We left Gent on the mark of 9.45am. Why so precise I hear you ask. Well I’ll tell you. It was all about the tide on the Schelder river which flows past Gent from (and also to) Antwerp. We were heading for the Dender river which we would join at Dendermonde (Dendermouth), so to make the journey easier and quicker we had consulted the tide times and were keen to surf the high tide from Gent to Dendermonde. To put this in perspective, our usual cruising speed is around 4.5-5mph, against a tide it could be as low as 1.5mph and with the tide maybe 9mph. As you can see, this bit of planning can save quite a bit of time (and fuel) and also get us out of the way of the large commercial boats on the Schelde.
We made good time with no sight of any other boats moving, other than our travelling companions Trigger and Julie on Mimosa. Turning off the Schelde into the Dender, we our intentions to moor at the first spot on the river were thwarted by a couple of cruisers who seemed to have pitched camp – washing out, BBQ smoking away and kids inflatable boats bobbing around. Our equipment on board includes a few different navigation tools, including a database of moorings throughout Europe which we can overlay onto Google Earth or maps.me, this allows us, in case like we now faced with our intended mooring unavailable to make a new plan very quickly.
We could see a couple of miles away a promising mooring at Denderbelle, where we found ourselves refreshing with a cold beer about 40 minutes later.
Leaving Denderbelle the following day, we made our way further south, with no clear timetable and a general plan to cruise for a few hours and moor up somewhere nice for a night or two, or three, or even four. As you can see no great plan, and a very hedonistic approach to cruising in Europe.
Our next stop turned out to be the lovely village of Ninove, only a small mooring, but Mimosa rafted alongside us and we made the village our home for a couple of days. It really was full of surprises, a huge shop selling all sorts of garden brick-a-brack at designer prices, a lovely bakery, and a thirst quenching bar on the village green.
And so onto Geraardsbergen, through some of loveliest reaches of river you could wish for stretching mile after mile in front of us.
After a leisurely few hours we arrived on the outskirts of Geraardsbergen and slowed down for a lift bridge ahead as the operator pressed the “open” button, only to see it rise about 18 inches and come firmly to a stop! Apparently the heat of the recent sunny weather had caused the bridge to swell (and become stuck). Much to the delight of Julie and Nicola this meant the arrival of the local Fire Brigade with blue lights flashing, to spray copious amounts of cooling water until we could pass through. Trigger and I, both ex-Firefighters, sat and drank coffee!
The mooring here looks good, can’t wait to see what the town is like.