Our Travel Map

    As we said before, our original plans had been just to cruise through the rivers and canals of France, but whilst moored alongside at the marina in Dunkirk, we met a lovely Belgium couple who explained that we were very close to the border with Belgium and perhaps while we were so far north, we should take the opportunity to explore Belgium.

    We so discovered to our amazement that it wasn’t just France that had inland waterways, in fact most of the rivers in Europe are connected and then sometimes interconnected by man-made canals.  This was the way that goods and produce were transported prior to the invention of trains and trucks.  This water network allows you to travel just about anywhere in Western Europe.  If you need to go up in altitude to visit an area, then you pass through a series of locks to gain that altitude and the same if you want to come back down again.

    Well, that first season we absolutely fell in love with beautiful Belgium.  The people, the history, the chocolate, and the advocaat (a locally made spirit drink served with coffee at most cafes) was an incredible introduction to cruising in Europe.

    In early October we left MV Sunshine Coast at a marina in Antwerp for the winter and did some lectures aboard cruise ships but also pet-sits in wonderful locations in England as well as three months in Cyprus.

    When we returned to Antwerp to pick up our boat in April 2018, we were told that The Netherlands was a boating paradise.  There are more boats (and bicycles) per head of population in The Netherlands than anywhere else in the world, and the infrastructure for boating there is incredible.  The country is stunning, the people extremely friendly and the boating is very easy.

    We left Antwerp with the intention of cruising all the way through to Berlin.  To do that we were going to have to tackle the mighty Rhine River and we didn’t want to travel against the current on the Rhine.  This meant travelling far enough south along other rivers and canals to reach the Rhine and travel with the tide to the Mittelland Canal, which takes you all the way through to Berlin.

    From Antwerp we travelled east across Belgium and into the Netherlands before heading south and into Belgium again before entering France.  We spent a month in beautiful France before cruising along the incredibly beautiful Moselle River.  One morning we were in France and entered a lock, but when we drove out of the lock a few minutes later, the left bank of the river was Luxemburg and the other side Germany.  For a couple of Australians, three countries in 20 minutes is pretty bizarre.

    Germany with its incredible history was great and while in Berlin we had our first ever guests come and stay with us, hopefully we get many more visitors in the future.

    We put Sunshine Coast in hibernation inside a shed at a marina in the city of Meppen, Germany which is close to the Dutch border, expecting to be back in six months.

    Our Travels So Far

    When we first arrived in Southampton, UK in early May 2017 to pick up the boat, Geoff was concerned that Leanne, who had only seen photos and video at that stage, would think that her new home was too small, but upon seeing it, Leanne was worried that it was too big for just the two of us to handle.  Certainly, neither of us had ever driven a boat of this size.

    We both now admit that initially we were well out of our depth.  Our plan was to travel from Southampton to London and stay there for a month because a friend had organised for us to be volunteers at Wimbledon.  We were suddenly on a schedule.  It didn’t help that to get from Southampton to London, we had to cruise along the coastline of the infamous English Channel.

    We enjoyed a lot of luck along the way including perfect weather conditions in the Channel as we did day trips from port to port, marina to marina.  We weren’t confident in berthing the boat at this stage, so we would call ahead to each marina and ask them to assist us.

    By the time we reached the Thames however we were much more competent, and it was very surreal as we passed the incredible landmarks of London including the flood barrier, Greenwich where time begins, passing under Tower Bridge, London Bridge and all the other bridges along the way, past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament all the way up to Chelsea Harbour Marina and home for the next month.

    After many incredible experiences in London, we headed back down the River Thames for the adventure of actually crossing the English Channel.  Again, we had heard many horror stories about vessels that succumbed to the fury of the Channel, so once we had a minor weather window, Leanne’s instructions were “full speed”.  Just over two hours later we arrived in the beautiful and historic French city of Dunkirk.

    We should mention at this point that during our first two seasons we spent about 50% of our nights berthed in marinas, which are abundant, but the other 50% we spent on free moorings within cities and towns along the rivers and canals.  These places welcome you and want you to stop and spend time (and money) in their cities.  Marinas along this network though are cheap compared to Australia.  In Australia it’s not uncommon to pay $80 per night for a berth, however, in Europe the most we paid was between 1 and 1.5 euro per metre, per night or about $12 – $18 Australian dollars.

    At the end of our second season, we again left our boat at a marina in Antwerp for the winter months and returned to Cyprus for another three-month pet-sit before embarking on two sections (of five) of a World Cruise with the wonderful Viking Ocean Cruise Line. We crossed the Pacific from Chile to Sydney visiting incredible places like Robinson Crusoe Island, Tahiti, Bora Bora and multiple ports in New Zealand.  From Sydney we then travelled to some beautiful Australian cities before crossing the Indian Ocean with multiple stops before arriving in South Africa.

    After taking a “holiday”, hiring a car, and driving down the Garden route on the east coast of South Africa we returned to Antwerp.  We’d been told that Germany has some great cruising, so we thought – why not!

    We did lecturing on one cruise to the Baltic capitals and another through the Western Mediterranean, some more pet-sits before a Viking cruise from Lisbon to Miami.  We headed home via Hawaii (spending time with friends we’d met along our journey) and then onto another cruise to Bali.  We were on another cruise from Sydney to Hong Kong when the world started to close down due to Covid 19.We joined another ship where we were scheduled for a 12-day cruise from Fremantle, Western Australia, through the Suez Canal to Malta, but once again plans changed when the ship was recalled to its home port of Southampton, UK.  Instead of 12 days, we did 35 days back to England before being flown home to Queensland.

    Covid has impacted everyone, everywhere.  For us it meant that we weren’t able to travel overseas, but we’ve been luckier than most.  We purchased another boat, a 13-metre Carver motor yacht named Compass Gypsea and cruised the East Coast of Australia spending quality time with family and great friends.

    In early 2022, we came to the understanding that overseas travel was going to be possible again, so we sold Compass Gypsea and booked our flights to go back to pick up our boat in Germany.

    We’re looking forward to resuming our Retired Afloat motto or Travel, Adventure, Lifestyle and we hope you will join us along the way.

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