Thursday, 20 October 2016

One Minute it’s home – the next it’s Brussels!


We had a very busy few days while we’ve been at home but an important, and long standing engagement, was to meet up with friends Kim and Alan at their home in the next village along the coast. Doug, Kim and Alan are very well matched but …..


…… James is not! For him it’s rather like being in Lilliput! Thank you Kim and Alan for a wonderful lunch and great company.


Another event, which sadly we usually miss these days, is the annual Selsey Firework display. A charity event, it’s very typical of the sort of thing which takes place in the village. Organised with an enormous amount of effort and pride by many local volunteers we had a huge bonfire, a fun fair and fireworks set to music. The fireworks were put on by our very own award winning firework company.



This year’s music genre was ‘Disco Beat’ and, with great music,  we had a fabulous display. The evening continued for us when we went to see a show at the nearby holiday camp where a friend was performing. However, unbeknown to us, the evening’s entertainment included Jimmy James and the Vagabonds! - in our village no less!


On Sunday (16th Oct) we headed to London by train. An overnight stay allowed us to catch up with a few friends during Sunday afternoon and on Monday morning, bright and early, we headed for King’s Cross (and the reason for our journey) to meet up with friends Andrew and Frances. We were taking up their delightful and generous invitation to join them for a trip to Brussels. Firstly, aboard their splendiferous ‘camper’ (known as the “Death Star” for it’s daunting 4x4 presence!) for the journey to the Cross Channel freight terminal to board the train.


It was Doug’s first trip through the Channel Tunnel and it was quite an exciting ride being cocooned inside the huge carriages for the very smooth, high speed, 35 minute journey to Calais.


A very comfortable, two hour ride, in the “Death Star” - through northern France and into Belgium, saw us arriving at the Brussels Royal Yacht Club where Frances and Andrew’s continental “home” – the motor yacht “Hafren” has it’s mooring.


After and enjoyable (short) day’s travel, and settling into our temporary lodgings for the next few days, we all enjoyed a few stiff G&T’s followed by cheese and wine in the wheel house (or Grand Salon as we think it should be called!) before retiring for an early’ish night.


On Tuesday morning we set off down the Zeekanaal Brussel – Schelde, through one amazing bridge after another – all dutifully, and politely, raised for us by the operators.   


Continental canals are busy waterways, with some very large and swiftly moving cargo vessels. It’s best to move aside and let them on their way unhindered!


Along the way, waiting for the enormous Sluis Zemst lock to become available for us, we saw the unusual sight of some fishermen with a stork next to them, waiting patiently for some fish to be caught - a proportion of which, it hoped, might well be thrown his way!


The elegant 3 foot high bird eyed us suspiciously as we walked past on our way to view the lock before we entered by boat.


The lock was gigantic and, being last in the queue (who’s going to argue with vessels some tens of times larger than ourselves!), we followed up behind.


The full lock looks like this, and after an 8 metre drop ……..


……… it looks like this! - and you have to be careful of the prop-wash from these big boys as it can push a small boat around like a cork.


After all the big boys had gone on their way it was our turn to vacate the cavernous space of the lock.


The canals are wide and often lined with rows of very interesting and pretty houses.


On a number of occasions we felt it prudent to move aside and not to argue!


At Sluis Klien Willebroek, at the end of the Oude Kanalarm (not difficult to translate!), we had to wait for the lock (and the tide) before we could get onto the River Rupel.


Here’s motor yacht “Hafren” tied up at SKW and waiting for the tide.


At the appointed time we were allowed to enter the much smaller lock ………


……which, when the gate slid open, allowed us out onto the River Rupel.


The river was a very different, and wider, experience than the canal. Half an hour’s travel along the River Rupel, with the tide in our favour, is a turning onto the River Dyle ……..


….. which took us, after another half hour hop, almost at our destination. The massive tower of Mechelen. The Cathedral stood proudly aloft and pinpointed our final resting place for the night.


Another lock (the Benedensluis Mechelen), again very different from the rest, took us from the river and back onto the canal.


Frances takes charge of tasks at the bow as we moor up for the slight rise in water level in the Benendensluis ……..


….. before being released into the delightful ambience of the tiny city of Mechelen.


The yacht haven was full of the most delicious craft (very posh!) and we ventured to the far (dead) end for a quick, and skilful, about turn by Andrew …….


…. before heading back to a vacant mooring.


To our astonishment our jetty space was scrubbed and cleaned by the “harbourmaster” before we tied up!


A walk around the charming little city of Mechelen was real delight.


The enormous tower of the equally enormous cathedral dominates the buildings around ………


……….. and the city is very reminiscent of Bruges without doubt



Stunning architecture …….


…… wherever we looked!


After a walk down the side of the town hall we found a very nice hostelry where we could enjoy some tradition Belgian beer and good food.


And here we are – comfortable in the “t’ Groot Liecht” (the Bright Spark?) where we were made extremely welcome by the landlord.


His sense of humour was obvious when we visited the toilet if not before!


Later in the evening and returning to the boat, darkness had fallen and the city took on a whole different, and extremely enchanting, atmosphere.


What a perfect delight it all was and what a perfect end to a perfect day.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Summer Cruising Ends and Developments at Home.

Well, “Chance” is now safely tucked up in bed for the winter but, prior to that,we had some marvellous last moments before packing up and moving off.


One lovely moment was the fabulous sunset we had on the evening we moored at Ansty. This scene was Facebooked and sent viral by many who saw it that night – but this is ‘our’ sunset!


Leaving “Chance” on Thursday, we took the train down to London to make preparations for a future adventure. As we were in the Paddington area at one stage we had, of course, to divert to the basin to see what was going on – and who should we spot! Face book and boaty friends Ray and Diane on nb “Ferndale”. Sadly we each had our plans for the day but we had a little walk together in the same direction for a while and had a good old natter. Small world without doubt.


The basin itself hasn’t changed but we hope that CART get their act together soon and sort out the ‘permanent mooring’ problem. We can live in hope!


At the end of our London day Doug returned to “Chance” and James took the train to Chichester for an overnight stay at home in order to drive the car back for the boat unloading ceremony in a day or two’s time. (He’d just like to say that he cut the hedge, mowed back and front lawns and winter pruned all the roses! – just sayin’). In the meantime on Friday Doug, single-handed, took “Chance” to Braunston where the two of us eventually met up again. We also had the enormous added bonus of the company of friends Alison and Dave on nb “FreeSpirit”. In the evening we all trotted up to The Plough in the village for a lovely meal together. As we’ve said so many time before: the food was great but the company even greater. 


Afterwards, it was a trot back down the hill where we finished off the evening with drinks on board “Chance”. Thanks Alison and Dave for the usual hysteria and for bringing the booze. Bless you both!


While we were ‘weekending’ in Braunston there was the fortuitous appearance of Jule’s Fuels boat heading towards us one morning. Just the job as we’d tried in several places in the last few days to top up the tank ready for the winter heating. Marvellous luck and we were able to buy from a canal trader as well.


After our weekend in Braunston we quickly managed to put “Chance” away and, with the car loaded, we headed north to Manchester just for a couple of days (where else?).


On Friday (7th) we made the journey back home to Selsey. In our summer absence there have been a number of major developments in the village. A devastating fire completely destroyed the Academy just before the start of the new school year (thank goodness no one was hurt) but it’s an opportunity for the village to have a super-duper new building instead of the awful 1960’s “thing”.


Also, during a walk along the sea front to visit some friends, we came across the latest Selsey development ……..


……… the new Lifeboat station. The RNLI have seen fit to replace both our lifeboat and it’s station. The lovely old iconic one, which sits out in the sea at the end of a long gantry, is to be no more. Instead, a spiffing new, state-of-the-art building is nearing completion on terra-firma this time. Massive foundations are being constructed down the beach for the new Sherman class lifeboat to be launched.


The very rusty access gantry to the old station looks rather brutally truncated at the moment, leaving the old lifeboat and it’s station marooned out at sea! We’re sure the RNLI know what they’re doing and believe the old boat to be going somewhere else.


We had to take a few pics for posterity as it may all be gone next time we look! The village feels rather sad to see such a famous building disappear but there’ll be a warm welcome for the new one, and the new boat, without doubt and Selsey’s long history of saving lives at sea will continue as usual.


Talking of old buildings, famous or otherwise, further along the seawall is the old coastguard lookout building – now a holiday home for someone and, right now, shuttered against the inevitable winter storms which will soon start flinging the beach all over the place.


Selsey is full of quirky history and this is a typical example. When the railway line from Chichester closed down (1950’s) a number of railway carriages were bought by people and sited along the seafront as holiday or permanent homes. Some still remain, albeit in slightly modified forms. Two carriages survive inside this building as shown by the windows.


Our walk took us on past the crab processing area where the famous Selsey Crab comes from. We once saw Selsey Crab on a menu in Craster, Northumberland!


After visiting our friends it was a walk back home with a quick detour to see the front of our posh new lifeboat station.


Can’t wait to see it complete with the new boat inside.