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.

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