Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Wednesday 23rd October 2013 Back to the UK.
Dover - like that flag!
Sunny, mild but windy. Up at 7.30 am, threw all the stuff back into the bags and Mike gave the cardboard key back to the woman who was busy doing breakfasts and we left at 8.30 am. Straight to the port as we’d already topped up the fuel tank. Dover Seaway was just docking as we arrived and we only had time to change time zones and money before the ship started loading cars while lorries were still coming off! Mike bought us both breakfasts, which cost an enormous £7.95 each and they were not very good and not very hot either. He couldn’t get the coffee machine to work so, after we'd eaten, I got the job of getting two coffees. 
Ferry boat being positioned by tug
The Polish guy from the checkout desk came and worked the temperamental machine for me and when it short measured the amount that went into the cups he came and added another shot of expresso coffee into my Capuchino and Mike’s Latte - no decaff - so we’ll be running on rocket fuel and definitely not nodding off! Modern technology, he said and charged me £4.80. It was pretty windy once we left the shelter of the French coast, waves crashing over the bows and rocking the single curtain-sided lorry on the bow deck. I spotted a very neat looking DFDS house flag flying on the bow and said that would look nice on our mast. Mike went to see if he could obtain one from the guy on the desk. He was interested to know that we had a boat in Germany and used their services regularly to go back and forth to the UK, but said he had no flags and maybe we could get one from their online shop or maybe their shop on board had one. 
Mike went to look, nope, he asked the shop assistant, she offered him a lighter! Won’t fit on the mast, sorry. As we approached Dover we could see another ferryboat in front and a voice on the tannoy said there would be around a thirty minute delay. Then the ship turned bows into the wind coming up the Channel while we waited for the P&O ferry to dock. We could see there was a tug standing by as we entered the harbour, sliding sideways into the gap with the wind and tide – reminded us of getting into West Stockwith lock on the tidal Trent (people don't realise, but there is nothing like that that we've come across in navigating the whole of Europe). 
The whole journey - 1400 kms
The ship turned to reverse into its berth and the tug (DHA Doughty) came and attached a line to the ferry’s bows (to our right) to assist it by pulling against the way the wind was blowing the bows so it could manoeuvre safely into its berth. Most of the passengers came up to the bow windows to watch the procedure. I took loads of photos with the phone camera as we hadn’t brought the proper camera upstairs with us, it was still in the car. We were about fifty minutes late landing in Dover but were soon out through customs and off up the hill out of the town. It poured with rain as we went over the North Downs, then we were back into sunshine for most of the run North. Paused at Warwick services to use their facilities then on into Stourbridge. Arrived at home at 4.10 pm after a trip of around 1,400 kilometres. (Excuses for lousy phone photos - it was pouring with rain)
Tuesday 22nd October 2013 Back to France.
Left at 5.45 am. A lovely moonlit night. Set off North to Frankfurt and on to the autobahn. The dawn started as we headed West, passing through Berlin, and the sun was shining by the time we crossed the old East-West border close to Wolfsburg and motored on past Braunschweig’s industrial sprawl. The autobahn skirted around the North of Hannover before it turned Southwards and it was still a very lovely day as we cruised through the beautiful hills of the Wesergebirge and the Minden Gap. Through the hilly region of the Southern end of the Teutobergerwald to run Southwest to Beckum. 

South of Hamm, through Kammen and North of Dortmund and Oberhausen, where we crossed the Rhine and into the Netherlands at Venlo, crossing the Maas. At Einhoven Mike let Lucy, our navigator whose maps are not up to date,  take the new motorway ring instead of the route to Antwerp. It took ages to get off the ring road and back on to the right road, then we were OK past Gent and onto the French autoroute parallel to the coast into Dunkerque. By this time we were well and truly jet-lagged. Mike had to find La Poste before it closed, in order to deposit enough Euros in the current account to make sure we had enough in there to pay the French car and bike insurances for next year. They wouldn’t take the payment without proof of identity, so he came back to the car for his passport. 
There was only one woman on the counter and he had to wait in the queue again. When he got back he said there was a notice that said to make any withdrawals they would need two proofs of identity and to withdraw over 1,500€ they would need five days’ notice – and two pieces of identity. What a way to run a railway! We called at Carrefour’s fuel station and topped up the car’s tank and paid 1,30.9€/litre (about £1.11). On to the hotel which was close by Carrefour. 
The journey across Europe - 973 kms
There was a queue. We booked in and paid 1,10€ tourist tax and had a cardboard “credit card” door key. We dumped our overnight bag, etc and went shopping in Carrefour, or rather staggered around in a daze. Bought beer and wine to take home and bread and paté for supper. Back to the hotel and I stowed all the stuff and made some sandwiches, too tired to eat out, while Mike went back to Carrefour to use a phonebox to call his Mum. He looked at French TV when he got back, we ate our supper and crashed out at 8.30 pm. (The motorway pix are from Flickr- not mine - and what happened to the font?)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Temujin's Winter mooring 20113/2014

The Club House
MYCEH - Motor Yacht Club Eisenhuttenstadt - is the name of the boat club that has allowed Temujin to stay in their basin over the winter on our crazy trips to these far reaches of the East of Europe. 

The Halle where some of the boats will be stored for Winter -
when we came here first this building was used to store snowploughs
Our first visit here was in 1999/2000 when we came to see the splendid German Mecklenburg lakes for the first time with two other narrowboats (one stayed with us at MYCEH the other was hauled out for the winter in Berlin) and Dutch friends with their cruiser who came with us as far as Berlin then went home. 

Mike getting ready to fetch the car.
During that Winter we planned our first trip into Poland, a proposed circular trip up the Warta then down the Vistula to Warsaw which ended in disaster. The others were so traumatised that they went back to France. Temujin stayed at MYCEH over winter 2000/2001. We returned to France, determined to come back and explore more Polish waters. 

Last trip for the moped this year - back to Neuhaus to collect the car
Our search for someone else who shared our crazy idea resulted in meeting Bill and him swapping his beloved Kelvin engine for something with more oomph.   On our second visit, with Bill and Rosy, in 2004/2005,  we explored the unique Elblag lifts which took us to the Mazurian lakes and the towns of Ostroda and Ilawa, then Gdansk, a trip not without its tribulations. 
Thanks Bill, Rosy makes an excellent tug! 

See you soon!
Now our third visit, which would have been the circuit via Bydgoszcz and Poznan, has resulted in failure, with  the Snails - our intrepid companions for the next Polish expedition - having retreated  to the Netherlands.

Eisenhuttenstadt - EKO Stahl

In case you've forgotten what industry looks like, and let's face it most of Europe's industry has long since migrated to other shores - well here are a few of the photos we took coming into Eisenhuttenstadt of the impressive EKO steel works - which is still working! 

Admitted, there were no boats moving any steel or raw materials that we could see, but then they do have quite a good railway system - and they're improving the canal locks - so maybe in the future..... 

This large and very impressive looking crane appears to be currently out of use.

A working blast furnace. At the left you can see the rail track and a railway wagon taking materials to be tipped into the top of the furnace.

Steam and clouds on a very cold damp day.

There is now a new canal hafen in town, built since we were last here eight years ago, and there was a boat loading or unloading there when we passed by last Monday, and there is plenty of room for more.

Click below for more info

Arcelor Mittal's website

And a pie chart from Arcelor Mittal's downloadable brochure, showing what their steel is used for. Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Monday 7th October 2013 Abv Neuhaus lock to EHS for Winter. 31.1kms no locks

Sign Winter's fast approaching - chimney smoking.

Grey, overcast, but milder dry and no wind. It took us forty minutes to untie and heave the quant poles back on board plus all the planks, ropes and pins. Set off at 10.10 am. 

Tree felled by beaver. Spieskanal
A small boy on a bike had been past towards the lock then back – he and his mate were fishing about 50m beyond the place where we’d been moored. Mike asked if there was no school today – no, they replied, they were on holiday, but both were looking very furtive and guilty so we think they were bunking off. 

Shooting hide - note others in far distance
On up the Spieskanal taking photos of trees the beavers had eaten and a series of shooting hides around the edges of a very large open field. Turned right on to the OSK at 10.35 am with nothing else moving but us. 

Another tree eaten away by beaver

At KP99 we passed the abutments of a long demolished bridge just before the hamlet of Biegenbrück, on our right, and a road appeared beyond a narrow belt of trees and remained parallel to the canal for the next 2kms. A passing lorry hooted – and we replied – as the road veered away from the canal. Just us and the forest again. 

Junc Spieskanal and OSK looking towards Berlin
A dark brown bird of prey flew fast between the close-packed silver birch trees to our left and was gone. Mullröse’s moorings in a small lake looked full, but the new(ish) 48hour moorings on the main canal were empty except for a lone youth who was fishing there. 

Old house at Mullrose
Surprised to see a group of mergansers that were swimming along the canal take off and fly past the boat. Bare pieces of tree branches were floating in the canal – the remains of beaver snacks! 

Can't see the woods for the trees!
A fisherman was sitting next to the canal by a layby that had a huge pile of rocks at the back of it. He didn’t speak or wave. Under the road bridge at Rautenkranz, noting two strain gauges under the bridge and signs that looked like a large vessel had at some time hit the middle of the bridge taking chunks of concrete out of it. 

Two of the half dozen mowing machines. 
Saw the fleeting glimpse of a deer and more mergansers. A group of tractors, at least five maybe six of them, with long arms for mowing were cutting the grass along the right hand side where the canal was on a small embankment as it turned gradually to the right, running in a more south-easterly direction. 

New bridge under construction at KP118

Spotted several large shaggy parasol mushrooms growing along the bank, inaccessible to us due to rocks all along the edge (but I’m sure our old mate Ray would have found a way to get them). Took photos of the new road bridge under construction at KP118 and shortly after we saw more deer and I managed to take a photo (not very good too far away). 

EKO Steel works at Eisenhuttenstadt
Under the Pohlitz/Ziltendorf road bridge and two youths who were fishing just beyond the road bridge started laughing as we went past and didn’t return our greetings, but a short distance after that an old chap who was fishing waved and smiled, which made us feel a whole lot better. I took loads of photos as we passed through the sprawling industrial site of the EKO steel works on the outskirts of Eisenhüttenstadt, with piles of raw materials on the left bank and covered conveyers to take them across to the right bank where the steel making plant was located. 

An old lastkahn, equivalent of French peniche. 40m x 5.1m
Ofthe four blast furnaces only the newest was working with wagonloads of materials being hauled up a steep railway to tip their contents into the top of the furnace. An old unmotorised lastkahn was moored on the dolphins on the left and an old tug. A new industrial hafen had been constructed since we were there last and a lone Bromberger was at the far end, either loading or unloading (we couldn’t tell which). We passed more old, redundant boats by the bunker station – and got a hearty wave from someone on the bank there. 

Home for the Winter MYCEH
There was an old former Czech boat called Brussow, with a narrow wheelhouse (we’d seen several like it still working on the Mittellandkanal) sitting on the quay beyond the bunker station. Under an old disused railway bridge and into the Mielenshafen basin. It was 3 pm. A familiar friendly face appeared – it was Klaus – come to welcome us. We went to the top end of the basin past all the moored boats, in fact the whole basin is now being used for moorings as the motorcycle club (which had been on the opposite bank to the clubhouse) had now relocated. Mike winded the boat so the side doors were on the outside and we came alongside the metal landing staging. Eisenhuttenstadt Motor Yacht Club - Temujin's home for the Winter!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Friday 4th October 2013 Grosse Tränke to Abv Neuhaus lock. 30.6kms 4 locks

Bootsschleppe below Furstenwalde locks
1.3°C Cold night again. Clear blue skies, sunny, but still a cold SE wind. Reversed out of the Mugglespree weirstream and winded on the main line (which is now the canalised Spree until Kersdorf) to set off heading East at 9.35 am. I got on with chores while Mike steered until we got to Fürstenwalde locks. The lock lights were on red, so we went into the sport boat area on the left in a small basin behind the dolphins that formed a lead-in to the left chamber (which was no longer in use). There was no intercom and so Mike walked up the rail track for the bootsschleppe on to the lockside and went to find the lock keeper. He said to use the right hand chamber after the commercial that was due to arrive shortly came down and cleared the lock. While Mike was turning the boat round to face out of the little basin a loaded Bromberger (with German flag) came down the lock. 
Below Furstenwalde locks
Into the chamber and lifted 0.9m. With surprise we noted that the elevated rail along the right hand side of the lock was still used, the wheels were bright and shiny on the electrically-operated trolley used for winching pans in and out of the lock. The answer to that was to be found a short distance further upriver where there was a long commercial quay in front of a huge silo complex. 
Rails and trolley for winching pans.
Phönix (that passed us the day before) and a Polish boat called Agra were both loading grain, while a Berlin tug was having three pans filled with scrap metal by a crane with a peeled onion grab. The driver used the grab to compact the scrap, tamping it down to get more into the pan. As the locks at Fürstenwalde were only 68m long and the one in use was the widest at 9.4m, the tug crew would have to split the convoy to get it through the lock as each pan was 32.5m long. 
Loading grain at Furstenwalde silo
Wished we’d had time to stop and watch them do this manoeuvre as it’s very interesting to watch, but it would be some time yet before all three pans were filled and the pushtow set off. We pushed on upriver passing some grand houses and gardens around KP81 – 82, just before the A12 autobahn bridge and the access (forbidden to motor boats) into the little Dehmsee lake. There were a few fishermen about in small boats and we also noted evidence of beaver activity where small trees had been chewed off. 
Silos and scrap loading
For the next 4kms there were lots of small branches off the river that lead nowhere, ancient loops. Where the forest receded there were fields with stands of maize, now brown and crispy-leaved and rolls of bailed hay. Around KP89 the Spree entered the canal on our right and there was an inn called the Forest House opposite, offering camping or accommodation for walkers and cyclists. Under a long wooden footbridge spanning the river and passing the entrance to the Kersdorfersee (again no access for motor boats) then we arrived at Kersdorf locks. 
Below Kersdorf locks
At last, here was the new lock we’d heard about. The left hand chamber had been extended. No signs of life, nowhere to tie up and wait and no Intercom. Mike risked it and called on VHF, twice, and got no reply. Nothing else for it but to resort to using the horn. A couple of loud toots brought a lock keeper out from the house on the right hand side. He walked across to the new lock (which still had a crane alongside and piles of building material) and pressed the buttons to open the gates for us. The lower end of the chamber was concrete-sided (and still beautifully clean and white) while the upper end was steel-piled, both with recessed bollards. 
New longer lock chamber at Kersdorf
A pair of gongoozlers (on bikes) stopped on the tail end bridge to watch and shout hello. Then the bottom end gates wouldn’t fully close. The keeper had to open them and close them again, and then they closed properly. He had to walk the length of the chamber (looked like 110m) to the control panel by the top end gates to open the paddles. The lock filled very gently from the front and we rose 2.9m. Between the old and new lock there was a sunken area with a Japanese-style garden at one end, then a big anchor in contrasting coloured grey brick, 
Paving between the lock chambers. Kersdorf
and finally at the top end of the chamber there were interesting looking barrel-shaped objects. Above the new lock there was a newly built length of mooring for commercials to wait for the lock and an overnight mooring – but nothing for sport boats. It was completely empty. The waiting area to go down for sport boats was a very short pontoon on the far side above the old lock. A long line of WSA boats were moored all along the right hand side. The wind in our faces was cold. I made a cuppa to warm us up as we went back into the forest. Both banks had been edged with stones to minimise the effect of wash. 
Going down Neuhaus lock
Around KP94 a medium-sized, black-hulled cruiser, called Cassiopeia, was tied up at a loading area where a ten metre wide piled bit stuck out a short way into the canal (usually this type of construction is used to load boats from tipper-lorries, but this hadn’t yet been used by the look of it). At KP96 we turned right into the Spieskanal-Neuhaus. Narrower and still in the forest, it was sheltered from the wind and very quiet. We noted more signs of beaver activity and took photos of some of the trees they’d started work on, then we spotted that all the trees along both edges of the canal had wire mesh cages around the lower 2m to keep them safe from being felled into the canal by the rodents
Keeper at his controls. Neuhaus
We’d started to wind just as the first boat we’d seen moving all day came round the tight bend from the lock. We’d started, so we had to finish – we were blocking the canal. The cruiser was full of fishing rods and booze – as soon as it turned the next bend it was up on the plane and wall-to-wall water. What 8kph limit? Tried to find a mooring by the reeds but the WSA had put rocks all along both edges since we were last here so we decided to try the mooring we used (when Bill was with us) below the lock. Winded again and tied on the waiting area, (a floating pontoon about 16m long) and Mike went to find the keeper. About ten minutes, he said, there was another boat coming. Cassiopeia arrived, with a crew who spoke a little English, and tied alongside to wait for the lock – he’d phoned ahead to get the lock ready. The keeper, a young man, lowered the barriers for the Llangollen style wooden liftbridge that carries the road into Neubrück, lifted the bridge by pressing buttons, and then we followed the cruiser into the lock. 
Lock chamber Neuhaus
The lock had a wide chamber and offset gates (much like the Dutch ones used to be on the Suid Willemsvaart) First boat in goes to the right so it is facing the exit gates, then the next boat comes in on the other side (in this case left) and moves over once the lock is empty and the other boat has left the chamber. This method was used so working boats kept the same order - first one in, first one out. Nowadays the lock only used for pleasure boats. The guy on the cruiser had got a small motorboat hanging on davits and said they were going to explore the Drahendorfer Spree with it the next day to see the wildlife. 
Going back up Neuhaus lock
They went to anchor in the Wergensee, a lovely little round lake below the lock. We turned right into the Spree, intending to moor by the tiny Wergensee lock (12m x 3m) where there used to be a wooden staging (for tying to,  to work the self-operated lock) and a row of stumps in the river bed extending beyond it to accommodate a queue. To our dismay the stumps had gone, a new ramp had been built just before the landing stage and the fire brigade were just in the act of launching an inflatable boat down it. Someone had also installed a private pontoon (looked like it was for fishing) alongside the bank before that, so that scuppered our plans completely. 
Moored next to the reeds above Neuhaus lock
We did try to lie alongside the reed beds but the distance to the bank was too far. Back to the lock. My turn to find the keeper. I explained that the mooring had gone and we’d have to find somewhere above his lock to moor for the weekend (Mike had already arranged to leave our car next to his). He said we could moor on the other side below his lock where there was a short pontoon then a piled section. Great. Mike said no, it was too short and we wouldn’t be able to tie up to it well enough – the bank beyond it wouldn’t take stakes for the stern either and we couldn’t tie to the wire mesh fencing. OK, nice try. Another cruiser (more fishermen) was waiting for the lock too so we came up together. 
View of the boat from Neuhaus lock
Gave the keeper a couple of bottles of beer and apologised that it was only Radler (shandy). No other method would work other than to moor next to the reeds and rocks– bring out the quant poles! It’s been a few years since we used them. It was 5.15 pm. There was a small gap in the reeds that we used to put a plank out (roughly amidships so we could get the bike off next day), Mike threw the ropes out, ran down the plank before the boat could move out and banged the stakes in, we then put the poles out fore and aft and I tightened up the ropes to keep the boat far enough out from the bank to keep from banging and scraping on the cobble-sized rocks that were under the bottom. Very little traffic passed us and it turned out to be a very quiet, peaceful mooring.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Thursday 3rd October 2013 Schmöckwitz to Grosse Tränke. 25.7kms 1 lock

Following a police launch up Seddingsee
Clear blue skies all day, sunny but with a very chilly SE wind. Set off at 9.40 am ten minutes after the cruiser behind us set off down the lake. We went under the road bridge and into the end of the Langer Dahme lake, turning right into the Seddinsee following a WSP launch. The police boat went on up the lake while we turned right on to the start of the Oder-Spree-Kanal (OSK) through the forest. 
Weir between lock chambers at Werndorf
Mike though it would be warmer sheltered by the trees but no, the wind was in our faces and blowing hard, making it very cold. Two and half kilometres to the lock at Werndorf where the canal crosses the Werndorfersee with access back to Schmöckwitz via the Krossinsee to our right and the rest of the Werndorfersee to our left is blocked off to boat traffic. We tied to another horizontal tubular mooring for lock waiting and Mike called the keeper on the intercom. OK, ready in ten minutes. Wow, an answer straight away and they understood one another! 
Empty barge Phonix overtaking on OSK
The left hand chamber of the pair started to empty (nordkammer 57.5m x 9.5m, the sudkammer was longer at 67.5m but narrower at 8.5m) and when the lights changed to green we went in and I attached our centre line to a bollard recessed in the wall. The lock filled through the floor and pushed the boat hard against the wall, squashing our fenders, so I hadn’t got enough room to move and I stood by the ladder recess and Mike stood on the roof to move the rope up to the higher bollards as we rose 4.6m. 
Bird of prey near Spreenhagen
The keeper was in his cabin right next to where we surfaced and Mike had a chat with him about the new lock (still don’t know where it is or even if they’ve actually built it yet). He told us as it was a National holiday today the locks would close at 6 pm. The top end gate lowered to the bed of the canal and we left at 10.55 am. Back into the forest with the wind howling through the flag ropes on the mast at our fore end. Under the A10 Berliner ring road and noted there was a communications mast with a car park next to it where at least a dozen cars were parked. We’d noticed there were a few people walking dogs down the towpath towards the lock but now there were people coming back to their cars from the other direction with baskets – mushrooming in the forest, a good occupation for a holiday. 
The double floodlock at Grosse Tranke is no more!
All that remains is one lock wall (left of pic)
They all waved and said hello as we passed. At KP55 there were several fishermen. Around KP58 an empty 67m barge called Phönix caught up and overtook as a cruiser went past in the opposite direction. The barge skipper had his wheelhouse down and was wrapped up like us due to the cold wind. He waved and shouted hello. Through the village of Spreenhagen tucked away in the forest. Around KP65 a cruiser went past (a Birchwood, which are British made) then at KP66 near Braunsdorf a small open fishing boat went past also in the opposite direction to us. 
Muggelspree weir, pegel and bootsgasse.
Mike took photos of a bird of prey, which landed on an old bridge abutment and stayed there – they usually fly off as soon as a camera is pointed in their direction! The twin flood locks at Grosse Tränke had gone, all that remained was one lock wall on the left hand side. We turned left into the end of the Muggelspree just after the lock as two women in their thirties in kayaks paddled past us. The leading one asked where we were going. Mike replied “Here”. 
Moored between the pegel station and the bootsgasse,
Muggelspree at Grosse Tranke
We think she thought we were aiming for the low metal landing stage for the bootsgässe (trolley for hauling small boats out up the slope, past the weir and back down the rails into the water beyond the weir), which they were about to use. We moored between the steps to a pegel (water level marker) and the end of the metal staging. There were crowds of people milling around and lots of cyclists as there was a small car park on the opposite bank of the little river. It was 2.45 pm. Once we were securely moored above the weir we packed up and went indoors, glad to be out of the wind.