my craving for the real thing!

Leaving me to put in a few miles with the camera, G went back to the boat to look after Baxter and do a little fishing as he now has a VISpas (this wasn’t possible in France as you needed a licence for each area – prohibitively expensive – so he hasn’t fished in over 3 years). He clearly hadn’t lost his touch though.

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I love the way they use the canal to service all the waterside restaurants, collecting rubbish and empty casks and replacing them with new crates and barrels. Here are a zillion pictures of this beautiful city.

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The yarn shop is in here because we used to have craft shops – they never used to look like this though – all this yarn is hand dyed and glorious. I had a long and lovely natter with the lovely lady (who has a professional job) who works part-time here purely because the product feeds her soul. She may well be reading this if she hasn’t given up hope of getting a mention after all this time.

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Muttley and I found all the old floating sheds that used to be the red light district; kilometre after kilometre of them. Boarded up now but still in reasonable condition – it’s a shame they can’t be used for something before they become even more of an eyesore and cost a fortune to be dismantled. I mentioned this to a local lady who misunderstood me, replying in the usual blunt Dutch manner, “it’s where men came to pay women for sex”. Another example of this forthrightness was a lass in her late 20s chatting to G at the boat who suddenly said, “I must go, after an hour I need to pee”. There’s not a lot of response you can make to either of those comments. The Dutch are incredibly blunt which can, at times, be quite shocking to ‘polite Brits’.

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If you are looking for a break for a long weekend, I can thoroughly recommend Utrecht.

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3rd June. Woudrichen to Arkel

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/07/2017

9 kms, 1 lock (with LB) 1.5 hours

I left Woudrichem reluctantly, vowing to return; but onwards and downwards there was a new and immediate challenge. As per previous blog we were moored on the Maas (Meuse) which converged with the Rhine (that you can see beyond the narrow strip of land behind the boat) and we needed to cross the Rhine to turn left.

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We thought the Maas had some big stuff on it, but the Rhine OMG!!!!!!!! We reached the confluence, hovered for awhile, then made a dash for it; dodging the stuff turning in to the Maas and trying to time our crossings between the stuff coming straight along the Rhine from the left, the ferries in the middle and then find a slot in amongst the stuff coming from the right.

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To give you some idea of the scale of the Rhine, this is us crossing it. Finally we reached the other side and were at least going in the same direction as everyone else.

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Funny place to put a multi storey car park though.

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Once we managed to actually cross, the journey was fun with the odd wave breaking over our bow. It wasn’t long though before we turned off the mighty river onto the canal (fortunately a right turn so we didn’t have to cross back again), mooring in a line of cruisers and a beautifully, immaculate, replica tjalk at Arkel (built in 1998). The long grass stopped me getting good pics without invading their space.

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I’m afraid Arkel was as dull as dishwater; even more so on the back of the glorious Woudrichem. When G announced a decision to stay on the Sunday (poor boy was probably exhausted after crossing the shipping lanes the previous day), I couldn’t help ungenerously thinking, “nearly 2 days in this place with no town to speak of and no dog walking, when we could have spent the weekend in Woudrichem”. I’d like to think I was a nice enough person not to voice these thoughts to G; but I bet I did, probably repeatedly. This maybe why he fell asleep in the sun – unfortunately with his hands across his chest!

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Having lambasted the place, I must say the inhabitants did their best to ‘make the best of it’.

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Leaving Arkel on the Monday (which we later found out was a bank holiday) was very exciting and great fun, making up for the dull weekend. I posted those events ‘real time’ on the 6th June – here is the link if you missed it  Race Track to Vianen

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2nd June. Den Bosch to Woudrichem

Posted by contentedsouls on 07/07/2017

35 kms, 3 locks, 4 LB (only 1 for us), 7 hrs

We knew it was going to be a long day but we couldn’t leave until the lift bridge operated at 11am; after that it wouldn’t be operated again until 11 am on Monday. Once clear of the bridge we were soon out on to big waters with big ships again. The contents of each lock were hilarious; barges, cruisers, launches rowing boats and commercials – a somewhat eclectic mix. I couldn’t help thinking that one sneeze from the skipper of the commercial and we could all be squidged. No photos in the lock as I was otherwise occupied but I did try to capture some of the others that were in there with us. Some fairly quirky bridge superstructures too – this one carries trains.

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The weather was glorious and families galore were picnicking on the sandy banks and those with little cruisers just beached them and swam. I was delighted to see this herd of native ponies and their foals and would love to tell you all about them – but I can’t because the only info I could find was in Dutch (sorry about grainy photos but they were a very long way away). G then decided to play ‘beat the ferry’ which was a bit unnerving but we won, so that was OK. I love cruising on these big rivers.

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Turning off the big river we had intended to moor but it wasn’t possible so we had to go on through one more lock which was quite interesting. This was one of the original sloping sided grass locks (amazing as it is heavily used by commercials) and has a woodwork frame within it to moor against. They put us in first, to the left of the exit gates and then brought in a 3,100 ton ship alongside us, to the right of the exit gates (entrance and exit gates are not necessarily in line in many of these locks). You will notice I am using the term ‘exit gates’ as the lock level changed so little and there was no waterline on the walls due to the grass bank, so we have no idea which were the upstream gates!

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Now came the fun bit – we had to go out first because, such was the angle, he couldn’t leave without squidging us. However, we weren’t in line with the gate and had to come out from our hidey hole towards him to get out; except his bow thruster output kept knocking us back in again. My super hero reversed to the back of the lock to clear the ouput, got us away from the wall and took a run at it; missing the commercial and only just clipping the wall to the gate. If it was me, I’d have been destined to spend the rest of my life in that lock.

Drama over for the day it was time to find a mooring at Woudrichem; renowned for it’s historic boat harbour. There were moorings on the main river but some of it was reserved for the water taxi to Gorinchem and part was taken, so we decided to brave it (brave as in may have to reverse back out a long way) and turned into the harbour itself – WOW! This was how I imagined Holland would be.

We crept slowly into the harbour and were met by Peter the harbourmaster who offered a place on the visitor pontoon in amongst some cruisers at the far end (aerial view in photo 11) or back out on the river behind the water taxi. As there were dogs running up and down the pontoon and we would have been on the far end, Daisy would have struggled to get to land, so we opted to go back out amongst the wash and the comings and goings of the water taxi every 30 minutes.

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The old town is surrounded by an embankment which makes for a wonderful circular walk and I lost count of all the little pieces of water and tiny ports that I looked down on. The road in and the road out have flood gates which slot in when needed. This town is situated on the confluence of the Meuse (or the Maas as it is here) and the Rhine, so the potential for flooding is immense. In the last photo we are moored on the Maas, that tiny bank is all that separates it from the Rhine.

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An amazingly beautiful area full of fabulous boats and friendly people. I could have happily stayed a week but, sadly we only stayed overnight so I had to get up early in the morning to ensure I finished my exploration and do another lap of the embankment in the reverse direction. I didn’t have time to get to the new town ‘outside the city walls’. The reason we only stayed the one night was the cost. Because we are classed as an historic boat (despite not having mast, tiller, or boards), Peter chopped the price from 25 euros down to 10, but then added 2.40 euros in visitor tax.

At this point we were very worried about mooring fees as we had been warned that we would be paying quite a lot, quite often. If I had known then what I know now, I would have stayed another night or three – it’s the last day of June today – they were the only mooring charges we paid in the entire month.

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