Friday, May 28, 2021

Time and Tide wait for no one – especially not me

Well, here I am again after more than two weeks. I am always disappointed when I can't blog every week, but it's been quite a challenge to keep up with everything lately. Even now, I'll keep it brief because I have a heap of work to do before I leave. Leave? I hear you say.... for where?.

Well, this weekend I'm having some daughter days, and my youngest and I are off into the wilds with her caravan, so I won't be taking my laptop with me. Koos is bravely staying at home to man the drawbridge (gangplank) and keep the marauders out, and other daughter is bravely staying at home to finish writing her master's thesis.

In other news (and hence the title of this post), the wifi has broken down in our harbour and I have to rely on my phone as a hotspot. This is itself is fine, but because we have quite a significant tidal range, my phone signal often drops off when the tide is out and we sit low in the harbour; result – no (or painfully slow) internet until it rises again. All fun and games and part of life aboard a barge, but it does mean quite a disruption to my work life. Since it won't wait for me to finish what I have to do, retreating to Zeeland is the only other option.

And in even more news, we have a new delay with starting the Hennie H's new engine. We have discovered a significant amount of dirt in our diesel tank, which looks suspiciously like diesel bug. The sample we took is also somewhat milky in colour, so we started draining the tank – a big job as there was around 300 litres of diesel in it. Ho hum. We are going to try and find somewhere to test the sample, but we don't want to put contaminated diesel in our new engine...and so we shall wait and see, but it's just adding to the time before we can get going again. Better news on that front in the next blog – hopefully!

In the meantime, a few photos might brighten up this post. Here are some boaty photos for all those who enjoy them. They were all taken in and around the Oude Haven.

Have a good weekend allemaal and I'll be back in proper form soon – I hope – time and internet permitting!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Come, what May?

The merry month of May, it is. Or is it? I’ve enjoyed playing with words for this post title more than the the month itself. I usually love May as it's when the weather warms up and we can spend more time outside, doing gardening, painting and boat work. Well, we've had one warm day so far, and that was followed by a humdinger of a thunderstorm, but I have to say that these first twelve days of the month have just been plain cold.

Luckily, the trees and flowers don't seem to shrivel up the way I do, although I have a feeling the full leaf effect of the spring is a bit meagre this year. I took the photos below on a recent bike ride near the Hennie H's harbour, along the sea canal that I love, and I think you'll agree the trees could be doing better.

The buttercups, on the other hand, are gorgeous this year, and since we had the tree in the garden trimmed (or rather amputated), I've just let all the wild flowers do their thing and I'm not weeding at all. It's so liberating, I must say. My excuse is that it's for the bees, but I'm rather enjoying that sense of  release from worrying about the meadow taking over. The only things I'm pulling up are the nettles, which would just swamp everything else, given the chance.

 Meanwhile, Koos has been busy with the engine installation on the HH, and he's nearly ready to call the expert to check things over before we turn the key and get it all going. It's getting 'spannend' as the Dutch call the feeling, which is not so much exciting as... well ... exciting with a dash of tension. He's done an amazing job yet again and I cannot even claim to have held the spanners because I've been busy working most of the time he's been beavering away.  

Anyway, having written and published my book about our last travels, it's time we got going again to give me more fuel for my writing hobby. I have no idea where or how far we can go at the moment, but we'll definitely be going somewhere. 

As for the situation here, our curfew is over, and the caf├ęs are open again to customers, but only outside. However, they still have to close at 6 p.m. so our evenings in the Oude Haven remain peaceful (there are some blessings). Here are a few photos taken from my Vereeniging of the busy terraces last weekend.

Wishing you a good week and weekend allemaal. And hopefully the next post will speak of warmer, brighter climes.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Late but not lacking

 I'm tardy again, I know. It's been two weeks since I posted a blog, so it had better be a good one! Well, there's plenty of news which, in a way, explains why I'm late. It's been hectic here in the Flatlands.

Firstly, and so I can get it out of the way, I've just published a new book. It's a sequel to my boating travelogue Faring to France on a Shoe. This one is about our travels through Belgium and into France on the Upper Sambre river in 2018. Despite being a summer notable for its intense and prolonged heat, we had the most wonderful journey on our Hennie H (referred to as Hennie Ha in the book because that's how it's pronounced). The 'faring', the people, the scenery and the history of the towns and villages we passed through made it an incredibly rich experience. If you're interested in boating travels, the link to the book is here, but do be aware, there are a lot of locks to go through before reaching Nirvana ... sorry, France.

The other most important news also involves the Hennie H, and this is both a sad and a happy tale. A month or so ago, we started testing the Peugeot Indenor engine Koos installed last year in the hopes that all would be well for this summer's faring adventures. If you recall, we went to the yard at the end of October last year (see my post here) for a lift out, the main purpose being to clean our outboard cooling system. 

We'd noticed that while the engine ran fine at low revs and tick over, it overheated when revved up to full power. One of our diesel mechanic friends suggested the Blokland cooler, which sits in a well in the hull, might have got choked with weed—a good theory and quite a possibility. Sadly, this was not the case, but we went to and from the yard without any mishaps, albeit it at slow speeds. Further enquiry suggested that the cooling system needed some alterations (I won't go into detail), so Koos did them, but as it was so late in the year, we did not do any test runs.

Well, this year, when Koos first started the engine, he did so with some optimism. A revised system, a clean cooler, what more could we ask? Good question. The first indicator that something was wrong was the oil pressure alarm refusing to go off. The end result was more alarming than the alarm itself. The oil was contaminated with cooling liquid. Disaster, as anyone who knows about oily bits can tell you.

After gasps, tears and numerous conversations with a wonderful knowledgeable friend (Barrie Grant, you were fantastic!), fast forward to a new expert (the former one was unwilling) who came, dismantled the Peugeot and diagnosed a terminal condition (a cracked cylinder head). Yours truly went into total meltdown but not before she'd looked up alternative possibilities and found a company selling Chinese marine engines here in the Netherlands. 

Surprised (and encouraged) at the reasonable price, and with the expert's diagnosis burning a hole in our hearts, we decided to go for broke and buy a new engine. Yes. Again. It's not red; it's (yawn) grey. But it's shiny, new and never been used. Here it is. Thank heavens we didn't dispose of K's wonderful home-built crane. The story of the purchase is too long to go into here, but that was quite stressful in itself and almost resulted in a second meltdown—I won't say whose.

Anyway, all's well that end's well as they say (and I hope). With all the experience Koos has now had in installing engines, I think he could set himself up in business. He's done an amazing job (yet again) and it's almost ready to go, but ... we won't even turn the key until our expert is present and has checked everything over. Although relatively inexpensive, this was quite an investment and we want to be sure of our guarantees.

As far as everything else is concerned, work goes on and it's still very cold, but just as a teaser, these photos below are of a potential new mooring; for which boat, you might ask. Well, I'm not saying just yet, but it's filled us with quite some excitement. I do love change, and this one might bring some fantastic benefits. Since foreign travel might be denied us this year, we are looking at other options.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and the week to come allemaal.