Tuesday 24 July 2012 – nowhere in particular to Menetreole sous Sancerre.
We have noticed in our travels that all the holiday boaters seem to want to stop after about 3pm, hurriedly and manically looking for berths. The wise traveller, therefore, departs early and stops early to avoid the rush. We slipped from our beautiful, tree-lined avenue in the middle of nowhere at about 1000 and were alongside at Menetreole sous Sancerre in time for a plat du jour in the local auberge, a wander through the village and then once the heat of the day had dissipated a teeny weeny bit, we landed les velos et le remorque (trailer) and did the shopping. Very conveniently, the local auberge has le weefee, hence us sitting here in the ‘cool’ of the evening, enjoying a beer/wine and using the internet.
Tomorrow we are going to cycle up the steep hill, past the vinyards, the 3 km to the village of Sancerre, where the really lovely Sancerre white wines come from. Has to be done really.
Overnight Memetreole sous Sancerre 47 19.104 N 002 51.441E
Monday 23 July 2012 Cours le Barres to nowhere in particular (green bank)
Quite a long day today. We covered 30 km and 8 locks today. We had, you will remember dear reader, decided to slow everything down and take our time. After our long break at Decize, sojourn on Billow and a generally lazy time since Auxonne, we thought we would have a go and see what it was like last year. Don’t think we will do that again – we were knackered (a bit). We were actually aiming to get to Menetreole sous Sancerre and ran out of steam about 2 locks and 7.5 km short of target but what the hey. While sat resting after our epic voyage, Steve spotted a pretty ginger coloured otter hop out of the canal and bound across the grass into a ditch. By the time the camera swung into action, it was gone, dammmmit!!!
Spikes in, dinner, game of squabble and bed.
Overnight nowhere in particular 47 15.931N 002 55.462E
Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 July 2012 – Guetin to Cours le Barres
Power and water available here so we stopped for the weekend and did some maintenance, laundry etc. Met an Australian couple, Ian and Jill on another beautiful Dutch barge (hull, 100 years old) that had been completely refurbished and would put a stately home to shame.
Overnight Cours le Barres 47 01.543N 003 01.987E
Friday 20 July 2012 – Plagny t0 Guetin (green bank)
An interesting if short trip today. There is a wide part of the canal that is supposed to have a buoyed channel showing the ‘deep’ bits. Guess who found the shallow bit. Yep. Full power astern for a few minutes and we managed to unstick, however for a little while we were wondering if we would have to throw a heaving line at some itinerant walkers and ask for a bit of heave ho. Thing is, they would only be able to pull us on harder. Anyway, we managed to free ourselves and just around the corner we found another green bank halt, where we put the spikes in and stopped. After the rain stopped, we landed les velos and cycled off to find the little village of Apremont, noted as one of the prettiest villages in France.
A little further along the canal is a small branch canal (now closed to navigation and teeming with ‘les castors’ (beavers). This branch canal leads to a circular lock. ‘How does this work?’ you might well ask. Actually if you think of it as a clock face, the branch comes in at 6 o’clock. At 8 o’clock is the other gate that lets barges in from the river, just below a barrage. The barges used to carry sand. Water is then fed in from above the barrage level into a sluice at 10 o’clock to lift the barge to the canal level after which, off it goes along the canal. While the lock is no longer used for this purpose, it is in lovely condition and it is also used to feed water from the river in to the canal system.
A bit further down, we cycled in to Apremont, which really is a very beautiful and well kept village. A good look round, lots of pictures, a quick refreshment and then a cycle back to Wight Mistress rounded off a lovely day.
Overnight Guetin 46 56.578N 003 04.647E
Thursday 19 July 2012 Chevenon to Plagny
We have been fighting with our domestic battery bank for a couple of years (since we accidentally flattened it completely by leaving the fridge switched to ‘battery’, the shore supply tripping out and the bank dying as a result.) We had been thinking about replacing them more and more. In fact Steve had been measuring voltages and playing with shore power/Harry the Honda (generator) /engine revs etc etc for a few days since being on shore power at Decize. This is where the Law of Attraction meets Insight One of the Mayan Prophecies (coincidences). We wandered ashore at Plagny to ditch the gash and have a look around. The town of Nevers is about 4km away and we thought that perhaps a battery place might just exist – who knows? Anyway, we came across a little bar tabac and in we went to check for baguettes (depot de pain) and so, having a beer as well. We met up with Florent and Jimmy in the bar and just happened to ask about batteries. Florent whipped out his phone and within 30 seconds, Simon, who owns a shop that sells, among other things, batteries. Simon came onboard, looked at the problem, proposed a solution, took Steve to his shop, sorted out new batteries and even delivered them right into the engine room. All Steve then had to do was hook them up. Magic!!!! And a good price too.
After the excitement of a Celestine Prophecy coming true, we hopped on les velos electriques and cycled up to Nevers for a look around. The cathedral had been bombed to bits in WW2 by the Allies and after rebuild, sports some very interesting (yet ugly) modern church windows. A bit Picasso’esque and in modern splashy colours; chaque un a son gout. Rest of the town is very pretty. The port at Nevers is too shallow for Wight Mistress but we cycled down there to see Billow, who also did a bit of bottom ploughing to get in there. We had a cup of tea with them and then cycled back to Plagny along the branch canal from Nevers to the Canal Lateral a la Loire, making a round trip of about 10 – 12 km.
Overnight Plagny 46 57.119N 003 09.719E
Wednesday 18 July 2012 – Fleury to Chevenon DAY 50
Day 50 since we left Auxonne. Gone in a flash or what?? It has been a really fun ride so far and we still have 3 ½ months before we have to think about stopping for the winter. Arrived at Chevenon mid afternoon and moored on a halte with mooring rings for the evening, getting out the cob BBQs and having a very pleasant sunny evening repas. Went for a wander into the village (all closed of course) in the evening sunshine. There is a large-ish chateau here but it is very well hidden from practically every angle. Clever chaps these French ‘Aristo’s’.
Overnight Chevenon 46 55.479N 003 14.217E
Tuesday 17 July 2012 – Decize to Fleury
Sort of retracing our steps a bit. We left Billow at Decize as they were still sorting themselves out, agreeing to meet up with them at Fleury. Seemed a bit stranged getting Wight Mistress under way again but we were very soon back in the swing of things. Billow arrived about 3 hours or so later, rafting up on the outside of David and Mary’s Dutch barge Vrouw Hendrika, whose hull is 100 years old. There are many, many Dutch barges of this sort of age in the waterways and lots of them have been lovingly restored so that if you went aboard, you would honestly feel you were in a house or on a cruise liner – they are lovely (not for us, yet!! – we have some serious sailing to get into once we are lulled out of this idyllic way of life.) We ate ashore with Robert and Judith, and Roberts brother Derek and his wife Sue, in Erve’s little canal-side bar and chatted until after dark.
Overnight Fleury 46 50.160N 003 19.321E
Monday 16 July 2012 – Decize
Spent the day sorting out the boat and all our stuff and generally settled back onboard. Wight Mistress will be getting under way again for the first time tomorrow, since we arrived in Decize on Monday 25 June. 3 weeks!!!!
Sunday 15 July 2012 – aboard Billow – Fleury to Decize
Bit of a late start after quite a long night last night. This afternoon we headed back to Decize and decanted back aboard our lovely Wight Mistress again. Robert’s brother Derek and his wife Sue are due to arrive tomorrow so this gives Judith plenty of time to get Billow turned around and ready. Had dinner onboard with Robert and Judith and retired fairly early.
Saturday 14 July 2012 – aboard Billow – Decize to Fleury
This morning saw frenetic activity on the halt, with an enormous fridge arriving on the back of a hay trailer and half a dozen locals man-handling it into position by the outside bar, set up for this evening. Marquees set up all around the little bar and PA system, dance floors etc all being prepared for tonight
Festivities kicked off early in the evening with the usual accordion player and singer, joined later by yet another accordion player. The dancing was fun and the ‘repas’ plentiful, with saucisson, merguer and andouillette (all different types of sausage), bread and wine a plenty. We danced until quite late. Of course, it rained quite have throughout the evening, however us Brits had a
Friday 13 July 2012 – aboard Billow – Nivernais to Decize
Gentle locking out of the Nivernais, across the Loire to lock in to Decize again. A bit rainy today. We came close to Wight Mistress and dropped off a piece of piping that Steve found (typical squirrel) and then headed off to the other end of the port to lock up on to the Canal Lateral a la Loire. Of course, we arrived at the pull chord just in time for the lights to go off for Monsieur l’eclusier’s lunch break. Managed to get through just after lunch and headed up to Fleury for a break at a lovely little port, where we decided to stay the weekend and enjoy the Bastille Day celebrations on Saturday 14 July.
Thursday 12 July 2012 – aboard Billow – Cercy la Tour
Bit of a late start today, we departed to head north to Pannecot. Exited the first lock and as we passed the end of the mooring just north of the lock, started to plough. Backed down into the wider bit and turned round, returning into the lock in time for the eclusier to have her lunch. Pleasant wait at a picnic table, overlooking the river Aron. Decision is to stop at the halt just before the end of the Nivernais and pop into Carrefour for groceries, then head back across the Loire to the port at Decize and lock up on to the Canal Lateral a la Loire and bimble north to Fleury for the night. We have to remember that the canal system is closed on Saturday 14 July (Bastille Day) and that the Friday and the Sunday both are possibly a bit dodgy as well, as this is pretty much the biggest celebration on the French calendar. What actually happened was that we headed down to the Carrefour halt, then continued after a short stop to the a halt just before the end of the Canal du Nivernais, where a barge was not on its private berth. Stopped there for the night.
Wednesday 11 July 2012 – Joined Billow
Decize – Canal du Nivernais – Cercy la Tour
Joined Billow this morning and just before the lock lunch hour, departed through the lock down on to the Loire and across to the entrance to the Canal du Nivernais. Managed to lasso a bollard about a hundred miles in from the bank and stop for lunch while waiting for the eclusier to finish his. A pretty girl arrived shortly after 1300 and locked us in. We confirmed with the actual eclusier that there is sufficient water depth to get us to Cercy la Tour, then continued our merry way. A few small locks and some narrow, very low bridges to negotiate and we arrived at Cercy about 4 hours later. Robert used the upper deck conning position for the first time and it works well, being on the centre line and with good alround visibility. Judith had a bit of helming and engine steering practice, culminating in a perfect locking and passing through the final protective lock on to the River Aron at Cercy.
Pretty town, we went for a stroll and took pictures, ending up at a little bar (the only one in town that was open) to meet some of the locals and have a chat and a beer.
Tuesday 10 July 2012 – Decize
Plan for the next week is for us to join Billow and head off up the Nivernais, returning to Decize next Monday. Robert’s brother Derek joins them then and we will probably cruise in company further north on the Canal Lateral a la Loire.
Gloriously sunny and warm again after a few days of ‘orage fest’. We hear England is basking in nothing but downpours. We hope the summer happens soon.
Monday 9 July – Decize
Opened up Billow’s hatches, doors and windows to give her an airing. Robert and Judith arrived back this evening to Barbara treating them to a delicious curry and a lovely dessert that she made out of Delice de Bourgogne cheese and some fresh cherries that she softened and mixed with a really outstanding home-made sauce. Ba truly is the best cook in the whole wide world. Sat and chatted into the wee small hours.
Sunday 8 July 2012 – Decize
Went for a walk this afternoon, across the bridge over the Loire then hung a right and walked along the other side. This walk is a big loop that takes you out around the edge of the town and back in at the other side, by the next bridge over the Old Loire. Cool and a little overcast, it was a very pleasant jaunt and gave a good view of the lock exit out on to the River Loire from the cross canal that links the Canal Lateral a la Loire and the River Loire, and from there the Canal du Nivernais. It also forms one edge of the port of Decize. The exit gate where the lock lowers boats down on to the Loire, also has a protective gate outside in case the Loire goes into flood. It has done this 3 times in recent (ish) years: 1846 (nearly 6 metres), 1866 (twice 5.3 and then nearly 6 metres), 1893 (4.7 metres), 1907 (5.2 metres) and 2003 (a mere 4.15 metres). So we guess the locals are a bit serious about how the Loire behaves, hence the controllable barrage. They must have some faith in the barrages effectiveness, since there are many houses with range of a good soaking if Old Pere Loire were to get a bit uppity again.