Going Dutch

We went back to Liberté, our barge in June, delayed because of one thing and another but the good news is my back surgery in April was a complete success and that and the weight loss I’ve achieved have really benefitted my health and fitness. I have become chief dog walker because ironically, Nigel now needs surgery on his arthritic left ankle which causes him a lot of pain when walking….that hopefully will be dealt with when we get home in October.

For this reason and several others we reluctantly decided to put Liberté up for sale….she is a lovely, comfortable living space but handling and maintaining her with our ongoing health issues was becoming a little daunting. We felt that a smaller cruiser would be easier for us to manage and give us the freedom to carry on enjoying the waterways of Europe.

Meander coming out of storage in Lemmer,
Holland for our maiden voyage

Renaming a boat is supposed to bring
bad luck…Hmmmmmm!

After searching around local boatyards in France and a couple of trips to Holland, we came across Antonia for sale in Lemmer, Friesland and just knew she would suit us well. She is a 12 metre, 17 year old Dutch steel cruiser made by Aquanaut in Sneek. We took possession of her on 1stSeptember 2014 after a favourable survey and as I type this we are moored in the centre of Leeuwarden, the capital city of Friesland on the third week of our Dutch adventure. We are heading home to the UK on 2nd October on the Rotterdam to Hull ferry. Our cruiser, now named Meander  (Me and’Er…..geddit?) will come out of the water and be stored in a shed over winter, there is some work to be done on her before next season.

You might think that downsizing from a barge to a cruiser would be ‘plain sailing’ ….. that’s what we hoped but it’s been a baptism of fire because on our 8th day of cruising the propeller fell off whilst negotiating the turn to go under a lifting bridge. To cut a long story short, we were rescued after a few days by a tow team who took us back to Lemmer, 30k and 4 hours away, through many bridges and what a professional job they did, slowing down so gently and skillfully making sure we were okay, both physically and mentally by reassuring us to keep calm. 

Meander under tow

(My face is a giveaway to my feelings and anyone who knows me will agree what a worrier I am!) Within a couple of days a new propeller was sourced and fitted and we were on our way again. We’ve told our insurers about the incident and are now awaiting the bill, we need some paintwork touching up on the hull as we did some damage to it whilst trying to bring ourselves to a halt.

Never thought I’d be so glad to see a propeller!
How many big strong men does it take
to fit a propeller…obviously more than last time to
make sure it’s done properly!

Since then we’ve had our friends Mandy and Bill out to spend a few days with us, they brought their campervan with them and slept in that but spent some of the time cruising with us and they bought us some treats from the UK, Nigel’s favourites being some bacon and a Private Eye! They’ve left thismorning as they are going back to Rotterdam tomorrow for their ferry. We’ve had a fantastic Indian summer, today is the first significant rain since we got to Holland.

Pinched your photo, Bill….
Moored in Dokkum, Friesland

We have suffered during the warm weather from vicious midges but Mandy brought some ‘skin so soft’ for us which seems to have frightened them off, or maybe it’s the change in the weather, it’s fair chilly in the mornings and evenings now.

And our furry friends …… how have they coped with the changes? No problem at all…….by the end of the first day they knew which boat was home………no mean feat as there are hundreds of boats on the move and moored up everywhere in Holland, all the time. They have got used to the deck being higher – sometimes, old man Dash, now 10 years old, needs a lift up depending on the height of the bank. Inside, they negotiate the space well, the steps down to the saloon are less steep than Liberté’s so that makes it easier for them. The interior of Meander is varnished wood with a rich dark blue upholstery and curtains, we’ve bought some dog hair coloured throws to protect the furniture which can be taken off and shaken regularly. I think they approve!
Making themselves at home

There have been some lovely places to exercise them, we sometimes take them for a gentle run alongside our bikes which they love doing and get very excited about. Another new experience for them, during propeller-gate, we were marooned without bankside access so the only way to get the dogs off for a comfort break and exercise was for them to go out of the escape hatch, onto the swim platform, into the dinghy and 500 metres downstream to a grassy area three times a day for three days. We thought Belle would be a nervous wreck but she coped really well and now gets excited when she hears the outboard motor starting up! Without the dinghy we would have been stuffed actually! And it came in handy as a water taxi when Mandy and Bill arrived.

Water taxi!

Bill enjoying back seat driving!

It might be just a leap across Belgium from France but the actual cruising is a world apart…the sheer numbers of boats for a start…..very few locks but many road and rail and even motorway bridges that open in different ways…..some lift, some lift and tilt, some swing, some are automatic, some manned, some self service by pressing a button, many free, some chargeable with a swinging clog on the end of a fishing line to collect the “bruggeld”.

Here comes the clog……

There is a fantastic network of free moorings in remote places throughout Friesland that one can stay at for up to 3 days upon buying a €13 flag for the season. We used many of these, at this time of year we often have a small island to ourselves…..fantastic for the dogs. To get a flavour you can look at the pics on the website but it’s all in Dutch! Fancy that!

Sneek water gate

Next year’s plan is to come out to Meander in March and make our way to Germany to the Mecklenberg lakes. We shall see…….recently we’ve realized that best laid plans and all that……..however, that is what we’d like to do. This coming winter it’s unlikely that we’ll be away in the motorhome for long as Nigel will be off his feet and unable to drive for some time after his surgery.

I needed a bike to get around, light enough to lift
 onto the foredeck, we had one delivered for free to the
boatyard from Wiggle and it was there before us.


After assembly by Mr. C…….
I love it and I’ve only fallen off once!

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  1. I've enjoyed this post, Margaret! I live in Rotterdam and so I'm used to the Dutch waterways. My dream is to go to France on my barge. Still, it was lovely to read your perspective on things here. I must say you coped very well with your dog walking when your propellor came off. What a nightmare! I'm so glad it all got fixed quite quickly!

  2. Thanks, Val and Jackie for your encouraging comments. Much appreciated.

  3. Lovely blog georgiex

  4. Hi Maggie and Ian, Glad to hear you are still out and about and great to read an entertaining blog. We have just arrived in Holland for a couple of weeks, but no blog. xxx

  5. Great blog Maggie, loved the pictures too! You tell a nice story – looking forward to hearing more and so pleased you are enjoying yourselves! xx

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