Sat 13 – Sun 14 Aug in the Canals

Saturday 13 August,   somewhere in the Northern France Countryside.

Strange,  parked on the side of a water road in-between 2 wheat fields, held to the bank by 3 spikes and some string.    Slipped at 1040 after the rain stopped and made it all the way to the end of the Canal de Pas de Calais without seeing another vessel under way.  In fact our first encounter with a large ‘peniche’  was on the ‘Grande Liaison’  which was after the Canal de pas de Calais, and the River Aa.   We phoned Matt and Trae’s to wish all a lovely family day and also to wish Mum a happy birthday for yesterday.

Did 3 locks today:   a small one on the Calais and then 2,  one huge and the other ‘kin ENORMOUS on the Grande Liaison.

Biggest lock in France!!!

The biggest one, we believe, is called  Ascenseur des Fontinettes, and raised us up over 13 metres.   On the low side, the lock gate is a hatchway under a huge wall, which is the back wall of the lock.    You then get a line around a floating bollard and at the end you see daylight when fully raised.

3 Musketeers, 3 abreast in the Ascenseur des Fontinettes, the largest lock in France (we are told)

Our GPS lost signal in the bottom of the lock.

At about 1600 we started to look for somewhere to stop for the night.  Small vessels are not allowed to move after sunset.   We had a couple of tries at reaching the sides, touching putty on each try and deciding against that as an option.    Eventually made it into a small backwater and a halte fluvial at a town called Aire sur la Lys.   It was a bit interesting nosing into this dead end full of small boats.  We managed to get in line with a respectable sized motor cruiser before landing on the mud.   Thank goodness for a 60hp motor and a Bruntons Autoprop.   Half a minute of going astern at max chat had us clear.  A quick handbrake turn and we were safely alongside for the night.  The others moored up fairly smartly and we retired to Billow’s enormous saloon for a beer and a chat.  Command decision (don’t know by whom) – we are staying here for Sunday and pressing on south on Monday.

Aire sur la Lys, a tiny little offshoot from the Canal

Because the up to date fluviacarte (French chart) for the next chunk was not available (nor were any out of date ones)  Steve and Barbara sat down and spent 2 hours with the pilot books and drew up a pilotage plan to take us as far south as where the next fluviacarte starts.    With donation of paper from the others and Harry the Honda chugging away sur le ponton,  the printer came out and 3 copies of our home made chart were printed off.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Stayed at Aire sur la Lys for another day.  Pretty little town and very quiet.

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