Living large on a living barge – 7

By Tom Miller

Tom and family are touring Europe by barge. This is the seventh in his series of reports on what is to be six months per year of cruising the waterways there.

I know they weren’t thinking of Rabelo when they built Tilburg’s inner harbor, but give me a break. The Dutch take a small harbor and cut it in half by placing a fountain or sculpture right in the middle of their marinas.  When it was time to depart we found it impossible, because of that damn sculpture to turn around under our own power.  Personally I thought the artwork would have been a nice addition to our bow though I doubt if the city fathers would have approved. When things don’t go as planned on a 150-ton barge the pucker factor jumps off the scale. It’s like driving on an icy road, and discovering that you can’t turn. Then multiply the anxiety level by 100. Eventually with the help of a friendly neighbor we managed to warp Rabelo around using our dock lines.  We learned something after our little misadventure. Because Rabelo doesn’t have a bow thruster we needed to be more proficient at using our dock lines to maneuver her.  And thank you Peter for all your help.  Peter was a friendly cruiser that I had never met before.  His boat was parked on the other side of the marina, and he saw that we were having difficulties turning around.  He rowed over and helped us.  We didn’t even ask for help but we couldn’t have done it without him   I’m really sorry about dropping that heavy rubber fender on his head.  I swear it was an accident. I’m glad to hear  his recovery went well, and that he’ll only be left with a slight speech impediment.


That damn sculpture in the middle of the harbor

P1040645The typical restaurant scene in a small Dutch city

 From Tilburg we headed to Orischot on the Wilhelminakanaal (Wilhelmina Canal). Everyone talks about the beautiful French countryside, but the Dutch scenery was as beautiful as any I’ve seen in France. The forests, pastures, little villages or just seeing the Dutch riding their bikes along the canal and waving to us was as idyllic as it gets. What a great day to be on the water.  The incredible beauty of the European canals was just one of the many reasons we bought Rabelo


We loved the Dutch countryside


Cruising down a canal

Lisa and I were starting to wonder if it was really necessary to go all the way to France.  After all most of the Dutch speak English, the locks are much larger and further apart, the locals were friendly and it costs less to cruise in The Netherlands.  The bad news was the Dutch food.  I’m sorry Holland, but your food doesn’t compare to the French.  They have some great cheeses, though not nearly the selection they have in France, and we loved their pannakoken.  The French have their wine, cheese, baguettes, pates, and pastries.  Oh yes, and don’t forget their escargot (snails). Look out waistline we’re definitely going to France.  For the novice cruiser The Netherlands is certainly a place to consider.  We bought our first barge twelve years ago, and spent the first season in Holland.  We had a wonderful time, and but for the food, I can highly recommend the cruising there.  Actually we did find some very good restaurants in the Netherlands.

We tied up a kilometer short of Orischot, in the middle of a forest, next to Brug (bridge) Groene Woud. There was only one house around owned by the guy that was going to do the stonework in our head (bathroom). For the next couple of days we explored the area around Orischot while our countertops, shower and bathroom floor were being installed.


“Moored on a Dutch canal just outside of Orischot


Going for a walk on a country road

From Orischot we went to Son where we visited La Trappe Brewery.  It is one of only seven Trappist breweries in the world, and the only Trappist brewery in The Netherlands.  The rest are in Belgium. Those Monks really know how to make a great beer.  Actually the locals do the real work.  The monks only have time to oversee the brewery operation, as they have to go to prayers seven times a day. Fortunately they built a beautiful church right on the grounds, so it was a short walk.  It was even a shorter walk back to the brewery where they could go  to drink more beer.  After consuming all that brew I wonder what their prayers were like at the end of the day?  No matter.  I‘m sure they were forgiven for any indiscretions.


“The brewery building wasn’t anything special, but the tasting room looked like a ship’s hull


THEWAVE_sig1Tom Miller is an adventure writer from Thousand Oaks. His novel The Wave, about a tsunami destroying Honolulu was published in 2010. Tom has a degree in geology, has been a contractor and developer, prolific diver, pilot, sailor, and barge captain. When he’s not chasing adrenalin overseas, he hikes with the local “Heartbreak Hiking Fools.” LIVING BARGE is his memory of his recent six month journey through the canals of Europe with his wife Lisa.



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stefan djordjevic

This was my favorite installment. You should check out the American waterways at some point when you get your fill over there. Thanks for the memories.