We left Diksmuide fairly early on Wednesday 18th June, reversing ~200m down to the wide section where we had turned around at the start of the week. After turning around once more, we continued on our way north towards Nieuwpoort.
The next couple of days were a relaxed continuation of the rally with several barges travelling in convoy back towards Bruges. At Oudenburg, we all enjoyed aperros aboard ‘Avalon’ with Margaret and Phil taking advantage of the free water and electrics there. We also bought more garden produce from the enterprising pensioner who appeared as soon as we arrived.
Our next stop was Jabbeke where we spent two days and finally managed to catch the bar restaurant open, enjoying a couple of local beers and making use of their free wifi. The cycling section of a triathlon provided an interesting spectacle as they raced past us along the towpath.
Jabbeke, as seen from the bar!
We passed through Bruges and stopped overnight again at Moerbrugge, touching base with ‘Anthonia’ and ‘Avalon’ who were also there. Our next stop was at Sluis Schipdonk at the junction with the Eeklo Canal, which had been full on or previous visit. The cheerful lock keeper was happy for us to stop there overnight and it was a pleasant, rural spot.
We left fairly early the next day as we intended cruising on the River Leie (Lys) once we reached Ghent. Our previous experience of this stretch had been in windy, wet conditions so the sunny day made a pleasant change. A sharp turn to starboard and we were on the quiet, winding and very narrow River Leie. The scenery was pretty and reminiscent of the Thames around Marlow. We enjoyed the day and luckily only encountered small day boats, anything our size coming in the opposite direction would have presented a challenge!
The River Lys.
Hard work on the wheel for the first few kilometres.
The only lock of the day was an open stop lock with a manual lift bridge a few km from our destination. A toot on the horn brought out the cheery operator who complimented us on the barge saying it was the prettiest he’d seen for a good while. We were soon moored up near the church at Deinze, a pleasant little town with a good quay. The next day, I returned by train to Diksmuide to collect the car (an unbelievably easy and direct route as it turned out) leaving Peter to find out if we could use the electrics on the pontoon and shop for the evening meal. Our friends Louise and Alex were stopping by overnight en route to the UK.
Sadly the electrics were for private use, but the cooked chickens and cherry tart from the market provided a tasty meal. We enjoyed the evening together and Louise and Alex left the next morning to catch their ferry.
During our stay at Deinze we explored the River Dendre, dropping the car to Blaton Lock before returning on the motorcycle. We passed through some pretty countryside and looked forward to bringing the barge there with Adam and Amy in a week or so.
We were delighted when Lynn and Stew (‘Matariki’) turned up unexpectedly one morning for coffee. They had been in nearby Oudenarde watching a friend’s son compete in a cycling race. Opportunities of seeing winter ‘barging’ friends are rare in the cruising season, unless of course you travel together. We insisted they stay the night and return to St Quentin the following day. Lynn and I enjoyed a walk, Peter and Stew visited a local bar to try out several Belgian brews.
Deinze was hosting the penultimate stage of a 2000 strong cycling event of 50km. While we lazed on deck, hundreds of weary cyclists arrived for refreshments while raucous disco music blared around the port, they were encouraged to join in and dance…….some chance!
Meanwhile, Jeremy and Carol (‘Anthonia’) had arrived in town and we spent a couple of pleasant evenings with them while we organised a gas inspection of both barges. The quote had been reasonable and we expected to pass easily.
Unfortunately, the inspector found faults with both barges. ‘Anthonia’ had a tiny leak and a small amount of pipe work to alter while ‘Aurigny’ needed some new pipes to replace the hidden compression joints (all of which must be accessible for inspection.)
We were unable to get a quote for the remedial work, but as a gas certificate is part of the TRIVW (sort of boat safety certificate), we had no choice but to agree to a return visit. This was arranged for two days time giving us the chance to prepare what we could to facilitate the work. To our surprise two chaps turned up and a couple of hours later we were rewarded with a new pipe and copy of the gas certificate. Jeremy and Carol were less fortunate with the elusive leak that no end of replacement parts would stop. Eventually however, ‘Anthonia’ also passed, but the inspectors were still unable to tell us how much it would all cost.
It took over three weeks for the bill to arrive and to say we were shocked is an understatement. We’d signed the worksheet and they had made two visits, but we wondered if we may have been ‘had over.’ Jeremy and Carol felt the same, but hopefully our barges will now pass all future gas inspections easily………….. another lesson learned.
We had spent a pleasant eight days in Deinze, but were ready to move on once again