Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Whirlwind Trip to Amsterdam, May 26-28

We began this year’s trip in Amsterdam so that’s where we picked up our rental car. Since we now had a boat in France, we were going to have to make the drive back up to Amsterdam to return the car and then take the train back to Dijon where another car awaited us at the train station. (Rental car prices in Europe are very reasonable.)

Tuesday morning about 7 we were on the road to Amsterdam on a cold, windy day. We’ve made the trip several times so, other than the challenge of circumnavigating the city of Liege in Belgium, it’s not a very interesting trip, but fast on the tollroads.  And since it was cold and windy, the scenery was not as spectacular as the trip south.  Springtime in northern France with the vivid green of the newly sprouted fields of wheat and the bright yellow blooming rapeseed makes for a beautiful countryside.

After a stop in the Gas Station of Western Europe, (Luxembourg- 1.27 euro a litre.  France is 1.45, the Netherlands, 1.70) we made it to Hertz’ off-airport car rental location in Hoofddorp about 4.  The helpful attendant drove us to the nearby station and we caught the train into Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. Our first surprise.  No scaffolding!!! Last time we were here the building was shrouded for renovations. Not now.

Another picture of Cathy Jo’s back.

Now it was off to the streets of Amsterdam to find the hotel we had reserved on the Lindengracht, one of Amsterdam’s canal rings.

The view from our hotel window.

After we got settled into our room we made a quick phone call. Just before we left for Holland, we’d learned by email that friends of ours from Ventura, Glenn and Karen Farr, were going to be spending one night in Amsterdam on their way to an African safari (!).  Tuesday was that night so we got together at a local bar for a beer and a visit.  They had just arrived at 9 that morning and would be flying out at 10 the next day so they were still in jet lag recovery mode.

When we first visited Amsterdam in 2007, we rented an apartment for a week in a neighborhood called De Pijp (pipe), because of it’s shape. While there, we had eaten dinner twice at a great Turkish restaurant, Orontes.  Back we went and we’re happy to report it’s still just as good as we remember.

We think we’re in Amsterdam.

The next morning it was off to Centraal again, this time for the fast train to Paris.  There’s nothing quite like flying through the Dutch, Belgian and French countryside at a gentle 180 mph.  Quiet inside the train, the seats are huge and roomy compared to flying "cattle class" and you don’t have to go through explosive detectors or take off your shoes and belt.  And since it’s all in the EU, no passport controls, either.

Once in Paris we had an hour to change stations as the Thalys arrives at Gare du Nord and our train to Dijon, not the TGV this time but the local, was leaving from Bercy.  We survived the dreaded RER, Paris’ suburban train system (not our favorite, or anyone elsses, I don’t think!) and were on our way across the northern French countryside to Burgundy, where we’d spend the night in Dijon.  Thursday morning we picked up another rental car (a little bigger this time as an Ikea shopping trip was on the agenda) and, only getting slightly lost, made it back to the boat around 11.  Work was progressing on the bottom but it looked like another week in the boatyard before we’d be floating.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Bottom Paint Saga, May 19-22

Tuesday afternoon the boat was blocked up in the boatyard.  H2O had put the new paint on the bottom and was trying to figure out what caused the adhesion problem.  By chance on Wednesday, the representative of the paint company, International, visited the yard and had a look at the bottom with Angelique, the yards paint manager.  Later, Phillipe Gerard, the yard general manager stopped by.  For most of it’s life, the bottom had been coated with what is essentially tar. Since it lived in fresh water, there was no need for anti-fouling but tar, or “bitumen”,  is no longer allowed because the petroleum leaches into the water.  And nothing sticks very well to tar!  A couple of days of testing, head scratching and consulting resulted in a plan; all of the epoxy paint that remained on the hull would have to be removed by hand then the boat painted with another type of paint. Since the boat has a riveted hull, sand blasting is kind of dangerous; it can remove the heads of the rivets, weakening the hull. So the old paint would have to be removed by hammering the hull then scuffing it up with a wire wheel. To their credit, H2O said since it was their paint application that failed, they would cover the expense of the removal and repainting but it was going to be lots of loud, dirty work and it would take close to two weeks to complete.

This was all decided by Friday afternoon.  Monday was another holiday so the work wouldn’t start until Tuesday, the day we had to return the rental car to Amsterdam so we would not be able to see what progress was made until Thursday.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Boat Purchase, Part 1, Our History With Oldtimer, Sea Trial and Haul

We first saw Oldtimer during our last days with Odysseus in 2011.  We were killing time before we moved the barge to the sales dock at H2O at one of our favorite haltes, Santenay on the Canal du Centre.  We went for a bicycle ride up the canal to St. Leger sur Dheune and spotted a really nice boat with an American flag.  It’s so unusual to see one of those we stopped to chat.  It turned out the owners, Eric and Sudi Berg from Aspen, had lived aboard for the previous 5 years but were ready to move on; they had just put the boat up for sale.  We knew Oldtimer would be a great boat for us but we also knew there was no way we were ready for a new one; we still had several years of preparation in the US before we could return to the barging life.
Imagine our surprise and delight when Oldtimer showed up on the H2O website about 4 months ago.  We managed to track down the Bergs from their blog and had a nice talk about the boat.  They had it for sale for about 2 years before a French couple, Loic and Martine, bought it.  It was their first boat but they pretty quickly decided it was not the type they wanted. After just about a year, they found another boat and put Oldtimer up for sale.  And here we are.

The boat maneuvers in to pick us up.

After our return from the trip with Adrian and Jenny, we returned to Cascarot on Monday and spread our stuff about again. Tuesday was sea trial and haul. 

The sea trail went great.  I brought along a small handheld gps to check the speed underway and was a little disappointed when it seemed we could only do 5 at cruising speed until I realized the gps was set for miles per hour instead of kilometers. 8.5 kph was a great upgrade from Odysseus usual 4-5 and that was against the current of the Saone River and not pushing the engine.  Downstream we were cooking along at over 12! The boat was easy to maneuver and docking with the bow thruster was really simple, almost cheating.  To reach the place where the boat is hauled out you have to go through the first lock on the Canal du Burgogne.  It’s an up lock and pretty deep so we had or first lock with Oldtimer under our belt.  And since there was a boat already in the lock coming down we had to do the usual mill around waiting and the boat handled very well.

On the trailer awaiting the fateful water blast.

Next the boat came out of the water and the bottom, just painted with fancy epoxy paint 18 months ago, looked to be in really great condition….until they started to water blast off the accumulated growth and the paint started to come off in sheets. The new paint had not stuck to the old surface and our dreams of a quick in-and-out went down with large flakes of paint. It would be several days before a solution could be found to the problem and we’d be staying at Cascarot longer that we thought.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Sojourn on the Bourgogne, May 15-17

First, I would be remiss if I did not post a picture of the lovely couple that were our hosts at the B & B Engelenhof in Netherlands.  Mirjam and Koen were great and I hope Mirjam will forgive me for the poor quality of the photo.

With our offer on Oldtimer accepted, we had an opportunity to take a little boat ride. It was a long holiday weekend in France and Oldtimer wouldn't be ready for haulout and sea trial until Tuesday. Our friend Jenny and her partner (and now our friend) Adrian were moving their barge Piedaleau up the Canal du Bourgogne for a haulout at the yard in Migenne.  Since we hadn’t seen the new boat and hadn’t seen Jenny since a brief visit in LA in 2012, we escaped the madness of St. Jean de Losne for the quiet of St. Florentine and a couple of very lazy days on the Bourgogne. (We were also their first visitors as they just bought the boat this winter!)  The first day included 3 (3!) locks and we were done by lunch.  The second day 2 (2!) locks and we were tied up by 11am.

We enter the first lock. It's a wide boat!

Heading up the canal.

Adrian loves his new boat!

Always Jenny in the deep lock.
Remember Chalone?

A little house above the canal.

This was the view around the last lock.  The lockkeeper felt it was his personal duty to keep the place up.

Sunday afternoon it was back though the Morvan forest for a night in Vezelay, then back to St. Jean for the sea trial, haul out and first days of our life with Oldtimer.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Search Ends, Part 1

Just a quick post because I’m using someone else’s internet.  Our offer has been accepted!  We will soon be the new owners of Oldtimer. Yes, we are going to go back to the old name.  I didn’t take a bunch of pictures but I copied these from the brokers listing sheet.

"Oldtimer" ex "Musigny"
The "Terrace." the umbrella and the table and chairs have been replaced by others.

 The galley.  That's a wood stove forward.
 The guest cabin
 The head.  Electric toilet and shower.
 The Main cabin

The wheelhouse. 

 When we return from our current boating intermission with Jenny and Adrian (Jenny’s blog is on the sidebar over there
--->), there will be much more about our history with this boat.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Maybe a New Boat?

Just a quick note...

We've made an offer on a boat; actually made it yesterday but today is a holiday in France and nothing is happening.  Hopefully we'll get an answer tomorrow and details will follow!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Search Begins, May 7-10

We had maybe the smoothest flight ever across the Atlantic, not even any turbulence while eating, which is when it’s always the worst.  After landing about noon we sprung for a taxi to take us to the off-airport car rental place.  We really didn’t feel like schlepping our maxi bags onto the bus and then dragging them down the street.  We picked up the car and headed south for the small village of Stevensweert where we were booked into the bed and breakfast apartment at B & B Engelenhoff ( for 4 days.  Mirjam and Koen, the owners, were there to greet us with some wine produced by Koen’s father (which turned out to be quite good!) and we struggled to stay awake until a reasonable hour, trying to defeat the evil jet lag.

What a great place!  Mirjam and Koen both speak English very well, are great hosts and turned out a great breakfast.  The apartment is almost as big as our house and very nicely appointed. Highly recommended!

Friday morning is was off to visit our first boat.   Adelaar (Eagle in English) is in Roermond, just about 15 minutes drive from the B&B. It was the perfect size but would need alot of work on the interior to make it work for us.  The price was also a bit high but we thought, if worse came to worse, we might be able to bargain it down a bit.

Saturday morning it was an hour drive to Nijmegen to see another tjalk, as all of the boats we would see in Netherlands, were. This one is owned by an elderly couple and their son and daughter-in-law were there to show it to us.  This one was not for us.

Sunday it was about 2 hour north to Vinkeveen, coincidentally the hailing port of Odysseus when we bought it.  There we saw De Hoop de Geleid Ons or Hope Leads Us On.  This is a real possibility. 

 The owner is a retired boatbuilder with great woodworking skills.  Cathy Jo really appreciated the finish!  It’s got three sleeping cabins, a nice roomy back deck and a spacious wheelhouse. It moved way up our list.  After visiting a total disaster of a boat up near Amsterdam, we headed back to Stevensweert for another bottle of Koen’s dad’s wine along with a meal of the great Holland white asparagus and prepare for the trip down to France.  

Monday, May 4, 2015

We Begin Again

When we sold our first barge Odysseus in 2011 we planned to eventually return to the barging life. There were many places we hadn’t yet visited and several we wanted to revisit.  The lifestyle was relaxing and adventurous at the same time. Also, with Europe’s great transportation system, our home on the canals would be a great base for exploring other parts of the continent unreachable by water.  We just weren’t sure how long the hiatus was going to be.  We had a project house to finish, jobs to wrap up, money to save.

This Wednesday, KLM will whisk us from Los Angeles International Airport and set us down in Amsterdam to begin the search for our new European home. The first part of our journey will take us to southern Holland to the small village of Stevensweert which we’ll use as a base to visit boats in nearby Roermond, Nijmegen and then a day trip back up to Zandaam, near Amsterdam. From there it’s off to stay in the the village of Lechatelet in Burgundy for a trip to the boat brokers H2O, who handled the sale of Odysseus, and Pont a Vaux.  Then maybe a trip to the Midi in southern France. Hopefully by the end of May we’ll be able to move aboard whatever boat we choose. 
Because of visa restrictions, this year’s trip will be limited to 3 months; we’ll return to the US in early August. Next year we’ll have a long-stay visa allowing us to spend as much time as we like (no winters, though. Brrrrr!)

We hope you’ll join us, either virtually or actually!

Don and Cathy Jo