Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Monday 6th May 2013 Ampsin to Visé. 44.5 kms 3 locks

It's a lovely day, can't we go out to play?
Sunny and warm, cloudy after lunch and the wind picked up late afternoon.  Set off out of the weirstrean at 9.30 a.m. Mike called the keeper at Ampsin-Neuville to ask if we could use the small chamber (this lock has two chambers side-by-side) He answered saying “La Neuville, bonjour” but didn’t reply to Mike again, so maybe he wasn’t talking to him at all! We waited above the big lock (looked like they weren’t using the small chamber) while two Dutch cruisers came up, then we went down. A shaggy dog was standing with his chin on the window ledge of an open window in the lock cabin up above us, sunbathing. 
Below Ampsin-Neuville lock and weir
Bolero (formerly Mureen – embossed on the bow, but painted over) an empty Dutch boat from Terneuzen (95m x 10.5m 2,412 tonnes) was waiting below the lock. As we left the lock and ran down to the end of the high walls that form the lock entrance we looked back at the weir and were surprised to find that today it there was no water flowing over it, just the occasional wind blown splashes. Downriver the high concrete quay walls eventually gave way to sloping concrete with derelict land beyond on the left and houses of the town of Amay covered the low hills beyond, while on the right there was a busy road. 
Cement works at Engis
A cruiser was moored behind the Ile des Ponthieres on the non-navigation side next to a high quay wall. A small tug boat from Oostende came upriver to a work boat where there was a crane and a stack of metal piles lying on the bank. A boat with a series of round tanks in its hold came past, specially constructed for carrying bulk powders like cement. The port at Hemalle was busy. Another cement tanker boat called Aletta (67m 7.23m 892 tonnes) was being loaded by tanker lorries; Romania-B (105m x 9.5m 1,910 tonnes) was unloading gravel, 
18th century Chateau de Chokier
while Target (63m x 7.09m 700 tonnes) was waiting to unload his cargo of gravel. Sandpipers flew along the river, oblivious of the heavy tonnage boats. A loaded boat called Nomadis from Brussels (80m x 8.22m 1,143 tonnes) went past heading uphill with a Dutch cruiser following it as we passed the end of the port. Took photos of a little shunter engine pulling cement wagons at the cement works in Hemalle and photos of the big cement works in Engis. Up on top of a crag there was a derelict chateau at Chokier,  on the opposite side of the river to a bustling port in an offline basin at Ramet. 
German boat loading coke. Seraing
As we approached the lock at Yvoz-Ramet we were overtaken by two loaded commercials as we waited for three Dutch cruisers to leave the lock. Lots of work was going on above the lock where it looked like they were building a bigger new lock, or maybe two side by side. Filos, a big Dutch boat from Rotterdam went in first on the right, followed by Sesanda, a smaller Belgian boat, who tied on the left as there wasn’t enough room left for him to lie opposite the first boat. We went in and hung on a lock ladder with inset bollards on the right while the Snail got swept alongside Sesanda by his prop wash, 
Sunken boat by Cotterill's blast furnace. Seraing
so they tied alongside the barge. Contrary to the regulations (and big notices that state the regs – all boats must stop propellors and engines and have ropes at bow and stern) the latter had only one rope out from his bows and kept his prop turning to keep his stern against the wall all the time we were in the lock. This had the effect of creating an anticlockwise whirlpool that pushed our stern out off the right hand wall, which Mike had to attend to a couple of times by starting up the engine and powering the stern back towards the wall while I moved our centre rope down the bollards as the lock emptied. 
Clouds of dust. Seraing
We followed the big boat, Filos, and the Snail out of the lock to give Sesanda room to power his stern off the lock wall and move out of the lock chamber. Two empty péniches, Haydes and Follow Me, went into the lock we’d vacated, followed by DB Andante and a small Dutch cruiser. A Belgian boat called Faraday (110m x 11.45m 2,804 tonnes) was unloading coal at the quay immediately below the lock, while Dutch Hydra2 was waiting to unload next to piles of soil. Pan and tug Laco9 (64.67m x 8.36m 1,995 tonnes) was waiting to unload his cargo of sand. A string of empty boats went past heading uphill, A Dutchman with no name (new paint) (86m x 9.5m 1,272 tonnes), Cupidon (105m x 9.5m 2,303 tonnes) Saron-K (80m x 9m 2,213 tonnes). 
Sculpture by the Science Musuem in Liege
It was very choppy between the walls from the wash of the boats (staggering about making sandwiches for lunch was interesting as the boat bounced through the waves). As we passed the coking plant and Cockerill’s blast furnace at Seraing, a boat was loading coke and just downstream, in front of the blast furnace, there was a sunken boat surrounded by red markers. Railway wagons along the bank were loaded with steel coils. A Dutch cruiser went up river. A boat loading with coke from tipper lorries kept disappearing in clouds of thick black dust. Further down the quay they were loading something that was kicking up great clouds of white dust. The wind was starting to pick up, blowing directly in our faces, but at least it wasn’t cold. 
King Albert memorial at the start of the Albert Canal
The already high quay walls had been extended upwards by new flood defences downriver to the new suspension bridge. A square tug called Remover went past flying a skull and crossbones flag. Into Liége, under the ornate Pont de Fragnée and past the lock leading up on to the River Ourthe, we turned right by a fountain to investigate a mooring suggested by Anne and Olly's friend Dick. By the rowing club and a park the concrete edge had bollards for mooring. Unfortunately the vertical concrete was on top of an old sloping stone wall, so we couldn’t get near enough to the wall to moor. We moved to the lower quay by the canoes and Mike and Anne went to check the access. There was a fence with a gate into the park and a sign that stated opening times. Hmm, might go out and not be able to get back in if the gate was locked. Decided against mooring there as we were still bouncing about in the wash from passing traffic even though we were not in the main channel, it was 2.45 pm when we set off again and carried on downriver through the city. A police boat (an RIB with a big outboard engine) went past as we pulled out of the arm. 
Petrol barge going down Monsin lock
Took photos of the amazing metal structure next to the Palais de Congres. Seven Dutch barges and converted péniches were now moored on the outside wall of the Port-de-Plaisance, plus a big trip boat. Tall blocks of offices and flats with shops on ground floor level lined both banks. An ex-Amsterdam trip boat set off, with a roar from its big diesel engine, from the low quay at the bottom of a flight of steps leading up to the science museum. Just beyond that was a green (copper) sculpture of children playing leapfrog (we’d seen one exactly like that in East Germany) as Synthese2, an empty Dutch tanker boat went past heading upstream. There was a long line of houseboats along the right hand bank, mostly converted péniches. 
Lock filling valve at Monsin lock
An empty boat called Keale went past (about 750 tonnes) as the police boat dashed past us again heading downriver and came back again not long after. A big pan (90m x 1.45m 3,400 tonnes) being pushed by a big tug called Nada from Antwerp, went past us heading uphill as we cruised past the memorial to King Albert at the start of the Albert canal – the river flows over a weir off to the right. We paused at Neptunia's fuel barge to top up our central heating tank with 100 litres of red diesel. While Mike was filling up, Oll and I went on board into the chandlery. They had no cord suitable for fender string that I wanted, but Oll wanted a small European flag so I bought one too and I paid for the diesel and the flags by card. (Later I looked at the bill and found the flags were 15€ each and the diesel with two lots of extra tax on top, besides VAT at 21%, was 0.9754c per litre for such a small quanity) We chatted with the two guys on the barge about where we were going, as they seemed very interested, until a loaded Dutch boat called Sijtje arrived and wanted to come alongside for fuel, so we set off again down the Albert canal, past the docks to the lock that leads back on to the river at Monsin. 
Moored on the river Meuse at Vise.
Mike called Monsin lock and got a green light, but as we approached the light turned to red. We tied to the wall while loaded Dutch petrol tanker Velocity (125m x 11.45m 3,400 tonnes) reversed down the lock approach and into the lock chamber. The lock keeper came down from his cabin high above the tail end of the lock to tell us that he had to give priority to the commercial. That was OK, we understood and appreciated that and it was nice of him to come and tell us. He also informed us that the VHF channel had changed to 20 and was no longer 14.  The big boat went down the lock backwards as there isn’t enough room for him to wind on the river below the lock. He left the lock and then went forward a short way upriver to unload at the oil terminal in Monsin. The keeper refilled the lock for us and we dropped down 5.7m in the huge lock chamber. It was 5.25 pm as we left the lock heading downriver on the Meuse. Wind in our faces again and getting colder, fleeces back on. 9.5 kms of river to Visé. Past the remains of the old lock at Hemalle – just one lock wall and an old lockhouse among the trees - and a long sand quay above the bridge at Hemalle-Argenteau; we didn’t think they brought sand there by boat any more. The motorway runs along the right bank close to the river all the way into Visé and as we approached the town Mike spotted a great cloud of dust as a gawping lorry driver watching us almost drove off the motorway! We’re a road hazard!! It was 7 p.m. when we moored on the quay wall on the right bank, opposite the access channel to the lock at Visé, where we have always moored in the past, and decided not to stay there this time because they charge for moorings now and because the banks were full of geese, standing room only, which meant the path would be full of goose dung and would stink. Our quay was almost roof height, but beyond it was a big area of grass and trees, ideal for Woody, and the motorway had swung away from the river so it was less noisy. A bit further upstream from where we’d moored was a slipway and a small speedboat went up and down until it got dark, so we were still bouncing around – but it stopped and we had a peaceful night.

1 comment:

  1. Love the way the sculptor has given King Albert a pair of wellies as footwear!