Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Canal and River, The Ijzer Loop, May 27-31

We managed the 3 bridges and 1 lock out of Brugges without too much complication. Three of the boats in our convoy left to head north toward Zeebrugge and that left us and two other boats, Dutch cruiser types, headed for the coast at Oostende. As usual, we were the slowest of the group but the last two bridges on the canal waited for us to catch up and we entered the Plassendale-Nieuwpoort canal a little after noon. Constructed in the mid 17th century, the canal, along with the connected Nieuwpoort-Dunkirk canal, provided an inland waterway connecting the two sea ports of Oostende and Dunkirk (Plassendale is just east of Oostende). Since neither canal has been upgraded to current commercial standards, only pleasure boats use it now. And use it they do. Last time we were here we even made a note in the log asking where all the boats were. This time there’s no question. Not too many headed in our direction but bridge openings had produced long lines of boats (15-20) headed in the other direction. There’s a busy hireboat base in Nieuwpoort that contributes to the traffic.

The EU has made a major commitment to encouraging water recreation in the area, supplying funds for several small free haltes along the waterway, much used by the hireboat fleet. Just 15 minutes after entering the canal we were tied up at the pontoon in Oudenburg. Room for several boats with free water and electricity and the town (with a supermarket!) just a 5 minute bike ride away.
We did a small shopping and then settled in the the night, chatting with an English family just setting off on their week-long charter vacation and enjoying a spectacular sunset.

After our usual 10 am departure (that’s when the bridges start operating on Sundays) we headed down the canal to the junction with the Ijzer River in Neiuwpoort. As we did in 2008, we planned to make the loop up the Ijzer then north on the Lo canal to Veurne, although this time we’d skip the bike ride to Ypres and concentrate on the mooring at Fintele with a bike trip to the St. Sixtus Abbey brewery (best beer in the world!) and dinner at Heberg de Hooipiete, which was closed the day we were here before. 

Sunday night saw us tied to the bank next to De Dodengang, the Trench of Death, one of the many memorials to the tragedy that was World War I, many of the bloodiest battles being fought in this area.
We just pulled over to a curb along the canal and looped our mooring lines around the posts holding the guardrail along the small road beside the canal. After dinner, a gentleman was looking over the guard rail telling us we had a “mooi boten,” a nice looking boat. When we told him we were better at English than Flemish (!), the conversation began. He ended up inviting us and Bruce and Jeanine, a Canadian couple we’ve been tag teaming with since Brugges and who had pulled in a little after us, up to his house just across the road to sample some local beers. He said we were “neighbors for one night.” Just being neighborly!
Tom and Vera (I’m sure I’m mangling their names but oh, well…) had restored an old farmhouse, raising the roof and adding a second story so the huge picture window in the back looked out over the fields, resulting in a view that changes with the seasons. Vera said they wanted to sleep downstairs but live upstairs. And we tasted more great Belgian beers.

The walkway to the front door crosses a koi pond “moat”.
You can see our stern line in the grass.

Monday morning we set off up the river through Diksmiude to our ultimate destination, Fintele. The marina in Diksmuide was still packed from the holiday weekend with several big ocean-type yachts. There was barely room for us to squeeze by to continue on. It was just a couple of hours, though, to Fintele and there was plenty of room on the pontoon, just one other boat, a 1913 restored tug boat that we’d seen in Gerardsbergen, where it lives.

Since the restaurant was open Monday night and closed Tuesday and Wednesday, we took advantage of the opportunity to try their specialty, river eel. We weren’t sure what to expect, thinking of eel as something slimy and ropy, but this turned out to be delicious. Lots of bones, but the meat is very firm and white and it came with a plate full of frites. We even had seconds!

This is a picture of the restaurant from 2008. It looks just the same.

Thursday is was pretty windy but beer was calling. We set out for Westvleteren to score more of the famous St. Sixtus Abbey beer. This time we had the very fine Belgian cycling map instead of the road atlas for navigation. That made the trip much less stressful. We bought some beer (duh!), this time all that was available was the 12 per cent, which is delicious, not sweet like some of the other really strong beers, and some abbey cheese. We had lunch at the cafe and headed back to the boat.

Wednesday morning we were off through the Fintele sluis and the 5 opening bridges on the Lo Canal. Just a little after 1:30 we were tied up in Veurne.


  1. So looking forward to the beers. How many could you get each visit? We have to stock up for many, many years in France. We know they are 'rationed'.

  2. No, Ian, you cannot have my beers.
    I'm not sure if they ration them at de Vrede like they used to as we were on the bicycles and could only carry 2 six packs. I suspect it's still only one 6 per person. We didn't see anybody leaving with pallets, although I'm sure some would try. The bar at the very end of the Coupure had the triple on the chalkboard at 20 euros a bottle so the 20 we paid for the 6 doesn't seem too outrageous.


All of a sudden I'm getting comment spam. I'll have to use Captcha until it gets under control. Sorry...