Turnhout - Bocholt (B)

Where were we again last Sunday? Oh yes, Turnhout, halfway the Kanaal Dessel-Turnhout-Schoten, one of the 7 ‘Kempische Kanalen’ (Campine Canals). The Campine (Toxandri) is an area in the north-east of Belgium plus a part of the Dutch province North Brabant. For more, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campine. A dedicated cargo-ship, called ‘Kempenaar’, was developed for the canals in Flanders and the south of The Netherlands. Its length is 50 meters (166 feet) by a width of 6,60 meters (22 feet), a draught of 2,50 meters (8,25 feet), with a capacity between 400 and 600 tonnes. Here’s a typical Kempenaar, named ‘Hiljo’. According to our information the guaranteed depth of the canal is 1,90 meters (6,25 feet), so the 2,50 meters must be theory rather than daily practice.

‘Hiljo’, not visible here, is approaching lift-bridge no 1 (of 11) ‘Turnhout’ and has contacted the central command post at Rijkevorsel, 12,4 kilometers (7,75 miles) away by water, on VHF canal 20. The traffic light still shows the red colour.

As soon as the traffic light shows the combination red/green it’s a sign that the (distant) bridge-keeper is preparing the bridge to open, opening it respectively.

A tight fit

‘Hiljo’ passes underneath the elevated bridge. Notice both the speed of the boat and the closing bridge – the latter immediately after the boat has passed. High posts with several cameras make sure the distant bridge-keeper is provided with a clear view of the scene. Not only the boat is of the ‘Kempenaar’-type, one can safely say the same about the bridge!

That Monday we ended up around 2:00PM at Dessel, where the Kanaal Dessel etc, seen here on the right (= north), the Kanaal Dessel-Kwaadmechelen, seen on the left (= south) and the Kanaal Bocholt-Herentals, seen from top to bottom (from west to east) cross. A very easy journey, compared to a few (well…) experiences in the past: no locks, no low bridges, se completely uninterrupted. Almost 26 kilometers (somewhat over 16 miles) in around four hours. Peace of cake. Note the viewing-tower on the (west-)north-west of the crossing…

…better seen here. We thought it to be a brilliant idea to make a picture of our little ship from the top of this 37 meter (123 feet) high construction. It’s all open (metal) and there’s not a lot of protection. (A bunch of flowers was placed at the foot of the tower, a likely effect of a gruesome accident.) To make a long story short, because of a fear of heights (male half) we did not make it any higher than the second from the top.

This is the result of climbing the tower, well, partly climbing the tower. We are dwarfed by the other boats that are visible here.

On Tuesday the 13th of April 2016 the crossing was left at 10:25AM. We were now on the Kanaal Bocholt-Herentals, going in the direction of Bocholt. Three fairly deep locks, each of them lifting us 4,30 meters (14 feet), were encountered almost immediately and tackled within an hour. After that we cruised uninterrupted and ended up in Neerpelt where we moored up 1:20PM. An easy day again. Neerpelt offered us free electricity, all the shops nearby and coffee with a tompoes (tompouce?). In case you have no idea what a tompoes is, use this link: http://www.bakerystars.nl/afbeeldingen/producten/Ambachtelijke_tompouce.jpg. We stayed for three nights at Neerpelt – possibly because of the combination (free) electricity/tompoes. (The male half had a café latte and a tompoes every day.)

It is not all that busy on the Kempische Kanalen, but sometimes it becomes a bit choppy. That happens especially when passed by two commercials at the same time – one slowly going forward and fully laden, the other on the double and empty. The commercial boats even cruise during the night, reason to light out top-light during the night. On one late evening we were almost thrown out of our bed when a commercial passed us at full speed. That was an exception, by the way, most commercials lower their speed on approaching us. In case you’re interested, we use two ropes and two springs under this sort of circumstances – it’s absolutely necessary.

On Saturday the 16th of April 2016 we finally left Neerpelt at 10:03AM again on a sunny day. Still cruising the Kanaal Bocholt-Herentals this line of plane trees catched our attention. The sun illuminated the trees beautifully. Because of the predominantly blowing south-westerly winds a lot of them have grown a bit awry; some of them stood their ground though.

  • Just another scene on the bank one tends to think after a first superficial look at this picture…

  • …but the fish (a carp?) that was catched and photographed was a real huge one. We witnessed the men putting the animal back into the canal ever so gently. Chapeau!

We entered the Zuid-Willemsvaart, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Willem%27s_Canal, 11:30AM and moored up at Bocholt 12:10PM. There’s just one possibility for the length of our ship and a sign tells ‘15 meters maximum’. We are a tad longer but able to moor going backwards. The protruding bow is protected by the ship that is moored on our starboard side. That boat even has a radar-reflector on its port rear side. That reflector, combined with our top-light at night, made us feel safe. We plan to be here for two nights and tomorrow, Monday, pick up some nearby living family-members to have a day-cruise together. Bye bye.