September, 2013 browsing by month


Sunday September 29 Leuven/Louvain

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

No pictures of the mass in the old St. Pieter’s church. I had left my SD card for the camera in the laptop. So, you just have to take my word for it. The epistle was on the allegory Jesus told of the Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus.

Corrine and Euan showed me around Louvain. Most of all a university city, one of the oldest, founded by the Jesuits. It was another gorgeous day. Fall is here.


Saturday Sept. 28. A day on the road through Flanders and Wallonia

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Because I have a nice quiet spot on a tributary to the Scheldt in the Oudenaarde marina, I decided to do my search for the possible lead for Rose Marie’s biological mother today. It was complicated to get there by train. It took changing trains in 3 different towns and 4 hours to cover the approximately 50 mile distance. It was a 6 mile bike ride from the last station to the small village near the French border. Unfortunately it was not the result I had hoped for but at least that is now settled and the search continues in a new direction. But I had a wonderful day. Bright sunshine, checking out the quaint villages, in two of them I had over an hour wait for the next connection. The bike ride was a delight through the rolling hills. Corn and sugar beets being harvested. From my last station I was able to get to Leuven/Louvain with just a change of trains in Brussels. Corrine and Euan picked me up. I plan to be at 10 a.m. service in the St. Peter church here in Louvain and then I’ll return to Oudenaarde and will be me on my way south again. I expect to be on the French waterways on Tuesday.

Friday Sept 27 in Oudenaarde, East Flanders

Friday, September 27th, 2013

I had a bit of housekeeping to do. Updating my bank details on PayPal took a good two hours of back and forth. I talked on the telephone to my longtime business friend, whose warehouses are across the water from where I was moored in Ghent. He had to attend a funeral of one of his employees.  So, I did not get going till noon. The very first time I visited Belgium was with my parents in the summer of 1951, I was 14. We were vacationing on the Zeeland island of Walcheren. We took the ferry from Vlissingen/Flushing to Terneuzen and rode our bicycles to Ghent along the very same canal  I traveled on yesterday. I never forget the view from far away of the tall church towers in Ghent.

Magnificent churches. Jacques Brel sings about them. But much has changed since 1951. I never ever got a glimpse of them this time. The canal is lined with tall grain elevators, power plants, refineries, etc. But at 14 I was fascinated. The next year, at 15, on spring break, I hitchhiked through Belgium and that was most likely the seed that was laid for my solo wanderings. That summer I hitchhiked to Italy. And before I emigrated to the U.S.A. at 19 I had visited Italy thrice and another 12 European countries.

It was another gorgeous day. Sunny and warm, but a cool breeze. There was a long line up at one of the three locks I went through today. Oudenaarde is a typical medieval town with a tall cathedral tower and a city hall on the main market place similar to the one on the Brussel’s Grand Place. I have left the flat Dutch and West Flanders country behind and am now in the lovely rolling hills of the area I fell in love with when we lived south of Brussels in the late sixties. I am in touch with Corrine and hope to be able to train to Leuven this weekend. I am on a mission to try and check out one possible lead to find Rose Marie’s biological mother, along my route, possibly tomorrow.

Thursday Sept 26 Ghent

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

I was unable to get this out on Wednesday.:

Wednesday September 25 at Latitude 51.31.00 N 004.00.334 E

There was a light mist on Tuesday morning when I left “de Schinkel”. It burnt off later in the day and then it was shirt sleeve, nearly wind less, weather. Perfect for motoring through calm waters. My sister Karolien and my brother in law, Herman, waved me goodbye when I passed through the Ringvaart near their home in Badhoevedorp. I stopped in Woubrugge at the boat yard of Van Wijk, to drop off my book “De Mastmakersdochters” I had met Bouw van Wijk in 2007. The “other” Mastmakers’ Daughter, my mom’s cousin, was the sister of his grandfather, Wouter Boot.  His great grandmother and mine traded their maritime products and sons and daughters. One of my grandfather’s sisters married Manus Boot and his younger brother married Gerarda Boot, the mother of the “other” mastmakers’ daughter.   Marinus, the barge skipper who towed me up the Rhine in 2010, met me before the Juliana lock, near Gouda. I had planned to stay there for the night but he managed to talk me into having him pilot me to Dordrecht, where we arrived at 8.30 p.m. I could have never done it and found my way in the dark across the big rivers and all the traffic going in and out of Rotterdam. He knows these waters like the back of his hand.  He had left his commercial barge in the hands of his wife Leni and a deckhand to unload in Antwerp and drove to the Juliana lock. He slept on the boat and took the train from Dordrecht and a stiff walk from the station to his car. He also went over the charts and wrote sheets of very useful information for today’s and tomorrow’s directions. If I had not made it to Dordrecht last night it would have taken me three instead of two days to get across the Western Scheldt to Terneuzen. Last night I could not find a wireless connection and here in Wemeldingen I hope to get this out. I am at the reception float of a marina and no one has returned my call yet. But I cannot get off this float to the shore without inflating my dinghy to get into town. Well, at least the moorage will be affordable. I need it to buy a new handheld VHF. I dropped mine overboard accidentally at the last lock. They are essential for the locks and traffic control centers. But there are no marine stores till I get across the Western Scheldt, tomorrow. It was a delightful day to travel. Again quite balmy. This time I travelled mostly in wide estuaries and bays, so I had time to leave the helm to the autopilot. I made it to Wemeldingen by 5.45 p.m. in a marina just to the west of the north end of the Kanaal door Zuid Beveland. The town is just short bicycle ride from Kapelle-Biezelingen, where my mother went to school when she was between 11 and 13. Her recollections are in “the” book.  My 28-200 zoom lens does not focus any longer in zoom. The below picture of the full flip of the wave boarder was partially corrected with photo shop. I will now use my 28-100 lens.

Thursday Sept 26:

I left Wemeldinge around 8 a.m. on the Canal through Zuid Beveland, into the Western Scheldt. It was a gorgeous day. The ebb tide swept me to Terneuzen. I purchased a new handheld VHF Radio in Terneuzen. $300… Ouch. But this one floats…. Got back on the road again another 35 km to Ghent. I am staying at the Royal Belgian Y.C., pleasant spot, just north of the city. The large warehouses of Van Hoorebeke Timber are right across from the marina. I sold my largest single volume order, ever, to Franz van Hoorebeke when I worked in Brussels for Weyerhauser in 1966. It was a deckload of construction grade Douglas Fir that was loaded in Coos Bay Oregon and discharged right here in Ghent. We stayed friends through the years. I plan to take a train from tomorrow night’s stop o Saturday to Leuven to visit Corrine, my granddaughter, and Euan.

September 23rd. Don’t mess with Murphy.

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

After I thought that I had done all the necessary maintenance chores for the long haul to the Med, Thomas stopped by. He asked me if I had ever replaced the impeller on the engine’s water pump. No I had not. Then he explained to me the risks of not doing this, parts of the impeller, could mess up the cooling system. My previous engine did not have a heat exchanger and I usually just replaced the impeller when it broke. Thomas was so insistent that I felt I had no choice but to promise him I’d look after it. Besides his boat name is: “Murphy’s Law”. Sailors do not leave on a Friday and defying Murphy’s Law is tempting the Lord.

So, I crawled back into the engine compartment. Why did Thomas not stop by a day earlier? Because I had to remove the oil filter again to get at the water pump. It took hours to remove the cover and I was sure I would just take a look at the impeller and then put it all back together because the water pump has worked just fine. But when I puled the impeller one of the 6 wings was broken off and had disappeared somewhere in the cooling system. I replaced it with one of the two spares I carry.  Another club member, Robin Gorter, has the same engine , an older model, in his boat. He told me where I most likely would find the broken off part. The Solé’s manual does not give you any hint and suggest you go through the whole cooling circuit. It was right in front of a sieve where the cooling water enters the heat exchanger, together with a gob of sea-grass.

Yesterday was the last time I went to mass at the St. Augustine church. Another beautiful service with the “Voces Volantes” choir. It will take some getting used to the, in comparison, much soberer services in other parts on my voyage. Afterwards I rode to the Ooster Begraafplaats (Cemetery) where both my parents are buried. I happen to be listening to a CD of Jenny Arean. In one of her songs, “Cimetière”, she observes two French ladies going to the cemetery and this brings emotions and envy because she will never have the opportunity to visit and care for her parents grave. They were murdered in the holocaust. I realized that in the four years that I had been here I had many opportunities to visit my parents’ grave. In the picture you will see  the both my father and my paternal grandfather, J(acob) van Ommen (I was named after him) died at age 57 and my grandmother at 47. Thank God I have my mother’s genes.

I met Corrine and Euan on their arrival this morning at the Amsterdam airport. She brought me my brand new SamSung tablet. My youngest son, Seth, also put a package together of accessories for it. I am anxious to get to work with it. You will now also get a chance to see part of my adventure in short video clips on the blog.

I am all set for an early morning departure for the long haul to the Med.

September 21. Saturday Evening Post

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Summer came and went with a beautiful balmy evening. After the nasty dark rainy stormy weather we have had in the last 2 weeks. The barometer keeps rising and we are promised a week of warmer weather. I am still doing a few chores that were not absolutely necessary to be under way but now that I am back here at “de Schinkel”, with less time constraints, where they have work shop facilities, I replaced several of the plywood covers of my storage under the bunks. They were not waterproof glued and the the leaks in the old deck ruined them. I changed the oil and filter. I have been consulting with my friends here on the route to take to the Mediterranean and I have decided to return by a different route to the Rhone river than the way I came here, last year. This time I plan to go by way of Terneuzen and Ghent, Tournai, then via the Canal de St. Quentin to connect to the Saone and the Rhone.

The mast is much better secured than when I went up the Rhine and down the Danube  Compare the two pictures.

Today was the annual puzzle cruise through the Amsterdam canals. A perfect day for it. I would have liked to join as a passenger but I got them puzzled enough trying to figure out if I am coming or going.  But, as it stands right now, I shall leave here on Tuesday morning.


Thursday Sept 19. My over-holed mast.

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

I am extremely satisfied with the repair job. You can see from the pictures the sizes of the holes and how well they have been filled in. Hans de Boer is a truly expert at aluminum welding. The majority of the missing material was filled in with aluminum plate and little as possible with welded material.

Plan “C” is still a remote option. I will check the long term forecast again. We will be getting better weather, after all the rain and wind this week,  starting this weekend with favorable wind direction but then it turns to the south for the rest of next week. I cannot leave till Monday at the earliest. Corrine is bringing me my new SamSung tablet which I hope to be able to use for my Navionics charts. But I am still totally confused on their system. The app of for their charts does not seem to have installed properly and they are backlogged in answering me.

Does any one have any experience with multiplexers? It was recommended to me in particular for receiving the AIS signals which travel at a high speed that otherwise might not be received well on a tablet. But the one I am looking at the ShipModul MiniPlex 2 Wi is about $ 350.

Tuesday. Sept 17. Mast down. A possible plan “C” is rising.

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Between rain showers the mast is now resting well on “Fleetwood”. I am back at the yard where I replaced the deck. Hans de Boer, the yard owner is an expert aluminum welder. I expect that the spreader repair will be successful. The below picture is of the spreader bar and the spreader. Is there any one who might be able to direct me to the manufacturer of this type of spreader bar?

The mast was made by Yacht Riggers in Seattle ( Tom Huckle??) in 1983, but they are history. The Catalinas have a similar spreader bar. I took all the dimensions today.

Apparently there is a two week weather window in the prospect that could possible get me to Portugal by the Atlantic after all. It will all depend on the mast repairs and getting the AIS to work. I ordered a Samsung Android tablet with GPS which I hope will get me to the AIS and Navionics charts. I did get the SailMail hooked up. If I end up on the French river/canal route I will be much better set up carrying the mast than I was in 2010 on the trip to the Black Sea. After 300 plus locks the next 200 plus will be piece of cake.


Monday Sept 16. Getting ready for the trip south.

Monday, September 16th, 2013

The mast comes down tomorrow and then we will figure out how to repair the spreader wear.

The nearly full moon reminded me that I was floating again just when the previous moon was full. The weather has drastically changed from a hot summer to a stormy cool fall. The small electric heater is back in service.

Every time I run into someone here I have to explain once again why I am back here. I think I’ll print out a flyer, otherwise I’ll still be here for Christmas.

The club flag mast and Horse Chestnut with today's nearly full moon


Friday the 13th. My lucky day.

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

I made the late night/early morning Standing Mast route through the Amsterdam canal bridges in company of four other sail boats. When we arrived at the southern end of the route at around 3 a.m. Thursday, the last lock was open but we then found out that the railroad bridge was stuck shut. So, we al had to find a spot to spend what was left of the night. It turned out that the bridge was out of order already since Tuesday. Why did they not tell us that before we started the Standing Mast route? And that there was no indication as to when the bridge would open again. The repair crew had not been able to find the cause. The other four boats decided to turn back, make the nightly passage through the North end of the route that Thursday/Friday night and make a 6 hour detour via Haarlem. I decided to sit it out because I had plenty of things to look after on the boat and my destination was just at the other side of the bridge. A German catamaran had been waiting since Tuesday at the south side of the bridge. He was getting desperate with his vacation running out this weekend. Later on Thursday I was told that there would be another repair crew giving it a try at 00.30 hours on Friday. And at 3.30 a.m. the VHF woke me up with the good news. At 4.30 I was back at “de Schinkel”.

Friday evening I sent out my “Where is jack” mail. Telling everyone of my failed attempt to leave via the North Sea. I felt a bit embarrassed, depressed. It is now Saturday morning and the comments and encouragements are coming in, in reply to the mass mailing. Thank you! I love you all! I feel better and plan to be better prepared this time. I had waited to re-install the dodger (buiskap) till two days before my departure and discovered that three of the five window panels had cracked while in storage on the hot attic and several of the zippers had their stitching torn. I took it to a repair facility, yesterday.

I need some more help from my blue water sailing friends, with the Navionics installation. I had at first thought that the operating system for it was a free app on a tablet but stand corrected and I have managed to install the app for my laptop. I am running the Fugawi software on a 10 day trial period and I have had several e-mails to them but am not much wiser. My question is do I need a card reader or not to install the Navionics charts? Fugawi tells me: Navionics charts bought after April 2010 no longer need to use the Navionics Multi Card Reader that the charts  can be used in a standard SD/CF reader and can be copied to the hard drive of the PC so that the card does not need to be present in the card reader to use the charts in the software. Why can’t they just be downloaded to the harddrive?

Before I ever had the o.s. for the charts, I purchased the one chart of the UK/Netherlands. And it is by far the best chart I have ever used but I am unable to import it into the Fugawi system. I did get all the free NOAA BBS charts imported. Is there any other navigation software that I can use the Navionics charts on? I have Nobeltec Navichart and the Open CPN.

The second question that I still have is on how to best use the AIS system. I have never been able to make this feature work on my Standard Horizon VHF radio and Fugawi tells me that they have no experience with it being hooked up to their software. They suggest a $ 300 antenna from : I hate to have to bolt on another antenna when I have a perfectly good VHF antenna. Please, help!

Another morale booster was to find the below photo of my Daughters # 1 and #2 on Facebook this morning. The picture was taken by Lisa’s friend Roberta Bailey at the party this week for Corrine and Euan. Corrine is my oldest granddaughter. You know her already. She lives in Leuven/Louvain Belgium where she was married on May 4th to Euan. They are right now on a three week vacation in the Pacific N.W. and this was their wedding celebration with her family and friends. With my travel plan “B” I shall be able to visit them in Leuven on my way through Belgium. And this will also be an opportunity for another try at possibly be able to connect Rose Marie (daughter #2) with her biological mother. Lisa and Rose Marie were adopted, Lisa in 1964 in Santa Barbara, California and Rose Marie in Brussels, when we lived there for four years, in 1968. Rose Marie still maintains her Belgian citizenship. In 1969 Jeannine (Daughter #3) was our first biological child, also born in Belgium.  Lisa found her birth mother 20 years ago. Rose Marie expressed her desire to connect with hers during my last visit in the N.W. Last year when I passed through Liege I found the address where her mother used to live but did not get any further. I have a new idea and who knows this time on my same way back I might be able to reunite two women. I happen to be extremely blessed to be the father of these ladies. We became a “ménage a trois” in 1972, when their mother and I split up. Lisa was 8 and Rose Marie was 4. Jeannine 3 and John 1 went back to California with their mother. These two young ladies became my counselors, friends, sweethearts and even though we are separated by a great distance since I took off in 2005 our love has grown even stronger. Since my first arrival on the Atlantic coast in 2007 where Jeannine and her family live I have spent several winters with them and she and I have also become very close friends.

I just wanted to share my blessings with you. God is good!

L.R (you guessed it) L #1 R #2