Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th October 2015
Tuesday was another wonderful weather day but still cool in the morning at around 6C with a maximum of around 16C predicted but, most importantly, not a cloud in sight and virtually no wind. Having made arrangements to meet our friendly lockie at 09h00 in the morning we were away without further ado, down the tranquil Canal Espierres headed for the lovely of Kortrijk.
As we entered the Haut-Escaut canal
|Dryland on the Haut-Escaut - strange name for a ship.|
we were almost immediately at the first lock, a large one which was occupied and with two boats waiting to go in, one a standard commercial barge of about 65m and a 40m hotel-type barge. Once the lock had discharged its contents everyone began moving in; we waited a while for them to settle down and as we were entering I saw a pusher barge coming up behind us so back we went to allow his 80-odd meters in which left us about 20 meters at the back of the lock to squeeze in which we did, tying up with only one line as we could not reach another bollard. All the while the pusher in front and the hotel boat (and probably the other boat too) had their engines running to hold position which made our life quite uncomfortable.
And then the lock doors opened and all hell broke loose! The three commercials simultaneously engaged gear and it was like an instant tsunami had been thrown into the lock as we were thrown all over the place and by pure fluke and with much revving of engines and slapping of gears, we somehow managed to stay pointing in a vaguely forward direction. To compound matters, the pusher’s line jammed and, as he accelerated to get away, even more the water was churned up until realising his problem, he changed into reverse to go back to the bollard to free himself, creating a new whirlpool dimension, before roaring out of the lock at top speed. Eventually the waters subsided and we crawled on our way to the next lock, another biggie…which, after waiting for the lockkeeper’s lunch break to end, we entered in glorious solitude! And the same with the next one – what a pleasure.
This part of the canal is lined by factories and is not particularly attractive.
After a smattering of rain, we finally arrived at the first of three small locks which would take us through almost straight to our leafy mooring in Kortrijk.
With crystal clear water revealing the kelp-like fronds of lily stems
and the evening approaching, we reached the last one which, despite the lady lockkeeper’s best efforts, would not open.
|"Last lock and then I can go home"|
|Lock 1 - lockkeeper 0.|
“Wait!” we are instructed (as if there was anything else we could do being stuck between locks). A cyclist rode up and it turned up to be Mike (I think his name is) from the beautiful barge Gem and whom, with his partner (Janna?) we had briefly met on our last visit to Kortrijk and who had hailed us while strolling past our mooring in Aalst. Anyway, he kindly offered to inform the havenmeester that we would be late and make sure that there would still be a spot for us. Finally, after about a forty minute delay, another keeper arrived and with one person on the wheel of each door, they managed to open up and we gratefully bid them farewell as we lowered the bimini to enter under the low bridge guarding the jachthaven where Mike was there to guide us into a slot and to assist with our lines.
A long day but most interesting and which is why we did nothing the next day apart from trying, unsuccessfully, to return the massively overcharged-for glowplugs to the dodgy chandlery next to the yacht club in Kuurne.