These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Monday, 10 September 2018

27th - 31st August 2018. The Puzzler's final lift at Nieuwpoort, in Belgium, followed by bottom blacking. Across the English Channel to Dover, then on to Fox's Marina at March, in Cambridgeshire. This is our penultimate blog entry!

On Monday we moved out into the Ijssel estuary, to find the massive boat hoist. The tide is coming in as Andy manœuvres The Puzzler downstream underneath the hoist.
It was quite tricky, getting the boat to lie centrally, between the two sides of the hoist. Once the slings were in place, they had to be shortened individually, in order to lift The Puzzler straight up, out of the water. Here Andy is standing upright, while the boat is listing to his left. It was quite scary!

Finally right up in the air, the boat is ready to move!

The hoist operator controls this enormous crane remotely, and carried The Puzzler nearly quarter of a mile, right into the middle of the boatyard.

The next job was to pressure wash the hull, to clean off any zebra mussels, as well as any growth of weed.

This shows how many zebra mussels had taken up residence on the bottom plate of The Puzzler. These mussels are up to an inch long, and are most reluctant to let go of the metal hull!

Below the waterline, the hull was coated in limescale, which could not be removed by pressure washing or hand scraping. It only looked white once the boat had dried out. This is the result of four years on the continental waterways.

The limescale was no problem though, as we painted over it! Touching up was done on Monday afternoon, with the full blacking to be done over two days, before our lorry arrived on Thursday morning. However, the weather forecast for a wet Wednesday changed our plans! The first coat of blacking, shown here, started at 7.30 am on Tuesday, and was finished by 10 am. The first coat of yellow,white and red on the stern were next, taking us to 1 pm.

The second coat of blacking followed after lunch, then the colours after that, to be finished by 6.30 pm. A good day's work! On Wednesday we collapsed!

Shannon got used to being lifted down the ladder to leave the boat. She must think that this is a strange mooring!

Most of the other boats on the hard standing here at Nieuwpoort, are sea going yachts.

On Thursday morning our lorry from CPL arrived, and The Puzzler was lifted on easily this time.

The marina here at Nieuwpoort is the largest in Western Europe, with over a thousand yachts moored here.

We had a calm crossing from Dunkirk, so approached the port of Dover alongside the cliffs, which look very white today.

The Puzzler, with CPL, went via Calais to Dover, so may well be on one of those ferries we can see at the far side of the port. We will see her again tomorrow.

It is always a relief to see that your boat has arrived safely! From the hoist The Puzzler will be lowered on to the launching trolley, part of which can to be seen here – front right.

This hoist is a better size for a narrowboat, here at Fox's Marina in Cambridgeshire.
The Puzzler is on the launching trolley, rejoining the British waterways after three years in Ireland and one year in The Netherlands, followed by three and a half years in France and a month in Belgium.

We are now on our permanent mooring at Fox's, with many other narrowboats. We are lucky to have very pleasant neighbours.

Having turned round, we have a good view over this half of the marina. New beginnings here.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

20th - 26th August 2018. Our last week in Belgium. From Bruges to Nieuwpoort, then a visit to Diksmuide and Fintele, before returning to Nieuwpoort, ready for liftout.

We go in convoy round Bruges on the ringvaart, with 9 other boats, meeting a barge on the way.

There is an enormous triangular lock, where we all wait for this barge, Geronimus, to squeeze in with the other boats. The lock is only just long enough for him.

All the cruisers and other smaller boats are stacked up on the right of the lock.
The lift bridges are all different, with the road ending up in a nearly vertical position here. We can see all the road markings! The white balance beams on each side are upright when the bridge is closed.

Typical Belgian houses line the canal.

Between villages there are a lot of cows to be seen in this agricultural landscape.

At Nieuwport the only mooring anywhere near to the town was on this staithe.

Access was at the stern of The Puzzler, and involved crawling through the bars.

The Nieuwport Memorial bears the names of 566 Commonwealth offficers and men who were killed in Allied operations on the Belgian coast during the First World War and have no known grave.

Along the seafront in Nieuwport, a floral Neptune stands proudly beside the fountains, which Shannon enjoys.

The lighthouse and seagull stand in a sea of flowers.
Andy left me in Nieuwport, while he went by tram, and three trains, back to Montbard, which is near to Dijon. He had a horrendous journey! We left our car at the station in Montbard in June and, apart from a spot of graffiti, it was fine!
 Going on to the River Ijzer, we found ourselves crossing this immense sailing lake. We had to skirt the southern shore, well away from the sailing dinghies, and met some very young sailors at the far end. Three of them decided to pass in front of The Puzzler, just as we approached, and were in big trouble from their instructor! If I had not stopped completely, it would not have been good for them!

Shannon has found a new spot to sit, in front of the summer chimney. Our flag pole having broken, the Belgian courtesy flag, is now tied to the chimney.

The river Ijzer leads us on to Diksmuide, which was destroyed by shelling at the end of World War 1. This picture shows the remains of St Nicholas Church in 1918.

Today the new church is a splendid building.

There is some lovely stained glass to be seen inside it.

The whole town was rebuilt after the war, in its original style, and is very attractive.

Moving on from Diksmuide, we did not have time to go to visit Ypres, but continued on to Fintele, which is at the junction with Lokanaal. There are 17 houses in Fintele, two restaurants and a cafe, and it is a delightful village.

Lokanaal is a narrow canal, just like in the fens in England.
We stayed overnight in Veurne, which has a problem with chickweed at the moment, so we sail through a green sea! We are due at the port of Nieuwport on Monday afternoon, for liftout, ready for blacking, before being lifted on to the lorry for our return to the UK.