Monday, May 30, 2022

The trials and tribulations of boat life

 I've hinted at it a few times in recent posts, but never quite knuckled down to writing a proper explanation of our recent issues with our Hennie H, so I thought I'd better do it before my readers here think I'm being deliberately obtuse.

I think I've mentioned already that following our lift out and inspection we had trouble starting the boat's engine. Koos noticed it didn't start quite as readily as usual when we first went to the yard, but this total refusal was a disturbing surprise. Nevertheless, he soldiered on, 'bled' the motor (for those who don't know, this releases any air trapped in the lines) and managed to get it going, following which we made our way back to Sas van Gent without incident.

Home again with a nice black hull, but only sanded sides

The following days proved the problem was real, not imagined, and for the next three weeks, we had a depressing series of failures in the attempts to resolve the issue. Having checked everything from the tank, to the fuel lines and filters, the culprit was eventually narrowed down to what is called the opvoerpomp in Dutch. I still don't really know what it is in English, but possibly the lift pump. Maybe some of my readers here will know, but its purpose is to pump the diesel from the tank into the fuel pump (by way of another filter) that feeds the injection system. It seems this vital mechanical device had got stuck, and poor Koos had to remove and replace it several times before it finally decided to keep running.

The testing became depressingly predictable. He'd dismantle it, clean it, make sure it was working, put it back and start the engine, which would obligingly run for about ten minutes and then stop again. I'm sure you can understand his frustration, as each time this happened the process had to be repeated, not to mention all the bleeding that ensued from such an operation. After nearly four weeks of stoic and tenacious work on Koos's part, the pump appears to be working properly again, but of course, we no longer fully trust it.

The down-heartening side of the whole sorry episode is that it's undermined all our expectations of trouble-free faring. Our new engine, the (somewhat expensive) answer to our dreams, has already let us down and we hadn't even done 20 hours' faring. Hopefully, our confidence will be restored and it will continue to behave itself, but it will take a while before we build up faith in the motor again.

One of the problems here is that there is nowhere quiet within easy reach to test it on the go. Our mooring is on the major shipping canal to Gent, so test runs will be confined to the harbour until we're at ease again. I won't deny it's been a difficult and stressful time. Koos has been incredibly courageous and kept working at it, but it's taken its toll. Altogether, May was a hard month, so let's keep everything crossed for a much more relaxing and forgiving June.

As for me, when the going gets tough, Val gets painting...

Working my way around the sides and windows,
which have suffered during the winter 

Have a good week allemaal, and I'll introduce you to our new 'spuddle' rowing boat next time. It's a sweetie, but it's going to have to work hard for its living :)

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Middleburg, the jewel of Zeeland

It's been over two weeks since I last wrote a post, and I'll confess I've been struggling to know what to write about. That's not because of a lack of subject matter; probably the reverse. There's been too much going on, and not much of it anything to be excited about. So I've been holding back until our fortunes change and I can be positive again.

Of course, that's an unfair teaser, I know, so just to put you briefly in the the picture, our Hennie H has been giving us problems again. 

When I last posted, I mentioned we'd had a starting problem when we left the slipway after our lift out and inspection. Once Koos managed to get it going, we made it back to our home port without incident, but since then the problem has persisted. Poor Koos has been at his wits' end trying to solve it, and to say we've been downcast about it would be putting it mildly. The engine has run a bare twenty hours; it's brand new, and this shouldn't be happening. Enough said.

Things are looking slightly more hopeful now, but I won't say more until we know the problem is truly resolved. In the meantime, to keep my poor blog from developing cobewebs and empty echoes, I'm taking you on a visit to Middleburg, the provincial capital of Zeeland.

Last Saturday, my daughter said she wanted to visit an art shop she'd located in the town, so I invited myself along for the ride. It's been a few years since I last went to the city and I felt it was due further investigation. During my previous visit with Koos, our main focus was the harbour area, which I knew was lovely, but I hadn't seen much more of it. Well, what a delightful surprise it was and a tonic for our sorry souls.

Middleburg is the epitome of the historic Dutch city. It exudes traditional Dutch style and every street is a feast for the eyes. I'm fully aware my photos don't do it justice, but have a look and if you like what you see, take a wander through its delightful centre on Google Streetview. We took a very circuitous route to the art shop and were quite honestly enchanted every step of the way.

One of the many waterways through the town

White and bright. Perfect Dutch townhouses

The market square with the magnificent city hall
at the back

The market square in the shade of the many
lovely old trees

Another delightful back street

Charming informality that exuded peace and

The same courtyard from a different angle

Riches indeed, and a very special cellar entrance

A lovely spot to relax and have a cup of coffee

The Kanaal door Walcheren
The main waterway through Middleburg

There's some good information about the town in this website and even more about its impressive history here on Wikipedia. The city's roots go back to the 8th or 9th century, and its cultural atmosphere is correspondingly rich.  

I loved reacquainting myself with Middleburg's gracious streets and elegant Dutch architecture and hope to make a return visit before too long to explore this lesser known gem still further. Not only that, there are some gorgeous villages in the vicinity that are worth visiting. Another day out is most definitely called for.

For now, have a good week allemaal and I'll be back with more of our own news as soon as I've distilled the blogworthy parts of it. 

Sunday, May 08, 2022

The magnificence of May

I can't remember such a long, dry period in spring as we've been having lately. Granted the past few years have shown an increasing tendency to sunny, rain-free Aprils, but this current spell has been going on for weeks. Not that I'm complaining; well, maybe just a bit. The sandy dust everywhere is dreadful. We keep calling it Sahara sand, but now I think it's just plain old, Dutch stuff. Bearing in mind this country's built on one massive sandpit, I think we are producing enough of our own without the help of the Sahara.

But despite the lack of wet stuff, the countryside has erupted into the most gloriously vivid, luscious and opulent growth. The first photo below was taken two weeks ago. I thought the grass next to my Vereeniging had gone mad within a week, but then last week (see second pic), it had exploded even further and the cow parsley (fluitenkruid as it's called here) has taken over and is completely dominating our roadsides. 

Instead of walking down the bank to reach my barge, I have to beat a track through the undergrowth that now reaches to my waist. I wouldn't mind if it was just grass and cow parsley, but there are large clumps of nettles among them too. They've caught me out a couple of times already, sneaking up my trouser legs, and have given a new meaning to the phrase 'a sting in the tail' when I've slipped and fallen in them. Ahem... I'll confess to having resorted to some very earthy expletives to match my surroundings on these occasions.

Nevertheless, I really love May and all its profuse glory, especially now the sun is gaining some real muscle. With today being Mother's Day here in the Netherlands, there was no better way to spend it than having a picnic on deck, which is what we did with snacks provided by my daughter so I didn't have to make anything. Given how averse I am to cooking at any time, this was the best treat possible. But we couldn't sit out for all too long; with the deck in the full blast of the sun, it was even too hot for me, which is saying something. 

We have definite plans to venture out onto the local waters this month, so fingers crossed I'll be sharing some photos from the river rather than the bank very soon. Meanwhile, the Hennie H is giving us a few more headaches again. I won't say more about it now, because that's another story for another post, but suffice to say all is not entirely well with our little faring friend yet. Sigh!

Have a great week allemaal, and I hope the sun keeps shining on you wherever you are.