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Published: June 14th 2014
Imagine the scene – a beautiful morning, sun shining, little wind, birds singing and a delightful little enclosed harbour in a Hanseatic fortified town called Woudrichem (not that it matters where it was), we set sail for our first full day of travelling and round the corner and there is a bride and groom and photographers and all – how pretty – and then round the next bend another bride and groom. What a start to the morning.
But I get ahead of myself – we travel back to Drimmelen on Wednesday, through the Shuttle and then around Antwerp – not as easy as it sounds because there seem to be road works on all sides. But with the help of the GPS and the old fashioned paper map and courage to go across country the journey is only a little longer than it should have been. The aim is to set off the next morning it now being about 1830 – and the gas sensor is going off but there has been no gas turned on for the last 2 weeks! There is something contradictory about Paul’s insistence last time round in repairing the gas sensor because
otherwise the risk is too great, so now being told there is no danger although the gas sensor is going off!! However we turn it off, ignore it and go to bed. It then takes all the next morning to repair!! So after shopping, cleaning and chatting to the lovely havenmeester the repair is done (I won’t bother you with the details – a loose connection was the problem - boat nerds should contact Paul directly for more details)we set off to Woudrichem which is as described above – lovely and tiny and takes us back to unknown waters.
We have decided to try again for Arnhem for the weekend, so up in the morning, past the 2 weddings and on to the Merewedekanaal to get to the Lek, a pleasant and undemanding passage until……….. We turn on to the Lek. The chart has to be read carefully. There are actually 3 parallel waterways, one going through a sluis, one going through a weir which is normally closed and one just going. We have been following a Dutch boat for some time through locks and under lifting bridges which is a cheat because they do all the radioing of
the lock keepers etc. And so we begin to follow them down the waterway that just goes…..but we are being followed by an enormous monster who is beginning to turn towards the sluis – how can 2 waterways go the same way, end up at the same point, with only one having a lock. Clever clogs Paul rechecks the chart and finds a sliver of land – yes land! – Boats don’t go on land – across the 3rd
waterway which our Dutch friends have just gone down. We turn round and make our way to the sluis which is displaying green lights. It is 120 meters long and 40 meters wide. We radio the lock keeper and he says we have to wait for 3 monsters! This takes a long time and the last one is the biggest of all. He goes into the lock and we follow and find the rise will be about 4m. This large lock has shrunk to a small space for Isabela who in turn feels very small indeed. As we approach our space right in the end the engines of the barge are still creating a lot of wash and Paul has some
difficulty in manoeuvring. Fortunately as the bow thruster struggles to keep us off the lock wall the guy in the barge turns the engine off. We could have waited til he did that but they don’t always do it at all. He was being very kind and he continued to be kind as, when it is his turn to leave the lock, he goes very slowly and creates almost no wash. A hairy few moments and the whole process have probably taken an hour but we are now on the Lek. This is an enormous meandering river but pretty and with little traffic on it – everyone having to go through the enormous sluis of course.
We are aiming for Culemdorp and our pilot, Louise, has told us to be aware of ferries suspended on wires – can you understand that? We didn’t know what we were looking for but as we approach our destination we see a ferry that appears to be pulling 3 small yellow rowing boats. We then realise that the last one is fixed in the middle of the river and the ferry is pivoting around the string of boats – a strange and complicated
solution to an easy problem! And then as we turn into the harbour what do we see but another wedding!! Fridays must be the day for nuptials!
Culemdorp – another fortified Hanseatic town – has a bigger harbour but is very friendly. They don’t have a British flag flying, presumably because they don’t get many Brits, so the 90 year old Flag Officer goes to raise a red Ensign for us. It is the day of the Holland- Spain game (what a result!!) so pleasantries are exchanged about the Dutch manager coming to Man U. Sounds as though he is a difficult man. And the HM gives us lots of information about the excitement of this town including the museum that used to be an orphanage, a museum about chairs (?) and an Elvis Presley museum! We wander into town for the more usual pleasure of a drink in a bar in the sunshine but the next day decide that Arnhem can wait until we have participated in at least some of what Culemdorp has to offer!
Fortunately the Elvis Presley museum was closed but we went to the orphanage – fascinating – as we all know Holland
changed many times between Protestant and Catholics over the time of the reformation – and every time the country changed the orphanage changed until in the 19th
century they agreed that there would be a Catholic mother and a Protestant father – but only if they did not get together so to speak. If that happened they were both out on their ears. Although the vast majority of Dutch people speak perfectly good English none of their museums have information in English but a nice man helped tell the tale and we watched an amazing cartoon film with no sound that made the outcome of sexual liaison very clear. We were not sure it was the answer to religious integration. Then back to the boat to entertain neighbours from LalleyHam as pronounced by a Dutch father to his son when telling him where Isabela comes from. Our neighbours have relatives in Leerdam where we were only 3 weeks ago. And then on to cycles for some much needed exercise. A 10 mile ride to the next village and back along the dyke keeping the river off the land.
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