Brugge - Gent

Finally we had to face the week we feared beforehand the most. Three male engineers, one accompanied by his wife, would attend to our little ship – and two other ships. Two would stay on board with us during four nights; the other two one more night on board of one of the other ships. This is what our wheelhouse looks under ‘normal’ circumstances…

…and here you get an idea about what it looks like after it is transformed into what could be best described using the word ‘storage’. This snapshot was taken from the outside, so there is a reflection of what is visible with the fourth picture.

The weather during this week was most of the time rainy and windy – causing a feel of chilliness. Already during our stay in Gent (Ghent) we had cleaned our stove as well as the chimney (what a mess!). We were still in the possession of one-and-a-half bag of coals too, so nothing could stop us from re-kindling the stove. We did so on Monday the 14th of September, as far as we remember a few weeks earlier than last year.

he unsurpassed internet learned us about a coal-merchant not far from where we were moored and prepared to deliver smokeless fuel without extra charge, providing a minimum of 500 kilograms were ordered. We duly did so and on Wednesday morning the 16th 20 bags of coal were delivered. Price per bag in France € 21,00. In Belgium, for exactly the same quality (smokeless Starcite), € 12,15!! Here the pitiful ‘matelot’ is bringing the sacks on board. Next year we hope to have a diesel-fired stove. We’re a bit fed up with dragging away bags of coal, cleaning the stove twice a day but foremost: the dust, coming down into every thinkable space – however tiny.

Who would ever guess that there are 16 bags of coal underneath the cover? (And two deckchairs on top of it?) The other five bags, one leftover from last winter included, are stored at the front of the ship as we do not dare to put a heavier weight on top of the roof. Yes, we are slightly cramped for space.

Already for almost 5 years now we missed amidships-bollards. Not anymore. As is clearly visible the welder, Rich, is an artist. Being observant readers/watchers you all will have noticed that the 4th and 5th picture show the ship in a 180 degrees turned position. That had to do, of course, with fitting an amidships-bollard on either side.

Another long-term wish of ours has been able to enjoy the benefit of solar panels. At long last here they are. We limited ourselves to only two of them; more would be too intrusive on top of our relatively small ship. In the future we hope to be less independent of shore-power or our generator.

Already visible on the last picture is a tube, destined to contain a flagpole. We already have a proper Dutch flag (100 x 70 cm), given to us by an unknown foreign fellow boater (“are you Dutch?”) whom we met at Nancy in 2013. Within the not too distant future the Dutch colours will fly from our ship. It’s only a matter of a 25 mm flagpole now. Hard to get, we discovered, but of course we’ll succeed.

Several things had to be done about the electricity, causing our built-in volts-indicator to give way. The thing can do a lot, like the pace of loading or the rest-capacity. Us simple people however only feel the desire to know the level of voltage – and we avoid it going under 24,50 (yes, we have a 24-volts system onboard, next to the 230 volts-circuit). So without the indicator we feel we are lost. Therefore a temporary one was fitted, oddly hanging out of the cupboard that contains all the stuff related to our electrical system.

Well, the engineers hated to leave us with a gauge, ridiculously hanging out of the cupboard so the built-in indicator was provisionally repaired. The temporary one still works, ‘in case of’, and is tucked away inside the cupboard. They both indicate the same which can be expected and is absolutely reassuring at the same time.

Some time ago, during the winter 2013/14, our central heating system stopped serving us. The old 24-volt system had to be replaced by a 230-volt system as the make, Webasto, no longer produces 24-volt systems. So far so good. The change did cost us a small fortune and the end-result was a poorly working central heating and a mess – see the picture. Parts were taken away, new parts were loose standing on top of the system and the cover no longer fitted. We had to use adhesive tape to keep the loose parts in place. Admittedly we’ve heard good stories about the Roanne-based firm that did this job – we’ve had only really bad experiences with them, price-wise and customer-friendly-wise alike. After –in our opinion partially- executing this bad job the guy just said goodbye and left poor bewildered us.

Last week the leading/organizing engineer, Peter, did some great jobs for us, like bringing the central heating unit back into a state that one dares to show it to anyone else. All is fixed in place again - and working too.

Maybe less spectacular, but a matter of convenience all the same. We had two bed lamps, but only one switch. That can be a (small) problem, if one wants to read and the other to go to sleep. The switch, by the way, is on the sleeper’s side. It’s your guess, of course, which one of the two of us is the reader and which one the sleeper. Anyway, as from last week the single switch will remain in the ‘on’ position forever and we both have our individual sophisticated bed lamp with its own switch. How simple can it be?? Thanks, Chris, we no longer have to bicker about the lights on or not. Only joking.

It was a gruelling week – the shambles, the cooking, the entertaining. But we have a few things that had to be bettered or repaired, next to a few things we badly wanted. So thank you so much, highly appreciated engineering crew from the UK: Peter, Rich and Chris!

A pirate on a Belgian canal?

On Saturday the 19th of September we left Brugge’s Flandria port around 11:00AM and set sail in Gent’s direction. On the way we were overtaken by this special ship. Seen from a distance it looks like a pirate ship but there were no cannons sticking out. Phew!

We arrived after a 6,5 hours during cruise, four bridges and one lock included, in Port Gandia again. Our present 11-day mooring is situated where the antique(-looking) ships were moored last week. We’re starting to love Gent’s port as well as the city itself and are contemplating to overwinter here in 2016. We were refused for this winter because of our stove. But… as stated before we hope to have a diesel fired stove in the future.

Something completely different now. Today, Sunday the 20th of September 2015, Belgium organizes car-free cities. That’s to say: we have seen announcements for Brugge as well when we were there last week. So Gent also is ‘autovrij’ (free of cars) today. It makes us remember the oil-crisis in 1973 when everyone in The Netherlands was cycling on the motorways – not a single car to be seen. We hugely enjoyed it at the time: the sun was shining, we were young and our children were still years away from a two-digit age. Memories! Bye for now.