Tortoise and the hare….

On Weds 6th we cruised onto Lezinnes and then went for a little trip up to the very pretty old village of Noyers. Really lovely place with a wealth of old buildings and a small local market. Bought some excellent cheeses.

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Then onward to Tanlay for a 2 night stop over. This short hop (7kms & 5 locks) took about 4 hours because we had to wait at various locks etc.

Then more culture – another chateau to visit. This was a little disappointing as I had remembered it as being more impressive and interesting than we found it this time. Saturday found us at Tonnerre where there is a nice little market on a Saturday morning. We went to pick the kiwi crew from St Florentin and enjoyed baguette and cheese from the market on our top deck. Delicious.

Moored near us in Tonnerre was a wide beam narrow boat with an interesting British couple on board. They have been living on board for 5 years and don’t appear to have thrown much away during that time. I commented to Adrian that the guy looked like an aging rocker, probably a musician. Sure enough the next time we saw him he was strumming a guitar! I asked who he’d played for ‘cos he was obviously a musician, but he wouldn’t tell us! I thought he was giving us a clue when he played some bars from a Kinks number, looked them up on the internet but he wasn’t either of the Davies brothers. Even tried plying him with drink (seems not to be a difficult thing to do with him!) but frustratingly he wouldn’t say. Adrian reckons he must have been a jobbing musician – a musical tart, as he put it….

Apart from drinking and strumming this guy spent a of of time walking up and down with his cat on a length of string. Takes all sorts!

So then last Sunday we finally caught up with the kiwis at St Florentin!!! They’ve been here just over a week but can’t get out onto the Yonne to go up to Paris as they planned because the river is still closed due to the water levels after the floods last week!. There is a small port at Migennes but it is definitely nicer and quieter here. So both boats are here for several days plus Michael who’s a Brit living in Sweden but running business in Thailand. Piedaleau has become the ‘party’ boat – the large upper deck is ideal for eating and drinking and generally having a jolly good time! And the BBQ has been well and truly christened – Martin and Adrian even enjoyed kippers for breakfast today!

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We will be heading off to Migennes on Saturday so that we are ready to pop round the corner to ‘Evans the boat’ just on the Yonne. Apparently the river will finally be open tomorrow.

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My hero!!!!!

Tues 5th May

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It was windy. Pretty windy. And it is difficult to hover about in front of locks, waiting for them to be opened, at the best of times. Adrian was concerned that we should be ready to moor up at the side if necessary so I prepared ropes both sides, just in case….

A low hanging tree branch swept our starboard stern rope off – I ran back and retrieved it! Hooray!!

But didn’t notice it had also swept off the mid ship rope……..

We started to enter the lock; the engine cut out.

I was helping the eclusiere to haul 2 great lumps of tree out of the lock.

Engine restarted and stopped again.

Eclusiere was stressed because we were ‘en panne’ in the lock and she had ‘C’est la Vie’ (hotel peniche) coming next.

The hire boat (very pleasant french couple) behind us pushed us out.

Sounds easy – it wasn’t!

There was moi on the stern hanging onto the hire boat’s pulpit rail and the french lady was kneeling on their bow holding onto our stern rails. We managed to keep the boats in line and their front fender against out stern fendering. It was bloody hard!!

We got the giggles – particularly when she said ‘trust the men to get the easy jobs!’

They did a very good job of getting us out, and we went to the side and pulled the boat out of the way of the peniche’s exit line. And tied her up very securely.

Another hotel peniche was also expected from the other direction.

How’s your luck!!!

It became obvious that the mid ship rope had been caught around the prop. What a nightmare!

Nothing for it but to get down there and cut the offending rope!

Now, just before we came away, Adrian, with some help from Stuart, purchased a wetsuit for just such an eventuality. So Adrian donned the wetsuit, which is not an easy, or quick, task in itself.

No ducking into a telephone box (or tardis for that matter), doing a quick twirl and emerging suitably glad with his knickers on the outside…….

So, into the deep went Sir Adrian. And just when he thought things were beginning to work, I looked up and saw the second peniche approaching so he had to get out again! The passengers on that peniche looked a little bemused by his attire but the crew were sympathetic.

Back in again, after sawing like billy-oh with knife, hacksaw etc, sometimes having to go right under the stern so that I could no longer see him, Adrian managed to remove the rope! Took abut half an hour all told.

‘Yippee’ she cried! My hero!!

Then came the task of rinsing off the wetsuit, removing it etc etc

Just as well it was a secluded place!

In fact it was a very pretty & secluded place. We spent the night there with magnificent stars above and a glorious dawn chorus to awaken us bright and early.

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When Adrian later saw the guys on ‘C’est la Vie’, they were most impressed that we had a wetsuit on board. Apparently once the same thing happened to them, except that they had about 20 metres of their huge rope (3-4cms thick)wrapped around their prop. And no wetsuit. Took 2 of them 4 hrs working in shifts to dive under and cut through the rope.

Adrian reckons the wetsuit has just paid for itself!

Water, water, everywhere\1

3rd May 2015

It has been raining for several days now.

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May 1st is a French Bank Holiday and, just as in the UK, it rained ALL day! Since navigation is closed for the day anyway we weren’t concerned – just stayed put in Veneray les Laumes in a little port with water and electricity available so ‘no worries!’

Yesterday we set orf again with a hire boat with 4 really nice french people on board. Their first boating experience and it hasn’t stopped raining yet.

We got as far as La Forge de Buffon yesterday and carried onto Ravieres today, in full rain gear!

We are now seeing roads impassable – warning signs saying ‘Inondation’ – reminiscent of home really when the Buckden road is closed.

At the last lock today the eclusier was obviously a bit worried. The water in the pound was over the lock gates so he had to release water from the pound before he could fill the lock for us. He was rushing backwards and forwards and even left us to complete the opening of the lock gates ourselves so he could focus on the waters.

Fields and roads are flooded by the river Brenne running alongside the canl.

Yesterday we saw a couple of farmers rescuing cattle from flooded fields and trying to herd them into trailers alongside the lock. Poor things were very spooked – didn’t like a car coming nearby or the sound of Adrian flexing his thrusters! The eclusier left the farmers to it once both boats were out of the lock, saying he would return to reset it after they’d finished.

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And we have just spoken to our NZ mates who are quite a way ahead of us. The canal has been closed to navigation around them – apparently the water is level in the canal is so high that it is overflowing the banks. And the kiwi response? ‘open another bottle!’

We wait to see if we are able to continue tomorrow or have to wait here for a few days to let the water subside.

We were able to proceed – so onto Ancy le Franc this morning in the company of 2 hire boats. The second of these has 2 Australian couples on board…….. and they have reinforced our view of Ozzies this year. Fancy overtaking 2 boats which were waiting to go into a lock, causing problems for all!

We only had to go 10kms and through 5 locks but it took quite a time because the eclusiers were ‘juggling’ the water levels to enable them to open the lock gates and to lower the levels so that the hotel peniche following us could get under the bridges. ‘C’est La Vie’, with a crew of 6, takes up to 8 passengers along this stretch of canal, visiting sites such as the Chateaux at Ancy le Franc and Tanlay. Often see guests walking along the towpath to ‘work off’ breakfast or lunch. An english lady today was amazed at how hard it seemed to push the lock gates open – said she had thought to have a go herself but had changed her mind. I said I thought it was extremely good for the glutes, so she thought she might have a go after all!

Tried to wangle dinner on board last night, without success!

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La Patrimoine…..

There are some amazing places to visit along the Burgundy, many of which I visited in 2010 with Frankie and Greg or with Nadine and Margaret, so I am keen to share these with Adrian.

Abbaye de Fontenay…….

I find this place absolutely stunning. It is the oldest surviving Cistercian foundation in France – founded in 1118 by St Bernard

The feeling in the Church itself is spiritually moving – more so than anywhere I have been. It is described as having ‘sublime gravity’. I agree.

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The whole site has been beautifully restored and is well presented. This area is known for its forges and iron work. The monks at Fontenay developed a forge and it is noted as the earliest factory!

 

La Grande Forge du Buffon……

Right beside the canal this forge was built (between 1768-1772) by George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in the 18c. He was a renowned naturalist and undertook studies on the smelting and treatment of ore at the request of the king. The buildings look more like an aristocratic estate than a large foundry but here up to 25 families lived and worked – the men in the forge and the women growing vegetables so that it was a self sufficient community. The Forge later became a cement works and the continuing restoration has been going on for over 30 years.

 

Not all of the buildings were open today because the Arencon river is in flood – in fact several of the ‘rooms’ are inaccessible but also we are too early in the season for it all to be open to the public. There were quite a few visitors here today despite the rain.

 

Nature watch

The Burgundy canal really is beautiful, very rural and unspoilt.

We are hardly seeing anyone – just the eclusiers, VNF workers, fishermen, walkers, cyclists & an occasional boat going upstream.

And mostly it is very quiet – lots & lots of birdsong and the sounds of livestock in the fields. I’ve heard the drumming of woodpeckers, the cries of raptors up above, the  shrill call of kingfishers as they dart across the water and the songs of blackbirds, magpies and many more. Saw several Jays yesterday.

Spring is in full swing with lilac and wisteria in bloom everywhere.  And the wild flowers are just lovely, I’ve been trying to recognise some with my trusty ‘I spy wild flowers’ book……..

Cowslip, Bugle, Greater Stitchwort, Petty Spurge, Forget me Not, Buttercups, Daisies, Dandelions, Clover, Tufted and Common Vetch, Common Bird’s-foot=trefoil, Thyme-leaved Sandwort, Black Medick, Ground Ivy and White Dead Nettle – to name but a few!.

 

We have been working with Wilfred (my latest role is eclusier’s assistant!), who is a stickler for his full lunch break.

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He is happy to leave us in an open lock while he goes off for his dejeuner! So today ‘lock 39’ was our own private restaurant!

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As you can see from this rear view (no comments about size of arse please!) we do not have much leeway in locks at all – about 25cms each side. Can be interesting!!!

 

Going on down

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. Remember passengers calling out to me in 2010 that it was a good day to get my washing dry as I hung out around the pulpit rails.

Onwards on Sunday as we began the descent from the summit. A new experience for us in this boat to go down (avalant) in the locks. In many ways it is easier as the boat is not bounced around by water gushing in, it generally goes down quite gradually. But it can be difficult entering the lock, especially if the wind picks up. We amended our locking strategy and all was fine. The locks this side of the dividing pound are electrified. Although you still have to have an eclusier to operate the lock, it is much faster as he / she is not having to walk up and down the lock to get to each gate.

The eclusiers also seemed to be much more accommodating as regards lunch hour (l’heure du dejeuner). On the Burgundy canal lunchtime is 12 noon til 1pm. Sacrosanct times on the way up – to such an extent that they would not start a lock from around 11.45, and you may have to wait until their return at 1.15 (travelling time!) before continuing! But we were pleasantly surprised that the eclusier worked with us til 12.45 in order to get us through and hand us over to the next eclusier. Certainly helps.

And then we had our first long stretch of canal without a lock – all 11 kms! Wow! Gave me a chance to take the helm and get a bit of practice in. Stayed at tiny place called Pont Royal for the night.

And then the storm came! I always enjoy a good storm when on the boat – you’re so much closer to it all – seeing the lighting all around, hearing the thunder & the rain on the roof. On Piedaleau, with windows all around the salon it was pretty impressive. And it kept on raining all night and most of Monday. So we decided to stay put and catch up on various bits and pieces. I don’t think the eclusier was too unhappy either when we called to cry off this morning

Up, up up….. and thro’!

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.

Up the Burgundy

April 20 -23

So we set orf from St Jean on Sunday – stopped overnight at Bretenniere. The eclusiere had asked ask to lock through with another boat the next day – but the Australian crew had other ideas. They didn’t want to ‘play’ with us! Adrian biked down to tell the eclusiere and didn’t even get a thank you from the Aussies!

The whole of this canal is ‘manned’ by eclusiers. So you have to be organised and book your eclusiers each day. They each have a stretch of canal which they work on and then hand you over to the next. It works fine, especially at present as there are few boats. Meet some characters.

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So we set off a little later the next day and were paired up with some New Zealanders. Unfortunately they were a bit pressed for time as they had engine problems and needed to get parts, which put a little pressure on Captain Adrian who was desperately trying to get to grips with Piedaleau. At times she has very definite ‘ideas’ of her own! However we all managed to get to Dijon safely and moored up across from the port. The port has changed dramatically since I was there 5 years ago. There is no longer a Capitainerie and so the port appears to be full of ‘freeloaders’. The Kiwis were in need of water but another Aussie boat refused them access. Two ‘orrid ‘ozzies in two days!

Anyway we stayed there and I was invited on board with the Kiwis for a glass of wine while awaiting Adrian’s return from fetching the car.                This year we are leap frogging it along with us – which means that Adrian, after a hard day at the helm, has to jump on his bike to go and bring up to us. Luckily there are pretty good towpaths along this stretch, so far.

Anyway, as me dear old Dad would say, I ‘got involved’………. and then so did Adrian when he got back ….. and before we knew it was time to retire a little disgracefully. Martin, David and Sue on Akaroa were great fun. The next morning I was relieved to hear it wasn’t just moi with the hangover!

We then parted company so that they could push on and so that we didn’t feel pressed. We had a quite a long day but got up to Pont de Pany where we moored ‘au sauvage’ for the night. And Adrian went to collect the car! Fabulous stars; owls hooting at night and cuckoos calling in the early morning.

Wednesday saw us off by 10am again. Adrian getting better at the helm and me getting better at rope throwing, but more and more wary of ever taking the helm!

We’ve seen some interesting things at the locks – a ragondin (like a coypu) in one lock, swimming around trying to get out! Some gorgeous horses right beside another, and , of course, chickens. And then on Thurs we had a stowaway! The eclusier told us we had a ‘couleuvre’ on the back rubbing straike – a grass snake! But it had jumped ship by the time Adrian went to eject it, so I don’t have photographic evidence.

But hardly any boats – some hotel barges going up and down this stretch. And indeed I had noted as much in 2010.

Then suddenly I recognised the Sheerline shape appraoching – Ilona – and called out ‘my other boat’s a Sheerline!’ Which Adrian thought a little de trop!

Strange to see the notations that Frankie and I made in the map book in 2010 and the differences now. There really are not many mooring places along this stretch and we haven’t seen any with water or electricity. But luckily that is not an issue for us so far. Reached Vandenesse on Thursday evening where we managed to get plugged in so I am doing the washing as I speak. Don’t have to wait for lavaries but not brave enough to try putting the machine on while cruising yet.

And we met up with the Kiwis again, so another few bottles were emptied, but I was a little more careful. Most enjoyable company. I have an address for B & B in NZ if anyone is planning a trip there…….

The weather these last few days has been absolutely glorious – shorts and tee-shirt weather. It will break soon but we hope to reach the summit at Pouilly on Saturday. Adrian is not looking forward to the 3.3kms tunnel – we will have to take down the mast, the bimini & the BBQ. But tomorrow, Friday, we will have a day off and go up to visit Chateauneuf-en-Auxois which is a beautiful hilltop village with 12th-15th century chateau.

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Getting going…..

Sunday 19th April

Firstly I must apologise to you all for taking so long to blog again …… not all ‘bone crippling idleness’, only partly so, but also because we have been very busy preparing Piedaleau for the off and because internet access is very variable!

Enough excuses, I hear you cry!

We enjoyed Easter at home with assembled children – egg hunt in the meadow and egg and spoon races!

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We’ve decided next year to plan a bigger event – weather permitting of course!

 

So we finally set orf for France last Tuesday (14th) and promptly managed to miss the ferry by a gnat’s whisker! Air was a little blue to say the least!

Anyway we arrived quite late but still managed to empty one very full car ….. been trying to rationalize and store everything ever since. Quarts and pint pots come to mind………

The weather has been variable : from brilliant sunshine to wet, cold and windy. Still we enjoyed seeing the wild flowers on the bank beside the mooring and hearing lots of birdsong – especially the cuckoo – not so keen on the frogs!

We have, of course spent some time at Cascarot, dining in style with Elizabeth and David. Even had a couple of take out samples today as we started our long journey to Migennes and the boat reparations.

David has been busy redoing and improving the woodwork on the top of the boat. It looks sooo much better. Unfortunately we are finding more and more issues that need to be addressed because of cheapo & crappy workmanship in the build. ‘Larry the Lamb’ (whom we bought it from), has been renamed ‘Shuffle bum’, or ‘bullshitter anonymous’ depending on how kind we are feeling!

The latest Larry bullshit has resulted in us being ‘evicted’ from the mooring at Blanquarts at St Jean de Losne! He told us that Blanquarts had agreed we could keep the mooring. Blanquarts said they told him we could only stay til the season started and had allocated it to someone else from end April when they understood we would leave. They knew we have to go to Migennes and took that for our leave date! We weren’t really sure if we wanted to pay to retain the mooring or not – decision made for us! So, we are homeless! or should I say portless? Water gypsies / continuous cruisers!

We are therefore looking for a nice place that we can spend the winter. Would love to be in Paris but they have a waiting list so we are looking down towards Macon on the Saone. We’ll see!

We had intended leaving yesterday but, as often happens, things got in the way …… and then the wind got up ……. so we went to Cascarot for dinner again!

Finally set off at this morning – covered about 18kms and 12 locks. Piedaleau handles totally differently to Misty Morning. Still, practice makes perfect and all that. We’ve decided that Adrian will do the driving for now so that he can get the drop of it. Then, in time, he can teach moi! Bit worried about that but hey ho!

We have to go the full length of the Canal du Bourgogne – all 242 kms and 189 locks! And we are reliant on eclusiers the whole way, so have to ‘book’ our trip each evening for the following day.

The weather has been superb today, became very sunny and warm so that we were to eat our dinner on the deck for the first time. The view down the canal through the back window is pretty special!

Not all about boats

I want to share 2 non-boaty type things with you all

Many of you will know that 8th March is International Women’s Day, originally called International Working Women’s Day.

I usually attend a’Women’s Weekend’ with a group of amazing, inspirational and fun women. We meet up in a different venue each year and enjoy talking, walking and eating and drinking – and there’s usually some dancing – together! I just love it !

But this year I couldn’t be there because we had to go to France to pack up Misty Morning. So, when Elizabeth invited us to dinner at Cascarot on Saturday 7th March, as she had some German guests for the weekend, I took the opportunity for us 3 (a German, an Aussie and moi!) women to raise a glass together in celebration of International Women’s Day!

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And secondly Lisa took Adrian and I to see Lionel Richie at the Arena in Nottingham on Tuesday for our Christmas pressie!

What a blast!! I saw him several years ago in Birmingham with Trish and Tom and was a little fearful in case he had aged as much as me! Needn’t have worried it was truly amazing! Lionel was on stage for over an hour and a half and blasted out all my favourites – Dancing on the Ceiling, All Night Long, Ballerina Girl, Stuck on You, Say You Say Me, You are My Destiny…….

The Arena was packed, everyone dancing (especially Lisa and me!) and singing along. Brilliant!!

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