After our few days in Ghent it was time we headed back to Valenciennes. We decided to stop over in Oudenaarde, at the end of the Espeirres and in Antoing.
We got to Oudenaarde without problem but then had to wait outside the lifting bridge for about 30 mins in quite strong winds for the harbour meester to arrive to open the bridge. Hanging about in a strong wind is never a good idea and challenges patience and steering abilities!
Eventually we got in and managed to do a U turn in the mooring channel and to moor up without incident. Surprise, surprise Bella Fortuna was there! We knew that Voirrey and Andy had palnned to stop in Oudenaarde but they should have left by now. However, Poppy, one of their cats, had been unwell and they were awaiting delivery of some special food for her at the vets. But it meant we met up again – much sooner than we could have hoped!
We have several boating friends with pets (both cats and dogs) on board who have received outstanding service from vets in Belgium. Grainne and Andy have formed a real friendship with the vet who cared for their dog Wilma over the last 3 years.
But I digress …… now for admission of my stupidity / failing memory! I related a visit to a museum with Andy and Voirrey at Sint Martens Latham. It was not there! It was in Oudenaarde! Sin of all sins!!!
Note to self: Do not leave blog writing too long or you may forget where you are and what you did!
We spent a pleasant couple of days in Oudenaarde, visiting the museum and eating fast food! We left on 7th oct in convoy with Bella Fortuna so as to reduce trips for the harbour meester. A couple of people had to wait quite a while for us to go through the lifting bridge before they could cross! We then parted company – Bella Fortuna turning right to go through the lock, towards Ghent, and Piedalaeu turning left to continue up the Scheldt to Valenciennes.
We were going to stop at the top of the Espierres Canal, as we did on our way down, but the river was clear, the weather reasonable and Adrian was in the mood to carry on through – so we went right through to Antoing. The little mooring basin was empty again so we moored up, had a little walk around the town and an early night.
Certainly the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ was upon us – each morning starting quite misty but then the sun coming out to burn off the mist. We had an absolutely gorgeous cruise up the Scheldt past the area known as Montagne du Nord, across the border and into France. The sun was out, there were no other boats around and we could just enjoy cruising!
We then turned right onto the final section of the Scheldt before Valenciennes. Three locks to go. Our French vignette had run out; but we had heard that sometimes you can get permission just to go through to Valenciennes without buying another vignette. So we had a chat with the very, very nice eclusier and he gave us a piece of paper to allow us through withour further cost! Yay!! But he said that should we try to go through the next lock we would be charged!!
All was going so well ……
There was a problem at the last lock. It was ‘en panne’ (broken down) and divers were awaited. We had seen a lot of debris eg logs in the river over the previous days and guessed that a large log had jammed the lock gates. Commercial boats were already queuing. We pulled over into a ‘lay by’ well before the lock and moored up against the shuttering and waited. And waited. And waited……
Frustratingly we could actually see the end of the moorings in the basin over the weir across the river. So near and yet so far.
However, this meant we were able to watch how the water started and stopped coming over the weir. Interesting. When at our mooring, we have seen how the water flow changes. At times it is really quite still, which makes entering and leaving our berth quite ok. At other times the flow is pretty strong which makes going in and out somewhat problematic. This can change very quickly. Interesting, very interesting, we thought!
The eclusier came through over the radio to say that the lock wouldn’t be open until the morning. We were glad we were away from the lock and that we had plenty of provisions – including beer – and water on board.
The next morning the fog was so thick we could not see across the river! It took until lunchtime to clear. We decided to wait it out and to let the accumulated commercial boats get away in both directions!