Monday 25 June 2012 – Vanneaux to Decize
Said our farewell to Jean-Claude from la Vacanciere. Seems he is selling up and retiring, buying a motor home and he and Leena are off cruising in retirement.
We left mid morning, to a fanfare from Jean-Claude on his air horn. After an enormous push tug locked through heading south. Played tag with some Australians in a 50 footer holiday barge. Came across a little holiday barge coming in the opposite direction, belching steam. Managed to flag them down and check their strainer. Not a lot of water getting through, suspect sea cock blocked with grass. Suggested they get help at their next stop.
Arrrived Decize at 1515 and moored just across the pontoon from Billow. Checked in and arranged to stay at least 2 nights. Time to remind you, dear reader, that this years motto is ‘half the distance in twice the time = ¼ the fuel bill.’ Did a bit of grocery shopping and had a couple of beers, then back onboard for dinner and a shower and an early night.
Overnight Decize 46 49.328N 003 27.365E
Sunday 24 June 2012 – Vanneaux
A quiet day on the halt to get over quite a sociable couple of days. Lars, the Danish doctor, popped around from his Jeanneau 12.5 metre yacht to ask if Steve could help bleed his diesel system. Didn’t take long to do. Rest of the day spent being incredibly lazy.
Overnight Vanneaux, by Lock 12 46 43.621 N 003 35.988E
Saturday 23 June 2012 – Vanneaux
Met up with new friends Tony and Barbara on their 11.3 metre steel canal cruiser ‘Gerlinde’. They came in for a couple of days and we discovered they had a problem with their starter motor. Steve spent 3 hours in the engine space, removing and cleaning the starter motor, sorting out some wiring and putting the whole lot back together again. Discovered the starter ring gear was a bit worse for wear, but was relieved when the newly cleaned starter motor was very much more reliable than before. The 2 Barbara’s took off and wandered into the nearby village, returning with baguettes and makings for a pleasant lunch. When it comes to fixing things, funny how things get around: next thing a Danish couple in a 12.5 metre Jeanneau turned up wanting to change their diesel filters. We agreed that he would do the job and Steve would pitch up and help if required.
Watched a holiday boat depart from the opposite bank. They waved good bye to the people behind them and then got on with the task in hand, looking forward. That was when their sun brolly decided to launch itself over the stern. Lots of shouting and gesticulating ensued, resulting in their stopping. By this time the brolly was showing about an inch of pole. Fortunately un pecheur on the bank saw what happened and cast his line toward it. The third cast had it hooked and it was fought valiantly and landed, much to the relief of the holiday makers wallet.
Carried on with some maintenance during the forenoon but all stopped for 1400 as we had been invited to play petanque in the tournament run by La Vacancerie. We played petanque through a sunny afternoon, with the honour of coming last. Obviously didn’t want to upset the locals so we let them win (oh really????) Actually the lovely thing was we were awarded a prize as well for being ‘les anglais who joined in.’ Good example of entante cordiale. We then had another excellent meal courtesy of La Vacanciere and entertaining music by yet another accordion player with all the bells and whistles, but this chap also played a mean trumpet too. Great day had by all.
Overnight Vanneaux, by Lock 12 46 43.621 N 003 35.988E
Friday 22 June 2012 – Vanneaux (Gannay sur la Loire)
Decided to stay for a few days. Berthing/water/electricity gratuite and ‘La Vacancerie’ the very pleasant little bar/restaurant run by Jean-Claude and Leena provided us with an excellent ‘plat du jour’ as a welcome repas during a day’s maintenance.
Worked hard all day, watched a movie and racked out.
Overnight Vanneaux, by Lock 12 46 43.621 N 003 35.988E
Thursday 21 June 2012 – Midsummer Solstice
Lock 9 (Clos du May) to Lock 11 (Vanneaux)
Decided to have a short ish day today. As a test, Steve left the fridge on overnight to see how the domestic bank performed. Just as suspected, the bank was down to a miserable 11.1 volts by this morning. Ran the engine for a short while to see how the voltage came up and that was somewhat disappointing as well. We did know the domestic bank was on its last legs as we had inadvertently left the fridge on a couple of years back in Island Harbour and flattened it completely. Cheap batteries don’t really survive that sort of treatment, so we were quite surprised the bank has lasted this long. New batteries methinks.
Didn’t get underway until 1045. Just up the canal we found a halt with a floating pontoon and a water supply!! Dropped in for a short stop to ditch gash and have a look. On the pontoon was a yacht called Vahine,
who looked like she had been T-boned at some stage and she looked most sad and dejected.
The pontoon had a ramp to the shore which was only just hanging on to the pontoon by about an inch in one corner.
Seems the pontoon had moved sideways. All very risky, what one might call a pension trap. Left there smartly and had a leisurely run up to Lock 10 (Rosiere) where we arrived at 1155 just in time for the esclusier’s lunch hour. Underway again just after 1300 with some helpful information from the eclusier about a lovely halt about 5km up the canal where, he assured us that there will be sufficient water for us to get in. That was where I learned the expression in French ‘yeah, and your cheque is in the post.’ Made the eclusier laugh. Anyway, after passing ‘Warrior’ from Cowes, an Edwardian motor yacht that was doing a good impression of a dredger, and a hire boat whose wake bounced us around for a full 20 minutes after he passed us, we arrived at Vanneaux. Aimed for a Wight Mistress sized gap and as we were on final approach, a guy in a big barge hopped out and hauled his barge forward to fill the space. Undeterred by this, we carried on in until our bows were 6 inches off (just to make our point.) The chap in the big barge just turned around and scuttled off. Anyway Mervyn and his crew, sailors from Suffolk, in a canal cruiser, were able to move along the jetty enough to give us a Wight Mistress sized slot, and they dropped our bowlines on the bollards so we could winch in to the slot. About 3 – 6 inches either end, so springs were neatly rigged. Just as well, because about 20 minutes after sorting out the shore power etc and in the middle of watering ship, an orage started up with very strong winds and rain you could shower in. The boat astern of us was badly secured AND ‘crime:’ with non-stretchy ‘sheet rope’, so Steve re-rigged their stern rope in a seamanlike manner, providing enough spare to rig a spring to prevent him surging into us.
This halt is very pleasant, with power, water and showers/toilets, and a small restaurant as well. Think we might stay here 2 – 3 days. This evening was Karaoke evening in ‘La Vacancerie’; the chap running it was playing an electronic accordion with an ipod on the side, plus all the sound system and lights one would expect. For the punters, there were ring-binders of lyrics, all in French (of course) Lots of fun but interestingly enough, even the locals were having problems singing this stuff, so how could we compete?
Overnight Vanneaux, by Lock 12 46 43.621 N 003 35.988E
Wednesday 20 June 2012 – Lock 2 (Thaleine) to Lock 9 (Clos du May)
After yesterday’s fun ditch crawling toward Roanne and back, we decided to have a quiet day and a short-ish run along the canal (26 km and 7 locks) with minimum fuss (hopefully.) Overcast in the morning but lovely and sunny in the afternoon. Passed ‘Scarlett’ in a lay-by type halt with all facilities, but it was a tad shallow for us, so we pressed on. We understand the Brendan, in his F31 spent the night aground in the middle of the halt, nowhere near the side. Fortunately for us, just a little further on was a small wooden quay jutting out into the slightly deeper water, just past Lock 9; we stopped at 1630. Cycled to the nearest village, Beaulon. A pretty village square and of course it is a Wednesday, so the shops were mostly shut by the time we arrived. Apero in a bar in the square, picked up some wine for dinner and cycled back. Beautifully quiet night in the middle of nowhere.
Overnight Clos du May Lock 9 46 37.402 003 39.458E
Tuesday 19 June 2012 Digoin – Canal de Roanne and back to the Canal Lateral a la Loire (next to Lock 2)
Shopping in light rain was the order for the forenoon. That done and a 2.5 km walk to boot, we settled down for a cuppa prior to slipping and proceeding. Todays plan was to get into the Canal de Digoin a Roanne, a 55 km canal to Roanne. All went well to start with: crossing the Loire on the Pont Canal a Digoin and locking down on to the Canal Lateral a la Loire, then 1.5 km or so and a quick left into the new canal. Locked in on opening (lunch 1200 – 1300 pour les eclusiers). 3 locks in quick succession lifting us about 10 metres in total on to the first long section of this canal. After a total of 13.5 km, where we were successively ploughing deeper and deeper furrows in the canal bottom, we decided to pull over to a halte fluvial. Big joke, couldn’t get within 2 metres of the bank. Turned round, did 13.5 km back and locked out. Still, at least we tried. Obviously Roanne is only for shallow draughted boats regardless of what the VNF documentation (backed up by the eclusiers) says. Note to self: write to VNF and let them know how shallow this canal really is.
Bit of a relief to be back on a ‘deeper’ canal. We came around a corner to a small halte, occupied by a hire boat with Australians onboard. Now, knowing what our Antipodean friends are like, imagine our surprise when, on asking if we could raft up alongside they came up with the ‘oh, we’re leaving early in the morning to get all the way back to Digoin (about 3 km).’ What they were actually saying was ‘we are anti-social people and don’t want/cannot help/ what does rafting mean? – to help anyone other than ourselves. The ‘bloke in charge’ then went on to describe a pretty little halt just a couple of kliks further on,before the next lock, and that they had stopped there before. Funny how people will make up stories to support their own inadequacy. Steve told them that we would go and look and if we didn’t/couldn’t find it, we WOULD be back and we WOULD be rafting up on them.
As it turned out, the magical halte was actually a southern-hemisphere created mirage, as a careful search of both banks all the way to the next lock revealed nothing. Too tired, past caring and not wishing to waste valuable diesel, we parked at 30 degrees to the bank and put our stakes in the ground. That’ll do for the night. I do hope, dear Mr Antipodean and friends, that when you need help in the waterways in the future, that you remember the boaties motto: ‘always help someone if they need help; what goes around, comes around.’
As it turned out, we are in a lovely quiet spot. Barbara cooked up some succulent fish and mushrooms and we devoured it, along with the latter half of lunchtime’s baguette.
Early night, somewhere near Thaleine (number 2) lock. Covered something like a total of 5 km from start to finish and about 28 km in the process. Hey ho.
46 28.832N 003 52.730E
Monday 18 June 2012 Paray le Monial to Digoin
Left Paray in glorious sunshine, in company with a couple on Cariad, a 29 ft yacht on her way home to Blighty. Shared the limited water resources by locking through together. We stayed together and arrived at the little port of Digoin together. We found a convenient hammerhead berth (the port is a touch shallow for Wight Mistress) and Cariad, drawing much less than us, backed into a corner berth.
Went for a walk in the afternoon, down to where the canal crosses the River Loire on its own bridge. The bridge and the first lock into the Canal Lateral a la Loire form a complete module and is an interesting and pleasant way to leave the Canal du Centre and venture on to pastures new.
Right on the bank of the Loire and high enough up to miss the ravages of La Loire in full flood is the ‘Observe a Loire’ a centre that describes the history of the river and its canal. Did you know, for example, that the Loire, at 1010km is the longest river in France. It starts near St Etienne in the Massif Central and winds its way down to Lorient on the Biscay Coast, south of Brittany in the Loire Antlantique region. The river has 100s of years of marine history and the Canal Lateral a Loire was created because of the immense difficulties working against the current, especially in the winter.
Wandered into the town of Digoin for a look around. Not a great deal to see and of course, being Monday, the town was closed.
Came back onboard for tea and pain au raisin/pain au chocolat. Subsequently had a snack supper later, watched an episode of Foyles War and retired.
Sunday 17 June 2012 Paray le Monial
All 4 of our children contacted Steve to wish him Happy Fathers Day. We wish all qualified a Happy Fathers Day too.
Today was a maintenance day. Barbara made new curtains for our forepeak cabin and a very natty mosquito net for the forepeak hatch which, as you will probably realize, is wide open most of the time. This requirement came about as a result of a particularly hungry ‘moustique’ who dined fully on both our bodies throughout a quite hot night. Steve spent a chunk of the day with his head buried in the fuse panel, sorting out which fuse did what. Much more to do there.
There was an accordion playing day going on in the grounds next to us but we didn’t hear much of it.
A lovely chicken dinner followed by cheese and crackers was enjoyed in the cockpit under the bimini, enjoying the sunshine but not being cooked by it.
We understand from Hannah that Naomi and Johns wedding was an awesome success and we wish the newlyweds all the very best for a happy and fulfilling future.
A third night here in Paray le Monial 46 26.779N 004 07.160E
Saturday 16 June 2012 Paray le Monial
Happy Birthday to our beautiful daughter Hannah Mary Elizabeth, 26 today.
Also, Many Congratulations and Best Wishes to Naomi (Tims sister) and her new husband John on their marriage today. Good luck for a wonderful future.
Sunny morning, slightly restless night (not sure why) but we decided today is a maintenance day. Spent the morning pottering around, landed the bikes and trailer and headed off to the shops. Wandered around, enjoying the view, quick apero, shopping and back onboard. Just across the quay is some sort of celebration going on, with loud music . Tomorrow it seems there will be a festival of accordion music; sounds like fun. Perhaps another night here tomorrow as well.
Mary and two friends arrived onboard an 8m metre Catalac catamaran. Mary has been sailing the Greek islands and is now heading back toward UK.
Mae popped over with some maps and information about Roanne for us.
Dinner smells wonderful, must sign off and open a bottle of wine.
Overnight Paray le Monial 46 26.779N 004 07.160E
Friday 15 June 2012 Palinges to Paray le Monial
Interesting experience this morning. When we checked our lines last night prior to settling down, we were secured both to the jetty and the bottom, quite firmly. This morning while clearing away the breakfast things and preparing to slip, we noted that all of a sudden we were afloat. The answer to this was that our friends Don and Heather onboard ‘Scarlett’ had locked through the lock behind us, depositing a whole lock full of water into the pound (stretch between locks) that we were in, and this was enough to float us off.
Today, in cruising terms, was semi rugged: 6 locks 3 ½ hours under way J . Rushing is not what this life is about and today we had a good balance of everything. Arrived at Paray le Monial, just past the furthest south part of the Canal du Centre.
Met Simon and Mae Hurley on their steel canal boat ‘Joie de Vivre’. Lots of useful information for us as they keep their boat at Roanne, a bit further down and at the end of a feeder canal joining this one at Digoin. Simon and Mae are from New Zealand and have been cruising the waterways for 10 years!!!
Paray le Monial is a beautiful little town with 6 religious communities and a large basilica as its focal point. Pretty streets and squares. Sun shining too, making it a lovely visit. Decided to stay an extra day or two.
Overnight Paray le Monial 46 26.779N 004 07.160E
Thursday 14 June 2012 Genelard to Palinges
Slipped around 1055 and did a short ish run to Palinges (one lock and 3 km), alongside by 1137. Assured by the VNF man that there was plenty of depth of water at the halte nautique, we made our approach. You know what those car parking spaces are like outside shops, where the cars are parked at about 30 – 45 degrees to the pavement? Well that is what it was like here. Still, our boarding ladder made short work of getting ashore so all was well.
Landed the bikes and cycled around 5 km to the local chateau (closed but still a nice view from outside) and round to the village of Palinges with its pretty church in the square. Quick apero and back onboard. Loaded up the trailer with the Cobb and all the acutriments and wandered up to the picnic area (one stone table under a wonderful old oak tree) just along the bank. BBQ dinner and wine and talked until dark.
Overnight Palinges 46 33.222N 004 12.858E
Wednesday 13 June 2012 Blanzy to Genelard
Quiet trip, 9 locks and 3 lifting bridges in a row at Monceux les Mines. Also a large harbour in the middle of a busy town. Not for us, so on we went to Genelard. Genelard is a large rectangular halt in rural setting. Good news was that it was warm and sunny.
Genelard has electricity and water available but in limited supply, so it was interesting to see all the splitters and adaptors and extension cables all hooked up the two sockets available. We shared with a nice French couple, who were very keen that we disconnected before 1100 the next morning as they were cooking for guests and all their galley equipment was electric. Fortunately for them we were underway by 1055.
We met up with Don and Heather on ‘Scarlett’ again. They are moving their car on eac
We are so pleased; Wight Mistress is being amazingly frugal on diesel, especially when considering we are cooking with it as well. Found a petrol station that did diesel at a reasonable price, so Steve hooked up the trailer to his bike and spent a happy hour or so, cycling to the petrol station and bringing back diesel for Wight Mistress
Overnight Genelard 46 34.586N 004 14.068E
Tuesday 12 June 2012 Blanzy
The morning continued with a strange, wet air to it. It stopped raining this afternoon and the sun came out, hoorah!! We wandered off up the hill to explore a bit and came across the mining museum.
Sadly it was closed but we took some pictures from the outside and chatted with a team of cyclists on a day out, who had managed an organized visit. Sounded interesting so perhaps we will swing by this way again some time.
Overnight again at Blanzy 46 41.751N 004 23.522E
Monday 11 June 2012 Montchanin to Blanzy
Very heavy rain showers throughout the day. On our way back from a quick visit to the hypermarche for some essentials, we met up with Brendan, who had an engine problem. Blocked water inlet. Out came our trusty compressor and with a loud ‘thump’ sound, out came a large plug of grass from his intake. All sorted.
We started our descent today. ‘Downscalators’ are sooooo much easier 🙂 Travelled in company with Brendan onboard Ladimar.
Arrived at Blanzy after a grueling 2 ½ hours under way to find a pleasant halt with electricity and water and even a bit of wifi too. We may stay another night here.
Met up with Neil and Betsanne on their Hunter 32 bilge keeler, going in the opposite direction to us. It seems that their story is similar to ours and that they started this year. Their initial aim was to head to the Med but they, like so many of us, realized very quickly that this part of the journey is probably the nicest bit. They are now swanning around the middle bits like we are and we expect to meet up with them in Auxonne some time later in the year.
Spoke with Robert and Judith on Billow (we were in company, you will remember, dear reader, last year) Sadly Angus, their elderly dog, passed away recently, but they still have Maddie. Robert and Judith are considering selling their boat in favour of something a bit more useable in the French waterways, so if anyone fancies a beautiful, well equipped, 50 foot motor boat with a steel hull AND a jucuzzi, do lettuce snow and we will pass your information on to them. Oh yes, and while we are on this subject, the American couple on the lovely barge at St Leger sur le Dheune are looking to sell the barge. Price? E 145,000 but well worth a look. The boat is called ‘Old Timer’ and she is lovely.
Brendan decided that it was time for him to press on as he is returning to Blighty, so we said our farewells and off he went.
Overnight Blanzy 46 41.751N 004 23.522E