18. Our second winter in Bruges (Oct 2016- April 2017)

Our trouble free entry reversing into Flandria Jachthaven had been in daylight, but the same could not be said for Lynn and Stew on ‘Matariki’.

Sadly they were moved on from Moerbrugge after only a couple of hours, when a commercial skipper complained about their presence to the police.  They didn’t even get the chance to top up with water and ended up reversing into their spot alongside us in the dark! Stew had certainly raised the bar!

Lynn and I continued walking regularly in preparation for our adventure on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella later in October. As well as the usual barges we were pleased to welcome ‘Pilgrim’, ‘Joli Roger’ and ‘Laura Marie’to Flandria.

Peter returned to England with a car full of rubbish for the tip and was able to see Laura off on her adventure in New Zealand. She fell in love with the place during her world travels and is hoping to make the move permanent, exciting times.

Meanwhile, Lynn and I caught our flight to Bilbao and enjoyed a fantastic couple of weeks walking. We started in Pamplona and finished at Castro Jerez from where we caught a bus back to Burgos and then another to Bilbao. During our trip we walked through the Rioja wine region and added several glasses of that lovely wine to our ‘dos gros ceveza’ post walk refreshment.

We completed 277km in thirteen days and both returned to Bruges several pounds lighter…at least for a few days.

While we were away, Peter had returned from England with all the materials necessary for the construction of our new seating area in the wheelhouse and he had virtually completed it with just the finishing touches remaining.

Out with the old…

…In with the new!

Inevitably, Lynn and I returned with the ‘Spanish Lurgy’ which we probably caught on the aeroplane home.

Paul arrived from Alderney a couple of days later bringing wine and food from France and was able to help finish off the woodwork in the wheelhouse.

While he was with us we drove to the Atlantikwall Museum near Oostende. This was interesting especially as we are very familiar with similar fortifications on Alderney. The only thing that spoiled the experience was the rather poor taste art exhibition which was combined with the displays from WW2. This took the form of various wigs which were placed on the heads of the mannequins of the German soldiers in the bunkers. Most peculiar and a bit creepy.

Not a big fan of  this kind of ‘art’ but the museum is well worth a visit.

The whole coastline is riddled with tunnels and bunkers.

Despite contracting the ‘Lurgy’, Peter, Paul and Stew headed off to Waterloo to see the various exhibitions and sights of that famous battle, including some of the places missed on the last visit. The headquarters of Wellington and Napoleon and a full tour of Hougoumont farm.

Once Paul left, I began painting the interior of the wheelhouse ready for Peter to renovate and varnish the dashboard when I returned to England for my annual sojourn in November.

I enjoyed my usual round of visiting friends and singing with my choir and also fitted in a short visit to Alderney where I stayed with Peter’s mum Terry.

I even managed a return trip to Bruges by coach and was able to see the lighting up of the barges in Coupure and enjoy the festive lights in the city centre.

Peter headed over to England to MOT the motor cycle and then visited Terry in Alderney where he was joined by Adam.

Golf on the beautiful island of Alderney.

We returned in convoy through the Chunnel and arrived just in time to get ready for Christmas when Adam joined us for a few days. Meanwhile Laura had settled well into life in New Zealand, enjoying a summer Christmas there and we broke all the usual Christmas food traditions this time, agreeing that a change would be good this year.

Adam and I enjoyed a walk into the centre of town on Christmas Eve to see the lights and were amazed at how quiet it was. Of course, on the continent Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, but it gave us a memorable experience.

We walked in again on Christmas Day where the centre was buzzing, which it did for the remainder of the Yuletide festivities. Some of us donned uncomfortable ice skates once again and strutted our stuff on the ice rink in the Markt.

On New Year’s Eve we joined several friends aboard ‘Esme’ for a party with Diana and Chris and then just before midnight, Peter and I walked into the Markt to see the New Year in.

Seeing the New Year in outside the Belfry.

January was fairly cold and miserable but Lynn and I managed to get out walking when possible and I was able to make some cushion covers for the new wheelhouse seating using three soft blankets donated by Terry. Adam and Peter had bought me a sewing machine for Christmas and it was good to put it to use.

Lynn and I visited the Historium, Groeningemuseum and Arentshuis as well as trying new bars and cafes on our walks. Time was moving on and she and Stew had accelerated their plans to sell ‘Matariki’ and return to New Zealand.

I returned to England unexpectedly in February when Dad had a nasty fall and was taken to St George’s Hospital, Tooting. I ended up staying a month and only returned to Bruges once several care measures were in place to help him.

Unfortunately our BMW motorcycle was broken when Peter returned to England to join us and a stone pierced the oil filter causing oil to spew out damaging the engine. So February was not a good month and had cost us dear.

All too soon, Lynn’s twenty eight large boxes were being collected for shipment to New Zealand and before we knew it Lynn was leaving too. It was the middle of March and with the weather improving, the port came to life with people preparing their boats and barges for the coming season.

‘Aurigny’ and ‘Matariki’ were being readied for their visit to Carron Shipyard in Ghent at the beginning of April and none of the bargees was enjoying clearing the decks of catkins and sticky buds which fell heavily from the nearby trees.

Our planned departure was delayed by a day so we enjoyed several farewell soirees with our friends in the port and were even able to sit out on deck as the sun set one fine evening.

On April 1st – a day we had traditionally avoided departing on for reasons of superstition, ‘Matariki’ cast off and we followed. Alas, the steering felt rather light so we tied up alongside ‘Riccall’, while Peter and Alex searched for the problem. Fortunately it was nothing drastic, simply air in the hydraulic steering mechanism, which was soon rectified.

Just a small glitch in what we are sure will be another fantastic year cruising on our beautiful barge ‘Aurigny’.

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