Monday, 28 September 2015

All our bags are packed, we're ready to go......

Almost.......we're leaving Holland on Thursday's overnight ferry from Rotterdam to Hull so we'll be back at home in Bolton by Friday lunchtime. Nigel is already looking forward to his Chae's Chippy tea on Friday evening!
Since Saturday we've been sorting, tidying, cleaning and packing things in the car ready for the trip to Rotterdam after our lift out on Thursday.
The last lock in Germany

We arrived back in Holland on 5th September. It was almost just 3 of us, we were dreading we would be leaving Dash behind as he did a spectacular all day "runner" the day before we were planning to go. I took them for a morning stroll as usual and Dash decided to take himself off through a maize field. By 11.30 a.m. I was hoarse with shouting for him so I phoned Nigel who cycled to where Belle and I were to help search. To cut a very long story short, he reappeared in exactly the same spot I had lost him from 7 hours before, looking dirty, disorientated and exhausted. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, as this was after I had been to report him missing at the police station and they in turn had informed the local rescue centre. After a hosing down on the pontoon, his tea (not sure he deserved it) and a good rub down with a towel, we didn't hear a peep out of him till the next afternoon. Guess who's been on his lead on walks for the last few weeks?

Spot the border terrier

It was good to get back into Holland, we came back to Friesland a different way to the journey out to Germany which was a bit stressful. We needed to lower the bimini, tent and radar arch for the low bridges but there were fewer of them but of course it rained on us and we had to resort to covering the instrument panel and helmsman's chair with bin liners to keep everything dry. Despite this hiccup, we enjoyed the trip through the Drenthe region, it was very quiet with plenty of free and attractive places to moor. We had the sad news on 6th September that my brother in law had died after a long fight with cancer so that meant arranging to be close to the car as soon as possible so that I could get home for the funeral.

Belle on deck patrol

Pea soup? No, duck weed! 

So we've had a very pleasant month pottering around Drenthe, Flevoland and Friesland, mostly staying on Marrekrite sites which are so peaceful and great for the dogs but we've also been back to Leeuwarden for a couple of days as last time we were there (with Bill and Mandy) it rained non stop.  Guess what, it rained again a whole day this time too! But we did have one fine afternoon when we arrived and the morning of the day we left was fine too. I also had two nights in the UK staying at my sister's. I flew from Amsterdam to Leeds/Bradford airport and hired a car to drive to Rotherham. I didn't get to see my grand daughter but did have the pleasure of seeing my two boys who both drove over for their uncle's funeral. Happier times to come as we have a family wedding to look forward to at the end of October. 

"Funky" ironmongery on a lifting bridge in Drenthe
Not what it looks like,  our raw water
intake after almost going aground

We've been Billy no mateses this trip, maybe the novelty has worn has been out to stay with us, not even the aforementioned Bill and Mandy, our first boating season without them. (We will be up to see you and your new train line in Stow before you know it!) And my friend Jean has the temerity to be going to Berlin next week.......6 weeks after we left! We've met a few English boaters but no-where near as many as we've met in France. And as mentioned in another blog entry we did have the pleasure of meeting up with Chris and Mandy Lefevre again who we first met in Morocco.

Lifting/tilting bridge into Leeuwarden

This beautiful ship just floated by us


And ups and downs of the season .....

  • The weather is more variable in Holland and Germany than France but when it's hot it's very, very hot and when it's windy......tie everything down!
  • Electric vacuum toilets and their associated pumps will go wrong and are extremely unpleasant to deal with when they do.
  • Karcher pressure washers do not float!
  • Most people in Germany will help you with the language if you struggle apart from a lock keeper in Berlin who announces "I am in Berlin therefore I speak German!" (In German of course when I apologised for not understanding and asking if he spoke English).
  • Facetime/Skype sessions with family are wonderful.
  • France doesn't have a monopoly on good cheese! Holland and Germany both have wonderful cheeses also (and cakes!).
  • Coming home for two funerals in one season was of course unexpected and thought provoking...Carpe Diem!
  • I shall never tire of sunsets and how lucky we are to see them from a boat

Next boating season will see us heading south through Holland then Belgium and making our way back towards France, inshallah!

Cormorant drying off after the rain

Friday, 28 August 2015

All good things come to an end....again

We had to tear ourselves away from Schwerin after 9 days or so, we found it one of those places that's hard to leave but mid July found us retracing our steps along the Alte Elde. We stayed in some of the same places on the return journey plus some different ones that we had noted on the way up. Also we have met and met again a few more English speaking boaters.

One highlight on the Elde was this amazing sight of a goshawk having its lunch on the towpath. We didn't disturb it as we motored past.

Yum Yum!

We lingered around the interesting town of Waren at the northern end of Lake Muritz. We had a problem with bow thruster batteries that were at the end of their lives and thought it was simply a matter of sourcing new ones to replace them. However we found to our dismay that the physical size of the batteries we needed had changed in the 4 years since the others were installed and they would not fit our trays without the brutal use of an angle grinder (which we don't have.) So plan 73b again came into the equation, we swapped the stern thruster batteries over to the bow and decided we would have to manage without using a different technique to moor. Fingers crossed for some windless days while we got used to it!

Sea sickness almost worthwhile when I spotted this
white tailed eagle soaring above us
The day after we crossed the huge Muritz sea in a howling gale, an uncomfortable journey resulting in me being sea sick! I ask you....sea sick on a lake! The weather did eventually calm down again and begin to brighten up and we pottered onwards, having short days when we felt like it and stopping when we wanted to. Of the hundreds of Mecklenburg lakes and villages/towns we visited just a few of the most enchanting ones. There are many many more to explore if we come this way again.

A rather pink trip boat on the Spree

Meander and another British Aquanaut
 in the Treptow district of Berlin

Close up view from a "proper" camera
Meander is the topmost boat in the picture
View from the top of the famous Berlin TV tower
Can you see Meander......she is just to the right
of the big square building on a bend in the river.

The beginning of August saw us back in and around Berlin at the start of a 3 week unremitting heat wave. We loved it....yes some days it was so hot we didn't know what to do with ourselves and neither did the dogs but we did book an early morning trip up the TV tower, where from the top we got tremendous 360 degree views. We went out cycling early in the morning and late in the evening when it was slightly cooler and less busy and this time we did get up close and personal with the Brandenburg Gate, we'd not been able to get anywhere near it on our outward trip.

I tried every day to find a suitable spot for the dogs to swim and cool off which they were very grateful for. We used different waterways to get back to Potsdam and spent another week or so there on a free mooring where we'd stayed before. Behind us was a German converted barge called Malo with an elderly couple who swam in the Havel about 4 times a day. We had a dip too and very refreshing it was. Here the boaters' nightmare of a broken toilet came to haunt us but thankfully a spare part was ordered from a chandlery and arrived within a week. This meant that during this heat wave Mr. C had to have several long cycle rides to order the part, collect the part and then cycle back for tools to install said part but my hero successfully repaired the toilet...phew, glad we didn't have visitors that week! Thankfully we were moored within 200 metres of a supermarket with customer loos that was open 7am till 10pm for most of the time we were waiting.

Our swimming German neighbours.
Mr.C taking a breather in the orangerie
at Cecelienhof Schloss

Reluctantly we decided it was time to get a move on and make progress back towards Holland. We booked our lift out at the marina in Lemmer and our return ferry from Rotterdam to Hull for 1st October. Whilst it would not take all of the five weeks we have left to get to Lemmer we wanted to leave ourselves plenty of time for contingencies like bad weather and technical/mechanical issues.

So we left the lovely Havel Wasserstrasse with its myriad types of watercraft and entered the canal system to join the huge commercial barges on a miserable rainy 19th August 2015. We are now at the end of the Mittelland canal, the 388k “motorway” and on our way along the Dortmund-Ems and should reach Holland at or soon after next weekend. this week on Tuesday 25th August, we had our longest day covering 70.2 kilometres in 7 hours.

The following photos are a random selection of our trip since leaving Schwerin, not in any order, chronological or otherwise!

Street art in Brandenburg

Rheinsburg Schloss

Dash with his leg over!

Wonderful sunset

Water feature in Rheinsburg

A floating ice cream seller!

Getting away from it all on a budget!

We were astounded when we saw the first of these....
then the novelty wore off when they became  a common sight

We don't know what this cargo was

Statue of Victoria in Berlin's Tiergarten

Berlin Wall graffiti


Brandenburg Gate at night

Trip Boat up close and personal
at our Reichstag mooring

More Berlin Wall graffiti

All day Breakfast!

Serves you right for trying to overtake on a bend!

Misty moisty morning
We think this crew had eaten too many pies or
drunk too much beer. They definitely should have
spread the load more evenly,
 both sitting as they did on starboard!

Little and large....these two barges are identical in size
only difference being the nearest one is loaded!

Nigel takes the plunge in the
Potsdamer Havel

Monday, 6 July 2015

Mecklenburg Lakes

It's three weeks since I returned from my trip home to the UK for Angus's funeral and to see friends and family.

Mirowersee Mooring

We've now reached the furthest intended spot for this year, Schwerin at the northern edge of the Mecklenburg Lakes. Our normal modus operandi when boating is to take our time getting to where we want to be, then either running out of time to actually get there and stopping short or having to dash back to meet a deadline. This time we have done it differently, in that we've pushed ourselves to get here at a not uncomfortable but steady pace and we'll now take our time going back through this lovely area and stopping for a few days where the fancy takes us. We did linger in Berlin for a couple of weeks and hope to do so again on our way back.

Is it a boat, is it a caravan?
Well, it's a caravan on a catamaran!

It seems almost as if we've had all four seasons since we set out 12 weeks ago on 13th April. It was cold, wet and miserable for a good few weeks, we could see our breath condensing every morning when we woke in Holland, the first job every morning being to mop up condensation and we used a good bit of diesel keeping warm and went round even inside the boat with many layers.  It felt like we'd never be out of fleeces and into tee shirts! Now, 12 weeks later we are basking in temperatures of 39/40 degrees and having electric storms the like of which we've rarely seen before. And hot, hot nights where it's so uncomfortable to we miss Liberté's master cabin air con! 
A very soggy day!

We were in Oranienburg, just north of Berlin when I returned to Meander and true to my word the first shopping trip back was for the purchase of a cycle helmet which I have worn on every cycle trip since! We spent a couple more days there in cold wet weather and met our one and only British couple so far on a cruiser, moored next to them and spent a pleasant evening on board nattering. I meant to take a photo of the two Ensigns flying side by side but most of the time they were just drooping in the rain!

Festival goers

And so we got on with our travels to the Mecklenburg Lake area, through varying scenery, pretty villages, narrow water lily lined "ditches" and lakes of varying sizes. 

Nice little mooring on the Alde Elde Kanal
Put us in mind of Froncles.

We had a couple of days hold up when my arthritic knees played up and swelled so much that they looked like chicken drumsticks and I could barely shuffle. That was fun, (not) neither of us being able to walk and having two lively dogs is not a good situation to be in. It was a Sunday morning, NHS direct website symptom checker suggested urgent medical attention. Nigel hobbled to the hafen meister who was nowhere to be seen but a kind holiday boater who could understand the situation rang the emergency doctor then took us in his car to the surgery where I was given cortisone and diplofenac injections and told to rest with my legs up. I did as I was told, was looked after  and waited on by Nigel and the dogs managed with comfort walks again like they'd had to while I was back in the UK. After a couple of days rest the pain and swelling subsided and we were able to move on again, across the vast Muritzsee and many other smaller lakes, along the Alte Elde and then StorKanal and eventually to Schwerin. 

Along this stretch we've had some wildlife highlights too, the list one day was:

Kingfishers 2
Fieldfares 2
Hen Harrier
Marsh Harrier
Herons (many)
Polecat or other large mustelid
Swimming snake
Cranes 2
European Beaver swimming
Constant chirruping from Yellowhammers, chiff chaffs, chaffinches, reed warblers plus many others that we don't recognise.

Pretty perfect mooring!
A better mooring we couldn't have wished for and were amazed that it was free (i.e. available) With the backdrop of the wonderful Schloss, a lively restaurant within 20 metres and as we were to find out later, an open air theatre just opposite with the opening night of La Traviata underway, it really felt special. After the opera had finished, the Schloss was floodlit and looked magical from our bedroom windows, even with the crane!  

Schwerin Schloss  from the Gardens

The Orangerie
Night two followed the hottest day of the year so far, we don't have a thermometer on board so can only guess it was in the 40s, as dusk began to fall and the second night of La Traviata was heading towards the interval, we felt the atmosphere change, rumbles of thunder began in the distance and flashes of lightning far away gradually got nearer and nearer and much more frequent. Suddenly the wind got up and torrential rain began to fall, the opera audience started running for cover and we battened down our hatches after Nigel secured the boat with a few more lines, unfortunately the wind whipped a boat hook off our roof never to be seen again. The storm lasted an hour or so, such intense lightning from so many parts of the sky we've never seen before. The dogs were both in a state, it's the first time Dash has ever seemed to notice but I found him cowering in a corner. It was good practice as we had the same again last night, this time we had everything down and zipped before the rain actually started but as we are now moored a little further away in a yacht club we had the added entertainment of the soundtrack of rigging and halyards wailing and a couple of escaped fore sails flapping with gusto. Today it's cooler with a stiff breeze, so hope we don't have a thunderstorm hat-trick!

Our current mooring,
we are still in view of the Schloss!
La Traviata open air opera
as seen and heard from our deck

Belle and Dash loving their swimming opportunities
if only to cool down!
Won't stop me falling off but no more
bumps on the head!

Hopefully some more and better pics to follow, these are all from my phone.