Wednesday, 3 January 2018


Well, its that crazy time of year again and as usual, between boat jobs, we fit in the obligatory eating, drinking and making merry. Commencing the silly season with birthdays, this time in cahoots with "Red Roo's" Maree, and moving right along into the Xmas Market season. It would seem that a European traditional Xmas Market is erected in every City. British tourists are sold package holidays to visit Christmas Markets in Europe. In Antwerp it was in the Groet Market, a central space presided over by the Antwerp City Hall and surrounded by spectacular Flemish architecture. Gilded Galleons, fish, and famous figures adorn the surrounding rooftops. Every evening, to the accompaniment of Christmas carols, the local inhabitants, and tourist, promenade the square, eating seasonal delicacies and sipping on Glugwein and hot chocolate. Restaurants surround the square and they are always full. The life-size nativity scene in front of the wondrous Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady has an empty cradle. Skaters skim around the ice rink which is erected near by at Groenplaats. On opening night a spectacular light and sound show was projected on the City Hall.The atmosphere is one of fun and expectation and is not dampened by the ever-present sight of armed guards, their fingers always on the trigger of their automatic weapons.

Xmas Market Antwerp.

Our lead up to Xmas included some visits to local restaurants for a course here or there. Xmas day itself was a quiet one aboard Taipan but not a hungry one. We experimented with a Dukigeon. David ordered a duck and a wild pigeon from the local meat boutique and he boned them out and I stuffed them with, chicken mince, prunes, orange, and walnut stuffing and resewed it together. Pressure cooked for 15 minutes, bagged in the Wonderbag for 5 hours then BBQ to finish and crisp for 45 minutes. It was sensational, served with roast veg, cauliflower cheese and gravy. Preceded by prawn cocktail and followed by plum pudding cream and brandy sauce.

On Boxing Day everything is open so we strolled and we visited the Rubens House. This baroque master had a stunning house in the center of Antwerp. Built and expanded over a number of years it is a masterpiece of the era. The house is full of beautiful art and furniture from the period. Definitely worth a visit. 

On the 27th of December, we left Willemdock marina once again and headed down river towards Vlissingen. This was not one of our better-planned trips. Total about 40nm. It is easy to become complacent when tied up securely in the marina. There is very little wind as the surrounding buildings deflect it. We left with a forecast of southwesterly maybe up to about 25knots. Shouldn't be a problem. Wrong! We had a fairly pleasant trip for the first day with the current and in sunshine. 

Harbour Building

The overnight forecast was for increasing wind and the forecast strength was higher. We had anchored about 18 miles downriver at our previous anchorage on the change of tide. Several hours later we dropped out some more chain and waited. The wind built and the tide rose, we had less protection as the water rose over the banks to windward. Just before high tide we had several gusts over 50knots. The waves occasionally broke over the bow and we actually decided to sleep in the aft cabin. Something we usually only do on passage!. The wind settled after several hours and we were awoken by loud banging on the deck around dawn by a police boat. 

Canal barge with telescopic bridge. So he can pass under low bridges.

Thinking he wanted to check our papers we scurried around, getting presentable and opened the hatch. No! All they  wanted to know was.... "are you OK?" Satisfied that all was well they went happily off on other business. We learned from local friends that it is unusual for boats to anchor in the river. It is true. Most European boaters don't anchor, its marinas every night.

Fladen suites to the fore!

The leg to Vlissingen the following day was into 30 knots and the temperature was around 5 degrees out of the wind. Not altogether pleasant, and we were relieved to arrive, with friends Dick and Anita off "Kind of Blue" to greet us alongside at VVW Scheld inside the lock at Vlissingen.

Train to Central Station Rotterdam.

On the 29th we boarded a train to Rotterdam. Evert and Janny, ”Moby Dick”, had invited us to spend New Year with them. The train trip is only one and three-quarter hours to central Rotterdam. Here we met some English friends, Jeananne and Ray, also on a visit to Rotterdam. We lunched together and exchanged news and greetings at Nostra, a particularly nice wine bar, and then wandered to the MarktHal where we were picked up by Evert.

Evert and Janny have a lovely home overlooking the river and city and we were totally spoiled by them during our three-day visit. A visit to The Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, an ethnographic museum, where we saw a fabulous Mask Exhibition amongst other things. Being an amateur mask collector I particularly enjoyed this one. 

Happy New Year.
The fireworks on New Year's Eve commenced around 7pm with private crackers going off everywhere. It is legal in Holland to buy fireworks several days before New Year and the Dutch spent €74 million on fireworks this year!! They continued to light the entire horizon until around 2am. The city fireworks, fired from the Swan Bridge in central Rotterdam, were spectacular and the weather was clear, with an almost full moon overhead. Enjoyed in great company, accompanied by Oliebollen and Appelflappen and many other traditional delights.

Delfshaven. The Coat of Arms is Herring and Grain
A trip to Delfshaven, founded in 1389, when a canal was dug to give the city of Delft a connection with the Meuse and the world.   The Distilleerketel or malt mill and grain mill is a windmill built in 1986 to replace a mill which was demolished after a fire. There's a lot of lovely old architecture and of course the inevitable Dutch Barges in the canals offering such photographic opportunities. We did a tour of the Euromast, which at 185 meters offers fantastic views over the city and has extra good hot chocolate and muffins!

Our hosts. Taken at the Euromast.
After a wonderful three days of Dutch hospitality, we packed up and set off back to Taipan. It was a mixed day and one of lock failures. We put our luggage in the locker at the train station so we could do a little strolling before our departure and when we returned the mechanism controlling the locks had failed. It took some time for Railway staff to unlock the locker and return our luggage. Then, already late, when we arrived at Vlissingen, the Marina was totally locked up and we had no gate code. Luckily "Red Roo" were online and were able to supply the code as it was dark, about 2 degrees, raining, and blowing about 35knots!!!  Regardless of the day of locks, we had a fabulous New Year and look forward to 2018 adventures.

Delfshaven on a winters day.

No comments: