Monday, April 17, 2017

Barge Date: 10-04-2017 

First real boat ride - Ypres

In my mind, there is only one thing to report with this entry but no doubt I will stumble onto other things that I remember.

The big event was taking the barge out with me totally in control. I had one crew member on board, Artur, the man from Poland that I met here at the marina. See previous post for some details. I had arranged with Artur to depart this last Saturday, April 8. I wanted to take the boat from Diksmuide to Ieper, or as some know it as, Ypres. This is about 18 kilometers away and we would be passing through one bridge and two locks. This should give me some good experience.

We departed a bit late and I overestimated our time of arrival at the first obstacle: a movable bridge.
We arrived early and had to tie up and wait for the person who operates the bridge. He arrived some 20 minutes later and we pushed off and passed through the bridge to make a turn to port and into the canal to Ypres. The canal varied in width and depth but was interesting in all aspects. From the bridge we estimated how long to the first lock. We arrived and the doors were closed, but using my phone, I contacted the correct person and they pushed a button to get things started. Almost no wait.

This first lock has a lift of about 3 meters. So we were sitting in a deep canyon and needed to attach lines fore and aft. Fortunately, the lock operator was very helpful by using a hook on a pole to pull our lines up to the bollards. The lock was perhaps 10 to 15 m longer than our boat so we had the feeling of being in a big hole. The keeper pushed the button and we rose to her level. I informed her that this was my first trip as captain and she was understanding. With the doors open, we proceeded to the next lock where the same keeper would travel to bring us through.

The second lock was not a problem and we proceeded to Ypres. I could see how the canal would end because on board I had saved Google Earth images for our trip. It dead ends at a small marina but the question was could we turn around there? I chose to turn the boat early so we might tie up to the opposite side from the marina to guardrails along a road. Perhaps not a pretty turn, but with Artur’s help we secured the boat.

With the boat locked up, we walked to the center of the town. This has been a week of school vacation here in Belgium and there was a lot of activity going on. I think someone was shooting a movie or doing some type of video and they were drawing a large crowd. Sailors, as we are, we were just looking for a place to eat. After several false starts, we ended up in a café for coffee and a pastry. A group of American teenagers were also in the café and they were easy to identify.

The lock and bridge people operate during set hours so it was important for us to return before they stopped working. We timed everything just right and the 2 locks were open for us and the bridge man was just ready for us. Only one “obstacle” remained. Bring the boat back into her berth.

Let me explain. Our boat is 18.5 m long. The space at the marina is about 23 m long. I have to fit the boat into this space without hitting the large rudder of the boat in front of me and not smashing the plastic boat behind me when my stern swings in. Perhaps out of self preservation, the owners of the boat in front were on the dock to assist. Everything went very well and I was pleased with the results.

I thanked Artur for his assistance; it could not have been done without him. But I am tempted to repeat this trip just by myself. In the future, I will be traveling by myself so any practice now will only help. Artur's girlfriend from Poland is arriving this week and he may want to show her what a canal boat is like.

On other fronts, I had trouble with the diesel fireplace. The fuel tank ran dry and after I added 40 liters, I could not get flow to the stove. I tried all types of solutions including disconnecting the fuel line at the stove. Definitely not getting any fuel through the line. Had I been at home, I would have used compressed air to move the fuel along, but I don't have a compressor here. So I called on my mentor again. We agreed that the problem was between the shut-off valve at the stove and the last filter on the line at the tank. We wasted more than an hour and it ended up with me bringing a bicycle pump to the work site. After we made one attempt with no good results, we removed another fitting and tried the pump again. A few strokes on the pump into the line and we could hear bubbles and movement. We had fuel again. The golden rule here: don't run out of fuel (but I did).

All during this past week I was doing little tasks that seem to be ongoing with the boat. I am staying busy but sometimes I wonder what I have accomplished. The boat is looking good, I have used the vacuum cleaner several times, and I think I have finally stowed everything where it should be.
This past week I also sent to the Belgian boat people our final attempt to have our boat registered here in Belgium. This required a trip to Brussels and to the American embassy. The trip was quite easy by train and then walking to the embassy. I used Google maps and it worked fine. The only down side: the Americans wanted $100 from me for the privilege of having a notary for a document that says where we live. Easy come, easy go. The experience at the embassy was not like it was 45 years ago when I was last there. Total lock down.

I spied a bookstore across the street from the embassy and, after the document work, I visited it and purchased three books. This is a very large bookstore and I know Marianne will want to visit.

I also received last week a printer for the boat. It is wireless but not necessarily easy to set up. I am still having problems and will take the computer and parts to a store this coming week for them to do things right. I really miss the Mac.

What else do you want to know? In future posts I want to speak about our boat and its operation, and also about the history of this boat. It is one of many things that made us want to purchase it. We hope to add new history for the boat too.

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