1 October Day 51 (107) to 13 October Day 63 (119)

Thursday 13 October 2011                      Day 63 (119)

Rolampont to Langres

Last manual lock today.  We tipped the (3rd) eclusier  E10 for his help.  We really enjoyed the manual lock work,  it added some reality to what we were doing;   going up or down in an automatic lock is a bit like using the lift in Debenhams.

Robert cranking a lock gate in competition with....................


This was much more fun, in fact it became a bit of a competition.

In addition to our labours with moving large metal objects (lock gates) we were ably assist by the brilliant VNF people everywhere we went.   We had to pass a road that crossed the canal, so out came the VNF man with a handle and……

VNF man winds the road around to let us through. You can just see Billow following us. Yes, the VNF did this by hand.

Stopped at  Langres,  a walled city and very interesting.  Managed to replace the cafetiere which had mysteriously cracked.

Walking along the walled city of Longres.

Langres  47 52 958N  005 20.362E

One of the many many streets we wandered around in Langres

Wednesday 12 October 2011     Day 62 (118)

Foulain to Rolampont

Misty rain again (ugh) but no complaints – we have had long periods of bright sunshine and cloudless skies and we feel very fortunate.

The halte at Rolampont

Short day today. 14.7 km and 7 locks.   Arrived at Rolampont and met Derek and Fran on ‘Tess’.    They are planning on staying at Auxonne (pronounced Oh Zon) as well, so we believe we will see more of them.

While at Rolampont we went to visit the ‘Tufiere’,  a petrified waterfall where the moss becomes calcified and forms part of the petrified structure.  Fascinating.

Part of the petrified waterfall

Pool formed after the petrification forming a dam, before the water level rises and continues as the next waterfall

Tuesday 11 October 2011                        Day 61 (117)

Chaumont to Foulain

Bit of a slow start today after dinner on Billow.  Managed to do a bit of laundry in the capitainery before heading off.   Doing locks with a hangover is not fun.

Made it to Foulain, another tiny little place in the middle of nowhere.   Stopped and had an early night.

Monday 10 October 2011             Day 60 (116)

 Riacourt to Chaumont

A wet, horrid mornings but off we went anyway, leaving Riacourt at around 0930.  We have 123.5 km to go to the end of this canal and on to the River Saone.  After that it is only about 24 km to Auxonne, where we are booked to stay for the winter.

Today we experienced our first manual lock.   We had a friendly eclusier with us who showed us what to do.    Fascinating and a bit of exercise too.

Steve getting physical with a lock gate cranking handle

Ba showing she can do it too!

We actually met 2 other leisure boats going the other way today – first boats in ages.

Arrived at Chaumont around lunchtime   Position 48 07.043N  005 09.217E

Invited onboard Billow for dinner this evening.

Sunday 9 October 2011                Day 59 (115)

Froncles to Riacourt

Felt a bit heavy this morning after the ‘repas magnifique d’hier soiree’  so a slow start was the order of the morning.   Would have been underway at around 1030 but for Wight Mistress’s engine not wanting to start.    Managed to achieve it eventually.   It could possibly be because she was sat still for a while but this is the first time ever that she has not started right on the button.  We must investigate this.   Managed to depart at around 1045 and cover 6 locks and a lifting bridge and about 16 km before coming to rest at Riaucourt for the night.


Lat   48 10.757 N   Lon 005 08.995 E and GPS thinks we are 828ft above sea level.   Steve is going to go back through the fluviacartes (charts) and calculate how high we have climbed – we have been climbing since entering the Seine,  some many years ago !!  We have climbed  216.12 metres above the Seine at sea level.

Saturday 8 October 2011             Day 58 (114) 

Happy Birthday to our lovely son Tony,   29 today.

Froncles Day 4

It rained!  First rain we have seen since our shower at Bougival during the ‘orage.    Stavros and Kelly departed this morning bound for Spain and Steve sat and watched England get stuffed by France in the Ruby World Cup.  It has to be said that France played a much better game and deserved to win.

Stav and Kelly hitting the road, bound for Calpe in Spain

Robert and Judith arrived onboard Billow this afternoon.

Billow arrives at Froncles

After going to Carrefour to top up with victuals for the next leg of the trip,  we booked a table at  ‘le restaurant au chateau,  a Michelin listed restaurant very close to our halte nautique.    This evening we enjoyed a marvelous meal in great company (ourselves).   We started off with Kir Royale and an aperitif of couscous tabouleh with vegetables and some smoked salmon.  That was followed by a very finely cut and created cucumber parcel stuffed with cream cheese.   Starters were  (Steve)Foi Gras,   (Barbara)  langoustines,  followed by us both having goose breast,  then a selection of local cheeses and finished up with crème brulee then coffee.   In an excellent supporting role were a couple of bottles of local Burgundy.     We ended up on Billow for a nightcap before falling into a food coma for the night.

Friday 7 October 2011                   Day 57 (113)

Froncles Day 3

During the day we went for a walk further along the canal to the next lock and back.  The river Marne and the canal run very close together here and it is quite picturesque in the autumn sunshine.  Stavros chilled for the afternoon and invited us onboard for dinner and drinks in the evening, being treated to a delicious chicken cooked in wine with crème fraiche and Dijon mustard.  Added to this were fresh English vegetables from his friends garden and English potatoes, again, freshly dug from the same place.   Chatted again until very late and retired.

Thursday 6 October 2011                        Day 56 (112)             8 full weeks in the waterways

Froncles Day 2

Arose at a civilized time, with Barbara having been brought her cup of tea in bed by  ‘Jeeves’     The baguette lady arrived at 0945 in her van so we treated ourselves to the first baguette and nice sweet flan thingies in ages,  then a pot of real coffee to slurp up all the sucrose and get rid of it.   We learned from our friends Ross and Anne, who work for the World Health Organisation as writers and researchers,  that it has been discovered recently that real coffee has the ability to bond with sucrose and flush it out of one’s system in  a really good way.  So:   sweet stuff plus real coffee = a good thing then!

After gorging ourselves silly with sweet stuff and coffee, we did a shopping run then came back and Ba  gave Wight Mistress a good scrubbing inside (lock goo-ectomy to happen later,  while Steve sorted out the cooling problem. It seemed the canal system had donated more than just water and that the sea-cock (tap thingy that lets the water in to cool the engine) was blocked with………yes, you guessed……GOO!.   Aha!  Out came the compressor and with an energetic  gust,  the goo was discharged back from whence it came and the cooling water flowed once again.  Great things,compressors.

Saw 2 PENICHES today!  These are the first ones we have seen on this canal, moving or otherwise.

Stavros  and Kelly arrived in the late afternoon and after setting the camper van up,  came aboard for sundowners and dinner with us.  A lovely evening, chatting until it was a bit late.

Dave 'Stavros' Parry and his niece Kelly came to visit us

It was really great to see Stav after a long time.  We worked together in ‘Nam’  (Chelt’nam’)

Steve and Stav on a rainy day at Froncles

Wednesday 5 October 2011        Day 55 (111)

Donjeux to Froncles

Short hop today.  From Donjeux to Froncles.  We have decided to stop at Froncles for a few days as our friend Dave Parry (Stavros) is heading this way in his camper.    In addition our friends Robert and Judith on ‘Billow’  have caught us up and should be here by tomorrow or the next day.  It is another little heavenly place in pretty much the middle of nowhere again, with facilities and a tiny charge for the privilege.  We met our friendly VNF chap in a van (not the big burly one,  another chap who came and fixed a broke lock for us. He let us know that we need to talk to the VNF Office at Froncles to let them know our immediate plans on departing,  as there appears the need for a chap in a van to help us with locks on our way down.

Froncles, one of the beautiful places we were fortunate enough to visit

Arrived Froncles at around 1420 – nice short day with only 5 locks, one with an integral lifting bridge.     Position  48 17.952N   005 09.183E

Bernie and Carol Connors from North Devon, who visited us.

Had a little problem with engine ‘seawater’ cooling being a bit pathetic.  Must check this out when the engine room is cooler.

Met up and made friends with Bernie and Carol Connors from North Devon.  Bernie wandered along and admired Wight Mistress (well, she is very much worth admiring – even in her lovely green coat of lock goo!)   Bernie and Carol are retired and take their super looking camper van away a number of times each year to escape to the middle of nowhere and relax.  This time they picked our bit of nowhere.   A very sociable evening ensued.

Tuesday 4 October 2011              Day 54 (110)

Bayard sur Marne to Donjeux

Had to phone the VNF again today to get our burly chap out to crank open another bridge for us.    By the time we arrived at the next lock the boat with  the Swiss couple onboard were waiting in the lock  (the ones we had taken ropes for a few locks earlier); the lady returned the favour.  They didn’t seem to understand English and only a tad of French, so we managed to tell them that we would hang back 30 minutes to let them get ahead of us (it is so much easy in these particular locks to do it one boat at a time.   It was only after Steve’s effort at communicating with the Swiss husband that Barbara said the Swiss gentleman had complained to her in perfect English that we had held them up for 30 minutes.   Yeah, like we knew that!!  Anyway, anyone trying to hurry anywhere in the VNF is on to a loser from the start.  This is an exercise in forced relaxation and, we are loving it just for that alone.

Stopped at a little place, again in the middle of nowhere, called Donjeux.  It had the luxury of electricity  (at no cost.)  It was sooooo immensely peaceful and when the street lights went out at 2300 it was lovely and dark.

One of the many outstanding views on our journey

When we first started this canal thing, we didn’t really understand why nothing moves at night.  It is abundantly clear now.  There are no lit navigation marks,  loads of overhanging branches,  much very shallow water and zillions of miles of bends which,  in the pitch dark of the middle of nowhere,  are very hard to avoid.    The locks switch off automatically at 1900,  so the only place one could navigate to, is from one lock to another (maximum distance, around 5 km,  minimum,  about 200 metres.)   So,  not much point in night navigation then.

Monday 3 October 2011               Day 53 (109)

St Dizier to Bayard sur Marne

In order to get away from here we had to call the VNF office at ‘Desert’ as they need to send out a man to manually operate a couple of lifting bridges.

VNF man cranking up a bridge to let us through

The last bridges described this way required a man with a dexterous digit to operate a button, upon which road barriers descended and the bridge ascended.  Imagine our surprise when this burly chap pitched up, chained off the road then got out a thing like a starting handle for a Challenger Tank and started grinding away on this winch.

Bridge opening for us

Up came the bridge after a short stop to wipe a sweaty brow, and through we went.    Same chap then rushed past us in his little VNF van and did the same thing to the next one for us

Stopped at Bayard sur Marne, by a lock in the middle of nowhere for the night.

Even though we are on the canal, the River Marne meanders around it all the way to the summit of the canal, where the Saone takes over the meandering.

We passed a museum dedicated to General Patton about 5 km back so we broke out the bikes and cycled back to see it.  Sadly it was closed, still, it was a pleasant jaunt along the towpath, collecting fresh pears.   As we made the return run back to Wight Mistress we met a Swiss boat approaching a lock.

Being good people we said hello and helped them with their lines.  We then dashed forward and waited for them at the next lock to do the same.  They seemed to be in a bit of a hurry, with is a contradiction in terms with travelling on the Voies Navigation de France  (VNF.)    In the process Steve’s bike suffered a lack of air in the rear tyre.   Isn’t it infuriating;  when that happens it is always the bottom bit that goes flat.   If it could go flat at the top one could continue cycling.  Fortunately, Steves puncture happened only a short hop back to Wight Mistress where, after the pre-requisite cup of tea, the puncture was repaired and the bike tested.

Sunday 2 October 2011                Day 52 (108)

Orconte to St Dizier

Bit of a slow start today.  The facilities at Orconte were lovely and clean and the shower was a real blast of luxurious hot water.  Even though our shower onboard is brilliant, it is sometimes pleasant to hop ashore and ‘use the facilities’  other than just the loo.

Wight Mistress in one of the many beautiful locks

Short-ish day today,  stopping for the night at St Dizier.   Here the canal widened to about 3 times the width,  with a big modern indoor swimming pool on the left bank and a carpark , cinema complex  and a Milo Ice Cream factory behind it.   We thought it might be a bit noisy but actually had a lovely quiet night.

St Dizier 48 38.401N    004 57.124E

Saturday 1 October 2011             Day 51 (107)

Vitry le Francois to Orconte

The start of a new canal – le Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne

Gazing down a 224km canal from the entrance

Entered the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne (canal between Champagne and Burgundy regions of France and formerly known as the canal from the Marne to the Saone)

Vitry was a pleasant enough stop.  Not a lot to look at but Pascal, the lady who looked after the tiny harbour was very pleasant.   We moored very close to Merganser,  a big Dutch barge used for cruising holidays, which is moored at Vitry for the winter.

Another bright and sunny day,  we mosied along at our usual fast pace, being overtaken by joggers on the bank.   Found a pretty little halte at Orconte so decided to stop for the rest of the day, even though it cost the huge sum of E8 for the night.  Met up with Lisa and Phil Howell, who own a fishing lake at Vitry le Francois.  They had taken off in their own boat for a few weeks to just get away from it all.   We had a great afternoon and evening with them and retired quite late.  Thank you for a lovely time Lisa and Phil,  we hope we can catch up with you again and return the favour sometime soon.

Lisa Howell (Phil was still in bed - heavy night last night :-)) on Marathana


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