We had a pleasant stopover in Vandenesse. Even used the car to visit Chateauneuf for an afternoon on Friday. I visited this hilltop, fortified village in 2010 with Frankie and Greg. A beautiful spot with an interesting little chateau with rooms in both mediaeval and 18th century periods. The chapel has a replica of the tomb of Phillippe Pot (owned chateau in 16th century) with ‘pleureurs’ (weepers, mourners) surrounding him. The original is now in the Louvre.
But the spectre of the Pouilly tunnel loomed large – and low and narrow – especially after our NZ mates rang to say they had gone through pretty quickly, just had a problem with the captain wearing the wrong glasses when entering the tunnel ie going from light +++ to dark+++ in sunglasses! Especially as most of the roof lighting in the tunnel is out at present. They expressed concern for us and how we would manage…….
So Adrian took as exact measurements of the height and width of the boat and transcribed this onto the VNF diagram of the tunnel dimensions in the map book. Not good, not good at all – very very little leeway.
Our problem is the fixed side rails on the upper deck, which are widely placed. The arched roof of the tunnel means that we would have to maintain a very central line, with little room for sideways veering. And we have discovered that Piedaleau has a strong predilection to veering, and usually at the most inappropriate moment.
So we took a drive up to the lock office beside the tunnel entrance and talked to a very nice young man. We were immensely relieved to learn that the current water level was below that represented in the map book. This gave us about an extra 30 cms! This is definitely a time when centimeters matter!
So we went back to the boat, took everything down that we possibly could and wound rope around the rails to provide some protection from scraping the walls.
Saturday morning arrived, complete with rain – which we didn’t need in case it caused the water level to rise again.
We set off at 9am and worked up the flight of 9 locks in record time – 2 eclusiers throughout to speed things up – and were then told to go straight into the tunnel! At the last lock they checked us in, gave us a document for our passage, a radio in case of emergency and checked we had lights and were wearing life jackets. No more time to dilly or dally, we were orf!
So, in we went …… tentatively! Just as well we had been warned about the lights being out. I was standing at the side of the wheelhouse pointing an extra light at the centre of the roof to help Adrian steer through.
Then the lights came on and I was able to go up top and watch both sides to try and ‘advise’ about veering off course.
Apparently there are cameras in the tunnel so that they can watch the progress of boats.
So, no doubt there will be some stories told tonight of a mad Englishwoman, standing on top of her boat, brandishing a broom, at times seeming to sweep the roof ( I have some bits of stalactites from the roof to prove it!) and yelling like a banshee!! Need I say more?
Anyway it took us about 2 hours in total from the last lock to arriving at Pouilly, a distance of about 4 kms! I did it in about an hour in Misty Morning in 2010.
Adrian was all but a quivering wreck and I was hoarse and knackered!
I would like to be able to say that Piedaleau was unscathed but, unfortunately, she has sustained some damage to those rails – look a bit on the piss now! But we made it! Maybe we need collapsible rails?
But I don’t fancy doing that again ………. ever!
We stayed one night in Pouilly en Auxois – the only boat in the large basin. We shopped and treated ourselves to dinner at a restaurant to recover from the stress of the tunnel!
The passenger day boat that I remember from 5 years ago was still there but it didn’t disturb us at all. No passengers this year calling to me that my washing would dry well in the wind.