Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Schoten to Antwerp

Friday 24 April 2015

Woke up early and did the necessary engine checks with the outside temperature at 4C.

At 09h00 we cast off only to be held up at Schoten Sluis 10 for nearly an hour. What had happened was that as we left Schoten Sluis 9 another cruiser pushed his nose into the lock immediately we had exited thus forcing the lockkeeper to service him before coming back to us. One commercial which had been waiting at Sluis 10 was furious with him when he eventually arrived – just shows, you can’t please everyone all the time.

Then it was on to the big Albert Canal, a huge, working canal with lots of commercial traffic

but after some more sanding and varnishing, we eventually tied up at the upmarket Jachthaven Antwerpen Willemdok in the company of some very smart boats indeed.

Ian resetting the geyser thermostat cut-out switch.
Odd, but the blazered and high heeled owners never seem to go anywhere and all we ever observed were guests arriving for cocktails and then, in the case of the stillettoed ladies, wobbling their back along the jetty to their respective modes of transport.

The trip in was not without incident however: At the Siberia Brug I was soundly scolded by the lockkeeper for going under the raised bridge before he gave his express permission. Sometimes boating can be quite taxing trying to understand the local customs. At most bridges in Holland, as soon as you can fit through, you give it wellies for fear of admonishment from local waterway users for being tardy . At an earlier bridge we were almost angrily waved through even although the light was red.


At the next bridge (Londonbrug) which has specific opening times we waited in a queue with Njord, a large commercial and a hotel boat, the Rotterdam. When the bridge opened the Rotterdam went through first and then the commercial gestured to Lynn that we should go ahead of them - and to get a move on! I had just taken a shower and arrived of deck to see the stern of the Rotterdam looming above our bow with Elle bouncing around in her wake. Without signalling, Rotterdam hit the bow and stern thrusters to do a sharp left turn into the Willendok where she was to moor up (as if we should have known) and the turbulence from the stern thruster banged us into the bridge wall but the only damage was a dent to the swim platform thanks to good handling by Lynn on the helm.

Elle versus Rotterdam

Lynn's Nemesis moored up.
I think that, a bit shattered by the experience, Lynn made one of her not-so-good landings – or maybe she had her eye on the bronzed havenmeester who came to escort us to our berth, and was distracted from her pilotage?

The hard work of sanding and varnishing has shown pleasing results.

Remember this?

The ladder gangplank.
That evening Frederik arrived with the new Waeco fridge in the boot of his station wagon, stayed for a quick beer and was gone in a jiffy. Baie dankie Frederik, ons waardeer dit haartlik.

Out with the old...

And in with the new!

And that was Schoten to Antwerp!

Odd jobs in Schoten.

Thursday 23 April 2015 (piccie poor post)

Schoten is a pleasant enough town – not very inspiring but functional, clean and with sufficient amenities to keep its citizens and visitors happy.
Schoten town hall.

A bull made from recycled tyres.
(Unfortunately the camera battery ran out after this was taken)

Being a lovely day, Lynn knuckled down to washing the saloon carpet while I started the job of renovating the two storage/seating boxes which are on the aft deck.

Cropped from another pic - the deck box before.

Soon after my Ryobi sander packed up so off to Hubo it was to find another. Although they do stock some Bosch products, almost their entire stock of power tools are a housebrand called ‘Power Plus’ which are well priced and the orbital sander I bought comes with a 3 year warranty so it should be okay.

Ran the port engine for an hour while the sander ran off the big (1,200W pure sine wave) inverter.

Much later we all packed up and went for a shower and a beer at the convivial Jachtclub Schoten

after which, on the way back to Elle, I had the urge to try one of the burgers from the ‘Burger Voor Burger’ (‘Burgers for Citizens’ for the English speaking readers – a play on the word ‘burger’ which means ‘citizen’ in Dutch) restaurant which we had passed on our way back from Brasschaat yesterday. Delicious, and the calories were dusted off on the (non electric) ride back to Elle into a stiff breeze.

(PS: Really trying to get this blog up to date...)

Schoten and Brasschaat

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Woken at 06h30 by the sound of props slapping the water and engines rumbling; a peep out of the window revealed a queue of commercial barges waiting for a lockkeeper at the upstream bridge/lock. Eventually someone appeared and they all trundled off eastwards – as the saying goes “Don’t you love the smell of diesel in the morning?”.

That mornig we rode into the nearby town of Brasschaat and visited the gorgeous former Kasteel van Brasschaat set in a beautiful parkland. The castle is now used as a community center and can be hired for functions of all descriptions. Brasschaat is a pretty little town, well worth a visit.

Our old Electrolux gas fridge had been giving problems for some time; battling to get the gas to ignite, not maintaining temperature on 12v and sometimes not kicking in on 220v and worst of all it is an energy gobbler using about 11 amps per hour on 12v and 2.7 kilowats per 24 hours and when you are paying by the kilowatt as is the case in some marinas, it is like feeding a slot machine. So we ordered a new 12v/220v Waeco compressor unit ( ) to be delivered to Frederick’s office in Antwerp (I messed up the delivery address details so we are holding thumbs that it is actually delivered).

Just in time too. Lynn had been smelling gas for a few days before and finally we traced the leak to a join in the piping where it branched off to the fridge. By the look of it the problem was not a new one, something not disclosed at the purchase date.

A not-so-tidy gas installation - the source of the leak.
 Managed to source the necessary parts at a gas dealer 5 kilometers away and, with Ian’s help, the new cut-off valve was installed and the fridge and old water heating gas heater completely isolated from the gas supply. Now we only have the stove running off gas so our two 13kg bottles should last an age.

Lunch was pork fillet and bangers on the Weber with spuds and salad and the day ended with Irish coffees on Njord.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Brecht to Schoten

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Another beautiful morning and at just after nine ‘o clock we cast off from our odd quay

and a few hours later tied up on the bank just before the Jachthaven Schoten which is closed due to dredging.

The drive was interesting with 6 locks and 5 lifting bridges; through two of the locks we were followed by the lockkeeper on his bicycle and through the next three were followed by a tad overweight keeper in his car.

Lunch was a typical smoked ham, gorgeous Brie and biscuits affair

…and while we partook the traffic continued by – we are always surprised at the size of vessels traversing these smaller waterwats, and with such grace and serendipity.

Dashed into Schoten (a good 300m away over the bridge) for some provisions and then back to Elle to prepare for a visit by friends Frederik and Josephine who had stayed with us during their circumnavigation of Africa in their Land Cruiser in 2006 (?). As the Antwerp traffic had decided to tie itself into a knot, Frederik did a +60km round trip to fetch Josephine from their home and the two of them arrived on their BMW 1200GX with the panniers loaded with bubbles and a spread of snacks fit for royalty. Lovely seeing them again especially as they had been treated to a flight on Ian’s micro-light when they were in SA – much chatter and merriment until they departed into the night at around 10h30. Thanks Guys!

The new cheese supplement - delicious!

Ian, Frederik and Josephine (with Sian walking back to Njord)

Monday, 27 April 2015

Brecht (Brecht and Sint-Leenarts villages).

Monday 20 April

From Wiki:  Brecht (Dutch pronunciation: [brɛxt]) is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Antwerp. The municipality comprises the towns of Brecht proper, Sint-Job-in-'t-Goor and Sint-Lenaarts. On January 1, 2006 Brecht had a total population of 26,464. The total area is 90.84 km² which gives a population density of 291 inhabitants per km².

Of the three towns, Sint-Job-in-‘t-Goor is by far the biggest of the three towns which is why we gave it a miss. Brecht village seems to consist of a large church, a number of restaurants and plenty of bakeries and patisseries, and not much else but very pretty in the Belgian way. Sint-Lenaarts appears to be larger with bigger shops, more traffic and a lot more people. The highlights of the day were Ian finding heaven in a huge hardware store from which he emerged with a huge grin and a new rotary disc sander; we also did not escape unscathed and apart from batteries, pliers and sandpaper, I managed to find a decent 5 pound hammer to use on our mooring stakes.

No pictures of either town unfortunately...

That evening we went for sundowners at the local pub, the name of which completely escapes me. Beers we tried were Stella for Lynn, Zot (a local brew) for Ian and a Karmeliet Tripel for moi – Sian drank a glass of dry white wine as usual.
Choose your brew!


Karmeliet Tripel
 Dinner at the adjoining Eethuis De Linden consisted of fresh summer asparagus followed by an excellent schnitzel with frites and vegetables for three of us and an equally enjoyable goulash for Lynn.

And then home to another gorgeous sunset and bed!

Trappist beer in Westmalle

Sunday 19 April

Rode the 7 kilometres to the nearby town of Westmalle where they brew a famous beer at the Abbey.

From their website:

“Westmalle Abbey, called Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van het Heilig Hart, belongs to the Cistercian Order, which was founded in the eleventh century. This order is commonly referred to as ‘the Trappists’, after the Normandy abbey of La Trappe.

Reform of the Cistercian Order spread from there in the seventeenth century. Westmalle Abbey, founded in 1794, belongs to the ‘Cistercians of Strict Observance’, but is generally known as the ‘Trappist Abbey of Westmalle’.” 

The entrance to the Abbey grounds

An avenue leading to a small chapel.

The Abbey in the distance.
The 'Welcome' sign.

Abbey entrance in the distance.


The Abbey does have a guest retreat but other than this is not accessible to the general public (although we did notice a small sign at the front door stating that the abbey’s products were available for sale on certain days of the week. There is however a very good (and popular by the number of people coming and going) Café Trappisten which served the Westmalle beers, a Double (blond @ 7.5%) and a Tripel (dark @ 9%) – I preferred the former and Lynn the latter. These washed down a generous portion of excellent tagliatelle carbonara.

A most enjoyable day concluded with a soup for dinner and to a glorious sunset backdrop, a glass of wine and a sampling of an excellent Belgian dark chocolate.