Sunday 11th Sept. Today the canal goes over the River Weser by bridge (see photo) and for the first time we see hills in the distance and another tower built by Wilhelm. We are in the area of Minden. Pass by a fair number of commercial barges today. This afternoon “Michaela” a rather nice looking one, passes us by. This has several cars on board (crew cars. ) Jan recognises his brother on the deck he calls out to him and we all wave . They talk to each other over the radio. In the evening we get lucky with the T.V. So far we’ve only picked up the BBC News channel. Tonight we get the works......so Mark gets to watch football ! We are so comfortable on our Natuzzi sofa this evening watching TV. , that later, when we hear a noise we wonder what it is. It was a passing boat of course!
The next day, 9 locks. After lock 6 we join the River Emms, a tidal river, for a short while. Back on the canal. Lock 7, getting windy now. Barge is being blown to starboard. Mark hooks front orange rope onto the top mooring point. We are going down. The rope tightens and cannot be moved or undone. Jan has to cut it. Another lesson learned!
We pass a windmill at Meppen and we’re back on the River Emms again. Jan points out the bike path by the canal. It runs from Dortmund to Emms, 260 km
We stayed in Haren for two nights because of windy weather. This is Jan’s home town. We are 14 km from the Dutch border. Very modern, large marina. Lots of nice new housing around it. Jan’s brother meets us as he lives very close by.
We made it to the appropriate lock at high tide, hence only a 6 inch drop down. The river is bad to navigate at low tide says Jan, ships can easily end up sitting on the ground! The weather is changing. It started off a lovely day. Clear blue sky and sunny. 4.00 p.m. we pass right by the Joseph L. Meyer ship builders at Papenburg. They build huge passenger liners. Jan shows me a brochure he has that celebrates their ship building over 25 years. They also build ferry boats for Denmark and Indonesia amongst others. They’re built on a dry dock and when finished the area underneath is flooded and the ships sail out at high tide and are on the river within minutes. They have been building huge passenger ships for 25 years. The yard was founded in 1795.
Near Meyer Werft , we pass through the Emms barrier and then pass another V.W. factory. This one makes Passats. We pass by a ship “Hurst Point, London” loading Passats, then lots and lots of wind turbines on waters edge. Passed into Holland around 7.10 p.m. We are on a wide, wide stretch of water. Jan goes to the front of the boat and changes the flag, from German to the red, white and blue stripes of the Dutch flag. We moor up directly behind the last lock of the day around 8.30 p.m.
The next day we are cruising through Holland. In the evening Mark and I sit on the front of the barge for a while, watching the sun go down. It’s a lovely evening, the wind has dropped, the sky has cleared (there was some rain earlier) and we’re watching barges and yachts sail by. Very peaceful. We agree that today has had a very different feel about it. More relaxed, proper and peaceful countryside scenery. Fields of sheep, fields of fresian cows and fields of horses, and of course, fields of grass. Lots of people on bicycles, lots of tractors too. First time we’ve seen tractors! Also pass a huge heron perched on a canal sign.
Next destination Ghent. Would be a slow journey to go through it, so we end up staying about 15 mins from the centre of Ghent. We arrived in the evening and decide on dinner in Ghent. Our lady taxi driver drops us where she says most of the restaurants are. We pick a nice looking, little bistro. We’ve looked at several menu’s.....................but no Mussels! I’m puzzled. The bistro has mussels gratin as a starter. I have to settle for that. Get my picture taken in the bistro with an advert for mussels though!
Ghentpoort, Brugge. We arrived here on Sunday 19th We pass by the lovely old city gateway and I get just a glipse of the beautiful old city of Brugge. Once again, I wish I could take a little time to cycle around the city, in fact it’s approaching lunch time. Lunch in Brugge would have been wonderful, and a visit to “The Chocolate Line” shop ! We’ve now passed 4 windmills, and some really fancy, very modern swing bridges. Lots of people are taking photographs of Victor today.
Our journey slows as we enter a smaller canal the Kanaal van Nieuwpoort naar Dunkerken, the speed limit is much lower, and there are a lot of swingbridges. We end the evening being stuck by a swing railway bridge that should have opened at 8.10 p.m. It didn’t ! Mark checks his Navigo software. It says a lock at Dunkirk, that we need to pass through is closed from the 19th Sept, for 2 weeks. Today is the 19th ! .......................... The next day we have to backtrack. We ended up losing more than a day!
Early evening we pull into Nieuwpoort marina. It’s enormous. Very modern. Completely soul - less, kind of modern, ugly, and there is nothing to see here. We are directed to berth alongside another British owned barge. It’s a waiting game now. We need good weather to cross the channel. Forecast for tomorrow is not good enough. We must stay here for at least 2 nights. At least there is a tram into the town.
Our first attempt at crossing the Channel was on Thursday 25th September. We left early and were out onto the open sea within about 5 minutes. I sat and watched the buildings and the land disappear into the distance. On our way to Blighty ! It was a bit choppy ! I looked at my watch around 10.15 a.m I was already holding on to the centre table in the wheelhouse, trying to hold it down. I had to lean right over it and it still jumped up! Kept looking at my watch. Only another hour gone. Then another and another. Time passed very slowly, and it was pretty rough for us. Mark had wedged things into place in the kitchen, so it was o.k. there. It just got worse and waves were breaking over the front of the barge. Talk about being tossed around! At some point, Jan calculated that we would not make it to Ramsgate until around 10.00p.m. The wind and waves were against us, and we were not making enough headway. Decision made to go to Calais to overnight and try again tomorrow. It was already getting dark when we arrived at Calais.
The next morning I got up early as usual and I went into town for croissants ! Found a lovely bakery, got the croissants and some rather nice bread. Mussels in Belgium, fresh croissants in France. Glad I was able to get them both.
Think we set off around 9.15 a.m. It was a beautiful day. Blue sky. Sunny and calm. Very calm. It was a lovely crossing. Peaceful and serene, we just cruised along. We saw lots of ferries, travelling on either side of us in the distance and the odd container ship. I was surprised to see so little traffic on such a beautiful day. I only saw a couple of leisure boats. Mark had his Navigo software up and running and checked out our position to the buoys etc. Mark handled the steering of the barge a fair bit today as well. I was pretty impressed by his all round skills. I was also surprised at just how soon we could see the English coastline. It was really nice to see the White Cliffs of Dover for the first time. We headed for Dover, then turned to starboard for another 2 hours to Ramsgate. We passed into the harbour and we moored at the first pontoon , pointing out to sea, a favourite of the seagulls! Ashore in England by 2.15 p.m. I took a photo of Victor with the lighthouse behind him. A bit later we are directed to a mooring spot in the outer harbour. This is the most expensive place to moor up so far!
Over the next few days we visited other mooring spots on rivers in Kent but make the decision to take a winter mooring here on the inner marina at Ramsgate . It is a nice place to be, winter rates are very reasonable, and we have everything we need within walking distance. We’ve never lived by the sea before.......................... and now we’re living on it !