The railway bridge and Nieuwpoort road bridge at Veurne opened at 09.00 on the dot, and we had been up since 07.15 to make sure that we didn’t miss it! Rain was forecast so we donned our rain gear from the outset of the journey. Navigating the ring canal around Veurne was easy enough, and we had to pass through a lock to take us onto the canal to Dunkirk, which would be the last part of our journey on the European canals before crossing the English Channel from Dunkirk to Margate.
We approached the lock and called on the VHF radio as we had done previously. The lock keeper came out to greet us with a cheerful hello as we arrived. He informed us at this point that we would need a bridge raised a little farther on as we exited the lock, and that he was also in charge of that. We informed him that we were hoping to stop at the marina first just after the lock to pick up fuel and water. He advised us that the moorings were very small at the marina and that he doubted that anyone would be around for us to obtain fuel or water, as it was May 1st, a bank holiday.
We decided that we were OK for fuel until we got to Dunkirk, but we were in need of more drinking water, it seemed ironic that we had a tank full of water on the boat, that we couldn’t use due to the problems obtaining pressure for it to go through the taps. He kindly offered to fill our water canister for us whilst we were there. So after descending 3cm in the lock it was all systems go to motor on to Dunkirk.
We passed through small hamlets with quaint rustic houses, we saw Hares in the fields, and although the skies were grey, other than one small rain shower as we set off, the rain had held off enough for us to ditch our waterproofs. The last town in Belgium was Adinkerke, which seemed to be selling entirely tobacco products. Before long it was au revoir Belgium, bonjour France.
Our spirits lifted as we inched our way towards the last part of our continental journey until we reached Ghyvelde at 10.50. We slowed down as we now had our first bridge to go through in France. We tried the VHF radio, but we got no answer. There were two phone numbers, we tried both of those, but received a ‘this number is no longer available’ message. Exasperated we moored the boat, and walked over the bridge to a house next to it. An older lady (who had spied us through her lace curtains) opened the door. She spoke a little English, and telephoned someone to find out about the opening times of the bridge for us. Alas, it was also a bank holiday in France, and although Belgium was still open, today France was most definitely shut! Our plans to reach Dunkirk had been thwarted yet again!
We now had most of the day, and another night moored up alongside a bridge, waiting for it to be opened. So after a spot of lunch, we made the most of our time cleaning the boat (using canal water), doing some clothes washing (now that we had enough fresh drinking water), and charging our phones and the laptop. Ten metres from the boat a road block was set up by French customs, presumably checking vehicles for elicit tobacco! Thankfully they didn’t want to look in the boat, as we still don’t think we have looked in all the cupboards yet. As it was a sunny evening we decided to take a stroll into the centre of Ghyvelde, it seemed quite desolate other than a small fun fair, presumably being held for May Day celebrations. Martin heard his first cuckoo of the year, for which he got very excited. We decided to eat out again this evening….why not, we couldn’t go anywhere. After a stroll back to the boat we sat on the deck with a beer watching the sunset, and the and Grebes with their chicks paddling about around their nests.