9. Bruges to Tournai – Early April

The weather was kind for the first day of cruising, which was just as well as I spent most of the time cleaning the various fenders we had used over the winter. The deck was in a right state as our old mooring ropes had left muddy marks everywhere too.

We arrived at Schipdonk Lock early afternoon and were pleased that Paul had found it okay by road. After a short discussion about whether or not to continue to Deinze, we decided to stay if the lock keeper agreed. He did, so the chaps drove back to Bruges to collect the Micra and drop Paul’s car to Deinze while I relaxed on board.

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A nice spot to watch the big commercials zooming by.

There is always something to see at Schipdonk, as it is a very busy junction with lots of big commercial barges passing by. We witnessed a very near collision between two such barges shortly after mooring up!

Somehow we had forgotten to set up our mobile wifi before leaving Bruges, so Peter was able to do that when they went back. How would we survive without the internet?

The next day we cruised to Deinze along the busy Afleidingskanal which was undergoing some extensive and expensive (according to the signs) improvements. A left turn into Deinze on the River Leie, through the lift bridge and into the rather curved mooring spot we had used before. After a welcome bacon and egg bap brunch, I walked upstream to the lock and back in the afternoon sunshine.

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Lift bridge going up for us to enter Deinze.

We spent the weekend at Deinze, enjoying a spell of warm sunshine. I cycled back to Schipdonk to pick up the Micra and the chaps headed off to leave a car at Bossuit.

Most days cruising is a breeze, but just sometimes things crop up to make it less enjoyable. Monday morning we headed off after turning around a kilometre or so upstream. At the entrance to the Afleidingskanal, some dredging was being done, but we weren’t held up for long and were soon on our way.

At the first lock, we found ourselves in a queue and expected to have to let the commercial barges in first. Three locks later, with the next commercial barge behind us over a kilometre away, we entered the lock after two large ones had gone in only to be told to get out and make way for the one steaming up behind us.

Well there was plenty of space for us, but we could see that it would be a very tight squeeze for the commercial barge. However, we reversed out as ordered and hung on an adjacent wall while he approached and then spent the next half hour shouting and manoeuvring around, expecting the other commercials to move up in the lock. Eventually the lock gates closed and we could still hear the captain and crew shouting at each other as they bounced around at the back of the lock. Oh how we laughed!

We could have been up and away in half the time, had we been allowed to stay in. Fortunately, we made it into the next one and after over two hours were on our way once more.  In contrast, later at Harelbeke Lock north of Kortrijk, we waited just twenty minutes and then had the lock to ourselves. Bliss!

Our new PC Navigo and AIS were working well, and we were enjoying the novelty of knowing what was in front of us and what was coming up behind. Peter had recced the moorings at Kortrijk when dropping the car to Bossuit and with a large funfair in town near the moorings; we weren’t keen to stop there. Fortunately we spotted a mooring marked in our ancient waterways guide, 1km beyond the lock, so we stopped there for the night. It was adjacent to a converted mill in a place called Kuurne.

 

The next morning, I walked into Kuurne for some shopping while Peter phoned the help line for the PC Navigo – which had decided to play up. The chap on the other end was very helpful and isolated the problem as being our laptop’s USB ports! Amazingly, he was able to solve the problem remotely and our PC Navigo was soon up and running. Peter phoned the lock keeper (for locks 9, 10 and 11 on the Kortrijk/Bossuit Canal) who told us to be there at 2pm.

With three hours to kill I cycled into Kortrijk for a look around. Indeed there was a festival of some sort starting that week and the historic part of the town was marred by a big funfair.

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Interesting art at Kortrijk !

Back on board we were soon on our way and the first lock on the Kortrijk/Bossuit canal was open when we arrived. The lock keeper was a pleasant chap who asked if we could try to get to Bossuit before 6pm for a reason we are still not sure about…

We made good time through the next two big locks and were soon mooring up above Bossuit lock. We had last moored there in 2014.

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I love to watch these monsters squeeze into the locks.

Paul left the following day and Peter and I decided to chill out for a few days. With free electrics, I was able to catch up with the washing and we could surf the TV channels in the forlorn hope of finding something worth watching!!

On Saturday, we drove to ‘Captain Neptunia’ at Antoing to buy gas and check out their ship’s radios. Peter had finally told me that we had failed our recent radio check which happened a few days before we left Flandria.  Apparently the ATIS must be on the main radio …not the hand held one and our main radio was too old to be able to have ATIS installed on it. More expense!

On Sunday feeling suitably refreshed, we readied ourselves for departure only to discover that Bossuit Lock is closed on a Sunday. So after lunch we drove up to Oudenaarde to visit Lynn and Stew (‘Matariki’). They had used the Bovenschelde from Gent which is an alternative route south. Lynn and I had a stroll around the centre while the chaps watched the golf.

We eventually left Bossuit the next day and had a trouble free cruise to Tournai. We had been through there before but not stopped. The pontoon mooring just beyond the one way system was free, so we moored up under the eagle eye of an old chap who was insistent that we didn’t use the cleats on the pontoon. After several “d’accords” and “ doucements” he left us in peace while put our ropes around the large posts which support the pontoon as we had always intended to!

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I cycled back 16km to Bossuit for the car and Peter was able to drive to Captain Neputunia Marine at Antoing to collect our new main ATIS compatible radio.

We were rather confused by the build up of large barges on the quay opposite us and the continual red light at the start of the one way system. After walking along the river bank a short way I discovered the reason. A dredger and divers were attempting to locate and remove two massive rocks from the river. One of the behemoths was on the dredger’s deck, but the other was proving difficult to lift.  It took three days for the rocks to be raised and during that time the river was shut intermittently to traffic from both directions.

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There’s a diver down there somewhere.

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One of the offending boulders.

After exploring, we found Tournai rather odd. There appeared to be no real shopping centre and although money was being spent to encourage tourism in the historic area it seemed very quiet, but I suppose it is not really the tourist season yet. Unfortunately, the rather grand Cathedral was covered in tarpaulin and scaffolding and a huge crane stood at one side – all part of an extensive programme of renovations which will take years. One of the five towers suffered subsidence damage back in 1999 when a tornado hit Tournai.

I climbed the Belfry (the oldest in Belgium) which was good value at 2,10 euro (at Mons it costs 9 euro!) In the new Tourist Office I sat in solitary splendour and watched a couple of films explaining the history of the town and the growth of the cathedral which quite were interesting – if you could ignore the ‘comic’ character who acted as narrator.

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From below…

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…and above.

Tournai is one of the oldest cities in Belgium, with roots back in the times of the Romans (1st century BC). Since then it has endured Norse invasions and control by English, French, Spanish, Austrian and Dutch forces. It is the capital of Wallonie Picarde.

Even in the evening, the town seemed quiet with the only sign of life being a bar on the banks of the river in the old fish market. The worse thing for me was the amount of dog excrement everywhere, particularly where some dog walkers obviously enjoy a stroll by the river…and ruin it for the rest of us! Perhaps we had been spoilt in Bruges which was generally very clean, but I would put Tournai on a par with Verdun in the ‘Poohiest Town’ ratings on our travels so far.

We spent a couple of hours in the interesting Military Museum which had a WW1 and WW2 section as well as an Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century one. Once again we were left wondering at the futility and utter waste of life caused by wars over the centuries.

A drive back to Bossuit enabled Stew to collect his car and Peter our Dutch WIFI sim card from Flandria Jachthaven. Lynn and I enjoyed a walk down the nearby ‘Turtle Alley’ where we spotted several of these little creatures basking in the sun. Then we all drove to Captain Neptunia as ‘Matariki’ had also fallen foul of the ‘radio police’ in Bruges. Next stop was Peruwelz, where we enjoyed a drink in the bar at the port. Stew then dropped us back to Tournai before returning to Bossuit.

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‘Turtle Alley’

After five days in Tournai, with the bottleneck caused by the dredging gone, we left and headed for Pommeroeul.

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