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HomeConverted barges and their stories • Sailing from Ghent to the shipyard in Sluiskil aboard the Fernanda

Sailing from Ghent to the shipyard in Sluiskil aboard the Fernanda

In september 2006 a friend of mine went with her house boat, a converted spits barge from 1927, from Ghent to the shipyard in Sluiskil.


A week before the trip, my neighbour and I started the engine, since it had been 4 years since her last trip. With a bit of start pilot, the engine started nicely. We let it running for an hour, while drinking a bear.

The trip

My neighbour had to work till 9 O'clock in the morning, discharging vessels in Axel. We then drove to Ghent. Shortly after the engine was started, he discovered the engine was not cooling down. Since the cooling pump was above the water (line), it couldn't pump water into the engine. Under the floor, we opened the water system and we dismantled the pump, filling it by hand till the pump started pulling water into the engine. Once it was running, the system continued pumping water.

The first part of the trip took us most of the time. We had to sail backwards though the dock, a distance of 200 meters. Since the barge was not loaded, it took a long time to make this distance!

Sailing with the Fernanda (ship on the right) backwards in the dock

At some point, we were no longer able to go backwards. When we put full throttle on the propeller, the colour of the water around us changed colour, so we realized that were nearly at the bottom of the dock. In the end we made the turning and sailed though an old lock, one built for spits vessels with the famous limitations of 5,10 meters width!

Once through the lock we sailed along several house boats in Ghent. I've known most of the boats in Ghent, but hadn't seen many of them from the water. Once out of the big dock, we passed under the bridge and had to wait a bit further. The railway bridge only opens a few times a day.

House boats on the left and on the right

We waited next to the house boat Charles. The Charles is a spits barge, being converted by two people, who will both use the boat, having their own section aboard. Behind and next to us, three commercial barges were waiting as well. We let the Kempenaar pass since he was closer to the bridge. Just before we pass the bridge, the two other French barges sailed in front of us through the bridge. My neighbour had the reflex going full power backwards. if he didn't do it, a collision would have been unavoidable.

The French spits barge passing closely...

We had no more bridges or locks so we could now se sail in one track to the yard. If we arrived before 17 o'clock, they would still dry dock us that day. My neighbour put full powered and the ship sailed smoothly true the water, but make a hell of a noise. The barge is powered by a loudly GM engine. When standing in the wheelhouse and keeping the hatch of the engine room open, we couldn't understand each other.

While passing the scrapyard, the perfect moment for me to take pictures, the fuel pipe came loose of the engine, spreading fuel on the engine. This caused a heavy smoke. We had no place to moore the boat, so we stayed in the middle of the canal. We heard the engine making less noise and we slowed down quickly. Downstairs, we discovered the problem. We re-fixed the pipe and continued sailing, but a bit slower for in case it would happen again.

After an hour, we heard the engine slowing down. I went to have a look and indeed, the fuel pipe was loose again. With a shoe tier I fixed the pipe more properly. This idea came from my neighbour and worked perfectly. It didn't get off anymore along the trip!

Unfortunately we had some delays because of the engine problem. The other problem was the diesel that spread over the engine. It ran into the 24v dynamo. This one broke down.

The rest of the trip, we sailed full power. Everyone enjoyed the trip and the problems with the engine room were quickly forgotten.

The Fernanda in top condition: the water came up to the deck on some moments.

With some delay, we arrived at the yard at around 18 o'clock. The decided to dry dock us that same day, so we sailed to the slipway where they pulled us out of the water.

Arriving at shipyard De Schroef in Sluiskil

The Fernanda left the yard two months later and is now moored again in Ghent! It was a fine trip on a fine boat!

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Last updated on: Tuesday, 20 September, 2016 11:00 PM
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