Monday, April 17, 2017

Barge Date: March 5-6, 2017 

Arrival - the wait is over

On the plane and headed to Belgium. Spent day with family in Brussels then drove the rental car, an upgraded new BMW, to Diksmuide in Flanders.

Arrived at the marina in the morning, some white and grey skies and overcast. Typical Belgian weather. I could see our barge south of the main bridge in the town. It looked good but dirty. I met with Pol who operates the day-to-day part of the marina. Was able to open the wheelhouse and go to the galley and retrieve other keys for various locks on the boat.

My objective for the day was to get the heat started in the living quarters. Our boat has a diesel powered metal stove in the sitting room. I reviewed a video that I took last fall on how to start the stove. Easy to forget. But try as I might, I could not get a flame to start. It was not getting fuel. After doing some further checking and attempts I rapped on the fuel tank for the stove and it sounded empty. No fuel, no fire. So I resolved to purchase diesel in town.

About noon time I ventured out into the town. I knew where a supermarket was located and drove in that direction. I passed a very nice looking bicycle store. I wanted to return and see what they have. I continued to the supermarket and realized I had no bags to carry the items in. I was also looking for an ATM but did not see one on entering. So, just shopped and used the Belgian debit card for everything including 2 bags.

The selection in the store was quite nice and comparable to some higher end stores in the states. Just needed a few items to get me through the day and into tomorrow. At the checkout counter, I asked the clerk if there was an ATM in the store. No, but she could give me cash in addition to my purchase. Great. So I asked for 200 euros with my purchase. With the groceries in the new fancy bags, I left the store to drive to the bike store.

Perhaps first rule in Belgium or perhaps just Flanders is that many businesses close between 12 and 1:00. I had 15 minutes to wait so instead I drove to a hardware store that was close to the marina. I was in this store last fall. Of course they were closed too. I waited in the parking lot until the doors were unlocked. I was looking for a barbecue lighter. I know there is a man in this store that speaks good English but I did not recognize him. I am sure I will be returning often. This is like my local Lowe's. (It turns out that nearly all the employees speak English.)

I then returned to the bike store and I must say that it is the largest such store I have ever been in. The only thing larger is a bike store and museum in Pittsburgh. There were lots of electric bicycles and a lot of racing bikes. I was surprised by the high prices. I was hoping to see the type of bike I have at home. Not quite. I wandered the aisles for 10 minutes and was happy that no one tried to sell me anything. I just wanted to look. I might be back.

I spent the remainder of the day on the boat trying to make order down below. I had my suitcases to unpack, plus I had to remove from plastic bags all of the linen and towels etc that had been stored away last fall. The entire boat felt cold and I knew I needed to get the stove working. I asked Pol about getting fuel at the marina but he was just leaving for the day so I took two 20 liter fuel cans from the engine room and drove to a gas station. I needed to ask how to use their system. Just insert the debit card, select the type of fuel, then remove your card. It would wait until I fueled up before it calculated the total. Pretty easy. Just like home.

Back to the boat to offload the diesel to the forward fuel tank. In Europe, this type of fuel is called red diesel. Red diesel may be used for heating but not for engines. Red is added so the tax man knows that the diesel in the main tanks has been taxed correctly; regular, non-red diesel is more expensive. So I needed to pour the fuel into the forward red tank, but it has a special socket to unscrew the port. I looked everywhere for this type of wrench but could not find it. So with a little bit of ingenuity, I was able to open the port with a hammer and added the red diesel. Back inside, I hoped to see the diesel coming into the stove. No, not the case. So I thought there might be a vacuum problem for the initial flow of fuel, so I loosened the fill port and this did the job. Was able to start the fire and it has made a big difference inside. Will run it until I am out of fuel again. I plan to buy fuel with another boat some time soon. A fuel truck will pull alongside and we will make our purchase. Cheaper than the marina.

I made my bed in the forward berth and put a nice warm comforter on the bed. Let's see if I can sleep in this new setting.

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