Entering Belgium

Along the Canal du Nord good stops are few and far between. In Marquion we tied up to a wobbly pontoon without water or electricity. The weather was really heating up. We urgently needed showers and a washing machine and were scrambling to stay down-wind from each other.

Crossing the Belgium border the banks of the canal became almost instantly less industrial and were lined with neat rows of trees. Finally we arrived at “le Grand Large”, a man-made water basin, with the Péronnes yacht club offering showers, washing machines and a restaurant. Unfortunately the club promising cold drinks and a laundry was closed being a Monday, but at least the showers were open. As we relaxed on the deck enjoying blue skies and a refreshing breeze, groups of kids skidded along the water on small sail boats and windsurfers - a lovely sight.

The next morning we cycled to the next village to do some shopping at the Intermarché. The return trip in 33 degrees heat with fully loaded bikes was a hot affair. Marcia treated us to a traditional Belgian lunch of mussels and chips at the yacht club, all washed down with a shandy made with Belgian beer.

An envoy of 3 Belgian boats arrived as the summer breeze picked up in the afternoon. The crews were struggling to fight the current, wind and aim for spaces in between the pontoons. Austin and I did our best to catch their ropes and stop their bows from hitting the moorings. 

When we returned from our evening walk the newly arrived invited us for a drink on the terrace of the yacht club. They were a very merry group with most speaking good English. We were encouraged to try a “traditional drink” called Eau de Villée, a spirit with a punch. One between Austin and me was enough, but very tasty, a mixture of citrus liqueur and Schnapps. Suffice to say that the patron left us to our own devices after closing up time.

The following day proved just as hot. The Grand Large lays between two massive locks. Although we announced ourselves early to the lock keeper of the next 15m+ lock and were told “troisième bassinée”, meaning we were third in line, we had to hover for 2 hours in front of the lock until it was our turn, and then it took more than 30 minutes to lift us up. Lucky Peter slept all the while downstairs (he did have to have a nap after passing his first big barge while being on the helm) while Marcia sweated it out on deck with us. 

By the time we travelled another 17km to the next small port we were sizzling and glad to dip into the somewhat murky harbour water.

The geese were not amused about our invasion while the ducks were laughing as usual.

© Austin Robinson 2019