Belgium’s Canals and Rivers
By Scott Williams
Photos by Stephanie Milligan and Mark Sirett
Our marina in Bruges, steps away from
the historic centre and much more conven-
ient than if we had arrived by car.
“Who wants to go first?”
I do, so up I step up to the controls of
our 34 ft. Le Boat cabin cruiser. A few
minutes earlier, my two friends and I had
been eyeing the cruiser eagerly and a
touch anxiously from the safety of dry
land. It’s our new home for the next week.
In the interests of full disclosure, I’m
not a boater. Not from lack of interest,
just lack of opportunity. But here was
opportunity staring me in the face, in all
its brilliant white expansiveness.
Gwen, a tanned, laid-back Belgian
who shows newcomers the ropes, has
already helped us stow our belongings, as
well as three rental bikes. Next, he
showed us the safety features, and took
us on a tour of the boat: a spacious salon
and galley, two cabins, two heads, and
two sets of controls — one on the sun
deck, where we are now standing.
Looking beyond the controls, I see a bow
that extends all the way into tomorrow.
We arrived at the Le Boat marina about
45 minutes earlier, our car full of suitcases and provisions, including single malt
scotch and wine. The marina is just outside of Nieuwpoort, Belgium, a North Sea
fishing community fast becoming a sailer’s haven. The Nieuwpoort Euromarina,
a kilometer away, is Europe’s largest, offering 2,000 berths.
Belgium’s North Sea coast is little
known among North Americans. Just
across the water from England, the coast
comprises 67 kilometres of pristine, tide-
washed beaches. Between Belgium’s
southern border with France and the
northern border with the Netherlands are
14 waterfront communities, each with a
different sensibility, all featuring board-
walks lined with outdoor cafés, restau-
rants and shops.