Well we made it to Dordrecht and busted the throttle handle in the process. This was just another in a series of accidents/incidents that have both frustrated us and impeded our progress. I have been back in the Netherlands for almost three weeks now much of which has been spent in the boat yard with the repair guys. As our barge friends Mary and Marc (divabarge.com) will attest, boat yard owners are not the most organized of folks (despite their best efforts and good intentions) so everything takes longer than we think ( and that they say). When I got back to Dintelmonde (the location of the boatyard), the boat was in the water, Martin had cleaned it up, so it was livable. and then we set about making it comfortable.
We had a rental car when I first came back the Netherlands, so after Martin picked me up at Europort we went to IKEA and discovered the IKEA breakfast – for 1 Euro each we could get a hard boiled egg, slice of cheese, croissant, roll, butter and jam and all the coffee you want to drink. We were also on a mission (to buy to some decent bedding), and breakfast was good value (but, as my son Tim remarked, you had to build it yourself) . We shopped and took notes on a lot of stuff. The result of our shopping trip was, new bedding (feather duvets and pillows), a new washing machine, a new bathroom sink and cabinet, a chest of drawers, as well as kitchen stuff and some chairs. IKEA is great for home starters with not a lot of time or space (like on a boat or a very tiny apartment). The next few days were spent making us comfortable – taking showers and lunch and WIFI down at the local marina (and chandlery – where we spent a lot of money), until we had our first incident : Martin fell off the boat into the canal. He bruised himself but killed his iphone. Martin was very upset as his pal IVAN was very sick and eventually died from drowning. It did live in a bag of rice for four days and briefly rallied before refusing to get beyond the start up apple. Anyone who knows Martin well is aware of his attachment to this miracle machine. It will be replaced at some point – right now we are using computers and cheap cell phones.
The next day we spent a lot of time in the small town of Rosendaal trying to get some WIFI and trying to resurrect Ivan the iphone. We were only successful in buying me an cell-phone so at least we had telephone communication. (In the Netherlands this is vital, as we discovered there are only 12 public phones in the whole of Dordrecht).
After the loss of Ivan the iphone, we continued to work on the boat, using the car to make trips here and there to pick up the various bit and pieces we needed for the boat. It is a bit like setting up house in the middle of a major reno – needless to say there were frustrations and mistaken purchases. The whole process gave me a new appreciation and love of my clever very skilled husband. Mary Koyl and I have had the discussion of where we would be without our partners – one thing is for sure, we would not be floating around Europe in our own boats . The idea that mariners and ship maintenance is ‘man work ‘ seems to me to be quite reasonable considering the skills necessary to actually buy and deal with a boat in Europe. I came from a liberated background in which my dad believed that women had equal (albeit different ) abilities to deal with the world. On a boat however I feel this is not necessarily so. Martin is a really good sailor and conversant with the ways of boats. However other skills like carpentry, electrician, plumber and naval architect are all required to survive in this marine world. Luckily I married a guy with all those skills like Mary who also had the good fortune to partner with such a specialized man. While 99.9 % of the women would not be able to complete all the work to get a boat up and running, I would say that 85% of men would not be able to do this either. So while I agree that the marine environment is a man’s world , they are indeed very special men!
Martin assures me that my contribution in terms of support is invaluable – he says he can do anything if I am there . He also appreciates the meals and care he receives. I do have a few skills like painting, polishing, laying carpet and administration (I also am a reasonable gardener and decorator but these skills are not that useful on a boat). And like my mother, I am really good at cleaning up.
Martin put in my new washing machine, – worked great, then we discovered a gas leak , Martin – poor guy, spent two days in the bowels of the boat replacing the gas line. For those who do not know – propane on a boat is quite dangerous as it is heavier than water and can settle in the bilge –eventually it will explode. One of our neighbours in the boat yard was under repair, because their boat had fallen victim to such an explosion. The boat beside them in a marina near Rotterdam had a propane explosion and completely gutted their boat. So the danger was real.
Martin the scientist and investigative engineer found the leak and replaced the gas-line and installed a gas leak detector – this took an extra couple of days and completely exhausted the poor guy. This extra time, and a couple of other things, put us behind by a few days – so raising the flag and sailing away on Canada Day was a bit delayed. We did raise the flag on July 1st , bought roses, went out for a very nice dinner and toasted our friends so far away then returned to the business of the day.
Staying in the boat yard had its small but significant advantages – mainly we made some friends – Ron and Ann (whose boat had been damaged by the propane explosion) and Daneike and Eric (our sailor neighbours who had just moved from a sailboat to a brand new €200,000 , 12.0 metre newly built powerboat). These new friends were very helpful both with time and advice. In addition we have become quite good pals with Elsa and Freddy who run the local chandlery, where we spent an awful lot of money. As well we had lots of lunches and glasses of beer and cups of coffee at the marina café (it had free wifi) and showers at the marina services.
We were also delayed somewhat by the weather, which was quite miserable. generating lots of wind and rain with the occasional sunny spell and blue sky. Eventually on July 5 we set sail for Dinteloord ) 2.5 kms away! Our first trip on the boat was quite successful on the outward journey – we reached Dinteloord in about 45 mins (negotiated our first bridge) and hunkered down for the night amidst the thunder, lightening and torrential rain that came up shortly after we arrived. The next day we made an intrepid trip back to the boat yard which was quite a journey as the weather was awful, the bimini was a hassle, the water was swirling and we discovered there were a few safety issues we needed to address ( luckily no-one fell in). We regrouped in the boat yard and made some more purchases at the marina store ( fenders, a life ring and other bits and bobs). By this time the weather had cleared ( which seems to be a pattern here ) and we thought we would leave the boatyard and go to Willemstad. It was a lovely afternoon – we sailed in Hollands Diep , scampered across the shipping lanes ( a bit like taking a bike across the freeway) into the lock. It was a lovely day and I felt this is what we were here to do.
We got into Willemstad and met Daneike and Eric for dinner ( fresh steamed mussels and bread – lovely). It was a lovely evening , after dinner we walked to their house, which was about 2 blocks from the marina to have tea and dessert. We discussed maps and charts and learned a great deal from them .
The next day Martin decided to set about his projects. We have different ways of working – Martin has a few projects going at the same time and moves each one along a bit at a time. Disaster struck again as Martin chopped off the top of his thumb while sawing wood, working on the companion way stairs. He was bleeding profusely, and there was no doctor in town. I do carry a small first aid kit but not enough to cope with a full on severed thumb end. Also it was Saturday so there was no doctor in town. The harbour master was helpful – providing lots of bandages etc. So Florence Nightingale here bandaged the wound and made Martin keep his thumb poised in the OK position to stop the bleeding. The problem we had was that Martin was fixing the steps in the living room (as it was raining) which meant we could not get out of the boat until we put the stairs back up. So Martin had to singled-handedly get out the skill saw and finish chopping the bottom off the stairs, I put them back up then he had to put a screw into the floor to hold them in place.We had a very uncomfortable night – Martin was dealing with a throbbing thumb with no amount of wine could anaesthetize.
The next day a guy on the boat beside us saw the huge bandage on Martins thumb and offered to take him to nearest hospital in Rosendaal. He accepted the offer and went off to get his thumb properly dressed and have a tetanus shot at a cost of the weekend rate of 75 euros. This very kind stranger also brought Martin back to Willemstad. Rosendaal to Willemstad is about 20kms each way with very few buses on a Sunday. We did not want to disturb Daneke and Eric, as we knew they had other visitors for the weekend. They were quite concerned when they saw Martin’s thumb and made us promise to call them if we needed help again.
I must say I am very impressed with the generosity of the Dutch people – no fuss just a matter of fact attitude towards providing help and assistance where possible.
We left Willemstad in the pouring rain and set sail for Dordrecht. Martin was a little nervous crossing even busier shipping lines (lots of really really big barges traveling at 20+ knots like road juggernauts) which, like highways are busier on Mondays
It took about two and half hours by water from Willemstad to Dordrecht. We found the marina and came through this very narrow passage full of half million dollar boats. We moored the boat but hit one of the mooring pilings with one of our davits (cranes on the back of the boat for a dingy) and lost a couple of bolts. Then we were told to move so we had a very tight turn into our berth, and succeed with the help of a couple of people on sure to get into the berth – but the throttle handle fell off in the process. No more injuries.
So here we sit for a week – more projects, a little sight seeing and planning our next move.
Dordrecht is however much more beautiful than the boatyard.