Having proved the Hennie H's riverworthiness (as announced in my last post), we celebrated Koos's hard work and success with a two-day jaunt to Ghent (or Gent, as we spell it in this part of the world). Why only two days? Well, that's a good question, the answer to which is that we had to be back in the Netherlands this last weekend, so it was the best we could hope for. Even so, it more than enough as a first test run, especially as I have a very special affection for Ghent.
One of the upsides about going in our own boat is that we could keep to our own bubble. But despite the apparent isolation of living, eating and sleeping on the Hennie H, we never felt lonely. The reactions we received from people we passed on the shore and the friendly warmth of the bridge and lock keepers made us feel very welcome. The Hennie H is that sort of boat, it seems. It draws happy smiles from almost everyone we encounter, which of course makes us smile too. You win all and lose none!
We set off on Tuesday after a quick trial run on Monday to make sure everything worked properly. The weather wasn't encouraging at all: grey, cloudy and very windy. The canal was as choppy as a free-flowing river and the Hennie H rolled like a porpoise. Val (green gills) P was not quite so happy with that.
I love the sea canal canal as a rule. The constantly seeking cranes, the dumb barges and the massive container ships give this waterway a vibrant life reminiscent of the London docklands I remember when I was a child. I loved them then and still do.
Still, I was happy to leave the wind and waves for the quieter waters of the canal that connects to the Schelde and Leie rivers in the city. The photos below show most of our progress towards Gentbrugge, where were were hoping to find a mooring.
The only bridge we needed help with on our way into the city
I loved this old crane
Built when industrial buildings were still
|Tree-lined quays make this a lovely route|
|Beautiful old river 'furniture'|
|Entering the heart of Ghent|
|Several livaboards line the route. I might be just a bit envious!|
|And finally, at our favourite mooring in Gentbrugge|
To our amazement, there was no one else at the mooring at all and although there were groups of people enjoying activities in the adjoining park, we didn't encounter a single other cruiser or even day-trip boat while we were there. It definitely had that feeling of 'summer's over' but it suited us perfectly.
I was particularly chuffed that I hadn't lost all the rope throwing skills I'd worked so hard to acquire. Since it's three years since we've done any serious travelling, I was anxious I might have forgotten everything, but tying up went smoothly– and without any frayed nerves, let alone knots (sorry).
Our evening was spent wandering the quiet streets of Gentbrugge, an area we've come to love for its eclectic mix of buildings and people from all walks and levels of life. All the photos below (except for the last one) were taken on a street that follows an old course of the Schelde river. It seems strange to think this narrow waterway was once a navigable commercial river route. We saw several hefty bollards along the banks which were evidence of its former use, but I suppose that over time the course has silted up and the banks have become overgrown. Our mooring was in a later cutting.
|I like this photo of the HH tucked up in here favourite place|
We spent a wonderfully peaceful night against the pontoon next to the island that separates the old from the new course of the river. The only sounds were those of traffic on the nearby bridge. Such a constant hum is an unusual backdrop for us, given the raucous nightlife of Rotterdam's Oude Haven, or the rumbling of tractors passing the crumbly cottage at all hours (whoever said the country was quiet?).
The morning brought sunshine, a welcome sight and an immediate invitation to take another route through Ghent to moor at a different spot for our second night. Sadly, though, the new Scaldis lock, which would have taken us through the city to the Leie, was stuck and we couldn't get through it.
Scaldis lock...at least we went into it, which was a first for us
As we only learnt this once we were in the lock, Koos had to do some masterful reversing back into the main route. However, we were even more pleased to be invited to go through the Sint Joris lock, which would take us into the heart of old Ghent. Which we did.
And this diversion, without doubt, became the highlight of our trip.
Tied up in the Sint Joris lock
Exiting the lock in lovely sunshine
Faring forth into the old city.
|And yes, we went through that very low bridge behind us 😳😳|
But we stopped at this one. Koos accepted that my nerves
wouldn't take another one.
So we reversed into this delightful cutting to return
And enjoyed these lovely views on the way back
|The Venice of the north. I do love Ghent!|
|One last scary bridge ...|
What a wonderful excursion that was – nail-biting low bridges and all. The only downside was that we couldn't get to the Leie without going a very long way round. So we decided to go back to our happy place (first night's mooring) and spend another night there before heading home the following morning.
Our return journey was uneventful: calmer and with much less wind, but somewhat colder than we'd have liked. All the same, we were incredibly happy with our first adventure out on the waters again. It was magical to feel that sense of freedom again and it bodes well for more extended journeys in the coming months. I must admit I can't wait.
Enjoy the week, allemaal
and fingers crossed for an Indian summer that we can all experience here in the northern hemisphere. For all of you in the south, summer is coming!