Sorry about the long gap between blogs. This next series covers our travels with our second set of guests, so this map covers what will probably be covered over a succession of blogs.
One of our main requirements for our barge was that it have some sort of guest facilities. Neo Vita did not, as such, but had a storage room in the fo’cs’le (‘vooronder’ – in Dutch) that we felt could be made into a bedroom. So the most important work of the winter was renovating this space. The carpenter, Andrew and his wife Claudia, along with Willem doing the steel work and Younis the painting did a great job.
While removing walls frames to install two new port holes in the vooronder for more ventilation, they found enough spare space to allow a double bed to be installed. They added heaps of storage space around and under the bed, restructured the rest of the area, put in a new heater and all is now ready for guests. We thought the bed would be sufficient, if cuddly for couples, but the test of this was about to take place.
We also modified the entrance from the main bedroom to the toilet/shower so that door was in a line with the door from the salon. That gives us the option of putting up a temporary partition next to our bed, so that guests can move freely from the vooronder, through the bathroom, past our bed and into the salon. Probably won’t be necessary (certainly wasn’t needed for Steve, or for would be for or next guests).
We left Catharina at the marina, and cycled to the train station; travelled to Amsterdam and met Gill and Graham at the airport. Gill is Lisette’s younger sister, and we have travelled overseas with her on a number of occasions. Two years ago, we travelled with her and Graham through France before we took our first barge trip. Apart from being a easy going travelling companion Graham has a boating business, selling and making boats in Perth – so he was quite comfortable with the idea of barging. Different in many ways to the smaller power boats and mostly coastal cruising around Perth, but we were certainly looking forward to him ‘having a go’ – both for his enjoyment, and so we could spend time with our feet up.
Lot of chatting and planning on the trip back to Akkrum, and then we hopped on the bikes while G & G dragged suitcases along the road.
We arrived back at the marina to find that Catharina had been moved by the staff, apparently the spot we had taken had been booked. Not an unusual event.
G & G were impressed, with Catharina and the bedroom – so we retired to town to have a bit of look around, a relaxing beer, before a roast chicken dinner cooked on the BBQ.
While G &G were visiting with us for three weeks, we were all off to Bavaria for eight nights in a couple of days time, so the plan was to do a couple of days in Friesland, and visit the town of Lemmer, before we went to Steenwijk where we had arranged to leave Catharina while we were away.
G & G awoke from what they professed was a very comfortable night in Catharina’s bed, despite having come from sleeping in a king size at home. The only issue was the periodic flash from the smoke detector. Easily remedied.
The first trip was to be back to ‘Petra’s Island’ for a bit of wild mooring. This all went smoothly, Petra and Klaus kindly agreed to let us practice our rafting technique on their Harmonie. Often, when space is at a premium, you have to tie up to another boat, rather than the quay. This needs a bit more care, because people are naturally concerned when a 50 ton, 100 year-old barge nestles up to their gleaming new blue and chrome steel cruiser.
We had a relaxing day, fine weather and a beautiful sunset. In the afternoon we watched a massive display of hot air balloons, which with binoculars and good camera lenses, resolved into wonderful designs.
In the evening however, Petra stopped by on her swim around the island, and the water nymph told us that two days hence, the forecast was for extremely bad weather. This punched a hole in our plans, because it would cost us a day of travel. So, we had to drop the idea of Lemmer, and instead, go straight to Steenwijk the next day, and hole up there during the storms the day after.
Race to Shelter
Part of this cruise took us back the way we had travelled a couple of days previously. At Herenveen, we stayed well away from the spot where we had grounded. Further on towards Steenwijk, we came across our first experience of canal automation.
In France it is quite common to have automatic locks, various systems are used so that the cruiser can control the lock operation remotely, and no eclusiers are needed to do the work. In the Netherlands, with few locks, this has never caught on – but there are lots of bridges! So on this stretch, Graham was the first to pick out that there were sensors before and after the bridges, which detected our approach, triggered the alarms and boom gates on the road, lifted the bridge and the closed it and reopened the road – all without any human intervention. Neat (although not so good for the bridge keepers).
G & G also had their first experience at a lock, just a very shallow one, where we were pushed out of a spot in the lock by a very impolite cruiser that sailed right in without waiting in the queue.
Arriving in Steenwijk we moored outside the harbour because it was pretty long and narrow, so leaving would have been a long and tricky reversing manoeuvre, and anyhow it was completely full of everyone on the run from the next day’s storm. We had to moor outside on a grassed area, and used the land anchors to tie us down.
The next day, the storm arrived, very windy late in the afternoon, but we had no problems and were snug, warm and dry inside. Quite a bit of damage was done around the Netherlands, and we did a bit of recalibration of how we plan our cruising – to include due consideration of the wind forecast – because you can’t rely on water nymphs being available to deliver warning forecasts.
Off to Bavaria
Next day, we were off on our ‘holiday within a holiday’ to southern Bavaria, staying not far from Salzburg. We left the fridge empty and turned off the inverter so there would be virtually no drain on the batteries, locked up and left Catharina in the care of the Havenmaster.