Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Douai to Dunkerque then Brugge

Oct 14

The first big ecluse after Douai heading west had rising bollards at plaisancier distances - heaven we thought, but the next one only had one working and the next none working.  Big double chamber ecluses but still not having to share.

Grand Gabarit

This commercial pulled out behind us and started to overtake us as another commercial came the other way - it was between two bridges and with a rocky side so nowhere to go - barely metres to spare, not sure being in the right would have compensated for going under his props!

We found a nice mooring in the old canal bypass at La Bassee - heaven after the mainline - but must be autumn as lots of misty mornings so late starts.  Near Arques the surface weed starting building up and up which caused a lot of filter cleaning (at the worst moments).

Fontinettes ecluse - about 13m which surprised us
The deep ecluse at Fontinettes had replaced a 19thC boat lift (which had replaced 5 x 18C small ecluses).

Fontinettes Boat Lift (a copy of the UK Anderton lift)

Barges, first hauled by people, then horses, then diesel locomotive
After the heavy commercial activity we had planned a rural route/diversion and turned off to a little quai on a 'stream' near Watten - nice little village and the photo doesn't do it justice.

Watten Church
Then it was onto our little used route, first the River AA towards Gravelines, then a turn right onto the Bourbourg.  At a guess the eclusiers got a boat a week on the Bourbourg if that and you could see their faces reflecing 'mad dogs and Englishmen'.  Once we got used to waiting an hour at lifting bridges and ecluses (with fingers crossed they would work) all was OK.  Bourbourg was a lovely mooring but dying from lack of use.

Canal de Bourbourg
The last 8km was through thick weed and we were worried, but we delighted the wildlife that took to our wake and the clear water.

Weed and more weed.
Then into Dunkerque and civilisation again.  A language mix up with the eclusier, where his timing referred to a lift bridge on the Canal de Furnes (Veurne) and we thought he meant the last ecluse in France led to a 90 min delay.

Last French ecluse with river running at right angles under the ecluse
Over the border into Flanders, after a big wine stock up at an Carrefour near the French border,

Angie wouldn't let Peter stop at the first Belgian canalside Frituur (mental cruelty) but despite pushing on we still got stuck on the outskirts of Veurne by a liftbridge (the Belgian sluiskeepers had knocked off for the weekend - at 5pm) so we tied up to some wooden railings and settled in to wait until the Monday.

Veurne marketplace
On the Monday we organised a permit for Flanders, but the €80 wasn't enough to convince the sluiskeeper to let us fill up with water - welcome to Belgium.

Half an hour out of Veurne on the Lokanaal our power control cable failed - no phone coverage to organise a replacement so we overnighted on a village quay  - where the village bar had closed since our last visit 4 years ago - sob!!

The next day we limped into Diksmuide using a combination of a piece of string on the straight bits and Peter in the engine room, manually operating the throttle, on the tricky bits (like Fintele sluis).

Back in windmill country
Fintele sluis - sloping sides and a wooden windlass
Life improved at Diksmuide as Jo (from 'Johanna') a DBA member, gave Peter a lift into a Nieuwpoort chandler for a replacement cable (they only had an 'Extreme' version at vast cost but Angie won't be able to break that). We celebrated with our first Belgian beer.

Coming into Diksmuide (the boat in the middle) courtesy of Johanna
Flemish War Memorial - Diksmuide
Under control again (?) it was off down the River Izjer to Nieuwpoort (by water) where we snuck onto the end of a pontoon - it seemed like a km to shore. Very yachty with prices to match.

Nieuwpoort Marina
Lots of lift bridges en route to Oudenburg, so the sluis keepers run a 'timed' convoy system. Angie stocked up with eggs and vegetables from a local pensioner who called 5 mins after we tied up - all helps the local economy (especially as the mooring is free). After two days we pottered - off towards Jabbeke our last planned halt. We started early before the Plassendale bridges were closed for the Oostende Marathon and just made it through.

Plassendale sluis - the widest sluis basin we have seen (though rarely used/needed)
Oostende turn
At Oostende we turned east onto the Gent-Oostende canal, back with the commercials.

Gent - Oostende canal
No doubts hat Autumn has well and truly arrived with morning mist and the trees all turning colour. The electricity at Jabbeke was 'broken' which was a sad as we had lots of cleaning, boat washing etc to do. So the Generator was fired up for a few hours (only been used 16 hours this cruising season which reflects well on the solar panels). We tried out the highly recommended Ter Spinde restaurant (for beer and tapas) but the service was a bit offhand and we winced at Belgian prices (after France).

Jabbeke lift bridge - interesting design
Oostende Marthon - we enjoyed the jazz band next to the pontoon serenading them.
The annual bath
The final run into Brugge took us though a new road bridge that was seriously impressive (bet the EU paid)!

It was a good run in to Brugge, had to dodge a few commercials at lift bridges but we weren't held up anywhere even at the final 'round' town sluis. Angie reversed to the end of the Coupure mooring without difficulty (Peter claims it is down to his training, Angie claims it s despite it)? Aidy and Lorna (fellow Kiwis) on 'Ariana' had preceded us and were still mooring up.

End of the line
Peter's target -not the horse but the Frituur at the back.
Not a bad cruising season overall - we achieved our aim of doing the 'bits' in France we had previously missed like Paris and even got to Luxembourg and a bit of Germany. About 2200 kms and 520 ecluses - not quite a personal record but close!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you had a good season, now settle down old man and put your feet up.