Come with us as we travel round Europe in our floating home

Friday, 30 June 2017

Deinze to Kortrijk

Hello, welcome back

We stayed in Deinze for 3 nights. It's a pleasant enough town but is usually only a transit mooring. The moorings are good and free, although there's no water or electricity. Luckily we didn't need either. We stayed for the market on Wednesday morning but it was hellishly expensive and I ended up buying everything we needed in the Carrefour supermarket.

Because water levels are still quite low the smaller canals that don't have any commercial traffic are closed. To travel on the larger canals and rivers you are only able to pass through a lock if you go through with a BIG commercial barge.....and by BIG I mean HUGE 😲

This was one of the "smaller" barges that came past us at Deinze. It had just unloaded it's cargo at the local mill.

We left the picturesque section of the River Leie and joined the M25 River Leie mainline.  All along it's banks are working quays where the big commercial barges load/unload. This one was unloading gravel.

It's such a busy canal that you don't usually have to wait longer than 20 minutes to get through the locks. So far the lock keepers have been very polite and helpful with clear instructions over the radio of where they want us to wait and then where they want us inside the lock.

Sint-Baafs-Vijve Lock was only the third lock we've done in Belgium and at 136m x 16m it was the biggest we've seen so far. The ship coming down the lock almost filled it!

We followed a barge into the lock and quickly got fastened onto the wall. It was quite intimidating, being the first one we'd shared with a commercial and we'd heard all sorts of stories about how turbulent it could be, but in fact it was a doddle and we coped really well. It helps that Bluey is a very stable boat and doesn't rock or bob about like some of the other boats we've seen over here.

Our second lock of the day was Harelbeke Lock at Kortrijk and once this commercial came out we followed another pleasure boat in.

A small (85m long) gravel barge came in behind us. It only had a single man crew and he made it look so easy getting fastened up.

We're now moored in Kortrijk town centre on a good free mooring with free water. The electric hook-up is out of order but we don't really need it as the solar panels are coping really well even though it's quite cloudy today.

I think we'll probably stay here for the weekend as there seems to be plenty to see and do in town.

Have a good weekend, see you soon 😊

Monday, 26 June 2017


Hello, nice to see you here again.

We enjoyed Ghent so much that we ended up staying for 10 nights.  The city is simply stunning and there's always something happening.

The Friday market was OK, but not a patch on French markets we've been to before. On Saturday the market square played host to a high jump competition. The guys were easily clearing 5.4m

The next day everything had been cleared away and the square reinvented as the Sunday Flower Market.

You wouldn't have thought that it was the same place.

The variety of flowers was amazing, but my favourites had to be the peonies 

We've really struggled to find a decent waterways guide to Belgium since we've been here. The ones on sale at the lock had sold out but we managed to find a shop over the other side of Ghent called Atlas & Zanzibar that only sells travel guides and maps.

The owner was very friendly and helpful and encouraged us to open and read any maps that may be of interest with no obligation to buy.  We eventually found exactly what we needed in the waterways section and luckily it was in English as well 😀

This is the inside of the Vleesmarkt (Great Butchers Hall). I was expecting it to be a "proper" meat market but it's basically a posh restaurant that cures and sells hams as well. The Hams are cured in salt, covered in melted lard and then hung from the rafters for at least 9 months to ripen. Very nice, and not a fly in sight!

One day during our walkabout, we came across Werregarenstraat which is a street full of graffiti.

Anyone can buy a can of spray paint and come and pretend to be an artist

Unfortunately there wasn't much evidence of Banksy here.

 Almost everyday we came across a different band playing in a different square. You could never say that there's nothing to see or do in Ghent!

The weather has been amazing, although Chico struggled a bit when the temperature reach 34'C and we could only tempt him to eat by putting his food in one of our bowls and pouring a bit of salad dressing on it.

One downside of the good weather is that the water levels are now very low and locks are only being operated for commercial vessels.

We left Ghent this morning and are now moored in Deinze . We had intended travelling in a ring, ending up back in Ghent in July for their annual Festival but we've just had notification that our route is a none commercial canal and all locks have been closed until further notice.

Back to the planning 😕

Hope to see you again soon, Bye for now

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Bruges to Ghent

Hi, welcome back.

It's absolutely scorchio here in Ghent (34'C) so I've come indoors to cool off and catch up with the blog.

We left Coupure moorings in Bruges early on Friday morning, heading for Ghent via the Kanaal Gent Ostende which is a large commercial canal.  It was the first time we've encountered seriously HUGE commercials and while the first one was a bit intimidating we soon got used to them.  We still have to share a lock with one, but that'll be a story for another day.

This was the first one we met. Roger had seen it coming towards us on the screen on our new radio so it didn't take us by surprise

We had to wait for 20 minutes for the bridge to be opened for this commercial as they take priority and bridges aren't usually opened for pleasure boats alone.

It was a good job we had the ATIS AIS system on the radio as we could see this monster approaching the guillotine bridge, even though we had all green lights which would normally have given us right of passage.

Now this one was B I G..... It was carrying 12 containers that we could see, as well as whatever was below decks. It also had 2 cars and 2 speed boats on top of the crews quarters!

Over half of these commercials were being steered by women in air conditioned control rooms and several had a man swobbing the decks or touching up the paintwork while they traveled.

The only place to stop off en-route to Ghent was at Beernam but we'd only been going about an hour so we decided against it, took it in turns to steer/eat lunch, and arrived at the Lindenlei Yacht Haven 6 hours later. Chico had crossed legs but there was nowhere at all to pull over. We were expected at the moorings but because it was weekend it was rather full and we had to breast up against an older dutch barge which wasn't a problem for us.

A few boats back from us there were two "gin palaces" breasted up together. Really nice friendly people who spread out along the pontoon and partied on champagne and seriously big lobsters....and I mean lobsters plural as I saw at least 3. When Roger saw them again next morning they were having even more lobster for breakfast. How the other half live eh? 😊

Once we settled in we went walkabout and first impressions of Ghent were WOW! It can be summed up in two words.....SIMPLY STUNNING.....

This is the Castle of the Counts - Gravensteen began life in the 10th century and was renovated in the 19th century. It is now one of the major tourist in Ghent and houses, amongst other things, the torture museum.

Everywhere you go the architecture is fabulous.

We originally booked to stay 2 nights (BOGOF through the VPF boat club that we'd joined in Bruges) but there is still so much to see and do that we've extended our stay.

Come back soon for an update. See you then 😃

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Nieuwpoort to Bruges

Hello, Bienvenue, Goededag...............Take your pick as there are lots of different languages spoken around here

We said goodbye to Martin and Maggie early on Saturday morning when they set off back to the UK and as the wind had eased off a bit we finally managed to leave Nieuwpoort Marina at high tide later that morning.

First job was to fill up with diesel which wasn't as straight forward as we'd been told in the marina office. We pulled onto the services pontoon to the self-service diesel pump and then had to work out how to use it as it was all in Dutch. Luckily when I inserted my new French bank card it converted to French instructions which we understood, but it would only let us have 125 Euros worth of fuel which was just a drop in our tank. We had another splash using a different bank card but decided to call it a day and try elsewhere later.

The man in the marina office had also told us we could buy our Belgian Waterways Licence at the first lock but on inquiring over the VHF radio we were told that was impossible and to try at the next lock.  At the next lock we were answered with a firm "NO" and then at the third lock we were just met with silence!  We were illegal aliens!

It was a beautiful day for our first cruise

and being weekend one of the first things we came across was a fishing match.  It went on for about a mile and we slowed down as we would have done in UK. It wasn't just to be polite but to have a good look in all the tents that the fishermen had erected. It seemed like the whole family made a day out of it, with some having even brought their sofas as well as tables and chairs and the ubiquitous BBQ. We were greeted and waved at by the fishermen but when a speeding hire boat came in the opposite direction they shouted abuse and waved fists - seems like fishermen are the same over here as at home.....

This was a bit of a surreal sight. Four teams of men in kilts were tossing cabers and drinking beer

The bridges are all operated for you here. Most of the time they know you are coming and either raise the bridge

or lift the footpath

or even the entire road! It really is spectacular engineering.

We stopped on a free public mooring on Saturday evening and carried on into Bruges on Sunday. The guide book tells you that Sunday is a day for pleasure boats and that commercial vessels don't operate, so we were rather surprised to meet this tug pulling a huge crane in one of the bridge holes

Our destination in Bruges was the Coupure Yacht Haven which we'd pre-booked for a couple of nights. They were expecting us and raised the foot bridge to let us in

This photo was taken by one of my Face Book friends who was already moored there.

On Monday the Harbour Master phoned the last lock for us as he was really worried that we didn't have a licence and could be heavily fined if there was a spot check.  It took us about half an hour to walk back to the lock office where we did the paperwork and were told that the locks are unmanned on a Sunday, with everything being controlled from the central office which explains why we'd been unable to buy our licence.

As soon as we arrived in Coupure we joined the local yacht club/association to take advantage of half price mooring fees and are enjoying Bruges so much that we've decided to stay a couple of extra nights. It's a beautiful city but everything is hellishly expensive, especially food in restaurants and supermarkets alike.

Our next port of call will be Ghent, so please come back again soon and see how we get on there.

Bye for now

Friday, 9 June 2017

We've Arrived!

Hi, nice to see you.

We left Bristol on Monday after being lifted out at 8.00

It was a dreadful day, cold and heavy rain, and it was rather surreal to watch our home driving off down the road on the back of a wagon.

Because the boat's so big we had to have an escort

They turned right at the end of the road while we turned left, promptly getting stuck in a traffic jam. The wagon driver obviously chose the right route as we caught them up on the motorway about an hour later.

Bluey arrived in Nieuwpoort bang on schedule on Wednesday morning and although the sun was shining and it was lovely and warm it was also blowing a hooley!

The wind didn't stop them off-loading her

and by 2.00 we were afloat and heading around the marina towards our overnight mooring. The photo doesn't really show how big those waves were. I'm sure you could have gone surfing!

It was quite an awkward manoeuvre getting onto the slot but Roger managed to make it look easy.

We hadn't even got tied up before the Politie descended on us. Three armed policemen who had just finished a course on maritime regulations as we were put into the water decided to use us as guinea-pigs.  Thankfully all our papers were in order, although it was a bit stressful at the time. I'm surprised they didn't check the boat for illegal aliens or contraband but I suppose it might be a bit different if we'd been going into a UK port.

The wind has continued to blow like a she-devil and it's far too strong for us to move so for the time being this is my view. Impressive or what?

We'd both like to say a MASSIVE thank you to our friends Martin and Maggie who brought us from Bristol. It would have been very awkward without them as we haven't had a car for several years.

So that's it for now. Hopefully the wind will have dropped tomorrow and we can set off but until then we're enjoying marina life.  Cheers!

Come back and join us again soon X