Living large on a living barge- 3

P1030810By Tom Miller

Tom and family are touring Europe by barge. This is the third in his series of reports on what is to be six months per year of cruising the waterways there. photo-left: Smiling Scott at Rabelo’s helm.

We made it out of the lock, and for the next ten miles life was wonderful.  I was back on the water, and more important there was no ice.  We were making twelve kilometers per hour towards Rabelo’s new winter home in Dintelord, The Netherlands.  I let my friend Scott drive.  He had a smile on his face, and was doing an exemplary job.  At least he hadn’t hit anything yet.


P1030837All of a sudden our mystical state of nirvana came to an abrupt halt.  Just as it was getting dark we ran into more ice. I took over the helm from Scott and continued to forge ahead.  The ice got thicker by the minute.  We’d slowed from a quick jog to a leisure walk.  I advanced the throttle, but it did little.  It was almost pitch black out and starting to snow.  The last thing we could afford was to get stuck in the middle of the river at night.  I gave Rabelo more throttle.  She barely made any headway.  Time for an executive decision.  I headed directly for shore hoping there would be a place to tie up.



P1030816Despite using almost full throttle I wasn’t sure we would make it.  If we got to shore would we be able to tie up?  Would it be too shallow?  Would it be too rocky?  Would there even be something to tie our mooring lines to? I had no idea what we would find, but it was our only choice.  As we approached the riverbank I turned on our spotlight.  The shoreline off the starboard beam was nothing but trees and rocks.  It was the last place I wanted to tie my big new baby.  I directed the spotlight a little further ahead, and as luck would have it there was a rock quay directly in front of us.  I had no idea how deep the water was, but it didn’t matter.  I gave Rabelo full throttle and slowly pulled up next to the rock wall.  I wanted to move a little further forward but couldn’t.  The ice was too thick.  That’s how close we came to being stuck in the middle of the river, and not being able to get to shore.  We tied Rabelo up knowing that we were going to be there until the ice melted.  Would it take a day or a month?  We had no idea how long we would be marooned there.










Above: Rabelo sits out the freeze.


THEWAVE_sigTom 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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