Collecting the spits Hush from Furnes
In August 2004, a friend of mine bought a spits barge in Furnes, a small village on the Belgian/French border. This spits was built in 1934 in Baasrode at the famous yard Van Praet-Dansaert. That barge used to be a club house, didn't have an engine and was altered with a construction on deck it could impossibly fit under the first bridge.
This story starts in Leffinge, where I go aboard the spits Saint Antoine. This barge, also built by Van Praet-Dansaert, was build in 1910 and still had her original Kromhout 1 cylinder engine from 1919. A beauty to sail with!
A Kromhout engine from 1919, 45hp
I went aboard around 10:00 in the morning. besides my friend, an old skipper was also sailing with us. This man sailed his whole life on barges and had quit some experience. Earlier that day, a window of the wheelhouse broke, so when we arrived he was working on replacing the broken window. Since we were late, we had to wait till noon before the bridge opened again.
The Saint Antoine in Leffinge, where I got aboard
Once the bridge opened, we continued our journey. We left the engine running, since it takes some time to start it. The engine starts with heat and compressed air. We sailed from Leffinge to Nieuwpoort in approximately three hours. We ad to wait for several bridges and the locks in Nieuwpoort. We wanted to stay the night in Nieuwpoort and clean the hull on the free dry dock facility.
After passing the locks, it was hard to steer with the barge into the harbour entrance. The wind was hard and the waves reasonably high. It took us some time to manoeuvre to the dry dock mooring. We tightened the boat and waited till the tide went out, so we could start cleaning the hull.
When the tide goes out, the barge gets dry
When most water was gone, the yard job of manually cleaning the hull started. First scrapping of all the barnacles. While cleaning, water was coming in and after a few hours you couldn't do anything else, but stopping to work. So it was time for sleeping. I slept in the cargo hold, but was woken up several times by waves hitting the barge and the hatches.
Early the next morning we decided to move on to Furnes. We turned around and started sailing to our destination. The trip went smoothly. Arriving at Furnes, we had to call so they would open the bridge. We had to wait an hour before they could come.
Waiting for the bridge to open
After the bridge we had to pass one more lock. Typical for this lock and any further lock in France is the 5,10cm locks. Any barge that has a bigger width couldn't fit in the lock. Since the Saint Antoine is a spits, she was built with ah 5,06 meters width!
The small lock in Furnes
After passing the lock we sailed 300 meters and behind a corner, we could see the Hush. It looked more as a wreck in the first place, but once aboard you could notice some small but very nice details showing how proudly she once was built!
The Hush and Saint Antoine, both built by Van Praet-Dansaert, 24 years of difference in age
I didn't join the trip where the Saint Antoine towed the Hush to Ghent.
This was the last trip of the Saint Antoine. Both vessels were sold shortly after. The Hush is being converted in Ghent into a house boat. The Saint Antoine is again for sale these days...