Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Ending the year in subdued style

I've just realised this is likely to be my last real blog post this year, which leaves me in a bit of a pickle because I don't have any news to impart.

December has been conspicuous by its paucity of noteworthy events in our personal lives. Everything's been somewhat subdued here in the Flatlands. Other than having the pleasure of my eldest moving next door to us at the Crumbly Cottage, we haven't been anywhere, done anything or explored further in our new surroundings, the main reason being – sorry for being a stuck record about this – the 'orrible weather.

Added to that, we are now in lockdown again – I won't go down that road – so access to anything even remotely festive isn't possible.

So, if you put these two together, you'll appreciate that opportunities for celebrating life, either on water or land, have been limited. Most of my time on the Vereeniging has been spent clearing leaves from the willow tree, only to have one puff of wind (seemingly timed for maximum annoyance) add a fresh layer of them to the hatches and the deck (see, I told you I had no new news!)

And when not chasing leaves, I've been ducking inside out of the rain and cold. We've been nice and cosy in the Vereeniging, though; the old diesel stove has been doing a sterling job of pumping out the warmth just as we like it. It's something of a luxury, I'll admit, because the way energy prices are escalating means our warmth is coming at a massively increased cost. We have a slight respite, however. The diesel we're using at the moment for the stove comes from the Hennie H, whose tank we had to largely drain because it was showing signs of diesel bug. Luckily, it doesn't last long enough as heating fuel to get any worse. Since we bought it when diesel was a lot cheaper, we're counting those particular blessings. Sometimes, there's gold at the end of the rainbow; in the case of the photo below, two of them! 

I took this picture in November before all the leaves had fallen. What fascinated me was that I could even see where the rainbow ended in front of the trees. Did I go and look for the pot? No, because I'm a great believer in 'let the mystery be'.

On Friday, I shall get my little tree out and our neighbour-daughter is coming to help me decorate it, as per our Christmas Eve tradition. Christmas itself will be celebrated on the Vereeniging, so I hope the rain gods will also take a festive break and allow us to go for an afternoon walk with the family. It's about as much as current circumstances permit, but at least we can be together for a while.

Have a good one yourselves, allemaal, and I'll leave you with these photos of the wild horses I snapped the other day in our nearby nature reserve. I always love to see them and for once, it was a (rare), sunshiny afternoon.

Happy Christmas and New Year, my friends


Monday, December 13, 2021

Maintenance the Dutch way

Not that long ago, a friend of mine on Facebook was complaining about the lack of maintenance in his home state of Illinois. By maintenance, he meant things like roads, mains-water systems, electricity cables etc. At the time, I said I'd never complain about the Dutch obsession with maintenance again, but I have to say I'm backtracking on that idea.

It's true that this country is maintenance mad. I lived in Rotterdam for twenty years and it seemed as if every road, pavement or subway in the city was dug up at least once a year, sometimes twice or even thrice for maintenance of some kind. I never knew what it was, but each time it was something different. Why couldn't they coordinate these activities? I asked. Why was it that the same road had to be dug up three times in the same year for different purposes?

Buildings too. Maintenance is almost a disease here, it really is. Every few years, whole blocks are shrouded in protective netting while renovation companies revamp the facades of buildings that still look brand new to me. I often used to wonder how it was that 16th-century townhouses in the older cities all managed to look fake — like Gdansk*, only more so! But it didn't take me long to find out. It was all down to regular and (almost) obsessive smooshing.

*For those who haven't seen it, Gdansk was rebuilt after the war in its own likeness. Much of the centre that looks old is actually new.

However, the Netherlands' slightly OTT attitude to keeping things under control and in good order has tested my patience more than somewhat this year. As many of you know, we spend part of our time at what we affectionately call 'the crumbly cottage' in Zeeland. The little house sits on a traditional Dutch dyke and is part of a five-kilometre-long village with houses on each side of a narrow, mostly cobbled road. Every kilometre or so, a small parallel side road veers off the main dyke, giving access to other houses and farms below it, and then rejoins the dyke a few hundred metres further along.

Now earlier this year, the local authorities announced they would be embarking on the replacement of the water, electricity and gas lines along our part of the dyke, a major undertaking that would take several months. Done in phases, they began the project at the beginning of May and have only just finished a section of less than a kilometre. During these seven months, we have had to take a long and circuitous route around the country to even reach our local shops by car. But that's not been the main issue. Think of having the road dug up in front of your house for three of those seven months and the car access to your house closed for the whole period, especially in these pandemic times when we've relied so much on deliveries, and you begin to get the picture. The photo below is of our section of dyke.

The bizarre thing about the entire exercise is that they haven't dug the road up just once; they've done it three times for each section. And not actually for different purposes. Why? Yes, you may well ask. The first time was to lay the new pipes and cables; the second was to make the connections to each house and the third was to remove the old pipes and cables. And each time, they've filled in the road and replaced the surface cobbles before digging it all up again. I know. Incomprehensible, isn't it? 

We've toyed with all the possible reasons why, but I've come to the conclusion it's just the Dutch way. This is a country built on shifting sand, so maybe it's important to keep the dykes as cohesive as possible and if that means doing one job three times, then so be it. 

Oh and by the way, they haven't finished yet. Although they've now confirmed they've completed our section, they've still got the rest of the dyke to do. It'll take more than a year for sure.

What's more, we've now been told the phone company is going to be putting in fibre optic cables for internet and TV in the coming months, which will mean digging it all up again. And after that, guess what? The council will come and redo the whole surface of the road because the cable layers can't do a proper job.  Perish the thought that it might be uneven or, worse, have potholes! Hey ho, away we go. 

So to go back to what I was saying about our US friend's complaints, I think I'm thoroughly over maintenance now and would be quite happy with a few imperfections in our roads and houses for a while. 

Hmm, a post with only one pic? That will never do. Here’s a photo of a short spuddle we took on Saturday to turn the Vereeniging around for ease of departure (see, we live in hope!)

Enjoy your week, allemaal!

Friday, December 03, 2021

Winterising...sort of

I've been a bit quiet here lately owing to a number of interruptions to my blogging life; in other words, I've had other writing to do that's taken priority during November. 

Suffice to say, I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo to finish a book I started four years ago, and I'm over the moon to be able to confirm that the first draft is finished. Whether it will be good enough to publish later when I've been back and revised it a few times, I don't yet know, but I'm very chuffed to have met the target of fifty thousand words in one month (the purpose of NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National November Writing Month).

Now I'll get back to the usual routines, I hope, one of which is keeping up with my blog, which is still my favourite corner of the Internet. I love writing and reading blog posts and I've missed my usual rounds during November. Normal service will shortly be resumed :)

Anyway, what is there actually to report at the end of this exceptionally wet, cold and gloomy month?

Well, at our new mooring, things are still great and we are enjoying the tranquillity of life away from the city. I have, however, discovered the downside of this beautifully green, tree-lined section: leaves. Lots of them. Our spot is right next to a beautiful willow tree, which is busily shedding and has been doing so for several weeks. Each time we come here from Zeeland, my first job is to try and wash them all off, but within an hour, there's a new layer of them covering the decks and tarpaulin.


You've guessed! After :)

Another consequence of the 'orrible weather is the unlikelihood that we'll be faring again any time soon. I won't say it's impossible, but neither of us enjoys standing out in the cold, wind and rain, and believe me, it's finger-freezing cold now! With this in mind, I've semi-winterised certain bits of the barge to protect them and also to stop one or two leaks that keep coming back to nag at me.

The first is in the teak entrance hatch to the back cabin (roef) of the barge. Being wood, it expands and contracts and tends to drip when we have heavy rain. I've sorted out a cover for it, which I hope will prevent this leakage during the winter at least. It's not very professional, but at least it works. I'd love to have a good one made one of these days, though.

As you can also see here, I've made a cover for the steering wheel as well, which helps to prevent rusting and also protects the mechanism from direct rainfall, some of which follows the shaft down and into the engine room. I have a series of buckets to receive it. Both these covers are, as you can see, a vision of cheap brown tarpaulin and duct tape. Smart? Not really, but they work. At least I hope they do. The photo above was taken before my leaf eradicating session, but I expect there are just as many on the decks again now. After all, that was at least half an hour ago.

Anyway, so that's really all the news. Or is it? Not completely. A quick dash over to the Hennie H and I can proudly say I've finally finished cupboard number 2 and am ready to embark on the next one. Here's a photo, a bit fuzzy, but you get the idea. I'm pretty happy with the way it's turned out.

So that's it allemaal. Enjoy your weekend and next time I'll be writing about something totally different. In fact, it's a bit of a gripe, but a good humoured one (I hope). I can tell you in advance it concerns maintenance of a different kind!

Friday, November 19, 2021

Brabant's unexpected bounty

I've been a bit quiet here and didn't manage to post a blog last week. There've been various reasons for that, one of which is that I've been trying to finish writing the novel I started four years ago. I've taken up a challenge I've done before, which is to write 50k words during November. There's an official name for this challenge (NaNoWriMo), which you can also do officially. I'm not, but I am unofficially sharing the experience with a small group of Facebook friends, one of whom is my author friend Alyson Sheldrake, who is just so inspiring. She's published four books this year alone and she's way ahead of the rest of us in this endeavour already, but I don't think I'd have reached today's total of 30k words without her standard bearing. Thank you so much, Alyson! Since I was already over 40k when I dragged it out of my files and blew the proverbial dust off it, I'm well on the way to a completed novel. Whether it will be worth reading or not is another matter entirely, but we'll see. I can but hope!

Anyway, apart from that, we've been spending quite a bit of time on the Vereeniging, and on Tuesday, we went exploring again. In truth, we'd planned to take the old girl for a quick spuddle up to the end of the arm to be able to turn her around and work on the starboard side, but it was real brass-monkey weather, so we went out in the car instead.

Our venture took us along some pretty back lanes to the small town of Zevenbergen, which happens to be the local authority centre for the council district of Moerdijk. I wasn't expecting much at all but was very pleasantly surprised by what we found. I have to confess that my photos don't really do it justice and the town is prettier than it looks, but what fascinated us was the canal running up the centre of the main shopping street.

Until last year, it wasn't there. Well, that's not strictly true. Many years ago, it was a through connection from the Hollands Diep to the Dintel-Mark river, which is the commercial waterway that runs east and west from Oudenbosch. The connection was, and still is, the Roode Vaart, except that at some point, the section that crossed through Zevenbergen was filled in, closing off access to the Mark as well as the northern section to Moerdijk.

When we left Rotterdam, we stayed overnight below the lock into the Rode Vaart after crossing the Hollands Diep, and we talked then about how much time it would save us to be able to carry on through Zevenbergen if we could get to Oudenbosch that way.

Here's the map that shows you what a short cut it would have been:

And here's the route we had to take, although it's not completely accurate because it doesn't show the Moerdijk mooring which is just beneath the word 'Diep' of Hollands Diep:

Anyway, imagine our surprise when we arrived in Zevenbergen and found they have dug out the canal through the town to make it look more as it did in former times. Apparently, it's only been open for about a year. Sadly, though, the crucial parts at each end are still blocked off, but a very friendly local told us it might be opened up in the future, "although that might take a year or ten," he said with a smile. Still, we live in hope!

Below are the snaps I took with my phone. Bearing in mind the steely grey of a very cold November day, you can see they're trying to make it a real waterside town with fake masts as lampposts and bridges across at regular intervals. I was charmed by it all and felt we'd made quite a discovery.

A view into the very attractive main square, which is lined 
with cafés

Above is the marina at the end of the northern section. They will have to dig under a large main road to break through into the town section.

 And above is what you see looking in from the marina. At the far end, there would be a longer stretch to be dug out, and since this would involve demolishing some relatively new buildings, I can imagine that might take some time.

As my title says, this really was some unexpected bounty, and I'm pretty sure we'll be back again for a visit on a sunnier warmer day next year.

Enjoy your weekend, allemaal and I'll try and post more news again next week. Wish me luck with my word count!

Monday, November 08, 2021

Revising my Reflections on My Watery Life

Back in November 2015, I wrote a post about my feelings about my barge, my watery life and how I saw the future. It became one of my most popular posts ever, so I decided to read it again and see how much of it still held true. After all, it was six years ago now, so what's changed? I'm posting it here and making comments in italics. 

I've been doing some reflecting this week as I've sat in my barge. Reflecting as in pondering on life as opposed to watching double-sided ducks on the water, that is. And the result of my pondering reflections is this:

It was fourteen years ago this month that I bought the Vereeniging as an empty shell complete with several not so optional extras, these being rust holes, a rotten axle and rather too obvious ventilation in all the wrong places. I had to forgive her though. She was a hundred and three years old and had survived serious abuse and neglect, somehow managing to stay afloat while the weeds grew out of the rust in her hull. It was a match made for the tenacious; for both her and me. In 2021, this is now twenty years, rather than fourteen and my determination to keep her afloat remains strong. I can be obsessive about these things as I think most of my blog pals know by now.

Vereeniging when she was new

The former owner had done much to try and renovate her, but he was also elderly and in truth, he was more enamoured of the engine than any other part of the barge. I wonder if he has yet forgiven me for changing it from the 1921 hot bulb Industrie engine that he so adored to the 1955 Samofa engine that I still adore. Sadly, age and his wife's ill health forced him to sell the Vereeniging as a project he was only three years into in 2001, but apart from my disgraceful insensitivity over the engine, I think it wasn't a bad idea to sell it to me as I am seriously attached to this old lady. I'm afraid the former owner has probably now passed on to the great engineering workshop in the sky. As the Samofa has now more than proved itself on our recent trip to Oudensbosch, I remain content that I gave up on the Industrie, but I still have a photo of it on my bookcase.

After dealing with the worst of the rusted, riveted hull, it took me two years to create a home from the empty shell of the hold. It's taken me several more years to add other improvements (plus further steel plates) and even today, I never stop working on the maintenance. There's always something that needs doing quite apart from the regular two yearly bottom inspections. The last of these was actually after just one year owing to my sleepless nights over the state of the vlak (interior hull surface) in my little back cabin (see previous post). Since this post, I have had  three more lift outs and have another scheduled for next year. Compulsive obsessive behaviour is not something you get over at my age!

During the time I've had the Vereeniging, my daughters have both had spells of living on her, and at these times, I've moved off and lived with Koos. The girls have been free to make her their home and as a result things inside have been taken apart, moved or reconstructed - not always to my taste, I will admit. For the last eighteen months, though, I've had her back and I stay on her during the week when I am alone in Rotterdam for work. I am slowly making her my own again and some of you will have seen the progress of the renovation here on this blog. She is still my home although I still don't live on her full time. I love the three or four days a week I spend on her, though, and always try and do something to maintain or improve her. This weekend has been particularly productive with the new steering wheel cover I've made to protect the wheel over the winter.

Daughter helping with maintenance before
moving on board

If I'm honest, a different owner would probably rip out everything I've built in and start again because the interior is entirely of my rather amateur construction and so it is all rather obviously home made, but I don't care. I love every inch of my barge and spend hours inspecting details that I could revise and do better. In fact, last night I lay in bed below the foredeck gazing at the panelling and planning how to tidy it up and re-paint it all. The last time it was done was about seven years ago, and since then, the panels in front of my water tanks have been moved to different positions at least three times, leaving rather obvious scars in the process. Then this morning, I was up early giving my new storage unit / kist a second coat of paint and cutting some shelving to repair one that had got broken when last daughter moved out. Reading this shows me it's time I did some interior decorating again. The trouble with small spaces is that they get lived in more thoroughly than large houses where most rooms remain empty much of the time. In my barge, everything is used all the time. It's time to do some repainting!

One of her interior looks. It's changed a bit since then but
the basics are the same

Of course, there is also the never ending challenge of the tides. When combined with a gangplank that wants to start its own life on the quay or dive into the harbour for a swim, this requires a weekly engagement with ropes, spanners and hammers to make sure it all stays in place. The next storm or extreme high or low tide will naturally reverse all my efforts and I'll start all over again. What bliss it is not to have to worry about this anymore. The last weeks since our move to Oudenbosch have been marked by lack of anxiety about what damage I will find when I return. It's just a pleasure to return every week. The only downside is having to cross the harbour to fill up with water, but we can turn that into a small adventure, especially for Koos, who enjoys the manoeuvring.

Getting water is an adventure in itself

That aside, I wouldn't have it any other way, and when we played host this week to two great cyber buddies from a Facebook group I belong to, Women on Barges, I was very happy to have them on board despite my still long list of to-be-improvedments. We had never met before but it was click at first sight, as it was with all our respective men folk. It was a special and lovely evening of laughter and talk and I know we all count each other as real friends now. I feel quite nostalgic when I read this. I haven't seen those friends for several years now, although we keep in touch via Facebook. The whole Covid situation has also widened the physical divides all of us have experienced. I do so hope we'll be able to meet again before too long and look forward to raising my glass with them and my other lovely WOB friends.

Two dear friends meeting for the first time on board

The funny thing is I'd never have come across them if it hadn't been for the Vereeniging, so I have that to thank my lovely old lady for too. She has brought me many friends in the harbour, but also cyber friends via blogging and Facebook; she has also given me the material for two books and fourteen years of something I can only describe as a feeling of warm, embracing security…the Dutch might call it gezelligheid, but it's more than that. I won't go soppy and sentimental on you now, but many people see their boats as a symbol of freedom, and the Vereeniging, now 117 years old, represents that for me too; the freedom, independence and self-reliance I gained when I decided to make my life in the Netherlands. That's quite a symbol isn't it? Is it any wonder then when I say I will never sell her... Although I still tear up when I read this and think of all she has meant to me in the last twenty years, I realise that one day, I will have to part company with her. Six years on, I am beginning to realise my limitations, but I pray I can remain fit and healthy for another few years at least. I no longer say I'll never sell her, but I'm holding off the day as long as possible. After all, now we've moved, we have a whole new world of waterways to explore. 

Vereeniging remains a huge part of my life and my love for everything she is endures despite the costs, which are more than just financial. I only hope that in another six years I'll still be able to say the same, but for now, I'll continue to enjoy every moment Koos and I can spend on and with her.

Seeing this helps me dream of adventures to come

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Pastures new and an irresistible cue

The past couple of weeks have been busy (what's new?) and as usual, I'm playing catch up with myself. I should mention that aside from all the activity around our Great Move, I've been combining teaching work with work on the Hennie H, which both Koos and I felt shouldn't be neglected, especially with winter approaching. As a result, moments to relax have been limited.

All the same, we've taken time out to explore some our new surroundings in Oudenbosch, and I'm pleased to report we've been charmed by much of what we've seen. Being on the Mark-Dintel river means there are several other towns that lie on this beautiful waterway, but the first we come to when heading west along the Dintel is the pretty village of Stampersgat. What a delightful surprise to find such a quaint waterside settlement complete with a fine church, water tower, visitor moorings, and (even more appealing) water picnic tables. These were principally set up for rowers and paddlers but can be used by anyone should they choose. We spent a very pleasant hour or so wandering around the village and cooking up plans to spend a night on the moorings there.

The quaint village main street

A beautifully maintained water tower

The water picnic tables

Very appealing visitor moorings

Of course, one of the things we like, which others might not, is the industry that keeps the river alive with commercial barges (see the backdrop of the picnic tables). It isn't overwhelming and most of the factories and warehouses are quiet, but we love seeing the barges at the loading quays and passing slowly by when we drive along the river. We can also feel them at our mooring. Despite being a kilometre from the main river course, the waves from the commercial vessels travel up the arm and cause the Vereeniging to rock and sway quite substantially. I have mixed feelings about this: while I love knowing we have real traffic passing, I sometimes end up feeling quite queasy!

Another great find has been a boatyard a few kilometres downstream from Oudenbosch. I was having a few concerns about how we would manage my lift out next year (hellingbeurt as we call it here), as I didn't relish two three-day trips to the Oude Haven and back. I'd seen a small yard from the bridge on the Dintel river while on my way to my daughter's house, but dismissed it as being too small. Imagine my excitement when a neighbour told us they could probably take the Vereeniging. 

A visit last Saturday confirmed it was just the place for us. The yard has a single track slipway on which the boat ascends bow first, instead of sideways as it does in the Oude Haven, but it can take boats up to twenty metres and fifty tonnes. Perfect for us. What sealed the deal even more was that the yard manager is the uncle of one of our Oude Haven neighbours. He ticked all the boxes in so many ways I made a provisional booking there and then for next May. 

The only uncertainty will be how much water there is in the river at the time. If we have a long, dry spring, it might not be deep enough for us get completely onto the slipway tracks, meaning the date can only be fixed closer to the time. Whatever the case, I am thrilled and relieved to have found a yard so close by, and one that fits in with our own approach as well.

In other news, we still have our Hennie H to attend to and are lining up the indoor jobs we need to do in the coming months. But we're not done with faring just yet. The other evening, we popped over to do a couple of small jobs and the light was so beautiful it was a perfect and irresistible cue. I couldn't help but pop the question. 

"Shall we go for a spuddle?"
Koos looked at me in surprise.
"Okay. Yes! Why not?"
And so we did...just a short one, but enough to bring broad smiles to our faces. These are the little things that make our days.

I could ramble on more, but I think this is enough for now. Next time I'll take you on more of a tour of Brabant's pretty towns and villages.

For the time being, have a great week, allemaal. The days are now an hour shorter, but we'll take to the water and explore the country as long as we can. Wishing you all sunshine and peace wherever you are.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

From Moerdijk to Oudenbosch with Leaky Lou

It's already nearly a week since I posted about the start of our journey to Oudenbosch. In the meantime, we've spent several enjoyable days at our mooring, but of course I need to get all of you there before I start on what it's like in our new environs.

You may be wondering at the title, though. What and who is Leaky Lou? Well, having sung the Samofa's praises in my last blog post (fully justified, I might add), I didn't mention the engine's own special technique of 'self-lubricating'. In other words, it likes to distribute oil to parts that I'm sure aren't mentioned in the manual – and in a somewhat undisciplined fashion. Before we'd travelled many kilometres, there were traces of oil sneaking out from practically every possible joint. Not in any quantity, I should add, but enough to make a mess of my bilges and nice, clean engine room floor. So, it wasn't long before I nicknamed the Samofa 'Leaky Lou' and 'it' became a 'she' in her own right. She continued to ooze quietly throughout the trip, but since I didn't even need to add more than half a litre of precious 30 grade motor oil throughout the whole three days, we didn't find it too alarming. It's something that will need attention, though.

Anyway, getting back to the journey, Saturday morning in Moerdijk dawned misty again, but not with the heavy fog we'd had the previous day. It was much lighter and by nine o'clock the sky was a hazy, pearly hue that was clear enough for us to get going. 

Once again, my stomach was doing summersaults of the high vaulting variety. I knew the next part of our journey would take us along the Hollandsch Diep for some thirteen kilometres before we reached our turn off at Drimmelen. They were kilometres of finger-crossing, nail-biting and teeth-clenching for me, even more so than the previous day. After all, to pass under the great Moerdijk Bridge, we had to move towards the middle of the estuary to comply with the rules of passage. Gulp factor ten in my ratings, while my 'what if' gauge went off the scale completely.

Heading for the Moerdijk Bridge

Oh my's like the sea!

Moving into the Maas, Koos in full skipper mode

But we did it and Leaky Lou kept up the steady, regular beat for this two-hour stretch, a rhythm for which she's become well known. What we didn't know was that my daughter had been following our progress and took photos us as we passed the quay at Drimmelen, just before we slipped into the blissful safety of the Wilhelmina canal to Oosterhout. She then caught up with us on the towpath of the canal; it made my day to see her waving to us from the dyke, accompanied by my grandpup, Charlie.

Her photos of the Vereeniging on the water are really lovely, so I hope she doesn't mind my sharing a couple here.

After all that excitement, we settled down to a peaceful cruise along this fine stretch of commercial waterway. I have to say it felt very much like the Belgian canals: wide, tree-lined and interspersed with industry. It was great to see the barges at the loading quays being fed by the brightly painted cranes. This kind of canal is my favourite because there's both beauty and business, the latter providing life of the most interesting kind for a dockyard girl like me.

Eventually, we reached a junction where we turned to the right to enter the massive lock that would take us into the Mark Canal. The lock is what protects the farmlands of Brabant from flooding or being inundated by tidal waters at this end of the province. Just as a reminder, here's the map of our approximate route. The red circle shows where the junction is.

I was surprised to find we were the only occupants on our short (ca 50cm) descent to the polders. To be honest, I have no idea whether we arrived at high water on the river or not; our experience on the first day confused us completely. Add to that, the Hollandsch Diep, which becomes the Haringvliet further west is controlled to some extent by a dam wall whose 17 sluices are only partially closed, except in emergencies. As a result, the tide could be said to be hindered but not completely stopped. If you're interested in learning about it, here's a link. It's in Dutch but if you use Google Chrome, it offers you the chance to translate the page. Oh and here's a photo of the lock.

Following a short coffee and rest break past the lock, we continued on the lovely tree-lined Mark canal, a ten-kilometre stretch where there really is nothing but trees on each side. Koos handed over the steering to me and settled down beside me for a snooze. No photos were taken as a result and even when we turned right into the Mark river towards Oudenbosch, my other half continued to nap, much to the amusement of passing Sunday boaters. 

As for me, steering was a matter of a nudge here or there. The Vereeniging is so stable, unlike our dancing queen, Hennie H, I hardly had to do anything as we chugged along at a peaceful 6km/h. This was heaven. The sun was warm, the landscape calm and restful on the eyes. I found myself fully relaxed for the first time in weeks.

When Koos awoke, it was clear he was still tired, so we decided not to push on to Oudenbosch. We still had more than 25 kms to go and we risked arriving at sunset, unable to see properly to moor up.  Ships that go bump in the night we are not, so after a few minutes, we found a riverside mooring just made for us: two wooden poles connected by a horizontal bar. There was no access to land (normally a sticking point with me), but this time it was fine. I wanted to do some cleaning up so we'd arrive looking good. You know what they say about first impressions—they're the ones that last!

It was a great decision as the mooring proved to be quite magical. We were separated from the bank by thick reeds that were populated by families of ducks and coots. The view over the other bank was equally rural and the only disturbance was from passing boaters and numerous rowers. In the distance we could see the outskirts of a village, but there was no towpath on our side, so no one could reach us. The tranquillity was almost tangible, the sun felt deliciously warm and the light had that golden cast that evokes dreamy nostalgia.

After doing our best to wash the old lady down, we settled down for an evening's reading, strangely aware of the silence outside. Indoors, my Vereeniging looked as she always does, but our ears have long been accustomed to the city sounds and the noise from revellers on the terraces in Rotterdam. The absence of traffic, people and sirens seemed almost surreal. There was just nothing to hear at all. Sleep was deep that night.

Sunday morning brought another surprise. After the clear skies of the previous evening, we awoke to find thick fog over the river again. 

"Never mind," I said. "Now we're here, even if we leave at eleven o'clock, we'll still be in Oudenbosch by three." Koos agreed.

And so we waited, meanwhile watching rowers practising their skills as they emerged from and disappeared into the mist. I must say I did wonder how they could see where they were going. I envisaged collisions at worst and close encounters with the reeds at best, but they all returned intact without anyone sporting leafy crowns or bleeding noses.

Eventually, the fog lifted enough for us to see a couple of hundred metres, so we set off at 11.30 and proceeded along the Mark. I was pleased to see that this too was an active, living waterway with commercial quays and factories that ensure its importance in the area. I do love a combination of rural and functional scenery and am not a great fan of endless unadulterated beauty. This river had commercial barges as well as pleasure craft and I fell in love with it immediately. 

I should mention that Leaky Lou did give us one minor alarm. When I was doing one of my usual 'obsessing' checks, I noticed water dripping down the side of the engine. Puzzled I traced it up to the hose leading to the expansion vessel (the same thing you would have on a boiler; it gives hot water a place to escape to). A quick look was all it needed to tell me the jubilee clip holding the hose had come loose and slid off. Thinking it was just a matter of loosening the clip further to push it back on, I tried but only succeeded in moving the hose as well, which made it leak more. 

"Koos," I called after sticking my head out of the engine room hatch. "Help!"

On hearing my cry, he steered the barge into the reeds and came down to help. With two of us, it was easy, and the hose was soon secured more convincingly. And, I'm pleased to say that was the only problem we had throughout the entire trip. Leaky Lou performed beautifully despite her tendency to weep oil and we were delighted she'd come through for us.

Soon after two o'clock, we'd reached the turning to Oudenbosch. For anyone who's interested, the town is where the river Mark ends. Beyond our turning, the river becomes the Dintel and continues all the way to Dintelmond. It opens out into the Volkerak, a large body of water separated from the Hollandsch Diep by huge, commercial locks that protect this side of Brabant from flooding.

Once we'd steered into the narrow arm leading to our mooring, we slowed down to a snail's pace. A message I'd sent to my daughters earlier needed to be revised. Even going at a crawl, we'd still be there before three and Jodie, my eldest, was coming from the Hague. She knew we'd be early, but we still wanted to give her the chance to reach us on time. As it happened, this short stretch was the delight of the day, and the film Koos made of our final stage says far more than any words I can produce, so here it is. Listen and watch. I think you'll be as charmed as I was.

At 2.45 we'd arrived. We pulled into our designated spot and I'd just got a rope through the first mooring ring when a car roared up the dyke, stopped, and my daughter hopped out ready to take photos of us tying up.  Spot the moving Val.

And so that was it. The end of our adventure and a new home for my Vereeniging. Isn't it lovely? I'll admit to mixed feelings as I was both happy and sad to arrive. We'd had such an emotional three days and so much new experience it was almost a shame it was already over. That said, the relief was huge and the reward was in having both daughters there to greet us. It wasn't long after our arrival that Mo and her boyfriend also rolled up on their little motor bike, so the family was complete. A happy conclusion to a fabulous journey.

Thank you so much for following our trip allemaal, and I'll fill you in with our early impressions of our new home next time.  We'll miss our Oude Haven friends and community, but we're both looking forward to all the new opportunities for faring in future. This, I feel, is the beginning of a new era!