Thursday, 4 August 2016

Middelburg

Today was just as windy - indeed the forecast has been upgraded to force 8 from the southwest. However the good news is that the rain has stopped. Clearly this was a day for sailing in sheltered water. We had a quick sail for the few miles from Wemeldinge to the lock into Veerse Meer. Veerse Meer is a very pretty piece of water. We used to come here quite often in Bonita, though this was our first visit in more than 20 years.There are more boats than there were then, and beside the Meer the trees have grown more and there are more caravans. On the water  there were boats of all sorts out in the brisk wind.
Maybe we should have stopped at Veere which is historic and very quaint, but we wanted to push on so we locked into the canal to Middelburg. The first two pictures are of the lock: Martha is standing on Bonita's fore-deck.
Waiting for the lock to Mddelburg
In the lock on the Middelburg canal
It is only a few miles down the canal to Middelburg. Here we filled up with fuel and eventually manoeuvred the boats into a very crowded canal in the middle of the town.
Typical Middelburg street
Middelburg Church
The centre of Middelburg has lots of the sort of interesting old buildings that distinguish so many Dutch towns. They demonstrate the wealth, civic pride and cultivated good taste of their period, as of course they were intended to do.
My father used to like bringing Bonita to this area as he had been based in Middelburg at the end of the war. As the Allies were advancing through northern Europe the Germans had fortified this island - Walcheren - which controlled the approaches to Antwerp. The RAF removed this threat by bombing the sea walls thereby flooding the island. Subsequently my father was sent by the War Office to assist with the operation of closing the gaps in the sea wall.

Press cutting from 3 October 1945
Closing a gap is easy at first by filling it with stones and other rubble, but as it narrows the force of the water rushing through the gap is such that anything will be swept away. One possibility is to completely close off the gap in exactly the few minutes at the top of the tide when no water is flowing. Dad did this by getting some of the large floating Phoenix caissons, designed for use in Mulberry harbour which he arranged to be towed to site and sunk in the breach. The Dutch engineers, who were experts at this sort of thing, were at first sceptical that this method would work but nevertheless the operation was completely successful and the Phoenix caissons are still there. They are no longer part of the sea wall, which has been extended around them, they have now been turned into a museum.