The weed in the last stretches of the Somme was horrendous! Thank goodness Piedaleau is keel cooled and doesn’t rely on water cooling and weed filters. Heard that some boaters are having to stop to clear their filters every hour or so. We saw one lady leaning over the back of her boat to free weed from the propeller as it was moving. Not my idea of fun! Adrian does a bit of a reverse thrust to clear the prop and it is amazing how we see our speed return to normal after having gradually slowed down!
The weed means, however, that we cannot use the bow thruster – it would get blocked – therefore we have to manoeuvre very slowly and carefully. This can be fun eg going in / out of locks or through lifting bridges where road users are waiting. Adrian’s getting good at ignoring any comments from others and just going carefully. We had a few comments from this family cycling group, grandpa was a little impatient – Adrian just replied that he didn’t want to hit the bridge and break it!
We were pleased to hear that the Somme river authority was starting work at Feuilléres on Monday morning although they could hamper our leaving. Apparently up here they only cut a swathe in the middle for a channel for the boats, but leave the sides alone. Hence the weed regenerates very quickly but it is too expensive to do more, such as we saw at Corbie. Seems a bit daft to us that the Somme, which is separate from the VNF (Voies Navigables de France) do not charge boats to use the waterway. Surely if they did they would have money to spend on this problem. It is what it is!
Anyway, we were up early on Monday ready for a 9am start – the éclusier arrived on time and came to speak to us but knew nothing of the weed cutting works and had to ring control to make sure we would be able to get past the machines. All went well, we came out of the last lock and the water was then virtually clear of the dreaded weed.
We turned onto the Canal du Nord to the first of 5 locks going up. Came behind a 38m commercial barge and another pleasure boat. This convoy went up the locks and then after about a half hour wait we went straight through the Ruyaulcourt tunnel. No worries! Elke on Aquamarin, the boat in front, did a little jig as they exited …. so I responded in kind. New best friends! We had also taken photos of each others’ boats and the tunnel so I can include pictures of Aquamarin & Piedaleau in the tunnel and emerging back into the sunshine. You can perhaps see why we did that jig!
A further 7 kms along the top bief and we moored at Grainecourt-lès-Havrincourt as we did on the way to the Somme. Aquamarin came in to moor behind us and so we shared a beer together. Elke & Uwe are also heading to Valenciennes for a few days in order to change ‘crew’ (Elke has to return home for work) so we decided to cruise together. Another cruiser, Water Weazel, came in to moor for the night and apparently they are also heading to Valenciennes – they leave their boat there for the winter – and so we became a convoy of three bateaux de plaisance heading for Valenciennes!
27kms; 6 locks, 2 bridges and the tunnel
Tuesday morning we all headed off together, now going down in the locks. These are all quite deep – around 6.5m – but don’t have rising bollards. We devised a nifty gadget called the ‘kling-on’. Basically I tied rope to the canal side hooks which Mary presented me with on Misty Morning quite a few years ago. They worked a treat making it much easier to move the attachment down or up as the locks empties or fills!
At one lock we came in behind another pleasure boat – I took an instant dislike! Going off at a rate of knots, drinking, smoking, snogging ……. get a cabin I cried! Anyway we were stuck behind them for a few locks. At one point all the pleasure boats were waved ahead to overtake a slow moving commercial – not a frequent occurance for us. But then we all had to wait for the commercial to catch up and go into the next lock first.
We turned off the Canal du Nord and onto the Canal de la Sensée. We returned to the same mooring as we had used on our way down but the water level was too low for the other 2 boats. They went on a further 7kms and actually had a much easier place to moor. Must remember that mooring for future reference.
20 kms 7 locks
Then on Wednesday we set off for the last day’s cruising along the Sensée and then a few locks down the Escaut, to get back to Valenciennes. Lots of people, walking, running, cycling wave as we pass which is always fun. The best is waving at kids and getting them to wave back. Had great fun with this crocodile of littlies and their teachers!
We got back to Valenciennes by mid afternoon and shared a beer with Elke and Uwe again.
35 kms 3 locks
On thursday we had shopping to do and so they joined us on a trip to Auchun – a huge supermarket a few kms away. We only just managed to get the 4 of us and all our shopping in the car for the drive back! We were then invited to their boat for apéritifs – turned into another of those ‘apéro dînatoire’! Great fun but I was a little challenged next morning!
We spent all day on Friday giving the boat a thorough cleaning both inside and out!
Unfortunately Elke left on Saturday and Mikhail joined Uwe for the next stage of his voyage home to Herne in Germany. They seem to have had to make quite few changes to their route because various canals have been closed for various reasons. Uwe still hs quite a way to go! We had dinner together at a Greek restaurant in town on Sunday evening and waved them a fond farewell on Monday morning!
I thought I would give you some statistics of this month’s trip to the Somme:
In total we did 70 engine hours; 304 kms; went up or down 68 locks / lifting bridges and through the tunnel twice!
On the Somme – 140 kms (70kms each way) and 32 locks
It took 3 quite long days each way to / from the Somme. We were on the Somme for 26 slow days – quite different cruising!
So we are now about to return home for August but will be back at the beginning of Sept for another couple of months -got to make the most of that infamous visa!