contentedsouls

Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

  • December 2016
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Continuing up the Loing

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/11/2016

We left Moret the next morning and stuck pins in after the first lock of the day where we had good access to fuel, Lidl (hooray – first in a long, long while), and Carrefour. My cup runneth over! Whilst I filled my boots doing a re-stock, G did two fuel runs and we had lunch before leaving – the day got wetter and wetter so 2 locks and 6 kms later we called it a day and banged in pins at Episy. Once again Muttley was on a lead and minding his own business when this cat attacked him – they seem to be making a habit of it; poor love is getting quite traumatised.

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3 kms and 1 lock (such monumental cruises) saw us at la Genevraye below the little town of Montigny-sur-Loing. Leaving Baxter on the boat, the rest of us walked up to the town which had most things you need, but a long, footpathless walk up the road to reach it discouraged a return trip.

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3 more locks and 8 kms saw us into the major conurbation of Nemours which nestles between the river and the canal. Not the most pretty of moorings, but ideal for Daisy and the dogs and in easy walking distance of the town, we’ve spent the last 6 nights there, only leaving this morning. Our book said the mooring, electricity and water were free – but the first morning there, two policemen came calling to say that they would come back in the afternoon to collect 26 euros off us for two nights – i have absolutely no idea why they didn’t take the money there and then; what a waste of their time.

It was at this point we twigged as to why most boats were moored the other side of the gate with rear ropes attached to the bank escape ladders and front ropes to bushes. We promptly moved Francoise up a few yards and joined them – perfectly willing to pay 13 euros for the one night we used their electric and water, but we never saw them again. Funny old world.

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Unfinished business on the Loing and a cruising plan for the rest of 2016

Posted by contentedsouls on 17/11/2016

Way back this last spring we were going to cruise a loop, but floods and breaches prevented that, so we never did do the top left quarter of the loop between the two pink pointers on the map. We reckon we can trundle down the Loing towards the Briare canal (which is currently closed) and do most of the bit that we missed. That should work nicely to pick up Sue and Vic, then head back North with them and up the Seine to just outside Paris, where we have now taken a 12 day mooring for Christmas and New Year, in a marina where we have friends over wintering. The marina is all country and animal friendly whilst only being 15 minutes by train into the centre of Paris.

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So we set off downstream on the Seine. Still a lot of traffic and a bit of a wait at the first lock, which seemed to have a malfunction, and hung a left upstream onto the Loing. Everywhere was looking quite desolate after the extensive flooding and none of the river moorings had been re-opened, so we weren’t able to moor until we went up through the first lock onto the canalised section.

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After we moored I wandered back down with my camera – some pretty tjalks, but also one with a problem. Not the only sad sight

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The following evening, the delightful capitainerie came round for a coffee and caught us up with the gossip. She said that the French couple were living on the red tjalk  and were advised to get off the river section and onto the canals. Despite them being offered a tow, they declined to move and they broke their bank poles and ended up on the bank. They had no insurance and the ground is too soft to get a crane in – the owners have now vanished. it also seems that, when VNF dredged after the flooding that they didn’t dredge the moorings below the lock in the right places, so there was still no access to them in their pretty park up to the town.

Loretta also came to collect a mooring fee and the town visitor tax; we were charged half of the 13.50 euro charge, as the water and electric weren’t back on and 50 cents per person per night tax. Seemed a lot for a bollard on the bank in winter on a canal that is currently a dead end. She also lamented the fact that they no longer had visitors and that many of the businesses in town had suffered/closed due to the canal being closed for much of the year and no-one visiting anymore – it’s not rocket science – get the power back on and provide free electric, like so many of the other places we have been staying.

It’s a beautiful town with lots of lovely restaurants and a good market, we would happily have spent 5 or 6 days here and spent money more in the town but, to be honest, were not prepared to pay for the privilege of doing so. It was dark, grey and wet when we went into town (so, therefore, are my photos) but it would be idyllic sitting on the veranda overlooking the river for lunch when the sun is shining. Let’s hope the weather has picked up by the time we come back through with Sue and Vic. That is both dogs with Graham; a long walk into town and back for him, but he had a power nap whilst we enjoyed a coffee and pastis

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Having abandoned our attempt on the summit …….

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/11/2016

From Bray, we continued upstream for Nogents and beyond (see previous blog). By now it had become apparent that Marcilly wasn’t going to happen as it was too shallow to be navigable and, after the debacle at Bazoches lock we called it a day, turned tail and headed back downstream, passed Bray and back to Marolles. We’ve slotted into our winter cruising brains now and are in no rush to go anywhere in particular – only moving if the weather is reasonable and we’re bored with where we are.

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Not bored with Marolles and it’s coypu family and it’s surrounds

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Totally intrigued by what they are building across the river on the far side of the bridge; not to mention what they left swinging in the air for the entire weekend ….. only in France

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From there back to Montereau, where we’ve ended up spending another week. We’d planned to leave Thursday but the weather was evil. Then Friday was the 11th, a bank holiday, and the locks were closed – at that point it made sense to stay for the market on Saturday and stock up with veg; then Sunday is a day of rest!

First, I had to get my swans in a row

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Monday morning we are off to pastures new; down the Seine and hang a left onto the river Loing; we have unfinished business there.

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Heading up the Seine

Posted by contentedsouls on 13/11/2016

Just the one lock en route to our mooring at Morolles-sur-Seine, although it was not without incident as a rather large peniche tried to reverse into us and squidge us – the subject of a separate blog here https://contentedsouls.com/2016/11/03/close-encounters-and-an-assault-on-the-head-of-the-seine-navigation/

This lock has been upgraded to the normal 180 metres by 11.4 metres wide, leaving the little lock, unused, alongside. The latter is now used as a most delightful mooring for plaisanciers with free electric – the area has wonderful dog walking, plus boulangerie, boucherie and a little shop. You just need to get your ropes sorted as there is a fair bit of water movement whilst the big ships use the lock next door – certainly more rise and fall than an Ed Balls waltz.

Having had the incident in the lock, we decided our communications in such circumstances needed to be vastly improved over, “blurbyblurbydoblurbquickQUICK” and, “whaaaaat?” The need to communicate a little more stylishly and effectively on a big river like the Seine was becoming paramount. G ordered some nifty (but not cheap) head sets and mike communications systems from Amazon to be delivered to La Poste at Bray. We have gone through two sets of intercoms since we turned to a life afloat and neither have been very good; time to bite the bullet and cough up for something hands free and reliable.

The parcel was to be dispatched from within France – despite that, they made two attempts to deliver at lunchtime when everyone knows France is shut down. Our conversations with customer services in India to sort the problem left us in despair; despite telling them we had no car and that we travelled on a boat, they still thought it would be a wonderful idea for us to travel 50 miles (inland from the river) to pick up the parcel. In the end, we lost the will to live and abandoned the purchase. In fairness, our money was quickly refunded but we would have liked the goods …. sigh. So it’s back to shouting for the time being at least.

Despite the proximity of the two locks, it’s a good ten minutes to get up to the bridge and take photos and I failed miserably at getting up onto the bridge to get a piccy of a big one coming up towards me. One was a 20 metre motor/cabin with four pushers ahead – 140 metres in total, but only showed up as the motor on our AIS! Did the best I could guys but…… The third picture is two 80 metres going away from me. So difficult to get perspective, especially in this continuous misty fog

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Those of you that know me well know that I have a secret passion for crap bread. Nothing I like more than a bit of Warburton’s toasty – in fact, I will happily exchange a free bed for the night for a loaf of Warburton’s if you happen to be passing with one about your person. Bread here is a strange thing; it’s either baked fresh twice daily or it’s a strange thing called, mostly, Harry’s American sandwich – sweet enough to be pudding and lasts for months and is totally disgusting (and this is from a crap bread lover). I have now discovered pain de maiz – soft and gorgeous and keeps for two or three days – and my French life is now a happier place on the breakfast front. I wonder if this is the same as corn bread in the deep South of the poor old USA?

So here are a few pics from around and about

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Daisy is not at all impressed with this damp and grey weather – it looks like there is a snake in my bed, she loves to burrow under the blanket I’ve thrown over.

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So it was onwards to Bray – not only had we been promised our delivery of our new communication system on Friday, but also the arrival of our Aussie friends Jo and Peter for the weekend. We hadn’t seen them since 2014 and I was sooo excited. Having guests on something more buxom is such a delight. The trip was busy, busy, with commercials but an uneventful cruise with our arrival next to a gorgeous park. Sadly the leccy was off but, hey, ho, you can’t have it all.

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What a lovely weekend before they left us on Monday morning to fly back to Australia for their summer …. lucky buggers.

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We also made fast and loose with their hire car to do beer and diesel runs. Fabulous to see you again guys.

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Joining the Seine and a visitor for the weekend

Posted by contentedsouls on 07/11/2016

After all the hoo ha and panic, we arrived at the confluence of l’Yonne and La Seine in leisurely time, with a week to spare before the closures. The town that sits on the junction is Montereau–Fault–Yonne and we were joined there for the weekend by our friend Malcolm off of barge Rachel – although they winter in the UK, he came out to do a bit of work on the boat and decided to drive out and spend a couple of days with us. Mates are always welcome and particularly so at this time of the year when company is rare – having said that, we have had a rather nice little glut over the last 10 days!

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The man on the market was intrigued by my fascination with the pop up bourn’s for the market traders – when I explained that I lived on a boat, he immediately twigged and was all jolly and chatty. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of these at every mooring!

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As Malcolm came by car, we suggested he drive us out to Chateau Fontainebleau on Saturday – a perfect sunny day for a road trip and warm enough to sit out with a beer. I’ve never seen so many bridal parties in one area!

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As Malcolm and I returned from walking Muttley, we saw this shiny new Piper barge arriving; Bella Fortuna. The owners were Voirrey and Andy and we rafted them up alongside us where Daisy made fast and loose with their boat which was a bit mean as they had 3 beautiful cats on board that could do nothing to defend their territory – she wouldn’t have been so bold if they were out on deck! Voirrey and Andy bought us a box of cakes to say thank you for helping them – Malcolm had left at that point, so G scoffed the lot over a couple of days (I’m more of a savoury girl). They popped round for a drink in the evening and were great fun.

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We fully intended to move on Monday morning but it was chucking it down with rain and we couldn’t be bothered. We let the neighbours know that we wouldn’t be disturbing them and they asked us round for dinner – an excellent dinner it was too. They are wintering just outside Paris, so we should see them again when we head down the Seine and I can return their hospitality then – we may stay in the same port as them for 10 days over Christmas and New Year; but plans are still jelly.

In the meantime, we decided to head up the Seine to see if we could get up to the top at Marcilly. A fair bit of birdlife around here – if you look very carefully you can see a green woodpecker in the grass. Shame the fog hadn’t completely lifted.

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This stretch of water is busy with heavy traffic and we often have to queue at the locks. I find it quite fascinating.

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The locks are 180 metres long and this photo gives you some perspective. The two boats ahead, side by side, are big gravel barges – they look like little pleasure boats way ahead of us.

Favourite photo today

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Should we go or should we stay?

Posted by contentedsouls on 06/11/2016

My last post was written in ‘real time’ whilst it was still fresh in my mind and I was still running on adrenalin!!!!

Picking up the normal course of our travels, I’m rewinding to the 11th October on the River Yonne and G getting back from the UK having escorted Matilda Rose to Iver to be sold.

Graham returned from the UK around 10pm on the 11th; with the Yonne being closed for four weeks from the 15th Oct to 15th November, that gave us 3 days to cover 85 kms and 17 locks – albeit downstream – or find somewhere to stay for 4 weeks. We had pretty much decided to stay for 4 weeks in the highly recommended Sens when we had another Avisbat through saying the Yonne would be closed from 30th Oct to 30th November – we don’t always understand the subtleties of some of these French notifications and, when they come through translated, their accuracy leaves a fair bit to be desired. We went to bed (G understandably exhausted) thinking that the stoppages would run concurrently so we needed to up and move first thing in the morning as we didn’t want to be stuck for 6 weeks. We did make ‘phone calls in the morning and try to clarify the situation but, to be frank, VNF are crap at answering the phone – even if you can get a number in the first place.

We were outside the first lock waiting for it to open; it was just a matter of finding it! I knew it was there on the left bank somewhere as I’d been down there whilst walking Muttley. Crazy, but we had to move. There was, also the odd obstacle lurking in the river.

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Eventually the fog cleared and we, regretfully, shot passed the beautiful Joigny …. another time

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The locks now have sloping sides – many of these were originally grass sided so the slopes were necessary to maintain the stability of the banks. The majority have floating pontoons that you tie off to and just descend gracefully with you as the lock empties – I still keep a knife though in case a pontoon becomes tempted to become a little disgraceful. Goodness knows how you get a rope on coming up in the ones that don’t have floating pontoons.

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Somewhere around here we engaged a lockie in conversation and explained why we hadn’t stopped at Joigny, he lapsed into English (probably exhausted by our dire French) and explained that the stoppage wasn’t concurrent, but had been postponed until the 30th October through to the 30th November. Hurrah!!!!!!!!!!! We were missing that one little, but oh so important, word ‘postponed’, ‘remettre’. You cannot look up every word.

No rush now – too late for Joigny but all else was salvaged without getting stuck. So we spent a happy few days at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne which had a free day of music going on, from a one man band to brass bands and jazz. An unexpected bonus in glorious sunshine sat outside and having a beer. Nice indoor market too.

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From there it was on to Sens which, whilst lovely, I didn’t enjoy as much as I expected – the dog walking was pretty dire too, so I was glad we hadn’t ended up staying for 4 weeks. I’m still trying not to hold a grudge that the trackie bottoms I bought off of the market were labelled XL!

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Then it was on to Pont-sur-Yonne; now that’s a nice little town.

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The sign on this fence amused me – they normally say, ‘beware of the dog’. This one said beware of the nasty dogs! A useful new word to add to my vocabulary.

My favourite photo of this batch

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Close encounters and an assault on the head of the Seine navigation

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/11/2016

When you are out on the big rivers with the big boys, there is rarely a problem as you can rely on two things; the Skippers are consummate professionals and there is plenty of room for all …… hmmm. Are you all sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

Having checked on the AIS that there was no activity behind us, we pulled pins only to discover that the skipper on the 105 metre tanker moored behind us overnight did exactly the same; so we pulled over at the lock to let him pass and went in behind him.

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As we rose in the lock I could see the skipper leaning down and doing something on the seat of the cab; he started to come back towards us and the lockie radioed him to move forward as he would take his wheelhouse out on the bridge (nobody mentioned squidging us!); he looked up, panicked and shoved his throttles forward. His wash shot us back, hit the gate behind us and surged forward tsunami style – lifting us up several feet and washing our ropes off of the bollards. As we slammed into the wall I managed (unusually) to lasso a bollard at the top of the lock. Once the excitement had died down – sorry, no pics! – I took this picture of his bum, before retiring to the toilet and sorting out my own. I then settled the dogs and Daisy, the latter being unusually upset, before clearing up all the spillages at the front end of the boat.

Fast forward a week, moored at Bray, we were in a dilemma as to how much further up we would be able to go. We knew all the big stuff stopped 5 locks and 25 kms further up at Nogent, but I was hoping to go another 20 kms beyond to Marcilly. Try as we might, after contacting Women on Barges and the Barge Association members and the internet, we couldn’t make contact with the VNF and get a definitive answer as to whether or not La Petite Seine was navigable above Nogent – all indications were that it wasn’t but, as we had been told Nogent was a nice little town, we decided to sally forth and see what we could see. 25 kms and 5 locks with so many commercials was likely to be a very long day, given the commercials, quite rightly, have priority.

Waiting for a gap in the traffic to leave we let the 97 metre Raptor go passed before pulling pins (why are they all named like pit bull dogs? I’m convinced we’ll meet a Tyson any day now) and set off in glorious sunshine. The AIS had one in the lock and Raptor seemed to have stopped, we had one behind – the river suddenly became quite narrow so we continued up to the lock slowly against the bank. As we approached the lock, one was coming out across our bow from our port side (due to the bend) and Raptor had turned and was positioning to reverse into the lock from our starboard side (we weren’t expecting that!). At first we thought we could shoot across Raptor’s bow into the open weir water on our starboard side, but he started forward and we were running out of options. So we decided to move forward and lay along his cabin side until the other boat was clear. In the end we got clear of his stern onto the landing outside the lock entrance to starboard, below the weir itself. Bloody hell. There was a moment when I thought we were going to be a Francoise sandwich. Very difficult to explain but be were in that space between the two boats in pictures two and three.

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Raptor reversed in and went up giving me time, yet again, to change my underwear. Another came down. The one behind came in and waited for two more to come up and go in with him and …… quite simply, we lost the will to live. By now, we had done zero locks and 3 kms and it was 12.30. With 4 more locks still to do –assuming we ever got into this one – and another 22kms, we weren’t going to make it. An interim wild mooring wasn’t an option. Interestingly, when we called the eclusier to say we had changed our minds and were turning back downstream she, helpfully, started to speak English – whilst I don’t expect French people to speak English to me (we always give French our best), when it’s all going tits up and we don’t understand, a simple, ‘wait there’ in either English or French would have saved everyone a load of angst. Mind you, these boats go up and down on this short run each and every day and must be bored out of their tiny (well biggy) minds – at least we broke the routine for them!!!!!!!!!!

Still they kept coming as we turned and left; convincing ourselves that we only went up there to wind anyway. I’m still glad we tried – no, “if only’s”. Beautiful day for a cruise.

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Don’t understand the problem – plenty of room for a pony (and Francoise).

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The sensational Auxerre, home alone and stressed by kindness

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/11/2016

I had really, really been looking forward to staying here and it didn’t disappoint. Great (free) mooring for the menagerie in the park too without the slightest hint of noise, let alone trouble – even at the weekend. This was the first real civilisation we’d seen since turning onto the Nivernais and I was looking forward to shops and restaurants, in addition to my usual meanderings with a dog and a camera. There are really no words, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking – glad we’re not still paying for films and developing.

I’ll start Riverside

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Then there was our mooring, the park and the fountains – MR was still with us here

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Then there was the town and the markets

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….. and finally, my personal quirky bits

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We had to move on; MR’s date with a crane was fast approaching. We stopped overnight at Gurgy before turning on to the River Yonne and moored at Laroche-St-Cydroine where I was left home alone for a week – again, sigh – I’m beginning to think I have grounds to file for a divorce on the basis of desertion! I liked this little place though, it had a bakery that did the most amazing maize bread and a little shop; unusually, the chemist had shut down so it was a bit of a hike into Migenne but the weather remained fabulous apart from thick fog in the mornings.

In desperate need of a chemist, I trundled in with Muttley, timing my arrival to hit the chemist at 12.15, before they closed at 12.30, and then find a little cafe for a light lunch. The location of the chemist wasn’t obvious, so I asked a lady who was heading for her car after buying bread. The ensuing conversation roughly translated to the fact that the town chemist closed at 12.15 (aaagh!), there was another up the hill and she would drive me there. Before we knew it, Muttley and I were bundled into the passenger seat and whisked away….and away and away. She dropped us off outside a vast shopping mall, wished me a nice day and indicated that the chemist was inside the complex. I thanked her profusely before starting on the long walk back into town. Even in France I couldn’t go into the mall with Muttley and I wasn’t going to tie him up outside – we had been stuffed with only kindness in mind!

Eventually reaching Migenne again, I found a small cafe and ordered a much needed beer; I asked if it was possible to eat; to which she replied of course. I waited and waited and no menu appeared. Eventually the penny dropped when people came in for a drink bringing with them their own food to eat on the premises  ….. doh. Some days just don’t work out – but it didn’t rain.

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With G having gone back in the lorry carrying MR, he had booked all his return flight and train tickets. It was at this point that we discovered that there was to be a 4 week stoppage on the river Yonne with no movement allowed at all. G was due back very late on the 11th and the shut down was on the 15th – just 3 days to cover 85 kms and 17 locks to get off onto the Seine. Alternatively, we could go to somewhere like Sens and sit it out for 4 weeks – more decisions required.

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We haven’t sunk!

Posted by contentedsouls on 24/10/2016

So … where were we? G drove to Roanne and dumped the car in the garage and Pete and Janet were kind enough to feed and entertain him before he set off with Matilda Rose on Monday morning. We had a somewhat convoluted plan to get the two boats back together but, in the end, G cracked on and covered the 270 kms and 122 locks in 6 days – well, all but the last 4 locks and 7 kms anyway. Due to a (dare I say it) very slow hire boat and a lockie that couldn’t be bothered to turn a lock and made him wait for oncoming traffic for an hour, he ended up cycling home to Francoise on Saturday night – cycling back to get MR Sunday morning to finish the job. An heroic journey which, he readily admits, he thoroughly enjoyed with only himself and the boat to worry about. So MR is now on sale at V C Marine Ltd in the UK http://vcmarine.co.uk/boat-sales/matilda-rose.

Friends re-united

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Life continues in my Jill bubble with fewer people around now and the bigger waters of the Yonne and Seine beneath our hull. Still a few people left to play with though and we’re going next door to dinner tonight; plus we’ve had Malcolm to stay this weekend and friends coming next weekend.Some of the moorings at the major towns are still uninhabitable due to the floods earlier this year but, as yet, this has not inconvenienced us.

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I have now hit technical problems with photos and my IT Dept is out buying patisserie, so i’m just going to hit the ‘publish’ button because i’m in danger of giving up

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Clamecy and decision time

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/09/2016

We passed two lovely moorings on our way to Clamecy on Saturday, but decided to push on to Clamecy itself. If you’re going into somewhere with lots happening and paying for the privilege, it always makes sense to me to stay somewhere short the night before and then pop in in the morning; that way you get a full day for your money, but we need to get on with things a bit or we’ll get stuck in closures.

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We still arrived in time to make a visit to the micro brewery that the lockie had told us about – 4 to 6 was the only time it would be opening during the time we planned to stay there. Having tracked it down it turned out to be a child’s clothes shop!!!!! The owner of said shop explained that the brewery was only open by appointment and wanted to book us in long after we’d planned to leave; no English spoken so the whole experience was somewhat confusing and not likely to attract a great deal of tourist trade. We stopped for a beer on the way back after having a look around the pretty town and met quite a few of our boaty neighbours in the process.

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Sunday morning we went up to the car boot in the hope of finding  drop leaf tables for Francoise, but to no avail, and then devoured a big fat loaf with (almost) ‘proper’ bacon, eggs tomatoes and mushrooms – following which we decided to postpone Sunday ‘lunch’ until Monday as we were both stuffed. The Mutt and I headed off to follow the old log running route where some of the old locks onto l’Yonne are still in situ.

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Monday I set off to do my tour around the rest of the town with my camera, but intermittent rain and cloud didn’t do anything for the pics.

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Quite as lovely as I had anticipated although, I know I’m no Debbie, but even I was ready for a bit of retail therapy and, in that respect, it did disappoint. I was, however, able to buy a cucumber and tomatoes! We met some lovely Aussies, Peter and Chris, on a barge called Star of Destiny (rapidly becoming better known as star of Dentistry) who we were able to help out with a bank transfer to the UK.

We trundled off on the Tuesday morning with a hire boat behind and an ex oil rig life raft and stopped at the most glorious little spot of Lucy sur Yonne adjacent to a little park

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In the evening the sun turned everything gold; including Daisy

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The following day we had a drive out up into the hills to the historical town of Vezelay (another listed on, ‘the most beautiful towns in France’). Inevitably full of tourists and a couple of coaches but still pretty sensational.

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Then the icing on the cake before lunch – a little clothes shop selling Italian gear that had a sale on and I left with a pair of linen trousers and a skirt at half price. Retail requirement satisfied and Graham had a French lesson from the proprietor whilst I was rummaging.

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Thursday it was onto Mailly le Chateau where we found a delightful mooring with free water, electricity and full re-cycling. Friday we drove up the embranchment to the supermarket at Vermonton and decided to stay put for the weekend.

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Saturday morning we raised the thorny old subject of what to do about selling Matilda Rose – we think we should ship her back to the uk and need to get her out of Roanne (before the winter closure on the Roanne Digoin). So Sunday lunch went in the freezer and Sunday afternoon we divvied up the food and beer and G set off on mission ‘retrieve Matilda Rose’.

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