Boaty Poem - Part Two

Holland to France

 

2009

Click on the photos to see the blurred images even bigger!

Sad friends could hardly contain themselves

Impeller in pieces (lots of pieces)

The mighty Waal river

King Albert 1 statue near Liege

Thirsty camel with fatso (me) on board

Our friend's boat.

Fryslan owned by Baz and Ally

The Amsterdam-Rhine canal. Big, fast ships.

Viannen

The skipper looking sideways

Lock up into Gouda

A

 

 

 

BIG

 

 

 

chap

 

 

 

powering

 

 

 

past

The wacky baccy boat - Smoky

Liege port

'Dashing' away at 6.00 AM

Our friends were sad to see us go

good mates in our Dutch second home

it's time to head off down to Gaul

new language, same time zone

 

With a nasty rumbling, choking sound

our engine fires to life

in a cloud of smoke and a rattling roar

'hang on', yelled the skipper, my wife

 

Water should come out the back

to cool our dear old Ford

like a thirsty camel the exhaust dried up

there was something untoward

 

Just a hitch I told the crowd

who'd come to see us off

they were there to ensure that we actually left

and yelled, 'go on then, bugger off.'

 

Jan laughed out loud as she wiped her eyes

on a mucky, oil stained tissue

as she watched her struggling number one

try and resolve the issue.

 

The impeller pump had given up

and exploded, a tad bothersome

as rubber shards and small black lumps

clogged up the cooling system

 

There was slight delay of a couple of hours

the crowd was tense and tight

'cause if I failed to fix the offending piece

we could have been there all night

 

It's fair to say that our dear old boat

is a temperamental barge

things go wrong when she decides

she's certainly in charge

 

At last we left and headed out

on a trip that would prove to be

the best six months that we ever had

on river, lake or sea

 

We set off in the company of

some friends on their trusty ship

two pairs of largely clueless folk

on a fraught yet thrilling trip

 

Towards Amsterdam we headed off

it wasn't all that far

about a week we'd have to wait

for a taste of erotica

 

We stopped for lunch after only an hour

on the banks of the waterway

saw a fishing boat drying its nets

heading home from a busy day

 

The sun shone on us motley crews

as we camped and drank our grog

set off again full of hope

straight into a bank of fog

Our friends led off and we followed on

nav lights aglow in the gloom

we came across a dredging barge

round which there was little room

 

A minor navigational hitch

saw us go round the wrong side

our mates ended up stuck fast on a bank

in a slowly ebbing tide

 

With a bit of bad luck the sun came out

revealed us to the dredgers crew,

two idiot boats in a right old mess

who'd met their Waterloo

 

The good thing about a one-way trip

is the nautical separation

between the catalogue of incidents

and our trail of devastation

 

Things did get better after that

as we passed some lovely places

Elburg, fabulous, to name but one

with it's lowland charm and graces

 

Be prepared is the name of the game

'cause the weather can be wet and stark

someone's ready we knew as we saw

A giraffe on Noah's Ark

 

I taught our skipper to steer the boat

but I had to go and hide

'cause every time she took the wheel

she looked off to the side

 

The River Amstel to the town of Gouda

where the cheese tastes second-hand

Twinned with Gloucester in our dear UK

whose cheese is double bland (not)

 

We awoke one morn to another thick fog

and a rumbling noise in the gloom

a cargo ship passed by quite close

wrapped in her misty womb

 

These boats ply trade by night and day

by radar when conditions dictate

its good this chap had his turned on

to help him navigate

 

We bypassed Gouda on the River Gouwe

it's watery périphérique

and escaped the river via an old sea lock

when the tide was at it's peak

 

The Hollandse Ijssel canal our aim

that would see us heading the east

towards Utrecht, then all points south

as the miles to go decreased

 

This waterway's quite English

small towns, decaying mills

the biggest difference we can see

is here they have no hills

 

Our mate Baz stood point out front

our enemies out to seek

but this canal was mighty quiet

and he saw nowt for a week

 

To get down south we have no choice

three rivers we have to span

The Lek to The Meuse but between, The Waal

yes, that's the fearsome one.

 

But before those three we have to cross

the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal

innocent enough you would have thought

but it damn near proved fatal

 

Four ships had passed, two up two down

enormous cargo beasts

that turned the water to a churning mess

just prior to our release

 

Our boat was bounced and thrown around

we totally lost control

our propeller out of the water at times

next moment in a roll

 

By luck alone we got across

moored up with huge relief

gave my wife a great big hug

she was shaking like a leaf

 

Any smugness we may have felt

was banished then and there

the score of seconds we'd just spent

had taught us to beware

 

A disturbing moment had by our friends

when their steering cable snapped

their ability to steer their craft

severely handicapped

 

One minute later a beast slipped past

down the waterway

I dread to think the consequence

of being in it's way

 

Maybe this was the moment

they decided to change tack

and great big rivers were not for them

so had turned and headed back

 

Couldn't say I blamed them

we were really on the brink

don't think I would have carried on

without a little drink

 

We saw a rather funny sight

while waiting, just past dawn

a rather splendid horse went by

and bid us all good morn

 

The route onto the River Lek

was via a mighty lock

we were nervous now after yesterday

perhaps it's aftershock

 

Out we came onto the waterway

the current on our beam

although we pointed straight across

were washed some way down stream

 

We scrambled out the other side

as a big boat thundered past

in Viannen we moored, a lovely town

with a view quite unsurpassed

 

Next headed south on a small canal

and approached the mighty Waal

now this is in a different league

which we didn't fancy at all

 

We have to go four Ks upstream

against a 5k flow

our dear old boat does only eight

so the trip might well prove slow

 

Joining us on this frightening trip

was a chap without much sense

his old gear box was playing up

if it died he have no defence....

 

….against the mighty river

and the ships that sail thereon

he'd simply be just swept away

and a tragic denouement

 

Although the flow of the river

bothers us somewhat

it's the scale of the thing and the boats thereon

that's our fear barbiturate

 

It's huge and chocolate muddy brown

as we look it's power unveiled

and the boats are enormous rumbling giants

throwing churning rooster tails

 

Down a lock and out we go

hear the grumbling giants far away

head straight across to the right hand bank

to keep well out of the way

 

Our little boat's going awfully slow

like battling through muddy gruel

the waves they slap and the water churns

we feel so miniscule

 

a beast approaches from the rear

with a rumble we now know well

it powers by and heads up steam

leaves us rocking in it's swell

 

The river is huge and threatening

and cargoes thunder by

coal and steel and grain and sand

it's awesome, my oh my.

 

Via another small connecting branch

the River Mass we reached

but before too long we found our friends

broken down and beached

 

We asked if we could help them out

tow them to safe port

'no thanks,' they said 'we'll be just fine'

but I'm happy to report.....

 

…...that at least they'd found a sheltered spot

and awaited a rescue boat

no word was heard from them again,

we hope they're still afloat

 

Just up the way an edifice

hove up into view

a massive river lock, our first

and the nerves flutter anew

 

Against the flow for many a mile

but where to take a break?

and moor up for the night somewhere

on this massive moving snake

 

Every now and then we found

flooded gravel pits

man made lakes and sanctuaries

from which we benefit

 

While moored one eve in a desolate spot

we shared an anecdote

with a coup of folk who pulled right up

in an English narrowboat

 

One day we saw an amazing sight

we were truly over-bowled

to see a truck up in the air

dumping soil into a hold

 

A pontoon floated just off shore

with a working boat tied there

the truck reversed right up a ramp

a precarious thoroughfare

 

He tipped his load into the hold

I expected it to buckle

good job the boat below was strong

or it could have cracked the hull

 

The irony not lost on us

as we reached our eastern limit

Maastricht, the flattest place on earth

where our leaders held a summit

 

We moored near 'Smoky', a coffee shop boat

where the locals toked their weed

we sat out back, took in the air

a heady hour indeed

 

We shared a lock with a scrap metal boat

and were greatly reassured

that the skipper of this work boat didn't

winch our wreck on board

 

We headed into Belgium

Through a lock and customs point

we're obliged to show our papers here

but through a cock up, we don't

 

They clock you into Belgium

then check you out again

but we were never really in

now here, must we remain?

 

It's a lovely little country

chocolate, eels and beer

but we are heading into France

so must get out of here

 

Before we land in France it's Liege

but a haven we must find

down a spur we find a port

that leaves us in a bind

 

Maximum twelve metres said

the sign o'er half way down

which meant the we're unable to

turn our barge around

 

Nice as it was we had to leave

and get back on the Meuse

but the only option left to us

was to do a long reverse

 

Down an alleyway of expensive boats

we carefully took aim

our foremost thought was to avoid

an expensive insurance claim

 

Thirty tonnes of mottled steel

with little control at all

crept away in a cloud of smoke

playing nautical pinball

 

We left the port at 6.00 AM

with the natives still in bed

and headed off with throttle full

like an old Dutch thoroughbred

 

We couldn't show our papers

to the man in the customs shack

mystified he was, and said,

'bugger off and don't come back.'

 

At last in La Belle France we land

bonjour said the man on the gate

as he welcomed there with open arms

to the land of wine and pate (duff rhyme)

 

Our abiding Belgian memory

was Namur, a lovely town

with it's citadel high on the cliff

like a regal, brooding crown

 

It's a wonderful creation

a fortress archipelago

aflame by night under fiery lights

like a siege's afterglow

 

But all that's now behind us

as south our way we wend

what's to come, we've no idea

what's round the coming bend

 

Jo May © 2017