We have been making steady progress along the Canal du Centre, trying to stop at different places as we have been along this way several times before. We stopped a couple of nights at Blanzy, just outside Montceau les Mines, and at Palinges, just past Genelard. Just makes a change to moor somewhere different.
We locked through with some English hirers who have been narrow boaters previously in the UK. Their rental boat was changed several times because of the situation re the waterways here – they were supposed to be on the Canal du Nivernais, then it was changed to the river Saone and finally to the Canal du Centre! Apparently this is not uncommon this year because of the weather and the situation on the waterways. Since there were 8 of them they took it in turns to walk between locks; one of their number is a volunteer lock keeper in the UK we had very experienced lockside assistance in the 5m deep locks. Useful! They had been eyeing up me mint for their Pimms so I gave them a little bag full as a thank you.
Another boat we encountered, with an Australian crew, were also fun & we certainly had a couple of excitements when locking through with them. In one lock, the rain having started in earnest, a major storm hit right above our heads! Lightning, thunder and torrential rain – a group of cyclists took shelter in the woodshed behind the lock house and saw the lightning strike the cables to the lock. Needless to say the lock mechanism was put out of action and we had to wait for the lock keeper before we could get out of the lock. I did not enjoy that at all – soaked but glad I had rubber soled shoes on!
Sometime later, near Genelard, as we approached a lock, we saw & heard a group of young people in an open day boat come towards us from the lock. The lock lights which had been at red, turned green and then back to red just as Adrian started to line the boat up. It is absolutely ‘forbidden’ to enter a lock unless the green light is showing so we pulled over and waited. Adrian nipped up to see what was happening, was a boat was coming in the opposite direction? & then a rather cross eclusier appeared to reset the lock. As we started towards it that little day boat came past us yelling that the lock was opening ready for them! I was ‘not amused’ but the lock keeper did not let them in, he made them wait! He told us that they were staying at the gite (in the converted lock house) and that there were a couple of day boats attached to it. But instead of contacting VNF to use the lock this group had gained access to the control room at the lock (he hadn’t locked the door properly) & had played around with the controls until they set the lock going. The had stolen our ‘basinet’, our lock! He was far from happy and concerned about the safety of them all.
This caused us over half an hour’s delay quite late in the day and he offered to take Adrian back to pick the car up as he didn’t live very far from Blanzy where we’d left it. So he went on and was waiting for us at Palinges to drive Adrian the 20 kms back to the car.
Then onwards to Digoin on Monday where we met up with Muzz and Gail on ‘Saison Estivale’. Absolutely great to catch up, share a couple of bottles of Cremant de Bourgogne and go out to dinner together.
They have been lucky – having had to leave their boat in Briare for the winter due to gearbox problems (which the legendary Georges from Canada fixed for them) they left heading south not long before the flooding and canal problems hit that area. They have been plodding along gently, adjusting their plans as they go and as they hear more of the situation, just like us really!
On Tuesday Gail and Muzz were leaving, just pottering up to Paray le Monial, so Adrian and I hitched a ride with them, then Adrian cycled onto to Palinges to collect the car and came back to pick me up. What a delightful day that made for us all! Adrian was amazed at how easily Saison Estivale seemed to manouevre – Muzz could turn around and hold a conversation with someone behind without the boat veering off all over the place – most jealous!
We had a leisurely lunch on board & Gail and I did some tourist-type visiting of the Basilica and the Chappel of the Monastrey of the Visitation. Both beautiful & always worthy of revisiting.
When we got back to the boat at Digoin we found that Waimanu with Tony & Sue and Sue (Tony’s sister) & Tony (his bro-in-law) were moored behind us – where Gail & Muzz had just left! So another pleasant evening catching up. They had been down to visit Roanne and felt much as I did, that it wasn’t really worth the trip down there.
And then on Wednesday Don & Cathy-Jo were due to arrive on ‘Oldtimer’, so we booked in for another night and awaited their arrival. I first met them in 2009 in Digoin with Cathy & Ian Kennedy because Cathy saw their boat ‘Odysseus’ whilst we were having a beer-o’clock moment at a canal side bar. Later that night we heard a peniche coming through after dark and ran up to warn Don to put his lights on!
So, we invited Don, Cathy-Jo & Tony and Sue (their guests had left) for dinner. It was great – each brought something and we shared a delicious 4 course meal. Unfortunately we had to stay inside because of the rain coming and going! The top deck has hardly been used at all so far this year.
This morning ‘Oldtimer’ came alongside & we all said goodbye and headed off on our merry ways.
It took us a little while to get anywhere – we left about 10.30am
- First we had to dodge the local passenger boat returning 50 kids and collecting the next lot. The Captain had his fingers in his ears!
- Then we headed across the aqueduct – the Loire below was looking fuller than I have seen it here before
- Then we had to wait for a peniche to exit the lock before we could go in
- Once in the lock we had to wait for the next boat load of kids to come in behind us
- As we came out of the lock I spotted a Dutch tjalk ‘Hoop Doet Leven’ waiting to come in
- Harvey Shwartz wrote ‘On a Barge in France’ which I mentioned in despatches fairly recently
- I called out ‘did you write a book?’ – it was him – so I said we’d enjoyed both the book and the ‘raw’ milk he had waxed lyrical about!
- And by this time it was almost midday so when we arrived at the next lock we had to wait until after the lunchtime break! Back to eclusiers operating the locks manually and stopping for their lunch hour!
So, all in all, quite an eventful, & thoroughly enjoyable, few days in Digoin……