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Antwerp. Slow down. Winter is coming.

by SV Taipan 6 Dec 14:05 UTC
Ghent. On a misty cold day © SV Taipan

Its been a little over a month since I last posted. We have been fairly busy with jobs and a bit of sightseeing between socializing. One weekend we hired a car and took a run up to Sutton Hoo, an ancient Anglo Saxon burial site near Woodbridge Suffolk. There is an excellent exhibition of original and replica artifacts found during excavations including a replica of the actual ship burial. This site dates from the early.

Seventh century and was excavated in 1939, It is one of the best archaeological finds in England for its size, and for the fact that it was very intact. Discovered on private property and initially excavated by the landholder it has been turned over to the British Museum. There are numerous other mounds and many exciting discoveries have been made here. We visited the famous Woodbridge Tide Mill. The first tide mill on the site was 1170. This is a working mill, which as the name suggests, is driven by the rise and fall of the tide. The range here is around six meters so its pretty effective power supply. It fell into disrepair and was derelict for a time before being restored and reopened in 2012. One of only two operating in the UK today, it produces flour for sale. From here we took a run up to Snape for lunch then wended our way back to Taipan for the night.

The following day our destination was the University town of Cambridge about two hours away to the northeast. We decided to detour through Newmarket the famous horse racing center of Britain. So picturesque and peaceful. Not a horse in sight though as they had all done their gallops early in the morning. The National Stud was closed for winter but we enjoyed the coffee shop and a break from the drive. Cambridge turned on a lovely fine day and the university buildings were absolutely gorgeous. The place was buzzing with crowds of people about. We strolled about took in a gallery or two and then made for home via a number of backroads. The countryside is very much in its winter cladding. Leaves are mostly gone, and a lot of fallow lands and short days.

Looking for a departure to Belguim, our time in Ipswich came to an abrupt end when a sudden weather window opened and we could see three days in a for the passage across the English Channel to Belgium. The trip doesn't take three days but you have to get down the Orwell river on the right tide and then anchor for the night to get the tides right for the crossing. That's the first day. The crossing itself is 80 miles. It took 12 hours with very little wind and a lot of motoring. Not that we minded as it was very cold and the motor and our new Fladen Suits kept us nice and warm! We didn't see a lot of traffic and had no difficulty crossing the shipping lanes. Visibility was good and with the AIS, life among big ships is much simplified.

Our arrival in Oostend was too late for the marina lock. We couldn't get off the dock so had an early night and headed out on dawn the following morning to catch the tide up the Westerschelde towards Antwerp. he new sail didn't get much of a work out the previous day but we had a great sail with it along the coast. We traveled very close to shore and enjoyed the scenery. There were quite a few small fishing boats to keep us on our toes. Its 76 miles to Antwerp from Oostend and we couldn't make it in one tide so we found a good little anchorage tucked out of the traffic at Zeedijk.

The tide goes out exposing a vast sandbank which offers great protection from the wake of so many very large ships using this waterway as access to the port of Antwerp and to the many canals which run north and south off it, on through Europe. Note the groynes which run out from the shore. The ends were marked with a green drum but it was not very clear why until the tide went out! The following morning still in the sunshine we made the last 20 miles to the Jachthaven Linkerover on the west bank of the river. The weather turned foul for a few days so we made a good decision to leave when we did. Fine weather all the way. Short days with sunrise at around 8.30 and sunset at 4.30 mean some dark starts but arrivals in the daylight.

Just before the marina, on the west bank, there is a large park which was the Top Cat camp where the troops from the second WW decamped at the end of hostilities. It has all manner of buried tanks and armaments and now there's a bit of a quandary on how to dig it up to make a new tunnel under the river!! The trip to town from Linkerover was not an insurmountable one and a half kilometers to the Sint Anna tunnel under the river and then another kilometer on to town, so much as the freezing cold wind into which one has to ride to get to the tunnel. There is very little on the west bank as it is mostly residential with a couple of small grocery stores. We did have a superb meal at the Royal Yacht Club Belgie on our first evening but there was little else to entice us to stay.

We moved across the river the following Saturday The Willemsdock Marina has good floating docks and is very secure. The amenities are pretty average for the price though. This marina has the most expensive winter rates. At €1400+ electricity for 5 months. The monthly rate is €490 plus electricity at 27c per kW. That's 100€ dearer than across the river. All that aside its a much better position for winter. We have made good use of the bikes here and are doing lots of exploring.

The MAS Museum is just at the head of the dock and houses 6 floors of exhibits. This consumed most of one day. The exhibits are not terribly well lit and all the signage is in French and Dutch. Reading the little books in English was difficult in the lighting. It snowed on Taipan while we were in there though and we had a great vantage point overlooking her out in the harbour. The cafe downstairs is great.

Antwerp is a bustling small city of 520,000 city residents with the largest city population in Belgium. Brussels has a larger population in its greater city area. There are lots of great shops and the lovely old cobbled streets are attractive, if bumpy on the bike! Beautiful old Flemish architecture and my new favourite building in the whole world is the Harbor Building. Zaha Hadid's beautiful landmark building has put Antwerp on the world Architectural map.

Last weekend we visited Ghent by train. It had snowed two days before and it's been so cold the snow was still lying about. Ghent started as just a settlement on the confluence of two rivers in the late middle ages and by the 1300s was the largest and richest city in northern Europe. Castle and Cathedrals and plenty of lovely old architecture. A busy tourist venue even on a cold winters day.

We are planning an excursion by train to Brugges and we will stay a night there, meanwhile, we are finding enough small jobs to keep busy and the heater is working a treat so we are warm. Snow is in the forecast again this weekend. A white birthday!!

This article has been provided by the courtesy of SVTaipan

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