Sunday, 7 June 2015

Bergues to Veurne to Nieuwpoort

Wednesday 3 to Saturday 6 June 2015

We are now firmly on the home tack.
After spending a couple of very pleasant days in Bergues

Bergues station
The famous belfry


Our view from the aft deck

The boat which appears to have laid claim to a large chunk of the visitors jetty.
A typical meal.
including a Wednesday visit to the famous ‘La Dunkerquoise’ biscuit factory which was closed (why close on a Wednesday and not a Saturday, Sunday of even Monday like most of the other businesses in France?) and finding a huge and fantastically stocked hypermarket at the small next door town of Le Clerq, we said our farewells and headed downstream up to Dunkerque and then on to Veurne in Belgium.

Passing through the suburbs of Dunkerque

Seem to have done this before.

A short stop in the cigarette town of Adinkerke (which has the unusual claim to fame of having the greatest number of tobacconists per capita of any area in Europe) where we tied up to the roadside Armco’s so that we could pop into the town to see what gave – just a whole lot of cigarette and booze stores serving a lot of very unhealthy looking Brits, one of whom had just spent over 1,000 Pounds on tobacco – and we were again on our way.

Even the statues smoke

No comment.

Moored to the Armco barrier

After waiting nearly an hour at the small lifting bridge on the edge of the Veurne city limits, an harassed lockkeeper arrived and after sternly instructing us to wait for the green light before going through (he must have thought we were Dutch as they go through controlled bridges and locks as soon as there is space to fit, irrespective of what the control lights indicate) we eventually tied up at what we thought was free mooring just outside the marina and under a canopy of leafy trees. The lockkeeper arrived to inspect our vignette and to apologise for keeping us waiting so long; apparently he looks after six locks and bridges between Fintele and Veurne and there had been a lot of traffic on the waterways. We are also noticing a slight increase in traffic so June must be the month when everyone shakes off their winter covers.

The very balmy day ended with chicken on the Weber – perfect!

Friday morning at 09h00 sharp the havenmeester arrived to collect €13 for our night’s mooring. He explained that for us to have been able to made use of the electricity and water, we had to go to the ‘Stadshuis’ and put money on a card which could then be used to activate the mechanism – “And no, there is no notice anywhere explaining this”…

Mooring Veurne.

After some rust chipping applying rust converter to the stern step supports it was into the very pretty town center to provision up (yes, chocolates, cold meats, cheese, some very interesting hamburgers for a future braai, and a baguette). And then took a look inside the 13th Century Sint-Walburga Church – absolutely stunning!

Provisioning up at the butchery.

Saint Christopher

Gothic proportions.

The organ.

Roof with curves!

Back onto the bikes for a couple of kilometres to the ‘open 7 days a week’ baking museum – which was closed, and the cafeteria, the chalk-boards of which were advertising delicious Belgium pancakes, waffles and artesian sandwiches, was deserted except for a man servicing a coffee machine – and this at 11h00!

At the boat we painted the now rust-treated ironwork with primer, packed the four bikes on the foredeck and then followed our overnight neighbours – a Dutch couple who hailed from a town in the Netherlands quite nearby where we bought Elle on their absolutely sparkling boat called ‘Fermate’ – through the first lock and then, at 10kph in the 7kph speed limit canal, through two lifting bridges, the control to which they had been given together with instructions to keep the bridges open until both of us had passed through.

Fermate working the last bridge.
And before we knew it we were at the old Veurnesluis at Nieuwpoort. This whole lock complex known as De Ganzenpoot (goose’s foot)

De Ganzenpoot

which separates the Belgium interior from the North Sea, is famous as being the place where the order was given in 1914 to flood the polders in order to stop the German advance. The strategy was ‘successful’ if by that one means that the advance was stopped but at the cost of the millions of lives which were lost as the resulting battle lines became known as the Western Front.

A half hour wait and we were ushered through the Vernsluis and the Gravensluis and their attendant lifting bridges and it was a short drive to the Westhoek Marina (a different Westhoek Marina to the one 500 meters away where we stayed last time) where Ian and Sian were waiting. And where the same havenmeester who had ‘served’ us in Veurne was waiting to welcome us to his ‘other’ marina on what was apparently the hottest June 5th day since sometime in the 1950’s – and we just thought that it was a lovely, warm, Durban-like, normal summers day!

Le Boat base Nieuwpoort

The gleaming 'Fermate'

Our mooring at Westhoek.

After a tremendous thunderstorm followed by quite strong winds it was drinks on board with an Australian couple from Perth (Laurie and ???) who have hired a Le Boat for a week and whose berth in the Le Boat base is a pontoon-width from our stern, spagbol for supper and an early bedtime.

Saturday dawned clear but still with quite a strong wind blowing; Ian and I rode to two chandleries in Nieuwpoort to buy varnish, mastic for the gas hatch cover strips, and grease for the propshaft, which the big one did not have and the smaller one said they only had big drums but if I brought our bucket then they would fill it at a reasonable charge. So that afternoon it was back again only to find that they did not have the waterproof lithium grease we need. Hard work riding the non-E bike into the wind!

We had agreed to meet Ian and Sian for (another) farewell dinner at the restaurant in the nearby marina where who do we bump into? Willy, our charming havenmeester-now-deputy-club-president from Diksmuide, and his delightful wife Francine who bought us drinks while we tried to secure a table at the booked out restaurant - I think that it was due to Willy's influence (apart from his house near Brussels he also has a house in Nieuwpoort) that we were finally ushered to a table. Sharing the bill we enjoyed steaks, a superb piece of kabeljou (ekke) and a "yummy" vispotje (for Lynn) - and just a little dram of wine...

Thanks Njordtjes - we loved being with you and look forward to seeing you somewhere in Belgium or France in September.

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