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

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Archive for May, 2015

Corbie on the Somme, Canal du Nord, Sensee, Basin Ronde and Escaut

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/05/2015

Now we needed to get a serious move on for our date with blacking. Having had a month to swan about, time was now getting tight. With the dreaded Canal du Nord to be negotiated, we moved on for four, quite long, consecutive and, at times, frustrating and tiring days.

One last stop on the Somme at Cappy, although we nearly didn’t get there when MR threw a hose and, subsequently blew a head gasket bolt and had to be tied onto Temujin until we could get to somewhere where the leaky hose could be taken out of the circuit, the skin tank refilled and Mike could weld us back up.  A sociable way to travel though, albeit a little slow! I’m looking quite cool here on the helm – a different story when I tried to turn them into the lock though. Ho hum; no paint was lost – just a small increase in G’s blood pressure!

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Then it was on to the horrid Canal du Nord. Commercial traffic has priority and each lock holds one double length peniche, one pusher or two ‘single’ peniches. MR & Temujin side by side = 1 peniche although some lock keepers don’t get that we can go alongside each other. The first lock of the day we thought we’d hit lucky and be able to go straight in after a single gate, but they dropped the gate (with half the lock unused), turned the lights to red and buggered off to lunch. This major commercial waterway actually shut for lunch because it was Sunday, despite the rapidly building up backlog of commercial traffic. So we sit and wait whilst Mike takes the opportunity to tuck into (yet another) fish finger butty.

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Time and time again we were delayed (and ignored on the radio) but at least we only met a small cruiser coming the other way through the tunnel. There’s a set of lights and a mooring layby halfway through so that peniches can pass you and each other. (The last photo was taken by June approaching the Somme on the southern stretch which was a bit quieter). A lot of the delays were completely unnecessary, but all you can do is resign yourself and go with the flow – or not, as the case may be. 

At least we only had to stop on it two nights – the first stop I forgot to photograph but it was immediately above a lock at Moislans and wasn’t too bad as everything had to slow or gain momentum as they came passed due to the lock. The second night we spent breasted up on a small pontoon at Marquion in ‘open’ water. There was a terrific bang first thing in the morning which was Temujin bashing into us as their fender was burst. Muttley landed on our bed in fright, narrowly missing landing on Daisy – had he not missed, Daisy would have given him a second fright. Daisy was quite unconcerned by the traumas of the mooring as she moused amongst the shallow rocks and Vinca on the bank by the canoe club.

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Very relieved to turn onto the big, but almost deserted, Sensee and then the pretty Basin de Ronde (where we played dodgems with the windsurfers) and then through the first lock on the Escaut up into Iwuy – and if you can pronounce that you’re a better man than I.

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Temujin was ahead of us when we reached the mooring and June was well over her knees in the long grass on the mooring bank – always dodgy because of hidden potholes – when they saw a man in a tractor mowing grass further in. A quick word and he kindly diverted and mowed the bank for us. It was extremely kind of him and although Mike offered him some beers as a thank you, he would only accept one.

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A lovely spot where humans and animals alike can get their breaths back and re-provision the boats. We are now only two boat days away from our blacking destination in Belgium.

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How to get the car out of the garage and a spot of dog sitting

Posted by contentedsouls on 30/05/2015

We’ve been in Europe for over a year now and I haven’t once managed to see a car being craned off of a boat; but this was even more exciting as Aslaug was about to offload their car from within it’s garage hold, not just off of the deck.

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If you look carefully you can see how the boat tips as the car comes over the side. The entire operation took about 30 minutes.

There is, of course, another purpose for the block and tackle.

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After the excitement and coffee it was obvious G’s tooth was badly infected and by the next day his face was all swollen up – it clearly wasn’t going away without intervention. So, with the help of Google’s I Translate, G found and rang a local dentist. The gist of the response was that, for an abscess, he needed to see a doctor to get anti-biotics – predictable, but you have to start somewhere. G decided to present himself at the medical centre he’d seen earlier as face to face is easier to understand than over the ‘phone. Good in theory had the medical centre not turned out to be a psychiatric hospital!!!! A lady had followed him into the reception area and overheard his predicament – she immediately ‘phoned her doctor and arranged an appointment for him within the hour. Ain’t folks grand.

So, the next morning, we moved MR back outside Temujin and left her and Daisy in the care of Mike and June. We were off with Baxter and Muttley to look after Ted and Herbie on WB Avalon for a few days whilst Kevin and Debs were off to Marrakech to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, due to G feeling rough, we couldn’t really make the most of the town and by the time we’d walked 4 dogs 4 times a day my feet weren’t really up to sightseeing. We did manage a couple of nice lunches out though. Herbie and Muttley soon resumed their playtimes (Muttley seems to have forgiven Herbie for nipping his bum last summer!).

After G recovered Debs and Kevin from Orly airport in the evening, we left to drive back to Corbie the following morning as we knew we had to get unloaded and re-provision the boat to leave again. Shame we couldn’t stay for lunch but time was getting tight.

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East of Amiens to Corbie

Posted by contentedsouls on 29/05/2015

The following morning we awoke to a beautiful misty morning with Casey May Too leaving at 9.15 followed by Temujin and MR at 9.45. We caught up CMT waiting for the second lock of the day and joined them through the locks.

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We knew we were likely to reach the last lock before our Corbie mooring about 5 minutes before lunchtime so expected to wait. However, the incredibly genial lockie not only spoke English to us (the first), but said he would lock us through. As we left the lock, I thanked him and said that now it was time for him to eat; his response was incredible; he said that he was unlikely to get lunch as he had other boats coming through!!!!! I tell you, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

The misty start had turned into a beautiful day as we just managed to squeeze into the last spot behind the lovely ‘Vagabond’ and a French cruiser – the occupants of the latter didn’t look amused by our proximity and, for a moment, I thought we were going to have another ‘Scotch Mist’ incident, but they contained themselves to just looking unhappy. Temujin breasted up for a BBQ later and we were joined for beers by Stuart and Adrian. Casey May Too carried on after watering as there was more rain forecast and they wanted to push up as far as possible before the stream increased.

It was so hot that even Daisy had to find shade – lovely. Temujin dropped back when the cruiser moved the next day and Kurt and Bente pulled onto the other moorings by the lock in Aslaug.

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Thursday turned out to be another holiday, but I found out in time to dash to the food store before they closed at 12.30 – they were only closed for one afternoon, but the queues in there were like Tesco’s on new year’s eve. So bad, in fact, that they actually opened 5 of the 7 checkouts (instead of the usual 1; or 2 on a Saturday.

Friday Bente rang to say they were taking the car off, as I’d asked if I could take photos for me and Kevin Too. Pictures in the next blog.

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Samara to East of Amiens

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/05/2015

A few pictures of the lovely nature reserve in the sunshine

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And the following morning I set off on foot with Muttley and, putting a wriggle on, beat the boats to Ailly lock by 15 minutes. Unfortunately that meant I was engaged in French conversation by the lockeeper, man talking to lockeeper, two elderly gentleman cyclists and the builder working on the lock building and I began to think the boats were never going to arrive and rescue me …… all too much before breakfast but the walk was lovely (the advantages of going uphill mean I can keep pace and am, therefore, allowed to walk occasionally).

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We reached the lock downstream of Amiens at lunchtime and moored at a nice parkland where there was only one boat space which was occupied by a fisherman. He upsticks with out a murmur and helped me pull the boat in against the wind and the current. The revered lunchtime can be used for you – every Frenchman accepts the apology that you need to moor somewhere for lunch. Imagine the response I would have received by the majority of English fishermen! Mike rewarded him with a couple of beers and he was impressed by the gesture. A nice tranquil mooring for visiting Amiens if you’re not afraid of walking or have bikes. We moved on through the deep and lively lock into the centre after lunch.

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Passing through Amiens centre I was looking out for a British boat, Casey May Too, whose crew were picking up visiting friends from the station. Sure enough we found Paul and Dawn (Facebook ‘friends’) on the city moorings and pulled across for a quick word before continuing on to our out of town moorings where they later joined us pulling up behind Temujin. Once we realised they were there, we gate crashed their boat and guests for a glass of wine – it would have been rude not too!

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Three in a row on the quiet and pleasant mooring

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Long to Samara

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/05/2015

Trying once again to avoid lunch time lock closures we left later, at 10.30, booking passage at 11.45 for the first lock. At 11.00 June had a phone call asking where we were. She explained that we’d booked for 11.45, not 10.45, and we arrived at the lock spot on time – no sign of either man or van and no lock landing so Temujin made do on the right and I slung a rope around a signpost on the left. Mike phoned to ask why there was no eclusier and got into the conversation that said they’d been there at 10.45! Mike’s French was well up for telling them how unimpressed he was and even more so when they said they didn’t think they could get anyone out until after lunch (1.30 plus digestion plus travelling time from depot).

Meanwhile I did my best to adopt a second ship’s cat who was extremely friendly but caused more than a little upset with Daisy and the boys when they met nose to nose through the saloon window!

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At 10 past 12 a lockie and his van arrived in a cloud of dust (dangerously close to witching hour) and locked us through. He told us that he’d had no knowledge of our lock booking. Such is life.

There was still a fair amount of debris coming downstream

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We had intended to moor after the second lock in the village, but the moorings were pretty much full so we continued back to the Samara country park, where we’d stopped when Kevin and Debbie visited, and stayed there for the weekend in unexpectedly glorious weather. It seems that we weren’t the only ones who didn’t expect it to be quite so hot as I passed out two bottles of water to different parched walkers – both of whom offered me money ( I had to decline the money as people were watching!). The menagerie really enjoyed the sun and the walking there. Mike drove back to the village in the morning to fetch the breakfast bread whilst Graham tormented everyone with the delicious smell of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Mike and June were outside welding on their skinny day; it can’t have been good for them.

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We sat and watched a dragonfly hatch but, as it dried out, one set of wings stuck together. Graham and Mike played Supervet, gently separating the stuck wings with welding rods. Mission successful it flew off – very satisfying.

When Daisy eats a mouse she leaves the ‘gizzards’ which we have to be very careful to clean up before Muttley eats them (they make him very ill). When I went to feed Daisy on Monday morning I found mouse gizzards in her food dish on the work top – she’d sneaked passed G with a mouse and put it in her food bowl to eat! That was a first.

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Abbeville back to Long.

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/05/2015

Returning back upstream may make for easier steerage, but didn’t do a lot for our speed against the strong flow and difficult currents and weir streams – the latter were chucking out a fair bit of water. After the first lock we moored for 10 minutes at the replica ancient boat builders site to try and time our arrival for the second lock to be open and ready after lunch as we knew there was a tricky weir stream on the approach and we wouldn’t be able to hover. Temujin was ahead of us and went to cross the stream well over to the right – too far over it transpired as the stopper wave got them and held onto them for a moment before spitting them out sideways. With the benefit of hindsight we stayed further left and only suffered a bit of rock and roll – fortunately we’d already put the fragile stuff onto the floor. We had made better time than expected and, although it was only 1.30, were delighted to find the lock open and waiting for us.

The replica site was thatched with, what looked like, Irises growing along the ridge.

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Reaching Long we elected not to reverse into the shallow muddy backwater that we’d stayed at on the way downstream and continued on to breast up on a short pontoon. Temujin, yet again, letting us have the inside position to make thing easier for the dogs. We had a TV signal for the first time in ages but there didn’t seem to be anything worth watching so Muttley and I took ourselves off and found a great walk

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Graham did a bit of sight seeing on his bike whilst posting a letter before we left in the morning.

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Abbeville

Posted by contentedsouls on 14/05/2015

We thought that we would have Thursday and Friday to explore Abbeville – Friday being VE day and a National holiday in France. National holiday = lock closures. We found out through a chance phone call that the locks would actually be open so I had to pack everything into the one day as it was decided to move on on the Friday.

We started by going down through 1 lock, winding and returning through the lock as, unlike Temujin, we were too long to wind above it. The lock was booked for 10 am and we left at 10 to 10. As we left, they rang June (!!!!?) to ask where we were. It took 3 of them to manage that little operation, bless ‘em.

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Winding accomplished, I set off across the road for a fairly major supermarket shop – so major that I had to phone G to come across with the car to help me carry it back. We, finally, managed to understand the (to us) very confusing special offer system and found a good deal on both chicken and beer. Just because you understand the words doesn’t mean that you know how it works! Having dumped the perishables in the fridge we set off into town in search of our poste restante mail. No sign of it at the post office, which is often a problem, as it often turns out to have been there all the time but it would be rude to ask them to look again! This time though the helpful lady suggested we try the other branch at the other end of town. Success.

After trying, and failing, to change our wifi arrangement and getting the new flea and tic collars for the menagerie (found the first tic of the season on Muttley’s nose) I left G to it and went and indulged in a little retail therapy and to have a look around the huge market.

By the time I returned, put the rest of the shopping away, walked the dogs and made a late dinner, Kurt and Bente turned up on their B & B Luxmotor. A quick shuffle of MR (the little French boat had left) and there was room for all. I slept well.

We could have done with 2 more days really; 1 for shopping/exploring and 1 to take the little steam train ride round the coast but we’re starting to have to be a bit careful with the time now as our blacking appointment looms.

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Long to Abbeville. 17k and 2 locks

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/05/2015

We left Long the next morning in strong winds and were well and truly drowned by the time we extricated ourselves from our shallow, muddy moorings. The river was flowing like the clappers and we arrived at the first lock to find it wasn’t set; we, subsequently, made a very undignified arrival onto the lock landing having failed to stop! The lockie hadn’t opened the lock as he thought we’d be staying the night – anyone in their right minds would have done just that; I don’t know what possessed us to move. He went on ahead and temporarily closed the weir stream below the lock for us to give us a fighting chance and make sure the second lock was open and waiting.

On arrival at Abbeville a British boat moved back a bit to make room for Temujin and half of MR. The weather conditions weren’t conducive to socialising and they left the following morning which gave us a chance to move the other half of MR onto the pontoon. Try as we might we, yet again, couldn’t get a TV/Radio signal as a pesky tree was blocking reception. Being a Tuesday (Holby City night – sad, I know), I suggested that G get the chain saw out and drop the tree, but he thought I was being unreasonable‘

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The following morning we still had very strong winds and intermittent heavy rain storms so G suggested a treat and drove us all to the seaside for a seafood (June and I) lunch. Couldn’t tempt the fellers away from meat. We stopped and took a look around the port at the mouth of the Somme first.

Both of my dogs lived by the sea as pups and Baxter was delighted to feel sand under his feet again – I think it acts as a shock absorber for his poorly hips and he couldn’t resist a good old roll. The town beach was full of pebbles and beach huts; I can’t imagine why you would want a beach hut there but maybe it looked more attractive in less extreme weather conditions.

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(East of) Amiens to Samara

Posted by contentedsouls on 11/05/2015

Friends Tim and Heather, who had left Corbie ahead of us, phoned and gave us a heads up about a lovely mooring at Samara so Saturday 2nd we continued on downstream, back passed Amiens. The usual lunchtime stop whilst we waited for a lockie (we never seem to get the timing right to avoid their lunch break) but it does give us a chance to get a bite to eat and walk the dogs. P1080003 - CopyP1080010 - Copy

18k and 3 locks where Mike and June kindly gave us the long pontoon for the animals. The 2 little pontoons you can see in the 2nd picture are sited in shallow water so the Temujin crew moored nose in and had to either disembark off the bow or make a leap from the gunwhales. The mooring is situated through the middle of a country park so perfect for the menagerie with good walking.

Later in the day we were joined by Kevin and Debbie in their motor home; just off the ferry to re-join WB Avalon for the season – we happily provided supper in exchange for our new Vax cordless vacuum cleaner and a large bag of pork scratchings for the boys. Muttley was happy to see his Airedale mates and seems to have forgiven Herbie for nipping his bum last year. Mike and June joined us for drinks after. A lovely evening, as ever, in their company. We’ll be seeing them again in the environs of Paris on the 17th May to do a bit of dog and boat sitting for a few days. I’ll probably spend those days walking round their bed – just because I can!

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We left Samara on the Monday morning after a weekend of, mostly, rain. 19k and 2 locks to Long which we covered in very good time due to the strong flow although one stretch was terribly weedy. Mooring was tricky in a very shallow backwater that we reversed into but Daisy enjoyed the playground of a small sailboat that we shared it with.

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Amiens

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/05/2015

By the time we’d had lunch and I’d walked the dogs, there wasn’t a lot of day left to explore Amiens. The parts I did find were lovely and, in some ways, reminded me of Brugge with all the backwaters running between the houses. It would have been gorgeous to follow them in the kayak but the flow was so strong I’d never have made it back. Sadly I didn’t get as far as the renouned covered market and I’d hoped to do that the following day.

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It transpired, however, that the following day was a bank holiday (Fri 1st May) and there was some concern that there may be some ‘city centre mooring’ problems so, somewhat reluctantly on my part, we re-traced our steps upstream to a remote rural mooring we’d passed on the way downstream. It would be rude to leave without showing a few more pictures though.

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