Thursday, June 26, 2014

Everything you wanted to know about our lock and other adventures....

Imagine you are from Luxembourg, visiting Cape Town, have never been to the coast before but you really want to experience surfing. So you pop off to Muizenburg and ask for a lesson. They take you to the beach and give you a board which you lay out on the sand,  lie on it, and as per your given instructions, you 'pretend paddle' in the sand furiously, waiting for the wave - the wave comes, you get on your knees, then you slowly stand and assume the position - and off you go! You're surfing!  So you head to Kommetjie, cos you totally know what you are doing now.


This is kinda what happened on our boat trip.  The instructions on what to do were perfect and our instructor was thorough. However, nothing prepared us for "the lock."

The entrance to the lock on our way in.
Pic Credit:
The pictures I had seen of locks before were snug - where you got your boat in and it fitted neatly into the walls without the ability to drift!

With this one, it was huge, we were the last boat in and there were (I think) 6 others in before us. The water was low, and the wall must have been about 2m tall.  We didn't know (or see) the rings in the wall that we could moor to, all we saw were the mooring  goodies on the top of the wall. My Girl was on the front of the boat, and I was on the back. No railings between us and the water, only behind us to hold onto. We could not throw that rope up and over the mooring goodies and My Man struggled with the wind and drift to get the boat into a position for us to do anything.  We didn't have the fancy side-thrusters and all the techno gadgetry that make this sort of thing easier.  Eventually, when I was almost hysterical, watching My Girl trying to jump and throw it, some people on the side took pity on us and helped her and then me, while yelling instructions across the water to My Man on how to come alongside in that wind.

It was one of the scariest things I have ever done. You can laugh all you want - but I know now where that saying "Swears like a sailor" came from, because I realised that maybe I was a sailor in my previous life.  I was not proud of myself.  (It probably wasn't too bad - but it was bad for me).

As a mom, you picture every possible scenario that could happen to your child and partner ...  it spun me completely.  I didn't even consider the possibility that I could fall off the back, I was more worried about My Man's anxiety levels and My Girl.

We made it through - but we were all completely frazzled.  We had to call ahead and book a place in the Marina for the night which we did. We arrived and they motioned to us to pull in in front of the clubhouse. They HAD to be joking. It meant alley docking / reverse parking the boat between two luxury boats that were double our size. My Man went pale. We just waved, smiled and then sailed right passed - then freaked out because there was nowhere else to go. The canal ran out, we saw a space where we could sort of "parallel park" - the wind was up and try as we might, we could not get close enough to throw the rope over the mooring thing. This time My Girl was on the back of the boat, eventually an elderly lady offered to help and we tossed her the rope and she pulled our back in - the front kept turning out because of the wind. I just had no idea what to do, we were all yelling at each other. It was not pretty....  Two young guys walked passed, and I just thought, "Stuff it, I am not proud!" and yelled "Oy, can you help me please, grab the rope and bring us in?"  Thank God they understood English and had a great sense of humour.  They helped and we got moored eventually.

But that was it. We decided there and then we were not doing that again. So we stayed moored there for 3 nights, visited the cities we wanted to by foot and others by train,  and eventually psyched ourselves up to get out of there and back through the lock again.

We got out fine. My Man had worked a way to do a U-turn that worked like a bomb, and we sneaked out of there quietly... :)

My Girl saved us at the lock going home. The water was high this time so we were much higher up and we now knew about the rings. She was so scared but so brave. She just did what she had to do, walked to the front of the boat and threaded that rope through the loop and singlehandedly held that boat to the side until the water was low enough to get out.

Getting the job done.
Just before arriving back at the base, I called ahead and organised for our "guardian angel' to help  us bring the boat in. Which he did since again it had to be reverse parked in a full marina.

I do feel slightly validated though because the morning we left, after we had slept and relaxed a little, we were joking with him about our experience and he told us that it is one of the most difficult locks in Belgium and we had one of the oldest models which are the most difficult to handle, especially in wind.

Having said all of that - except for those two incidents, we had a lovely time. It was fun being on the boat, and going through all those insane bridges, and seeing the scenery. I would choose a different route if I could do it again - and a new model boat that has all the stuff to make life easier.

I would still recommend it as a holiday for anyone - it has the potential to be very relaxing!

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  1. Life experience and you are all safe, thank God!

    1. That's for sure! Thank goodness. :)

  2. Never to be forgotten: "The monster lock of Brugge". It will be talked about for generations to come. It's crazy-mad experiences like that that knit you together as a family! "We are solid. We did the Brugge Lock!"

    1. You are right about never to be forgotten! We joked afterwards about the surveillance cameras and how they must have laughed at us. We did do it together and we can laugh about it now together, but at the time, we were quite stressed out with each other too! :)


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