By lunchtime on 16th Sept we had left the Somme behind & were on the Canal du Nord, playing with the big boys and the big locks once again. Bit of a culture shock after the genteel Somme.
Somehow we just kept on going. Each time we thought about stopping things would go in our favour, so carried on cruising. We reached the Ruyaulcourt tunnel (4354m long) at about 5pm and were in the process of tying up when the lights at the entrance turned green. So we decided to go through since the commercial traffic appeared to have quietened down. I was dreading having to stop at the layby in the middle of the tunnel for traffic coming in the opposite direction. Didn’t fancy that at all! particularly as we had been told that one boat, which wasn’t properly tied up, had been ‘sucked out’ by a passing commercial barge. As we approached the lay-by the red light was on, so we were preparing to pull over & tie up to wait. But then, like magic, it turned to green and we were able to carry on through all on our ownio! Phew!! Good timing as there were very few commercials moving at this time.
It was well after 6pm when we moored up outside the first lock the other side. When we stopped the engine wouldn’t turn off! Had to find the lever on the engine and do it manually! Sure ain’t our year this year!
The commercial traffic started again around 6.30am the next day which is when the locks on the Canal dui Nord are open! We set off just after 9am and were doing well until we got to the 4th lock and heard on the VHF radio that there was a ‘micro chaumage’ (small strike) and we had to wait a bit behind an old peniche. We locked down with him for a few locks and his engine fumes were awful! Reminded me of the Nivernais Canal on Misty Morning with Nadine and Margaret where an eclusier presented us with a flower to smell instead of a French boat’s exhaust! But I digress…….
We took a rest at Marquion, to get away from him and to hook up a temporary fix for the engine stop mechanism. Then we pressed onwards hoping to reach Courrieres for the night. Unfortunately I had somewhat miscalculated (ie missed one page in the book) and it began to get darker and darker ……. and Courrieres didn’t seem to be getting any closer! We eventually turned off the main channel just before 9pm. We came in very carefully, remembering there is some sort of floating platform for wildlife just before the mooring. We came in by torchlight! ie me on the bow holding a mega beam torch so that Adrian could manoeuver around it. Just about a 12 hour day!
No sooner had we tied up than we were off to the family run kebab restaurant we had been to with Chris Fryat earlier this year. The owner came round to shake our hands and made us most welcome. As were the beers and kebabs and chips! Lisa commented that this is not usually my style but on this occasion it really was delicious!
The mooring at Courrieres is very pretty –
– this was the view from the galley window in the morning!
We were off again around 9am on the 18th Sept and had a much less stressful 5 hour run down to Wambrechies. Except for the lock at Don; where we had to wait along with several big boys, but couldn’t find anywhere to tie up. Well, we were heading to some bollards when a very large commercial came behind us and tooted for us to get out of his way. Oooh! he had a loud hooter! So we headed back across to the other side and tied against a sign because we couldn’t find any bollards. A VNF geezer came hurtling down in his little whgite van to tell us we shouldn’t tie to the sign and we explained our problem. He noted that the bollards there were hidden under vegetation and took photos so that he could get them sorted. Then we followed one of the big guys into the lock and carried on again!
I was amused to see that the commercial had a car on the back – it’s number plate being the boat’s name! Often see tenders and life rings with the boat’s name but never seen a car with matching number plate before!
Another thing that made us smile was the bridge we passed with ‘Je t’aime’ graffitied up on high! How the devil did they get up there to write it? Adrian thought it was clever not to have included any name!