Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Heen en Weer

Well, here's another post to show that nothing much has changed in this part of the world, except perhaps the weather.

Heen en weer is, by the way,  the Dutch expression for 'to and fro' or 'there and back' or however you like to say it, so this seems apt for my current situation. I will admit that in this last week I haven't spent long in Rotterdam. In fact, I was only there for the day on Friday to finish putting primer on the Vereeniging. It was incredibly hot, so I beat a hasty retreat to cooler climes as quickly as possible. I'll brave it again this week, although I fear my reception might be a bit too much cooler this time. We've had a visit from Francis, which has changed our scene quite dramatically. Gone is the heat, and I'm now shivering in 21 degrees. It's the contrast, you see.

Anyway, that aside, what's been going on in our world? Well, we actually ventured across the border into Belgium on Sunday for a whole day, and it was just marvellous. I belong to a Facebook group called Women on Barges and I've made some lovely friends there. One of them is a fellow boater we met with her husband on the Canal de Roubaix on the border between Belgium and France three years ago. These two have subsequently become special to us and whenever they are anywhere nearby, we try and get to see them. They were on their boat in Diksmuide to the south of Bruges. Diksmuide is a gorgeous small town, so after arriving at the marina, we all walked into the centre and had lunch at one of the cafés there. We had a fabulous time and lots of laughs.

The town is surprisingly pretty because it was terribly damaged during WWI and the current centre was re-built during the twenties and thirties in its original style. Now, a hundred years on, the 'new' buildings have acquired the patina of age and look genuinely historic. It really is a charming place. I've lifted these photos from Google. One is of the town square and the other is of the monuments to WWI that thousands come to visit every year.

Photo from

Photo from

There's also a gorgeous begijnhof. The béguines were communities of women who, although religious, were not closed like convents. They lived as individuals in community houses and dedicated their lives to God without withdrawing from the world. According to the Unesco website about béguinages, they were founded in the 13th century 'to meet their (the women's) spiritual and material needs'. In Flanders, they are generally composed of a collection of houses, churches, additional buildings and green spaces, and they can be found in many parts of the country. The one in Diksmuide is particularly pretty. I would guess it's been rebuilt a few times over the centuries, but it was a delightful reminder of these medieval women's role in society.

This is one of Koos's photos of the begijnhof. His focus was actually the crane, but you can see how attractive the houses were. They were accessed through an archway, which gave a lovely impression of a separate and cloistered area. The weather really was a bit grey and rainy, so these clouds were just as threatening as they look, and it rained shortly afterwards.

We did a circuitous walk back to the marina where our friends keep their boat, and on the way, Koos took some of his inimitable photos. These are his take on what we saw. I love them.

On Monday, I managed to finish painting the potdeksel/caprail/gunwale that I've debated in my previous posts and then yesterday, I was confined to quarters because Francis decided to blow my plans to smithereens. I'm just hoping the baby pigeon that was thrown out of the tree in my little garden has survived. His mum found him and the reunion was very touching. We watched her feeding him on the roof, but we don't know what happened after that. 

Let's hope Francis breezes out of our area and that life can get back to dry, sunny and warm again! The painting must go on.

Have a good week allemaal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Hither and thither

Since life hasn't changed much since my last blog, I'm adopting Roger Distill's suggestion about the title of this one. I am indeed going hither and thither between Zeeland and Rotterdam, a journey necessitated by the two inanimate, but mobile loves of my life, the Vereeniging and the Hennie H. Poor Koos. I think I spend more time with them than I do with him at the moment, although we do at least share the load for the HH.

Thanks to all of you who commented last time about the potdeksel. Don of Don and Cathy Jo came up with a very apt suggestion of a 'cap rail', but just to be sure we're talking about the same thing, I'm posting these two photos of the HH. The red/grey painted part on the top rim of the hull is what we call the potdeksel. I'm pretty sure we agree on what it is, so in future a cap rail is what I'm going to call it.

The reason that it's both red and grey in these photos is that I was/am in the process of stripping and repainting it. I'm happy to say all the grey undercoat is finished on both port and starboard now and I started doing the final topcoat today; that is, until a freak cloud came over and it started raining. Such are the frustrations of boat maintenance. I'll probably have to do it all again tomorrow to repair the rain damaged parts. Ho hum. Boats? You have to love them more than yourself...really you do.

As for the engine, Koos is making steady progress, but the electrics are proving quite a challenge. We're hoping he'll manage to untangle the system before long. The arrival this morning of a new main switch for the battery seemed to cause great excitement, so I'm holding everything crossed that we'll be starting and testing our little Peugeot motor before too long.

As for the other floating love in my life, the Vereeniging, I'm immensely proud to say I've finished scraping all the paint off the stern roef or aft cabin as you might say in English. I wish I'd taken a photo of it, but when I finished last Sunday I was just so hot I could only think of getting inside and washing myself down. Which reminds me. The weather! My goodness. It's been positively sub tropical here in the Netherlands. If it's not blisteringly hot, it's pouring with monsoon like rain. Very strange weather patterns for this small maritime country. It's like being in Durban, not Rotterdam.

So how does a Val cool off in such conditions. Well, if I'm in Zeeland, I take my trusty steed and go for a ride. I absolutely love cycling around the dykes, but most of the time it means waiting for the bridge. I'm used to it and really don't mind at all, but it's an exception if I can cross over without stopping.

Once I'm on my way, though, the views are worth it. I took the photo below a while ago, but today's clouds have been just as dramatic and heavily laden. It was one like this one that tipped its load on my fresh paintwork today.  When I'm in Rotterdam, though, a quick spin up the riverside or a walk around the inner harbours also does the trick.

One thing I haven't mentioned much recently is what's going on in the Netherlands with the virus. Well, it's both bad and good. Testing is now available for anyone who wants to go for one and the result is that the number of positive cases have risen quite substantially. Unfortunately, Rotterdam seems to be the epicentre for this upsurge and when I was there at the weekend, I could understand why. Young people are paying little heed to the advice to keep a distance and are partying as they would during any normal summer. There's a club over the road from the Oude Haven and I watched them queuing up at the entrance on Saturday night with no regard for personal space, let alone the 1.5 metre requirement. 

On the upside, although hospitalisations have increased, it's not dramatic and the mortality rate remains low. I'm no expert and I don't go into things in great depths, but many people I've spoken to believe the the numbers are now mostly youngsters who are testing positive. I don't know if this is true, but like everyone I'd prefer to see the figures falling, not rising, as I think we all would. I've just adopted the policy of looking after my family and myself. I avoid busy places and contact with strangers. Luckily, in our boaty world, that's quite easy to do.

As for our hoped for visit to northern France, we're just monitoring the situation at the moment. Maybe we'll go; maybe we won't. Watch this space!

Have a great week allemaal and look after yourselves. I'll be back soon!


Thursday, August 06, 2020

Up and Down

Okay, not a very original title, I know. Last week I had Here and There, but nothing much has changed in our lives in general; we're still doing the yoyo act between Zeeland and Rotterdam, so what else could I call this post except Up and Down? (Answers in the comments below, please 😊)

Still, there have been some developments despite all the routine continuity of our summer here in the Flatlands. For one thing, contrary to the normal reputation the country has of having dismal summers, we had some very hot weather last week (a whopping 37C here in the South last Friday) and we're about to have a prolonged spell of similar high temperatures. Funnily enough, it rarely reached these soaring heights in Johannesburg when I lived there; it was just more consistently warm and sunny throughout the year. I don't mind this, though. In fact, I revel in it, but it does make it harder to work outside on the boats without risking serious heat stroke and dehydration. Having said that, it's what we're busy with most of the time (working on the boats, that is), especially now we can't go away on the Hennie H; not yet anyway. 

In my last post, I wrote about scraping all the old layers paint off the stern of my Vereeniging to get it back to the steel before (yes, you're right) painting it again. To my delight, last weekend I found the traces of the historical owners' company name, L. Mur, and two letters of the Vereeniging's old home port of Loenen. If you look, you can see the L, the M and the remains of the U and R, as well as the O and E of Loenen beneath it. I was incredibly excited to find them as they're proof of the Vereeniging's history I was given by the previous owner. I know. It's not exactly winning the lottery, but to a history and archaeology nut like me, this is soul food.

Sadly, I had to scrape them off as I need a clean surface on which to paint the anti-rust primer you can see in the next photo down (I still have to do the windows and their frames...another job) but I will print the pictures and keep them in my special barge file. 

I'm now three quarters of the way round the stern, and I hope to finish it this weekend, heat permitting. I'll be up very early on Saturday morning as I believe it's going to be 36C later in the day. 'Fried Val on Board' is not a headline I want to be making. 

Being in the Oude Haven is always a pleasure. We see neighbours, chat and share news and watch barges come and go. I took these two photos of one of my favourites leaving to go on holiday last weekend. The photos didn't turn out so well because I was facing the sun, but it's a beautiful sailing clipper and lovely to see. The barge's owner, Walther, knows what he's doing and his exit was smooth and seamless, also a pleasure to witness.
And then, of course, I had the pleasure of having my grandpup for a few days. My daughter's Spaniel, Charlie is just the sweetest, easiest and most delightful small companion we could wish for. We had lots of extra walks and having a dog around makes me feel much more complete. I really should find a Charlie of my own, I think.

These last few days, we've been back in Zeeland again, and work continues on the Hennie H. Koos is making fantastic progress with the engine and is now about to embark on the electrics. This is probably the most challenging area for him, so wish him, me and us luck! If all goes well, we'll be able to start testing everything...and believe me, we'll be doing so much of that we'll be testing ourselves to the limit too.

Meanwhile, I'm keeping in character and pursuing my usual task of scraping things down. At the moment I'm busy with the rim that runs around the top of the Hennie H's hull. It's what the Dutch call the potdeksel, but I've no clue what that would be in English. Can anyone help me out with this? Anyway, it's another long haul, not just in length, but in time too. It's always said that patience is a virtue, isn't it? They also say that practice makes perfect. If both of these are true, I must be becoming very virtuous in my old age and if not, practice is making me very patient! I still have a long way to go before the perfect bit. 

Anyway, that's it for this week, allemaal. Next week's blog will probably be called To and Fro...
Keep cool and keep well till next time.