Huge ocean-going container ship passing Serenity Barge while we were in dry dock

Every 5 years or so Serenity needs a hull inspection and her European Technical Compliance Certificate (TRIWV) renewed.  At 125 tons we are too heavy for most cranes which means a trip to a dry dock – so we booked a slot with Scheepswerf De Klerk in the the south of Holland.   

Yes there are plenty of suitable dry docks in France but we’re going to see Jan who originally converted Serenity from a cargo barge back in 2002 and has continued to do work on her ever since.   He’s the man we call when we can’t figure out where a pipe goes or can’t remember exactly what fuel filter our 1940’s engine needs!  As well as getting the hull inspection done there are a few other bits of engineering work we want to get completed so he is organising all of this over the winter break.

Sunset as water empties from the floating dry dock

The dry-dock at De Klerk is a floating dry dock – basically a giant steel container in the harbour.  After you sail in the back gate is closed, a bit like in a lock.  They then slowly drain the water out of the dock, gently dropping the ship down onto small support platforms called stools – eventually all the water is gone and we’re left sitting high and dry about 1m off the bottom.

Inspecting the rudder and propeller of the barge in dry dock
The barge is held up on struts to allow access underneath the flat hull in dry dock

And this shipyard is on the Schelde estuary where the river is over 5km wide, so it feels like you are looking out over the ocean.   Actually the estuary is the only route into Antwerp (the busiest cargo port in Europe!) so there was plenty of passing traffic to keep us entertained. 

We were very grateful to our local pilot Marc for taking Serenity safely to and from the shipyard, as being dwarfed by the 150,000+ tonnes container ships passing close to us at speeds of up to 25kph was very intimidating.  Although with her completely flat bottom Serenity is not designed for open water sailing, the boat handled it like a pro – definitely an experience!

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Serenity barge cruising along he tree lined canal