Summer on the canals of Northern Europe..


Well, I’m spending my summer as a deckie cruising along the canals of Holland, Belgium and France on a fancy posh river barge/motor yacht thing. Never thought I would be saying that! It all started about three weeks ago. I was being patient waiting for a job to come my way. As mentioned in a previous blog, I had a bit of a panic which was quickly calmed. Then the next day I had two job offers and the following day two more. Mind you, none of them were for sailboats so I didn’t really want any of them. I took the first offer I received for day charters in Palma as it was going to be a trial.  I thought worse comes to worse, at least that day’s pay would pay for my rent that week.  

 

As I got home from that interview, my phone rang.  It was a call about working on a motor yacht/canal boat in Northern Europe. It wasn’t anything at all what I wanted and it was another private yacht so I thought, oh here we go again with the wife… I listened to the Captain and although I thought he was a bit weird, he seemed harmless and the job sounded interesting. I had two hours to think about it because they needed me to come in two days. This job was better then the Palma based job because it was live aboard so I wouldn’t have to worry about food or rent. I like free stuff, so I called the Captain back and said I would take it.

 

So here I am, two and a bit weeks into the job as a deckhand on a motor barge (I made that up)! It’s the only motor yacht built like this. The boat is classified as a motor yacht, but looks like a fancy barge. We’re like celebrities going down the river because it’s so unique.  People are so friendly. On the sea there is a hierarchy between boats depending on type and size. I’ve always thought that’s so ridiculous and continue waving to whoever I’m not supposed to wave to because at the end of the day we’re all humans who enjoy the sea. I usually don’t get a wave back from those who are “better” than me and I don’t care. Sometimes they give me a confused smile which just makes me laugh! Anyway, everyone waves at everyone on the river and when we park up on the side of a wall, people come talk to us. It’s so relaxing and refreshing.

 

It’s purely a deckhand job which I love and my skin is very nicely sun-kissed from all the polishing and line handling I’ve been doing. If I can’t be on a sailboat, this is a pretty good place to be.  For the summer anyway.  It’s much more physical work then I thought, which I’m happy about because I think physical activity is the key to a long life. Who would’ve thought that putting a line on a bollard and then pulling it in or easing it out when necessary can be so tiring! Sometimes I do that twice a day, sometimes ten or eleven. It’s nice because I get to be outside in the sunshine watching river life go by. There are so many geese, birds, little fish jumping, men and boys fishing (where are the girls?!?!) and people cycling or walking along the canal. It’s almost as peaceful as being in the middle of the sea with the sails up and a supportive wind. That is still my true love!

 

In the yachting industry, information about owners is extremely confidential so all I will say is, holy shit I won the jackpot!! He is incredibly nice, friendly, easy going, respectful and generous. He told me the other day that we were going to pass by some nice churches and châteaus and to please tell the stew/cook to come up and view them when I see them. There are too many owners out there who don’t see their crew as humans and don’t even give them a second thought except when they need something. He makes me want to work really hard because I know he appreciates my work and his please and thank yous are a sufficient reward.

 

The crew is a family of three. The captain, the stew/cook and myself. We work nicely together and the stew/cook and I have lots of fun together in our free time. We love to explore and see new things and talk to the locals. Most of all, we love to laugh like crazy and have as much fun as possible on and off the job.

 

We started in Maastricht, Holland and have cruised along the Meuse through Belgium and France.  There is a lack of water so the route we were going to do is going to change, but so far we have seen beautiful medieval churches, castles and châteaus. Sometimes it looks like a movie set. I didn’t know all of this stuff actually existed! This is definitely not the job or place where I thought I would be, but I’m glad this opportunity presented itself to me and I’m enjoying the opportunities it’s presenting me, the lessons I’m learning and the people who are lighting my path.

 

 

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