Sunday, August 29, 2021

The first test run, but not quite a fun run

We finally did it! Our first test run with the new engine on the Hennie H! And it was a resounding success...except perhaps for the weather, which was awful, but then what did we expect? In August. In the Netherlands.

Still, nothing could wipe the grins off our faces as we did our first few kilometres. To be precise, it was 4.6 kilometres in 45 minutes with a maximum speed of 12km/h. Koos has a brilliant app on his phone that records it all so we can really test everything properly. I'm not a fan of apps, but this one gets my stamp of approval.

We'd intended to fare along the canal to Gent, stay overnight and come back tomorrow, but in all honesty, spending three hours in the rain and mist wasn't our idea of a fun run, so tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll try again. With no protection, we are definitely fair weather farers. 

The photos below are just to prove we did it. Really.

 Earlier in the week, though, I was in Rotterdam working on the Vereeniging and I managed to paint some more decks. I do love the steering wheel on my old girl. Its simplicity is its beauty. Don't you agree?

In between jobs, though, I enjoyed watching this very pretty barge going on to the slipway. I can easily waste an hour watching this process and never get tired of it. 

It's the one thing I'll really miss when we move...ooh, did I really say that? Yes, it's true. The Vereeniging is going to a new harbour in October. Finally, after twenty years in Rotterdam.

I know...I've been hinting at it for a while, and fingers crossed, health and weather permitting, it's going to happen, but more on that later. First, though, September is going to be a very busy month, so I'll hold my horses to make sure they're ready to go before I cross that bridge. Or that river, to be more precise.

Have a great week, allemaal and if you're having sunshine wherever you are, please would you send some over here?

Sunday, August 22, 2021

All decked out

 This summer, if I can even call it that, has possibly been the wettest, coolest and least helpful to a boat owner such as myself that I can remember in all the years I've lived in the Netherlands. I keep reading reports about July having been the hottest on record. Well, it may have been in some parts of the world, but definitely not here. In fact, as I see it, summer has given us a miss this year.

As a result, work on both the Vereeniging and the Hennie H has been a matter of hurling paint onto whatever surfaces I could prepare quickly between the storms and downpours. And then keeping my fingers firmly crossed that the paint will have time to dry enough before the next deluge.

In between, of course, I've had my 'wholly hole project' (aka my cupboard building exercise—see last week's post) and now I've finished one, I've started on the next one. It makes good wet weather entertainment, that's for sure, and stops me getting cabin fever.

Here's a photo of my new hole.

As for the title of this post, I did, with the sterling help of my wonderful daughter, manage to scrape and paint my Vereeniging's foredeck this last week.

If I say this is always a big job regardless of the weather, you'll understand that to do the whole thing in two days is, for us, nothing short of miraculous. It's also difficult because it is the only access point to the barge, so I did one third of it on the port side on Wednesday. Then my daughter came over early yesterday morning and we did the rest of the washing down, scraping sanding, and painting by 3 o'clock. A marathon effort, after which we were, as I've said, totally decked out. So thanks Jo!! 

Doesn't she look smart?

I have now scooted back to Zeeland and am praying last night's rain hasn't damaged the new paint. It's best if I leave it a few days before walking over it again anyway, so I'll have to contain my impatience until sometime midweek when I'll go back again to inspect the situation.

As for the Hennie H, my hole is really the least of the projects going on there. Koos is doing magnificent things in the engine room and with luck (and maybe a bit of good weather ... please) it will all be ready for the inspector to come back and check it again very soon. The best thing is that we've heard the new engine running, and it sounds great: sweet, rumbly and very much alive.

Keep everything crossed for us allemaal. Who knows? We might get a couple of away days on board yet!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Rotterdam's 'Ferry Harbour' or Veerhaven

In the past few months I've done a few posts about different parts of Rotterdam, so this week I thought  I'd take you to another of the city's historic harbours and one of my favourite places on our side of the river. This time, it's to the Veerhaven, which translates into English as the Ferry Harbour.

Despite the Oude Haven being the oldest of Rotterdam's inner city harbours, the Veerhaven seems much more fitting as a historic harbour, surrounded as it is by beautiful and stately old buildings that used to house merchant and shipping businesses. It lies on the north (our) side of the river, a little downstream of the famous Erasmus Bridge and Wikipedia tells me that "almost all the buildings around and near the Veerhaven are national monuments." 

The Erasmus Bridge. Looking south, the Veerhaven
is to the right of this image, behind me.

The Veerhaven was named after the ferry service to Katendrecht on the southern bank of the Maas river. Incredibly, the ferry began operating in the 15th century, and was the only means of crossing the river until the Willemsbrug (that big, red bridge in Rotterdam) was built in 1878. However, the ferry continued in service until 1968 under a company delightfully called Heen & Weer (Dutch for 'there and back'!). When the metro added a new means of transport across (or rather under) the river, the ferry was, I suppose, sadly redundant. Nowadays, the Rotterdam water taxi carries passengers from the Veerhaven across to the Hotel New York, so it's nice there's still some kind of public transport by boat over the river.

That "big red bridge, the Willemsbrug" as seen (artfully) from
my deck Oude Haven one rainy evening.

These days, the Veerhaven harbour itself is home to some wonderful old sailing craft, some of which are former North Sea fishing vessels. They have a distinctive 'tub-like' design that is quite similar to old Norwegian fishing boats. 

I really love the collection in the Veerhaven because the boats are so different from our own barges, and it's a real pleasure to walk around the harbour. The photos below are some I took several years ago, so the occupants of the harbour today may have changed, but these will give you an idea of the type of classic craft that are mostly there.

One of the things I love about the Veerhaven is its floating harbour master's office (see above). It really is a gorgeous building and has quite an interesting history of its own. Apparently it started life in 1911 as the Rotterdam River Police building in the Parkhaven a few kilometres downstream where there are commercial locks into the canal system leading to Delft. During the war, it fell into disuse and was moved to Zwijndrecht (not far from Dordrecht, and upstream from Rotterdam) where it became someone's home until 1995. It then made its final move when it was sold to the Veerhaven Foundation for the symbolic sum of a single guilder. Clearly someone thought it needed to be placed in a special context and money was not going to play a role.

I think it's time I took another wander around the Veerhaven, and when I do, I'll take some more photos to add to this post. It would be good to see it again.

On a more personal front, I've been busy on the Hennie H this week, making a cupboard out of a hole. I'm thinking of dubbing it the 'wholly hole' in recognition of its increased status. The hole in question was made in an emergency several years ago when we had a fire inside during some welding work ...ahem. We've talked for years about doing this, about making the hole useful as a whole (sorry), and at last, I've managed to get round to it. I'm quite pleased with the result and am looking purposefully at the other holes in the walls now.

Enjoy the rest of your week, allemaal, and I'll show you the finished product and hopefully another new wholly hole (to the right) next time.

Monday, August 02, 2021

A heap of old history

Just recently, I've been checking back through old posts and photos in doing some research for something else and I came across the two photos below. As most of my readers here know, my Vereeniging is a very old barge, built in 1898, and the gentleman who commissioned her was one Roelof Mur. These two photos were both originally on the website of the Mur family, who owned a well-known transport company that began life in 1784. Roelof here was one of a long line of Murs, and his ambitious purchase of two motorised barges (one of which was my Vereeniging) was a turning point for the company whose fleet had previously been horse-drawn.

The photo above is of Vereeniging when she was new, and you can see the skipper, probably Roelof himself, standing at the wheel. I also love the little face that's just visible in the window of the engine room in front of the steering. The Vereeniging was originally called Loenen Amsterdam II. She was what was known as a 'beurtschip' of the pakschuit type, meaning she had a specific route, a bit like a postal service, but for goods, not letters. She travelled regularly along the Vecht river between Amsterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands, and was only put out of service in the 1960s when the company reached another turning point and switched to trucks.

However, the Murs were not alone in using Pakschuiten. In fact, at one time, they were very commonly seen on the Dutch canals and were to the waterways as Ford Transits are to the roads. I did a bit more digging around on the internet and came up with some other old photos of pakschuiten when they were still in use. I love these old images. They show what my barge would have looked like when it was working, and I particularly like the last one with the woman and her little dog sitting on the hatches.

The Gijsbertha, a barge that is undergoing restoration as I write

Pakschuiten both moored and proceeding along a canal

Pakschuiten (to the right) working on the Vinkeveen, a
lake and island area to the east of the Vecht which these
barges served as part of their regular routes

A pakschuit with two of its side panels out

So there you have it: a little more history about my barge and others like it. Sadly, probably because they were so common and possibly not highly prized, there are very few of them left. The Gijsbertha and another restored pakschuit called Nooitgedacht (Never Thought) are the only other two I know of for certain apart from my Vereeniging. There must be others, but they are now quite rare, so all the more reason for treasuring my old girl. Well, I think so anyway.

If anyone is interested in reading further about my barge and the history of the old harbour, this is a link to my memoirs about my life here:

Have a good week, allemaal and I'll be back with more current news again soon.