The month of August was a bit strange for us. I had to go back to Bremerhaven to finish my work, while Esben and the kids stayed on Chip-Chip and planned to continue. As it is difficult for one person to handle the locks alone, we had asked if somebody would be interested to join them, and Maria and Asbjørn chose to come and spend a week.
They arrived in Dinant, ready to continue south in the smaller canals – and then it was announced that Canal de la Meuse, the one we had planned to go through, was closed to to a water shortage. Considering the weather this summer, it wasn’t a complete surprise, but we had hoped to sneak through. Now, instead of continuing the beautiful trip we had planned, our guests were in for a trip through the industrialized part of Belgium. But first, it was back to Namur, and from there onwards on the Sambre towards the west. Friends had told us horror stories of this part of the trip, and it lived fully up to its reputation, filthy, ugly and with big crappy locks. After a day, however, things lightened up as there were pancakes for breakfast, after which Chip-Chip approached what used to be the world’s largest boat elevator (until the Chinese broke the record of course). The Strépy-Thieu boat lift connects the Sambre and the Scheldt rivers and lowered Chip-Chip 73 meters. Finally, Chip-Chip and crew made it to France, from where Maria and Asbjørn had to go back home. Thank you for joining us! It was great having you on board.
Esben and the kids spent some days in Valenciennes, preparing their favorite foods like lasagne and pizza. And then the new crew arrived, Elise and Torbjørn, Vibe’s parents. They were a bit more lucky with the timing than Maria and Asbjørn, as sit was time to enter one of the smaller and more picturesque canals, namely Saint Quentin. Here, the locks were much smaller and more manageable, and everybody spent a week with time for sailing, school, reading out loud and having fun. Also, Chip-Chip went through a tunnel for the first time (with us anyways). This crew made it all the way to Reims and Champagne country before it was time for Vibe to come back and Torbjørn and Elise to go back home again.
Vibe took the train to Valenciennes, from where she drove their car to the small marina where Chip-Chip was moored for the night, making it easy for Torbjørn and Elise to get back home. We spent one night with six people on the boat. Cozy, but probably not great for longer periods 😉 And after shopping some Champagne for the sheep-sitters at home, Elise and Torbjørn said goodbye, and we were on our own again.