Bocholt (B) - Maastricht (NL)

We cruised last Monday, the 18th of April 2016, accompanied by a sister and a brother. She is 50% in-law, he is for the full 100%, if you get our drift. They live nearby, in (Dutch) Limburg, came by car and brought their bikes with them. The bikes were hauled on board and securely tied up. Off we went at 10:10AM, the weather being gorgeous though a bit windy. We cruised lock-free for some 23,5 kilometers (14,5 miles) and had a great day together. The four of us catched up on all the news nicely and arrived at Eisden (Maasmechelen) at 1:05PM. After an extensive lunch our visitors left us by bike to pedal back to their car – and home after that. We planned to stay at Eisden for two nights but for a start the electricity did not work, a minor ‘problem’, and the passing commercial boats tossed us around as never experienced before, a major problem. Although the signs told all boats to slow down to 5 k/h and not to create waves the passing cargo ships must have interpreted ‘5’ as being 5 knots (9,26 kilometers) instead of kilometers, resulting in heavy water-movements and havoc on board. Even the cleats that our ship was tied to were bended! We left the next morning at 10:55 AM unplanned and subsequently forgot to make pictures of our overnight mooring-spot as well as the traffic signs. Thanks to the internet we can offer these two signs – only a ‘6-sign’ as far as the speed is concerned, we were unable to find a proper ‘5-sign’. They do exist, we can assure you.

The last stretch on the Zuid-Willemsvaart (here seen around PK 2,5 in case someone wonders) offered us this colourful, spring-like, view. And what about our own violets! Aren’t they lovely? We are really pleased with the combination of colours. Although looking fragile they easily cope with the waving flag.

We left Belgium at 12:59PM and started to make our first, yes first!, cruising-meters/yards/kilometers/miles in our home country. We have been on and off boaters since mid-1992 and started full time living and cruising in May 2007. Thus far our cruising life took place in England, France and Belgium. Here we are approaching Sluis (= Lock) Bosscherveld, some 2 kilomters (1,25 miles) into The Netherlands and leading from the Zuid-Willemsvaart into the river Maas (Meuse), through a short Verbindingskanaal (connecting canal – not a very controversial name, huh?). The scene is stunning – we looked, slightly envious, to the conversed barge and its garden. Not a lot short of paradise.

Maastricht was reached on the 19th of April and we moored around 2:00PM in the middle of the river Maas. All in all, that was just a tad more than a 3-hours cruise, one lock included. This is the scene as seen from the south-west, after crossing the Sint-Servaasbrug (brug = bridge)…

…followed by the scene as seen from the north-west, after crossing the Wilhelminabrug. Maastricht’s quarter ‘Wyck’ is situated on Maas’ right bank and its facades make for a stunning background.

Here’s the view of Maastricht’s left bank and the vibrant city itself as seen from our little ship. The Sint-Servaasbrug ( is considered the oldest bridge in The Netherlands.

All commercials ships -sometimes over a 100 meters (333 feet) long- use the dedicated channel as constructed underneath the Sint-Servaasbrug. It is therefore relatively quiet when, admittedly moored in the middle of the wide river, the lengthwise positioned wall protects the private ships against too much wash.

Massive commercial passing Sint-Servaasbrug

A moveable part of the Sint-Servaasbrug is constructed on top of the channel that is especially intended for use by commercial ships. This video shows a large commercial cruising upstream and passing underneath the lifted bridge. Under normal circumstances, being the river not in spate, the air-draught is around 6 meters (20 feet). When the movable part is lifted some 2 meters (almost 7 feet) is added, creating a clearance of around 8 meters (26,5 feet). If necessary big commercials ships are often capable of lowering their wheelhouse, sometimes even with the head of the person in control protruding!, thus increasing the possibility of passing low (low for them, that is) bridges.

Life in Maastricht is good – especially when the weather is a cooperative factor. This picture was taken last Wednes- or Thursday, when enjoying the combination spring/coffee sitting outside. It’s our guess that it was on Maastricht’s famous Vrijthof and the name of the err tavern?, pub?, bar?, ‘Vrijthof 9’.

Maastricht’s most prestigious shopping street, Grote Staat, is now hugely marred by the bankruptcy of V&D and the closure of its department stores. V&D was a Dutch high street-icon for over 125 years. Ceasing business by V&D, and the indoor-section of their catering-facility(?) ‘La Place’, was comparable to UK’s bankruptcy of Woolworths some years back. At that time the British were devastated; recently the Dutch were.

We encountered this bike simply parked in downtown Maastricht. Not visible locked but then again, who’d steal this without being noticed and/or captured? We use two solar panels as from the beginning of this (summer) season and noticed that these panels are capable of recharging our battery-bank indeed. We therefore can accept that this bike does not need a lot of effort from the handler – if any at all. However, we’d prefer a bike that is a little easier to handle than this one – especially when negotiating bends. Or heavy traffic. Overtaking! Or when putting away in a bicycle-shed. We consider it a prototype for the time being. Anyway, frivolous (playful?) it definitely is.

Bookstores always work like a magnet onto us. The problem is (1) we do not have a lot of room on board, forcing especially the female half of us (she is an addicted reader) to use an e-reader and (2) well stocked-up bookstores are a rarity more and more, possibly due to the already mentioned e-reader and on-line shopping. Anyway Maastricht has, after a load of fuss (merging, changing ownership and/or name – think Selexyz, De Slegte, Polare), ‘Boekhandel Dominicanen’ (boekhandel = bookstore), set up in a former church inescapable named the Dominicanenkerk (kerk = church). There’s even a coffee corner in what was the choir in the past. In 2008, The Guardian declared what was then named Selexyz Dominicanen, ‘the prettiest bookstore in the world’. We can see why. There’s a similar bookstore in the town of Zwolle, named ‘Waanders in de Broeren’, set up in another former church, the Broerenkerk.

We had topped up our water tank for the last time in Antwerp, on the day before we left on the 8th of April. Although the tank has an impressive capacity -we would be able to use it as an on board swimming-pool if its access-lid would be a bit wider- we thought it time to refresh and -fill. For this reason, increased by one night overstay (it’s no big deal, the season didn’t start to the full yet) and a wish to use the washing-machine while attached to the mains, we decided to move to the marina within Maastricht’s centre.

Here we are moored at present, Sunday the 24th of April. The marina is called “’t Bassin” – the basin. We arrived yesterday-afternoon, after attending the cremation of a former sister-in-law. (Luckily we were not far away, like somewhere in central France.) The harbour-master made us a great offer for two nights. We expect to leave tomorrow and return to ‘the wall’ in the centre of the river Maas. If there is space, that is. We are planning, again: if there is space alongside ‘the wall’, to experience Koningsdag (King’s Day) in Maastricht coming Wednesday, the 27th of April. See It will be fun if we are able to stay a few days extra. You’ll find out next week. Bye for now.