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Bill Kendrick, the man we never meet in Josephine Tey's "the Singing Sands", loves ferries because of growing up in Portsmouth and using the Pompey ferry.

Yes, I've been on that one.

As usual, the pull of the past is strong – too many ferries I enjoyed in my younger days have been replaced by bridges: the Great Belt, for example, or the Severn crossing at Aust. The Oostend - Dover catamaran, among others, has succumbed to the Channel Tunnel. The Ilfracombe - Swansea boat has just disappeared... gone for good, along with almost all the tempting, enticing routes in my 1919 road-book of Britain and Ireland.

Suppressing ferries makes the destination more important than the journey, an attitude that is almost always misguided.

2009 update

Thanks to a copy of Uitweg I happened to pick up at the station, I have now discovered that Belgium still has over thirty ferries to explore! Some of them I had already visited, unsystematically, but now I've set myself the minor ambition to use them all. Everyone should have a hobby … results shortly noted below.

7 July
Berlaar, starting from the bus-stop end after an enjoyable if unproductive walk from Deinze. Strolling on from the St-Maartens Latem end was a revelation: so much space, fresh air, peace and quiet in cramped and crowded Flanders!
30 July
Sint-Donaes, after a long but enjoyable walk from Damme. After lunch in Sluis and a bus back to Brugge, decided against stopping off in Ghent to try for the car-ferries in the docks.
7 August
Three in one day! Across the Meuse at Waulcourt, with the ferryman deftly using a wíd'jèt to hook up the cable from the river bed, then a short stroll to cross back via the weir and lock and head upstream to Yvoir for lunch on an eyot. Train to Jambes, to finish the day on the Namourette: a serious way of getting about Namur, but also delightfully frivolous.
24 August
Only two, but a long ride on the kusttram in between … also a bit of a walk in Ostend, but worth it to avoid cheating with a there-and-back. Had to make an exception for the enjoyable small ferry in Nieuwpoort, where catching a ferry is the alternative to a five-mile loop on foot.
31 August
Special treat – Chris came with me! Smallest vessel so far, just a rowing-boat to cross the Meuse at Profondeville. And yes, having got that far I did insist on giving the Namourette a second try. Still frivolous, still delightful.
23 September
What a difference river can make… on one side, the comfortably lived-in scruffiness of Belgium, on the other the Netherlands. Chocolate-box in Eijsden, nesting-box in Maastricht where reactionary tendencies like place names have been replaced by district numbers. Never been so glad to see a De Lijn bus before!
19 October
Two ferries downstream from Ghent, and a bus between the two of them would have been even more welcome than the Maastricht - Tongeren service. But then it would have had to be a Wednesday. Two hard-working, unbeautiful ferries over a busy canal, a necessary (and welcome) part of the transport infrastructure.
autumn 2009
What I should have done last time, if I'd planned more carefully – took Molewheel (my trusty bicycle) to save me walking my legs off to the knees, and managed to notch up Hoboken - Kruibeke, Bazel - Hemiksem and Wintam - Schelle all in one day. Missed one I'd had in mind by not realising it had already shut down for the winter, but had a great day out and graciously accepted the necessary bridge from Buitenland to Temse.

2010 update

7 June 2010
So much pleasure in a single day! after a lengthy bus-journey from Antwerp Berchem to Boom and a brisk walk through the rain, I was able to use the Boom - Klein Willebroek ferry to cross the Ruppel and reach ... the Harmonium Museum.
The ferry replaces a toll-bridge for pedestrians, blown up by the retreating Germans in 1945. There used to be a plaque at the Klein Willebroek end mentioning my first godchild's grandfather: major John Dunlop was the commander of the Allied troop that successfully crossed the Ruppel here.
28 June 2010
More than I'd bargained for – what I'd though would be an alternative route to the Harmonium Museum netting me one more ferry turned out to involve three. Worth it, of course, not just for the Rupelmonde ferry but also for ending up cycling through … Niel.

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