Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mercator Marina, Oostend, Belgium

Neighboring local boat showing Dutch spelling of the town's name

In order to get to this marina we motor-sailed about 10 miles northeast of Nieuwpoort and waited outside the entrance to the harbor for the green lights. The harbors here use International Port Traffic Signals. When we arrived, it was red for a ferry coming out plus a flotilla of really little sailboats for a children’s regatta. Then it switched to green-white-green, which means you need permission to enter. We waited awhile green-green, meaning we could go, but I wasn’t sure they were going to show that, so I called for permission. They said to wait. We had to wait through another red before we finally got our greens.

From our stern looking back at the entrance to the marina

Then once we were in, we called Mercator Marina. It’s inside a lock, so we needed to let them know we were coming and get instructions. The fact that we would have to go through a lock to get here was one reason I’d picked Nieuwpoort instead to start out with, but we’re going to have to do locks eventually, so we might as well get used to it. This was a good place to learn, except for the crowds lining the lock walls watching us. The short story is that we had some problems and got turned sideways in the lock, but we got straightened out again, didn't break anything, and learned from our mistakes. The major thing was that we didn’t have our lines set up right, and the bowline got fouled, so we didn’t get tied off quickly enough. When we left the lock and tied up to wait for the bridge to open, we did better.

Tall ship Mercator, for which the marina is named, securely anchored off our bow

Once we got settled, we went exploring. There’s a huge grocery store just across the drawbridge from us, so we picked up a few things and dropped them off at the boat and then walked along the Kappellestraat, the major pedestrian-only shopping street, which is on our side of the bridge. We walked all the way to the beach, not that far really, and on the way back finally found our frites and beer in a little cafĂ© (more a Belgian fast-food place) that appeared to be on the edge of the respectable part of the shopping district. A bar called Bada Bing was across the way and a tattoo parlor just down the street. One medium order of frites between us satisfied our craving, so now we can see what else Belgian cuisine has to offer. It looks like it’s mostly chocolate, waffles, and pancakes. Whether the pancakes are Dutch style or French crepes, we’ve yet to discover.

Treats we have been resisting, but it isn't easy

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