Our Barge, Odysseus

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This Is Fun? July 29

So we leave Kortrijk at about 9:30 am. The days first task is to negotiate three locks right out of town. These are totally manual locks; the lock keeper uses levers and muscle power to close the lock door and hand cranks to open the valves that let water into and out of the lock. (See the new sidebar addition, "The Lock Game." If you haven't already played it on John Hardman's site, here's a direct link,)
Three more modern locks and we entered the Boven Schelde or the Haute Escaut depending on whether you're Flemish or Waloon. We have officially entered francophone territory!
About five minutes later the engine stops. Dead. No noise.
Crew deploys anchor to prevent boat from
1. Going on rocky bank nearby, and
2. Drifting in front of 80 meter fully loaded barge rounding the corner upstream.
Over the side goes the swim step, followed closely by me, knife held firmly between my teeth. (Heh!)
We had a blanket(!) fouled in the prop.
After about a half hour of slicing and dicing, the swim step followed me out of the water and we were underway again with no damage.
We spent the night at a very rough city pontoon with large barges going by very fast. Luckily the local Mr. Helpful had advised us to tie our lines around the float pilings instead of the cleats on the dock. We thank him. We probably would have damaged the dock if we hadn't taken his advice.
We overnighted in Mons, mostly because the marina is right on what use to be a 3 canal junction but is now like a big lake. It was really hot and swimming was required.
After that it was mostly kilometers to be crossed. We wanted to reach Namur and the Meuse.

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