Travelling the Inland Waterways of Europe from The Netherlands to France - Part 6

Read about this trip from the start - here.
Approaching Doordrecht
  We opted to spend three days and four nights in Doordrecht. I mentioned before that my other half had planned this trip meticulously. We had gained one day which we used to catch up on things. Day One we used to find IKEA and a proper marine supplies shop. We don't have a motor vehicle so getting there is either walking, taking a bus, using the train, or a mix of all three. That took almost a full day. Day Two I did a thorough clean of the boat - defrost freezer, dust, wipe and vacuum, washing and drying. My other half checked all the workings - cleaned filters, replaced the water pump and checked oil and water levels. Day Three we caught up on comms at a bar and did a mini walking tour of Dordrecht. The weather had now gone from days and days of rain and cold to three days on a trot of heat and humidity.

We were edging closer and closer to the Belgian border and one of the requirements is an FD number. Which a person can easily obtain - apparently - via the website. Not so easy when wi-fi is limited. My husband was stressing no end about this. We tried to ask people en-route - either in the locks or at the marinas - if they had crossed the border and what to expect. We got differing responses from those who had travelled to and from Belgium. Which did nothing to allay my husband's apprehension.
Doordrecht marina
Our next stop was Willemstad. I mentioned that in Enkhuizen boats were not just double banked - but tied up to SIX abreast. We tied up to a boat that was already double banked to another boat as per the havenmeester's instructions. By the end of the day there were six boats abreast - all tied to each other. Which meant we were in tight proximity to each other. Fortunately no-one snored in the boats near us but the boat next to the quay had a rowdy bunch of people who were well into their beer stash. They were mimicking the sound of bow thrusters and finding it extremely funny. We feared they might carry on all night but luckily the lot of them went off to one of the many restaurants next to the marina in Willemstad. Lovely place. Would have liked more time there. It was hot and people were out in the streets and cafes. We chose to sit on our back deck and listen to people laughing and the sound of the water slapping the hulls of the boats as the sun went down.
Stuck between a bunch of  boats meant we had to wait for the others to move before we could make a start to the day. There are people who get going early but most boats begin moving around 10.00am. You have to factor in bridge opening and lock times if they affect your boat (size) and route. No point in hanging around for hours in the water waiting for a bridge to open. Once we got going I was having a turn at driving the boat when the engine suddenly slowed down. I had managed to get sea grass tangled around the propeller. Luckily all it took was a couple of reverse and forward manoeuvres to dislodge it. On one of our trips on a hire boat we managed to get a man's jacket tangled around the propeller. I'm eternally grateful my other half is a master mariner and an avid boatie. He instinctively knows where to look when things go wrong. He also understands nautical navigation rules and signs. A person can get into a lot of trouble if you don't know what you're doing and what to do. Also important to know is which documents, permits and paperwork are required. The authorities dish out heavy fines to transgressors. Ignorance is no excuse. And yet again, I defer all that to my husband and he does a great job of it.
Our last stop in the Netherlands was Tholen. So named as it was a point where people paid a toll. We deliberated between Bergen-op-Zoom or Tholen as our last stop. What helped us decide was the marina in Tholen was closer to the town centre. Sometimes a marina can be quite far out of town. Which is a bit inconvenient carrying shopping bags or even exploring. Marinas may offer bicycles either to hire or for free but in the height of season the bikes go fast. It was the first week in August. The apex of European holiday of season. Most children were taking school holidays and families were enjoying the waterways. It seemed like every single person on the planet was out and about. I prefer the shoulder seasons as the marinas are less crowded and quieter. But then less bars and cafes are open and the vibe is subdued. The weather is another factor. I prefer not too hot and not too cold. The warm weather had continued and it was frankly plain hot. Sticky humid kind of hot.

We later discovered Europe was having a heat wave with temperatures up to 39'C in the Netherlands. Humidity levels were around 80% plus. I'm always amazed at how the Europeans relish sun and heat. They don't miss a ray of sunlight. People were in their swimming gear spread on the bow of their boats topping up their tans. That's when you can tell who has a hand-held or remote driving device for their boat. Perhaps we get enough sun back in South Africa. Temperatures can soar to 40'C plus in Cape Town but we don't get the same heavy cloying humidity we were experiencing. South Africans are taught to have the same cautious approach to the sun as Australians.
With hindsight it might have been best to stay at Bergen-op-Zoom as it's a bigger town and we needed provisions from a health shop. Tholen is a small town. Throughout the night there were barges driving past Tholen.

A person would expect to lock up going inland and lock down heading toward the coast. In the Netherlands - it works the other way around. It's always hard for us to grasp that they live below sea level. We were locking up - together with big fat barges - who always have right of way. I was more than a bit annoyed when were told to wait while beroepsvaartuie (working boats) from no-where in sight were given right of way. We waited over an hour for them to arrive. And then a massive pleasure boat was placed in the lock before us. Hardly a working boat. I didn't think that was fair. Fortunately there was enough space and we all managed to fit into the lock.
The story continues - here.

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