The Journey -
We had a good run down the river, clocking up 38 km and four locks in five hours of engine time (the engines are switched off in the locks, as on the River Thames). Our mooring for the night was one that we had used on the way up, but with the high summer growth of the bank-side vegetation, it was tricky to recognise it.
The next day we had a short cruise down to the town of Drezdenko, where mooring is possible, but not easy. I went off on my bike to do some shopping, and to visit an internet café - tricky, I discovered, as there isn't one in Drezdenko. By chance, I spied a library, and found that they offered FREE internet access. Yippeeee!!!
Back on Rosy, and we set off downstream again, to moor for the night on an out-of-the way mooring, where Rosy was invaded by a HUGE wasp/hornet. I'm tolerant of most wild life, but flies and stingy things inside the boat are a no-no, so out with the yot-swot (also known as the yacht-swacht). Two good hits with the swatter, and a burst of Raid aerosol left the beast pretty much unfazed. S/he shook her/his head, wiped the antennae clean and flew out of the door. Fanny snapped at it on the way out but, fortunately for her, missed.
Then a good day's run down to the large town of Gorzow. We found a neat mooring just above the town. Temujin was hesitant to use the moorings available in the middle of town, alongside the market, fearing inundation by youths and poor Polish people, seeking to offer help in exchange for money and/or nicking stuff off the boats. So we moored in solitude, and I biked into town.
I have a new ploy for getting by with minimal foreign language skills. I go to the town centre and look for a computer shop - the assistants invariably speak a bit of English, and are likely to know where the internet cafés are. The certainly did in Gorzow. I also visited the market, which was very similar to an Arab souk in that most of the stalls were selling cheap clothing (in Gorzow it was jeans) and ladies' underwear in, shall we say, the larger sizes - there were knickers that could accommodate two or three 'normal' people!
Then on down to yet another old mooring in the countryside, where we spent a quiet weekend.
On Monday 20th June we motored down to Kostryn, our last port of call in Poland, passing, on the way, two white-tailed eagles..
At Kostryn, the water was about 1.5 metres lower that when we first visited it in the spring. We discovered a reasonable provisions shop very nearby. There, Mike and June spent all their Polish money, but I still had some left over. Hence, in the evening Mike and I went out to spend it. We took two 20 litre fuel containers, and a little trolley with us, and managed to persuade the nearby 24 hour garage to keep them for us for a few hours. Then out to visit some bars. My thought was to spend money on beer until we had had sufficient, and then to spend the balance on diesel for Rosy. We went to two bars, and indulged ourselves in Polish beer which is mighty fine stuff. Tyskie has been standard fare on Rosy for the past couple of months, though the more expensive Zywiec is also very acceptable. Kostryn is a border town, and Germans come across for the cheaper beer, fuel, food and, judging by the number of night clubs, girls. I bought some gorgeous asparagus that was priced in both Euros and Zlotys (though as the 'l' is a Polish crossed out one, it is pronounced 'zwotys' - not many people know that).
Having had our fill of beer, we returned to the all night garage to discover that it was being invaded by flying insects, attracted by the garish spotlights. We gave the attendant all the remaining Polish money, and 'security' filled up the containers. (The supermarket had four or five security guards patrolling it, and the garage had a permanent security presence, as well as video coverage). It was just as well that the containers were slightly over size, as the money covered 40.6 litres. (I later discovered a grozny in my pocket. There are about 6 zlotys to the £ at the moment, and each zloty has 100 grozny, so I'm going to be pretty permanently lumbered with one six-hundredth of a pound, as I would be embarrassed to even offer a single grozny to a poor person).
We left in the morning after winding the boats. We had winded the previous night, in order to moor with the bows pointing upstream. Our morning winding, to head downstream, could have been tricky. We were moored between two bridges, and the problem was - could we wind the boats before the current swept us down to the downstream bridge. The safest evolution would have been to donk upstream beyond the upstream bridge, and to wind, in safety, well above it, but that would take time and fuel - whilst we were young and foolish and decided to take the risk and do it the quick way. Fortunately, it came off very much more easily than we could have hoped for, and we set off for our last day of cruising in Poland.
We flew down the last four kilometres of the Warta, and headed out onto the Oder for a really lovely cruise down to Hohensaaten. We saw more white tailed eagles and a couple of oh! so graceful red kites soaring in the up-currents. Then under a bridge with the adjacent ruined piers of three previous bridges - I assume destroyed in wars. There were also the remains of various ferry crossings visible, presumably unused since the end of WW2 when the Oder became part of the border between East Germany and Poland.
At Hohensaaten we turned up into the lock cut, intending to stop at the Customs post to clear out of Poland and into Germany along the Oder-Havel-Waserstrasse, but the lock-keeper waved us into the lock, so in we went.
We had planned to moor just above the lock, but our skipping customs bothered us. In the rather complicated series of waters above the lock, our intended mooring was on the northern side, the lock being on the southern side. Between the northern and southern sides there is an island, with the lock being between the island and the southern side, whilst there is a weir between the island and the northern side. We could not see whether the weir incorporated a pedestrian crossing or not, so, not willing to take a chance, we moored on a 100m empty quay on the lock island. Mr Twat instantly appeared and seemed to be suggesting that this was WSA (the German equivalent of British Waterways) property and that we were to remove ourselves to the mooring on the northern bank. We explained about customs, and suggested that if he could show us the route from the northern bank to customs, then we would be happy to oblige, otherwise we were staying here whilst we cleared customs. He was impassive. NO. GO.
Unfortunately my German was not good enough to explain to Mr Twat that he - an employee of WSA - is there to provide a service to me - a boater who, along with people like me, he relies upon for his future employment.
Plan One was to chuck Mr Twat in the cut, but there were several Mr Twat Minors in the vicinity, and their collective numbers out-numbered us and (sadly, in this case) neither Temujin or Rosy comes with an armoury. In the past, I've often yearned for a Kalashnikov to deal with errant and annoying youths, but have now added overly officious officials to my hit list.
Plan Two was for Mike and June to engage Mr Twat in argumentation whilst I nipped over to the Customs house to make Rosy and I legal in German and, perhaps, to engage the language skills of the Customs officials to sort out Mr Twat. If this latter was not possible, then I would return to the boats, and carry on diplomatic discussions with Mr Twat whilst Mike and June went to the customs house.
I was quite looking forward to this when we managed to reach a compromise, and could stay where we were for 20 minutes. If the customs clearing took longer than this I'm intrigued to know what Mr Twat would have done, but wiser counsels prevailed and we nipped over to the customs house and back in pretty good time.
Mr Polish Customs Officer was asleep in front of his TV when we arrived, but he woke up and tapped our details into his hi-tech hand-held computer, and then wrote them up, by hand, in his elderly ledger. He was back in his easy chair and asleep again before we had shut the door behind us.
Mr German Customs Officer was much more affable. He glanced briefly at our papers, welcomed us to Germany, and recommended various waterways in Germany for us to visit - we had visited all of his suggestions last year. He blew the dust off his ker-chunk machine to stamp my passport - I wanted a German incoming one to match the Polish incoming one I had acquired earlier in the year.
We got back to the boats pretty much within our allotted time, and moved the boats over to the very nice official sport-boat moorings for a comfortable nights rest. In the evening, a German boat arrived with a he and a she on board. Fanny went over to introduce herself, and to persuade them to throw a stick for her, which request the 'she' succumbed to, and then came over to talk to us. She had the most amazing body language. Most of what she said was (apparently) designed to amuse. To emphasise this, when she said it, she would 'laugh' at it herself. Her 'laugh' consisted of opening her mouth wide and exhaling through it (to produce a single 'Ha' sound) at the same time bending over from the waist to a considerable degree, hence causing her rather floppy top to flop down, and thus exposing her not inconsiderable (and very sweetly formed) thinglies to the public gaze.
'He' then came over to explain that his boat was a Broome, made in England and very strong and that he was very pleased with it and then he went through all the places he had been to in his boat. I tried to appear fascinated by this conversation, but admit to wanting him to shut up, and to allow his wife to make a few more witticisms.
The next day (Wednesday 22nd June) we headed off along the canal. We soon reached a junction - right would take us up the massive Niederfinow ship lift, left would take us along the Finow canal. We did both routes last year, so chose the Finow canal route - it takes a bit longer but is very much more interesting.
The Finow is pretty much to the scale of an English broad canal. It had been allowed to decay when the massive Oder-Havel-Waserstrasse was built. A few years ago it was brought back into working condition for tourists, and it really is worth a cruise - though not in the too near future, as at the end of this season it will close as a through route for a year whilst a lock is being rebuilt.
We were going up-hill, and the locks are filled quite quickly by the badly paid (but helpful and courteous) lock keepers. However, the ride up is not at all difficult. One or two locks still use the old paddle gear, which involves rocking a lever up and down.
We were joined in the locks by Mattias, a man of about 25 to 30, who had taken three months off his work with handicapped children for a canoe trip, and at Eberswalde he would clock up his first 1000 km.
We also stopped briefly in Eberswalde for some much needed provisions, but then we went on until 1700 hrs, when the canal shuts for the day.
The following morning (a Friday) we went on, and, briefly, stopped in the Messing Haven. "Messing" = brass.
The Finow canal is an industrial archaeologist's dream. Elderly decaying factories and facilities line the route, showing what a hive of industry the canal once was. Iron, steel, copper, brass and paper factories were all here, and in places, more modern facilities are still to be seen. But, in general, the canal today is very green and countrified, and one needs to walk a few yards away from the canal at the locks, to realise that habitation comes closer to the canal than one realises.
Anyway, we stopped in the 'Messing' haven to see the famous black houses. These are several houses whose exterior walls were sheathed in copper that, overtime, has acquired an oxidised, black patina.
Mattias caught up with us, and we towed his canoe for several kilometres and locks, whilst he came on the boat. We discussed waterways, industrial archaeology, travel, waterways maps, waterproof cases for waterways maps, otters, canoeing, narrow boats, digital cameras etc etc.
Above the top lock of the Finow Canal he left us, and clambered back into his 40 year old folding canoe, as our paths separated. He was off to the Werbeling See (we did that last year). We turned left down the Oder-Havel-Waserstrasse for a two-hour-plus plonk along this watery motorway, with but one slight curve to negotiate about two-thirds of the way along. Then, at the end of (for us) quite a long day, we pulled into the off-line moorings at Liebenwalde. We spent a while on them last year, and will stay on them until Sunday morning.
That's all Folks!!