Saturday 1 September 2012 – Quick upload using Vodafone Eurotraveller – well, it is a Saturday

Hi All, Internet connections are non-existent at the moment, so this is coming up via the iPhone from somewhere in the middle of nowhere. As soon as we get a good connection I will put in some pictures……..honest 🙂

Friday 31 August 2012 – Dormans to Vandiere 3 Lock
Today was an epic voyage – 4.2km and no locks. We wanted to stop at a place we stopped last year and have a BBQ. We arrived in no time at all and cycled up to Chatillon sur Marne, a hill in the Champagne country a few km from the halte (which is in the middle of nowhere.) Thank goodness for les velos electriques – they made short work of quite a steep hill again!! At the top of the hill is a big statue of Pope Urbaine II who was responsible for kicking off the first crusades. Right next to his statue is what looks like a ruined church with a cross. We both felt a very strong sense of power coming off the church wall with a large cross on it. Interesting. After a long chat (in French) with the lady in the Office de Tourisme, and armed with a whole load of booklets and a map, we returned to Wight Mistress for our evenings repas BBQ and prepared for another epic voyage tomorrow.
Overnight Vandiere 3 Lock ponton d’attente 49 05.867N 003 43.578E

Thursday 30 August 2012 – Dormans (2nd day)  Happy Birthday to Fay,  many happy returns to you.

Said au revoir to Bill and Genevieve this morning as they are heading in the opposite direction. Bill still wants a lot more fuel so we recommended Charly, where you can actually see the supermarket and fuel station from the quay.
Up the hill behind the town is a huge memorial to the all those lost in the Great War of 1914 – 1918, with particular emphasis on the First and Second Battles of the Marne. Built on the top of the hill are two chapels, one on top of the other; the second (upper) chapel also houses a small museum of artifacts, artwork and poetry from that period. Very moving. Just down the hill is the museum of the mill (musee du moulin) where there is a large water wheel and a large collection of machinery associated with the baking and champagne industry from around the Industrial Revolution and the turn of the 20th century. Very interesting and well worth the visit. Spent the evening watching movies after our strenuous bicycle rides today.
Overnight Dormans 49 04.610N 003 38.280E

Wednesday 29 August 2012 – Dormans
Happy Birthday to Barbara’s brother Alan, many happy returns.

Today was a maintenance day. Steve got into the engine room and took the alternator off to check for any signs of damage or wear. Nothing looked out of place and even the diodes appeared to be ‘diode-ish’ (current one way, open circuit the other.) The alternator went back on and belt was adjusted. The only other thing found were the two small wires (D+ and W+) had loose connectors, so these were tightened as well and voila!!! lots of lovely volts out of the alternator! Relief; we didn’t really want to have to stay here for days and order a new one.
Today we met some lovely people: Bill and Genevieve McWilliams from Annapolis, Maryland. They have retired, having run a pottery business on Upper State Circle in Annapolis for years. If you haven’t visited Annapolis, dear reader, it is a beautiful town with much to see and is described by the locals as ‘a drinking town with a sailing problem’. Anyway, Bill and Genevieve arrived on their canal boat ‘River Pipit’ and asked if there was somewhere to get fuel. Turns out they were down to ‘fumes’ and really needed some diesel, so out came the trailer and the velo electrique and off we went to Carrefour. Managed 60 ltrs in one run and Bill was happy with that. Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and nattering over a bottle of Cremant to Bourgogne and then Genevieve popped our pizza into her oven for us (to save Steve breaking out the Cob BBQ).
This afternoon, we decided to go for a swim in the pool on-site. Paid our E3 each and went in, only to be told that Steve couldn’t go in swimming in his ‘Bermuda shorts’ even thought they were proper swimming attire. Seems that the rules of the pool (for men that is) is Speedo type trunks (budgie smugglers.) Oh well, at least we were refunded our E3 each.
Overnight Dormans 49 04.610N 003 38.280E

Tuesday 28 August 2012 – Charly to Dormans with a short stop at Chateau Thierry

Interesting experience today. We approached a lock just before Chateau Thierry and pressed the button on our ‘zappeurre’ (real name ‘telecommander – a unit a bit like a TV remote that trips the lock in your favour.) All went well, the lock gates opened and inside was revealed a flat barge with a digger on it, doing some dredging. He used his digger bucket to drag himself out of the lock, only to go aground on the sill and tilt alarmingly. From our angle, it looked like the digger was sliding off the barge and from the speed with which he swung his bucket around and clung on to the other end of the barge, we think that was the case. Anyway, he sorted himself out and moved aside to let us into the lock and gave us a smile and a wave.
While manoeuvring around and avoiding large patches of grassy weed, the barrage, piles and other hazards, the bow thruster was used a little more than usual. This then revealed a seriously low engine battery. At first we thought something was jamming the bow thruster, so we came alongside at Chateau Thierry so that Steve could put on his mask and snorkel and have a look.

Short stop Chateau Thierry 49 02.603N 003 23.937E

It turned out that all was well externally however we were actually perched on a rocky bottom, so we decided to press on instead of staying a night. we arrived at Dormans and put on shore power to charge the batteries. There could be a problem with our alternator so we decided to let the engine room cool down and look at it tomorrow.
Dormans halte fluviale is alongside a holiday camping site with all sorts of amenities, including an outdoor heated swimming pool and mini golf. Must check that out.
A couple of things that stand out to make Dormans a bit unique are:
the railway line that runs along the bank the other side of the river which is particularly noisy and seems to run at all hours (sometimes even at night), and the church bell that chimes on the hour and every quarter hour inbetween. The chime is particularly irritating, since it resembles the first three notes of ‘Three Blind Mice’ however instead of using the correct notes: tonic, supertonic and mediant in reverse order, it uses tonic, leading note and submediant in that order and after the first 33 chimes starts to grate.
Note to self: Earplugs!
Overnight Dormans 49 04.610N 003 38.280E

Monday 27 August 2012 – Charly (2nd day)

Shopping day today as the local supermarket was within sight of the halte fluviale, as was the fuel station. Apres grocery shopping, Steve did 3 runs to the fuel station and loaded Wight Mistress up to full with 130 litres of diesel. From the fuel graph and calculations, since starting this cruise in Calais last year, Wight Mistress consumes 1.5 litres of diesel per hour, and that includes cooking on the diesel hob. We are very pleased with this. Also the measurements conclude that our main diesel fuel tank has a 90 gallon capacity as opposed to the 80 gallons we thought it was – either that or 45 litres of diesel is hiding somewhere in the murky depths of Wight Mistress’s engine room.
This afternoon we cycled through Charly and down to the next village to see what the halte is like there. It is right next to the railway station and can take only one boat. We decided to stay at Charly for another night and move on tomorrow.
Overnight Charly 48 58.119N 003 16.840E

Sunday 26 August 2012 – Mery sur Marne to Charly

Cruising along the Marne, just after Mery, Barbara spotted a fishing rod near the bank with its line caught on a branch. A quick ‘man-overboard’ practice had the rod onboard, plus a few bits of dead branch that happened to interfere with Wight Mistress’s bow and Barbara’s head. We now have two fishing rods onboard. Two more locks have been automated now, so we picked up our ‘zappeurre’ (telecommander – a TV remote that triggers the lock into letting you in) from St Jean Lock, instead of Mery Lock, where we collected it last year. Arrived at Charly to find that a holiday boat was on the halte nautique, so we went onto the barge quay on the side of the river nearer the town. Just as well, as the bridge over the river had a barrier and was out of use.
Overnight Charly 48 58.119N 003 16.840E

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