France/Belgium Cruise 2004
Articles > France/Belgium Cruise 2004
July 24th-August 12th 2004
Broom Broom Broom
Alouette (Chris and Su)
China Rose (John & Wendy ,Mike & Ann) Searrach (Bill and Angie)
We started out in the afternoon Friday 23rd July and after picking up Mike and Ann at Shepperton made for Kingston. Su was not with us at this stage, joining us later at Ramsgate. Went out for a pizza and Wendy decided to improve Mike's ice-cream by adding some Parmesan cheese to it.
Saturday 24th July
Beautiful day Fantastic
trip through London arriving at Queenborough at 5.30 pm and we moored up
on the concrete lighter.
Sunday 25th July
Alouette and China Rose left Queenborough during the morning with Searrach following later. Mike went with Chris on Alouette. During the trip the RNLI asked if they could team up with China Rose and spent time practising various manoeuvres connected with rescue at sea. We arrived at Ramsgate during afternoon. Charles Worby there with Grahame and Tommy on Co-Cap We had an evening meal of fish and chips.
Monday 26th July
Left early to cross
channel. Searrach went direct route whilst Alouette and China Rose
crossed via Goodwin Sands crossing in about 4.5 hours. Conditions were
good making the crossing most enjoyable.
We all met up before Calais and were joined by Co-Cap.
We entered Calais and Co-Cap went direct to the marina. The three Brooms, after some delay, went through the sea lock to Bassin Carnot in order to pass through Ecluse de Batellerie to be able to enter second basin where offices for obtaining licences are located. Because we had not entered quickly enough, we had to spend a couple of hours moored opposite an extremely noisy cargo vessel which was unloading gravel. We were now in the hands of the French for whom time has a different meaning. Eventually at approx 8.00 pm we went through the lock and into the basin where the office for the licences was situated.
Tuesday 27th July
We obtained the licences and did some shopping. Searrach had developed a serious problem with the electrics to such an extent that Bill and Angie were considering turning back. Chris Knight came to the rescue and managed to trace and fix the problem. Set off at approx 3.00 pm. and entered canal system (Canal de Calais).
Food was prepared and
the drinks flowed a good time was had by all.
So that we all could get experience of planning the routes etc we took turns in being "skipper of the day".
Wednesday 28th July
We all had to make a quick getaway at 8.45 am, when a large double peniche came up behind us to pass through the bridge which was now opening. Peniches are cargo barges. There are about 120 feet long with the living accommodation at the back. They are homes in their own right complete with the family car. They were sometimes doubled up and when motoring quite awesome. You don't argue with them as they don't take prisoners!
Thursday 29th July
Spent morning in Dunkerque and left at 2.15 pm to go along Canal de Furness. At 5.15 we crossed into Belgium and what a difference. Everything was more organised and appeared cleaner. We finally arrived at Veurne (Furness) at 7.15 pm. Well organised marina. It was here that we met Bernard with his splendid boat (Our Spirit of Europe). Bernard gave us some helpful information and joined us for a meal. He did not sit with us for long as he had a cigar permanently on the go!
Friday 30th July
Left Veurne at 9.10 am having first obtained all the necessary licences for the Belgium canals. We cruised down to Nieuwpoort arriving midday to some excellent moorings in the marina. During the afternoon we hired bikes and cycled around the local area finishing up on the beach. The day was not without incident as when we stopped for an ice-cream Wendy stopped in front of a departing tram without realising, much to the amusement of the driver. Bill went swimming in a red flag area and caused the lifeguard to jump up and down. That evening we had a lovely meal on China Rose and spent much of the evening singing. (now available on CD).
Saturday 31st July
Left at 11 o' clock. China Rose run aground at the first Bridge. She was soon free then we went right through to lock before Brugge ( a large round lock) where we had long wait before arriving at final marina (Jachtclub Flandria) The evening was spent walking around the town after having a rather splendid meal.
Sunday 1st August
Spent day in Brugge.
Monday 2nd August
We left at 8.15 am en route for Gent following a large pleasure boat named Vincent Van Gough. This boat was our passport through the various swing and lift bridges around Brugge as we continued on Canal Gent-Ostende.
A little note concerning the weather which so far had been unbroken sunshine. Very hot.
Tuesday 3rd August
Hired a taxi and spent day exploring Gent. Gent was very interesting but not quite on the scale of Brugge .
Later we went to a supermarket. Chris was feeling deflated but was quickly back up again when he visited this special shop.
During the evening we
had a bankside Barbeque complete with outdoor games Boules, Quiots and
Darts. This marina was a haven in the middle of a very heavily
industrialised part of Gent.
Wednesday 4th August
Thursday 5th August
Set off at 9.00 en
route to Kortrijk. For some of the journey we appeared to have been
chased by a sinister looking peniche (it was a bit like the film Duel)
however we arrived at Kortrijk at 2.00 pm after passing under a low
bridge to get at the moorings. This was a beautiful town with lots of
shops. That night the weather broke and we had a severe storm thunder
lightning and very heavy rain. Still we had not done badly as until now
it had been unbroken sunshine!
Friday 6th August
The water had risen during the night so there was a problem getting under the bridge but we all managed after removing windscreens etc. We made our way to Armentieres arriving at 2.00 pm. We explored the town and went back to our tradition of eating out.
Saturday 7th August
Left at 10.30 am. At the first lock we were issued with a remote control to open the locks. The next lock was a piece of cake. Point at board and the gates opened. In we went, point at board lock fills and out we go. That was the first and last time we used the remote control. At the next lock we were let in by a lady lock-keeper or that is what we thought. However she was not a lock-keeper, only being helpful and had cranked the windlass to open the gates for us. As the windlass was a fixed item and there was not lock-keeper we had to improvise and make a windlass out of an adjustable spanner. This worked a treat. However not all the locals who were watching were impressed and one of them was on his mobile telling tales about the "naughty English". The next lock was a problem we arrived at 2.00 pm and were told that the lock keeper was not available until 4.00 pm. However a helpful young man who happened to have a windlass said he would let us through. We gave him some wine and beers for his trouble and it then we realised that he was the lock keeper! The "naughty English" had been had!
The river was a mass of green weed and before long Alouette was clogged up and had to be towed by China Rose. Chris fixed problem and we ended up in front of lock at 6.00pm. Too late! We moored on the side had a meal on board followed by drinks games and a sing song. Mon Dieu you "naughty English" know how to live!
Sunday 8th August
We left at 4.00 pm and
went along to Watten arriving at 6.00pm. The water was shallow and great
care was needed when mooring up.
Monday 9th August
Left Watten at 10.00 am. We had hoped to go to Gravelines and the across the Channel. However we met with a great deal of resistance from the French who strongly advised against this. So it was back to Calais.
Tuesday 10th August
get out of the marina we had to wait for the bridge to open. The
first one was scheduled for 7.00am but opened at 6.45am by the time we
got our act together it had closed again!
We made it at about 7.30 and had to get out quickly. The weather
was damp and overcast. Once out Alouette started to overheat and we all
turned back and tied up on the buoys outside the marina.
Chris sorted out the problem with Alouette ( polythene in the
water in take) and we made our second attempt at 10.15 am. The weather
was still damp and overcast. Searrach went the direct route and Alouette
and China Rose as before.
Wednesday 11th August
The plan was to go more or less directly to Limehouse with only a short stop at Queenborough to obtain tidal advantage.
Because of a worsening
weather situation Alouette and China Rose
left at 5.15 am and arrived at Queenborough at 11.30 am. They
stayed on the concrete lighter until 1.00pm.
Searrach left later and went directly to Limehouse. Alouette and
China Rose were due to arrive at 8.00 pm.
At 7.45 pm Alouette
lost all power to the propeller. China Rose towed her up to Limehouse.
Unfortunately due to
the flow of the tide it became difficult to control both boats at low
speed and they ended up the wrong way round to enter the lock. John on
China Rose kept his cool and with the guidance of the lock keeper both
boats entered the lock safely at 8.05 pm. A well deserved drink and meal
was had by all .
Thursday 12th August
China Rose and Searrach left in the morning and after dropping off Mike and Ann arrived in Staines mid afternoon.
Chris remained with Alouette and Steve from 4 All Marine came to fix the problem. Nothing is ever simple and after a week with problems with the wrong parts and after much discussion and planning with the lock-keeper at Limehouse, Allouette was towed out on Sunday 22nd August. It was essential that the boats left at 3.00 pm as arrangements had been made to "slow down" the various commercial operators as wash could have been a serious problem.
China Rose ( John Wendy and Ann) towed Allouette (Chris and Mike) in style as we had a Police escort up to and past Tower Bridge and Parliament. The commercial operators did indeed slow down and all went well.
Mike Fowler. October 2004.