Saturday, 16 August 2014

Saturday 9th August 2014 Ville-sur-Haine to Pommeroeul. 27.7kms 2 locks

In Obourg lock
15.9°C Very windy in the night, which woke Mike (the last blows of hurricane Bertha from America?). Grey clouds but sunny spells and still a stiff breeze blowing. Set off at 9.15 am following a loaded boat down to Havré lock. The lock was full and Espoir (Hope) from Thuin (B) was watering up, so that ruined our chances of getting any water in the lock. A cruiser called Zigzag was moored very precariously above the lock next to dolphins designed for big boats with horizontal supports that were almost higher than the cruisers cabin, the skipper said he would be going down later. We went in behind the commercial and waited. I did the chores and made a cuppa while we waited. They finished filling up and we descended 10m attached to a floater. An empty arrived at the top and a Dutch empty, called Chasseur (hunter) from Maasbracht, arrived to go up, followed by a cruiser.  A short distance to the next lock, past long quays full of more rubbish for recycling and a moored loaded boat called Memphis. There was an
Derelict old mill at Villecot
enormous cement works called Holcim above Obourg lock. The commercial had motored on at a pace we couldn’t keep up with, but he had to slow down to enter the lock and the keeper kept the gates open for us. A Dutch cruiser had just come up. This was a much shorter lock (96m) than the previous one (124m) so we had to go alongside the commercial rather than behind it and he kept his bow thruster going and his prop turning as we dropped down another 5m, changing the ropes down 6 bollards recessed into the concrete wall of the lock chamber. The couple on the commercial were preoccupied with what looked like some damage to their fore-end cabin, which was covered with a sheet of plastic held down with a long hard plastic fender.
Moored on the pier at Pommeroeul,
looking towards the disused lock
Unusually, they motored out of the lock first (Normally the commercials want us out of the way for more manoeuvring room in the chamber). Loaded tanker Calcit 10 was moored below on a short quay. We went across the Grand Large lake to the Mons boat marina to get some water. We moored among the Dutch cruisers we’d seen the day before and Snail came alongside us. While the tanks filled up I took a walk to the Capitanerie (they’d now got a posh lift!) on the second floor and paid 2€ each for the water (water is included in the price if you stay overnight). Two British boats were moored there among the cruisers and yachts (no one on board either), replica DB Pendragon and a large chunky steel boat called Conbar from Sherringham (where
Moored at Pommeroeul, looking towards the main canal
along the length of the pier
Anne’s daughter Amy lives in Norfolk) En route again at 12.30 pm, back across the lake with one sailboat and a jetski making waves. Not long after we went through the flood lock at Ghlin and the canal changed its name to the Nimy-Blaton-Peronnes canal. Two tugs were moored at the south darse (dock) at Ghlin, Spes IV and Romina with an empty pan. Signs said beware dredging in progress, but they were obviously having the weekend off. In the north darse Espoir (the boat we’d locked with) was moored ready for unloading Monday and was craning his car off. I made some lunch. Lots of long quays bordered the canal covered with piles of sand, soil, rocks and rubble, beyond which were steel coils and piles of containers then stacked concrete pipes. A cruiser was catching up (it was Zigzag again) and an empty called Ludovica from Evergem (it used to be called Anita, which was embossed across the stern) went past heading for Mons, motoring hard and making a lot of wash. The concrete quay walls surrounding the entrance to the darse at Baudour were very high and opposite them a fancy new power plant had been built belonging to Electrobel (GDF & Suez). The cruiser Zigzag was moored next to the berths for an oil berth by a fuel station. He said he was trying to get some petrol, but the access to the bank was blocked by a gate. We wished him luck and Mike said he’d do better mooring by the next bridge and walking back with a can. The water had changed colour from a dirty muddy brown filled with bits of rubbish to a bright chalky green as we passed the old windmill opposite the darse at Villecot. Three Dutch cruisers went past, all doing the same speed and all but the last one were making a lot of wash. We arrived at Pommeroeul at 3.10 pm and moored by the disused lock on the waiting area – a long pier. No other boats were there except an old cruiser and two old sailing dinghies moored on the other side of the wall. Set the TV up then Mike got the moped off using a short plank (the quay was almost cabin height, but there was a big gap due to the timber fendering along the wall) and went to collect the car from Ville-sur-Haine. Be interesting to see how long we have to wait before the boat can be hauled out for painting. Hard work here we come again – got to keep the boat looking good!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Friday 8th August 2014 La Louvière to Ville-sur-Haine. 11.2kms 1 boatlift.

Guillotine flood gate on new bypass canal around the 4 old lifts.
13.2°C Sunny start, after overnight heavy rain, grey clouds, then the rain started again. We set off at 10.15 am following the Snail back to the junction with the new canal that bypasses the four old lifts. 6 kms to the big new lift at Strèpy-Thieu. Under the new guillotine flood gate. The new canal is wide, deep and edged with sloping concrete and planted with trees which make it look like we’re travelling through parkland. We could see a pushtow in the distance – he’ll been down the lift well before we get there. I baked some part-cooked bread buns in the oven ready for lunch as we’d almost finished our first Belgian loaf. Over the aqueduct that
Behind a big Dutch cruiser in Strepy-Thieu
carries the canal across several roads, the view was too misty for photos as it had started to rain. Several large cruisers caught up and overtook, a German one from Wuppertal, two Dutch cruisers and a smaller Danish one was catching up. After a short wait above the tank two cruisers came up in the right hand caisson and then we all piled in after the three big cruisers and the smaller Danish one came in behind us. Plenty of room left over. (We’ve been in it in the
The Snail in Strepy-Thieu lift
past when we’ve had several commercials and a tripper and enough cruisers to fill the tank!) The keeper was taking boat names as we entered the caisson and no doubt he checked us all on his computer to make sure we were all logged in on the system before we set off down. OK and the motors powered up, sounding like a jet engine getting ready for take-off. In maybe ten minutes we’d descended 73m - the trip through the four old lifts used to take most of one day, if there were no breakdowns. It was pouring down when we set off again. The cruisers disappeared into the distance as we passed the new lock (now automatic) that takes boats up to the only
Going down!
(currently) working lift, no 4 Thieu. Two more cruisers went past heading for the lift. There is a long waiting quay below the new lock and not a single boat was moored there. A loaded push-towed pair, called Bibifoc and Flipper went past followed by a British cruiser called Paddington V whose skipper shouted “It’s English rain!” Mike said no, it’s American! (we’ve got the remains of hurricane Bertha coming across the Atlantic) We motored on a short distance and tied up at another long, deserted quay at Ville-sur-Haine, close to where there used to be a lock of the
Moored at Ville-sur-Haine in the pouring rain.
same name on the old canal before the lifts. We got soaked tying up and setting up the TV (no Wi-Fi). Made sandwiches for lunch then gave Mike a hand to get all his stuff together and unwrap the moped. The quay was high enough that he didn’t need a plank. He got kitted out in wellies and waterproof trousers, taking a pair of pumps with him to drive back in. Around 1.30 pm he went back to get the car. It was still pouring when he returned and we got wet again putting the bike back on the roof and covering it. Wet clothes and shoes everywhere, dripping on the front deck and in the shower. Oh the joys of boating in the rain!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Thursday 7th August 2014 Abv Gosselies lock – abv La Louvière. 25.1kms 1 lock

The magnificent Wallonie Spangler!
13.2°C Sunny start, grey clouds then sunny and hot with white clouds. Breezy. A tug and pan went past heading uphill just before we were ready to go. Oll had told Mike he’d seen a brightly coloured bird, so Mike went to take a photo – Oll nicknamed the parakeet the Wallonie Spangler – it was very brightly coloured. Set off at 9.15 am. The tug and pan were still waiting below Viesville lock when we arrived. Three cruisers came down, then the tug went up; as the pan was 67m long and the tug about 20m there was no room for us in the 87m long chamber.
Leaving Vieseville lock
Another three cruisers came down, then it was our turn and, as it was just us two narrowboats, we had the pick of the floaters and straddled the centre gates to have the luxury of a floater fore and aft each. Up 7m in no time and at 10.30 am we set off on the summit level of the Brussels-Charleroi canal. Nothing waiting to go down the locks. The industrial grot was left behind, but only for a while. Several loaded boats and another tug and pan went past heading for Charleroi. I made a cuppa and we ate two speculaas biscuits with our tea as a
Fishermen beware!
celebration that I’d just got our new Belgian PAYG Internet connection to work – it is so nice to be able to access the Internet at any time! A 70m tanker called Zesteinhoven was moored by an oil storage depot near Seneffe and we were back into the land of factories. The Snail was in front and turned into the canal du Centrum first, as an empty called Present came out of the canal and turned towards Brussels at the wide junction where there was another large oil storage depot. A cruiser was not far behind it and he turned the other way towards Charleroi. The start of
The summit level of the Brussels-Charleroi canal
the Centrum canal was pleasant with an avenue of trees on the left and fields beyond them, while on the right was an old railway branch line, trees and more fields. Families were out fishing and picnicking along the canal. A DB called Argo from Kampen went past and a cycling team all in matching lycra zoomed down the towpath. Under the motorway and turned left into the old Centrum canal leading to the four ship lifts, the ascenseurs - which are now a UNESCO world heritage site. Straight ahead was the new superfast lift at Strèpy-Thieu that
Moored abv lift no.1 Houdeng-Geognies
replaced them. We moored above the first lift (no. 1 Houdeng-Goegnies) at La Louvière at 1.55pm. Anne phoned the Belgian waterways to find out if the lifts were all open now. Nope. Thieu, the bottom one is, but the other three won’t re-open until next year. By the time we’d got maps and Lucy (GPS) sorted out, etc, it was 3.40pm before Mike set out to thread his way around Charleroi to get back to the car at Auvelais. I’d printed him the maps he needed from our Belgian Atlas and he’d got Lucy in his pocket with headphones on. The route looked very complicated. When he got back he said Lucy (GPS) did a perfect job until she got to the N90 which has been upgraded so he couldn’t go on it with the moped. He had to find his own way round as you can’t exclude a road in Lucy’s memory.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Wednesday 6th August 2014 Auvelais to abv Gosselies lock. 30.1kms 5 locks

Through Charleroi down in a concrete sided hole
12.9°C Hazy grey clouds and sunny spells until midday then rain. Set off at 9 am. One loaded commercial had already gone past heading upriver before we set off and another arrived below Auvelais lock as we untied. Signs on the side of the river said beware at the railway bridge. When we got there the bridge was wrapped in plastic as there were men at work and signs that would have shown us that we should be on the left hand side were obscured by the concrete road bridge a few metres in front of the railway bridge; on the right there were safety nets hanging down under the bridge reducing the headroom. Through the small town of Tamines where there was a
Leaving Marcinelles lock,
located in the middle of Cockerills steelworks
very high sloping quay wall with ladders and at the top there was an Aldi and a Carrefour Market, OK for bigger boats than ours! The river looked quite rural for a few kilometres as there were no factories or roads, just trees on the left and a towpath on the right which was much in use by walkers and cyclists. More low tree covered hills appeared on the right. Several pairs of golden eye ducks took off in front along with the usual sandpipers. Osiva (75mx8.20m 1000T) was loading at a silo at Tergnée, dust and bits of chaff
Boat grafitti Charleroi abv Marcinelles lock
were filling the air and a layer of it covered the water surface; an empty called Liberty (67.18mx8.22m 1008T) was waiting its turn to load. Another nasty smell announced the presence of yet another rubbish recycling plant upwind of us. There were big piles of sand and rubble along another big quay. We had a short wait below Roselies lock while the lock emptied and a cruiser came out. A floating car wheel stopped us getting close to the wall to attach to a recessed bollard, so we went closer to the lock as a bloated dead rat drifted past. Followed the Snail into the lock and Mike took charge
Health and safety notices at the steelworks
of the centre rope while we rose 3.7m and I made a cuppa. The commercial we’d seen as we were leaving Auvelais arrived below Roselies as we left the lock at 10.55am. A big new sand quay with an offline berth on the left had been under construction when we were here in 2004 with Bill and Rosy, now it was piled high with sand. An empty called Muscari was moored at the next quay. On into Pont-de-Loup, passing a huge coal berth and a long quay heaped with piles of cubes of compressed zinc plated scrap
Steelworks abv Marcinelles
steel. There were very few boats moored at the boatyard of Vankerkoven, just an ancient tripper and a few very old and tatty péniches. One péniche was on the dry dock. (This boatyard used to heaving with Dutch barges being converted and repaired, what happened?) Into the industrial outskirts of Charleroi. Spoil heaps, here called terrils, became part of the scenery. Yet another big and smelly recycling plant and a long scrap quay where they were sorting scrap into similar sizes using machines, piles of rust and dust filled the air. A large flock of seagulls scavenged the area. Another wait below Montignies lock as a commercial was going up, then another (called Largo) came down. It started to rain heavily. We had a green light so we went into the chamber, then the lock keeper came out on his balcony, waving at us and eventually conveying the fact that the commercial behind us had caught up and we must go out of the chamber and let him in first. We backed out and a loaded Dutch boat, called Coby from Nijmegen, went in and right up to the top end then put one rope out from its bows. We sat behind it with fore and aft ropes on in the back of the lock chamber. A tug called Spes was waiting
Waiting below Gosselies lock
to come down, it was pushing a pan loaded with grey clay-like dredgings, this took us back to the good old days when the muck from the bottom of the BCN looked like that – real industrial grot!! We followed the Dutchman through the middle of Charleroi, where the river becomes narrow and winds between concrete banks down in a hole. Signs that said change sides severely confused a cruiser that was coming towards us; it passed the commercial on its left then went diagonally across the river in front of the Snail to pass us on our right – where it should have been all through the narrow section. A Dutch boat called Martina was waiting to unload on a quay on the right and Sikka
Moored abv Gosselies lock in the rain
was unloading dredgings into a series of tipper lorries, while Mahattan was unloading stones and large gravel, also into tipper lorries. There was a strange smell that was almost spicy?? We followed Coby into Marcinelles lock. The Snail was on the left by the keeper’s cabin and he came down to explain to Oll (who speaks very little French) that he had to go up to the cabin and do the paperwork - and us, when the lock is full. When we’d risen a further 3m, I took an old bit of card with all our details on it and the Belgian computer reference number (MET) and went across the top of the sliding gate to give the keeper our details (in French). Before we left he came back
Scrap unloading berth abv Marcinelles
from the office with our paperwork and gave it to Oll. (Although the old system of “quittances” has stopped and no payments have to be made, it seems they still like to dish out the same paperwork with the list of canals on your intended route.) The commercial in front backed into the Brussels-Charleroi canal so Mike called on VHF10 to ask in French where he was going. He answered in Dutch to say he didn’t speak French then someone else said (in English) that they were going to turn
Piles of scrap
and go back towards the lock and moor. OK now we know what he’s doing we can avoid him, so as he finished winding we passed him (one on either side) and carried on to turn right, then left, on the start of the Brussels-Charleroi canal. There were murals along the canal banks at the junction and they were covered in graffiti. I made some lunch as we went up to the first lock, Marchiennes, which now has shorter lock chambers (the first one was 85m) than on the Sambre (which were 120m long). A loaded boat came down the lock, then a tug and loaded pan went in followed by a large Dutch cruiser which had been waiting. The lights changed to red and the cruiser was shut out. He tied to the lock approach, then thought better of it and came back to moor on
Steel works abv Marcinelles lock
the piled wall where we were. Another cruiser arrived (Belgian) and he moored in the lock approach. The lock emptied and we all went in, two cruisers first who attached to floaters in the rear of the top half of the chamber leaving us two floaters in the bottom end section which were about 40m apart. We went next to the forward one and I put the fore end line on it (Anne did same on the far wall) and Mike kept the engine running in case the stern should be blown off the wall (it didn’t). The lock filled gently from the front and we rose 7m. It was still raining when we left the top at 3.05 pm. Both cruisers shot off into the distance but were waiting below the next lock, Gosselies (a bit longer at 87.6m) when we arrived. An empty loaded boat came down and we all piled into the chamber, another loaded boat arrived – a péniche called Shelendo (we’d moored by it back at Ampsin) – so the cruiser opposite us moved up and the commercial came in on the wall opposite us. Mike chatted with the péniche skipper after he’d attached their fore end line to the forward floater. We rose another 7m in the pouring rain. When we left the lock Anne and Oll said they’d had enough and wanted to stop – there may be nowhere to moor above the next lock and there was a long empty quay (by a scrapyard) where we could moor. We reversed back towards the road bridge (as far away as possible from the scrapyard) and found two bollards closer together than the standard 40m and managed to tie up just using fore and aft lines. The Snails came back and moored in front of us. It was 4.45pm and still pouring down with rain. Set the TV up, no Wi-Fi and Mike said he’d collect the car the following day.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Tuesday 5th August 2014 Sclayn to Auvelais. 38.6kms 5 locks.

Loading grain at Marches des Dames
13.6°C A cooler night, just below 20°in the cabin. Hot and sunny all day. We set off first at 9.05 am, Snail following us, still towing Origami (their folding dinghy). It wasn’t long before two Dutch cruisers went past heading downriver. The first of the cliffs appeared on the left, the right bank was lined with quays. A tug and pan were under the loading chute for the quarry at Marches des Dames, being loaded from tipper lorries. More cliffs on the right, back of the cement works, and two more commercials were on the quays being loaded from tipper lorries which were
Car on stands on board Baraka
depositing their loads on to conveyor belts that dumped rocks into the holds of the boats. Quite a collection of boats were moored at the old lock. Loaded boat Barak had its car on stands behind its back cabin, unusual as most cars get stowed on the cabin roof. Two more cruisers downriver at the next bend, followed by two more as we passed Roche d’Albert, the memorial to King Albert I who died in 1934 after falling from the rocks here; he was an avid rock-climber. Passing the basin on the bend where the CNNY yacht club moor their boats, three more
Beautiful cliffs of Marches des Dames
cruisers went past. Myzako was being loaded by a digger on the quay below Grands Malades lock. We had a green light for the lock. Rose about 2m in the bottom half of the chamber (it has a set of gates across the middle of the chamber allowing half its length to be used). We went in at 11 am and came out ten minutes later. Two more cruisers were waiting to go down. On into Namur following the Snail. As Oll turned right into the Sambre a British-flagged DB called Anthonia came out and turned upstream on the Meuse. A small water
Roche d'Albert 
taxi was following it. It was 11.30 am as we started heading upriver on the Sambre, passing another statue of King Albert on horseback at the confluence. They’d finished all the building work that was going on when we were here last year, new flats had been built on old foundations and the area had been tidied up a lot. Still no boats were allowed to moor in the narrow section leading to the Meuse, not surprising when you consider the size of the commercials which use the Sambre nowadays. We had a short wait below Salzinnes lock, then just the two of us went up,
Myzako loading
again about 2m, and left the top at 12.15 pm just as loaded (with white powder, probably gypsum) boat Jaguar (110mx11.45m 2906T) came round the bend above the lock. We spotted a yellow flashing light and went to have a closer look, it was on a tube down into the water so we guessed it was a water depth sensor – if the level gets too low then it sets off a pump to backpump water. Four cruisers from Gent came past, then a French one called Hippocampus – sure we’d seen that one before. They were followed by another loaded boat, called Allonso (67mx8.2m
Mike on rope duty, Grands Malades
857T) which went past at Ronet. The valley was becoming steeper sided as we left Namur behind. Both banks of this canalised river have sloping concrete edges with flights of steps every 50m or so, occasionally there are vertical quays for loading and unloading. The Sambre is a very industrialised river. A long low building on the left before the first long right hand bend housed a bus depot full of red and yellow single decker buses. A for sale sign announced the sale of La Ferme Blanche (the white farm) and a sign outside it in neon said it was a discotheque. Sandpipers flew off in front of the boat, the first we’d seen for ages, they were
Smartened up waterfront on the Sambre at Namur
to be a regular feature of this river. We passed a crane unloading a pan in a new canalside building and oh boy was the smell bad – it was recycling rubbish. Beyond it were long sand quays and opposite was a huge warehouse. An empty called San Remo (80mx8.20m 1138T) went past heading downriver. Futura was unloading grain at the silos below Florifoux lock. The lock was ready with a green light so we went in and Mike did rope duty while we rose 2.5m and I made some lunch. As we headed past the church on the
Water level sensor, River Sambre
hill at Floreffe, loaded boat Las Vegas (80mx8.2m 1163T) went past heading downstream. Low wooded hills on our left and old farm buildings on our right. A new wooden landing had been installed at the foot of the cliff by the church, it was filled by two cruisers and a small tug. Another short wait for the lock at Mornimont; we’d caught up with a small yacht who joined us to go up the lock, a deep one, 4.9m, after an empty and a cruiser came down. The yacht moored above the lock. Two Dutch flagged boats were waiting to come down, one was a British built replica DB. Another came around the bend, called Fowey Belle with a red ensign, we were sure we’d
Floreffe Abbey, R Sambre -being Belgian it also brews very good beer!
CLICK HERE for more info on the Abbey.
seen it before somewhere. Past the AGC works with its four tall chimneys then on past the huge Solvay chemical works which seems to stretch for kilometres along the river. Another loaded 110m boat went past, Karina from Gent, just before we arrived at Auvelais lock. The new mooring below the lock was a wooden staging at the foot of a high wall – we carried on up the lock another 2.7m and moored at the end of the lock waiting area where we’ve stayed before. It was 5.15pm. Helped unload the bike off the roof and Mike went to get the car from Ampsin. The yacht we locked with came up Auvelais and moored in front of us and later a large Dutch hotel boat arrived from upstream and moored beyond the yacht. The Snails folded up Origami and stowed it in its box on their cabin roof. Mike didn’t get back until 9.30 pm. We put the bike back on the roof and had dinner, late.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Monday 4th August 2014 Abv Ampsin to Sclayn. 22.6kms 1 lock

Collegiate church of Notre Dame in Huy and citadel behind it
18.3°C Sunny start with a few clouds and some drizzle. Mike and I went out in the car and bought two cans of diesel for the boat at 1,345€/litre, then went to get a few groceries from a Delhaize supermarket and paid by card! (We’ve been having to pay extra by paying in cash (withdrawal charges apply) for our shopping since we left Belgium last year as supermarkets and fuel stations in the Netherlands and Germany do not accept Visa) Asked in a branch of Expert electrical store about an Internet SIM but they had none. Into the town of Huy, we
The citadel at Huy
parked by the commercial centre and walked back to the main street and went in The Phone House, they had nothing try Mobistar across the road, they only offered Internet at 15€ a month for a year on contract (for which we’d need a Belgian bank account and we’re not staying that long anyway). Across the road was another independent phone seller and he said yes and produced a PAYG SIM from BASE with 2Gig for 15€/month and we had a 15€ topup – and paid by card again! Back home and Mike picked Oll up to go and get some diesel for the Snail.
Bridge at Huy
We set off at 1 pm heading upstream on the Meuse in light drizzle which thankfully didn’t last long. Passing the nuclear power station on our left and rows of moored commercials by another cement works, then an empty called Sakera went past heading downriver. A few minutes after that a high speed fishermen followed it in an open boat with a massive outboard engine. Passing on our left the shops and the garage that we’d been to by car earlier - and tree covered hills on the right, we headed upriver into Huy. There was a fairground spread out along the main road on the left and the Guignol theatre company of puppets was also in town. The magnificent medieval Notre Dame Collegiate church dominates the town with the citadel on the cliffs behind it.
Suspension bridge at Wanze by the sugar refinerie
Loaded Dutch péniche Mon Desir went past heading downstream near the Port de Statte and the suspension bridge at the big sugar refinerie in Wanze. Two big commercials were at the sugar works quay, Marie-Joseph (110m) was unloading and Libele (105m) was waiting its turn to unload. A cruiser went downriver as we passed the first big island in the river and another followed it ten minutes later. The tree covered hills were now on the left bank and houses all along the right. We paused on the wall below Andenne lock while
Moored at Sclayn
two large commercials came down. Mike said he’d heard the lock keeper on VHF radio remind the skipper of the first one that there was a small cruiser right in front of his bows! (What do the skippers of pleasure craft think they are doing when they go into locks in front of commercials, don’t they realise that unless there is a camera on the bows of his boat the skipper of the big boat just can’t see them!) Once they’d cleared the chamber we followed a big empty commercial, 110m Romania-G into the chamber, he went straight up to the top end gates and we stayed well back in the huge chamber. Bollards were far too far apart to use two ropes so I put the centre rope around one and Mike stood on the roof to control the rope as we rose 5m while I made a cuppa. 
As we left the lock there was more downhill traffic and we took the right hand side of a small island which wasn’t marked as navigable on our charts (but was over 6m deep) as loaded Wilina went past through the right hand arch of the bridge (on our side, not his!). There was a large flock of Canada geese together with Egyptian geese and the first sandpipers we’d seen in ages flew off in front of the boat as we came into Sclayn. We tied up where Spoetnik’s fuel barge and bunkerships used to be at 5.40 pm and now there were no mooring signs which no one had taken any notice of. Mike didn’t go back for the car, he said he’d go and get it the following day.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Sunday 3rd August 2014 Yvos-Ramet lock to abv Ampsin lock. 15.8kms 2 locks

In Yvoz-Ramet lock
16.0°C Sunny with white clouds, becoming more cloudy late afternoon. Hot. We backed out into the lock cut at 8.45 am as the lock opened today at nine. The commercial that had arrived late last night was an 80m empty called Mira-Secondas and he was just firing up his engine. Yvoz-Ramet lock emptied and two cruisers came out. Mike called the keeper to ask if we could go in alongside the smaller tanker Noord (51m) but he said follow the two commercials into the lock. OK. A cruiser came in behind us. There were no recessed bollards, just ladders with
Building a new lock abv Yvoz-Ramet
bollards in the edges – and they were too far apart by 2m, so I put my rope on at the bows and let out plenty of slack so Mike could attach his stern rope – and we had to do that for each set of bollards as the lock filled and lifted us 4.5m. Both commercials left their props turning even though there were large notices in Dutch and French to say stop engines and use two ropes - fore and aft. Mike spotted there was a water hose right by the boat so he waved to the keeper who said OK and we refilled the tank
Below Ampsin-Neuville lock
(almost) using the very large bore pipe before the keeper said we’d got to go as there was another commercial below the lock wanting to come up. We left the lock at 9.30 am and I sent a text to the Snails to say we’d be at Engis in half an hour. Paused alongside them, had a coffee and a chat. Set off again upriver at 10.50 am slowly so the Snail could catch up. One wedge shaped cruiser overtook us and four boats went past heading downstream. Tankers Noord (51x6.3 463T) and Proserpina (61x6.55 567T – this one had been past us several times at Weert) were sitting on the quay at the big cement works in Engis waiting to be unloaded. On upriver to Ampsin-Neuville lock. We had a short
Unusual caterpillar tracked boat crane
wait below the lock as a small cruiser, which had overtaken us half an hour earlier, went up and the keeper emptied the lock again. Another cruiser arrived and we all went into the chamber, the two narrowboats on the left hand wall and the cruiser on the right. The keeper asked the cruiser’s skipper to move over to the left, but he just went up to the front by the top end gates on the right. An empty commercial called Amorsita (59.14x6.69 749T) came into the lock on the right and the keeper shut the sliding gate behind us. This time we had recessed bollards and
Moored in the weirstream above Ampsin lock
ladders. I had a ladder by the bows but didn’t really need ropes as the water squashed us against the lock wall and kept trying to destroy my fender in the rungs of the ladder. Again, it survived. The Snails asked the lock keeper if they could top up their tank with water, OK, and there were lots of bins and a bottle bank on the lockside so all our rubbish and bottles found a new home. We set off to find a mooring in the weirstream, leaving the Snails to finish topping up their water tank. As it is holiday time, and a Sunday, there were loads of moored commercials, lots of them double moored. Just enough space for us between a péniche and a big boat. We had one bollard for the bows and Mike banged in three stakes to put springs on and secure the stern. The Snail came alongside. Woody found his way across our bows to the bank straight away, no problem! Mike went off on the moped to recover the car from Panheel.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Saturday 2nd August 2014 Panheel to below Yvos-Ramet lock. 81.5kms 4 locks

Crossing the river Maas. Early morning quiet.
17.2°C Light cloud first thing, sunny and very hot again. Up very early and left at 6.50 am heading gently down to the lock. Nothing much was stirring. Both locks at Panheel had double red lights. At 7 am (lock opening time) the lights on the smaller lock (left) turned to single red and we headed in that direction. Then the lock lights on the big lock changed to red/green and the gates opened as the commercial nearest to it, an empty called Falkland, fired up his engine, untied, and went into the lock. We followed him. I put our centre rope around a floater and Mike sat on
Needs no explanation
the roof keeping control of it while I had some breakfast and did some chores. Dropped down 7.8m and followed the commercial out of the lock at 7.25 am. Ventura, with a strange load of small open steel boats, was heading for the small lock chamber followed by a couple of wedge shaped cruisers. More empty commercials were moored below the lock and by the first bridge. On down the rest of the canal to the junction with the Maas, straight across and on to the start of the Julianakanaal. Mike called Maasbracht lock
In Maasbracht lock. Start of Julianakanaal
on VHF and was told to use the middle chamber. A cruiser appeared, probably from moorings in the lakes at the end of the Wessem-Neederweert canal, and followed us into the lock, there was already one cruiser in the chamber. We put fore and aft ropes through the metal loops on the floaters and rose gently 13m. The expensive looking boat that had followed us into the lock was called The Gambler and had Monte Carlo written on the side at the stern, but on the back of it it had Maastricht as its home port. Hmm. The two cruisers
In Born lock. Julianakanaal
were soon out of sight. At the first bridge we passed Voorwaarts loaded with very smelly woodchip. Fishermen were enjoying their weekend sport at Echt. On the long section to Born locks I did some catching up on the log as I hadn’t written it up the night before. 2.5kms before Born we were overtaken by a commercial and a cruiser so Mike called on VHF and the lady keeper said OK keep coming and held the lock for us. We saw the cruiser go into the
Floater in Born lock. Julianakanaal
chamber and we were eight minutes behind him after Mike wound the revs on until we were doing 9kph. Into the middle chamber again, fore and aft ropes on floaters, rose another 11m. Neither the commercial, an empty called Jolanda, nor the cruiser stopped their engines in the lock. The commercial took his ropes off when the lock was still 3m from being full and drifted gently backwards down the chamber. Left the top at 10.35 am. Tea and buttered currant buns for early elevenses that felt like lunchtime! An empty 110m cement carrier called Phoenix went past heading downhill. It had a car parked on its side decks. There was a load of rubbish in the canal, plastic and bits of wood mainly, but also floating stuff like an old coat and woven plastic bags. Noted there was a new Jumbo supermarket back of the quay at Urmond. A new oil berth had been constructed from large vertical and horizontal tubes at the start of the long, long quay at Stein, where there were only a few pans and a tug plus one empty commercial moored. At the end of the quay there was on offline basin with more loading
Limmel flood locks. End of Julianakanaal
and unloading quays. A large loaded tanker called Deneb came out of the basin and turned on to the canal heading in the same direction as us just as a string of cruisers were coming the opposite way, it missed them all. The canal became narrower as we went into a cutting with trees on both high sloping grassy banks as we went round an S bend following the course of the Maas, which at this point was very close to the canal on our right. A speedboat full of youngsters went past heading downhill but came back past us again about
Boats moored on the wall in Maastricht. River Maas
half an hour later doing about 30kph. At 12.30 pm the sun was hidden by black clouds, so Mike fetched the sunshade down and I shut the canvases ready for rain as we ran down the last long straight of the Juliana to the flood lock at Limmel. The wind picked up and was blowing a gale. A loaded boat called Vera from Amsterdam (80mx9.5) went past at Bunde brug, then there was a series of sand and gravel workings on our right and the wind was howling across as we had no shelter from it for several hundred metres. A loud clap of thunder as we went back
Posh new sewage works. Maastricht
into the (relative) shelter of the trees and an empty called Kinevy went past heading for Maasbracht. Mike put the brolly up but we hadn’t mended it since the helicopter stripped the cover off it and we lost the strings and hooks to hold it down to the handrails. I got some cord and the scissors and Mike found the new S hooks he’d modified and he added new tethers to the brolly. A loaded tanker called Parkkade (110x10.5 2420T) came past and we slowed down so that a tug called Jilly-F pushing a small pan filled with sand
Below Lanaye lock. Bye Bye Netherlands, hello Belgium!
dredgings could overtake us just before Limmel. We bounced all over the place in his wash as we followed him through the double guillotined flood lock at the end of the Julianakanaal. Another speedboat was fast catching us up – there was a speed limit of 4.5kph through the flood lock, which he ignored completely. Into Maastricht. The tug turned hard right into the arm leading to the Zuid Willemsvaart. We went through the town centre past the moorings on the wall between
Above Lanaye in Belgium. Albert canal.
two road bridges, it was full with double moored boats at one end. Through the pointed arches of the old bridge, St Servaasbrug, passing several moored passenger boats. A large one had just loaded with passengers and set off through the bridge on the other side of the wall and soon overtook us. There were boats everywhere, sail boats, speedboats, cruisers and trippers – all the way to the lock, Saturday afternoon! Mike called the keeper at Lanaye in French and he replied in English, sort of.
Cockerill-Sambre steel works Vivegnis
Follow the hotel boat into the big lock. OK, makes a change from ropes up the bollards in the small lock chamber, which feels like a chimney as it is 14m deep. The hotel boat (offering cycle tours) was already sitting on the wall below the chamber so we attached behind him to wait for the tripper and a cruiser that was coming down to leave the chamber. The hotel boat went in on the right and we went behind him but he didn’t go far down the chamber. A cruiser came in too and went around us and the hotel boat to tie on the wall in front of him (the left wall remained empty)
No idea! Artwork at Chelate
The floaters were too far apart to have one at our bows and stern so we ended up with bollards again anyway! The bollards were set into the wall in large oval recesses and, as the incoming water comes through the floor and shoves the boats hard against the walls, the holes kept trapping my fender, no real need for ropes. It survived. When the lock was full Mike said take our MET number up to the office so we’re on the Belgian computer – so I climbed the long open staircase up to the lock office, but the keeper said his
King Albert memorial at start of Albert canal
computer was kaput, so back downstairs I went. Everyone else had left by the time I was back on the lockside. It was 3.30 pm as we set off on the Albert canal and said hello Belgium. Mike found the courtesy flags out and swapped the Dutch one for the Belgian. It was half an hour before we saw the first boats moving, a high speed RIB coming towards us then an empty tanker called Dinara (125mx11.45 3518T) as we were going through Hemalle-sous-Argenteau. A large cruiser heading downhill produced a huge wash which reverberated off the concrete
Hotel boat moored in Liege city centre. Alone.
walls both sides of the canal and the wind had picked up too, making it very bouncy for a while. It was nice to see some hills once more. Beyond the river Meuse to our left there were tree covered cliffs with small villages stretching up into the hills. A loaded tanker called Anversa was fast catching us up, but it stopped to moor opposite the silent steel works of Cockerill-Sambre, now part of Arcelor-Mittal (taken over just like the German steel works where we spent last winter). Another tanker went past, an empty one, called Valcheren, it had the same
Liege blocks of waterfront flats
livery (orange) of the tankers that went past us daily when we were moored at Weert on the Zuid Willemsvaart. Loads of commercials were moored at Vivengis along the right hand wall, including a loaded coal boat called Myzako (110x11.45 3282T) then we spotted the Carrefour supermarket – that’s why they were all moored there! A loaded boat called Ludovic was blue boarding to come into the moorings, so we went left to keep out of his way. On the left bank at Chertal there was a strange “sculpture” of a car between the blades of a giant pair of scissors. A big new incinerator plant had been built on the right, the smell was pretty bad as the wind was blowing towards us from it. Loaded tanker Noord (51x6.3 463T) overtook us before the
Moored below Yvoz-Ramet lock against what will be new lock wall
suspension bridge in Herstal. An empty tanker called Poseidon (110x11.40 2512T) went past, followed by a loaded boat called Koufra (86x9.5 1500T) as we were passing Monsin lock, where some tankers lock down to load at the refinery on the Meuse. Made a cuppa as we passed the immense statute of Albert, King of the Belgians, at the end of the canal that bears his name and on to the river Meuse. Loaded péniche Optimist went past as we went into the outskirts of the city of Liège. The cycling tour boat was moored in the centre – it must have had special permission to tie up there, no one else moors on the quays. Loaded boat Karima (85x9.5 1538T) went past at the new suspension bridge after the gold painted bridge called Pont de Franges. It was bouncy again after he’d gone past. A boat called Skyline (110x11.45 3224T) was moored at the new container port before Cockerills at Ougrée. The sunken commercial that had been there last year was still there, just the top of the cabin showing above the water. An empty called Raypa (80x8.24 1082T) went past heading downriver, followed by loaded Renata (62x6.65 756T) as we were passing Cockerills coking plant at Seraing. It was 7.30 pm. The next lock, Yvos-Ramet, was now closed. I did some catching up with the log as we went along the river to moor at the lock at 8.45 pm. A tanker that had passed us earlier (Noord) was moored below the lock on the left, tied to some dolphins which were totally unsuitable for us to tie to. The concrete wall on the right was where we’d moored before but a new lock was being built and the mooring loops set into the wall had been removed so we had no alternative but to moor on the new concrete wall immediately below the lock which had not been finished, steps lead down from the top but there were no ladders below them and there were lots of bits of rebar sticking out. New inset bollards were useful to tie the bows to and Mike found one bollard by a set of steps to tie the stern. Good job we didn’t need to get off the boat. Another commercial arrived around 11.30 pm.