Chevroches, Canal du Nivernais

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Pedal Power

Step 1   Purchase
Step 2   Open box in the hardware store car park (to amusement of other customers)
Step 3   Attempt to assemble
Step 4   Puzzle over Dutch instructions

Step 4 Admire handiwork then set off to the supermarket to purchase celebratory case of Heineken

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

High Volume Weekend

After paying the bill and saying goodbye at the marina we decided to break ourselves in gently and spend a few days cruising the quiet Rijnland canals through the Nieuwkoopse Plassen (lakes) and then on to Gouda. We needed to buy a special licence for this area but the 5 euro for 6 weeks seemed a bargain. A few hours later, as we were congratulating ourselves on squeezing, without damage, into the tiny lock leading down into the lakes, the keeper told us that we needed yet another permit at 8.50 for a week. However, it did cover mooring fees. More worryingly, for me, was his quick appraisal of the height of our boat and the pronouncement that we would also need a key to unlock the self operated bridge between the two lakes 'and that'll be 50 euros deposit please.' For the purposes of this blog the term self operated means Catriona operated. He did offer to take our photo though.

The self congratulation didn't last long (it never does). As far as the first bridge in fact - a distance of about 100 metres. The innocuous looking bridge across the canal serves one house and is little more than a wooden walkway with a swinging middle section. The fact that it was open was a good thing, the fact that it was only 4.1 metres wide and we are 3.7m meant we had to take care. The fact that I hadn't paid due attention to our expensive, fat fender hanging down the side meant that it got jammed, its rapid deflation and accompanying loud bang bringing the woman in the cottage to her window. Fortunately no damage to her bridge. So now I have 2 things to worry about - the self operated bridge at the halfway mark and an even narrower bridge - 4m - at the end of the waterway....

The lakes are very pretty. Lots of reeds, some of which are cut for thatching and lots of birdlife.

At this time of year the ducks, swans, geese etc are all accompanied by chicks. There is a maze of small channels all through the reeds accessible by small boats but we had to keep to the main through route which is marked by signposts.

The weather was glorious and so we moored up at a small island prepared to enjoy a few days of peace and birdsong.
Things began with promise. We woke to a misty morning, blackbirds singing, a cuckoo cooing, a family of ducks swimming round the boat. As the morning wore on the sun broke through and the first boaters appeared; kayakers and canoes first then rowing boats and yachts and then boats with engines. By early afternoon every boat from miles around was afloat. Many were hireboats of varying sizes filled with local teenagers, picnics, barbecues, beer and competing loud music. The ducks de-camped and the island filled with people intent on HAVING A GOOD TIME! What we hadn't realised was that it was a holiday long weekend. So exactly the  same thing happened for three days. At 5.30pm each afternoon everyone suddenly packed up and left, peace descended and the ducks moved back.

On the holiday Monday we picked our way carefully through all the small boats and moored at another island in view of the self operating bridge which turned out to be a cycle bridge looking very much like my least favourite bridge of last year at Oldemarkt. It was opened only twice during the day and we could see then that unlike the Oldemarkt bridge there was no winding mechanism and it was a straightforward counterbalance.
Next day everyone was back at work so we set off to grapple with the bridge in solitude.

Unlocking the padlock with the 50 Euro Key

  Haul on the chain

All the way up

 Lowering the bridge was much harder

 This was the best I could do. Rob had to get off the boat and then run up the lifted part of the bridge to get it moving - something I wasn't prepared to attempt.

And finally, having learned from bridge one, we crept through the final 4m wide bridge perfectly, even earning a cheer from 2 passing cyclists.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Afloat Again

 L'Avenir's bottom has recieved an expensive makeover and we are at last back in the water. Pity no-one will be able to see it so look long at these photos and admire.

 The Workers

Makeover Complete

I needed a bit of a lie down after we received the bill (VAT here is almost 20%) but after a couple of days of nervously watching exchange rates we breathed deeply, pressed the enter key and electronically wiped out a large chunk of the bank balance. Naturally sods law once again prevailed and the aussie dollar decided that was the moment to plunge. As I can no longer see the paint job, however, I'm fairly successfully suppressing the memory of the monetary pain.


Otherwise things have definitely been on the up. The sun is at last shining and the arctic wind has dropped - slightly. We've caught up with friends we made last year and enjoyed a lovely day of food, drink and stories on their boat at Kaag Island. Thank you Nicky and Mike.

Kagerplassen. Rob with Rutger on his powerful sloop - 46kph flat out.

 Nicky and Mike's river cruiser which they brought from England.

Tomorrow is Departure Day!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Tiptoe through the Tulips

I don't know how many bulbs are grown each year in Holland but I can tell you that 7 million of them are planted by hand in the Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam. The gardens are open for only a few months each spring and bulb growers from all over Holland  showcase their flowers. Bulbs seem to me to be the ideal flower for this cultivated, tidy country. Each perfectly coloured and shaped bloom standing erect and lending itself to precise arrangement in an orderly landscape. For a horticulturally challenged person such as myself whose plant growing ablities could be overshadowed by the average garden gnome I fully expected to be impressed during our visit. To say it was stunning would be an understatement.

Interesting Fact (apologies- it's the teacher in me).
Tulipmania. In the 1600s tulips were a luxury item and status symbol.The bulbs began to be sold for ridiculously high prices making fortunes for the traders. Ordinary people sold their houses and businesses to take part in the get rich quick market. In 1637 a single bulb sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman or the price of an Amsterdam canalside house. You can guess how it all ended. Sound familiar??

As well as gardens there are several pavilions filled with flowers. My favourite was the one filled with 30 000 lilies. Breathtaking.

Madonna has one named after so why not.......

And finally, there are lots of sculptures around the gardens. Here's Rob making friends......

...looks a bit stony faced to me.

Monday, 10 May 2010

High and Dry in Leimuiden

Up she goes. The yard has done this with hundreds of boats but that doesn't make it any less nerve wracking.

The hull is encrusted with mussels. Obviously the anti fouling ceased working long ago.

Pressure hosing them off before replacing the anti fouling. Destination local restaurant??

We'll be out of the water for a few days. Sleeping on a boat on dry land is all wrong.....

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Here We Go Again

We've been in Holland 5 days now. It's been cold, wet and windy and we've spent  most of the time getting the boat in order - some (not much) of the time I've been complaining. Why didn't we bring any jumpers?  Why didn't we come earlier so we could see the tulips? Why didn't we wait until June so it would be warmer? Please leave me alone, I just want to curl up in bed.
Today the wind dropped so it was decided we would go out for a test run. A short trip from the marina at Leimuiden down the meer. Moored up for lunch and met Jenny and Simon on their Dutch barge 'Adriana'.
And, you know, it was great.