Watery Ways is about how she came to live on an old barge and then go on to buy her own. I didn't really know what to expect of the book, and in many ways it resembles a blog, being a diary record of her life since arriving in Rotterdam and joining the community of boaters in the Oude Haven. To me it sounds like Oude Heaven. A collection of lovely old boats all being lovingly restored. I have have often thought that if ever I chose to live on a boat, I would like it to be a Dutch barge. Not one of those English contraptions they call Dutch barges, but a proper one. All those lovely sweeping curves.
According to Val, they don't let just any old boat moor in the Oude Haven, you have to have it approved by what seems like a board of elders. It doesn't have to be posh, just historic, authentic, and in the process of restoration. She also demonstrates that unless you have got loadsamoney, you need to roll up your sleeves and put in some hard graft if you want to turn one of these beauties into a comfy home.
Val's description of her early days settling in the community is written with a fresh eye and so picks out much of what we boaters in the UK discover when we first take up boating, particularly the ease with which you can find people willing to help you out of a problem. Nevertheless the obligatory disasters are all there, and told with good humour, from falling in to having a nasty allergic reaction to bitumen.
When the book moves on to trips out, I began to wish Val had included some maps to show where she was going. Then I realised I had Google maps and it didn't take long to get the picture. Until I looked at the maps I didn't fully appreciate the fantastic network of waterways they have in the Low Countries, and the diversity of them. I found it quite an eye opener.
Lastly, when Val moves on to her search for a boat of her own, it rang a great many bells with me. The search for the right boat is often frustrating and the emotional experience of finding it is something you don't forget. I found myself turning the pages longing for the right one to appear. When it did, it sounded (quite literally) lovely because it an had an old one pot engine. Who cares if it took twenty minutes to start each time.
In summary, I enjoyed this book more as I got deeper into it. It offers a glimpse into a boating community which is quite different from ours yet with so many things with which we can identify. Read it and I'm sure that like me you will want to learn more about waterways and boats across the North Sea.
Thank you Val.