As Barbara put in the log ‘OK, this is it – day 1 of the canals.’ Getting into the waterways is all about using the right exit from the marina (bridge opening one hour before high water) and talking to the port control on VHF channel 17. All started like clockwork with the 3 boats making their way around the busy harbour into the first lock, Ecluse Carnot, which was open on free-flow (both gates open). Sadly the road bridge was still closed so another call to the ‘eclusier’ encouraged him to stop the road traffic and let us through.
The eclusier then had to hop in his car and drive round to the next lock and operate that. Once we realised this we knew we were into ‘hurry up and wait’ – something that one has to get used to in this way of life. He promised us 15 minutes. After an extra half an hour for good measure Steve called them up politely and asked for confirmation, to be told that it would be another hour (eclusier having his lunch we suspect.) Anyway, we waited patiently.
It was while waiting alongside the wall in the next basin that Barbara noticed Anna Lena still had her wind generator rigged. This was on a rather long mast, sticking out of her starboard aft corner. With minutes to go before the next lock opened some fairly smart spanner-and-allen-key-wielding reduced the mast into submission. just as well, if we hadn’t done that, the first bridge in the canal would have done had the same result, just with a little less subtlety.
Just as the mast work finished, the gate opened and we were given a green light to enter. We have never seen so much garbage and green weed in a small space before. The lock was so tiny that only Wight Mistress (34ft) and Anna Lena (27ft) could fit in, leaving Billow to lock in after us. Out of the lock and round the first corner under our very first VERRRRY LOW bridge and we parked up on a waiting pontoon for lunch and to wait for Billow. Cleaning sea water strainers was order of the day. Managed to huck out about half a pound of harbour cabbage from ours, strainer checks and engine temperature monitoring now orders of the day.
After lunch we all started up. Funny, Anna Lena sounded more like a Ferrari than a boat. Oh yes, classic sound of no water coming out of their water cooled exhaust. Dashed along pontoon to tell them to shut down. A quick exercise in how to prime a boat’s cooling system and all was well.
1 lock, 4 opening bridges (eclusier following us in van) and many, many road and rail bridges brought us to stop on the side of the canal for the night in the middle of nowhere. Thus endeth Day 1 in the Voie Navigables de France (VNF.)