May 7th  Farewell to Veurne and bound for Nieuwpoort

Veurne’s wonderful old Town Hall – Belgian Army headquarters in WWI

Tea Rooms along the Market Place sell more beer and coffee than tea

 

After farewells to the friends we had made - the couple at the De Dreve, with its WiFi spot and known amongst some DBA members we have since learnt as the “Pink Pub”, the folk who run the plant and pet shop who helped with our little travelling herb planter box and to Johan the lock-keeper/yacht-haven meister and fount of knowledge on so many things, we were off up the canal bound for Nieuwpoort.

 

The De Dreve – great food, drinks, hospitality and WiFi

Plants and pets for sale and lots of helpful free advice

The Nieuwpoort Sluice in Veurne

Veurne’s recalcitrant railway bridge

 

First though, a lock and then the low railway bridge, which had to be raised to let us through. We had no phone number to ring or VHF channel to radio to alert them, but had been assured by Johan that all would be fine. We waited patiently for 15 minutes.  Nothing was happening.  Then Johan radioed to say he had again been in contact with the railways people and the bridge would soon be opening – “It’s a bit early in the morning for them, and don’t worry if the lights stay on red – just go on through”.  Sure enough the bridge finally started to go up and as Johan predicted, the warning lights did stay red! 

 

 

Apart from a couple more interesting bridges, the canal back to Nieuwpoort, where we planned to have a couple of stainless steel cleats fitted on the cabin roof to make it easier for Lesley to handle her ropes in locks single handed, is quiet and straight.  This was lucky as we had a further failing of our electro-hydraulic steering – for the sixth day on our journeys.  It’s been sporadically turning itself off without warning save a little buzzer in the electric cupboard coming on, at the most inconvenient times and locations – approaching weirs, tight bridges and narrow sections with other boats passing.  After turning it on again, it has generally run uneventfully again for weeks before having another “event”.  All kinds of theories have been proffered as to the cause of this potentially dangerous fault; loose plugs, poor wiring, the freezer coming on and even VHF interference. We have spent hundreds of pounds on various “cures” but the problem has worryingly kept cropping up.  This time the steering system again started up when we hit the button.  With our confidence again shaken, we continued on towards Nieuwpoort.

 

Back in Nieuwpoort Harbour

The little tug which came to our rescue

Jonnie the tug’s captain and our savior

The Sea Star tied up after - avoiding us.

 

We passed through the lock and headed down into the tidal river and harbour.  Suddenly the alarm came on.  We had lost steering again, but this time we weren’t able to get it running again by turning it on and off.  We could use reverse and a bit of bow-thruster to keep off the harbour walls, but that was all.  A big ferry the Sea Star was fast approaching.  We urgently radioed the Nieuwpoort Harbour Master to tell him we were in trouble.  “Our steering has failed and we need assistance!”  Once he had worked out our location – just across from his office, he radioed back to say a tug was on its way to help.  The ferry went around us and a few long, anxious minutes later a little tug came alongside.  Ropes were attached and it skillfully manoeuvred us out of the channel and onto a pontoon in the yacht marina, which was where we had originally been heading. 

The tug boat captain turned out to be a lovely chap called Jonnie who refused any money in return for saving us and wasn’t too interested in joining us for a beer as he didn’t drink.  Another wonderful example of Belgian hospitality and helpfulness.

 

Some of our neighbours, including Wolfi’s Toy

 

So now we are once again tied up incongruously amongst some of Europe ’s sleekest and fastest yachts, while we wait for parts to arrive which will definitely make our steering reliable - it will be replaced!

 

 

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