We had planned to leave Veurne for Niewpoort on Monday 14th May but we woke up to winds of force 4 and increasing. So we all decide to delay a day. So, having all visited the conveniently located local DIY store we stayed put and then set off on Tuesday 15th.
It was an ‘interesting’ trip to Niewpoort, not far, but a little challenging!
Firstly, the lock at Veurne, which we had squeezed into together when we arrived, could not accommodate both boats. So David had to back out and wait whilst we went through. Fine. An hour later we were finally on our way and the various bridges were opened for us without problem.
Then we came to the big lock complex at Niewpoort – its huge, tidal & circular (central water = Acher Haven) with 3 different locks with tidal doors, leading in / out of it. Have to be sure of where you’re going. We came through the Veurne lock which is 45 m long – the 2 boats make 40 m – but the lockies thought should both get on OK.
What a to-do! Piedaleu’s nose was literally up against the outer doors with me hanging on for dear life and fending off with a boat hook to make sure we didn’t get hung up on the door structure. Not good. Adrian ended up with no rope up because of lack of bollards on the side. Apparently David’s propeller just cleared the back doors as they closed. All in all not good. My back is complaining today!
It was at this lock complex that the Belgians flooded the surrounding area in order to halt the German advance to the coast in 1917.
We went through theGravensluis to the Kanaal Plassendale-Nieuwpoort, separately – David had to wait outside hoping the tide took its time going down – but a little boat came round him to enter with us so we had to move up and redo our ropes yet again!
We had just finally moored up at Niewpoort when I spotted 2 official looking bods approaching. The Douane (Customs) decided to board each boat. A thorough checking of documents ensued. Luckily we were prepared having heard of others being boarded and what was required. I had even pulled together a ‘boat docs’ folder in readiness – that and a cup of tea worked a treat! They checked passports, boat ownership (VAT paid), UK SSR registration, radio licences (boat and personal), ICC (boat driving licences). A different authority can come on board to check safety issues eg fire extinguishers & life jackets. So it really is important to have things up to date and ready for checking.
Interesting to talk to them – they cover the coastal area around Zeebrugge and inland waterways. At sea they have to deal with all sorts including desperate people trying to get on the ferries to the UK. Can be dangerous as they said that desperate people can become violent.
Anyway our first contact with the Douane was quite pleasant really! Thought afterwards that I should have asked to see their ID before letting them on board. Must remember that next time! They were not impressed with the illegal flying of the skull & crossbones flag by some local kids on rafts!
Adrian and I then set off for the Albert Memorial beside the big lock. Its about a 20 minute walk but we couldn’t get in cos it was closed by the time we got there! But we had a good look around the outside again – already did so with Voirrey and Andy back in November.