Living large on a living barge–12 A six month per year barge tour of Europe, in installments

By Tom Miller

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

Editor’s Note: Last week Tom  and crew stole their way into a chateau.

Dinant, Belgium: View from the citadel

Dinant, Belgium: View from the citadel

The following morning we waved goodbye to Chateau de Dave and headed for Dinant, Belgium. This beautiful little town is nestled in the Meuse River valley surrounded by rocky cliffs.  From the river you can’t miss the citadel that guards the city, and the unusual church spire.  I had assumed the church was Russian Orthodox but it’s not. We tied up just two blocks from the center of town, grabbed our laptops, I-pads and I phones and went looking for a WiFi hotspot. e Dinant, Belgium.”

Saxophones on the main bridge

Saxophones on the main bridge

Dinant’s hometown hero is Mr. Sax.  He’s the guy that invented the saxophone. When we arrived they were paying tribute to him by displaying colorful oversized saxophones on the main bridge that crosses the river. The following morning we visited the Citadel.  The original fort was built in the 16th century to guard the only river crossing for miles.  The Dinant citadel had been upgraded continually through the First World War.  You could use a gondola to whisk you to the top of the 100-meter cliff, or climb 408 steps.  It cost Euro 7.50 no matter the mode of transportation.  We took the stairs.

That afternoon the port captain told us they were closing the river Saturday and Sunday for a Jet Ski competition.  Rather than spend the entire weekend in Dinant we decided to leave the next day, but only after Lisa, Steve, and I went for a 4.5-mile hike.

We headed up stream to the first lock where we encountered a low bridge.  Our pilothouse is 4.1 meters above the water, and 3.3 meters when we break it down.  The bridge was 3.7 meters.  When we arrived it was raining.  Rather than taking the pilothouse apart and soaking our electronics the lock keeper was kind enough to lower the water level in the canal.  He had to open the gates on both ends of the lock to let the water in the canal flow out.  Fortunately the next lock was not that far so it was a relatively small canal pond that needed to be drained.  Even so, the water was flowing so fast through the lock that I had to give Rabelo full throttle to get out. Immediately after the lock was a 240-meter (790 ft.) tunnel.  Fortunately the water level was low enough that we were able to pass without any problems.  

Damn that tunnel looks small. Note the exposed stone work to see how far the water level was lowered

Damn that tunnel looks small. Note the exposed stone work to see how far the water level was lowered

Ecluse 53 with our German friends tied to us.

Ecluse 53 with our German friends tied to us.

Once through the tunnel the scenery along this little canal and then the river was incredible.  The weather cleared up and it turned into a perfect day.  Steve made salad and barbequed hamburgers for lunch.   Life doesn’t get any better.  But then there was Ecluse (lock) 53.  It was broken.  Wilco called the VNF, the Government agency that maintains the canals.  They would not come out until the following morning, so we tied up in front of the lock and blocked the canal.  The next morning an irate German pounding on the hull woke us up.  I wanted to tell him the lock was broken, but the word “kaput” just didn’t come to mind.  As usual Wilco fixed everything, and explained the problem.  The VNF showed up as promised, and off we went waving goodbye to our new German friends.

 Come back next week for more living large on a living barge.

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THEWAVE_sig11Tom 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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Previous installments: 

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-11-2/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-10/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-9/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-8/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-barge-7-2/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-6/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-5/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-4/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-3/

 https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge-2/

https://citizensjournal.us/living-large-on-a-living-barge/

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