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JAY'S JOURNAL - ARCHIVES - 2001

This is a kind of diary, a day by day description of some of the things we have been doing on the canals and rivers of Europe.  In the index below, there are also pointers to some other rambling writings I have started.  PLEASE NOTE:  None of these are edited yet !

2002 JOURNAL

UNDERWAY

Aug 13 - Sep 4

CHAMPAGNE

5 Sep - 6 Oct

BURGUNDY

7 Oct - 29 Oct

SAINT JEAN de LOSNE

30 Oct - 16 Dec

MISCELLANEOUS FRENCH REFLECTIONS

Essay

AQUATIC PATIOS

Essay

FRENCH DOGS

GO TO THE FRONT PAGE

LOOSDRECHT 2001

June 12 - August 13

Monday 11 June

The day after my 52nd birthday was a rush. I had to be at the airport at 1.30pm but before that, pick up and install a PC in the office for our lessee Vincent, install a run-off gutter on the top step of the office basement to stop the rain flooding our stored furniture and effects, get travelers cheques, pick up and deal with the mail, deliver office keys to Enzo the office leasing agent and house keys to Nina the agent who sold our house, then pack for the trip, shower, change and get a taxi to the airport.

By a bit after 1.30pmpm I was there. I had my front row seat allocation, the blood pressure was diminishing somewhat but the hangover from the previous day’s birthday party and send off at the yacht club was not. I bought some writing paper to reply to a couple of incidental letters (one to my favorite aunt, Margaret) and settled in the café to wait for Maureen. She arrived at the airport to farewell me after her morning motor bike lesson and left shortly after for a 3.00pm meeting in Fremantle. Long farewells at airports are unhappy things best left for demonstrative Europeans.

A good flight as usual on Singapore Airlines. The choice of a number of recent good movies, quiet, efficient and generous service, quite good food - how come it always spills - and off at Singapore about six hours later.

The Cyber Café at Changi Airport is very efficient and my email was received,, read and replied to in less than the $2, fifteen minute allocation. The one and a half hour connection allowed me to buy some necessities at the airport supermarket since I had left all my toilet articles in the bathroom at my father and mother in laws house.

To be safe I used the efficient connection desk to check my seat allocation, before boarding to find a young Dutch couple in the row with me. This was a pretty full flight but a quick snack, a good movie and 3 sleeping pills sent me off for 4 hours. Another few of these very non toxic, no hangover sleeping pills gave me another 4 hours sleep until about 50 minutes before landing. I was feeling much recovered from the hang over now, ready to take delivery of the hire car and brave the early morning Dutch freeway traffic.

Tuesday 12

Arrived 6.30am and got through customs pretty quickly. Outside I took off to the wrong end of the terminal to find the rental car guide who was waiting patiently just near the customs exit. Once found there were some quick formalities and I was on the way to Utrecht and on the first ride into the great unknown.

Maps don’t help much if you are driving without a navigator and therefore can’t read them while driving. Fortunately in Europe, road signs are plentiful and if you see them in time and believe that you should stick to the road you are on until you see a new one re directing you, you will find your way - which is why I am writing this in my hotel and not from Siberia. I have been ‘lost’, or should I say, temporarily misplaced most of the time I have been driving the car here and also on foot.

However - my first task was to find the accommodation I thought I had arranged in Utrecht. I should have known from the cryptic email replies I had received that it was going to be a dud and it sure was. A couple of laid back middle eastern people in the front room of a house that had been hastily converted to a breakfast room come office come reception room come cyber café come whatever. Very grubby and not at all me. I read the riot act to all and sundry, including one very startled backpacker trying to eat a not very appetizing breakfast and I was hastily redirected to ‘the house with a green door’ on the other side of Utrecht. This address proved to be up a one way street, the entrance of which was blocked completely by road works. This is a regular thing in Holland it seems. One way streets abound, some with only one entrance, many completely blocked by roadwork's. The same is in evidence in the town of Houten where I eventually found lodgings in a really pretty little hotel on a town square surrounded by old churches, cute shops and plane tree. The entrance to the ring road is completely blocked and necessitates an 11 km drive to attack from the opposite side of the ring road to the only entrance to the town centre. This could look hilarious at peak hour if one was still in reasonable humour after a day of being trapped or going the wrong way on massive freeways.

I eventually found the ‘green door’ and got inside to be met by the chaos of a building site. The man in charge directed me to a stair case that was nearly vertical (I kid you not) to the fourth floor that revealed an unfinished room. I would never have been able to get the suitcase up the stairs and really would never have been able to get it down. I left, now in a bit of a panic about accommodation. It was lucky I didn’t have an inspection to do that day since I was now into the afternoon.

I retreated to the Centrum of Utrecht (all town centres are called Centrum) found a parking station and headed for the Tourism Office I had found on the internet. Normally I would have checked the accommodation with them but in this case I had not been able to get a reply from them to my email inquiries. In person they could not have been more helpful. I explained where I wanted to be and the price I wanted to pay and within 4 calls they had a hotel - the one I am in - and a chalet at a camping ground as a back stop. I have since inspected it and may take it if Maureen comes before I have a boat to live on. It is close to Loosdrecht, the town the boat is in.

Since I was in the centre of town I now set off to start a bank account. The first bank was unmanned except for Fridays (look out Australia if that’s the trend), the second provided a set of forms to fill in and gave me the directions to a competitive bank which was manned (and lady’ed). They couldn’t have been more friendly and after a few little computer glitches, which included issuing me the account number of a huge European conglomerate which happened to have set up an account at exactly the same time, I had an account at the ABN AMRO bank.

I decided it was time to organise a phone card for my mobile to reduce the call costs locally. This also was quick and efficient as most Dutch speak exceptionally good English. Some time later, having now left the assistance of the phone company employees, I was confronted with Dutch instructions from a robot on the end of the phone which proved a major challenge. But now it was time to set off for the adjoining town of Houten and my hotel.

It took a bit of a while to find Plein Centrum, that part of Houten I was to find the hotel - but it was worth the effort. A really beaut little pub, cheap at about $A 55 per day, but the sting is in the cost of meals ($50+) and drinks (beer $5 each). This seems a bit strange since the food and wines are not expensive when bought at supermarkets and wine shops - one of which is just next door !

Dinner was pleasant but lonely and the bed was soft and warm.

Wednesday 13

Today was the first boat inspection day so I was up early and off to Aalst to look at Vrijheid. I started early as I am waking up at 4.30 - 5.30am brain already racing. Breakfast is preset the night before so its easy to get off really early. As a side issue - breakfast is made up of slices of bread, cheese and ham, butter, coffee, chocolate, jams and condiments.

I ate some and made a sandwich of the rest and decided I would do some recce’s of the camping ground and the location of the main target boat ‘Van Nelle’ before my first inspection at 11.00. I found both - not without the driving dramas - and arrived at Vrijheid in time to video the outside of the ship to the accompaniment of the large guard dog before the owner arrived.

Maureen had seen Vrijheid before and had video taped it, so I was already familiar with a lot of it. This ship has a lot of good features but also some show stoppers like its size. Its just too big for the job we have in mind with 5 metre beam and 3.2m air height. However, I had a good 2-3 hour inspection from the bilge up and from the bow to the stern in order to get some experience before Friday - Van Nelle day - it also gave me a recent boat I could refer to in negotiations on price and condition - this worked well for me.

This day I also came to grips with the phone problem, it seems to just cut out from time to time, and the constant and infuriating email problem, not being able to send messages out, which turned out to be a missing phrase in the code line for the outward mail server.

On the way back to Houten I came across a very flash boat sales yard and marina and went in to inquire if they had any leads - they came up with Maurits Horst who you will meet later.

Wednesday is Rotary night in Houten so I went to make some acquaintances. A pleasant meal and some of the meeting in English, for me, but the guest speaker presented in Dutch. He spoke for 40 minutes about concrete. I didn’t think there was that much to say about the subject and by the looks on the faces of the rest of the audience, they agreed ! However the highlight was that they introduced themselves and their professions and I picked up a lawyer for the boat with the unlikely but propitious name of Helm Osse. It sounds to me like he is meant to steer this Aussie, a good omen I think.

Thursday 14

I went for a run this morning and found the railway station is only a ten minute walk or a five minute run from the hotel. Trains run to Utrecht every 16 minutes, so I decided I would take the train to meet Maurits in Amsterdam. Now I had seen something on TV about a train derailment but since it was in Dutch I had not put 2 and 3 together, so when I arrived at the station I was informed that the rail to Amsterdam from Utrecht was out and the train / bus / train combination would take about 2 hours. I decided to drive instead - to Amsterdam - I must have been crazy ! Getting to Amsterdam is not too much of a problem as the freeways are great and mostly lead there if you get on in the right direction, its when you get there and need to find your way through the ring roads, blocked by canals, roadwork's, bikes, tourists and one way streets that you have the problem. Amazingly I found the meeting place and proceeded to be lambasted by Maurits for over an hour before getting him to take me to see some ships at the yard. He had trouble finding the place where ‘his boats’ were sand blasted and coated but we made up with a herring sandwich and the inspection of a new boat before I set off back to Utrecht.

I took every wrong turn in Amsterdam to make a 5 minute connection with the A2 freeway a 40 minute un-conducted tour of the back streets, but unfortunately not the interesting ones ! I finally made it to the freeway and into Utrecht where I circled the block three times trying to find the entrance to the car park. In circling the block I found I was actually using a bus only street into the central bus depot at the central station. Thankfully I was not pounced on by the local police.

Once I had parked and left the parking station I found myself in a really confusing shopping mall that linked buildings with the central station and the town centre with the music theatre. I was so concerned I would lose the car by not being able to find my way back to the subterranean cavern it was in that I retraced my steps immediately to assure myself I knew where to find it. Even then it was touch and go. Then it got worse, I really couldn’t remember where the bank was that I had set up my account just two days earlier, and forgetting I had the address on the manager’s card in my wallet, I had to go to the ever helpful tourist office to get directions. I also went to the phone shop to get the message numbers changed so that my instructions were now in English and also to check out why one of the top up cards was faulty since it was not accepted by the robot voice. It actually was not faulty, the boy in the shop (they look young enough to be boys), had already installed it for me. How he did that without taking it out of its wrapper and scratching off the code number protective layer I have no idea. I guess that’s why you get the kid from next door to program your video !

By this time I was again refueled with stress and unfueled by food. The herring sandwich, which was very small had been hours earlier and breakfast had been a long time before that. Solution, 100gm of chocolate. They have great confectionery everywhere to temp you here. After a quick refueling I was off to find the car, fingers crossed. I found it - just where I had left it ! Following that triumph (small wins were now assuming grand proportions) I also found the way back to Houten.

Just to add a bit of spice to my life, while having dinner and watching the Boule Championship that was staged in the square in front of the Hotel Roskam, the owner wandered over to ask when I would be leaving the next day. I was stunned since I believed I had a coupe of weeks reserved. We discussed the issue which she explained was brought about by the hotel being fully booked and agreed that she would ‘see what she could do’ and inform me the next day - Van Nelle day. Surely I didn’t need that to add to the mounting apprehension of the inspection and negotiation for our new home.

Just to put that into perspective.... When negotiating you must have a number of equally acceptable alternative solutions in order to strengthen your hand. I had eliminated the only other contender the day before and now had a win or lose situation facing me. It was critical that I not only secure Van Nelle if she was suitable but also do it at the right price or we could not afford to refit her. And if we missed securing Van Nelle we had no future in the canal boat business ! Pressure was building

Friday 15 - the BIG day, Van Nelle inspection day

This was the day I was to inspect Van Nelle, our principal target. How to keep the stress, excitement and nervousness down to acceptable limits was the major challenge. First a run in the morning to get the brain under control, then breakfast. Next challenge, to keep the breakfast down.

Since the inspection was scheduled for 12.00 noon I had some hours to kill so I decided to check out the alternative accommodation which I had confirmed was available from the 16th some days before. This was a self contained cabin in a camp site less than 7km from Van Nelle. I found my way directly to their office, now with the assistance of my GPS which I had logged onto the area on the previous visit. My inquiry was met with the response that they were so sorry but they had let the cabin yesterday - I had not called - what could they do. So now I had nowhere to live and possibly no boat. Things were looking grim.

I moved on to the yacht harbour where Van Nelle was and made a quick change of clothes into inspection gear. Frank deJong the owner arrived shortly after and was full of friendly enthusiasm as he guided me to his ski boat for the ride to the anchorage. We had a pleasant slow trip out through the labyrinth of channels until finally we came on the two barges, Van Nelle and Franks new Tjalk, still very much under construction.

I asked for a couple of slow circuit of the hull to inspect the paint and hull state, anchor chain and stern before pulling alongside and climbing up on deck. I was met with the sight of the boat in basically the same state as I had seen 8 months before but now looking a little shabbier for the passing of time and lack of work on her. I felt a slight sinking feeling.

I started the inspection with a run through the check list with Frank and then sent him off to find the ship’s papers while I checked some critical measurements. Wheelhouse up - 3.2 metres, down 2.8. Not perfect but workable. Depth 1.3m - a bit deep for a few places but OK for the majority. I checked the bow height - 2.8m, the same as to the top of the wheel. (Note: With the wheelhouse folded down the steering wheel is now the highest point and another 10cm or so could be reduced by removing the wheel and using the tiller steering.

A walk around the deck showed what it could look like when finished, as Frank had done a bit of quick work the day before, painting the bow which looks quite smart. The rest of the deck and superstructure and fittings all have to be done. The glass skylights, hatches, outer top sides and deck equipment is covered but in need of scraping back and repainting and the wheelhouse is desperately in need of varnish.

Inside the wheelhouse revealed some cracked glass panes, material just wrapped over foam as cushions, grubby carpets and incomplete wiring. Nothing major here but again a fair bit of work needed.

Down stairs to the saloon which has inbuilt furniture that has not been finished off and walls that don’t quite meet the floor. The bathroom needs a shower hose extension and shower curtain but all the rest is OK. The bedrooms need bits of finishing like the walls to be taken to the top of the ceiling in the front cabin, the water tank under the main cabin bed needs to be resealed and fans installed in each bedroom.

The electrics are basically good, modern and functional, but need to be finished off professionally and the dirty water system has yet to be installed in the engine room. The engines are basically good including the generator and main engine but it has bits hanging off it that need to be secured, the gauges need to be connected and a start stop switch installed.

The boat has great basics and potential but needs a dedicated couple, time, expertise and some cash to make it great.

Frank and I got to talking and I wondered whether he was ready for an offer. I had been preparing him by pointing out the problems as we discovered them and he had contributed by adding things he felt needed to be done in order to hand over a ‘completed’ ship. I asked him what he wanted for the boat. He hedged, saying that he was always aware that the price would have to come down to allow for the work but that he had a bottom line in mind. I then bit the bullet and put a low but realistic offer to him after a preamble about the other great boats I was about to buy. I added that I really liked Van Nelle’s potential and that I would be most interested if I could get her at a reasonable price and with his assistance to finish the major items.

He hesitated and thought quickly, and then agreed !

I could have hugged him. No quibbling, haggling or hanging out for more. Just the offer and acceptance. I was thrilled. The price was well below what I had thought he would want and gave us room to move with refit and finishing costs. We had a drink to the deal and to the fact that it was Frank’s birthday. We then went cruising.

I took the boat out all over the extensive lakes, putting her though her paces and through extensive manouevring stopping, starting, turning and reversing. She performed very well, albeit heavy on the steering since she does not have a balanced rudder. This could be worth a look to see if that can be changed.

After more than an hour or two, time flies when your messing about in boats, the time had come to call it quits and head back. I took her all the way including a sharp turn behind his Tjalk and up alongside it - coming alongside smoothly. I could see Frank was nervous and he made a comment that the boat was still not mine yet and that he would have taken a different route but he quickly admitted that the manouevre was well done and that he was pleased a good skipper was taking her over. We then checked the engine, which had not even raised a sweat, and went aboard the Tjalk to meet his father, a jolly chubby chap who was busy doing the carpentry.

It was now time to put me ashore. We arranged a meeting for Sunday, reiterated the basic agreement and went back to the yacht basin. I headed back to Houten to check if I had a room and to celebrate. Both issues were confirmed and the next day I had a buzz from the very pleasant meal and wine.

Saturday 16 June

I decided I would start to have a bit of a holiday since the hard part of the trip was now past. Today I would relax and look around. That idea lasted for about an hour and I changed tacks to start on the to do list. I wanted to compare the cost and condition of scooters to motor bikes, do some laundry, change phone plans to see if I could reduce the cost and visit furniture shops (especially Ikea) for essential furnishings like beds.

The scooter investigation turned up a shop in Houten that sells new and used Peugeot, Piaggio and Honda machines. A new Peugeot Sportline scooter will cost less than a 15 year old 250cc bike and comes with a 3 year, Europe wide insurance and parts guarantee. Sounds good but the machine cannot be used on freeways so will be best left until I move closer to Loosdrecht and Van Nelle.

I them drove into Utrecht for the other items except, once again I missed not one by three turnoffs and entered the town from the north. It took some time to get to Centrum and the parking station, a different one. I still can’t find the first one which I thought was really convenient. So I headed off to the Tourist Office to find out where the laundrette and Ikea could be found. They obliged with maps for both and I went off to do the washing via the phone office where I changed the phone plan. About an hour later I was at Ikea amassing a shopping list and shortly after, I headed back to Houten - but first of course I took the wrong turn on to the freeway and had to reverse my direction some 5-10km later.

Once back I went off to the supermarket to get some writing things. None of the things I wanted were available but on the way out I spied racks of Van Nelle Tobacco. The company that built our ship is still in existence and according to Frank has just spent large amounts refurbishing their historic buildings. I took the contact details from a packet in order to contact their PR people for any detail they may have on the ship. Walking back to the hotel I passed the tobacconists shop where, in the front window was a photo of the shop in 1930 with the words Van Nelle emblazoned all over the windows. I immediately asked the owner if I could borrow the picture to be copied. He was happy with the suggestion and I made arrangements with the local photographer to do the job on Monday.

A cheap meal tonight was found at the deli around the corner - a hamburger.

Sunday 17 - Contract negotiation day.

This turned out to be a bit of an anticlimax as the meeting wasn’t lunch. We met at the restaurant at 1200 and immediately went out to the ship on the lake - Van Nelle that is. We sat at the table and agreed and disagreed about who would pay for what and guess what - we ended up with me paying for most of the items. But that’s what I expected so it was no great surprise.

After we had done the detail stuff for the contract we then left. Back to Houten. An uneventful night except that I tried a new place to eat which turned out to be the best of the lot. They were full so I had to sit at the bar - that was great because I could see all the meals going out and choose the best. Sitting at the bar also gets you involved in the banter at the bar etc so you feel you have some company - even if it is all in Dutch.....

Monday 18 - A fill-in day that went up like a balloon.

I agreed to meet Frank at Loosdrecht to seek out dinghies and motors since I am going to need both to get out to the ship which will be anchored out at the lake. We met and transferred to his Land Rover and headed off to a couple of second hand and new equipment places.

We sussed out a couple of likely boats and engines, finally bringing the cost down to about 1800 from nearer 6,000. The choice of both engine and motor are to some extent contingent on each other so I made offers and gave my number to receive acceptances or negotiation. Then we made some calls to book surveyors, insurance companies and a ship yard.

To cut to the chase - the yard immediately said "come tomorrow" and the insurance company said they could supply a surveyor and were happy to insure an Australian - and so, we were off to AMSTERDAM THE NEXT DAY !!!!

That of course caused all sorts of considerations not the least of which was that Frank and Louise and their two kids needed to relocate and shift a whole bunch of stuff overnight since they were not coming. I was invited back to the boat for dinner and we went over the plans for the trip before I went back to Houten to extricate myself from the Hotel Roskam and its owner, the Madam from hell!

This rather large, self important lady had been a pain when I checked in since I wanted to see the rooms and negotiate for a better one at a lower rate. She apparently had a low view of me from that exchange as well.

I had paid a week in advance for this time as I had originally paid for a couple of days at the VVV the Dutch Tourism Organisation. She definitely did not want to give any of the money for the four unused days back. After trying to be nice for a while I lost it. We had a stand up fight in the bar / restaurant before I threatened to go to the VVV with threats about her license. At that she tactically withdrew to the office and when she re-appeared, threw money at me - not enough to cover the four days but enough for me to feel really good about the 75% victory - since I had been perfectly willing to go 50 / 50.. I had found another hotel in Loosdrecht but I would not need that for the time I would be sleeping on the boat in Amsterdam so I had made a good win.

After packing I went to bed that night with a delicious apprehension and woke the next morning at 5.00 ready to go.

Tuesday 19 - The cruise to Amsterdam

I managed to contain some of my enthusiasm by going for a run and packing the car before having breakfast - once again with a sense that it wasn’t all that happy to be in such a nervous tummy. I headed for the car having given the Hotel Roskam and its owner an Aussie salute and played loud music all the way to Loosdrecht.

Now you know that I take at least one wrong turn on every journey, well, this time I didn’t ! On arrival at the roundabout just short of the boatyard however I was confronted with more of Holland’s roadworks which completely closed off the only road into town from this direction. Now I not only had to take another route - but I had to find it and not get so hopelessly misplaced that I would be late. I was actually about an hour and a half early but that gave me no comfort as I meandered the Dutch countryside. I actually tried following other cars that had also been stopped at Loosdrecht but had decided that they were now NOT heading in my direction.

Thank God for GPS. I have been wearing out my little hand held Magellan since I arrived and it hd saved me hours. Unfortunately it is not (yet) programmed with all the roads and towns of Holland - but it soon will be !

I arrived an hour before the meeting time of 8.30 and called Frank to advise. He was early also and arrived a half hour later with Cosette, his daughter who goes to school just across the road from the yacht harbour. We then went off to the boat and were received by a hassled looking Louise - his partner and mother of the kids. Boxes were loaded into their biggish dinghy and she set off for shore as we started the engine and headed off.

What can I say - this was bliss - it just doesn’t get any better. Sun shining, lots of boats, big, bigger, small and HUGE. Small canals with tiny locks and big canals with huge ones and Amsterdam harbour, full of ferries, barges and ships, and I conned the ship (almost) all the way....BLISS.

There is a cute custom here where the lock keepers and bridge operators swing a clog attached to a pole by fishing line out to the boats going through for donations. You don’t have to pay - but don’t come back this way since they have long poles and longer memories.

On the way we were behind a Locaboat 1260 (the boat we had in France on our last trip with Davis and Judith Reed and Gary and Dianne Prattley) and a private cruiser. After being held up by the obviously inexperienced Locaboat operator for a while in small canals I pushed the throttle fully forward and breezed past at over 14 kmh, that’s nearly 7 knots , pretty amazing considering the size of the boat and the fact that it only has a 150hp engine.

We took 4 hours to get to Amsterdam and after about an hour wait the boat came out of the water.

Now bear in mind that seeing the bottom of the boat is one of the key issues as its condition is critical to the future of your ownership.

She is just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful ! I almost cried it was such a revelation to see this magnificent ship rise out of the water straight and true and huge and elegant. It was a hell of a feeling and a hell of a day which I will fill out later. as I have some work to do to prepare for the conference with the yard managers tomorrow to discuss the extent of work required and the costs.

Its now Wednesday 20 and a hell of a lot has happened. The boat has been cleaned, surveyed, passed by the surveyor whose insurance company got stroppy that I didn’t have a Dutch address - so we gave them the flick and found another barge insurance company that apparently is happy to take the money at almost no risk. The costs are 0.7% of the value of the boat with a 1,000 Guilder excess to insure the boat for 300,000 guilders with a 2 year no claim benefit provided.

I had to go off to Utrecht to transfer money after a conference with Post Brouwer - the stately and lovely owner of the yard - about the jobs and costs. I requested a list of jobs that included painting and antifouling below the waterline, painting the freeboard (the top part of the hull above the waterline), putting handles, locks and props on all the skylights, providing and installing a double gas box (I ran out of gas tonight and having only one bottle could not cook the chicken I had bought), building a new front hatch, putting double ears on the bollards and fixing a leaking water tank.

I returned from Utrecht to find the boat painted. If I thought it looked good before you can imaging my delight at its shiny appearance when I returned - and its only the first coat ! This is a great place to have to do these things. The professionals are helpful and skilled and not avaricious or devious. The slips are good and there are showers and toilets plus shore power and a key to the yard provided for car and pedestrian access. Of course they had plenty of time to do it since I almost went to Arnhem then Breda before I got onto the freeway in the correct direction - well, I don’t know the Dutch geography and you have to make decisions very quickly.

So, the Police are giving me their best hits from the CD player, I’ve had the cheese and bickies with a couple of Leffe Blondes from Belgium - the beers that is ! Since I can’t cook my chicken dinner as I have no gas I will have to go out for another cheapie. It was Indian last night, I’m not sure about tonight....

Oh yes, the mouse ! (Maureen will love this).

Apparently Frank and Louise’s cat loves catching mice and rather than eating them he brings them onto the boat. This morning as I lay on the sofa (since the beds have been pulled up to fix the tanks) I heard and saw a small movement. A little mouse with big ears scampering about the saloon floor looking for crumbs - or me. Cute but condemned ! Mouse traps have been added to the shopping list. We have ants too. These things and more WILL be fixed over the next month.

Well, tomorrow I will do some full power supervising and get some work done on the timber preparation on the wheelhouse. That will make a big difference to the appearance of the superstructure. The other big jobs are the prep and painting of the decks and roofs and the cleaning out and painting of the engine room. That will wait till we get back to Loosdrecht.

Head Jobs. No I’m not starting on the more pornographic sections of the yet to be written novels - or the toilet installation works - I’m talking about the number of times I have battered my bean on low lying objects. As every boat owner knows, there are always things on boats on which you can bump your head. It takes a few months and bumps until ducking the projections becomes sub-conscious and since I’m now talking about it - yes I have a growing number of small head wounds accumulating. That is not to say that you have to be a midget to enjoy this boat - hell it has more than 6'6" (2.06m) head room - but there are a couple of head bangers - just remember - you have been warned !

Just a final note on today. The banks are very efficient here but they got this one wrong. I went to the bank in Utrecht to transfer Van Nelle’s payment to the broker’s account and to pick up my cash card. They had the card but when it came to activating it with the pin number I had been given - no go. That caused lots of teeth sucking at the bank and a suggestion I should check in Australia for the letter that has the original number on it. Nope, Maureen hadn’t seen it. Only one thing for it - either a new card or a new pin number. How do you get it - by letter - to the bank this time and another week before that can happen. Ah well, its good to have Visa and travellers cheques.

Footnote: I went to another branch after Maureen advised the number had arrived and it was processed without a hitch. The only glitch will be when the issuing centre activates the new pin requested by the original branch. Oh well.

Tomorrow is another day of excitement, fun and fulfilment. How are you doing ?

Thursday 21

They say things have to get worse before they get better and that seems to be the case inside the boat.

The water tanks have to be fixed and since they have timber surrounding them it all has to come out. The welding work on the bollards, windows and skylights makes them all look like they are under construction and adds worker’s boot prints all over the deck. The wheelhouse has had the carpet lifted and I have installed the two way radio, all of which has added to the confusion.

Today the electrician came to be briefed and to prepare a quote. 36 hours was a guess at 90 guilders an hour plus parts. I want him to restore the original control panel, provide a new alternator and do some work on the batteries, starter, engine stop and other miscellaneous but obviously expensive items. He indicated that work would not be able to be started for a couple of weeks. It would be nice to come back here when the container had arrived to be able to unpack it directly onto the boat.

I also found a boat shop and had to drag myself away twice after buying a two way radio and three fire extinguishers. I wanted to buy a cable connection for the GPS plus its European program and some brass portholes but I went quietly after talking to myself severely.

The purchase of the radio raised a few questions at the shop. Did I have a license ? The radio is capable of some functions not allowed by the licensing bureau in Holland, did I want them enabled or disabled ? Will it be exported ?

Once I had answered to my advantage the response was ‘Primo ! (Ok then), if it is to be sold to an Australian who will take it away and who has an Australian license then we can program it to your wishes and you can leave with it now’.

The Dutch have a very formal side and another side which tries to avoid regulation, tax and taboos at every opportunity. You have to listen to their questions carefully. For example, when I was presented with a quote for some work I was asked if I was happy to pay the 19% GST. Naively I said Yes I was OK with it since I did not believe it was optional. It was later explained that had I said no, the final account would not have been written and the account altered accordingly. I wondered whether this was an acceptable alternative to claiming back the VAT / GST at the border which foreigners can do. Probably not officially !

Today, having been able to A) get rid of Frank’s 4 bags of garbage and B) get a new gas bottle, I would have a night ‘at home’ on the boat to cook the chicken and vegetables I had bought yesterday. There were no signs of any more creepy crawlies or four footed friends since I sent Mickey to mouse heaven so I will be eating alone.

Oh yes, I almost went to Amsterdam last night as the black Rastafarian living on a nearby ship was off to a reggae jam session with about 20 muso friends. He mentioned Amsterdam and ‘back at about 2.30am’ and I felt it was best to wish him well and not chance the local breathalyser - since I had a couple of Leffe Blondes in town and noticed they were 10% proof - and we think our beer is strong. By the way, I have sought out light beer and have been assured it is available abut haven’t been able to actually find any yet.

Tomorrow they pressure test the tanks and finish the windows, skylights and other small jobs and I get to clean the engine room bilge. Oh well.

Friday 22 June

Filthy, disgusting, atrocious, smelly, gunky, slimy, black, cloying, what other words can I find to describe the accumulated detritus of three or more years of an owner who obviously does not care what is in the bottom of his boat. Wood, wire, plastic, paper, oil, water, God knows what else I fished, dug, picked and scooped out of the engine room bilge. Two hours and three sets of rubber gloves later, I had four 20 litre drums of oil enriched water and three buckets of bits to dispose of. This is the kind of job that can only be done effectively in a shipyard which has the facilities to dispose of this muck properly.

Feeling somewhat dehydrated at 11.00am after starting before 8.00, I decided to take a break while the workers got on with the windows, skylights and water tanks. I went to the hardware store - where else does a bloke without a shed go ? What wonders you can find in these amazing edifices to DIY. New doors for the bathroom, shower screens and shower extensions with five speed water delivery, paints, brushes, scrapers, silicone, plastic rubbish bags and rust preparation paint were all on the buy or check list and all were here. These huge markets also have a wide range of kitchen bench tops for example and they will cut them perfectly to your specifications at no charge !

I wandered lonely as a cloud until I passed their cafeteria where I bought a Sprite lemonade from a young girl who, after looking at my Albany Festival tee shirt said "sailing ?" "No" I replied trying to find a way to explain the Centenary of Federation and ANZAC Day to a Dutch girl in English. "Explain it anyway you like" she said, this time with an English accent. Seems she is the girlfriend of a boy born in Australia who has lived and worked on boats in the UK most of his 20something years and has now bought a ex fishing boat which they are converting. So far, the five month project has been ten months and hence the girlfriend’s job at the hardware supermarket. I chatted boats for a while and headed back to do the balance of the bilge and to fix the glass into the new front hatch.

The problem with the water tanks has now been resolved. Both the main and auxiliary tanks inspection plate bolts were loose allowing water to spill over the top and look like it was coming from the welds. I have had another boat with leaking tanks but this was a simple answer. After securing the bolts, about 20 minutes of pressure testing proved they both held their pressure - so that was that - another tick in the done column.

I decided I would celebrate by an Indian meal in Zaandam, the nearby town. Another night in another town, another meal in another restaurant and another beer in another bar. This town is canal side and has a lot of history attached to it. It has a preserved early version lock - non operational - and a super new one alongside. It also has a couple of town squares lined by cafes and restaurants. Perfect for the single man to check out the locals whilst imbibing a couple of restorative beverages.

Postscript: Having purchased some very mean mouse traps and having eliminated the other mouse, I set them again - just in case. This time all the cheese was taken. Drat, there’s another mouse in the house. I reset the traps and went to town for dinner. When I returned the traps were all set and the cheese still in them except one - the trap has gone ! This is mousegate, war is declared with the score 2:1 to me.

I promise these are just little field mice who have a short life span since I am going to win this war of attrition. The ants however are a different issue. We had some ants on Tension Cutter and I can’t remember how we eventually got rid of them. A gas bomb I think. Anyway I will try the poison mixed with sticky alcohol. If it doesn’t work we can all just have a party, me the mice and the ants.

Tomorrow is the return trip to Loosdrecht and return to hotel life for a week until Frank and Louise leave the boat on Saturday next. The invoice has been delivered (including the VAT - drat) and the boat is in all respects ready for sea - or the canals anyway. I have to return here for the engine rewiring job and the installation of a ‘blue flag’ later. (Note: A blue flag is actually a blue board which sits outside the steering house and rotates 90 degrees to indicate that you will pass an oncoming ship on the wrong side - starboard to starboard. This occurs where an upstream ship can choose the side of the channel it wishes to hold to. This allows it avoid beating into the heaviest part of the current by swapping from slack side to slack side of the channel).

I will try to coordinate the next trip down with the availability of the container so our belongings and furniture can be loaded directly onto the boat. I wonder what chance there is of that. It would also be nice to have Maureen arrive at the same time. Lets see, the container left about 11 / 12 June with an expected 6-8 weeks transit. This would have it here between 23 July and 6 August. If I come up on 23 July for a week or so it could be OK since M arrives on the 25th. On the other hand we could end up empty, waiting for a couple of weeks for tables and chairs, plates, cooking stuff and eating irons, bed linen etc etc. Interesting. The other complication is the availability of the electrician. We will just have to wait and see.

10.30pm, time for bed. There will be a few complications in the morning with the change over of cars, launching time and so on. So far I am also unaware of the time the ship will be launched. I want to be on her when she is.

Saturday 23

About 8.30am the workers arrived to start things humming at Sheepswerf Brouwer and shortly after announced that Van Nelle would be launched, but first, I had to show them grease coming out of the stern gland, a point I had not considered. Frank had muttered something about getting a new grease gun (there is one permanently attached to the stern gland) but I had not been involved so had paid little attention. Now however I had to locate it, and having done so, make it work. I soon discovered that it was sans fat or ‘without grease’ so the hunt was on for a refill. Two refills later I had grease coming out of the stern gland and they were ready to lower the boat. Frank was not in evidence as we have to do a relay with cars each time we take the boat to or from the yard so I took charge and into the water we went. Simple really and she floated right on the new water line we had established.

At this stage I had to drive to Loosdrecht to bring Frank back to the yard, leaving one car at each end. On arrival with the boat in Loosdrecht we would normally have to drive Frank’s car back to the yard to pick up mine but on this occasion he arranged for his father to drive us, and the kids - four of them including a couple of cousins - back to the boat. It seems Frank is in the dog house with Louise for having deprived her of a home before properly providing a new one, so he had the kids for the weekend. He loves his kids and enjoys being with them though so it’s no chore for him. He also mentioned to me that his philosophy was one of semi independence in a relationship, something I’m not all that sure Louise agrees with.

Travel relay finished we joined Van Nelle, started the engine and headed off back to Loosdrecht. Saturday morning found Amsterdam harbour less busy and it was again a pretty day so the sail back was fun as I ran the boat and Frank went to work to repair the bed he had almost destroyed in order for the water tanks to be tested. Having made good time on the harbour and Amsterdam-Rhine Canal we meandered once we joined the small canal to Loosdrecht as there were plenty of small pleasure boats making their way up and down the waterway.

‘Dirty’ as we made our way to Amsterdam we had cruised effortlessly at 9-12kmh with seemingly little power applied and very low revs and now ‘clean’ and with the throttle pushed as far forward as possible (but still with some power unavailable due to the adjustment of the throttle cable at the engine end), had made 14kmh. While this may not sound fast, most of the cruising waterways are restricted to 8kmh and less to avoid washing out the banks and few boats on any of the waterways exceed 15kmh. It is good to know that we can cruise effortlessly and economically with no strain on the running gear but at a pace that will get us from place to place slowly enough to enjoy the passing scenery.

By about 3.00pm we were back on the lake at Loosdrecht heading for ‘the island’, a small uninhabited low piece of land with a small marina built to fit the many day-tripper boats that flock to this and other locations where the city crowds become the weekend crowds. Good weather together with an almost complete lack of wind meant the lake was littered with scores of small sailboats drifting aimlessly, some filled to capacity with young and old, many stripped to the skin to absorb the thin filtered sunlight.

‘Number three your time is up’ in these conditions requires the hire company sending out a power boat to tether all the small yachts in strings to tow them back to the marina. They look like mothers and chicks.

Chief issue on this trip was to observe the engine, now that the bilge and engine have been cleaned, to discover where any leaks are, how much oil is used and how the temperatures and pressures change under load. To my great pleasure, apart from some spillage from the rear of the block after I ran the engine top pump, there were no problems evident. This ancient engine has a press lever on the side to operate an oil pump that sends fluid to service the tappets, valves and assorted springs. Since the block slopes, surplus oil runs to the lowest point and some leaks out the back end. I will just send less oil up there in future.

We arrived at the island marina and took up a position almost obliterating the view of half the boats, due to our imposing size and the kids went off to swim while Frank and ‘Pop’, his father (who had joined us at the island), went off to fetch the Tjalk (his other barge still under construction as his new home). Since I had taken all my gear to the hotel on my trip to pick up Frank this morning I had no shorts and was now sweltering in the afternoon heat. I commandeered a large towel which made an acceptable sarong (something I think we will need plenty of) and settled into a rickety cane chair on the huge afterdeck with a beer to observe ‘hollandius femalus strippen’ - bare breasted, blond, Dutch maidens.

Some time later the tjalk and crew arrived and after securing her, Frank departed for food. I paid for a Chinese takeaway on the boat which was accompanied by kids games and a few Dutch language lessons, followed by an eventful trip back to shore and the cute hotel I am in for the week. Eventful since the bow line disappeared under the boat shortly after leaving the island and became secured to something, but not the propellor. I held it all the way into the jachtharbour and left Frank to do the underwater business as Pop and I departed.

Reopened just last week, the Heineke Hotel rooms are the size of our former walk-in wardrobe but are very nicely renovated and decorated and have tiny but functional en-suites. This is bliss after the shared bathroom in Houten. I showered and repaired to the street front terrace for a drink before bed, only to be accosted by the owner who doubles as maitre’d and waiter. This episode must have been my fault to some extent as I had asked for an explanation of the Dame Blanche - a dessert I was unfamiliar with. Walter, the owner / waiter (to the great amusement of the other nearby patrons), proceeded to tell me that no self respecting person would eat shaved ice with chocolate sauce while drinking beer, as I was. He then disappeared briefly, reappearing with a fresh beer and a glass of red wine - which, he explained, was the only acceptable drink to take with Dame Blanche. Then, he thanked me for buying him the wine and drank it ! At this the rest of the guests roared with laughter and the only course of action left to the unfortunate butt of this huge joke was to go along with it. We saluted each other and the other guests.

A few moments later a small group arrived, settled at a table and after a brief look at the menu, made an inquiry about one or more of the items or conditions on it. Wrong option guys !. Walter then gave them the treatment, had another free glass of wine and we all had another big laugh.

New arrivals sorted out he then sat beside me and asked what I was doing in Loosdrecht. I replied I had come to buy a ship.

‘No, do not buy a ship, buy a smart car and a nice house’.

‘Too late’ I responded, ‘the deed is done’.

‘Then we need another drink.’

‘A carafe then ?’

We proceeded to make short work of the small carafe of red while he and the other waiter questioned me about Van Nelle and what we were to do with her. They were satisfied that this was a good ship and it had gone to righteous new owners, especially if she was to stay under Dutch registration and carry the pride of Holland abroad. We drank to that, and seemingly to lots of other things.

Walter had done about four tables with the free red wine trick and had half a carafe with me before, somewhat unsteadily, he announced he was off home. His wife had left earlier with a sniff at him and their dog in tow. I guess he was heading for the dog house too.

Loosdrecht is a dyke running between too large bodies of water, one of which is the lake. The dyke is quite wide and has this hotel and many other buildings, shops, homes and boat yards on it. A road runs through the middle which the hotel fronts onto. On both sides of the road are boat related businesses and restaurants. According to photos and documents framed on the wall (including one of the original owners very beautiful wife), the hotel was a pension / camping ground and water-sport facility from before 1900. At that time it probably fronted the water, some of which has been reclaimed as land to make provision for the growing number of holiday-makers who flock here. I guess it is a bit like Mandurah in that respect. Much is within walking distance, including a cash machine, but like the road, it is closed for repairs, requiring a 3km drive to the banks.

It is holiday time in Europe so there are lots of couples and families here for a break. You recognise all the types, disgruntled teenagers with over happy parents, disgruntled parents with sullen kids and happy young families. Then there are the couples and small groups, both happy and non-communicative.

I’ve been writing this for a short while now and am now disturbed by Walter who is yelling at a couple who brought their dog into the terrace and now want to steal bones off the dinner tables of other patrons to feed it. It’s turning into Faulty Towers here tonight - a small waterside hotel with an erratic owner and six different ways to serve potatoes, even mashed if there is time !

Tomorrow is Sunday. Frank is going to spend quality time with his kids at the island and I will discover the markets and other places of interest. I can’t believe that it is still two days short of two weeks. So much has happened in that time.

I am delighted and uplifted when I think that this adventure does not have to end. It is the first time I have had an open ended opportunity rather than a finite time in which to achieve something. This totally unlike a holiday or an overseas assignment where, eventually, you have to go home to return to work. It’s a bit scary and exhilarating at the same time. Now when I look at my watch it’s for interest more than anxiety since if I don’t do ‘it’ today, there is always tomorrow.

Sunday

It’s amazing how quickly your world can come crashing to a stop.

Maureen’s email today brought news that her mammograms had show tissue that would have to be investigated by biopsy. As much as both of us believe and hope they will be nothing to worry about, the fear grips like a vice. She wanted me not to call her and I tried for an hour but couldn’t. We connected and really couldn’t say anything much to each other for minutes. I felt wretched, a long way from her and amazed at how brave she is at times like this but also how brittle.

It will be terrible if this problem becomes a major issue as it will affect her deeply. We have both invested so much into this project, to have it come to a halt by such a random act of biochemical viciousness will be a terrible act. It will be Wednesday before the results of tests made on Monday will be known. The wait is already creating stress which can only increase as the time drags inexorably on to Wednesday.

It seems that this adventure is to be one of incredible highs and lows. From the long wait and steady reductions of asking price on the house as the time came closer to deadlines - and then the sale, to the realisation that there really was only one suitable boat - and then the sale at just the right time, watching \the Aussie dollar go through the floor - then rally just when we needed it to, and the build up to the\\ survey of Van Nelle’s hull - and it’s perfect score. Even relatively minor things like the engine test have been marked by days of apprehension followed by minutes of elation and relief.

I have wanted some company today of all days and it is the day when I don’t even have Frank. Now as the day draws to a close, I really don’t want to have to wait until Wednesday but I know I have to. I don’t want to go ahead with decisions on the outboard motor and dinghy and the Peugeot scooter but I will have to and going to the bank tomorrow to arrange payment of Brouwer’s invoice will seem like a waste of money.

Most of all I don’t want Maureen to be distressed or disfigured. She has a lovely, shapely, soft and curvy body which does not deserve to be at the mercy of some surgeon’s scalpel or to have to face the other ramifications of this dreaded curse.

So all we can do is wait and hope. It will be whatever it will be, nothing can change that. I believe more and more that fate of some kind is guiding us to a destination that we have little influence over and maybe no knowledge of. We can only hope it fits with our plans.

Monday 25

Well Louise has made her position clear according to Frank. Van Nelle is her home until she has to leave on Saturday and so no work will be done by me on her. The baby has sleep times and will not be kept awake by some Australian wielding a rust hammer. I can’t blame her. According to Frank he is no closer to finding a home either.

I spent the day going to Hilversum (a largish regional town/city) twice to find a motor scooter, pay the shipyard via the bank transfer system (they have no cheques in Holland) and finding the laundry. I did the latter two on the first trip and in between I bought the outboard motor - a Mariner 4hp for those interested, and the dinghy - a little clinker sailing boat in fibreglass with a bit of work required and a tendency to travel with its nose in the air as if to say - ‘I am the vehicle of the owners of Van Nelle and all you piddling little pleasure boats better watch what you do or I’ll have my big brother fix you up’ !

I had to buy a piece of timber for a seat since to sit in the stern would court disaster of the wet posterior kind and a length of poly pipe and some tape to secure it to the hand throttle since when I now sit in the centre I can’t reach the throttle without it. I could do Rod Cummin’s trick and put a little centre console in - except that this is a sail boat as well and that would stuff that right up. I have not yet tried or even picked up the mast, sails, centreboard and rudder as they won’t fit unless rigged and that is too hard. I will just borrow Frank’s big dinghy to transport them to Van Nelle later.

Everyone is very helpful. I tried to find a short thin piece of timber to use as a spacer in order to point the prop further down and therefore lower the bow. As I was poking about in the boat yard, one of the guys from the workshop asked what I was doing and then selected a piece of his bosses prime timber, cut a piece off to my specifications and handed it over with a pained look when I offered money. I later went to the office of another yard that is conveniently placed opposite the hotel to ask if I could leave my dinghy there overnight.

‘Is it secured with a chain - there is no insurance ‘ he said and that was that ! I immediately rushed off to the boat shop for a length of chain and a lock - and asked if they had instructions on how to splice ropes.

‘No, come back early morning and he will teach you, he has better English’.

Amazing. Who said the Dutch were difficult. Expensive at times but so far very helpful is my experience. Maybe I’m learning to smile as I ask now - who knows ?

So. The lady at the Wasserette wants to do my washing -‘just come back one day later - all finished’ - the bank are happy to do the transfers in person - none of this machine stuff, the yacht yards are happy to oblige, the scooter man offered the right model with extra options at a much lower price than the company in Houten and the only problem today was not getting to play with the boat. By the way, the scooter man offered to order in the correct model scooter so it could be ready for Saturday even though I am not prepared to commit to it till after Wednesday.

Walter the crazy waiter was in full flight again tonight, drinking the health of everyone with our wine, good, bad or indifferent and there was an English couple (East enders who now live in Spain but caravan to Loosdrecht each year) who he put next to me for company. We talked boats and houses in Spain and other bits and pieces till Walter finished our drinks and we all went off to bed - or to write a journal or whatever.

So it is now 2 weeks since I left Australia. I have inspected a number of boats, selected one, made an offer and had it accepted, sailed the boat to Amsterdam and had it surveyed, insured and substantial work done on it, brought it back, found and bought a dinghy and motor, a scooter, a hotel better than the previous one, several hardware markets, Ikea - and - in the last two days I have not been lost ! I am even starting to understand a bit of the written Dutch but the spoken words are still on the horizon. It’s the accent. Its terrible. Someone ought to teach them some elocution.......

Tuesday 26th

The next four days were mostly repetitive. Scraping old varnish off the wheelhouse windows and doors and preparing the timber for re-coating. Some relief in short trips to Hilversum and Oud Loosdrecht for supplies and bits from the hardware store.

I am living at the Heineke Hotel, where mad Walter reigns supreme, but I have now found a café where good cheap food can be had and a place to leave the dinghy overnight. The young guy in the office of the marina was busy at the time I asked for some space so he just told me to park it, chain it and he would check later. He hasn’t and I haven’t asked. However, I will move to the ‘lighthouse’ marina after Saturday when I am on the boat. It’s the place where Frank has his mooring and I can leave the dinghy and scooter there when I am out on the lake.

Thursday 28th

This was another of the repetitive days except I took Frank and Louise to dinner. Frank was to have booked a table at ‘de Otter’ restaurant where jazz is played on Thursday nights. I found out on Thursday morning that he had forgotten and the restaurant was booked. We went there anyway since they have an outdoor area which they don’t take bookings for. It rained as we arrived so I suggested a small restaurant at the marine where I keep the dinghy. They had a table and a great menu.

I ordered a red and a white. The white was just OK but not really to my taste as it was a bit tart but the red was awful. I reluctantly called the waitress over to suggest the wine was corked and after a quick sniff of the bottle she agreed, accepted my request for a different wine and happily left advising that the wholesaler would take it back with a refund. It is unusual to get bad bottles of wine in Australia but apparently not here.

We ended up back at de Otter after dinner to listen to the last hour of music. Frank disappeared and I chatted with Louise until the music finished and Frank reappeared. They don’t seem to spend a lot of time together.

Friday 29

We all faced Friday and the move of the deJong family off the boat with hang-overs. Frank had hired a couple of young guys to assist him with the work on the tjalk but today they were roped in to removal duty. I came along to help out as well and to put aboard my big suitcase in order to make my move onto the boat on Saturday easier.

We spent the day removing items, boxes, furniture etc and carting it to the warehouse where Frank had negotiated some space. Hot work as it was a hot, still day but it all went according to plan. I was thinking as the boxes came off that they seemed to have fewer that we have to go on ! I’m sure it will all fit - somewhere ?

Friday night was Beach Party night at Heineke Hotel. Crazy Walter had arranged a ute load of sand (very gray and grainy), lots of umbrellas, candles, beach balls and other paraphernalia. Everyone was greeted with a paper flower lei and a glass of Sangria, which tasted a whole lot better than their house wine !

I suppose this was a party for locals as they all seemed to know each other. Lots of loud music and even louder people, some dancing, mostly talking (Dutch, so I picked up little) and drinking. It seemed that it was planned to end at 1.00am so about 12.30 I slipped away to bed.

Saturday 30

I had arranged with Frank for him to pick me up at Schipol airport since I had to return the hire car by 10.30am. That was done efficiently and Frank arrived at about 11.00 to take us into Amsterdam to look for portholes. I need a couple of a particular size which we have not been able to locate at any of the usual shops. We went to a barge moored in Amsterdam which below decks is an amazing store of boat accessories - mostly brass and copper portholes, wheels, bells, lights and other hefty stuff.

The operator of this emporium is a slip of a girl who apparently started her working life as an air hostess but moonlighted by bringing in brass fittings two at a time in her bags. She made contacts in Singapore and India where these fittings are made. She now brings in container loads of the things, selling them in large lots to shops and boat builders. Unfortunately she did not have the size I required but Frank bought 3 of the correct size for the tjalk.

We headed back to Hilversum for me to buy a doona, doona cover, pillow, sheets and towels so I could sleep properly on Van Nelle. I bought the items in a rush as Frank had arranged for the two young guys to be ready on board for a days work at 1.00 and it was now 12.45. He left with my sleeping accoutrements (which I hope will fit with Maureen’s decor plans) and I headed of to the scooter shop.

The scooter was ready but it still took nearly an hour to arrange the license plates, insurance etc. I then put on the new helmet, started the awesome 50cc engine and puttered off to Loosdrecht. It’s a cute and very manoeuvrable little machine and once it has been run in over the first 500km (nothing over 50kmh and please do mostly city driving - no long country trips) it is supposed to be capable of up to 70kmh. I can’t wait. However it is a good choice as it is quite light and should be easy to winch onto the boat and can carry two for reasonable distances on the smell of an oily rag. I had an extra luggage box installed on the back so we can even take a spare pair of knickers for an overnight stay away from Van Nelle.

On arrival back at Loosdrecht I arranged to leave the scooter at Heineke and took the dinghy out to the boat after a quick trip to the local supermarket for some necessities. Its amazing that when you move into a new abode you really have to restock everything and there’s a lot of ‘everythings’. I guess by the time Maureen arrives I will have just about got it all.

Saturday night was the night for a fight with Frodo.

Frodo is the de Jong’s cat. A male, black cat, quite young and now on its third boat. Except its not on its third boat, it is still on Van Nelle. Now how did that happen ? Well apparently there is no room fro it in Louise’s mother’s home with all the other lodgers so Frodo gets to stay at sea. Its supposed to be on the tjalk, which today is still tied to Van Nelle. The cat however hates the noise of engines and the tjalk has its generator going most of the time - so Frodo, even if it liked the tjalk, would not stay on it. However, its food is on the tjalk and now that I am cooking dinner on Van Nelle, Frodo has arrived for dinner.

I pick up cat and carry it (carefully since it is kicking, fighting, wriggling and trying hard to disembowel me) to the tjalk and dinner. Once released, Frodo is off. I retreat to Van Nelle’s kitchen and some hours later become aware that Frodo is back. Despite me closing doors and windows, this cat can find its way back in a snap. Another traumatic trip to the tjalk - now quiet since the boys have finished work and departed. The cat this time reluctantly eats some of its food after being stroked into submission. I leave again and all is quiet.

At about 3.00am I become aware of movement in the bed. An exploratory hand encounters a furry, purring object. Purring abruptly ceases as Frodo is sent hurtling towards the door by a well meaning lift of one leg. We all settle down again with Frodo now convinced he is not welcome in close proximity to the strange creature now inhabiting his home. He is found the next morning, asleep on the office chair, the only soft item apart from the bed.

I wouldn’t mind if the damn cat would just catch and kill the mice he has so generously introduced to his home but he doesn’t and I am allergic to cats. The scratches I was unable to avoid are now red welts that itch and threaten to precipitate hay fever or worse - asthma. Frodo and I are not going to be friends. Later the next day I find him curled up in the extreme forrard point of the bows. I take a peace offering of a bowl of milk but get little in return.

Sunday 1 July

Varnishing. Will it ever end.....not in my lifetime I suspect. There is one consolation, I now have no leaves to rake ! I can take the varnishing since I know that once done, it will not need more than a touch up here and there fro some years to come. (And hope springs eternal !). Another day of varnishing punctuated by a trip to Gamma for some parts to make showering possible.

A two metre hose, a chrome adjustable shower head holder, a soap holder to fit and presto, the bath (yes folks this ship has a full size bath) now has a shower as well, with full head height and full pressure very hot (and cold) water. Mind you we still have a few little details to work out - such as a shower curtain (the new shower screen is on order) and some towel racks. These would have to be bought and fitted Monday as Gamma closed at 5.00pm, to early for me to get back there for the additional bits as I slaved over a hot varnish stripper.

I celebrated my little achievements with a snack dinner of Camembert, a french red, some sausage and potato salad. Yum.

Monday 2 July

Its now three weeks since I left and in record time I am living on our little ship and it is starting to show the effects of the work I have put into her over the past week or so.

A trip to Gamma the hardware store for the shower curtain (temporary since the real one is on order) and into Hilversum for some kitchen things like a draining board and washing rack thingo. I found the shop, it had all its chairs and things out on the pavement but the woman in charge ran me out onto the street declaring they were shut until 1.00pm. As it was only 11.30 I was not about to wait around but was somewhat bemused by the open shop that was shut. Strange ways these Dutch. They close shops for a day or two each week but not all on the same days - so its pot luck as to whether the one you want will be open on the day you visit. They also start very late (1.00pm) some days and close at 6.00pm normally but earlier on some days. ????? I guess I will get the hang of it just before I leave.

No sign of Frodo today as the tjalk has moved to the nearby island marina for Frank to do some painting and the boys to finish off smoothing the hull. I pottered over there a couple of times during the day to sharpen my varnish stripper and to chat with Ben, Frank’s father. He is a lovely, jolly chap, a retired bio-chemist, now working long hours on his son’s boat.

I achieved a fair bit today. I installed the shower curtain, the towel rack, a Dutch power plug on the PC power cord and finished stripping the outside of the wheelhouse. I even put on the first three undercoats of new varnish on the exposed teak windows. While I still have 2 steps on the staircase to strip and all the timber to put two coats of finishing varnish on, I feel like I am near the end of it and am now kicking myself for having rushed some areas.

There are still a bunch of jobs to do. Install a working foul water tank and pump system, build a bed in the forrard bedroom, install kick boards in the saloon, scrape rust and tar of the decks and repaint, scrape rust off the coach roof and repaint, fix the mast so the light cable is inside and it lowers to the height of the folded down wheelhouse, finish the walls in the forrard cabin and arrange ventilation for the 3rd bedroom. I am leaving much of the interior work for Maureen but will probably start on some areas where the walls need repainting and some lights need to be installed. I have also to cut off the improvised rear flagstaff and create a new one and weld crosstrees to the mast for the raising of the ship’s pennants.

So, to bed and to look forward to some varnishing tomorrow - what joy !

Tuesday 3 July

Today is the day of the BIG PARTY. Frank had arranged with a friend who runs a party boat to supply Van Nelle as the deck for some kind of a buffet, so a whole bunch of things had to be finished in time for the fit out and the arrival of the guests. His friend was arranging the catering so all we had to do was provide the ship and hang around for free food and drinks.

I worked from 7.00am until lunch time (lunch is a variable that often gets either forgotten or put off until 4.00 or 5.00pm) painting and finishing the varnish work on the wheelhouse. Frank had gone off with the tjalk to put it in the yacht harbour and left me with instructions to start moving the boat to the yard where the caterers would load their equipment. I began the process, starting the main engine and raising the anchor. Once I had done all the serious work and was about to enjoy sailing the boat for a while on my own, Frank appeared. Maybe he was hiding around the corner of the island until the anchor was up - a heavy and sometimes grubby job.

We got under way and soon arrived at a yard where there was just enough room for Van Nelle to slide quietly between the rows of moored pleasure craft to the Tami lift (boat crane) at the end of the pier. Standing on the jetty was a rather large Douwe Egbert coffee trailer, resplendent in its company colours of red, yellow and white. A bunch of nervous looking PR people stood around as the party boat operator, caterer and exhibition manager discussed putting the cart onto Van Nelle. It would have to be winched over the bow onto the coach roof and settled to one side so people could access the service side for coffee, but the mast was in the way.

I had suggested to Frank some days before that the mast was a problem that needed fixing since when lowered it was still higher than the wheel house and would therefore be swiped off at the first low bridge. He now saw the wisdom of my request but try as he might, was unable to do anything about it since he now found that the deck power point was not connected. (This was s stroke of luck for me since it guaranteed it would get fixed, which it did, the next day).

In the end we were able to move the boat sideways a little and edge the caravan past the mast onto the boat. Once secured and when the caterers had loaded tables, benches, food and other assorted boxes, we set off for the island, Markus Pos. We arrived soon after and began setting up sound, lights, tents, tables and chairs and other items essential for the party. While part way though, the Douwe Egberts exhibition contractors called a lunch break and handed out thick soup, broutjes (small rolls with ham, cheese or salami) and drinks. Things were looking pretty good, especially in the personnel department as the girl running the show stripped to a short top and shorts and started moving furniture around.

Pretty soon it was all organised and the crew settled down for some serious beer drinking. It was then that the coincidence of the situation began to be discussed and Dick, the enormous man who runs DE’s exhibitions offered to get their museum to send whatever information they could find about Van Nelle to me at the Scottish address. I hope he follows through.

Van Nelle is a coffee and tobacco company and so is Douwe Egberts. Some time back, they were both bought by Imperial Tobacco which in turn was bought by Sarah Lee. So now, here was Van Nelle, the original ship of the tobacco company and Douwe Egberts coffee cart, united by happenstance. The situation was explained to the company executive who had come to the island to address the guests, (university graduates the company was out to recruit), and he used it in his speech. The guests seemed very impressed with Van Nelle but less so with an hour and a half of speeches, some of which were illustrated by expensive looking placards that had so much information on them they could not be read. What made the situation appear more like a "how not to give a presentation" presentation were the actors who were hired as MCs and general people movers who now picked up the placards and wandered through the crowds with them. The graduates looked like they were trying not to laugh at the situation while we hid until it was over.

Presentations, music, great barbecue food and free drinks were supplied with great enthusiasm and the party went on untill midnight. The guests boarded their party ship and sailed off as we, the crew, loaded the logistics back onto Van Nelle and headed back to the ship yard. By 1.00am we were free of the gear and the yard and were heading back to the island. My suggestion that the brilliant, huge umbrella with the Douwe Egberts logos on, which would look great permanently attached to Van Nelle, went unheeded, and the BIG PARTY was over.

Wednesday 4 July

WE OWN THE BOAT.

This day is the official transfer date of Van Nelle ! I can’t say it felt all that different from any of the other days since I was living on the boat and had to all intents and purposes taken delivery of her, but still, there was the reality of it to be considered and savoured. I did get a kick out of it later when just by chance our dear friends Ian and Helen Palmer called from the Red Herring restaurant in Fremantle, Western Australia where they were with Maureen. I had the chance ro mention it to Maureen and chat with Ian and Helen quickly about the fact that the dream was very much a reality.

This day I also finally received the quote for electrical work on the engine. I think they want to get rich on our dwindling resources ! 6,900 guilders plus 19% VAT, and a little clause in the quote that said that any items not specified would be added later - call it 10,000 - 11,000 all up. I balked at that.

The guy who had done the quote had really impressed me with his knowledge and advice and the fact that he also had an old ship and appreciated my desire to keep the look of the old with some new technology to back it up, but at 90 guilders an hour plus a 24volt alternator and some wire, it assumed he and another tradesman would take up to 45 hours to do the job. Seems a bit on the high side, so I deferred action on that front till I could get a second opinion.

Frank and Ben arrived this morning to do the finishing jobs Frank had agreed to, giving me a ‘free day’ to do it, after which he would charge me at least 45 guilders per hour plus parts. We headed off to Gamma, the hardware store, to buy the timber required to finish the walls, create a bed in the front cabin and do the skirting boards. Frank’s father Ben was left to start the wiring and some of the preparatory timber work up front.

I have to give it to Frank, he’s a good carpenter. A bit slap happy but good and quick. He rounded up a bunch of different sizes and shapes of boards and we headed back to the boat. He then took most of the day to do things on his boat which was moored nearby, while his father did some of the real work on Van Nelle. To be fair, he did arrive at about 3.00pm and build the bed and finished the walls in about 3 hours flat.

Thursday 5 July

Work progressed on the hull preparation for paint work and doing some little jobs like fixing the navigation lights. On the Big Party night we were traversing the lakes without any lights, something I was not at all happy about but Frank was uninterested in, so I decided to fix the problem myself and had it done without much hassle. I now not only had working nav lights but had also placed the cables through the centre of the mast, much tidier, and, I now knew how they worked.

The day was filled out with the normal routine of scraping, scraping and more scraping. My hands are now pitted and scarred and stiff as two boards when I wake in the morning. Not that I’m complaining mind. While I have my irritations and hours of fairly boring, repetitious manual slog, its not a bad life being out in the fresh air and seeing the results appear before you. Pity I’m not that good at it.

Friday 6 July

This was sort of a hand over day for Frank and myself. We went around the boat as he explained this and that and we checked that it all worked. Frank is an 80% guy. He starts a job but when whatever it is that he is making works - that’s where he loses interest and moves on the next job. Everything is about 80%. The bits I am now working on may bring it up to 90% but only a skilled tradesman would really finish it to 100%. My philosophy therefore is to have good tradespeople do the important jobs on engine, electrics, gas etc and for us to do the simple things like scraping, painting, varnishing, decorating etc. Well, some of the other things have to be done and I’m the only one here - but the really important ones......

I am frustrated with the exhaust fan for the bathroom. Frank has supplied one that appears to blow instead of suck, is 220v whereas the bathroom is normally 24 and it is not wired up or supplied with a switch. I started its installation by connecting the cable to the unit, placing the unit on the vent supplied and tracing the cable back to the fuse box. I now have to wire it into the fuse box and install a switch near the 24v light switch and then remember to have the inverter, generator or shore power going when someone takes a shower. There are no other ventilators to the bathroom. This is probably OK when all around you is frozen and you are plugged into the shore but no good for 6 people constantly using the bathroom. A problem to be solved later. (Oops - I’m becoming an 80% guy).

Today I began painting the top of the outer hull a sort of royal blue. I need to use standard paints and standard colours so we can patch up with the same paint when necessary. Any made up colours will invariably not blend in, requiring complete repaint jobs later. Unfortunately I think the standard Epiphane 29 Blue is a bit dark and tends to blend in with the black hull. Perhaps a white stripe would lift it.

I also ordered a steel wire harness to lift the dinghy onto the boat and bought a lifting strap for the scooter. The addition of a 300kg breaking strain stainless wire for the winch will bring it all up to a safe level for swinging these heavy, precious items aboard.

Frank departed Markus Pos where we had been for some days to take up his position in the jachtharbour Vuuturen (Lighthouse). That left me finally on my own. I now will definitely get to know the machinery and other operating systems. It leaves me however with a dearth of tools since I have been relying on Frank’s extensive range of power and manual equipment, huge store of nails, screws, wiring, sharpeners, files etc. His tjalk is a carpentry shop and warehouse.

I weakened and went to Gamma for some basics like screwdrivers, pliers, a shifting spanner and a two handed Black and Decker drill with bits and screw heads. This and the ‘nipple ripper’ is to be my great labour saving device.

The ‘nipple ripper’ I have named because of it’s appearance and it’s use. This is a double wheel of a sort of hardened rubber, impregnated with metal nipple looking extensions around both circumferences. It has a central axle which fits into a drill, thereby rotating the wheels at a frenzied pace, allowing the nipples to rip away old tar, paint, rust and other materials foreign to and coating the underlying steel. It really works well and makes cleaning areas of rust a breeze - but noisy - more like a howling wind.

A German guy and his nephew had arrived on a 28 foot yacht during the day and we had chatted a couple of times, so at the end of the day I invited them aboard for an inspections and a drink. He accepted and brought a very pleasant German beer along for me to try, said very encouraging things about the boat and explained that he had been coming to Loosdrecht for 32 years since he had bought his first boat here back then. He worked for Bayer, selling pesticides and importing chemical components until recently. I gathered he was not all that happy about being unemployed but he was certainly old enough to retire.

A plate of pasta with some french red wine and eight e-mails waiting. Looked good until I opened the mail - mostly business about the boat. Bah.

When Frank took the tjalk away he overlooked taking Frodo the cat who was onshore at the time, hiding out from the terrors of the generator engines, which he hates. So, at 11.00pm, just after going to bed, I heard the meowing of a very hungry and frustrated cat. I guess he had discovered that the boat had gone, waited until nightfall and then decided that living in the wild was for the birds and every self respecting cat needed a home.

I got up and allowed him in, gave him a meal and some milk and instrucetd him that the wheelhouse was as far as he could go, and went to bed.

Saturday 7 July

No Frodo. Oh well, probably off in the wilds of the island.

It rained. I decided to go to Hilversum since I couldn’t do any painting. I had two pairs of broken glasses that I hoped could be repaired and a few other things that you can only do in a bigger town than Loosdrecht. The trip on the scooter takes about 15 minutes and is quite pleasant since the bike path takes you through farm areas before entering the industrial part of the town. Hilversum is the video and TV production centre of Holland so there are many production companies and service companies here.

I found a willing optician who would fix the glasses into new frames in the next one and a half hours so I had some time to kill and spent it window shopping for beds, refrigerators and so on. It seems that everything closes down here in three weeks, so if you don’t get items ordered and delivered now you could wait up to 10 weeks ! Beds and mattresses are OK price wise but getting the right sizes in the right types is the trick.

Sometime after arriving back on board Frank passed by for a chat. I mentioned the cat. "No problems" said Frank, "I called by at 11.30pm last night. Frodo recognised the outboard motor noise, raced out to meet me and I took him away". Great. I am finally free of Frodo the mice delivery cat.

Sunday 8 July

More rain, so more inside jobs.

I started work on the bathroom door since it does not shut properly - just 80%. Not having a power sander I took the scraper and sand paper to the door jam. Made a nice mess and absolutely no difference to the door closing efficiency. That looks like a job for the first mate !

Today I discovered a whole array of old machinery in the store area behind the wheel house. Obviously Frank, generous to a fault, had decided that Van Nelle could use it far more readily than the tjalk. Pity he didn’t ask me what I thought. There are big bins on the island that are emptied almost every day - great place for a half tonne of unusable generators, pumps, valves and twisted steel.

Frank had done some welding for me, fixing the mast so it lowered completely, but in doing so had disconnected the battery monitor meter and it had reset itself for 12v and no power. I now had to discover how it worked and reset it to 24v so it accurately told me the state of the battery bank. The instructions were (I think) translated out of American to Dutch and then back into English in Holland. The text was somewhat tortured but after experimenting with the equipment I think I got it right. I then had to charge the batteries to capacity in order for the meter to calibrate itself. I ran the generator 4 hours Sunday, three on Monday morning and another three on Monday night before it flashed the signal that all had been accomplished. I hope I set it right !

Monday 9 July

I have received news that the container will arrive in Rotterdam on the 31st. The local shipping company sent me a whole bunch of forms by e-mail to fill in and attach to official local council forms showing I was registered as a new immigrant, had a job and an address. This would exempt us from paying the customs duty of up to 32%.

What customs duty of 32%.......???????

This was now the disaster I had been waiting for since everything had been going so smoothly.

Off I went to the local council to see if they would register me. Not if I was on a boat and intending to travel. What if I intended to stay ? But you don’t intend to stay, you have told us that ! Catch 22.

I put a call into the shipping company. How much are we likely to be up for ? They didn’t know. Why not ? It depends on which items you have to pay duty on and what rate the customs people decide to charge. And so on. What is the worst case I finally asked and they told me they would consult their associates and get back to me. Some time later they came up with a number that was 32% of the declared value of the whole shipment. I could have done that. The advice now is to supply a copy of the inventory with very low but believable values so the amount will be as low as possible. More work that we were not made aware of when employing Grace - the most expensive option - to ship the goods.

Yesterday I had been able to complete the royal blue topside paint and the white stripe down the side. The job is a bit rough and the number 29 royal blue hasn’t faded in the thin sunlight (which does appear briefly between cloudy or rainy skies) but over all, it looks pretty good. Now for the other side. For this I have to turn the ship around 180 degrees.

Start engine, undo lines, there’s a fair breeze blowing so take care not to lose the ship as the wind takes it. There is also a pole near the bow on the outside of the boat which I have to reverse to miss. Watch I don’t crush the dinghy or demolish the jetty, a bit forward, a bit back. Van Nelle slowly, majestically swings 180 in her own length with me controlling it all from the wheelhouse. My first single handed manoeuvre ! Now to paint the second side.

I started up the nipple ripper and immediately drew the ire of an old gentleman who had just arrived on his 22' yacht. He glared at me and I tried to ignore him. He moved closed while his mouth looked like he was trying to say something, which it did eventually - in Dutch of course.

"I’m Australian" I said "I don’t understand. I’m sorry if the noise is disturbing you but I will only be 10 minutes or so".

"This is for recreatie, iss not a yard for shipverk. I call police". He replied in quite good English.

"Please do as you wish but I have arranged for this work with the harbour master and I will be only about 10-15 minutes".

At that he stomped off to his boat and I continued the howling, ripping, dust storm provoking, rust removal. True to my word I took about 12 minutes to complete the job (about 80%) and cleaned up then began to apply rust preventing paint. While doing this I felt a presence behind me. I stole a glance under my armpit (crouched as I was daubing paint at a low level) and there was the old gent. A minute or two later and a gentle prod and his finger pointed to a place I had missed. I apologised for the noise and we began a dialogue that lasted over the next two days. I invited him to look over the boat.

"Iss permissed ?"

"Of course, please help yourself".

He climbed slowly onto Van Nelle and disappeared inside as I continued painting. Some time later he re-appeared and chatted about what a great ship it was and how perfect for discovering France - especially with such a big bed. I got the feeling he had some pleasure in lands south of Holland.

He advised me that he had bought a steamer when he was 59 (he was now 72), in order to travel through Europe, but before he could get away from his work he had a heart attack. The ship had to go and he had to stay. As he stood there looking blankly out at the lakes I could see that he was already driving the ship away to adventures with the big double bed.

He spent two days on the island Markus Pos and sailed away as he had arrived, quietly, dressed immaculately in jacket and tie.

During the day the ’pirate’ had arrived. A rather wild looking fellow with grubby clothes and an explosion of bottle blond hair. His ship was similar in appearance. An old 60', timber, power cruiser that had seen very much better times. The pirate said the boat was very glad to have met him since when he took it over it was a wreck. To my eyes, nothing had changed. Since I was working just across a narrow jetty from him he set to as well. He chiselled and hammered and pottered about, trying occasionally to get his equally wild looking cat to get out of Van Nelle as he joked that he had trained it to steal but the damn cat would only steal food, not video cameras or Rolex watches. I began to worry about my video camera and watch.

Night fell and the pirate and his very South American girlfriend (he had told me earlier that he owned a barge in Argentina that was used for tourists) left in their rubber ducky for the delights of Loosdrecht. I went to bed at 11.00 and at 11.30 heard them return. Then began the concert.

The pirate would have been able to hold rock concerts on his boat since his stereo sound equipment would have powered a heavy metal band. Reggae at 11.30 until 1.30 or so. No chance of sleep as I was only some 4 metres from the sound source. What was really irritating however was that he would allow the song of the moment to get about half way through before stopping it abruptly and starting a new one. When he got tired of reggae his girlfriend (I assume) went for the South American love songs. I wondered what the old gent in the neat sailing boat tied up just in front of the pirate felt about that sound source.

Tuesday 10 July

The harbour master had visited the day before and since he spoke no English we had an interesting time getting through the rules, the key one being that you cannot spend more than 3 consecutive days attached to the island. Van Nelle had been there for more than a week, so he had been very patient but had to be seen to be doing his job. I had negotiated that I would leave today when I finished the painting and so I set to on the other side and on the coach roof which was scarred by Frank’s steel detritus. Of course I had to A) run out of paint and B) get more rain - but by the end of the day it was done and it was time to leave.

Some time earlier in the day a small boat had arrived with a 30ish couple and their 13 year old daughter. The fellow was pretty chatty and since he had moored where the Pirate had been, directly opposite me, I had spent the afternoon chatting and answering his questions. He was interested in Van Nelle and since he was on a small boat with two women, in need of a bit of male company. I invited him to come for the ride out to the place I had selected to anchor and he jumped at the chance.

We set off, cautiously departing the jetty and looping around to come head to wind in the lee of the island. The gales and rain forecast had not yet arrived but it was looking threatening so it was about time to move. Of course, as soon as you decide to take some action requiring outside work the rain comes and it did on this occasion. Into the bargain throw an anchor chain that was hopelessly twisted inside the chain locker and so was extremely reluctant to emerge and the need to run back and forward from the wheel house to the bow to alternatively put pressure on and take pressure off the anchor, and you get a half hour of exciting physical work with an element of danger from the winch, a heavy chain and a heavier boat. We completed the manoeuvre safely and retired to the wheelhouse for a well earned drink. A few restorative beers later we agreed to meet after dinner for a glass of wine before retiring and I took Sebastian back to Ellen (his partner not wife) and her daughter Michelle.

Sebastian had an interesting history. He told me his father had died when a drunk driver hit him on one of the local roads. Sebastian was six at the time and his mother later took up with another man who had ‘loose hands’. This it transpired means he couldn’t keep from using them to beat Sebastian’s mother. As a kid, he said, he took the beatings he received but told the man that he would return the favour when he grew older. He studied martial arts and gained strength and when seventeen, arrived home one night to find his mother with a cut head requiring 16 stitches. Sebastian took up his hockey stick and sent his step father to hospital in a critical condition. He asked his mother to get rid of the man but she was scared he would come back to beat her up so Sebastian gave him the option. Stay and die at his hands or leave and never return. He apparently took the latter. Shortly after, Sebastian left for Germany, Italy, Spain, France and England, working as a DJ, bouncer and finally a pub owner in Luxembourg.

His Irish / Dutch pub went well but Sebastian thought all the income was his to spend and when the tax man caught up with him he lost the lot. Again he went out to work for others and bought a computer. He learned quickly, became interested in the internet and now has a small company making and maintaining web sites for the Amsterdam sex market and one stock market company.

Ellen, his partner, is a nurse who is recovering from her sixth operation to remove cysts that grow to the size of grapefruit. The last operation removed the latest re-emergence and the cysts and the rest of her womb with it.

They are a happy couple that obviously like each other a lot. They share their three room apartment, and on this holiday, Sebastian’s aunt’s boat, with a lively Australian sheep dog.

We made arrangements for a barbecue on Van Nelle for Wednesday night if the weather was suitable.

Wednesday 11 July - a month since I left Australia. (My, how time flies).

I woke this morning to a full force 6 or 7 gale with rain squalls and occasional heavier fronts battering through the lakes of Loosdrecht. White topped wavelets are racing down towards me from the expanse of water to the south west and causing Van Nelle to roll gently when swinging from side to side.

Unfortunately, the area I chose to anchor is not fully in the lee of Markus Pos island, just slightly to one side of it, but since there are reed banks 50 metres to my port side I could not tuck further under. Everything is holding securely so far and I have taken the day to catch up with this journal.

I’ve just been out on deck, over which the wind is whipping at what must be over 40 knots. This is like one of those winter gales off Fremantle. All grey seas and skies, white tops blowing forward of the waves and rain sheeting down from time to time. It is the kind of weather that invites a fire and a view of the sea, a long roast lamb lunch with a good old shiraz and a warm body to cuddle up with. No such luck here unfortunately, just close the ports and doors, a few nervous glances from time to time at the position of the boat in relation to the island, a 2.50 guilder Argentinian white wine with week old pasta and a hefty pillow (kussen in Dutch) to lie a-bed with later.

Just had a call from Jitse Doeve, our boat broker, to say he had received the second power of attorney document from Maureen - they lost the last one in the post - so he can proceed with the final arrangements, and a call from the shipping agent to clarify if we were planning to stay 6 months (in which case a temporary clearance would be possible with no import duty) or 5 years (in which case the tax has to be paid). At least there are some people on our side. Unfortunately this option seems to have been started from more misinformation from Grace.

So now it’s 3.00 in the afternoon and I am wondering when this storm will abate. It’s been blowing now for at least 12 hours.

Today I have also arranged for two mattresses, one for the front cabin and one for our cabin. They can be delivered on Saturday week or the following Tuesday. If I don’t order them now and pay by Friday I will have to wait for up to 10 weeks. Not a good option. At this time I am going to leave the third bedroom vacant to save funds and give Maureen some decisions to make. I had better make her a list.

At least this really strong wind and rain have shown me where the little leaks are - they all seem to be around the forward facing kitchen skylights that have no rubber seal around the rim. Another thing for

the shopping list for Gamma, the hardware warehouse. Will the shopping ever end ?

Thursday 12 July

Today I discovered engine coolant in the sump as I did a regular engine check. This is not good news.

I called Jitse to ensure the broker is aware and that any actions now are with his knowledge. I then called Frank who arranged to come over with a sump pump. That would have to wait till tomorrow.

I picked up the harness I had designed and ordered from Vrijheid, the best boat supply shop in Loosdrecht. It worked very well despite the low ratio on the hand winch and the number of turns required to raise the boat onto the deck.

Friday 13 July

Frank arrived and we pumped out about a litre of green coolant and then some oil. Once that was done, the oil, which had disappeared completely, re-appeared. Frank recounted that the previous owner had reportedly rebuilt the engine but had then discovered he had a very small coolant leak but was not able to trace it. Frank is under the impression that this is a build up of four years of operating. I am waiting for a technician to be convinced. Jan, the local motor tech is apparently going to do a house call next week. We will see.

WE also discovered that the water was not getting through to the engine easily at low revs. We took the screen out of the main engine water filter and found it almost completely blocked. It took me 20 minutes with a wire brush to clean it off. Replaced, the water rushed through and the rather heated engine of the past was reduced again to a very cool 40-50 degrees indicated.

For the rest of the dau I managed to contain my anxiety and do - guess what - more scraping and painting !

Saturday 14 July

Among the regular round of chipping, scraping and painting, today I decided to take the ship for a run around the lakes to test the engine and have a break, doing what I am here to do, have fun in the boat. We travelled happily for a couple of hours touring the edges of the five interlocked lakes and checking out the route to freedom - the entrance (almost impossible to find without knowledge) to the Nieuwsluis canal to the Amsterdam Rhinecanal. Several checks of the engine ensured that all was working fine.

I celebrated this evening with a trip into Loosdrecht for spare ribs and Californian Chardonnay - V. Good.

Sunday 15 July

Having been away from the island for a few days I figured it was safe to go back to do some more painting with the aid of the jetty that I tie Van Nelle up to. I actually got a fair bit done but I despair at my impatience and lack of skill on the end of a paintbrush. Wiggly lines point to me becoming 80% Jay. Every part I paint will require going back to tidy up the edges - Oh well, something to do for the next 10 years.

I had a bit of a panic today as the generator shut down soon after I started it. Over temp read out and no water being exhausted. A call to Frank. Fortunately Jan, the local engine man, was working and had the required impellor for the pump. What a performance to get to the pump however.

The pump is on the hull side of an enclosed generator which cannot be moved. The panels come off on top and front and back but you cannot get your hand in the back and getting in through the front or top gives very little room for movement and almost no lines of sight. Having worked on this kind of pump before I knew that if I dropped a screw it would be useless until the screw was replaced. We had a Jabsco version of the pump on Tension Cutter (two in fact) and I had replaced impellors on a number of occasions when they wore out but this was a real stinker. It took an hour to take the face plate off the pump without losing any of the 6 screws. Fortunately the impellor came out quite easily and I made sure I noticed which way it rotated as getting that wrong can mean having to redo the job.

The new impellor was not so willing to go in since it was in pristine condition unlike its limp predecessor. After worrying it for some time and with the careful use of objects such as a screwdriver to assist it slid onto its shaft in the right configuration. No mean feat since it was liberally coated with detergent to allow it to work initially without water since there was no way I could prime the pump in its position. Now to get the plate and screws back on.

It was about that time that the local waterski school decided that Van Nelle was an excellent object to circumnavigate and did so incessantly creating a wash that rocked the boat, sometimes quite violently. This is the best condition to work in when attempting something as difficult as brain surgery with no vision and greasy hands and screws. It took forever but one by one they went back in and finally, with the help of a short screwdriver I borrowed from Frank, it was all back together and ready to try. I primed the line from the filter to the waterline with the hull cock shut and went to the ‘office’ to start the engine. This procedure required starting the engine from the remote panel then dashing up on deck and down into the engine room to open the shutoff valve to allow water into the system. Fortunately that worked, I made it before the impellor imploded and water happily spat out rhythmically to the beat of the little Yanmar engine. Power was again at my disposal.

I had mentioned to Frank while we were with Jan that a non return valve would solve the problem and he was quite mystified when Jan produced one for me to fit. I did that the next day when I was able to get the parts I needed from Vrijheid to fit the existing inlet valve and water pipe.

Monday 16 July

I woke this morning to quiet and one of the most beautiful vistas surrounding the boat. Still, slightly misty water and reflected images of the shore line clearly visable all round. I took some digital stills (I thought) with the video camera, only to discover later that this model, despite having the picture button which makes impressive shutting and opening activities in the view finder, apparently does not have still picture capability - Bugger!

Today I decided to ask Wetterwille Jachthaven if I could come in to rewater the boat. This would give me a rehearsal for the container day move which I had already had them agree to. They readily agreed to let me come in and tie up to another barge on the end of a jetty. It was such a beautiful still day that the somewhat nervous skipper, on his own, actually made a masterful job of coming into the harbour, manoeuvring almost sideways up to the other boat and snugging up without scratching a centimetre of paint.

I then spent 2 ½ hours watching and listening to water refill the tanks, 150 litres at a time, driven by 1 guilder tokens for each 150 litre session. I thought 12 ought to be enough, after all, if their meter was accurate that would be 1800 litres. In the end it took 15 tokens before a rush of water escaped inside the boat from the transparent tube used to keep a check on the level. That required a quick mop up and another drying session for the dampened clothes. (The wheel house is now the place for the washing line as I have removed all other ‘Frankish’ attachments).

I decided I had had enough excitement for one day and after taking Van Nelle back to its anchorage about 150 metres off the shore line I took out the maps I have of Holland and the north of France to start working out how to get out of here. A very pleasant break from the monotony of scraping and painting.

I felt a bit guilty not doing a solid 10 hours manual labour today so I worked out a to do list for Tuesday.

Tuesday 17 July

First on my list were a number of phone calls. First to the import company to find out what progress they had made. Practically none and they did not sound very helpful about ways to reduce or eliminate the payment of import duty. The way it works they explained was that Customs take the value of the goods - say $A 6,000 (if they believe your values) and charge 12% - that’s $ 720. They then add the 720 to the 6000 and charge 19% VAT - that’s 1277 plus the 720 - that’s about $ 2,000 times 1.3 for conversion to guilders - presto 2,600 guilders. Not a bad day’s work for nothing on used goods that are not even staying in the country. At their lowest rate of 6% the figure is just under 2,000. Bugger !

Second call was to Menheer Post of Brouwer’s Shipyard. I had decided not to take Van Nelle back there for the electrics since Johan had offered to assist with them here and Jan is supposed to be installing the alternator. I explained the quote was far too much and that I would pick up the double gas cylinder enclosure I had already paid for. He agreed - reluctantly.

Third call to Frank to see if he could arrange for Van Nelle to be in his Jacht haven for the alternator and engine check by Jan - no deal he insisted, the yard manager’s mother had just died and now was not a good time to ask.

I decided to go to Hilversum to buy a pillow for Maureen, arrange a hire car to pick her up and to get citronella since none was available locally. I did all these things as well as calling in to see Jan on both the outward and return journey. No Jan. There were people in the yard office however and they agreed immediately to let the ship in for the work. I will take her in on Thursday.

I then set to work on the aft deck and the scuppers. I cleaned the rust and old paint from under the rails along both sides of the deck and treated the areas with rust preventer. I cleaned the back deck, moving everything (mostly Frankjunk) to the bow and then wresteled with stupid piddling little rollers that were hopelessly inadequate for the task end ended up on my knees painting the very pitted and uneven back deck off white. (It looks good and it will be coll underfoot but now I think it will show dirt very quickly and may be slippery). I then painted the scuppers with black tar like paint obtained for the job from Meneer Post at Brouwers. All in all a pretty good day.

I also received some e-mails including one for son Sean now working for Michael - bless his heart - Kiernan and one from Helen Jordin who, with her family, are on their barge Mea Vota on their return trip from the Midi to St Jean de Losne where the ship will be laid up for 10 months as they return to Canada to their real lives. I suspect a few tears will be shed at their departure.

Wednesday 18 July

Rain - HEAVY RAIN. If I thought I had seen it rain here I had only experienced the overture. This was the real thing and caused me a quick tour of the boat to close windows, ports and skylights to quell the drips. Van Nelle has proven to be a dry ship under the most drenching conditions except for a couple of spots where a rubber liner will sort out the problem - and there it’s only drips. ( As I write this on Wednesday night, it has started again - Oh well, its nice to go to bed to).

Jitse Doeve came by in a small tugboat he was doing sea trials on for a prospective buyer. I had given him an earful about getting the ownership finished and delivering the papers which he wanted to mail or for me to pick up, so this was a perfect way to combine delivery with face saving all round. We had coffee on a really atrocious morning and he and the other two men with him went off again into the rain.

I decided that there was no chance of painting or a trip to town (it was blowing a fierce 20-30knots (40-60kmh) and the waves were big enough to toss Little Nellie (the name I am trying out for the dinghy - suggestions gratefully received) around with me in it. I decided therefore to install some lights (three done perfectly thank you) and again go back to the maps and also to try to decipher some of the Dutch Almanac - one word at a time from the dictionary. The more you see Dutch in written form the more words become understandable but not enough so far to understand a phrase let alone a sentence.

The Dutch have two volumes to the Almanac. The first contains all the rules and regulations the second, information about all the facilities available throughout Holland and some of Belgium. Pity I can’t understand a word - but it’s required to have the books on board.

Only 3 days ago I bought 80 guilders worth of phone cards which topped my account up to 111. Today my check revealed only 26 left - where does it go ??? We have to find a less expensive communications channel.

This Saturday and Sunday see two days of festival in Loosdrecht - street theatre, Roaring 20s music and markets - could be fun. Saturday is also the day the mattresses are being delivered but Wetterwille has agreed to store them until I can pick them up.

Thursday 19 July

More rain today but despite the weather I decided to move the ship to de Drektakker a yacht marina some distance away where the boat was when I first saw it and where Frank has his Tjalk. This means I am closer the the source of tools, advice and bits and pieces - all of which Frank has on his boat.

Jan, the engineer, came by at 1.00pm to instal the alternator. We needed to make a new bracket for it so after issuing instructions he left. I made my way to Frank’s boat to make up the parts for him to weld into place. Fortunately the arm that is sued to tension the fan belt fitted the new set up and so some time was saved. I could not finish the job until I bought a few minor but significant electrical bits that will have to wait till tomorrow.

The names for the ship arrived at Vrijheid so I picked them up while getting some bits and pieces needed to finish the starter and alternator installations. Unfortunately I ordered the names in an appropriate type style that came out much too small. Ah well, another set to be ordered tomorrow before the sign man goes on holidays for three weeks.

I also bought a switch panel for the wheelhouse electrics and took fright when I looked at tthe underneath where it is all wired up waiting for connection to gauges, lights and radios etc. Another challenge - electrical installations.

Friday 20 July

Other soggy day but a good one for doing electrical work inside. I also arranged for the mattresses to be delivered to the marina which made the job a lot easier for the bed shop and me since Saturday is festival day and parking will be prohibited in town.

I caught up with Jan who inspected the work on the alternator, made a couple of small adjustments and declared it ready to run. I turned the motor over and all the things Jan expected apparently happened so he declared it done. Now off to the bank to pay the man the 900 guilders for the alternator and labour.

The rest of the day was spent deciphering how the switch panel worked and therefore had to be installed, doing the necessary carpentry and wiring to fit and testing the result. Everything worked except the navigation lights, a series of red, green, and white lights situated around the boat. I tried different combinations but no luck, I then decided to check them one by one to find out which was upsetting the rest. They all worked individually so I connected them back together and presto - they all worked. I have no idea - its all abracadabra to me. I have to confess to being just a bit proud that I was able to make the installation and have it work - one to me !

Saturday 21 July

A dismal day for a festival with rain and cold prevailing - still, it doesn’t start till 6.00pm so maybe things will come good in time.

Today I worked under instruction from Frank to fabricate the pieces of steel that will make up a bracket for another two batteries. First do the measurements and plan, then select and cut the steel to size, with 45degree angles, ensure it all fits together and leave it to Frank for the welding - I’m not up to that yet.

Spruce myself up for a night in town with some of the usual suspects from the Heineke Hotel. The festival is basically a series of market stalls along the main street - well the only street really - with music in various places and bars and restaurants open along the strip. We plan to look until eight then go back to Heineke for dinner. All great plans ..... the others decided to have a few drinks first so the tour didn’t start till seven and a bit. By 8.00 we were less than half way so a quick rethink had the table altered to 8.30. We eventually got back to the hotel a bit before 9.00 and I could have ripped the legs off the tables and eaten them. However, a pleasant meal and then another sortie to check out the music - disappointing. The main stage had pre-recorded backing tracks for a series of pretty lack lustre acts - male singers - one with a couple of go-go dancers to liven up the event. Boring - even the boot scooters were more interesting. However, Sunday is another day - if the rain hold off as it did during the street festival.

Sunday 22 July

What unbelievable luck - a sunny day ! Things are looking good for the days outing. We planned to take in the sights on the water on Van Nelle as the day consists of a series of locations where vouchers in a program allows you to taste wine and cheese or participate in silly games and competitions. There is also jazz to be found at the Niewersluis, a pretty lock on the way to the Amsterdam - Rhine canal, on a bend.

We made it to the first stop and tasted a couple of indifferent wines and some good brie, then on to the Niewersluis. By the time we got close there was a queue of boats waiting to get through that apparently required a two hour wait. We tied Van Nelle up and hitched a ride to the lock on a passing ski boat.

This is waht is is all about. A sunny day, good jazz, a passing parade of boats and people to gawk at and some good drinks and the odd smoked eel to nibble on. Jacques, Anke, Corry and I had a lovely afternoon in the sun watching the TV personalities parade around, completely upstaged by the mad lock keeper.

The Niewersluis lock keeper is famous. A real personality, he was wearing a pair of over size shorts held up by braces that featured naked women, a shirt featuring 40s female film stars in underwear, one red and one green sock and a little straw hat. He had, for company, a couple of mannequins dressed in suits that were positioned to oversee the operations of the lock. He earned his money today with an unending stream of boats in both directions. It took about two hours for the boats we allowed to go past us in the queue to appear and get through.

We finished the day with a barbecue and weaved off to bed - me hurtling down the dark road on the trusty scooter.

Monday 23 July

Cloudy but dry - a good day to paint the decks grey.

I have to admit to being a bit worse for the wear this morning so I decided I would do mindless things like going to Gamma for switches, Berepoot for a fan belt and Morpheus for some mattress covers. Being Monday most of the shops are shut or open after 1.00pm. I got the first two errands done and headed back to VN to fit the switches and locate a spare light wire that Frank had laid in the bathroom. I also wanted to connect the bathroom exhaust fan. Good work for a hang over.

Mission accomplished. I now have an exhaust fan that works, a spare wire located and ready to attach to a light, a couple of appropriate mattress covers and a dubious fan belt - I think the lad in the shop measured the outside rather that the inside of the fan belt - ah well - another thing to exchange later.

I checked up on Frank and the welding. Nothing done as he was a bit slow this am as well and was off to the funeral of the mother of the marina manager. By 5.00pm I had decided it was time to paint the decks grey. An hour later I was about 1 square metre short of paint and Vrijheid had just closed - oh well, I can finish it tomorrow before I go to Hilversum to pick up the hire car and get the things only a station wagon will carry.

Only one more day to wait for the arrival of the ship’s real captain - Maureen.

Tuesday 24 July

Very good weather today - sunny, light breezes and no sign of nasty fronts on the way in. Perhaps this is in preparation of Maureen’s arrival. It would be just right for her to arrive into blazing sunshine after I had been describing how bad the weather is here. Credibility zero.

Today I have to pick up the hire car, actually a station wagon, and do some shopping for heavy, bulky objects like the outdoor chairs. They are on special at Gamma for about ten guilders each. I’ll buy six and who cares if they break.

A scooter trip into Hilversum though the meadows, bordered by narrow canals in which the locals float about aimlessly or dash from one end to the other, just to have to return again. I travel down the cycle / scooter path next to the main roads. The Dutch have developed a good system with small roads having bicycle paths and main roads having wider bicycle / scooter tracks.

A bit of shopping first after securing the scooter in the hire car agency garage. I need a haircut and I want to make additional inquiries about refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, carpets and so on. I soon discovered that a haircut was out of the question unless I wanted to make an appointment for the next day...Oh well, I’ll just have to use the kitchen scissors. I have however now found a frig of the right size that is an A performer in the energy efficiency stakes, a Bosch, and the price is 700 guilders. With two extra batteries at a cost of 750 guilders, total cost is about 1500 - about the amount I suspect Frank would want for the old 24volt model I am borrowing and about 1500 less than a new one. All my inquiries have suggested only an extra 1-2 amps per hour energy consumption, a figure well covered by the extra batteries.

I spent the afternoon shopping and squeezing bulky objects into the Mitsubishi Spacewagon I had been given at the rental agency. Really comfortable and very spacious but still economical. Being at Jachthaven de Drektakker is also a boon as I can load the items onto their barrows and straight onto the boat.

Wednesday 25 July

Again great weather - that’s my cover story about being tied to the boat shot to pieces - but it’s a good day for an arrival. I had been worried about fog diverting the flight to another European capital as it was a thick as pea soup a couple of days earlier, but this day it lifted quickly as I drove to Schipol airport at 6.00am.

I arrived at 6.40 and parked exactly whgere I thought I could, right outside the departure gate 1, just above the arrivals area but unfortunately at the opposite end of the terminal. Now the quandary, do I stay with the car or go to the arrivals hall to try to intercept Maureen. I decided to try arrivals. Of course it was pandemonium down there with a large number of people spilling into the area from multiple early arrivals plus all the visitors there to greet loved ones. Plan B - go out to the exit area upstairs which is the most likely route someone would take if looking for the departure area.

Bingo - got her in one. A stray figure anxiously scanning the car park area with her back to me.

"Can I be of assistance madam ?" - in a heavy Indian accent from me.

A slightly annoyed look over the shoulder as if to say "Piss off, I can look after myself thank you" which quickly turned to relief and then joy at being met. After the inevitable greetings and the odd tear it was off to the car and Plan A for the day - Amsterdam for charts and a look around.

Now it was back to my hit and miss navigation system. Follow the A2 to Amsterdam then the elephant signs that direct you to the zoo, turn right for the central station and then left into the little carpark. Pretty good - just one wrong tur that took us through the bus park in front of Centraal Station, through an amazed crowd of commuters and tourists and back onto the main road towards the car park. It’s a good thing that there are no Politie (police) about while I am driving here - I would be in jail.

By the time we parked it was only about 8.00am so off to coffee through the red light distrct - not much action at this time of the day but a few shops open with their thousands of videos and improbable looking ‘toys’ and lots of signs for pot and ecstasy. A continental breakfast on the main street, purchase of a tourist map and a decision to go to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s answer to the Louvre. We took the No2 tram and got off a stop after the museum since we were past it before we decided it was indeed our target. On arrival at the front door we found the opening times for the day were at 10.00am which would leave little time for looking as the car park voucher was only good until 11.00 and fines in Amsterdam are very expensive. Back onto the No2 tram and back to Centraal for a quick walk to the chart shop.

We were the major customers for the month I suspect when we bought nearly 1,000 guilders worth of charts of Holland, Belgium and France. Better now that not at all. We carted the goods back to the car and set of for Utrecht to Ikea for additional furniture.

I had sussed out chairs and other necessary items so it was a quick visit that turned long as we added things to the list like a table for the wheelhouse. Ikea can be good for putting bits and pieces together, the problem is that after you buy the stuff you have to put the bits and pieces together and some end up looking very strange, especially with Dutch instructions. We found all the things we needed and actually managed to fit them in the car. Time to head back to the ship.

The rest of the day was taken up with Ikea construction games, dinner, champagne and bed.

Thursday 26 July

Weather fine - credibility going further south.

An early start as we had the car only until 2.00 in the afternoon and we needed carpet, a longer list of small items from Ikea and lots of other useful stuff. Eventually it was all bought and installed back on theboat and we went back into Hilversum to return the car, except that on arrival at the rental agency I discovered that I had forgotten the scooter keys. Back to Loosdrecht and return - 20 minutes round trip (fortunately no Politie) and then off to the shops to confirm the frig and vacuum.

A rather vague chap at the ‘Modern Electronics’ store assured us all would be well for purchase and delivery and we headed back to the boat.

Having spent most of the afternoon completing the Ikea constructions, carpet cutting and fitting and other make and instal tasks the harbour master gave us the unwelcome news that we would have to vacate. The area we were on was not his and big brother would prosecute them. So, back to the lake, off shore power and extensive use of the dinghy to be the order of our future days.

Friday 27 July

Weather Ok today for our move out of the Jachthaven and onto the lake so I decided we would make a trip of it to see the lake system and run the engine a bit with the alternator now in place. But first to leave.

De Drektakker is a marina accessed by a narrow entrance off a narrow canal. Getting Van Nelle in and out is a feat a seamanship - well - it ain’t easy. To get in you have to first get through the canal and then take the very sharp corner into the marina. The width of the canal is about three times Van Nelle’s beam and the entrance two times. Once inside you have to turn 180 degrees in an area about 5 metres wider than Van Nelle’s length. It is indeed fortunate that Van Nelle, like most barges, can turn almost within her length since manoeuvring is done by the power of the water off the propellor over the rudder rather than the stream of passing water caused by speed.

Getting out requires separation from the bank almost sideways since there is little room fore and aft with boats tied up in front and behind. Again, Van Nelle’s characteristics assist since when put in gear in reverse, she almost walks sideways by the propellor grabbing blade-fulls of water and throwing them sideways. This moves the stern outwards to the port side (left) - so - as long as you are moored starboard (right) side in, you can get out relatively easily. If moored port side in you have to revert to forward thrust and rudder or the huge boat hooks we have inherited. Remarkably, it takes a lot less effort to push and pull the boat manually that I expected.

We made the exit gracefully, trying not to stir up the shells and rotten leaves on the floor of the marina since they tend to get sucked into the engine water inlet and reduce the cooling water flow, and headed off for a pleasant trip around the lake, with a bit of steering instruction thrown in on the way for the new crew.

Once back in place and anchored securely in front of the main street marinas it was time for more shopping - especially for the correct colour grey paint, which unfortunately was still not available.

A note about the anchor. This is a huge object of great weight that hangs from the bow, or more accurately, its shaft fits neatly up the chain pipe that leads up to the deck winch from the outside of the hull. The anchor is secured by a very heavy chain and the whole is operated by a simple lever and ratchet winch. Since the lake is only 2-4 metres deep, about 10-12 metres of chain suffices to keep Van Nelle in place securely against all winds so far (up to about 40knots), so pulling the anchor up is not hard. You pump the lever back and forth and it rotates the axle on which the chain pulling gear is located, securing each increment with the ratchet. About 20cms each pull has 12 metres up in about 60-100 movements. If it gets too heavy, you just wait since the boat starts moving forward when you start winching and taking the swing caused by the wind into account, you can complete the operation in about 10 minutes. Once up, you have plenty of time to secure all the pieces forrard before having to get to the wheel since VN stays where she is despite quite strong winds for minutes before slowly paying off and drifting. My experiences so far in handling her have all been pleasant and full of admiration for the eventual characteristics of this development of early transport technology.

We decided it was time to take time out for a meal in a restaurant and headed off to the Hotel Heineke for spare ribs and fish with some nice French white wine to wash it down.

Saturday 29 July

Weather still very good so some indoor and outdoor activities planned for the day.

I had been able to locate a very nice oven at the second hand shop and had bought it on the way back from Utrecht in the hire car, today was the day for installation. One can buy all the necessay gas fittings at various shops around Loosdrecht where I inquired as to a gas fitter, only to be told there were no installers. This is a DIY country.

Access to the area was good and the cook top allowed for a t piece to provide gas to the oven. So, apart from one wrong move causing me to have to get a replacement coupling, it all went together easily and on test proved secure. We used the door of the cupboard into which we placed the oven as its new surround so it fits in perfectly and works a treat. Its so good to have alternatives to frying and boiling.

Maureen went scootering (wobbly at first but with greater skill and confidence coming with the mounting kilometers, off to the hardwar and supermarket areas to soak up oils and lacquers for various bits of furniture and flooring and to buy a chook to roast for dinner - with real vegetables.

An afternoon of painting since I had managed to find the correct colour grey deck paint at a rival boat supply shop after having waited a week for Vrijheid to get it in. Maureen applied lacquer to the bench tops which unfortunately rejected it since they had previously been oiled. Back to oiling them then. It worked a treat on the new wheelhouse table which now looks very grand and fits perfectly for lazy meals out of the weather with a 360 degree view. We eat all our meals there and really have a million dollar outlook. I can’t wait for the now familiar Loosdrecht scenery to be exchanged for that of French vineyards !

We found a good little wine store and laid in a supply of French wines - Bubbly at about $10 per bottle (Café de Paris), Bordeaux at 10-15 and various others between 8-15. Also some very old Dutch Genever (forerunner to gin) and Schipper Bitter, a sort of local spirit based aromatic schapps. Very good start to the exotic cocktail and wine store.

Sunday 29 July

A beautiful day on the water, hot and sunny.

Up early for a quick morning of work - Jay to paint grey decks and edges, Maureen to strip the bench tops and paint the bathroom door, of which we have cut a section out and installed a louvred section to allow better ventilation. With the ventilator fan and the louvres it out to improve the airflow enormously.

We had a late brunch and an afternoon siesta - that’s a first - and then off to the waterfront bar ‘Ottenhome’ fdor afew afternoon beers and a walk through Loosdrecht before a hamburger and a few more beers... Well, why not (as Sir James Hardy is wont to say), it is Sunday !

Monday 30 July

Things were moving too slowly on a number of fronts so today was whip day on the phone. The brokers about the ships papers and insurance, the import company about the furniture, Brouwer ship yard about the gas box, Piet Huebe about the dirty water tank and Vrijheid about pump kits and safety gear. Those calls completed it was time for the arrival of Johan, the TV electrical engineer who is to rewire the engine and control panel.

Johan, all 6' 7" of him, arrived at dockside with his tools, ready for work. He is a character. About 35ish, a bachelor workaholic who travels all over Europe troubleshooting TV live event coverage crews and equipment. He lives on a sailing barge (a Tjalk) which he has been converting for 15 years. It still looks as though it needs 15 years work so it must be true that he spends most of his time doing things for other people.

My dinghy is small and unstable, so when someone like Johan jumps in it is like circus time trying to keep it rightside up and everything inside. We managed - somehow, with he sitting right on the bow making the boat very unstable as he unconcernedly rolled a cigarette and chatted about how nice it was to have good weather and a nice job to do. Somehow we managed to get to Van Nelle without a swim and installed him and his gear onto the deck. Coffee first is the order of any business activity in Holland so the kettle was fired up as we discussed everything but the job.

It can be very frustrating trying to do things efficiently here. Maybe it’s the place (Loosdrecht is a holiday centre) or the timing (this is the summer holiday period) but everyone I have contracted comes at least a day after the appointed date and then three hours after the appointed time. None of the jobs have been able to be finished in a day, all requiring a return visit or two for parts forgotton or nit foreseen or to be changed for other sizes or capacities. I am definitely worried that we may be forced to spend more time here in order to get the jobs completed like the dirty water tank, the engine wiring, the gas box and the blue flag.

When Johan got to work however it was a different story. He does nice work and is really happy doing it. I’m very glad this is not Tension Cutter (our previous boat in Australia) since he would never have been able to squeeze into the spaces in the engine room. Fortunately on VN there is almost enough room for two people to walk around the engine unhindered. Just watch your head (whack).

While Johan wired, I scraped. I’m getting quite good at it. He finished the day but not the job and left, promising a return on Tuesday.

Tuesday 31 July

Weather now is turning grey again - phew !

Into Hilversum today to pay for the frig and delivery and to pick up a few bits and pieces from Gamma. On arrival at Modern Electronics I was not surprised to find that our refrigerator - the last one in stock, had been sold to someone on Saturday. The salesman. Who had Saturday and Monday off, was apologetic and somewhat cowed at my controlled rage. He immediately got onto the computer and the phone to secure the absolutely last one in Holland at some place in the remote north. I paid and left him to it after also enquiring about the vacuum cleaner we wanted only to find that it was a suoperseded model for which they had no bags. Humm. Off to the specialist vac shop up town. Yes they had the bags off which I bought 2 x 10 packets and returned to pay for the vacuum and delivery to Jachthaven Wetter Wille where we will hopefully load all this onto Van Nelle in a week’s time.

I retired to the engine room to clean areas of the roof and bilge that had been waiting to spread their oily blackness on me and quite forgot Johan’s return. Some time after immersion in bilge water I emerged to see Johan patiently sitting on the edge of the jetty, some 80 metres across the water. Maureen had taken the dinghy ashore sometime earlier and had not returned so, a quick call to Johan who found the dinghy, loaded himself and his gear into it and headed out to Van Nelle.

I have to say I felt very bad about that incident. Here was a guy giving up his spare days to travel 45 minutes each way to do the work for me and I left him dangling on the side of a jetty. To his credit (and my shame) he made light of it remarking what a nice day to have time to sit and enjoy nature.

By the end of the day the wiring on the engine was complete, numbered and secured, cut to length and ended with beautiful connectors. I can’t wait for the return visit next week, complete with rewired control panel and eventually, the connection of the two.

Piet Huebe had promised to come today to start work on the dirty water tank. He was a no show and had the phone switched off all day. Worry ! I also arranged for a visit by a metal worker who had agreed by phone to build the ‘blue flag’ but he also did not show up. More worry.

‘Blue Flag’ you ask. When a downstream commercial vessel chooses to travel on the wrong side of the channel in order to make the most of the current, he shows a ‘blue flag’ (actually a blue board) on his starboard side. If you are the upstream boat affected by his choice you acknowledge that you will cross starboard to starboard by also showing your blue flag. It is essential to have the equipment for the busy major canals so one has to be built for the boat.

Wednesday 1 August

A slow day with unremarkable weather. Lots of little jobs inside and out - mostly with me painting the edges of the various different colours where the lines were not straight and touching up areas where paint had spilt or run. Maureen refurbished an old deck table to use for cocktail hour. It is now a very handsome item with varnished top and blue legs. Unfortunately it was also our paint table so now that paraphernalia goes on the deck.

Thursday 2 August

The day seemed overcast and seemed to be going from bad to worse with the phone call from Modern Electronics.

"Good news and bad news" he said "The frig in the remote north is not the same model. The good news is that it is the later model, same size but higher price. The good news is that we will deliver it for the amount you have already paid". That sounded better. I worry about the salesman’s commission check or tenure in his job though.

No visit from the various tradesmen so I continued work on the stern locker and store area taking some four vacuum bags of grit, dust, paint flakes and rust out. It then received a liberal coat of anti rust oil.

We went to Gamma. Maureen had heard so much about the place I’m sure she was expecting some huge hardware hyper market, it’s more like a smallish Bunnings. We wandered about looking for hanging rails, hooks and found a big umbrella that they arranged to deliver, complete with concrete footing.

Later in the day we heard for the import company - the cost of duty was just below 2,500 guilders. I asked for the account to be sent asap so I could arrange payment from my bank and keep to their schedule of delivery next Friday. We are hanging out for some familiar items, funiture and books etc but for me - mostly some music.

Friday 3 August

I was becoming concerned about fuel and an enquiry to Frank proved that we had little more than 100 litres left. Today was the day to refuel but not completely. Fuel here is expensive, about 15% more than from the bunkerships in Utrecht. Since we will go past them in a week or so, I plan to fill there before completely filling everything with really cheap red fuel in Belgium on the way to France. All I have to do is ensure we don’t run out of fuel on the way. My calculations required about 100-150 litres for the next couple of weeks so we decided on 300 now and the rest later.

We went up to West End marina where the fuel is dispensed and went alongside for fuel (calibrated into the tank in 100 litre lots and water (about 1000 litres). That took till after 2.00 pm after which we went out to anchor in this much more protected area.

This is at the extreme west end (hence the name) of Loosdrecht and is an area favoured by water ski and junior sailing schools. Flat barges filled with little sailing dinghies are towed out in the morning and back in the afternoon for the instruction and amusement of lots of very small Dutch children. It is also the location of the Chinese restaurant and the aromas of delicious Chinese meals from lunch time on had us deciding to go there for dinner that night.

Meanwhile we were running the generator as usual to charge the batteries and when it came time to stop it, it would not. The automatic fuel cutoff was not operating completely, leaving the engine jus ticking over and causing great vibrations. After a few unsuccessful attempts in the office using the remote I went to the engine room, took off the covers and manually halted the beast. Another worry. I had an experience once before in an ocean race where the engine would not stop and even if forcefully stopped would start again. We had to disconnect it from fuel and electricity to stop it. I called Frank.

Yes, he had had it happen a"a couple of times but it always worked OK afterwards " and "no, he had not done anything about it".. I called Mase in Holland and got the number of a local servicing agent who came the next day.

The Chinese was excellent - two for a banquet at 68 guilders, a bottle of French Blanc de Blanc (sparkling) for pre dinner and a reasonable red for the dinner. About 7 courses including soup, satay, pork, chicken, steamed and fried rice, lichees and others. Excellent and only a 2 minute dinghy trip.

Sven Krook, the Blue Flag man - had still not showed up despite repeated promises.

Saturday 4 August

Piet Huebe turned up at 2.00 after promising eleven and started on the dirty water system. Slow and methodical, he has great tales about the ships he has wired, plumbed, fixed and built. I took him on the recommendation of Vrijheid (truth?) Who imported the very expensive minimum and maximum water sensors for me on his recommendation.

He did a nice job of setting up the tank on timber bearers and with new piping to and from it, also securing the pump which previously had lain on the floor. I cleaned the area and treated the steel work surrounding it for rust and painted the timper with grey deck paint. Seems a waste not to use it.

He left for the day with the job looking about 3/4 done. A jolly chap with a thirst for beer rather that tea or coffee - which he will drink only under sufferance.

The problem with the generator brought out the issue of water and dirt in the fuel leading to my job of emptying all the filters and getting lyerally gallons of water and muck out of the systems.

We felt quite satisfied with progress today and after dinner and a read of the navicartes for France, to bed. We were woken at 3.30am by loud music and horns blaring. A party ship circling us for half and hour having a real good Dutch time of it. Pity we don’t yet have the mini cannons installed.

Sunday 5 August

Windy today with lots of rain early - I know that since we have an excellent rain gauge - the dinghy.

The weather is sure to put Piet off who promised to come at eleven again. He actually turned up at 12.00 and finished the job - except that the switch (very expensive and he has decided to only use one with a time relay instead of the minimum switch) does not talk the same language as the time relay and therefore nothing works. Fortunately there is a manual override which we can use until he returns - maybe Monday if the parts are in stock.

Maureen scrubbed all the floors while I installed hooks, reinforced the front bedroom bed leg and installed a board on which the bath pump now is secured. It was lying on the floor as well as the dirty water pump. They, and all their hoses are now tightened and secured.

This evening we received a phone call from home. It was really great to hear the voices of Ian and Helen Palmer who had just returned from a camping trip in the North West, mustering cattle and tramping the gorges. I reckon Helen would only have to give ‘that look’ and the cows would all stand in line and salute.

A great end to the day and the week.

XXX

Monday 6 August

The weather looked good to start with but deteriorated during the early morning. We rose to ring Miria Cummins for her birthday and finally got through to her in the office. It’s funny how we think we are privileged to get calls from friends at home but when you call someone like Miria the effect is great. She loved receiving the call and we were all quite emotional at being to wish each other the best but especially to wish her a very happy birthday.

It was also Simon (our son’s) birthday and we called him to get the news and wish him a happy birthday too. He was busy rushing around to cook for the occasion so we chatted briefly and left him to enjoy his day.

Surprise of surprises when Peter Hoobee (as his spelling turns out to be) turned up with the parts to finish the dirty water tank system and within a couple of hours it was working a treat. We celebrated with a beer.

We also called Jitse who was holidaying in Norway or Sweden in a caravan (Brrr) to inquire as to the progress with the insurance company. We cannot proceed to France without full insurance cover for the ship as they insist on it for entry to commercial marinas. He agreed to chase it and called a few hours later to advise that the company ‘had sent the papers to our address and could not retrieve them, we would just have to wait as there was nothing else he could do’.

I decided to take further action, rang his father, ellicited the name of the insurance clerk dealing with the account, called them and they agreed to furnish the papers by fax to the nearby Jachthave - Wolfrat. Later in the afternoon the papers had not arrived so they received a further call, following which a letter arrived stating that they had taken the ship an an all risks policy with a hefty discount. Some progress at least. I then tried to arrange their account at the local branch of my Dutch bank. No they said - you’ll have to do that at your branch in Utrecht. Difficult.

I decided then that the easiest course of action was therefore to go to Utrecht on Wednesday as a round trip to Amsterdam.

Tuesday 7 August

Weather indifferent but worsening

Johan was a no show at 1000, the time appointed to complete the engine rewiring. Bah. A call advised us that a colleague had gone sick and he had had to cover for him. We agreed to meet on Thursday instead as we were off to Amsterdam on Wednesday.

The day was a sort of a knock-about day after that with a trip to the shops and some bits and pieces about the ship.

We decided to go for a drink at the nearby café / restaurant but on arrival found it was closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We went up the shore a bit to the Chinese and enjoyed a bottle of French Brut de Brut and some Chinese dim sum nibbles - all very nice, but at 70 guilders.a bit expensive as we try to throttle back on the expenses to meet our budget targets.

Wednesday 8 August

Wow - the wind had come up to 30-40knots overnight and was howling in the morning.

We got underway at about 8.50 to get to Hilversum by scooter for the train to Utrecht and the bank visit. A pretty easy arrangement with the ticket lady selling us reasonably priced round trip, second class tickets. Only about 1 minutes wait and a 15-20 minute trip and we were at the bank shortly after 10.00.

Disaster. The account was overdrawn. How ? The inquiries clerk got on the computer and right away I spotted a double payment to Nijmen, the import company of 2454 each. The bank, having made the error could not undo it so I had to call Nijmans and have them raise a payment to my account. I also put some cash in and gave them a cheque from the ANZ to boost the funds - that will take a week at least but we may need the pin card capability when it comes to paying for a couple of thousand guilders worth of fuel. And, there is the insurance bill to pay.

That completed we set off to show Maureen the sights - Utrech Cathedral and some of the charming city squares and canals running through the central district. A market was on the in the main sqauare also, adding to the bustle and cluttering the sightlines. We grabbed an applebak (cake) on the run and headed for the station for the train to Amsterdam. A 10-15 minute wait and we were off on a 25 minute trip to the centre of Sex City. A number 2 tram and shortly after 1200 we were at the Rijksmuseum - Amsterdam’s Louvre.

We were not disappointed as the vast building is crammed with the Dutch masters paintings and other beautiful crafts such as furniture, glass, silver and pottery. Two hours of wandering and we were at the restaurant for some brootjes (rolls) and drinks before heading for the Volkspark where a troupe of Dutch Wiggles wannabes were entertaining about 1,000 little kids with huge amounts of electronic amplification.

Out of the park to the tram stop and on to the Palace Museum. Built for the kings and queens of Holland, this impressive building stands next to the Niew Kirk, also from the 1600s and also a museum, but both buildings also still used for state occasions. Inside the main hall was set for a state dinner with fabulous flatware and silver, crystal and silver centre pieces. By now (about 4.00pm) the legs were starting to complain and we needed to get back to Hilversum to pick up the scooter so we headed off through increasing crowds of soccer ‘fanimals’.

The Irish were in town dressed in green and white, guzzling beer, singing loud, unintelligible songs and generally starting to get rowdy. The police numbers were increasing down the main street and we were frankly pleased to get out of town. We made it to the station and then had to try to decipher the railway timetable to catch the right train to go to the right end destination. With minutes to spare I managed to get to the front of my queue to inquire and was given the same information that Maureen had been able to work out on the big plans set on the platforms. We made it to the right platform only to see trains come and go with conductors shooing people away until finally the right train arrived and we all raced on and settled for a quick ride to Hilversum.

Maureen shot off to get some velcro for the cushions while I decided that r=the scooter had not been very well serviced. Complaints were a bit pointless as it was near closiong time and we had no time to wait for them to fix the tuning. They did adjust the very sloppy brakes (which they had caused during the service) and a rattle in the exhaust but the poor little thing is a bit wheezy and has a bit of a cough. We will have to wait till France to get it sorted out.

It was still very windy so we were glad to get back aboard into the comfort and warmth of the cabins.

Thursday 9 August

The wind has blown itself out but the morning started with rain.

Shortly after 10.00am Johan rang to say he was arriving at West End with the parts. A few minutes later, Maureen was off on the scooter to do a major shop, Johan was aboard and the final leg of the engine rewiring saga was in place. Some hours later he asked if I would like to start the engine as it was all installed (in the engine room). A small ceremony and turn of the key - nothing OOOPS. Some quick checks with a multimeter and a change of wires and another turn of the key and the engine vibrated into noisy life. Beams all round as we watched and waited for temperature and pressure gauges to react, which they all did ! Great effort and a great relief. Only one thing left to do, run a multi-core cable from the block in the engine room to the wheelhouse and screw the wires in place and it will be finished - except - Johan did not have the right cable (of course) but a colleague had one and he would just head off to pick it up. He left and 3.00pm and by 6.00 was still not back.

Meanwhile, Jay did taps, a shelf, changed the ends on some electrical cables and adjusted to auto stop on the generator. Maureen investigated the under cupboard floor and went to work in the front cabin on a few rough spots that need finishing.

Tomorrow is the big day - the arrival of our goods. There is great anticipation here and some concern as to where it will all fit - but that is for tomorrow.

Friday 10

Of course it had to rain today. We pulled anchor early and navigated to de Drektakker, up the narrow channel and through the impossibly tight turn into the haven, made the 180 degree turn at the entrance and reversed Van Nelle back to tie up against Frank’s tjalk to unload his remaining gear before again heading off to Jachthaven Wetter Wille to meet up with the moving team and our belongings.

We were on our way at 9.30 as the phone rang. Ellen at Wetter Wille to advise that the team had arrived with their truck and that the mooring was free. We entered cautiously, took the 90 degree turn and nudged up against the dock. Maureen made some gestures at the truck and managed to coax the team out in the rain to take our lines. We were soon secure and I briefed the team about access. We tied open the skylights and got the process under way, Maureen checking off the items and the men lowering them into the hull. How was it all going to fit ?

More and more the boxes piled up against the furniture and wrapping. By the middle of the exercise it looked like a mini disaster but slowly, order emerged from the chaos. I sent Maureen off to collect the scooter from West End, a pretty long walk, and helped the team with the deck and other items. Pretty soon we were finished and Maureen had not re-appeared - she had to have gone to the shops after collecting money from the bank. By this time Sven Krook had arrived with a truly beautiful ‘blue board’ to instal on the starboard side of the wheelhouse and it was starting to get embarrasing about the men hanging around who obviously wanted to get back to Rotterdam. I sent them off to get lunch at the café up the road and tried to slow Sven down.

Eventually Maurren arrived back after the truck had been taken to find her. She had completed a trul remarkable shop, coming back with a sledge hammer, mops and other assorted items. On her arrival the guys lifted the scooter onto the deck where I secured it and they departed hurriedly. Sven was paid with the cash Maureen arrived back with and also departed, we plugged in to the shore power and turned on the frig, unwrapped more and more items and tried to find logical places for them. This took until about 4.30 when with some guilt I prepared to do the impossible, take Van Nelle out backwards, through a crowded marina, negotiate a 90 degree bend and not destroy the other exposed boats.

It was surprisingly easy in the end. Done slowly and deliberately the ship responded well to the thrust of the prop and the press of the rudder and we emerged to make a final 180 degree turn and head back to West End.

We spent some hours unpacking and putting away and collapsed over a scratch dinner of pasta. Shortly after we received a call from Frank who said they couldn’t do dinner with us on Saturday but could come for a drink tonight. Ok, were not tired, please come. They did and we had an enjoyable few hours with some drinks, nibbles and talk of politics and music. They left at 1.30 am and we went off to bed, strangely to toss and turn for an hour or so before sleeping fitfully.

Saturday 11

The weather was bright and sunny on this Saturday and washing was the first order of priorities, not only to test the machine but also to get the mounting loads under control. It was also a chance to test the dryer on the generator and put everything under load to see what sort of power consumption we would have.

That was put in place and all seemed to be progressing well, surely it could not be this easy ? The amps consumed were a few more than I had expected for the frig but it was just trying to chill the huge load of goods it had been presented with.

I checked the engine and got a case of the chills again. There was evidence of the dreaded cooling fluid in the sump. I determined to get a vacuum pump from Vrijheid and check it out. In the end it was a small amount but never the less it was still there and something will have to be done about it, the question is where and when. I don’t relish the tought of staying here for another day let alone another couple of weeks. My inclination is to arrange a settlement with Frank for his contribution to the cost and head south. Maybe in France we can get a Baudouin specialist with access to all the parts and accessories required to fix the leak and service the engine at the same time. We’ll see.

Sunday 12

Really lousy weather at the start that just got worse. Another storm with high winds, rain and whitecaps on the lake - and we need water after our washing machine gobbled up about 250 lites in three loads yesterday.

I called Ellen at Wetter Wille to see if we could get in to fill up and was advised to tie up to the outside breakwater. We arrived and against strong winds managed to moor securely. Maureen went off to get money and shopping bits preparatory to leaving tomorrow and I supervised the watering while checking the bank accounts by internet.

I called Frank also to propose a cash settlement from him of 2000 guilders for the engine problems and he said he would consider it.

We completed the watering and the weather had really deteriorated. I considered pulling the dinghy up to the side of the boat, it was on a short line on the stern but rejected it as it looked secure where it was and would not be exposed. What a huge mistake.

I had briefed Maureen that I would go ahead with the wheel hard to starboard as we were tied up on the starboard side. That would push the stern into the wind away from the breakwater and from that position we could reverse out since in reverse Van Nelle pulls to port. That worked well until I put the boat into reverse to pull away from the breakwater. The strong winds were threatening to push us straight back onto the wall and pin us against it so I gave the engine a fair bit of throttle and we moved away. The first 10 - 20 metres were touch and go and I applied more power to keep us heading away from the wall.

Maureen, having done a great job with ropes and fenders on the bow in the driving rain, went aft to check the dinghy. I saw her look over the stern and turn to me with a horrified look. The dinghy had been sucked against the rudder and prop and was pinned there as the prop carved off the outboard as though it was paper and started on the stern of the dinghy. I couldn’t stop and anyway was not aware of the extent of the damage at that stage as Maureen could not see clearly enough to report what was happening in detail.

We had now moved far enough to put the ship into forward and turn before we again hit the wall. I carried out the manouvre as quickly as possible and headed back to West End. Maureen came into the wheel house and told me to check the dinghy. What a mess. Poor Little Nellie had suffered mortal wounds from the hugely powerful engine and prop. She was in a sinking state, just held up by the tow line that kept the water flowing out of her double hull by a venturi effect. It was clear that the engine had been carved off, leaving the mounting bracket in place. There was a huge gash in the stern and into the inner hull and Nellie was half full of water with the oars floating just below the gunwales.

There was nothing I could do in the middle of the lake and with a sick feeling I took the wheel again to get us to anchor in West End. We arrived and anchored in the rain and then I knew I had to get into what was left of Nellie to try to get her body back onto Van Nelle. I jumped in and she immediately threatened to capsize and began to rapidly sink. I attached the snap shackle to the ring of the harness and tried to get the fourth clip in place on the starboard side, the other three being attached already. It was no good, she was going down with me in her while Maureen tried desperately to winch her up. As the water closed over my knees I leaped up the side and scrambled aboard the mother ship having tied the bow line to the lifting shackle in a last gasp attempt to keep Nellie from the deeps.

Slowly we winched and the water receded out of the huge gash in her stern. She came up to the deck level, as far as the winch could take her. We waited till she emptied and then hauled her aboard. I could have cried at that moment. This shattered wreckage was once a pretty little carvel shaped hull with a cheeky tilt to her bow and cute lines. Sure she was heavy, unstable and falling to bits and I had been naive in thinking I would get her back into sailing shape but that was now a wrecked dream, lying broken on the cabin roof. The outboard, a game little 4 hp Mariner was at the bottom of the lake at the entrance to the Jachthaven Wetter Wille.

I called Ellen with the sad news. She immediately offered the services of their contract diver for 150 guilders to attend and 200 more if he found the engine. I refused, thinking that the engine would probably be a battered wreck and anyway if necessary I could haul out my scuba gear and find in myself, if the weather turned. For now though I just wanted to lick my wounded pride and castigate myself for once again ignoring the smarter voices in my head that had told me at least three times to bring Little Nellie alongside.

I spent the rest of the day in a black funk castigating myself for my stupidity. I retreated into some minor jobs around Van Nelle as the rain beat the outside mercilessly, just as I was doing to my insides. Hopefully this re-telling of the saga will purge my soul a little.

Oh well, it’s all part of the grand adventure. I hope we don’t have to try to row ashore from a mooring in the near future as we don’t have the means to.

UNDERWAY

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