Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France - Part 1

My other half and I often have to pinch ourselves as we just cannot believe we have our very own Dutch steel motor cruiser - Shangri La. How did this happen? I have to confess I had no part in it. None whatsoever. In fact I had no desire to even set foot on a boat. Why would I? Then I met my now husband. He'd been sailing dinghys as a child and went on to become a ship captain. Boats are his whole life.
Shangri La in Alkmaar

Sailing holidays in Greece and Turkey were his thing for decades. He took me on a sailing holiday to the Greek Islands. The Sporades. Fabulous part of the world. I liked being on a boat but was less keen on the actual sailing. More like hard work than a holiday. I also didn't like being lurched all over the place and ducking every time we changed tack to avoid getting smacked on my head by the boom.
Shangri La in Utrecht

Our next trip he took us to explore the Croatian islands, this time we had a cabin cruiser. (Read about that holiday - here) Again I loved being on a boat but that particular boat had compact living space and was all about speed and power.

The following holiday we did the Macclesfield Canal on a traditional English narrow boat. I really enjoyed that break. Boating at a slow gentle pace means you can leave a cup of coffee on a table without fearing it will smash  or spill. The holiday after that was wonderful. We went barging in France. (Read more - here) And we did more similar holidays. A narrow boat in the Brecon Beacons in Wales and more France as well as the Netherlands.
Shangri La in Liege

Since we enjoyed our slow boating holidays, it started to make sense to buy a boat. Well that's how my other half explained it to me. He favoured a Dutch steel motor cruiser. If there is one thing the Dutch have got right over the eons, it's making boats. We did our last holiday with a boat-hire company that specifically uses Pedros, a particular design of Dutch steel boat. (Find that holiday - here) My other half knew that was the sort of boat he might like and wanted to try one out.

Over the next couple of years we looked at a LOT of boats. We had a checklist and would rate the boats according to things we thought would be important like water and fuel capacity, location of toilet for guests on the boat, engine size, air and water draft, equipment, double steering positions - something we didn't want as we felt it took up unnecessary space. We had some idea of what boating in Europe would be like. We needed to fit under bridges or travelling would be limited. We needed to have enough fuel and water. The bigger the boat the higher the mooring costs but with two of us hoping to take lengthy holidays we needed space to move.
Shangri La in Dinant

We fell in love with a Mollenkruiser in Nottingham. Beautiful boat. And fully renovated. Sadly the sale fell through as there was insufficient paperwork in place. Paperwork is VERY important crossing international borders. Proof of tax payments and ownership papers were not available for that boat. Despite the owner of that boat insisting he had never had a problem, and we were very much in love with that boat, we took advice from multiple people and never went through with the purchase.

Since my other half was set on a Dutch design boat we knew we would in all likelihood find one in the Netherlands. And so focused on boats there. Eventually we found Shangri La, the much loved boat of a German couple who had to sell. They had enjoyed plenty holidays on her and done a whole lot of improvements. Things we never considered important like an electric hob, which we initially thought was odd, but with gas regulations and safety issues it's actually a sensible idea. The boat also didn't have a holding tank but rather a sea toilet. Many of the boats we looked at had holding tanks close to the living area. They smell. My other half is prepared to fit one externally if the need arises. And we keep disposable toilet liners should we be in an area that prohibits the use of a sea toilet. Shangri La has a distinct nautical interior with a ships brass clock that chimes the bells and assorted other brass and nautical hooks and gadget holders. Luckily the owners left all that on the boat for us. And a  few other handy things such as German pots, microwave, spares and tools.
Shangri La in Bar le Duc

The sale went well and we became the proud owners of Shangri La. We think we're her fourth owners. Her bouwjaar (building year) is 1992. She is a Van der Valk cruiser. My husband is happy to keep on top of maintenance and repairs either by himself or outsourcing work. Shangri La has been re-upholstered, she has new curtains, her piping has been replaced, starter motor and gearbox overhauled, woodwork refurbished, new awnings and canvas covers, the broken windows and ports have been repaired. But, like any house or car, a boat has to be maintained ongoing.

The story continues - here.

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