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Thursday, 28 November 2019

From the Mediterranean to the English Channel by boat - Episode 12


Simon Jenkins is bringing his first historic barge from the Mediterranean to Belgium, and now onto the Channel coast. Last time Simon and Amanda faced a stoppage but found time explore Glorious Ghent. Now they are heading for their winter mooring, close to the North Sea coast. This is his story, in his own words.

Off we went back out of the delightful city of Ghent. We picked our way along a rather nice little canal and passed some posh places until we reached the Ringvaart-haha. It was Saturday again which meant it would be quiet with commercials. Great as we could crack on unhindered.
Another early start

Only one lock today, however, we had traded the locks for lift bridges but this shouldn't slow us down much. We were still heading North and the next major place on route was the stunning city of Brugge.

The navigable canal skirts around the outside of Brugge and in order to see its inner delights you need to moor up and wander in. However we needed to crack on as we had a meeting to attend with the Belgium authorities.

The one lock we had to do was an interesting one as it was oval shaped with three sets of lock gates, so there was another canal that we could have taken. Not sure where it went as we never investigated it. It might have just been to a loading basin.

This lock had an an actual lock keeper, grumpy bugger he was too. We shared the lock with small cruiser and the lock keeper kept a very close eye on the proceedings, as tying up wasn't that straightforward and it was a big lock.

The bridges were interesting - the traffic stopped on the roads and then these massive structures lifted gracefully in front of us, a bit like a military salute. In one place two bridges lifted at once, and we glided underneath whilst onlookers took photos – or perhaps they whispered ‘hurry up’ under their breaths.
 These massive structures lifted gracefully in front of us

We soon cleared Brugge  and back out in to the rural area which, by now, was very flat indeed. As we moved even further North it opened up to almost flat lands like Norfolk. We passed some smashing mooring places next to proper Belgium bars and restaurants but, alas, not enough time to sample them.

So we ended up stopping at the junction with the Kanaal Nieuwpoort-Duinkerke/Neiuwpoort-Plassendale (thats a mouthful). If we had carried on we would have dropped in to the sea at Ostend just a few kilometres further on, but the next canal was to take us to our winter mooring.
We ended up stopping at the junction with the Kanaal Nieuwpoort-Duinkerke/Neiuwpoort-Plassendale

The final canal of our journey changed from a wide deep canal capable of taking 2,000 plus ton barges down to a canal that can cope with 38 m x 5 m, 350 ton barges, so it was more akin to the UK canals again-in as much as it was narrower and shallower and we were now heading west towards Calais and Dunkirk, following the coast.

The canal also followed a main road and it was good to see cars whizzing past so close to the boat chugging along at 8kmh. Bridges were spread out and there seemed plenty of them. No manual operation here either and, as we approached each bridge a call on the VHF radio to the central control soon had the traffic stopped and the bridge lifting for us.
A call on the VHF radio to the central control soon had the traffic stopped and the bridge lifting for us

It all seemed very odd, with these bridges being operated by remote control from a central office and not a canal worker to be seen.

We had three locks to negotiate along this stretch of canal, and they were the most amazing structures of the entire journey (apart from the boat lift). But first we needed to get the motorbike off the boat as there was nowhere to do so once we reached our mooring.

So we pulled up at another junction where there was another rather large lock. We didn't quite understand why it was so big as the rest of that canal was small, but we tied up, got the ramps out and rode the bike off the back deck of the boat. We locked it up and then back along the main line of the canal towards the Nieuwpoort lock system.

This is well worth going to have a look at. It is a junction of seven waterways and it’s also known as Ganzepoot (goose foot in Dutch). The main river, is tidal and called the Yser. It used to have several locks but only two are used.

These two we had to do, and they can only be done two hours either side of high tide, so a little bit of planning was needed to ensure we arrived at the right time. These locks are operated by a mobile team of lock keepers and they also have to operate lift bridges at the ends of each lock.

We locked through the first lock and into the tidal basin at pretty much slack water. There wasn't even a difference in the height, but this can be either way and the lock gates have two sets of gates at each end - which ones are needed depends on the height of the tide - out into the basin and sharp left and towards the next lock.

We pretty much went straight in and then locked through and on to the last leg of the journey – but not immediately. It was Sunday and the next lock at Veurne and the railway lift bridge was not manned on a Sunday - so we had an enforced stay in Nieuwpoort for the rest of the day and night. That was OK as the bike was only a 15min walk away so we could at least do some shopping and get off the boat for a bit! 
The railway lift bridge

The final day arrived, Monday morning and the last leg of this monumental journey. Off we went and, after what seemed like a short period of time maybe an hour or so we reached Veurne and the railway lift bridge. Aa quick call to the lock keeper and in no time at all the antiquated railway lift bridge (like the bridge at the Black country museum  groaned up in to the air, just after that is the main town lift bridge. Traffic stopped as we glided through there - very tight indeed as we went through - and then a sharp right and into the lock which was ready for us, and not a soul to be seen operating any of it.

Locked through and our mooring was in a basin just on our right hand side. We exited the lock spun the boat around, reversed into the short basin and moored just in front of another barge tied up there.
Moored at our destination - within smelling distance of the North Sea

Ambiorix resplendent in her new paintwork and new covers

We had made it-a journey of some 1,000 miles and about 250 locks on a 107 year old 130 ton 100 foot long barge in a very short time scale.
And this is where it all began - Ambiorix moored near the Mediterranean, where we found her

We had the meeting with the Belgium authorities who needed to do the last survey on the boat which allows it to cruise through the European waterways. That all went well, apart from us needing an ENI number and that’s another story altogether.

We put the boat to bed, sorted out the electric supply, did a few jobs on the boat, had to collect the bike from Neiuwpoort  - a quick taxi ride - packed some of our personal stuff, (can’t get it all on the bike) booked the tunnel crossing and the next morning we set off for England and home (now what side of the road should I be on?) 

And now? The next part of this story starts next year when we move the boat from Veurne on the Belgium/France border to the Netherlands for its internal refit!

Thursday, 24 October 2019

From the Mediterranean to the English Channel by boat - Episode 11


Simon Jenkins is bringing his first historic barge from the Mediterranean to Belgium, and now onto the Channel coast. Last time Ambiorix travelled in a boat lift to end all boat lifts. Now Simon and Amanda face a stoppage. This is his story, in his own words.

Monday we got up early as usual and as the mist was lifting off the canal very slowly indeed. We had breakfast and waited for the mist to start to clear. It was too dangerous to navigate on a commercial waterway in the mist in my opinion.
Commercial barges in the mist

As we prepared the boat to depart, on my AIS I could see commercial barge loaded approaching from behind on the main canal. I did the decent thing and let him pass, I could have pulled out in front and been much quicker but that’s not the done thing in my opinion.

Good thing as it turned out. Even though he was slower than us, when we reached the next lock it was closed, and would be all day as the next lock on to the river Schelde was broken. We put our feet up and by the end of the day there were 20 commercial boats all waiting to go through the locks.
Barges queuing for the locks

The lock keeper announced that the lock was fixed and they could start letting boats through, but it was getting dark, so we decided to let them go through and then we would pass the next day.

Big mistake that was, as we had been the third boat to pull up we were in the queue but we relinquished our turn, so, the next morning we had to wait for all of the other boats that hadn't made it through to go first.

It was lunch time by the time we got through the two locks and out on to the busiest water way that we had seen so far. Commercial boats were everywhere loaded, unloaded, being loaded or unloaded  waiting at locks. It made for very slow progress, even though this was a high speed waterway in sections. The exceptions were the one-way sections, controlled by traffic lights so lots of waiting around.

It took a couple of days to clear the river Schelde and, if I'm honest, I was glad to be off it. It took some serious concentration to navigate it with 2,000 ton loaded barges taking up the middle of the navigation and not leaving a lot of room for us. The draw of the water from these big boats in a restricted water way didn't leave a lot of water underneath us, which made steering hard work too.

They did not slow down at all on their approach and you could see the water level on the banks dropping by a good 18 inches as they passed. You actually felt our boat go down hill in to the hole where that water used to be, and then go uphill as we passed the boat.
Water levels drop as boats pass

Even though we slowed our speed on approach to these big boats we couldn’t go too slow or we would loose steerage, so as soon as we started to cross it was back on with the power to give us increased wash past the rudder to give better steering.

The river crosses over in to the Flanders region of Belgium, where they speak English as well as Dutch. This, too, was a welcome change. At this point we had to stop at the control lock, take all of our paperwork to the office and purchase a permit. Until now, in Wallonia, we had not had to have a permit and it was free to navigate, but in Flanders we had to pay. Can’t really moan as it was about €75 and wasn’t going to break the bank.

The river ends for this section on the Ringvaart in Ghent. The Ringvaart is like a water ring road and goes right around Ghent, but at the junction there is a smaller waterway that meanders towards the centre of Ghent and this was our destination for now, with a couple of days off exploring the city.

We crossed the Ringvaart in timely fashion and entered this lovely, shallow, windy, narrow canal meandering its way towards the centre. As we approached the centre it became very twisty indeed, and narrow, and it took some skill to get around the tight bends; slowly I might add - very slowly through narrow sections, and small bridges.
Approaching a narrow bridge

We passed restaurant barges, cafe barges, a few house boats, some boats that were clearly dossing on restricted moorings (nothing changes anywhere) and then we emerged in to the centre of Ghent and at the Yacht-haven, well that’s what its called-in reality its just some pontoons with water and electricity.

The moorings charged us the princely sum of €60 for two nights stay - I didn't mind too much as it was a couple of days off. We tied up to another Brit, someone who has crossed our path before, on the South coast of England. Terry is a lovely chap who had sailed his barge over to the continent earlier in the year to go cruising.

Ghent is a beautiful city with the canal at the heart of it. It is not navigable for large boats any more and, to be honest, it would be a pain as there are a lot of manually operated bridges. It has some stunning properties along the canal, these used to be warehouses, pubs, toll houses, captains houses and even a brothel.
Glorious Ghent

We did some sight seeing - the first time whilst on this trip we had been able to do so. We even took a guided boat trip along the sections of canal that weren’t open to other traffic. Fascinating place and we could have spent more time there. However, we had to get en route once more, off on the last few legs of the journey, with the end is almost in sight. 

In the next episode: The end is in sight – via lift bridges and tidal junctions.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

From the Mediterranean to the English Channel by boat - Episode 10


Simon Jenkins is back from the boat buying trip of a lifetime, bringing his first historic barge from the Mediterranean to Belgium, and now onto the Channel coast. Last time Ambiorix went back in the water but had to be taken out again. Now the problem – a couple of popped rivets – is fixed and Simon and Amanda are on their way again This is his story, in his own words.

The next day and yet another canal. This one I was especially looking forward too, and it was Sunday - no commercials move on a Sunday. More importantly it was what we were about to experience that really excited me.

I have been boating virtually all of my life and have seen some pretty impressive engineering feats, but never have I experienced anything like what we had in store for us shortly.

This canal is called the Canal du Centre - it’s 24km long and only has 3 locks. We cruised along this waterway with its arms off here and there with boats being loaded and unloaded-it was like a giant scene from the BCN, back in the working days, with arms everywhere - going into warehouses, recycling plants and factories with boats being loaded.

Here it is on a massive scale. We passed scrap yards, recycling yards, steel works, glass works and aggregate works, then the scene started to change and so did the landscape, things becoming more rural again but we seemed to be very high up and getting higher. Then we came to it - the Strephy-Tieu boat lift. 
Ambiorix waiting for the lift

The side view gives an idea of the massive size

The boat lift was designed during the Canal du Centre's modernisation programme to replace a system of two locks and four 16-metre lifts dating from 1888 to 1919, not long after the canal was built in 1879. Those locks and lifts were able to accommodate vessels of up to 300 tonnes, but by the 1960s, this was no longer adequate for the new European standard of 1, 350 tonnes.

Work started in 1982 and was not completed until 2002 costing   160 million and, once operational, permitted river traffic of up to the new 1350-tonne standard to pass between the waterways of the Meuse and Schelde rivers. The lift increased river traffic from 256 kT in 2001 to 2,295 kT in 2006.

The four older lifts on the Canal du Centre, which became bypassed by the new Canal du Centre, are on the UNESCO World Heritage list, because of their architectural and historical value
The structure at Strépy-Thieu consists of two independent counterweighted caissons which travel vertically between the upstream and downstream sections. The caissons weigh the same whether they are laden with a boat or simply contain water.

The caissons measure 112 m by 12 m and a water depth of between 3.35 and 4.15 m. Each caisson is supported by 112 suspension cables (for counterbalance) and 32 control cables (for lifting/lowering), each of 85 mm diameter. 
The massive caissons

The way down

Four electric motors power eight winches per caisson via speed-reduction gearboxes and the 73.15-metre lift is completed in seven minutes. The structure is massively reinforced and has a mass of approximately 200,000 tonnes. The vertically moving watertight gates are designed to withstand a 5 km/h impact from a 2000 tonne vessel, so it’s not just narrowboats that occasionally hit the gates.

All those numbers don’t help expressing the experience of taking a boat in to the caisson and then lowering 73m in just seven minutes. They had planned a boat lift at Norbury when exploring the restoration of the Shrewsbury and Newport canal, but I don't think it would have been as grand as this.

It was a spooky place, we spoke to the L’ascenseur (lift operator) and announced our intention to travel down in the lift. The lights changed to green and we approached along a long wide concrete channel leading to the lift, with the gate open we entered this vast mechanical structure -not another person in sight.

The gate soon closed behind us, we tied our little boat up to the bollards and stepped off on to the walkway around the boat, No restrictions, we could lean over the sides and see the ground over 70m below. Some whirring sounds, a few clunks and then the motors started whining as the giant, open-topped coffin started its descent.
Ambiorix at the top of the lift

Ambiorix at the bottom of the lift

We both stood quite quiet as we went down, admiring the views over an impressive landscape, but still we saw no people. At the bottom, the gate the other end of this giant coffin lifted we had a green light and off we went.

All quite surreal, really!

We were soon leaving the lift behind us and on our way again with the canal to ourselves. It is wide and deep and not very exciting, the odd wharf or arm, the odd bit of industry, a few motorway bridges, but nothing notable and a bit of an anticlimax after the boat lift.
Leaving the lift behind

We were now on the Nimy Blatton canal heading for the river Schelde, we stopped for the night at the junction with the  canal Blatton-Ath/Dender, which we were tempted to travel. However, it was 86km with 34 narrow manual locks that needed a mobile team of lock keepers with you to work the locks, and we wanted to push on. So we took the decision to keep to the commercial routes as they should be quicker.
Tied where the old canal line had been severed

We had tied up at an interesting little place where the old line of the canal had been severed and the junction of the Blatton Ath went off. These were tiny canals in comparison to to the main line that we were on and we tucked ourselves in to the entrance of the old canal, which meant we are safely out of the way of any early commercials on Monday morning. We then went for a walk to see the first lock on this interesting little waterway. As we approached the lock a sign said that you needed to book passage and have lock keepers with you, you could see it didn’t get a lot of use. The pound above the lock was reminiscent of the locks and pounds and canal around Christleton on the Shropshire Union canal on the way to Chester, all very pretty, but not for us as we wanted to push on.

In the next episode: Another stoppage, and glorious Ghent

Thursday, 22 August 2019

From the Mediterranean to the English Channel Episode 9


Simon Jenkins, the managing director of Norbury Wharf is on a boat buying trip of a lifetime, bringing his first historic barge from the Mediterranean to Belgium, and now onto the Channel coast. Last month the surveyor gave his historic Belgian barge, a clean bill of health and the boatyard welded and painted to get Ambiorix back in the water. But all is not well. This is his story, in his own words.

We awoke the next morning quite excited about planning to get off - we were just waiting for a diesel delivery and for the carpenters to come and do some woodwork that was damaged when the boat was being moved around the ship yard.

No worries as we also had a lot of work to do in putting the boat back together after the repaint. But our excitement turned to dread when we examined the bilges that morning.
The cause of the leak - some old 1911 rivets

Water, and it was everywhere, not deep water but bearing in mind the bilges were bone dry it had to have come from somewhere. Was it some damage on the hull from moving this 130 ton boat around the ship yard? We wouldn't know until it was lifted back out of the water for further inspection.

Now I've seen hundreds of boats on the dock at Norbury and also ones that have had leaks so I have a pretty good idea about such things. Unfortunately I could not get into the bilge space.

This area was about 2ft 6” high but pretty much full of ballast from bottom to the floor so my poor partner Amanda - she is only little - had to crawl in to the space, firstly to pump out all of the water - about 70 litres and then to try and find the leak.

After a few days the leak turned in to a weep and almost healed itself up, and I had a good idea it what it would be - probably a leaking rivet. With a bit of tenacity from Amanda she found the area of the offending rivet and so it was that once the slipway was free we were hoisted up again, this time only far enough to see the affected area.

When I say tenacious I meant it, as its no mean feat finding a leak on such a big boat. We had managed to measure the position of the leak on the inside and then transfer that information to the outside where Amanda proudly pointed at the spot.

This happened to be on an over-plated section of the hull and the workmen set to and cut a 12” x18” patch out and - lo and behold - there were three old 1911 rivets that had popped.
Welding the rivets and patching the hull

It was easy to weld them up, weld the outside of the plate up, and then weld the patch back in. A few hours later, all painted, we were off down the slipway once more to the river Meurse.

We set off enthusiastically, as we had been there so long we wanted to get on the move again heading further North, much waiving to Akim, and Michael and the other staff and we were off heading North and through the Lock at Namur and shortly on to new waters.

The river  Saone joins the river Meurse at Namur and is a much smaller waterway, as we left the last lock in Namur we let a rather large commercial go in front of us. The rules say to give way and precedence to commercial craft and only right too.
These large commercial boats take up most of the waterway

Yes we are sort of commercial, as the boat will ultimately be sold for profit, but we are not time dependant like these guys! As we turned on to the Saône we had to wait behind this large commercial vessel as another one came around the tight bend taking up the entire width of the water way in doing so. The boat in front slowly moved off and that also filled the entire waterway. We were glad we were following that and didn't meet the one coming the other way.

At the first lock it is very industrial and we had to wait several hours for the commercials to pass through this very slow lock. The Sambre goes all the way from Belgium and in to France - 87km long - but we were only going about half way before we turned off.

It is pretty much an industrial canalised river with lots of commercial traffic, and not very wide so navigating it was a little tricky, we shared some locks with commercials when there was space - and they were very accommodating indeed, going diagonally if needed so we could squeeze in diagonally behind them.

We pushed on all day long until the locks closed and we were forced to tie up above a lock just as it was going dark. Nice mooring and very quiet. This river has bankside moorings above the locks which is much more pleasant than the Rhone.

Next morning we were up early as I wanted to clear this industrial canal and head out in to a more rural scene, not too many locks to do, but all big ones with lock keepers. We managed to clear the last lock before it closed, and that was great as we were then on cruising out in to the countryside and no more locks-well at least for that day.

Unlike the UK canals where you can stop almost anywhere, it is not so easy to moor on these big commercial waterways. The passing boats don't slow down and the banks can either be quite high or slope in to the water. So we pushed on along the Canal de Charleroi a Bruxelles towards the next junction where I knew there was a good quay with excellent bollards and in a nice quiet place.
Passing a long commercial boat with a female skipper

We passed only one other boat, a loaded commercial about 100m long and steered by a lady. It’s not uncommon for women to steer these big boats on the canal in Belgium. It started to get darker and by the time we reached our mooring for the night it was pitch black. This boat lights up like a Christmas tree if you turn all of the outside lights on, which I did, making mooring really easy and we must have looked like a space ship coming in to dock!

In the next episode: Heading for the coast – via the biggest boat lift we have ever seen.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

From the Mediterranean to the English Channel Episode 8



Simon Jenkins, the managing director of Norbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal,has been on the boat buying trip of a lifetime, bringing his first historic barge back to Belgium, the country in which it was built, from the shores of the Mediterranean.

Last month he travelled through the Ardennes to Namur where he said goodbye to his crew, Now it is time to find out the truth about his historic Belgian barge. This is his story, in his own words.

We had a couple of days off, I think we deserved it, we had travelled over 1200 km, through 230 locks in a total of 19 days cruising. This was the first leg of our journey nearly over, after a much-needed break and some sightseeing around the beautiful city of Namur we untied and headed for our temporary mooring at a boat club at an old lock at a place called Lives-Sur-Meurse,

Dawn on the way to the mooring

 This was at one of the old locks on the river and we were given permission to put the boat at the bottom of a ten foot wall on the river side of the lock.

Bloody hell - the commercial barges just don't stop - almost 24 hours a day they come past at speeds of 15 kmph, loaded down to their gunwales, weighing up to 2,500 tons, and really close to us. We had eight ropes out to secure us, and even then the ropes would heave and stretch at an alarming rate, going ‘ping-pinggg-pingggggg’ until I really thought they would break.
The commercial barges don't slow down

It worried me a little that the boat would be left there unattended for two months whilst we returned back to the UK, but return we must. The next day saw a taxi at silly-o’clock pick us up and take us to Charleroi airport for our return to Blighty. Oh how much I was looking forward to an English curry - that sounds wrong, I know!

It was arranged that the local ship yard at a place called Beez would side-slip the boat on September 10, and that a local surveyor would conduct the first survey two days later. So after our stay back in UK catching up on jobs at Norbury and buying much needed essentials for the boat - much cheaper here than the continent because the pounds is so weak against the Euro - we headed back to Belgium with the car full to the brim with stuff for the boat, plus clothes and personal items as we knew this would be another long time spent away from home.

So it was with some trepidation that we arrived at the boat club, worried what I might find. To my surprise the boat was fine. The ropes had stretched somewhat and I’m glad I had put rope protectors where the ropes came over the wall to protect against chaffing, but everything on the boat was fine, except the water pump had decided to pack up. Soon sorted that with a bit of persuasion to the motor.

It was hard work lowering everything down on to the boat 10ft below using a rope, there were some heavy items like two 20 litre oil drums for the engine service, new water pump and accumulator (not like the ones we use on narrowboats) and some rather large ropes for securing the boat, as well as suitcase full of the missus's clothes (I think she thought she was not coming home ever).

There might have been a kitchen sink in there too, I lost count of everything in the end, but there was a new gas hob, so chances are the sink wouldn't have been far behind! Another trip to the local supermarket and we were ready for the off and up to the shipyard.

We departed from our temporary mooring for the half an hour trip to the shipyard and tied up by a large quay, which was a good 16ft up from the water with ladders. I stayed put until I saw the carriages (known as Shires) being lowered down the side slip rails and in to the water.
Coming out of the water at the boatyard

We were beckoned towards them and floated over the top of the three of them. Slowly we felt the boat staring to feel different as it settled on to these large carriages as they were being drawn back up the side slip, anew experience for me.
The railway bogies supporting the boat

I have docked hundreds of boats, side launched boats, craned boats, but nothing like this. We waited patiently until at the top of the railway lines. A tower crane swung around with a rather large steel set of steps which it placed next to the boat so that we could get off and in to the ship yard.

We were greeted by the loveliest of men called Akim. He showed us where the water and electricity were, and then I made my way to see Michael, the yard manager, to discuss the works. We set up a meeting with the local painting team, and that was it, they started straight away in pressure washing the hull in preparation for the hull survey two days later.
At the top of the slope, next to the hotel boat being built

Dry docks, slipways, hard standing - it is not a pleasant place to be when stopping on boat, but in the middle of a massive ship yard which is working 24hr a day to complete the enormous passenger ship which was next to us was even more unpleasant.

It didn’t matter during the day as we both had plenty of jobs to do, but it was difficult to really relax in the evening with giant flood lights lighting up the curtains and the sound of workmen clanging and banging around - but they had a job to do.

The surveyor duly turned up as agreed and set to banging the hull with his hammer-taking thickness readings and marking the hull with chalk-I have seen it done hundreds of times before on the dry dock at Norbury so I wasn't fazed by it at all. The play was measured in the prop shaft bearing and the rudder bearing and they were well within tolerance; and then the good news came in the form of the surveyor who announced that the hull was sound, and that it was always a pleasure to do this boat because of its excellent condition.
A first look at the stern gear - it gets a thumbs up from the surveyor

That was a big weight off my mind as, when we bought the boat, we had done the deal at a massively reduced rate on an ‘as seen as is basis,’ so it was a big relief that the gamble had paid off!

The next day we had the meeting with the painters, a few jobs were discussed with the welders like fitting 20 new anodes and some fender eyes and that was it. Off we went again only this time we were being moved backwards along another set of railway lines - like a railway truck being shunted around a freight yard.

This had two purposes - one to free up the slip so they could launch this huge hotel ship they had been building for the last year or so, and to put us in a place for the painting works to be completed. We decided that we needed a break from all of this so so we jumped in the car and returned home for a few days.

We returned to the boat, this time on our motorbike, as this would make life so much easier. We could lift it on to the boat and then the next leg of the journey meant we didn't have to worry about collecting the car when we reached our final destination.

The works were progressing well and they quoted about ten days with a team of painters to finish the job, providing the weather was kind, of which it mostly was.
Ambiorix in her new livery - ready to return to the water

All finished and then there was a delay in relaunching because of another big boat on the slip - and then the day came for relaunch.

Sporting her new livery, her freshly painted bottom in red anti foul and everything looking wonderful it was a great sight. There were a hair raising few moments when they picked the motorbike up with the tower crane, hoisting it a long way in the air and then swung it about like a conker on a piece of string. The crane trundled along the railway tracks and safely deposited the bike on the back of the boat, while I was thinking ‘how the hell do I explain this to the insurance company.’

Off the boat now wobbles down the railway line on the slip and back in to the water-we reversed back to the quay where we started from and celebrated with a drink on the back deck. But all was not what it seemed and we would need that drink again the next day!

In the next episode: Back in the water – but is that a leak?