2018 Barging Belgium

Finishing Unfinished Business: 03/07 – 08/07


Once back on board, we started to unpack Catharina Elisabeth from her winter wrappings, and with really pleasant weather in the low-mid twenties, this was quite a pleasant activity. We knew we would not be cruising for a week or so, using the hire car to help us with a little running around, maybe picking up some larger items and visiting friends.

Very first view – at least she is just where we left her last year.

Catharina is moored close to town and the big Colruyt supermarket – so on market day

and with the car available, we started to restock with essentials.

By the time we left Veurne, we had over 140 bottles of Belgian beer in the bilges and elsewhere aboard.


We took the opportunity to visit Gent to stock up at the big chandlery there, which we had used two years ago. Amongst the purchases was another two year’s worth of toilet paper – theirs is just the right type and price – such things are important to the cruising lifestyle!

While we were there we visited one of our DBA colleagues, Pete, who was moored there in his lovely katwijker Quo Vadis. Although five metres longer than Catharina, they look very similar in design and paint scheme.

Pete manages the DBA website so he and Ian had a bit of tech talk amongst the usual exchange of ideas about cruising.

Lithium Batteries

Next up was the arrival of Daniël, from the Netherlands, who had custom-built a bank of lithium batteries for us. Daniël has set up a company (Shipcraft Engineering) that provides electrical services to boats, particularly sourcing and installing lithium battery systems. As we were faced with a battery bank renewal, we had decided to leap into lithium and as Daniël is well known in DBA circles and had installed systems for other members, we contracted him to design and install our new system.

Daniël would stay with us overnight as the removal of the old batteries, the fitting of the new set, and the rejigging of the electrical system would take two days. Ian was to be heavily involved with the installation.

Manoeuvring 100 kg of battery into the engine room – not an easy task.

He’s going to write about the technical aspects in more detail separately, but in summary, we now have:

  • 10 KWh (about 400 Ah) of lithium batteries
  • New Victron Multiplus 3000 W/70 A inverter charger (our Chinese 2 KW inverter did not come back to life when we restarted it this season).
  • New Victron 20 A MPPT solar controller to give us a bit more efficiency than our existing PWM controller
  • New Victron Venus control system to allow more convenient control of all the features of the Multiplus

Daniël also tidied up the spaghetti of wiring on our electrical board so it looks a lot neater (and safer) than the setup we had before.

Meanwhile, Gina (Ian’s Kiwi cousin) and Geoff had planned their ferry crossing to England to time with our arrival in Veurne. They would be camping nearby for a couple of days, and we hoped to do some sightseeing with them. Ian would be busy while Daniël was working on the boat, but once he finished, he would join us.


The first evening, we enjoyed a roast chicken dinner on board. And the following day, Lisette took Gina and Geoff to visit Bergues, the town we had so enjoyed late last season. (See the blog from last year for more pictures and stories of this beautiful mediaeval town.)

Gina and Geoff at one of the gates to Bergues.


Exploring the ruins of the Abbey of Saint Winoc.

Daniël was just leaving to return home as the three of us arrived back from Bergues which meant Ian was now free to join us. We arranged for G&G to come back to Catharina in the morning, with a serious plan to help us tick off a few boxes from our previous visits to this region, where, for one reason or another, we had missed out on

several things we tried, sometimes repeatedly, to do but had failed for one reason or another.

Sint Sixtus Beer

First, was a visit to the St Sixtus monastery, to buy some of that world-famous trappist beer. We had wanted to buy some in 2015, been unable to get there in 2016, and failed to get any beer on our visit last year. This year, we had finally had success.

Success! Each six-pack cost the equivalent of about A$20. In Australia, this would not buy a single bottle of this delicious brew.

The visitor centre/brasserie was open and there each person can buy a maximum of 12 (330 mL) bottles of beer (8% or 12%). So we ended up with a two dozen bottles, four six-packs of each type. And a couple of the beer glasses from which to drink it. Naturally.

Every bottle is theoretically worth several times more than what we paid for it if we were to resell it, but this is explicitly forbidden on the box. Who in their right minds would want to sell it? And that’s nothing to do with the fact that it had taken us three years to find the brewery open when we were around.

Dire consequences implied “In case of violation, Abdij Sint Sixtus VZW is authorized to act”

No problem, these are strictly for our consumption.

‘t Potje Paté

Next was lunch at ‘t Potje Paté, in Alveringham. This was our third attempt to find this fêted place open, and we got it right this time. (See the blog on our final run to Veurne last winter, where we were moored outside the town, determined to have lunch here, only to find we had to rush away before a bridge was closed to us.)

Amazing lunch – we had the signature dish of course, which consisted of a home-made pork terrine, served with fried potatoes, salad, bread, confit onions, chutney… and a 750 ml trappist beer or a jug of wine.

When you cannot eat any more, they wrap the remains of the terrine, complete with the dish in which it was prepared and served, and send you on your way with it.

If you forget to use the conveniences in the restaurant, the church just across the road has facilities available. I swear he is only pretending.

Coming World Remember Me

The last stop for the day was De Palingbeek, where we would finally get to see the art installation: Coming World Remember Me. Those of you who may have been following our blog, might remember that two years ago, we each made a clay figurine in Veurne, that would be amongst the 600,000 they hoped to have by 2018, representing the 600,000 souls who lost their lives in this region in WWI. We were given a lump of clay, a mould, and some tools and the idea was to soften the clay, place it in the press and then decorate it any way you wished. The figure itself is a person hunched over, arms around its head, protecting itself from the horrors of war. Every figure was made in the same mould, with a number made by school children to the same design, but on a smaller scale.

The installation was located in a part of a very popular recreation area – natural walks, park and woodlands – on land made available following four unsuccessful attempts to construct a canal to link the Iser and Lys rivers starting in Ieper and ending at the French border near Comines.

This canal would have had over a dozen locks and a tunnel but the clay soil of the region defeated all attempts to build a stable waterway and the project was eventually abandoned.

The installation itself occupied a small section in the north of the park.

A small reception hut offered a variety of information pieces, predominantly videos. In Dutch unfortunately for us, but the visuals were still pretty confronting. In this section, there was also a large tank containing all the dog tags that had been associated with each one of our figurines, some 600,000 of them. Somewhere in there are two dog tags with our name on one side and the name of an unfortunate soul on the other.

Nearby was another sculpture, resembling an egg, into which the dog tags will be placed for preservation on the centenary of Remembrance Day, the 11th November 2018.

It was a short walk on a gloriously sunny day, to the actual installation and, upon arriving, it quite took our breath away to see a field of hundreds of thousands of clay figurines.

Apart from the field of figurines, there was a central ‘egg’ from which smaller figurines tumbled, which had been made by school children, and symbolising the birth of a new and better world.

Around this were the tightly packed full-size figurines, two of which were ours,

although, with the extent of the installation, it would have been amazing if we recognised them even if they were distinctively marked, as some were:

Already, just as after the War, the land was reclaiming the figurines as weeds began to grow through the field.

It felt wonderful but humbling to be part of commemorating the suffering and sacrifice inflicted upon those young men. Our only regret was that we would not be around for the transformation of the installation on Remembrance Day.

[However, we were fortunate that our good friends Alan and Sara from ‘Rotterdam Diena’ were able to go to the installation after the ceremony on November 11th 2018 and were allowed to pick up two figurines on our behalf that they will pass onto us as a keepsake of this event]

Gina and Geoff would be leaving for the ferry in the morning, so we said our goodbyes and parted until next time we meet – hopefully in New Zealand next year.

For our part, we were looking forward to a road trip to the Netherlands the next day.

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