Friday 23 September 2011 43 (99) Happy birthday Cousin David, you are now the same age as Steve, again!

Where has the lock gone?

Woke up this morning to thick-ish fog.   Beautiful.  We could only just make Wight Mistress out from the top of the lock – about 100 metres away.   It looks to be one of those fogs that the sun will burn off by late forenoon;  still, are we in a hurry?    A couple of days ago we worked out that we had about 400km to cover in 40 or so days = 10 km  a day.   We are still slightly ahead of the curve so a few hours of relaxing and reading by the lock won’t hurt too much.

Where has Wight Mistress gone?

This area is beautiful, with every south facing hillside covered with champagne grape vines.   We aim to go to Cumieres today, which is where,  in  around 1700 Dom Perignon  discovered that the wine tended to sparkle and he studied the phenomenon.   This happened at a little village called Hautvillers, some 3km north of Cumieres and is known as the ‘Pearl of the Champagne Region.’

Fog lifted around 1100 so we ‘zapped’ the lock and the flashing yellow light came on, indicating the lock had received the ‘zap’ and that it was starting to prepare.    On came the green with the red as well telling us to prepare to enter and all of a sudden green went off and a second red came on, signifying a fault.   Next action was to call the VNF office for assistance.  Within 20 minutes (bearing in mind this lock is in the middle of nowhere)  a man came along and fiddled with the fiddly bit.  Lo and behold, working lock.  We passed through without incident, thanking the eclusier as we departed.  Last lock on this leg was here at Cumieres, where we returned the Zapper to the eclusier.

We went the whole day in blissful sunshine and glassy waters, not seeing another moving boat at all.   Arrived at Cumieres mid afternoon to find two British owned Dutch barges on the Cumieres pontoon.

Avalon (built 1898)

Celine (built 2004)

So, we rafted up gently and were given a warm welcome by Allen and Margaret when they returned from their bike ride.  ‘Avalon’, their Dutch barge, was built in 1898 of riveted steel construction and looks lovely.    They are in company with Andrew and Gail on their British built barge Celine, about the same size and equally beautiful while different.  By contrast, Celine was built to order for them on the Trent in 2004.  We talked about them and ……naaaahhhh,   we still prefer our lovey Wight Mistress.  After all, we can put the masts back up and sail the Mediterranean or anywhere else for that matter.  Or, as we are starting to think, we could do another year in the French waterways first.   Decisions decisions………

Were invited aboard Celine with the four of them for ‘apero’.   A very pleasant evening ensued, culminating in us departing for our dinner with an invitation to watch England play Romania, followed by New Zealand playing France,  tomorrow morning.  A very pleasant day.

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