Lille to Erquelinnes

Tournai

The castle bridge in Tournai.

Tournai

The walled canal all the way through Tournai with a one way system. The moorings were by 2 busy roads so we carried on.

Antoing was the opposite of Oudenaarde with a shabby centre, pavements covered in dog muck and closed shops. The surrounding industry of coke for the power stations seemed to have covered everything in black dust.

The highlight of Antoing was that there was a chandlery barge there, called ‘Captain Neptunia' so we could fill up with white and red diesel for the rest of this trip and the winter. They have a barge full of goodies if you have the money to spend. We just bought our fuel and a replacement zigzag fender. This marked the bottom of the ‘Haut Escaut Canal' for us and the start of the ‘Canal Nimy'.

Guillotine lock

In Belgium they favour large locks with big lifts rather than a series of small lifts. They varied between 5m and 12m lift and they are made easier with floating bollard system so you can tie up and stay tied up during the filling of the lock. The bollards are captured in the vertical slots in the lock wall.

Mons was a surprise with a big open area of water called ‘le Grand Large Mons' with both commercial quays and a water sports centre. As we turned into the very large basin we had to pick our way through a fleet of learner sailing dinghies and wind surfers. We glided in nice and slowly while the safety boats herded the dinghies away from under our bow. Straight to one unused commercial quay that faced SW so we knew we would get TV for the last 2009 Grand Prix the next day (Jensen Button won the world championship in Brazil). A nice walk around the basin for Tilly and also a reconnaissance of the yacht club bar to see that we could eat there the next day during our day off from cruising. The Belgium canals stop operations on Sundays so we had to stop as well. We were ready for a day alongside anyway as we had motored every day for the previous 6 days.

On Sunday we had our wedding anniversary lunch at the Yacht Club Brasserie overlooking the water with 3 jet bikes thrashing around having great fun. Maybe this could be a summer stop over and we could try some different water sports?

At Mons the ‘Canal Nimy' becomes the ‘Canal du Centre' and our next day's cruise would take us to the famous ‘Strepy Lift'. This is a massive structure which was only completed in 2005 and has 2 basins that can lift 2000 tonne barges 73m metres straight up. You approach the Strepy lift around a shallow corner and you get an immediate impression of size as the lift looms over the hill between you and it.

Strepy

Our first view of the Strepy Lift, it loked to be the size of a cathedral as we came around a shallow bend.

Strepy

It dwarfs the barges moored at its base. These were mostly tripper boats that go up and down the lift in the summer.

Strepy

A basin that can hold a 1350 tonne barge was opened just for us as it was the quiet season.

Strepy

Some of the massive wires that hoist the basin with the barge inside it straight up 73m!

Strepy
Strepy
The new Strepy Lift was constructed between 1982 and 2002 at a cost of €160 million and replaced 2 locks and 4x aging lifts (dating from 1888). It is the biggest lift in the world.