September, 2012 browsing by month


Monday Sept 17 Paris

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Dirk Jan dropped me off at the Namur railroad station midday Saturday and took of for Haarlem with his car loaded with sail bags and at least 50 kilos of books, etc. I arrived in Paris, via Brussels, in the late afternoon. It was in the seventies, warm. I found a hotel near the Gare de l’Est. Ce Ce’s flight was on time and we were back in Paris by late morning. She caught up on her sleep and jet lag. We went together to 7 p.m. mass at St. Laurent, just around the corner. Now we are off to play American tourist. Tomorrow we’ll train back to Namur.

Thursday 13 September, Namur, Belgium

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

It rained steady for most of the night and it kept drizzling off and on most of the day. But we have been promised clearing and the barometer is going the right direction. I just talked to Dirk Jan and he’ll be here Friday evening. I dug out the surplus sail inventory and piled them on the house for Dirk jan to store in Amsterdam and my life raft, books, and a few miscellaneous items, to give us more space and bring the water line up. I did two loads of laundry in the laundromat. I hand washed the covers of the two bunks and I could not believe the dirt that came out of it.

So, here are the picture of the bicycles. I am going to look and see if I can find one of these sixties beauties again here or in Liege.

Wednesday Sep 12 Namur

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

I made it to Namur by 4 p.m. The locks were extre,ely slow and there was a lot of traffic, pleasure and commerce. They were probably also, like myself, trying to get to eithger side of the “chomage”, the three week closure of this section of the Meuse from Namur to the French border. I put my rain coat on once and it threatened all day. Not good weather for pictures.  One notices a diffrence from France into Belgium. There are a lot more older and new villa’s and fancy condos along the water. Belgium has always had a higher standard of living than the neighboring countries, much of it earned in the Congo.

I started with the boat clean up and will have all of tomorrow and Friday to get things organized.

There are two American couples here who keep a power boat here in Europe. A couple from Washington D.C. and Karin and Chris from Orange County.

Etienne came by on a bicycle that had much of the versy same equipment on it as my 1966 Belgian bike that I use to ride all over Gig Harbor and Tacoma and put on the boat in 2005. I dropped it in the water in Bora Bora and that was a real sad parting. He took some photos of it with me but I forgot them in my camera, on the boat. I am sitting here on some cold stairs freezing my buns off. I promise I’ll have the picture tomorrow and you will recognize the head light, the unusual winged chain guard, bell, etc…

The Namur Citade


Tuesday Sept 11 Dinant Belgium

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

This makes the 48th country that “Fleetwood” has called at. I passed the Belgian border at 1 p.m. and arrived in Dinant at 16.30 hours. It was a mild cloudy morning. But when I was just entering one of the first Belgian locks the rain came down hard and I did not get a chance to put my rain gear on till after I had tied up in the lock. I was soaked. The Belgian locks are 4 times slower than the automated French locks. This morning I went through one of the last French locks within 8 minutes from the time that I had to decelerate for the lock and get back up to speed after clearing the lock. I was shivering by the time I got to tie the boat up in Dinant. I use a cheap hunters camouflage rain slicker. At least it is water proof which my expensive 1978 foul weather gear is not. As you can see from the pictures the sun came through at the end of the evening to shine on the top of the Dinant citadel.

The very first time I came to Dinant was in 1952, I was barely 15 years. I hitchhiked from Amsterdam on my spring break. Alone. That’s where it all started, this solo business. Later that summer I hitchhiked to Italy, alone. For a 15 year old to see this magnificent site of steep rock cliffs, coming from a country where the highest hill is about 50 feet. By then I had three years of French and I was unable to come up with the French for “left”. Something very basic when visiting a French country. I figured I had slept through this part but when I came back to school I asked all my class mates and we found out that it was not in our vocabulary yet… Now you have GPS. I expect to be in Namur by tomorrow afternoon and start organizing and cleaning the boat for my travel companion. And then be off to Paris on Saturday and come back to Namur on Tuesday evening.

For those less familiar with my life, I lived and worked in Belgium from the end of 1965 till January 1970. I worked for Weyerthaeuser, selling wood products in Europe. Those were 4 wonderful years and I have a soft spot for Belgium and the Belgians. Daughters # 2, Rose Marie was born here in 1968 and Jeannine, #3, in 1969. Rose Marie kept her Belgian nationality.

Monday Sept 10 Fumay, K.M. 27,5 from Belgian border.

Monday, September 10th, 2012

I am at K.M. 27,5 and after that I still have 50 to go to Namur. This was a 52 plus k’s day. I stopped at 4 p.m. because it started to rain. But it did not last long. Tomorrow more, we are told.

The Meuse runs for quite a distance through both Belgium and France and I passed the first section of the Belgian border. Fumay is sitting on a kind of peninsula surrounded by Belgium. This is a very attractive town. The hills have become much higher and steeper. The houses are now mostly built from rock stones.

I am sitting outside to catch a w-fi signal and it just started to drizzle. I’ll have to move under a roof somewhere. Tomorrow is 9/11. I still remember the day like yesterday.

When I arrived in Portsmouth, Va. in 2007 after having left my last West Coast port in April 2005 and I was struck by the contrast of the sad condition many of the American men and women are in, compared to the countries I had visited in the Pacific, Indian Ocean and South Atlantic. Yesterday morning I was early for mass and sat at a cafe while hundreds of fair visitors were parading by. And I came up with the same prognosis. I saw only about 10/15% of men and women over 40 who had good posture, hair, complexion and were not overweight. These fair goers might not be your average Frenchmen but when I visited France regularly in the sixties and seventies you would never see this many overweight under-exercised people. I’d say that the Italians, Greeks and the Adriatic countries look a whole lot better in that respect.

Sunday Sep 9 Charlevile-Mézières

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The parking lot of the old Gothic church of St. Léger was filled. It could have been Easter Sunday or Christmas Eve. But this enormous church that could seat at least a 1000 worshippers in the times when it was built now barely filled 20 percent of the 500 chairs that are set up in it, for this morning bi-weekly service. The parking lot had been filled with the people going to the country fair.

It was a very inspiring sermon the gospel of the healing of the deaf-mute. “Effata!”

I arrived Saturday afternoon in Charleville-Mézièrres at 4.30 p.m. at k.m. 80 from the Belgian border.  It is still hot, in the seventies. I am in shorts and nothing else. But the weather forecast is for fall weather the rest of this week. There are showers here in the camp ground connected to the marina.

I got stuck in the muck twice and had a heck of a time getting out of it. If you have a boat with over 1.70 mtr or just under 6 ft draft be prepared to get sucked into the mud or scrape the gravel shallows.

This town seems to be more interesting than Sedan. I have no pictures to show of Sedan other than the church service.

Can anyone identify the tree in the two pictures. It looks like a Black Walnut or and Ash. It has these seed pods like a Leguminosa family. It is not a locust not an Acacia. It is the predominant tree along the river banks from the north Rhone and into the Meuse. It bugs me.


Saturday Evening Post. Sep 8. in Sedan

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

It was an other gorgeous day. It started out cold and foggy but by 11 a.m. I had peeled off the ski hat, heavy foul weather coat, sweat shirt and by the afternoon I was in shorts, no socks, no shirt. It is now 7.30 p.m. and I’m still in shorts and t-shirt.

I managed  a little more distance today with the automatic locks and no one to slow down for. 54 K’s total with 8 locks. I am now 108 k’s from the Belgian border. Tomorrow will be a shorter day since I’ll go to 11 am mass at St. Leger, here. Sedan is not a particularly attractive town, what I saw sofar. I have not been to the town center yet. There is big country fair going on, similar to the Puyallup Fair (which if I remember right takes place right now as well). The public is also very similar and the merchandise they sell or promote. Right now I am often on the actual river bed of the Meuse and it is deeper and wider. In the canal with just 12 to 24 inches under my keel I have always been holding my breath for that bump. Now I can breathe easier.

I figure that I can make it to Namur by Thursday and that will give me time to go through the boat and pull out the items that Dirk Jan will take to Amsterdam, to make room for my guest.

Friday Sept 7 in Dun sur la Meuse

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I am at k.m. 162 from the Belgian border and after that 50 k’s to go to Namur, to escape the 3 week Meuse closure.

I plan to be in Namur by the evening of the 14th. That means that I need average 30 k’s per day. And that should not be a problem, barring hick ups. Today I did 4o k’s at a very slow speed going through the manually operated locks with the super slow tug boat. The lady on the tug brought me a piece of home baked apple pie, in one of the locks.  It was cold this morning. the radio reported that the mercury was 2 degrees above Celcius in Charlesville, just north of here. There was thick fog on the water this early morning and I expect that that could slow me down from here on, in the mornings. I peeled out of my heavy foul weather coat and ski hat by 10 a.m. and I ate dinner in shorts and t-shirt, bare feet. It got up into the seventies Fahrenheit. This spot and the evening have to be one of the most memorable of this years cruise. Also the landscape just had me snapping pictures left and right. The fresh plowed fields, the wild Meuse rDun sur Meuse is breathtaking. The 14th century church Our Lady of Dun Haut sits high above the Meuse and I had a wonderful vista of the Meuse valley. It was a delightful hike. I was able to take a hot shower in the facility of the camping area adjoins the moorage.

It is Saturday morning and the fog is thick. Pictures in next town. Internet very weak here.



Thursday Sept 6 Verdun

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

I managed to cover 31 km today. For about 60 km the locks are hand cranked by a travelling lock keeper. I had to make an appointment for this. As it happens I am paired up with a very slow old tug, which goes at half the speed I can go. We did 9 locks together today. Tomorrow we’ll be doing the last 8 of the manual locks and then I can speed up again through the automatic remote controlled locks.  It was cold in the morning but by 11 o’clock I had peeled my heavy parka off and later my sweatshirt. It got into the low seventies and the same is promised for the next days. Going slow has its advantages, you get to see more. This is beautiful country. The corn has been mostly harvested and the fields plowed for the next harvest. I arrived in Verdun at 4 p.m. Very nice city. This town is where the largest and longest battle of the 1st world war was fought. 700,000 people lost their lives in the 6 month period in 1916.  I needed a hair cut badly. The last one was in Monte Negro in late June…

I called Namur to be sure about the closure of the Meuse. I need to be in Namur before the evening of the 15th. I plan on being there on the 14th and then meet Dirk jan, my oldest nephew, from Haarlem, there and he will take some of the bulky items from the boat to make room for my friend Ce Ce. And then I will train to Paris on Saturday and meet Ce Ce at the airport on Sunday morning.

Wednesday Sep 5. St. Mihiel

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Be sure to check this month’s “Latitude 38”. Go to page 138 at, with a very complimentary commentary of my 7 year voyage. This compliment from Richard Spindler, the orignator of Latitude-38, carries for me more value than any one else in the sailing publications. His magazine has done more than any other publicatiions to realize dreams like mine.

Never a dull day. Yesterday I made it to St. Lay Remy at km 120 on the canal de l’Est. That was a decent day for distance and I had already set back to plan “A” to go to Paris. after all. But then at one of the last locks the lock keeper told me that there is no way to get into Paris with my 1,75 mtr draft because, since mid August, the draft has dropped to 1,4 mtr in the canal de Marne au Rhin. So, back to plan “B”.

To day I covered more  than 40 kms, Then I learned today that the Canal de Meuse betwen the French Belgian border and Namur will be closed for 3 weeks…. from the evening of September 15. This means that I have two choices. Get going and be in Namur before the 15th or go back via Touls and take the Moselle and the Rhine. I should  be able to make the first option. That means that I have to take the train from Namur to Paris on the 15th to be at the airport to meet Ce Ce on the morning of the 16th. My nephew Dirk Jan has accepted my challenge to drive from Holland and bring the draft down an inch or more and make some more room for my crew. So that will most likely happen in Namur. Tania on the Dutch motor yacht “De Eenling” from Huizen checked out the possible route through the Canal d’Ardennes and it turns out that is not an option because the draft is down to 1,6 mtr. Take a good look at the picture of the Dutch barge “Brave Bart” in the below pictures. They will be going up with me tomorrow and are moored next to me here. Check out their web site. You’d have a fabulous vacation with them in luxury. on the French waterways. An English couple, Jim and Diane operate this barge. I expect that my cousin Karel van der Meer will have some more information for me about this 1910 built “Katwijker” at Boot in Alphen a/d Rijn. Because this barge was used to carry sand from the Scheldt to Holland and Karel used to operate the largest sand barge in the sixties/seventies in the same trade. The original name was “Kieks” and she was owned by the English author Gerard Morgan Grenville as “La Pursuite de Bonne Aire”. Later it was owned by the American movie actor Darren McGavin who was married to Kathie Brown, who played “little Joe”s wife in Bomanza. Lots of history here in St. Mihiel. By pure coincidence “Brave Bart” is identical in meaning and spelling in Dutch.

When I see a boat name of someone I know I try take a picture and send it to them. Today my very own ship came in “Jacob” my baptismal name.

When I came back from grocery shopping I saw the Chard in with the flowers. So, this will be added into my stir fry. “Aan een struik zo vol geladen mist men een twee blaadjes niet”