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

  • February 2015
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for February, 2015

Conde-sur-Marne to Wez

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/02/2015

8 locks, 1 tunnel, 17 kilometres

We postponed our departure on Thursday for two reasons. Firstly it was nasty and drizzly and secondly we decided to address the washing machine issue. Sometime around Christmas the washing machine outer door and door catch broke off. The machine still worked with the the aid of glasses, head torch, screwdriver and a shed load of patience but it couldn’t go on. New machine (larger load) purchased and Mike, bless him, helped G get the old one off and the new one on. I don’t know what we’d have done without Mike these last two weeks – I know he said he needed a project but……

Off we set on Friday in intermittent sunshine and freezing winds, Mike and June decided to come with us for the jolly. I gladly relinquished the helm as the wind was outside my operating envelope and Mike and G operated the boats as one. The 8 locks were automatic so if you take both boats in side by side they register as one boat; you then have to come out as ‘one’ boat or it completely screws up the system. Unbelievably they all worked without me having to contact ‘mission control’. Mike and June had planned to turn round and go back to Conde but we managed to persuade them to stay for dinner and they stayed over and left this morning. We’re in a lovely spot with open views just 3 locks short of Sillery and, due to the Rugby, won’t be moving until Monday.

Quite a lot of movement on this canal. The ‘made to measure’ aspects of the peniches are quite amazing. Very little space to spare as the lock gates close. A single handed Dutch lad on a peniche got caught out by the 6 o’clock lock closures and had to pull in for the night in front of us. We invited him to share our meal but he couldn’t get close enough to the side to use a gang plank, so couldn’t get off of his peniche.

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Conde sur Marne

Posted by contentedsouls on 25/02/2015

We’ve enjoyed our stay here in the company of Mike and June on NB Temujin; we had a splendid curry on their boat Sunday and Mike has worked like a Trojan with Graham trying to pinpoint the cause of our intermittent engine fault. It was, in fact, a suggestion of Mike’s that lead G to finally identify the cause. Mike suggested that G replaced the fuel pipe between the filter and the injector pump with clear plastic pipe so that he could monitor what was passing through; air, debris, etc. On doing so, G realised that fuel was only coming out of one end of the pipe he removed. That was because this was floating about in the middle

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‘This’ is the remains of clear plastic piping which has been sitting inside the pipe and, over the years, broken down to intermittently block the fuel flow. What was it doing in there in the first place? Very good question. Well look on the bright side; we now have a spare fuel pump and the injectors have been professionally serviced. Swiftly moving on……..

Apart from running round with tea and biscuits the boys and I have been carrying out our usual explorations and some warm sunny days has meant that Baxter managed to cover a reasonable distance – his coat is so long now that he looks like a sheep. We daren’t clip him out though until we can be sure of some consistently warmer weather.

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These last few days has given me a chance to sort out and dispose of excess clothing as there is a clothes bank here. In the process, however, I lost Daisy! She was eventually tracked down playing inside the wardrobe!

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We’ve spent today washing, filling water and fuel tanks and provisioning the boat ready for the off tomorrow – uphill for 8 locks to the summit of this new canal – it looks much softer and more curvy than the last. Onwards and upwards

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Moored at Conde-sur-Marne (Canal de la Marne a l’Aisne)

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/02/2015

Well, as you can gather it’s been a very busy February to date!

Sue and Vic arrived at Vitry-le-Francois station only 40 mins late having been slightly delayed in Paris. We stayed in Vitry a couple of nights before cruising off in glorious weather. Unfortunately, 5 hours into our second day’s cruise the engine started spluttering so, instead of heading on to Reims, as originally planned, we put in pins at Chalons-en-Champagne – a much nicer mooring as the Reims mooring is very ‘city’ whereas Chalons is parkland.

A good time was had by all and you can imagine the looks on their faces when Debbie and Kevin (WB Avalon) walked in. Yes it was cramped, yes it was noisy but yes we had an absolutely fabulous time! I am delighted to report that neither couple brought their dogs – the addition of 6 dogs would have been a bridge too far – Daisy was put out enough as it was. Particularly amazing for me as I haven’t set foot in the UK since leaving over 10 months ago.

All good things must come to an end and the Avalons left on Monday whilst we drove the No Problems into Reims station on Tuesday morning. An amazing amount of mileage by both couples to spend a few days with us – THANK YOU.

We spent a couple more days in Chalons recovering and getting the injectors serviced before leaving for a new Canal and friends Mike and June on NB Temujin who have a winter mooring at Conde (and I was worried that it would be lonely over here!). I must admit the Canal Lateral a la Marne, which we’ve just left, was very straight and not very interesting – although our stopping points have been lovely. I’ve walked a couple of miles up this new one and it looks much softer with a lot of trees and noticeably more bird song. We have just travelled through the Champagne region which, being all vines, has no hedgerows and, therefore, very few birds. Instead there are a lot of rodents so the skies are occupied by myriad birds of prey. I suspect our new canal will be a sharp contrast.

No Sunday lunch for us today, we’re round to Temujin for a curry which has given me a day off with plenty of time to walk my dogs and, finally, sort out and catch up with the blog.

The last few days seem to have been a whirl of provisioning, laundry and cooking so it’s been nice to have a quiet day in gloriously warm sunshine.

I’ll try not to leave the blog so long next time – sorry Kevin TOO.

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Life seemed to take on a bit of a slant in these pics – definitely the camera operator and not the boat

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Twist the hanging pole to the right and the lock will start to set – yet another means of lock operation; we’ve had actual lock keepers, remote control units, automatics (‘cept they weren’t) and radar beams.

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Beautiful Sunshine

Posted by contentedsouls on 07/02/2015

If you can get out of the wind (a tad difficult when you live on a boat) this glorious sunshine is so warm and it’s still daylight at 6pm. The wind, however, remains strong and icy – reminiscent of walking the dogs on the beach in winter when we lived on the East Coast with the North wind blowing a Hooley.

Yesterday we set off by car to replenish the boat stocks ahead of the arrival of our friends; outside of the area of water we are moored, the canals are frozen solid so our intentions of cruising to Reims by next week-end may have been over ambitious. Doesn’t matter though, we certainly won’t be bored – by the time Sue has walked my dogs, Vic has made dinner and G has cleaned the boat it will be time to go out and play.

This morning was market day and our first chance (it was too damn cold yesterday) to go and explore the centre of Vitry. Google Earth shows a big covered market area and the stalls spilling out into the side streets. The reality, however, was two greengrocers; two clothes stalls; 1 meat van and a lady selling eggs! After getting what we could, we retired to the bar of the nice man who does a lovely orangey, spicy, hot wine. Perfik for these temperatures and quite the nicest I’ve ever drunk – not too heavy with cloves.

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A pleasant enough town but it really was too cold to linger – especially as I knew I still had to get Muttley out for at least an hour.

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So I left G making Banana cakes and mulled wine whilst Muttley and I set off for the confluence of these two with the Marne au Rhin canal – it’s the width, depth and flow on this junction that are keeping this area ice free – it’s just forming on the edges and then being washed away. I walked for an hour and 20 minutes and was more than ready for that mulled wine when I returned (have I mentioned how bloody cold it is?).

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You can see how we’ve rather ‘abandoned’ MR at the slipway, but there is a boom across the tiny mooring area. We are, literally, moored under a sign that says no parking except pleasure boats – I think it refers to their little marina area – but we will plead ignorance, if necessary, and say that the sign said it was OK!

There is a Klipper across the way from us that’s had it’s bottom and superstructure sorted; other than that it’s a blank canvas and G has taken rather a shine to it. He keeps mentioning sums of money required to make it perfect – should I be worried?

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It’s huge; I don’t do huge – it would take G far too long to clean.

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Vitry-le-Francois to Bar-le-Duc by train

Posted by contentedsouls on 05/02/2015

We returned to Bar-le-Duc by train today to recover the car. We decided to make a day of it and pop in to see our friends at Ligny in the White Horse so we took the dogs with us. Train ticket per OAP, 7 euros 50. Train ticket per dog, 5 euros…ouch! I couldn’t believe that all our little cruising hops had added up to a 60km trip and a 60 metre drop – there was still a lot of snow up there on the higher ground. French train seats are so much comfier than British ones.

Although the snow has gone from here I can’t remember the last time it was so cold. The icy bite in the wind was enough to make a grown woman cry when I took the dogs out for emptying at 6pm tonight. I’m hoping it will warm up tomorrow so that I can explore Vitry, but the forecast says it’s staying this way for awhile. I’m beginning to think we might need to buy another duvet for our visitors!

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Pargny-sur-Sauix to Vitry-le-Francois

Posted by contentedsouls on 04/02/2015

7 locks and 19 kilometres

We had lunch out yesterday at the local bar/restaurant and then consulted the weather forecast. The temperatures over the next several days were between –3 and –5, so it was pretty certain that we needed to move today or we’d be iced in. We booked passage to leave at 10 this morning. As the car is back in Bar-le-Duc we wanted to make sure we could get to Vitry-le-Francois and take the train to Bar-le-Duc to retrieve the car so all eventualities are covered to collect the No Problems on Monday.

Set off in glorious sunshine today and breaking ice. Cold but gorgeous – so fabulous to lose those grey, grey days which we’ve seen far too many of throughout January. Broke the first lock beam of the day and hey ho it went to ‘set’ , one red and one green light – yeah! Somebody remembered we were on the move (makes a change) so no phone call required.

A man on the bank waved to me and then engaged us in conversation in the first lock. He then jumped in his vehicle and met us at the second lock with the gift of 3 croissants (sorry Kevin) and a little bottle of his homemade Mirabelle 52% proof spirit – how lovely was that!

We made great ice breaking progress into the 3rd lock of the day – and, unusually, without the escort of a man in a VNF van – except it didn’t want to empty. So when we ‘phoned; the man in the van was way back in Bar-le-Duc and given that it was 3 minutes to 12.00, it didn’t bode well!

We hung a rope round a bollard and came in to tackle some chores whilst we waited.

15-02-04 1344515-02-04 1344615-02-04 1345215-02-04 1345515-02-04 13460The rest of the trip was entirely uneventful and I walked some of it with the boys in the beautiful weather. we’ve moored at Vitry where, for some people, it would not be ideal but we have our front end in and it’s safe for Daisy cat and the dogs with good access to the town. We’re happy; it can freeze it’s socks off now – we’re in easy walking distance to collect Sue and Vic. Me happy? You bet!


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