14 October Day 120 (64) to 20 October Day 70 (125)

While the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne was truly beautiful it appeared totally bereft of wifi, hence the lack of updates. So, dear friends,  below is a set of daily summaries grouped together.   We were writing as we went along, so this is a slightly complicated cut and paste session for yours truly.

Thursday 20 October 2011   Day 70 (126)

Our first day wandering around Auxonne.   This town has just about everything we need for our stay over the winter.  Our current plan is to come back to UK for some of the winter to see our family and do some work to our cottage and see friends etc.   Now starting to work on the winterisation work on our lovely Wight Mistress.

Napoleon in a thoughtful pose

We have had such a brilliant time doing this that we have decided to spend at least one more year cruising in the waterways and maybe even longer.

Wednesday 19 October 2011     Day 69 (125)

Oisilly to our arrival at our winter stop-over at Auxonne

Our long day yesterday put us within easy striking distance of our final destination for this year – Port Royal at Auxonne    We covered 34 km and did 7 locks.  We said goodbye to le Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne and passed on to the River Saone at Heuilly, returning our zappeurre to an automatic box that wont let you out of the lock until you had done so – a very clever way of recovering a simple box of tricks that will set you back E500 if you lose it.   We dutifully returned ours, reported in to the VNF per the instructions and then waited for them to arm the lock so that we could make our escape.

The final lock on the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne, where we join the River Saone

Dodgems on the Saone

We honestly thought that entering the River Saone from the canal was going to be like joining the M1 from a country lane.    Nothing like it;  the Saone was a bit wider and very pretty, but we didn’t see another boat moving until just before we arrived at Port Royal.  The Saone is a venue for holiday hire barges.  The couple of barges we saw looked like floating caravans that were being driven like dodgem cars.

Arrived at Auxonne at 1540.  Port Royal is a small marina with 150 berths, about half the size of Island Harbour.  The office,  or Capitainery, is a white barge near the entrance and all the pontoons are the standard French cream coloured plastic which, for those of you who have been to Cherbourg will know,  are quite nice. In addition, all along their edges are fender strips (unlike Cherbourg where,  if not properly fendered, one’s vessel ends up with multiple vertical scratches as the finger pontoons bounce up and down.)  We are wondering what these pontoons will be like when it gets really icy.

Approach to Port Royal in the buoyed channel on the Saone,

Capitainery (itself a barge) on the right

One for Stuart and Karen. Made us stare for a while, even the colour is the same, just no 'upstairs!'

This was a surprise;  what was Commodore Yachting doing in Auxonne????    We can see where the inspiration came from for your barge Stuart.

Random picture of the marina

Anna Lena, Billow and Wight Mistress all snug at Port Royal

Wight Mistress, sporting the front half of her winter 'Burberry'

Wandered off to find the supermarche and look around this pretty walled town.   It appears that a young Lieutenant Napoleon Bonaparte did his basic training here.  The training regiment is still in existence but we believe the curriculum may have changed somewhat.

Found a nice bar and had a celebratory few beers to mark the end of our first voyage in the Voies Navigables de France (VNF).

We were going to head straight to the Mediterranean at first, even intending to try to get to Cyprus for September (hahahahahahaha!!!!!.)    At our rate of travel, even if we carried on from here immediately and made best speed,  we wouldn’t make it to Cyprus for Christmas.   No:  we have loved every minute of our time in the VNF so much that our current plan is to spend next year exploring more of the system.  After that?  Who knows.

Arrival Position:   47 11.800N  005 23.214E

Tuesday 18 October 2011                        Day 68 (124)

Cusey to Oisilly

Feeling much better after a day’s rest yesterday we set off at 1000, determined to crack in some distance and regain our daily average of 10km- ish.   A bit foggy first thing but as it cleared the wind started,  first breeze since Calais.   We had a really productive day in travel terms,  covering 30.6 km and 16 locks!   It probably doesn’t mean a huge amount to you, dear reader,  when we mention the number of locks;  imagine this: one is floating gracefully along the glassy waters  of the canal when all of a sudden,  there is a gate in front of you about 200 m away.  On a black triangular  board is a red light, indicating the lock is closed and not being operated by anyone either side. So, you either use the telecommander ( a thing like a TV remote control) to zap the lock,  or find a pole, hanging from a cross wire or a gantry out over the canal, which you manoeuvre up to and twist it half a turn anticlockwise.  If you are lucky a green light comes on next to the aforementioned red and the lock starts to fill or empty, depending on whether you need to ascend or descend.

Ba Tripping the lock by lifting the blue bar

After a few minutes the gates open and the the red light goes off.  In you go, and after that the work starts,  climbing ladders, throwing ropes up,  securing to bollards,  helping other boats with their lines and then hanging on.  The next command  from the telecommander (also known as a zappeurre on Wight Mistress)  tells the lock you are ready.  Either that or  as in the picture,  Ba leaps off and lifts the blue bar to command ‘bassinee’.   Loud beeps or bells warn that something happens.  The gate closes behind you and then the waterworks begin.  We are descending at the moment so the work is a little less fierce,  more a gently swaying movement as the water flushes out of the downstream sluices as you drift gently downwards.    At the bottom the other gates open and out you go, just in time to do it all again 500m down the canal, or sometimes a bit further.   A typical day sees 5 to 8 locks; today we did 16!  We were seriously ready for our cup of tea when we eventually did a windward approach into a small berth at Oisilly, again, in the middle of nowhere.

Monday 17 October 2011             Day 67 (123)

Cusey Day 2.  

Steve woke up feeling completely washed out this morning.  PLUS.  Thick fog (couldn’t see the bridge 50m behind us til 1100.)  Staying another night.    Tess is here too; we thought we would spend time in company with them.

Another boat with a Dutch couple arrived just after lunch with an overheat problem.  A quick diagnosis revealed a blockage in the raw water inlet.  Out came the trusty compressor (plus 115 volt industrial transformer,  British extension lead,  American extension lead etc – nothing is ever THAT simple is it?)  and within half an hour their boat was spitting water out of her exhaust with gay abandon.   Steve was still feeling somewhat under the weather from yesterday’s bout but the exercise did him good.  Off went a grateful Dutch couple, also on their way to Auxonne for the winter.

We spent the rest of the day in the warm sunshine, reading and generally being quite lazy.   A mackerel sky formed in the west as the day drew to a close,  so perhaps a change in the weather is coming.  The glass has been steady for a few days.   It is so quiet here – lovely.

Sunday 16 October 2011              Day 66 (122)

Piepape to Cusey

Really pleasant day today, after the fog lifted.   11 locks and 12.6 km down to Cusey where there is a halte pique-nique with electricity and water.

Cusey, parked behind Tess

Steve took the heater plugs out to inspect them.  3 out of 4 are duff, so we will have to find somewhere to get spares soon as the engine does not like starting when it is very cold.

During the engine room activities Steve developed a very upset tummy and spent the rest of the day under a blanket with a high temperature.

Lat   47 37.541N   005 20.223E

Pretty church at Cusey

Saturday 15 October 2011           Day 65 (121)

Langres up to the summit (340m) and down other side to Piepape (Pee (h)ay pap

We had forgotten how different and easier it was to do descending locks. No ladders to climb, just a careful entry .  Got it wrong at Lock 8 and caught our starboard fender board in the red emergency bar, bending the bar.   Called the VNF and filled in a form, apologizing profusely  Lesson learnt,  will BUFFS from now on.

France 9 Wales 8   Sadly, missed the game as we were in a 5 km tunnel at the time.    We left Langres at around 1000 and within an hour we reached the summit of the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne just past Langres, a hill fort town well worth visiting.

The tunnel

Did 13 locks and 15 km today, stopping alongside a picnic halte at Piepape, inbetween 2 locks.  A pretty little village with no shops except a boulangerie, which was shut.   We strolled around and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and landscape before returning onboard for dinner.

Friday 14 October 2011                Day 64 (120)

Langres Day 2

Enjoyed Langres so much that we decided to stay another day.   Derek and Francis on ‘Tess’  had some wiring problems on Dereks  electric bicycle, which Steve repaired and Derek tested, to his entire satisfaction.  This afternoon we had some rain showers in the bright sunshine and………. yes you guessed,   RAINBOWS!!!

Beautiful double rainbowWe saw both ends but couldnt reach the pots of gold as they were the other side of the water 😦

As a thank-you,  Derek and Fran then  invited us onboard for drinks this evening, where we  met up with Joe the Dutchman from Wimbledon;

Derek and Fran

It turns out that Derek was a music producer prior to retirement,  and he plays guitar and sings and stuff,  so we are hoping we can jam a bit when we reach Auxonne.  Current timeline sees us arriving Auxonne next Thursday.

Joe the Dutchman from Wimbledon

Joe lives aboard his boat for the nice bits of the year and currently has his engine in bits, being mended for him.   He brought along a friend called Jean-Michelle who is a coiffure here in Langres nice chap.

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