Our Barge, Odysseus

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Return to Holland

The Reported Horrors of Heathrow turned out to be nothing.

Air New Zealand departed LAX about fifteen minutes late May 14, and landed about an hour late; turned out a jet landing just before us blew a tire and we had to do a couple of circles over London while they checked for debris on the runway. Our baggage appeared as expected and, after clearing immigration "in transit", it was on to the brand new Terminal 5 and our British Air flight to Amsterdam.

When the enormous new building opened about a month ago, the baggage handling system, claimed to be state of the art, failed miserably, some planes leaving with their baggage holds empty. The whole snafu delayed BA's plans to move their long-haul flights to the terminal so it was very quiet and easy to navigate, with only the European flights leaving from there. We dropped off our bags, grabbed a cup of coffee (our bodies said it was about 3am), and settled in to wait. Given that we were changing airlines and terminals, we planned a 5 hour layover. Since everything went so smoothly, we had about 3 hours to wait.

After a brief one hour flight we landed at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in the, what else, rain, and caught the shuttle bus to our hotel. Since we didn't land until about 6 pm local time, there would have been nobody at Kempers Marina to give us boat keys so we spent the night in the nearby town of Hoofddorp. The next morning we picked up this year's version of the clown car, a Lancia Ypsilon (?!), and, in the pouring rain, loaded up our bags and headed for the marina.

With keys in hand we headed down the dock not knowing exactly what to expect. We'd locked the boat up and left 8 months ago and the yard had done some work while we were gone. We were pleasantly surprised that the boat didn't smell musty at all and the linens we had carefully packed in plastic bags before we left still smelled of laundry soap. The yard had done excellent work on the foredeck, removing the old propane gas bins, patching the deck and building a rack for the propane bottles. We unpacked the suitcases, put the bicycles back on the aft deck and made ourselves at home for this year.

Saturday the weather began to clear and by Sunday it was clear and a little chilly and breezy, but the sun was out.

It turned out to be a great week for maintenance and when it started to rain again today (Sunday, the 25th), all of the ivory has been painted (cabin sides and bulwarks), some of the top of the green bulwarks have been touched up, the mast is much shorter and much shinier, the name boards have their "gold" paint and various installation have been completed. Meanwhile we've been having some trouble with the outside engine controls and the battery charger, necessitating the charger's replacement along with the batteries. With some luck and the cooperation of the yard, we should be able to get these problems cleared up and, after some routine engine maintenance, we should be on our way, weather cooperating, the 1st or 2nd of June.

We've been so busy there hasn't been much of an opportunity for pictures but things are a little more under control now and later this week I want to get some garden pictures. This area is the flower capital of Holland and the gardens in the early spring are spectacular! More later.