Saturday, May 25, 2019

Catching up

It's two weeks since I posted my last blog, which is unlike me. I always like to do it every week because it's still my favourite place on the Internet. I must say if I had to give up all my social media activities bar one, this would be the one I would choose to keep.

Have said that, the reason for my tardiness is simply life. It's been a busy two weeks with plenty of quite intense activity on the boat front. Last weekend, my daughters came over to see us and we took a spuddle round the harbour in my rowing boat. We'd intended to go in the Vereeniging, but daughter 2 said she'd prefer the rowing boat. Much less to do and  as the tide was coming in by the time we set off, it was probably wise anyway as we might not have cleared the bridges in the Vereeniging. We had a lovely afternoon and one of my sons-in-law joined us too.

There's nothing quite so nice as messing about on the river

And seeing barges both large and small

And of course the ship's dog had to come too
What made it even more special were the gifts my girls brought me. These gorgeous paintings of my beloved Sindy are now standing in pride of place next to my desk on the Vereeniging.

Then on Monday, Koos and I did the test run on the Vereeniging that we'd been hoping to do over the weekend. It's been an uphill struggle to sort out the issues with the fuel supply, but it seems that Koos has finally cracked it and everything's going swimmingly now. He’d spent much of the previous week working on it and we’d changed the oil and cooling water too. For the trial run, we went out for about an hour and gave it some 'welly'.

It's a shame the weather wasn't as good as it was at the weekend , but we loved being out and about and it was a super successful test flight...sorry...float.

My old girl does like to make a bit of smoke though...a regular puffing Billy she is while she's getting warmed up. A change of fuel might help, but it smokes much less when it’s up to temperature.

Then in other news, after I finished work on Thursday, we pelted down to Zeeland to sort out the collection of our new heartbeat for the Hennie H, our holiday boat that had heart failure last year. The Vereeniging is essentially my home and the Hennie H is our ‘caravan’. By the way, boats never give you any peace. Be warned! They take up more time than children and animals combined, and barge owners are rarely rich. Their boats are a regular money pit.

To cut a long story, we bought this workshop crane so we could lift and manoeuvre the new engine (the heart) on our own. It proved to be worth its (and our) weight in gold as there was no way we could have shifted the new (old) engine without it. Koos set it up yesterday and then today, we dragged ourselves out of bed at sparrow's whotsit, pelted off to the garage to pick up our hired trailer and then drove to Den Haag to collect the new 'organ'. 

Back in Zeeland, these photos below are of Koos lifting the engine (several hundred kilos of it) off the trailer and settling it onto the ground. There is no way on earth we could have managed without it. Mammoet eat your heart out! (In case you don't know, Mammoet is a huge crane building company in the Netherlands and their corporate colour is bright red). Isn’t it nice how the crane and the engine match? Serendipity, I think, so hopefully it also bodes well for the future of the project. We have a long road ahead before it’s installed, but this the first step!

So there we have it. The end of one very busy two weeks, and we are now both justifiably exhausted. Till next time allemaal!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Musical boats

Last week, we spent more time at 'home' in the Oude Haven than usual. Normally, I'm there alone as it's my base while I'm in Rotterdam for work, but Koos has joined me the last couple of weeks to do some jobs on the engine and also to move the Vereeniging while I was at work.

Where we started

The usual lineup
The reason we had to move was to make space for an event in the harbour last Thursday. Seven of the barges had to get out of the way to leave enough room for the games to take place. To be honest I still don't know what the games were, but they involved lots of loud music and what looked like plastic bouncing castles floating around in the water.

Where we spent Wednesday and Thursday night (access was interesting)

Anyway, I missed all the fun because I had courses to teach at the university and an exam session on Friday...both days when the moving had to be done. Luckily Koos loves playing musical boats and was only too happy to steer the Vereeniging from one side of the harbour to the other on my behalf. This is even more fortunate given that he's much better and more practised at it than I will ever be. Since I mostly don't know my left from my right, a situation compounded when trying to reverse and made even more confusing by the added effects of a strong wind, strange currents and the Vereeniging's own steering quirks, I was actually relieved I could skulk away and leave it to him.

And back 'home' again on Friday, but moored against my other neighbour
for the weekend.
But back to the reason for the change, it might seem bizarre to some that we have to disrupt our lives for a one day happening. However, it's actually good to move now and then. It reminds us of why we live on boats in the first place. I quite often move a few metres one way and another as neighbours come and go but to cross the harbour or go to one of the neighbouring harbours gives such a different perspective and I really liked it, even though getting on and off in this case was more of a challenge; we had to climb over the two big neighbouring barges to get to the pontoon, and then up a short but very steep gangplank to reach the quay–the barge version of an obstacle course with ropes, rigging, masts and other assorted up-trippers.  That aside, I even wished we could have stayed for a few days but that would have hemmed both other neighbours in, so back we had to go.

Anyway, in the course of this exercise, it gave Koos a chance to check his solution to the problem with the fuel supply to the engine. In previous tests, it ran for up to half an hour and then just stopped for no apparent reason. This happened even sooner when increasing the revs; in fact, instantly. It just died. After bleeding it and establishing all the lines were clear, it still stopped, so the last possibility was the fuel filter. 

To our amazement, when that was by-passed, the engine ran and kept on running without a hitch. Koos's conclusion: the fuel filter was too big and created too much resistance. He promptly ordered a new one which he will be fitting this week and next weekend, we hope to test it out on a short trip to celebrate my coming of age....I won't say what age as it's much too high a number already, but think in terms of Beatles' songs..."When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now...doo-bi-doo-bi-doo."

Have a good week allemaal. The sun is shining; now we just need some strength to it so I can remove some of these layers!

PS During the write-up of this blog, I have learnt that the local council have closed our slipway for good. We thought we had 18 months from last May to prove it was still viable, but they have decided to axe it now. It seems they don't want to spend the money on supporting it, despite the number of visitors it draws to the area from which all the caf├ęs benefit. Such is the power of the profit and loss accounts. It's a very sad time for all of us who live here.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Bits and pieces

The past weeks have seen some dramatic changes in the weather in our corner of the world. Since the beautifully hot Easter weekend, the temperatures have plummeted and apart from a few days when it's been just about bearable to work outside in a jersey, we've been back to coats, scarves and hats again, this weekend being possibly the worst of the lot.

Still, those odd days were memorable, if not memoirable (as my fingers wanted to type) and the photos that I've managed to snap are a testament that there's always something of beauty to be seen in the areas around us.

Take this parakeet in the photo below, for example. I saw it, and about four other identical birds, in some trees at the university. I was just walking towards the metro when the fluttering made me look up and there they were, several of these ring-necked beauties. I stood and watched them for about ten minutes. They seemed perfectly adjusted and were busy tucking into the new greenery on the tree. I have since heard from friends on Facebook that there are several flocks of them in northern European cities, one of the largest flocks being in Brussels. Escaped pets, maybe? Of from a zoo? Whatever the case, they are now apparently becoming quite common here. Who says animals and birds can't adapt to new conditions? I was and am still thrilled to have seen them although I'm told they make as much noise as a rookery. I grew up with rooks and loved the sound of them coming home at the end of the day and waking in the morning, but I'm guessing it's not everyone's cup of tea. This small community is right next to the residential block on the campus, so I wonder what the students think of them.

Then last weekend (I think), we went for a walk across the border into Belgium where we were pleased to find the cows out in the fields again. That's quite noteworthy these days when so many are kept in barns all year round. I won't say more about that here because it's one of my hobby horses so I can clip clop around the subject ad nauseam. And anyway, it seems not all of them were out. If you look at the bottom of the right-hand shed in the photo below, you'll see some heads sticking out. I would like to believe the poor things were in for a reason and that their turn will come. They looked a bit mournful to me, but maybe I'm just projecting.

On the same farm, these other cows looked very contented and bursting with the milk of bovine kindness (sorry)

Further along on our  walk, we saw this beautiful barn. I have quite a thing about traditional barns and this one really appealed to me with its bright white walls and red woodwork. The flowering fruit tree in front of it added to the pretty, pastoral scene.

Back on the boat in Rotterdam (I forget which day it was), we had the privilege of witnessing the most complete, bright and vivid rainbow I have ever seen. The two photos below don't really do it justice, but if you look, you can just see a second one in the first photo, which was also a complete arc. I took these snaps from the hatch on my barge so I couldn't capture the entire bow, but I hope it gives an idea of how magnificent it was. We were all gasping.

This one gives a more complete view although the contrast between the sky above the bow and that below it was much greater than my picture shows. In any case, the real image will remain in my memory as much richer, more vivid and glorious than any camera could capture. It was simply stunning.

Well, next week I'll be back with my nose to the grindstone. I've enjoyed a couple of weeks with not too much to do, teaching wise. However, as of Monday, I have three new writing groups and quite a lot of examining to do for the Cambridge speaking tests, so May will be a busy month. Have a good weekend allemaal, and I'll be back with more news and photos soon.