From the bridge, we overlooked Detour
at Givet; our last stop in France. That evening we strolled the streets of Givet, then settled into the cockpit for a celebratory bottle of French wine as the next day's travel would bring us into a new country. Hard to believe we'd crossed an entire country prior to crossing an ocean!
The next morning, less than 1-mile from Givet's quayside, we approached Ecluse #59 which marked the end of our French journey. Once secured in the lock, we stepped ashore to turn-in the clicker for the automatic locks. We anticipated some type of "check-out" procedure, but there was none. The man in the lock-keepers station simply asked the name of our vessel, confirmed, "Monsieur Grandjean?" and sent us on our way. Detour
was then lowered, and upon exiting this 234th lock, we bid farewell to France.
We stopped at the very first quayside in Belgium at the town of Heer (just around the bend, prior to the bridge in the photo above). The guidebook and the signage told us this was an "Obligatory Stop" for the purposes of customs, but there is no longer a customs office at Heer. There is, however, a great photo-op at the road sign...and "Heer" we are in Belgium! At the first Belgian lock, Ecluse Hastiere, we were summoned by the lock-keeper to come ashore for paperwork. We brought with us our ship's papers and passports and went inside the lock-keeper's station once again anticipating some type of "check-in" procedure. The lock-keeper, who spoke French and very little English, asked us the name of our vessel and the length of our vessel. I attempted to show him our documentation number, but he determined this communication too difficult and after acquiring Brian's name, he stopped asking us questions. He provided us with a print-out, "Papers," he stated. This document, which was incomplete as many of the spaces for vessel information were blank, was to be our cruising permit for Wallonia. There is no fee for travel through the canal systems of Wallonia; this paper listed the bodies of water on which we would travel. And so, that was it and we were off again cruising.
Belgium provided us with some spectacular views. But, it was immediately evident that the Meuse River was quickly becoming commercial. The locks were significantly larger (100mX12m) and now operated by lock-keepers; a VHF channel and telephone number were posted for each lock, but typically the keepers spotted us and we continued to follow the traffic light signals without much conversation with the keepers.
At Ecluse Anseremme, we did have a conversation with the lock-keeper. We pulled aside and secured Detour
to bollards to await our turn for the lock while passenger vessels and pleasure vessels exited. The lock-keeper actually walked out to us to ask our length. There was an 85m commercial ship approaching and due to the overhang of our mast, we'd not be able to fit with the ship but could wait until the passenger vessels returned at 16h and lock through with them. We were glad for the confirmation with the lock-keeper and happily waited while the commercial vessel, Loana-Calista
, steamed ahead.
The Belgian locks are slow moving in comparison to the much smaller, automatic French locks. (These locks are also incredibly smooth, not turbulent at all!) We were in no hurry as just around the bend beyond Anseremme was our first Belgian destination...