The Boven-Zeescheldei s a very tidal river between Antwerp and  Gent (Merelbeke)

This is a member's first-time experience, travelling from Gent to Mechelen.

First Leg :

We arrived at Merelbeke Sluis and locked onto the Schelde 1 hour before HW (12.00) as recommended by the lock keepers at Merlebeke. This gave us at least 2 hours of slack water. We were lucky to have no commercials with us so we were able to take it easy and in our own time. AIS is great for seeing traffic on the tight bends of the river because you can speed up or slow down to make sure you do not get blue-boarded by the big commercials on the bends. We averaged 6-7 kt during the slack water period. Once the tide turned we started to get flushed and our speed averaged 8-9 kt. We were passed by a couple of commercials who were traveling at 12-16 kts. It is good to move over slow down and let them pass because they have big bow waves when they are carrying a full cargo. Again AIS is good for seeing what they are doing. Did not get any traffic on VHF from the commercials as they see you on AIS and seem to use this. We made good time and locked out at Dendermode Sluis  after 3 1/2 hours (15.30). This lock does not have any tidal restrictions so can be accessed at any tide height.

Once  through the lock we were recommended to travel a further 2km to find a wooden pontoon on the port side which is away from the commercial traffic. There are no facilities on this pontoon. However, it is a good place to walk/cycle in to the town. We found a great South African BBQ restaurant in the town which we highly recommend.

Second leg:

We locked out of Demdermonde 1 1/2 hours before high tide (11:30) as we needed the extra time to make our final lock at Zennegat. Our initial speed against the tide averaged 4-5 kt until the tide turned and we were averaging 7-8 kt.

Again we had little commercial traffic and what we met was very good at giving us space. Again beware of wash from the fast moving full commercials they can cause quite a big suction when you pass them. I made sure I was watching AIS again to make sure we did not meet any big traffic on tight bends. We intended to make our run to Mechelen Zennegat Sluis in one go. I knew it would be tight as we had to run against the tide when entering the river Rupel and the lock at Zennegat has a tidal restriction of +-0330HW Mechelen which is +-0130HW Antwerp.

We made our turn into the Rupel an hour before the last time we could access the ZennegatSluis. Our speed dropped to 2-3 knts against the tide and at this point we thought we would not make the lock in time. We had to open the throttles and go for it making it just in time for the lock.

This proved to be a very stressful experience as there was only one cleat to moor to outside the lock gates. When the gates were opened to empty the lock we were hit by a wall of water and had to hold the boat on our engine, bouncing on and off the wall. I would not recommend this to anyone. What we should have done was lock out of the Shelde at Rupelmode and stayed overnight doing the Dijle the next day.

[ Ed.  If the tide timing is right, the ideal is to use the ebb to descend the Boven-Zeeschelde and the flood (LW Antwerp+1) up the Dijle.  If, as here the tide does not allow that, there are pontoons a little up the Rupel (RB) and further up at Boom.  An alternative is to enter the Brussels-Zeeschelde canal through Wintam lock and provceed to the moorings at Kleine-Willebroek, then lock out at K-W to take the flood up the Dijle (or the Beneden Nete toward Lier). 

We stayed at the Yatchhaven Coloma on the Leuven canal which was a further 2 hours with a couple of locks and several swinging bridges later. Mooring is against the wall of the canal by a very busy road. The canal is commercial so you get a lot of big barges coming past at high speed which bounces you off the wall. 

Third Leg

{From Coloma to the quieter Mechelen city harbour]

We locked out at ZennegatSluis on HW [turning to starboard to continue up the Dijle] and had a gentle run to Mechelen Sluis which is also tidal. Once through the lock you are in what was once a big commercial basin. We then turned and reversed into the DYC Mechelen harbour. All this took a couple of hours and was very calm and pleasant.

All in all if you plan the tides and do not get ambitious about your distance this can be a very calm and unstressful trip.

I hope this is useful

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