Monday, March 25, 2024

What a difference a year makes

Vereeniging in Oudenbosch
The river was pretty high

This time last year, Vereeniging was still in Oudenbosch at her ligplaats in the town's marina. The photo above was taken on the 23rd of March, 2023, when the river was extremely high. We'd been suffering strong gales and heavy rain, causing me more than a little anxiety. The thing was we were due to leave the marina for her new mooring on the 1st of April and the weather was not showing any signs of being in our favour.

High water in Oudenbosch last year

What eventually happened was that we left on the 3rd of April on an icy cold morning that was, thankfully, sunny and calm. The story of our trip south is one I wrote about on this blog. I'm also planning on expanding it into a travelogue that will include our original journey from Rotterdam, but that's yet to be written. 

However, given that it's almost the anniversary of our departure, I thought I'd take some time to think back on this year and see if there are any regrets about moving south. 

When I look at the photos of our mooring on the Mark, I realise there are some things about the mooring I miss, not least of which is the town itself. I really liked it there and loved driving up to spend a few days on board every week just to be somewhere else. Oudenbosch is a pretty, quaintly Dutch town with some lovely old buildings, a magnificent basilica and good facilities. It was a genuine pleasure to be there and yes, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel some pangs of nostalgia. 

It was always a pleasure to be there

So easy to paint the boat from the bank

I also miss the position of Vereeniging against the bank. It was so easy to climb on and off the decks and it was a dream to be able to paint the boat standing on firm ground. I can't do that where we are now and I can see my paintwork suffering from the buffeting my old girl gets from the elements. The Mark at Oudenbosch was nicely sheltered from the worst of the weather's assaults – all except the extreme high water, which at least we don't have to worry about now.

The other downside is that I no longer have the excuse to pay regular visits to my younger daughter. Her home is just eight kilometres from where Vereeniging lay, so it was very handy for coffee stops and other visits. 

And lastly, I simply miss the Mark – no, I'm not joking or even punning. I really mean it. The Mark is a beautiful, tranquil river that exudes an almost mystical quality. I'm still sad we didn't spend more time exploring its beautiful reaches.

So yes, I still feel some regret that the ever increasing costs of the mooring there forced me to leave, but overall, I'm pleased with where we are now. Although we haven't spent much time on board over winter due to the awful weather, it's been so much easier to make regular checks and simply spend a few hours enjoying my barge in its new environs. Plus, there's no worry about high water on the canal, which is a huge relief, and in all honesty, there's nothing to beat our current view.

I'm very much hoping spring will show its proper face soon, and that the annuals I planted out last week will get a chance to flourish. For now, though allemaal, enjoy the rest of this week; keep warm if you're in the soggy northern climes, and cool if you're down south, but most of all, keep well!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Wash and walk

I'm not lazy, really I'm not, but I dislike doing the laundry to such an extent I tend to let it pile up. A quick solution to this problem is to take everything to the outsize washing machines that many filling stations seem to have now. I've often wondered what the connection is between laundry and petrol pumps. It stretches the imagination somewhat, doesn't it? Mind you, I could happily entertain the idea of soaking my washing in petrol, but then I'd rather set a match to it than wash it. But arsonist tendencies of the material kind aside, maybe it's because they often have a car wash on the same premises ... you know, do washing and spruce up car simultaneously? Perhaps it's an efficient use of water. Who knows? Whatever the case, our local giant washing machines are at a filling station in Terneuzen close to both a dog park, and even better, a hop and a skip to the huge locks on the Westerschelde Estuary– always great eye candy for a waterways' lover.

So, last Friday, my daughter kindly offered to let Zoe, me and my washing accompany her, Lucy and her own laundry pile to Terneuzen where we both availed ourselves of the facilities. In our case, though, we didn't do any car washing; instead, we took a walk to the locks and along the waterside. It was a blustery, rainy day – note the cloud scape as well as Zoe's hair. No, she hadn't been to the hair dresser. It was the wind giving her that artfully swept-back look. 

Both dogs enjoyed the walk as much as we did and then practised their cute impressions in the car while waiting for us to unload the machines.

Ah, now I can see! At last!

Some good sniffs around here, Zoe!

Ooh, wot you got there, Lucy?

Eye candy for me

Are we cute or what?

And just to show how wet it's been.
That isn't a lake; it's just water on the fields

The photo above is just one that shows how wet it's been here. Normally, the Netherlands can cope with excess rain. The drainage ditches do a fantastic job as do the pumps that keep the polders dry, but being a land largely below sea level, the kind of endless rain we've had has taxed even this country's brilliant anti-flooding systems. There's standing water and mud everywhere. We're just praying it will dry up sometime soon as we could definitely do with some respite (remember my green barge and damp walls?).

So that's it for this week allemaal. I hope you're all keeping well wherever you are. Below is a photo of Zoe especially for Rebecca. As my little pooch says, she can't help being adorable! :)

I can't help being adorable, can I?


Sunday, March 10, 2024

Spring cleaning, spring tides and spring fever

It's March and that time of year when I start doing something about the green algae on and in Vereeniging's nooks and crannies. This year, it's worse than it's ever been after the winter because it's been so unbelievably wet. I'm not even going to show you a picture of how green the rubbing rail (known here as the berghout) was. I'm more than a little ashamed to have neglected it for so long, but with such lousy cold weather and so much wind it's been almost impossible to clean it in the past couple of months. 

The photo below is just to show you what I mean by the rubbing rail. It's made of hardwood with a rim of steel over it, and it attracts green growth like nothing else on the barge. The next photo is of me this last Friday with my long-handled brush. I was scrubbing it with vinegar, which happens to be the best, most environmentally friendly degreener available. It was a lot of work and I haven't finished yet, but I've made a good start. Such is life with an old barge. I have to admit I miss the little green rowing boat I had in Rotterdam. It would be such a boon to have it for these types of jobs.

The berghout or rubbing rail. This is an old photo
 taken in Rotterdam

Cleaning the rubbing rail with a long-handled brush and
vinegar. Note the ship passing in the background. 

Of course, we're hoping the weather will warm up enough to do some jaunts up the canal before long, so spring cleaning gives us the incentive needed to get out onto the water. Still, there are other lovely watery places to go too. Last weekend, I took Bobby the Panda car for a test drive to meet daughter two at a beach about halfway between our two homes. Daughter one, who lives very close to me, came along in Bobby with Lucy the Podenko to keep Zoe company. Daughter two brought her boyfriend, his daughter, and spaniel, Mack. The tide was so far out, we could barely see the water and the dogs had a wonderful time playing chase on the huge expanse of the beach. I think the humans enjoyed it too. I certainly did, especially as Bobby performed very nicely as well.

Luckily, the dogs are all very good friends. Zoe is the oldest of the three but is game for lots of larking about on the beach, in the woods and even on the sofa at home. Yesterday, I 'babysat' daughter one's Lucy when she (daughter) was out for the day. The photo below is evidence of the 'ow ow' games Zoe and Lucy find endless entertainment in playing while I find equal entertainment in watching them.

March has also brought a (spring) fever of learning into my life. Quite apart from my daily Duolingo lessons in Dutch and French, I've embarked on studying for the Dutch version of the cruising license for small boats (meaning anything up to twenty metres). I was doing quite well until I reached the current chapter about the technical stuff. As it's all written in Dutch too and frequently concerns the type of craft I have never and will never use, I'm finding it a bit of a challenge, but I'll get there. It's fun to do and good for my language development, not to mention my technical knowledge. 

I now know the difference between an outboard cooling system, an inboard cooling system with outboard water and a closed cooling Dutch, so I guess I'm learning something. On Vereeniging and the Shoe, we have closed cooling systems so I'm familiar with those, but it's quite a complicated matter to understand all the different types and I'm not especially technical. 

I'll keep at it, though, and when I've finished I'll have a go at the exam. However, there's a huge amount to learn before I'm ready to take it, so it'll be a while yet. There's my paid work to do as well, you see.

Anyway, weather permitting, we'll be back cleaning the boats again in the coming week, and maybe there'll be photos to show of pristine clean barges. You never know!

That's all for now, allemaal. Enjoy the coming days and let's hope they'll stay dry and bright for us all.