Onwards….

After Clamecy we headed to Chatel Censoir, arriving fairly late and Adrian having to do a rather difficult stern mooring after a rather hectic & hot day. Initially we were on our own but then we were joined by the hire-boat-family-from-hell! We think they were Austrian.
Basically the guy at the helm didn’t like being behind us because we slow down to go through low, narrow bridges and to go into the locks. He kept hooting at us and when I went to see what the matter was he indicated his watch and motioned for us to move aside. Perhaps that would work with cars on a motorway but not with boats on a narrow canal with frequent obstacles to negotiate ie those locks and bridges. There wasn’t really room for him to overtake &, even if he did, he would have to wait for us at the next lock because the eclusier would not work the lock twice when 2 boats could fit in together. So we carried on regardless. He followed us into Chatel Censoir but did not want to moor properly, just kept demanding where the showers were. All 6 people aboard then used the showers, he refused to pay the 11 euro mooring charge, they all returned to the boat & left! But at least they had gone!
The next day we locked through with a delightful English family on a hire boat who were going even slower than us!
Talk about chalk & cheese!

We stopped at Mailly le Chateau – a beautiful rural mooring which we enjoyed last year. But we didn’t get to sleep on the top deck this time because after Adrian had collected the car we drove off to meet Martin, Jacqui on Akaroa & Tony, Sue on Waimanu at Vermenton for the evening. It was so hot that we all went for a swim at the ‘beach’ before dinner.
We stayed over on Wainmanu and then went back to Piedaleau and got away promptly in order not to get held up by the hotel peniche that was due to leave after lunch.
On our way past the Vermenton canal we were hailed in the lock by the 4 kiwis on their bikes – they had been off to catch fish at the trout farm. They had caught several before they realised that they had to buy their catch. We were presented with a huge, very delicious trout!

During that evening we discovered that it was soon to be Martin’s birthday (fri) and then Tony’s birthday (tues) and of course I had already had mine. So we planned a 3-way celebration on Friday. We arrived in Auxerre on Thurs & then we drove back to Vermenton for the birthday bash! And a very fine joint birthday bash it was, complete with Champagne, Cremant, a gorgeous cake & a chocolate escargot for the birthday boy!

Back to the boat in Auxerre on Saturday morning, checked the boat, parked the car up (so that we could progress faster as we have decided we could get to Port aux Cerises in time to meet up with Lea and then Lisa) and we were off onto the river Yonne. This is a wide river in comparison to the canals we have been on, with wooded hillside all around. Harvest time has arrived so we saw combine harvesters at work and bright fields of sunflowers.

We aimed to moor at Laroche St Cydroine (just past Migennes) but were nearly thwarted by a hire boat coming in the opposite direction which started to aim for the same pontoon. No more ‘Mr Nice guy’ Adrian went for it and beat him to the mooring!

Onwards early next morning to Sens. We had time to walk up into the Cathedral Square for a bit of culture – Birmingham festival Choral Society were giving concert in the Cathedrale St Etienne – and a beer in the sunshine in the Cathedrale square. We did 45 kms (only 9 locks) in the day, more distance, less obstacles, so we were clocking it! And we could have the canopy up to protect us from the sun – can’t do that on the canals.

The locks changed from here – some had one sloping side, some 2 sloping sides with a floating pontoon to moor to and then 3 locks with 2 sloping sides but no pontoon to moor to! Quite a learning curve for Piedaleau & Adrian – much more difficult than when I did it with little Misty Morning!

We all survived and then had great difficulty finding a mooring space at Montereau faut Yonne. Eventually a Dutch couple moved forward a little so that we could squeeze in against a wall.
A little later there was a knock on our roof and a lady from the boat behind told us that they had been seriously interested in buying Piedaleau about 2 yrs ago. Asked if we’d changed the name and what she was called previously. They were the bods in Jersey that Larry-the-Lamb kept talking about! He described one as ‘the lady consultant from Jersey’ and used their ‘interest’ to try and force our hand. We joined them for a drink and were given a guided tour of their new boat – Puddle Duck. They commissioned it from new from a boat builder in UK and seemed to have had a hellish time getting what they wanted. Such a shame as it ‘taints’ what should be such a fun and exciting project. Is there ever an easy way to buy a boat? Makes the service and support Tom & I had from Sheerline seem really exceptional.
Anyway they are now here, living on their boat and heading for Roanne for the winter. Good luck!

Tomorrow we join the river Seine…..

You know you’re in the country when….

P1030141 you see cotton reels, coos and tufted vetch!

We moved on from Chtillon en Bazois finally on Tuesday 12th and made our way up to Baye at the top of the Nivernais. Lovely day, beautiful countryside, picturesque mooring overlooking the Etang de Baye, G & T on top deck and then dinner at the little Restaurant de la Marine. Delightful birthday for moi!
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Then on through the tunnels on Weds and down the pretty valley 16 lock staircase on Wednesday to moor ‘au rural’ at Sardy les Epiry  before continuing the next day to Chitry les Mines near Corbigny. We were a little surprised at being able to do this as we expected the locks to be closed for the 14th, Bastille day. But no we were told that this does not apply on the Nivernais!

This whole section is lovely and the locks are ‘manned’ by a series of temporary eclusiers and eclusieres – holiday jobs for students, and those out of work, through the summer. There are apparently something like 500 applicants for the 50 summer jobs available so they are only given one month’s work each. In that month they have to work 16 x 9 hr days and earn something like 1200 euros for the month. We met and chatted with some lovely young people who all seemed keen to work the locks and talk to the boaters. Not much evidence of the ‘lock keepers walk’ (slow slow and slow again) around the lock with these guys!

One lass was working alongside her dad and told us that they lived in one of the lockside houses along the staircase. Rural & isolated but very beautiful surrounded by wooded hillside. She said it was a bit ‘Shining’ in the winter when the trees are bare, the canal empty and no one passes by. Think it probably would be…

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At another lock we had a student who was being helped by his grandfather and grandmother and then also by his cousin. He had 3 locks to deal with, several boats pretty much at the same time and the other student had gone off sick. So they made it into a family affair!

At Chitry we met John and Sue on Blue Moon and shared a drink or two – Laddie their collie insisted on joining us all and on having a quick scout through the boat. We discovered that they live very close to Lisa in Lincoln! In fact in a place I once considered moving to after Tom died. I have walked around the area and drive past it to Lisa’s school when I collect her from work sometimes. Coincidences again!

Then onwards to Tannay and then to Clamecy for a couple of nights so that I could rest the ol’ back for a day and catch up with the washing. As last year, we were moored opposite the hotel boat ‘Luciole’ that was collecting new guests. So we went and checked their schedule before trying to set off today. Needless to say they were leaving at 9am so therefore no point in us setting out much before 11am as we would just get held up behind them all through the day. ‘No point in getting old if you don’t get wise’, as me ol dad would say.

Interestingly a private barge had arrived late last night and moored in the mouth of the lock waiting to come up but then decided this morning that they didn’t want to come through first thing. They had to back up and presented the hotel boat with a bit of a tight squeeze to get out of the lock. As I sit here writing this I see that another hotel boat has arrived and is locking down and there are 3 kiddie holiday boats and two hire boats also waiting. We may not leave til after lunch …….


It is interesting to reflect on the change in Adrian’s handling of Piedaleau from last year to this – so much better – tunnels, low narrow bridges & lifting bridges all undertaken with appropriate skill and little bumping about! I’m now trying to take the helm a little more.

Before I sign off today, I must say how awful the news from Nice – the TV pictures are horrendous, feel so shocked and sorry for all who were there. xxx

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Staying put or treading water…

It is amazing what happens, how things develop of their own accord, when you stop long enough to smell the roses…
We have remained at Chatillon-en-Bazois, allowing my back to recover. Been moored here a fortnight! Unbelievable …. but we have become quite settled and have found some ‘little gems’ to visit.

The first was Hello-Velo. A cafe / chambres d’hote / table d’hote as recommended by both the GP I visited and the local bicycle repair guy. Have to take your hat off to people like Jo and Greg who buy an old barn in the middle of very rural France, set about doing it up and then move here lock, stock & barrel + 4 year old to live their dream of living in France and bringing their son up in the country. Basically they now have 3 chambres d’hotes and a cafe / restaurant serving ‘plats et specialites du conte du Yorkshire’. We went there for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and 7 yr old, Solomon. The lunch menu was built around crumpets – yep crumpets – with different accompaniments. I had ‘le Chevre’ – crumpets with goats cheese and salad. Adrian had ‘le Full Monty’ – basically full English breakfast with crumpets. We liked the description of ‘le Oui ou Non’ which was basically Marmite on crumpets, complete with a french explanation – you either like Marmite or you don’t!

Jo told us about a couple of places nearby and so on Saturday we went to La Grangee for dinner. Another delightful restaurant with a good reputation in a tiny village which would be difficult to find without personal recommendation. Run by a french guy and his Japanese wife, who is the patisserie chef. Again straight forward menu – choice of 2 set menus and a good wine selection. A delightful evening, early birthday dinner for me and shared with some new friends.

More kiwis……
Rosemary and John arrived on Petronella a few days ago. We were both warned to look out for each other by Gail and Muzz. How could we risk Gail’s rath by not going out to dinner together? And we found that we know a lot of people together – mainly kiwis but also Georges and Elizabeth and David! I think we invented a new game – ‘do you know who we know?’ You remember the story of Misty Morning and her alternator (replaced by Georges with tractor alternator) apparently Georges tells that story, just as I do. I wonder if Misty still turns towards the bank on the Thames if she sees cows in the field?
Really shows what a select club this boating in France lark is. In fact Rosemary and John are co-ordinators of the NZ french boaters club! Lovely to extend our network and contacts.

So we all went out to dinner at La Grangee together and then on Sunday we went to the local ‘fete’ at Chatillon, complete with stalls, folk dancing and a salad competition. Jo from Hello-Velo had told me this would be worth attending and sampling, and it certainly was. Salads of all descriptions: basic, fancy, sweet, savoury, spicy, naked (a lettuce straight from the garden) and even one for your pets! There was a ‘TV celebrity chef’, a judging panel, prizes and lots of speeches from one and all, as only the french can do. Then the ‘repas’ with a tray costing 10euros which you could fill with all those delicious salads. And buy a local potter’s ceramic bowl for an extra 5 euros. Lunch saw us all through to the evening!

So we thoroughly enjoyed these last few days. Rosemary and I decided that Muzz and Gail really need to visit Elizabeth at Lechatelet. I rang her with this instruction. Hope they get there as we all think they’ll get on great with Elizabeth and David.

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And then as we waved goodbye to Rosemary and John at the lock we said ‘bonjour’ to a guy returning to his boat with his baguette, ‘Hello are you kiwis?’ he replied! Can’t get away from them!!! After a little natter he asked us to pass his details onto to Rosemary and John re the kiwi french boaters group! I’m even acting as their recruitment secretary now!!!!

Slowly does it….

We are certainly taking our time this year – what with one thing and another!

We left Cercy La Tour and locked up to Pannecot with Tony and Sue on Waimanu. The two boats together made things a little tight in the locks, as they are only 30 metres long on the Nivernais. But we made sure that the lock keepers were aware and that they took things slowly. So far they have!

At Pannecot we took the opportunity to drive up to the spa town of St Honore-les-Bains. Sue has a particular interest in spa towns so was keen to visit. Unfortunately it was Sunday and everything was closed. We had the impression of a once thriving, sedate spa town that is dying on its feet. The once beautiful gardens were untended, the buildings no longer kept up. Even the Casino was sad!

My understanding is that the French health system used to recognize the benefits of ‘a cure’ and would pay for individuals to go to spa towns for assessment, prescription and treatment. No longer, apparently. So towns like St Honore-les-Bains are dying. Interestingly enough we haven’t heard that the same thing is happening further south – Adrian’s friends Rob & Maggie run a very busy gites business in Barbotan-les-Thermes, another spa town- it really was thriving when we were last there.

The spa building itself is neo classical in style and has mosaic tiled entrance all in art nouveau style. But closed. I had a good look through the doors at the floor!
Enticing swimming pool. But closed.
We managed to look around the little chapel at the spa and came across various ‘maison overtes’ – a kind of car boot sale but scattered throughout the town in front of individual houses. At one we saw 13 bidets lined up! Apparently the house had been a small hotel, each room having its own bidet! Wouldn’t fancy emptying that lot every morning!

We had a quiet couple of days at Pannecot in the company of Tony and Sue and an American couple – Don & Sam. We tried the little local restaurant – simple but fine.

Then onwards to Chatillon-en-Bazois. Nice little port with some paid and some free moorings. Both Waimanu and Piedaleau managed to secure free moorings with electricity! Bonus. I have fond memories of Chatillon-en-Bazois and a watercolour painted by Pete Shipley of Misty Morning in front of the chateau. It has pride of place on Piedaleau.

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We had been keeping in touch with Bernadette, Henk, Annie and Tony on the Bernadette. Unfortunately Henk had an accident, came off his bike quite dramatically and cracked a couple of ribs. Then we heard the Tony had had a contretemps with a front locker hatch and gashed his shin badly. A lock keeper’s girlfriend drove him to hospital in Auxerre where he had superb treatment, including 22 stitches. Not good. We had been hoping to meet up with them all so on Tuesday Adrian and I drove to Vermenton to meet them. We stayed at Mark & Alison’s B & B – well known to boaters in the area and good friends of Muzz and Gail. We were made most welcome – quaint, rambling old house with interesting, comfortable rooms. In fact we stayed 2 nights and took Annie and Tony out on Weds and Thurs while Henk and Bernadette tidied, packed and prepared to leave the Bernadette for several weeks.

Tuesday evening we went to the Auberge de l’Esperance (not the Auberge Desperation as per Bernadette’s text – amazing how predictive text can change meaning!). Another local, straightforward restaurant altho we did giggle at their english translation – the chef’s recommendation for the plat du jour promised a ‘heart attack’!
On Wednesday while Henk & Bernadette were slaving away we popped up to visit Chablis. Of course we had a little degustation and bought a few bottles. The lady in the cave was a little snotty at first but soon warmed to us when we spoke in French and assured her that we were anti – brexit. We have been asked several times but I shall not comment further although we are watching the news unfurl with interest.
Learnt that Chablis is only Chardonnay grapes.
We had lunch all together in a little bistrot in Vermenton and then a ‘survivors’ supper’ in the courtyard at the B & B once Henk and Bern had managed to put their cover on the boat.
Thursday saw us take Henk & Bern to the train station at Auxerre and then take a trip to Irancy with Tony & Annie. A nurse at the hospital had told them that they should go to the restaurant – Le Soufflot – at Irancy. Just happens to be one of our favourites, having discovered it last year with Sue and David. So we completed Tony’s prescription and Adrian was delighted to have a bottle of M Mesquin’s wine. Unfortunately we were told that Monsieur had retired and no more bottles were available to buy. His little bottom lip quivered! Then we headed back to Chatillon en Bazois and home to Piedaleau.

A super few days and we were so pleased to catch up with the aussie contingent.

But then things turned a little sour – I developed an infection, then had a horrid reaction to the antibiotics prescribed by GP here. Spent most of Friday, Saturday and Sunday in bed! Managed to watch some tennis though! But then the enforced idleness has caused a recurrence of my hip / back problem. How’s your luck! So we remain in Chatillon for the next few days I think, trying to balance medication for back and keep infection at bay. But loving the tennis!

Amazing what enforced idleness causes – excitement gleaned from watching other boats come into moor and try to link up to the somewhat inadequate free electricity supply – Adrian has become particularly possessive; nicknames are given to other boats eg ‘red arse’, ‘fat man on thin boat’ (narrow boaters, of course) etc. The joys! behind us is a wooden boat which we saw in Chitry last year. It is now floating – it wasn’t then – even though the bilge pump cuts in regularly to keep it so! The German owner was living in a shed / tent behind the Capitainnerie at Chitry but he is now on board with his lady love! She looks quite normal so we cannot understand why she is with him. Yesterday he startled Adrian by suddenly jumping into the water saying that it is too warm here for a German! Takes all sorts I suppose…..

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Birds…..

As many of you may know I have been trying out my Christmas present – new posh camera – this year

I have been trying to photograph some of the wildlife we see along the way.
I managed to catch the heron catching a fish while we were waiting to get onto the Canal du Centre at Fragnes.
I have been trying to identify and photograph the raptors we see soaring above us. I spent ages out on deck this morning watching quite a display by black kites and then also a buzzard. I actually got to see them long enough and clearly enough to identify them at last.

There are, of course, all kinds of water birds

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And then over the last few days we have seen storks – from a distance across the canal admittedly – and then a stork’s nest on a pylon and finally a stork in the field completely unconcerned by and to the cattle and horses!

One day we spotted an unknown bird on the bank – walking along just like chicken – beside us. No idea what it was until we saw another in a hedgerow sometime later and I managed to get a few blurry photos. But from these and my ‘i-spy’ RSPB bird book we were able to identify it as a Hoopoe! (Don’t know what it sounds like – a 66 maybe Mary???)

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NZ visitors

We have been keeping in touch with our New Zealand friends throughout our time here – particularly with the Akaroa crew because of the difficulties they have been having up at Moret sur Loing. Well they were finally moved up into the Canal du Loing last weekend. They still couldn’t go anywhere by boat but they could leave the boat! So on Monday Jacqui and Martin came by Train to meet us at Decize to have a few days away from worry that is Moret sur Loing. They were just so to be off the boat.The weather remained wet at first but then started to improve so that by Wednesday it was sunny and hot. Really hot. What a dramatic change.

Tuesday evening we invited Tony and Sue on ‘Waimanu’ to join us for a Pierade supper on deck – none of them had tried this before but all seemed to enjoy! It’s great ‘cos you cook the spuds and then everyone cooks their own meat & veg on the hot stone and grills their cheese under it, easy but fun entertaining! Sue even brought the salad!!

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Collette managed to fit us in for lunch on Wednesday along with a Harley Davidson group that meet up each year. Apparently several of them were escort motorcycle riders for M. le President, but are all retired now, but not from biking!
As usual we had a delicious meal, under the trees in the garden, and literally spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping it off. Another boater commented on us lazing in the sunshine on deck and described it as a ‘punishing lunch’. Apt, I suppose, but not at all a punishment in my eyes!

Then on Thursday, having asked if the national day of strikes would affect the eclusiers on the Nivernais (not that we got any sort of definitive answer ‘cos strikes are supposed to catch you unawares’ according to the lady in the Capitannerie at Decize!) we set off in blazing sunshine to start up the Nivernais. Even in the few days we’d been at Decize the river had quietened down a lot.
It was good having extra crew because we were able to put the bimini up and down as necessary – and for most bridges on the Nivernais it has to be down. But it was so hot and the sun so strong that Adrian would have expired without the shade when driving. Jacqui even broke out their golfing umbrella at one point.
Jacqui has been here about a month but this was the first cruising she has done because they have been stuck. They both soon got back into the swing!

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So we have reached Cercy la Tour and can now moor on the river Aaron here – lovely little place with the Madonna of the Nivernais looking down from the hill above

We were all up quite early awaiting the Brexit results. Really can’t believe that this has actually happened – I think it will cause mayhem throughout UK for many years to come – not at all what we need, Crazy. Jacqui, Martin, Sue and Tony were with us to listen to Cameron address the nation. Maybe we should fly our flag at half mast.

Adrian then drove Jacqui and Martin back to Decize today so that they can get the train back to Moret as they have to move their boat at the weekend. They have to leave because they can’t moor at the pontoons and the Canal isn’t yet open so they will be going up the Yonne and the Seine and then deciding thereafter.

Tony and Sue joined us at Cercy la Tour last night so we’ll be carrying up the Nivernais together tomorrow. Tony and I even went for a dip in the river today to cool off.

Roboliot

Last year we discovered this delightful little restaurant near Decize – Le Roboliot (Poacher) run by Collette. I say ‘we’ when I actually mean Adrian’s TripAdvisor search uncovered this little gem. Has to have been his best find yet!

On Friday (17th) we were moored at Gannay sur Loire and rang Collette to see if she could squeeze us in – she did just that as the restaurant is going great guns and as she is a one-woman band type restaurant she does not cater for large numbers. But squeeze us in she did and she called the french couple we met last year so that they would come to meet us for a drink. We went by boat & moored ‘au rural’ at the bottom of her garden. Delightful quiet spot with fantastic view and birdsong.

M et Mme Robert came to meet us for a drink and enjoyed a tour of the boat. First question – ‘Brexit ou pas Brexit?’

The main room was taken up with a pre wedding party – 12 or 14 guests who were obviously very much at home chez Collette, coming over frequently to request another bottle. Adrian wondered how Collette would keep count – we found out next morning – 12 empty bottles lined up in the dining room!

We ate in the smaller room with Nadine (Collette’s neighbour) and Michel (Collette’s partner) who also cooked all the meat outside on the grill.
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Crudites followed by maigret de canard or faux fillet with salad followed by selection of local cheeses then fruit salad & cake. Simple, fresh, straightforward but delicious food. Washed down with lots of wine and much talking. Several of the other group came through to talk with us through the evening – all spoke in french, not trying to practice their english and we were complimented on our french again. It was absolutely delightful and luckily we’d brought a torch to light our way back to the boat at about 1am. Apparently the large group didn’t leave until about 2am – Collette was up again at 8am preparing for her Sunday lunchtime group of 10! But she still managed to have a coffee with us before we left.

Collette spoke about an American couple of boaters who had come for dinner – Schwartz, the USA civil rights lawyer who wrote the book about Barging in France & to whom I yelled hello recently. He obviously has good taste in restaurants too!

The other thing we learnt is that Michel (C’s partner) works for VNF on the Cana du Nivernais (‘mon canal’). He is in charge of the closures and their posting on the VNF site so he told us that the Nivernais would be open properly again later this week.

And the other fun thing at Le Roboliot is the art work – Collette showcases local artist’s work and this changes frequently. This time it’s animals – we loved the chickens and the cows but I didn’t go a bundle on the rear views of elephants!

Lock houses

At just about every lock there is a lock house beside it. I have written about the lock houses we see along the way before but it never ceases to amaze me that so many are derelict. We talked to a lock keeper today regarding such a derelict house which had a pretty newly redone roof with some quite ornate local ridge & verge tiles. He told us that the lock houses now belong to ‘the state’ but are rented to VNF employees – they are no longer sold off as the VNF used to do. Only houses with some vehicular access are relet once vacated by retiring employees. So we see many quaint rural properties empty and falling into disrepair. The one in question has been empty 10 years after having been refurbished ready for a new occupant who changed his mind. The roof was redone after a tree fell on it which seems somewhat crazy since it has not been lived in since. This seems particularly sad given that there are many many people & families in need of a home – just as in the UK.

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We then came to the lock where the eclusier himself lived for the last 17 years, the whole place looked prosperous and cared for; with extensive wood stacks ready to feed the wood ifred central heating he told us he installed himself. The VNF will only do certain repairs, the rest is up to the tenant. But the eclusier does not know if he will be able to stay in ‘his’ house once he retires, that will depend on whether it is needed for another VNF employee….

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In the meantime, I hear that Martin & Jacqui are still stuck at Moret sur Loing.

They have now been there for 3 weeks.

The hotel boat that rescued them has now returned them to the pontoons which are on the river side – navigation is still not open so the VNF will not let them move, but the local Mayor wants them off the town pontoon in order to have the pontoons checked after the flooding!

They can’t stay but they can’t go either!

Having just spoken to Martin I am really concerned for them. Apparently 2 boats have been taken up through the lock into the canal (Canal du Loing) which has also been flooding, but, for whatever reason, the VNF will not allow Martin and the other boat to be taken up. The lock keepers said they would do it but the VNF hierarchy has said no!

With the continuing rain the river level there is rising again and it is expected to rise 30cms today. That will mean the pontoons are under water again, making it difficult to get off & on the boat. They have water but no electricity, have to run the engine each day to recharge the batteries. I would going seriously crazy by now!!!

John and Michelle are still at St Jean de Losne waiting for the Saone to go down.

Friends of Muzz and Gail’s were rescued by a hotel boat when the canal bank (Canal Laterale a la Loire) collapsed near them so that they didn’t get stuck in the mud (literally) for weeks! Imagine coming all the way from New Zealand to get stuck in the mud!

And the weather continues to be awful and then get a bit brighter and then be awful some more. So much for flaming June – not helped by those at home describing glorious sunshine recently!!

Its Friday today – we have just arrived in Gannay sur Loire – I was about to say that this is the first day without rain in I can’t remember when but I just heard thunder rumbling around! Hope Adrian completes his 30 kms bike ride to collect the car before the heavens open!

Excitements along the way…

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.

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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……

 

Once upon a time in St Leger sur Dheune

I thought I’d share some extracts & information which I have gleaned from this booklet which has been translated and editd by Jill Edmonds, whom I mentioned in my last blog.

I found the booklet most interesting – there are some nice little personal stories, translated but not tidied up so sometimes the english is a little stilted.

Canal du Charollais:

1783 – Louis XV1 gave permission for this canal, linking the rivers Loire and Saone

1783-1806 canal excavated by hand (shovels, pickaxes, wheelbarrows) under the direction of Emile Gautley, an engineer from Chalon

1790 – renamed Canal du Centre after the Revolution

1793 – the whole canal was filled with water – 114kms

1847 – busy port at St Leger sur Dheune dealing with local wood, coal, plaster & tiles – transporting local goods by boat

1898 – port traffic was at its height, also now dealing in wine and guns and ammunition

At this time boats were 27m long but 100 years later Freycinet effected standardisation and all barges were 38.5m

Initially boats were hauled along by men (or women) on the towpath. By 1930 this practice was banned and donkeys, then horses were used – until about 1970 when tractors were used and ultimately the boats were motorised.

A common sight along the canals was launderesses washing their linen in the canal. Kneeling at a wooden tub and rubbing laundry on a 4 legged wash board, thumped it dry with a wooden paddle and gossipped! Some of the bargemen amused themselves by going past at speed so as to swamp the laundresses! Can you believe that?

1936 – a huge storm resuted in extensive flooding in St Leger

  • Stories told of wheelbarrows full of hailstones being brought out of cellars 8 days later
  • There was no mains water – wells were polluted so people had to go to springs aabve the town for water

1936 – mains water arrived

1860 – railway came to St leger – this made it possible for men to commute daily to the Schneider armament factories at Le Creusot

 

Second world war~:

Stories re the German invasion & occupation

One inhabitant told how when he was a little boy he saw his dad being marched out of the village with other men. He ran over to his father and hugged him – the German guard told the father to go home with his son, he understood, he had a son too. The father hid in the area for nearly 2 years!

June 1940 – German occupation of the north with the free Vichy regime. The locals endured severe rationing and bombardments by allied aircraft

Liberation on 6th June 1944 didn’t reach St Leger sur Dheune until 6th Sept 1944

 

Evidence of the local tile and brick making industries can still be seen on some of the local buildings which are decorated with fancy brickwork, tiles and roofs