The Bossuit-Kortrijk Canal
25th April 2022
We are very excited about the prospect of the 2022 season – we are going to have a full six months cruising again. This follows the last two years of Brexit and Covid restrictions that resulted in a three month and a two month season.
We went through the necessary paperwork in January with photos and meetings to get a six month French visa and were delighted to discover you can get it without having a permanent port address – the French are pleased to welcome us with our own movable floating home, so are were able to use a few Schengen days to move the boat from Belgium and then enjoy a summer en France.
And we’re off!
Chronologically our journey went taxi, ferry, train, taxi, train, train and finally a walk across Kortrijk, all starting with the crossing of Portsmouth Harbour on a bright late April morning.
A mere 8 hours of travelling later we were throwing our bags aboard Calliope and all set to change gear into summer cruising mode.
But first we needed to relax! So before long we were in our favourite Kortrijk bar in the park, with Omer beer and Kriek Max as our celebratory drinks of choice!
We had allowed ourselves a couple fo days to prepare Calliope, bearing in mind we had been to visit her in December and earlier in April to sort things like engine servicing, central heating boiler servicing, spare parts for pumps etc.
Stewart’s work was mainly below decks, so here is the crew scrubbing the deck and preparing this year’s garden!
There is still more cleaning to be done, but we can set off knowing that our lovely barge is presentable.
It was not all work! A massive fair was installed across the centre of the city – plenty of colour and noise (not the Captain’s favourite!).
We had a walk round and evaded the temptations of being turned upside down 100 feet above the ground, and of deep fried doughnut balls!
There was also the much gentler stimulation of the Kortrijk port wildlife – herons, geese, grebes, moorhens, coots, and of course ducks.
Apparently on average only two ducklings survive from each clutch – lets hope these 8 all make it.
And then it was time to go; we had booked the first lock on the Kortrijk-Bossuit Canal at 10am, so at 9.30 we were straining at the ropes to be off ……..
…… but a glance at the VisuRIS live traffic map showed two big commercial barges on their unstoppable way to cross the port exit. This is where we have to go out astern into the main river before a sharp turn to port and the to starboard to enter the canal. (see bottom left quadrant of the map).
Having let the big boats pass Calliope’s Captain carefully took us out backwards, under the low bridge, and out onto the main River Leie waterway.
A small manoeuvre turned us round and we headed for the small canal entrance at Sluis (Lock) 11. Unfortunately the gates to the lock were closed, so we engaged Plan B and moored up on the waiting jetty.
It was decided that I would to go up and see what was happening, whereupon and met a lovely lady lock keeper – on her first day!
She soon had the gates open and Calliope gently entered her first lock of the year – one of the narrowest in Belgium.
We tied up and gave some general advice to the lock keeper about what to do next ……. but after ten minutes we were wondering why it was taking so long for the lock to fill.
Unfortunately she had not understood my question about whether she had closed the ‘paddles’ on the bottom gates (not sure of the Dutch term). Water was therefore leaving the bottom of the lock almost as fast as water came in at the top!
This was soon put right and we gently eased on up through the next two of the three manual locks. These three, leading out of Kortrijk, took us our first kilometre. It was just the right pace to start the new season.
After Lock 9 the waterway widens to commercial size so we bade farewell to our ‘lockie’, who now had the experience of three locks behind her.
At this point the beautiful blue sky rapidly went through grey to black and we found ourselves in quite a rain storm. The next lock is a big commercial size one – where one of us has to be on the foredeck with ropes in the rain!
After ascending the lock we thought that we needed to change our (almost) empty gas bottles for full ones – and sooner rather than later. We wanted to be sure of a nice cup of tea and hot supper when we stopped for the night. So I began an online search for a supermarket, a garage, a garden centre, or anywhere that was near enough to the canal for us to stop and buy some.
I found two garden centres nearby. After a quick lunch on board with Stu I set off to check them out. The first did not have any large gas bottles – but did have the potting compost and a small watering can that I needed, so all was not lost.
The second was a bit further away; given that we wanted to carry on with the journey did we actually need new gas yet or not? The clever Captain realised we could weigh our two gas bottles with our luggage scales and compare the weights. In doing so we discovered that we had enough gas for at least another 24 hours.
(Normally we replace gas bottles one at a time as each runs out. We do this while we are in port and with a car, but somehow this winter each time we planned to buy some our plan was thwarted.)
The final part of our Day One cruise was lit by golden green sunlight and brooding black skies over the canal; all very dramatic.
The rain held off as we moored up in the basin above Bossuit lock. The horizontal flag indicates the strengthening gusty winds and we were glad of the final flickers of gas for a hearty meal of ham, egg, chips and beans.
The final activity of the day, apart from a soothing camomile tea, was a walk round to view the first lock of Day 2 – the 9.5m drop at Bossuit. The rain began to fall as we looked at the mighty lock gates, so back to the warmth and comfort of Calliope’s cabin, and that feeling of contentment that always comes when we are back on the water again.