Tuesday, 30 June 2015

New Canals

29 Jun 15

After leaving Tournai we had a good run with moorings managing to find something everywhere. At Antoing basin we moored near the Neptunia chandlery barge - Peter managed to find some bits to buy (assuring Angie they would be useful) but decided against fuelling up - the primary reason for stopping - on the grounds it would be cheaper downstream?

Then it was a run to the bottom of the Blaton/Ath canal - to turn or not to turn that is the question - moored up in  the entrance to the now closed Pommereuil-Antoing Canal overnight to decide. Given the canal has only been closed 30 years it has deteriorated fast - in UK there would be a thriving 'Friends of the Canal' preservation group restoring it.

We decided Blaton/Ath could wait so pressed on covering new ground to Pommeroeul Grand Large, mooring on the wall next to the Ecluse. It poured with rain all day so sightseeing was limited.  The canal (Pommeroeul-Conde) and ecluse were meant to be a major commercial route to France but the French have allowed it to silt up so it is no longer in use. More EU funds wasted.


Angie decided we needed some kultur so next into the marina at Mons - a long walk into town and the Aldi supermarche was a a bit like a Russian GUM store (as remembered from our honeymoon)! Angie had 'tidied up' for one of the boat viewings so a lot of the halt was searching for things (like camera chargers). At least once a year she puts something in a 'safe place' never ever to be found again (is it a female thing)?

Another town hall - standard issue
Mons 2015 Capital of Culture and this is art?
A carriage for the patron Saint's bones
Much better the next day was the Strepy lift on the new Canal du Centre - 74m straight up

Down to the canal end and we found a nice greenbank site in the dead end of the semi closed Historic canal, which has 4 x working 15m Ascenseurs within a few km (which Strepy effectively replaced). They were built to the UK Anderton design and are the only historic lifts still operational

Then it was off to the River Sambre which was rumoured to be as nice as the Somme, certainly the start wasn't, mostly derelict steel works which made the Saarland look 'green'. First night was at Marchienne next to a chapel barge and small chateau - the town was very run down presumably due to loss of steel jobs. The Colruyt super marche was a handy 500 metres stroll over the bridge. Had a few drinks with an Oz boat, which was en route to Namur (long story).

The next morning had to wait 40 mins mid stream (no pontoon) while the decrepit eclusier got his act together -  after that the canal/river got prettier and prettier. Nice little manual locks and although the eclusiers weren't exactly full of bonhomie all was well. We went onto the wall at Abbeye d'Aulne, checked out the Abbeye ruins (lovely site) and ate at one of the eight restaurants! Angie being adventurous had Troute Escaveche (marinated cold trout) and Peter stuck to Brochettes Agneau - very nice other than the bill (tourist village).- local beer was OK too.

Abbaye original

Latest version
Then into Thuin. Nice town but semi medieval so Peter has to climb up the steep hill daily as we are waiting for a Poste Restante parcel (our new Sat box). Free mooring with mod cons so Angie is busy cleaning while Peter answers boat queries..Led astray the first night by barge 'Cedar' (Sheila and Clive) and friends - after some disagreement about the best whiskey type the men managed to deplete a good part of three bottles testing the claims!  Seriously hot this week 35-38 degC Midi standards so Angie is sunbathing on the cabin roof.

This blog is meant to remind us what happened each year as it blurs -  I knew quite a few friends followed it but have now found out potential buyers do too quel horreur (hi Pam in SA) so might have to go into censor mode :)

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Barge for Sale

Jun 15

We had our first 'viewing' in Fintele - it was raining and the French couple didn't speak any English (ever tried to sell a boat using sign language and Google Translate) but despite that it was looking good until their boat sale fell through - so back on the road.

We had had enough of the Flanders Ring by then so we sprinted back through Veurne and Nieuwpoort (where Peter stayed up overnight for the Election - breakfasting on champagne) then to Brugge for a few nights.

Brugge circular sluis - the big boys do squeeze in
At Brugge the 'Te Koop' sign went up. Most of the winterers had moved on and a lot of hire boats were coming in (we shut our eyes).

We got a few enquiries through 'Apollo Duck (sale site) one offering a flat in Gibraltar in exchange (not tempted) but nothing serious. Then into Kortrijk Old Arm - we needed a break (and no TV) so we went off to UK for a week and then Germany for a few days.  Several thousand kms later we were more knackered then when we left. Angie's German GP said she should drink more - water to her disappointment.

A local had fallen in love with the boat before we went to Germany and was ready to proceed, but it had to be vetted by his absent wife - no surprise when she decided the windows and escape hatches were too small, the boat was too dark ...we think she fancied something more tupperware! So onwards - well almost as the Kortrijk sluis,of the Bossuit/Kortrijk canal, was blocked for the weekend as a pound had been accidentally emptied by the eclusier (what is that in Flemish)?

So the great circle route back up the old Leie to Gent - a very long day as moorings were full and we had to go on and on. Then down the Upper Scheldt (Bovenscheldt) through Oudenaarde which was new to us.

On the Oudenaarde wall - lifting height for Kes
Makes my hydraulic steering ram look puny
Oudenaarde Town Hall
Then we were back on familiar terrain (or water). The crossing into Wallonia was a non event as they didn't check our docs or put us on the computer system?  Unusually they put us into the ecluse before a large commercial - Angie was hoping they were a good judge of distance and that their reverse worked!

Managed to get on the pontoon in Tournai amidst the Dutch and we have stocked up with food, then it is off to the Neptunia bunker barge at Antoing for a fuel top up.  Given it is nearly half way through the cruising season we have not covered many km (or used much fuel).

Tournai Town square
Impressive 'bell tower'
Nice that Angie's arrival was celebrated - she is nee Moules :)

Monday, 11 May 2015

Boat Maint

May 15

Just before we left Brugge the local canoe club had their 'open day - canoes everywhere.

Then it was off to the Flanders Ring - the only departees heading West, do the others know something we don't.  we were looking for good weather and pontoons suitable for painting eg no trees and ideally electricity and water.

Jabbeke was sanding and cleaning
Oudenberg was wheelhouse and cabin roofs painted (and first ducklings)
Veurne (long stay) all the wooden windows came out and the cabin sides painted (see photo)
Fintele was the decks, then back to Oudenbourg to varnish everything unpainted.

yes knackered - but if the boat doesn't sell we have done 2 years maint in one month.  Peter put Kotare on Apollo Duck at the start of May and the first response was to part exchange a 40' twin Volvo sea cruiser - Peter's eyes lit up but apparently it would be over Angie's dead body :(  First viewing proper next weekend but we are not holding our breath.

A few Kiwis on the water and on 10 May all the Dutch arrived heading for France (in a queue)!

We will hang around Brugge/Gent for a few weeks then head towards the Netherlands by a long circuitous route'

Veurne sans windows

Friday, 20 March 2015

Winter Hibernation

Mar 15

Not really hibernation, but a vain attempt as the wet and cold finally arrived. On cue the Kabola boiler decided to play up so we replaced it with the latest all singing and dancing model (at vast cost). All coloured lights and lcd display panels and a lot quieter than the old one.

The Bristol flat sold quickly - so Angie went to back to England to sort out the paperwork. Her first trip by bus for years - not sure it is her preferred transport method! Trying to sell a Leasehold flat from Belgium (even with e-mail) is arduous, not sure it would have happened without a son to do the leg work.

Bristol flat - top floor
Then Angie's sister visited for a few days and we did the 'guided tour' bit again around Brugge - the waffles and a frituur trip seemed to go down well.  Our return trip to Germany for a week in Feb gave us time off the boat. More happy snaps of Brugge

Poertoren (gunpowder storage)

Cloth Hall (market)
Our son and wife came over in early March (who mentioned hibernation) which gave us a chance to declutter the boat a bit pre sale - he bought out a new lift pump for the generator and that is now ready for the cruising Season.

Peter knocked out a simple website for Kotare and couldn't resist spreading the word to friends at least - though Kotare won't formally go on the market till May as we have some painting and lots of cleaning and polishing to do. We had one informal local viewing but they wanted a larger residential 'houseboat'. With the rise in the € exchange rate any local buyers may thin out.

In advance, if anyone wants to escape to a place in the sun (eg on the Midi) or just to escape a coalition Britain see https://sites.google.com/site/kotarebarge/ No idea how the sale will go so have already booked our winter mooring for 2016 (on the Midi) just in case :)

We popped down to recce Ieper (Ypres) where we had planned to do some painting next month,  but all a bit grey and unexciting in the little port. It gave us the opportunity to pop in to Adinkerke on the French border to stock up with wine though.

Flandria (the other Brugge port) would be better
A final couple of Brugge snaps

The Coupure has come back to life with lots of boat polishing and last minute jobs being done by the barge crews. Now a week or so to fuel up, dig out the handling ropes and good fenders - sober up from the farewell parties and off to the West. We have enjoyed Brugge (despite the cold and damp) though some of the restaurant bills meant we had to carry a portable defibrillator.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2014 Christmas and New Year

Jan 2015

The Autumn was very mild with one light frost before Christmas - an advantage of being near the coast at a guess.  A few trips to the giant Brico called Stock Americain, but mainly browsing (it's a boy thing) rather than buying.

.Angie as is her wont has explored every nook and cranny, starting off with the town gates on the circular canal.  A couple below which must have had the same architect.

At the start of December all the barges 'lit up' for Christmas - surprised the power supply didn't fail (actually the port power supply is excellent unlike some).

A bit like Oxford Street
Christmas was a family gathering in UK, hosted by son, who set a high standard we won't attain when it is our turn again. Every time Peter tried to help he was given another mince pie to keep him quiet which is reflected in his current waistline. Kes thoroughly approved of being able to run around fields with their lurcher cross after the constraints of Brugge. Also a bit of too-ing and fro-ing to Bristol to get the flat on the market before returning to Brugge.

New Year's Eve we went into town and got a few photos of streets unencumbered by people, as everyone was either in the pubs/restaurants or at a big firework display. We then retired to a bottle of champagne!

Kes 'not celebrating New Year fireworks'
New Year's day we gathered for the annual 'paper boat race' - a lot of engineering by some. Peter failed to fold a one page origami version, Angie's attempt did well but didn't win (a bit like the America's Cup).

Just by the boat is a much photographed statue of a girl - Angie joined in (almost lady in red).

Now it is the run down to the cruising season.  Both of us on a diet, and strenuous exercise in Angie's case (the Wii Fit Plus has given up asking where Peter is - he claims he doesn't want to break the balance board?).

Best wishes for 2015 to all.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Brugge Autumn

Nov 14

Boats trickled in to the Coupure until mid October.  Reversing under the lift bridge into the Coupure on a windy day with barges moored each side is an interesting prospect (for the spectators).  A full range of boats from million euro gin palaces through barges to a 60 ft widebeam.

Reversing In
A few weeks to settle in and visit some of the local pubs (may take all winter to visit them all) - our initial drinks party which was meant to finish circa7pm went on till 1am before we got the last guest onto the quai. Then it was off to Germany for a week. The German GP (attractive female in tight white jeans and boots) decided Peter's blood pressure was a tadge high (??) so he has joined Angie on a pill a day.

The weather in Belgium certainly seems wetter, if not colder, than Roanne. The Coupure is about 5 mins from the town centre, the tourists have thinned out a bit but still lots of happy photographers in the town centre.

Coupure mooring
Once the internet was functioning Peter went beserk ordering boat consumables (incl 12 litres of paint) for uplift in the UK.  We have decided after 6 years on the boat it is time for the next escapade so the house and 'Kotare' will go on the market next year. Thus the paint order, as we intend to repaint down to and including the deck in the Spring.

Lots of Brugge photos, a full Winters project if desired.

the Belfort

Guild House
We turned up for Remembrance Day, fairly low key but at least it was fine. Kes was not at all fussed by all the noise, drums etc yet a gunshot two miles away and he hides behind Angie?

King Albert in martial pose
Angie's brother and sisters visited in Nov which meant the full guided tour (by Angie) round Brugge and our first proper meal out. By coincidence the Christmas Market started the same weekend (not a patch on Germany though). After an excellent restaurant meal on the Saturday trying out the local dishes, Sunday was just topping off with hot chocolate and waffles!

The local Belgian beer was popular
The 'Moules' girls - treble trouble
 It is difficult to go more than a few hundred metres without being blocked by a canal. After three local beers death by drowning must be fairly prevalent.

Now to build up our strength (and funds) for a family Christmas in the UK; Son et lumiere on 29 Nov when the boats in the Coupure light up for the festive season (and a boaters party) so we must dig out the Christmas lights and decorations and get artistic.