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

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

Summer is definitely upon us now

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/04/2015

The Canal du Somme has other people cruising out and about now; socialising is prevelant again and fitting in skinny days and blogging gets more difficult. On the days we want to move we ‘phone the Somme people (it’s not VNF here) and they are happy to escort us through locks and lift bridges at any time to suit ourselves and always with big smiley faces and plenty of chat. Lunchtime has to be honoured from 12.30 until 1.30 though, so we moored at Frise the first lunchtime which gave me a chance to walk the dogs in the spectacular sunshine

We moored at Cappy on our first night on the Somme and went for a beer at the canalside restaurant. Very strange place. We stood in a ‘shop’ area to drink our beer and they also offered a 3 course meal which, presumably, would also be consumed standing up as there was no apparent place to sit. It was sad to see that the cruiser hire boat centre had closed down last November and there is now nowhere to hire a boat on the pretty Somme. This has to have a major impact on the valley’s economy.


Our second stop was Chipelly which, appropriately, had a frites take away and bar although we frequented neither. When a car had been dropped off in the morning there was an old working punt blocking half of the small mooring. By the time we arrived on the boats it had been moved for us – there are definite advantages to telling them where you’re going. We managed to fit in a supermarket trip, good dog walking, BBQ and a visit to the chairopractor for G.


On our way to the small market town of Corbie a French cruiser passed us and asked how G’s back was !!!? Towpath talk. Arriving at the excellent Corbie moorings I had my first meet with new facebook friends ,Heather and Tim, who also knew about G’s back being bad, as did the checkout lady in the supermarket!! Heather and Tim were on the Somme, primarily, for Anzac day with Belgian and Aussie friends in a motor home and we all met up on their deck for drinks. G joined them on the Saturday for Aussie rules footie against the local French team. Friends left yesterday and we will catch up with them later on. Tonight we’re off for drinks on a Danish barge, so that’s G’s skinny day out of the window….again.


I know it’s too small to live on but the boat in the last picture is gorgeous – if only it was a little wider and a little longer. The big barge is an hotel boat which disembarked it’s passengers on Sunday morning before swabbing the decks and re-provisioning. It left this morning with it’s new passengers back towards the horrid Canal du Nord.

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A visit to a peniche

Posted by contentedsouls on 20/04/2015

Whilst G was preparing lunch yesterday, I cleared everything off the floor and chucked the dogs and their beds out onto the bank ready to vacuum through the boat. I started at the back doing the shed, bedroom, bathroom and galley; as soon as I started on the saloon it swapped from suck to blow and deposited it’s ‘bag free’ contents all over the carpet before the engine burnt out!! First the washing machine, now the Dyson.

Early evening I was outside talking with Mike and June when, yet another, peniche went passed. Mike and June started jumping up and down and looking for their radio. The couple on the peniche were George and Ellen; English friends of theirs that they hadn’t seen in 2 years. Having secured a mooring they invited us round for drinks in the evening. Once we’d found them, they were breasted up outside an empty peniche which meant climbing up one side of it and then down the other side to reach their loaded boat which was carrying 320 tonnes of coiled steel. The engine room was huge and contained a 350 Cummins engine plus a 5,000 litre fuel tank. Fully laden from Ghent to Paris uses 1,000 litres of fuel. Their peniche is up for sale if you fancy a lifestyle change.


This morning G & Mike left at 8.00 to position a car at Cappy. 5 minutes later a commercial came roaring passed; snapping the bracket off our buoy and slamming us into the concrete so hard that the dogs were thrown off their chairs and I had to hastily pull clothes on and fish my buoy out of the water.

As soon as we left we were straight into the big stuff again but were able to get through the lock (our last on the Canal du Nord) without being held for commercial traffic – we’ve been very lucky in that respect.


So that was the end of the Canal du Nord and we were delighted to hang a left onto the Canal du Somme. Mind you, it was a bit of a shock having to move the tiller to go round bends!


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Weekend in St Christ Briost where many things are big

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/04/2015

I can’t believe that we’ve been ‘overseas’ for a year now – the year has flown passed and we are still experiencing ‘firsts’. I must admit that I’d hoped my French would be better by now, but it continues to disappoint me. During the winter there is little opportunity to integrate with the locals, or anyone else for that matter. It should have been a time for home studying but we have been lazy.

One of the ‘firsts’ was at this mooring where an ice cream van arrived; there didn’t seem to be a size option (or not one that G was going to admit too anyway). Look at the smile on his face. That, evidently, is a rum and raison chantilly.


Despite the wide water here we continue to bounce up and down when the big stuff goes passed. They don’t smack us about but we do bounce in their wash – enough to make life interesting if you’re trying to get your contact lenses in or keep to your feet in the shower.


This is a nice spot with the River Somme running parallel at the back of us. Baxter went to get a drink out of it on our way back yesterday and I don’t know if his back legs gave way or he had a senior moment; either way, the upshot was that he tumbled in head first and couldn’t get back out. I fished him out none the worse for wear except somewhat covered in weed and more than a bit smelly. I decided to spare his blushes and not take a photo.

It was also time to clip Muttley out and, I must admit, he has become better behaved about having it done with the clippers. Only paws to knees have to be done with scissors now.


Moving on tomorrow morning, only one more lock on the Canal du Nord before we turn off onto the Somme.

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Change of plans

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/04/2015

P1070677P1070684P1070686P1070688We had been slowly making our way North, just across the border into Belgium, for blacking at the end of this month. However, we’ve now learnt that the trolley to pull us out won’t be available until the end of May. There are quite a few stoppages and closures behind and around us so we have decided to pay a trip to the seaside and visit the Somme.

Left Abbeycourt in glorious weather and Muttley and I set off on foot 20 minutes ahead to walk the 6.5 kms to the first lock where they picked me up and we continued onto Pont L’Eveque. A pretty little spot and used as a workshop for peniches so with that, and the moorings being next to the little road, it wasn’t the quietest of moorings. Also meant a night in for Daisy cat which never goes down well; especially when the weather is glorious.

We left the next morning at 9.30, hanging a right onto the very busy Canal du Nord with deep locks (up to 5.8 metres) that are twice as long; although they are all manned. It also means that a lot of the commercial boats are twice as long and some have unarticulated ‘push pans’ on the front that are the same length again. At the 4th lock we waited for a ‘normal’ length peniche to come passed us and go in so that we could go in behind it, but they dropped the guillotine on us and put the light to red. They did turn it round for us afterwards though – I thought they might make us wait for oncoming traffic. We had another small wait for a peniche and a cruiser to clear the short tunnel before we could enter – as is normal here, the tunnel was dry, well lit and well maintained.


We moored through the tunnel on the top pound for the night before dropping down 2 more of the big locks today without any hold ups and are moored on a wide stretch of water tonight where we shouldn’t get washed about by the big stuff.


Being a grand prix weekend we’ll be staying until Monday. Both cars have been recovered so we’ll need to get fuel and food tomorrow.

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Hooray, I’m back

Posted by contentedsouls on 11/04/2015

The absence of the blog has been due to the demise of the computer, but G returned from an 11 day trip to the UK with a new one so here I am all back to normal.

I’m sure the systems on this boat know when my IT Department goes away. Within 24 hours of his leaving, the satellite receiver was only picking up Radio 4 and BBC 1 (at least they were my two favourites), skype and facetime didn’t work, my kindle wouldn’t let me shop for any more books, my ‘emergency’ UK phone wouldn’t ring mobiles and the internet on the i phone and my tablet kept randomly dropping out throughout the day! Now I quite like peace and quiet but you can have too much of a good thing. A lot of stuff started to work again once the storms passed. In the first week my only human interactions were asking the lady in the supermarket where the eggs were and thanking the VNF man in a van for returning MR’s life ring which he’d found in the lock following the weekend of storms. The locks were closed on Easter Sunday – well, the ones behind and in front of me were – so the peniche that moored behind me Saturday night was stuck until Monday morning. The crew were Dutch and spoke good English and I was delighted when she asked me if I wanted to walk my dogs with hers.

Adjacent to our mooring at Pinon was a piece of rough ground leading to a playing field. On Saturday morning I set off with the dogs only to find that someone had filled the area up with hundreds of colour coded, raw, fresh eggs. I prayed they weren’t ‘planted’ in any particular order as, by the time I managed to recover the dogs they had been re-arranged and many of them eaten – at least Baxter ate the shells as well which removed some of the evidence. I was extremely glad that there was no CCTV and I don’t think anyone saw us. Whilst the dogs adored their unexpected Easter present, I was mortified.

Monday afternoon NB Temujin turned up with friends Mike and June. We will be travelling together now up into Belgium for blacking at the end of this month. G was back on Wednesday evening absolutely exhausted and then spent all day Thursday down the engine ‘ole fitting the new alternator he’d brought back amongst other things. His back and leg muscles are killing him now and he’s struggling to stay awake whilst watching the Grand Prix qualifying.

Yesterday we set off and cruised side by side (except for when one peniche passed us) in glorious sunshine, covering 5 locks and 25km in just under 6 hours. All the locks behaved themselves for a change. We enjoyed our first BBQ in the evening, but today is wet, cold and windy again; I put gloves on whilst walking the dogs.

The look of intense concentration on mine and Baxter’s faces is because that peniche overtook me – not an experience I wish to repeat in a hurry and G came to my rescue before the drag of it snatched the tiller out of my hands; it’s OK when they pass by the other way, but being overtaken wasn’t funny

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