Phew……. it’s hot!

We have been experiencing extremely hot temperatures the last week or so. On Friday it reached 35′ and each day since it has been above 30′. Would be great if we were cruising on the river and could moor up and even take a dip…… but we’re not! We’re still quite literally up in the air and trying to push on with the work needed.

We try to start work as early as possible so that we can stop around midday and perhaps do a little more later when it cools down. We certainly have good intentions but don’t always manage to put them into practice!

We have had a couple of days off as Sue and David arrived for a visit. We had hoped to be back in the water, but we weren’t as we decided to press on with the works for the time being because we are in good place to work on the boat and have access to advice and expertise if needed. Also we can use the ladders etc here to reach the sides to redo the cream. We have had the blue redone so feel the cream also needs attention.

Sue and David were most patient and accepting of the situation, and just got on with it! Not quite as bad as it was as we have now rigged up pipes into the outlets so that we can use the shower, wash hand basin and now the kitchen sink – therefore I can even use me washing machine! Only the loos cannot be used – ‘bucket and chuck-it’ is the nightly regime – and we use the site facility in the day. Hey-ho!! We will probably be here at least another week so necessary to make things a little more pleasant.

Yesterday we visited the Caves de Bailly Lapiere. An old underground quarry provides unique natural conditions for the maturing and storage of Cremant de Bourgogne, a delicious sparkling wine. It ended up being quite a boozy day – we were too early for the tour of the Caves, were recommended to go to the pretty village of Irancy for a delicious lunch, liked the wine we had so much that we literally popped next door to the producer to buy some more!

Then there was the trip around the caves, with more sampling and purchasing afterwards. Then back to the boat where we invited Gale and Murray (more kiwis – who are also working on their boat) to join us for supper. A most enjoyable and informative day!

Working away

Since arriving in Migennes we have been working away on the boat. Amazing what you find once you start looking…….

Basically we are redoing things that were not done well from the outset or were not maintained once the boat was handed over. Nothing mega big but could end up being so if not dealt with properly now. So whilst the hull is being stripped back, re-welded and generally given a good going over , we are doing stuff up on deck. Needed to sort out the railing under the wooden handrails cos David discovered plenty of the steel boater’s arch enemy present – rust!!!! And then the big locker underneath also had lots so we have been redoing that whole area. Takes ages to sand, prime, undercoat and topcoat (6 coats in total). Anyway that is finally done and the wooden handrails re sited having had several extra coats of  their special oil. Looking good! One area down, goodness knows how many more to go!! We’ve decided to do what we do as well as we can so as to avoid a recurrence of M. Rust for as long as possible.

We have also been trying to decide if Piedaleau can go all the way down the Canal du Nivernais. There are some low bridges marked in the book and we know that Piedaleau has quite a high air draft, particularly at the rails along the top deck. But different people say different things and it is unclear exactly where / how the measurements in the map books are done. So the other day, armed with a tape measure, we took ourselves for a little jaunt down the Nivernais to see these infamous bridges for ourselves. And we were very pleased we did – it looks like we can do it although we’ll have to take care and duck a bit at certain points.

Just when we thought all was well we met a Scottish couple at Chitry who said ‘the bridges are ok but watch the lifting bridges!’  Apparently they don’t open fully virtically so that could be interesting. Go slow once again!

We have decided that we will go that route and leave the boat at Chitry or Baye for August, as originally planned. Good to have a plan again.

The Scottish couple bought the boat ‘Liberte’ which we saw a couple of years ago at St Jean and really liked. It was built in New Zealand and sent by container ship 15 years ago. Unfortunately they bought it through h2o at St Jean and told us another horror story of the sharp practices at h2o. Makes our geezer look like a pussy-cat!

Back to work – another coat of yatch primer before heading bck to the gite for a glass of wine and our last night there.

 

Playing chess with boats

On Monday morning we pulled round to the boatyard, rafted up to a dutchman and his old barge and awaited instructions!

Playing chess with boats is the only way I can describe the afternoon’s breath-holding entertainment.

Boat chess
Boat chess

If you ……. bring boat A round and lift it back into the water…….

then you can take boat B out of the water and put it on the side……

then boat A has to move along the other moored boats…..

whilst boat C is lifted in and rafted up to that boat A …..

then Pluto, a yatch with a problem, arrives & is told to raft up to us…..

then when its Pluto’s turn to be lifted out he’s sent off to do a twirl while boat D is lifted in and put in the Pluto’s place alongside us…..

then Pluto can come into the bank between the boat outside us and boats A & B which are rafted up together….

then pull boat A to raft up against the boat already rafted up to us……

and pull all three of us forward so that Piedaleau is in position ready to be lifted out tomorrow!

Got it?

Well ….. I watched fascinated and a little apprehensively as Adrian was having a siesta in the front cabin. Kept me fingers crossed that he didn’t have a rude awakening in terms of a boat being dropped on top of him!

All was well. And Tuesday morning it was Piedaleau’s turn. She had quite an audience as the Kiwi contingent came down to watch and a British couple who had just arrived from UK.

First visitors!

Last Friday we were delighted to welcome Don and Cathy Jo aboard as our first sleep-over guests!

I first met Don and Cathy Jo in Digoin in 2009 when Cathy and Ian Kennedy were with me. Don and Cathy were on Odysseus which they subsequently sold – they had a break from cruising over here but are now in the process of buying a new boat so that they can return to these beautiful waterways.

They joined us at Saint Florentin where we had stayed for several days with the Kiwi crew of Akaroa beside us. We had a most pleasant dinner on board for Don, Cathy Jo, Sue and David. My ratatouille seems to go down a treat!

Then on Saturday we overtook the good ship Akaroa, left them in St Flo (where they seemed to have taken root) and headed towards Migennes. We spent the night at Briennon and Adrian did his bike ride back to fetch the car. Unfortunately he had a puncture en route and had to seek the help of passing cyclists! All took a while but was ok in the end.

There are two things that are really frustrating….

Electricity – the supply at ports remains very variable! At St Flo the total current available is 16 amp – split across all the boats! So you can imagine how frequently this trips, especially at peak times eg morning tea time! Also, apparently, the hire boats are often fitted with an array of electrical equipment – kettle, toasters, microwaves, sat TV, etc etc – and the hirers expect to be able to use them. Unfortunately this ain’t necessarily so and can result in some problems. The Capitaine told us tht St Flo is due to be upgraded next year – he hopes so anyway, as he’s been asking for this for years!

Wifi – the availability is very variable too and even though we have our own router its not always possible to pick up signals so we get frustrated when out of access.

But I digress…..

Don and Cathy Jo were really pleased to have the opportunity to cruise a little whilst awaiting all the legal stuff with their purchase. They said it reminded them of why they were doing this again. And it was great for Adrian to meet them and for me to see them again. Don even got to drive Piedaleau….

Cathy Jo and Don driving Piedaleau
Cathy Jo and Don driving Piedaleau

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