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

  • September 2015
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for September 27th, 2015

Langres to Heuilley Cotton (Fri 25th)

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/09/2015

12 km, 2 locks, 1 tunnel

Recovering the car with the bike becomes extremely problematic when tunnels are involved – although emergency/maintenance towpaths run through them, their use is forbidden for any other reason. We did a reccy in the car and ‘we’ decided that G would split the bike climbs by parking the car halfway along on Thursday and cycling back to the boat at Langres; then cycling back from where we moored on Friday. It’s not just a matter of the climb over the tunnel but it’s very hilly in general around here – very pretty too – and was going to be hard work.

The tunnel is ‘one way’ and we didn’t know how long we’d have to wait so we thought we’d set off early at 9 – that’s when the locks open for plaisanciers. 2 other boats had the same idea so we gave them a 15 minute start to clear the first lock knowing they’d be way faster than us and we wouldn’t see them again. A bright but chilly day so Baxter kept his Aran on whilst nipping out for a quick wee.P1090984P1090986

Through the first bridge and we could see the magnificent walls of Langres rising out of the forest and mist. It was just two, automatic, locks to the summit pound and we’d been asked to ‘phone at the last lock regarding the tunnel. A keen gardener clearly resided at the last lock and the remaining canal on the Marne side was lovely too.


We ‘phoned at the last lock and were told to ‘phone at the tunnel. That’ll be 3 ‘phone calls (we called it in on Thursday too); our compulsory and expensive fixed base VHF radio has been gathering dust since we left Belgium. When we joined this canal we were given a leaflet showing all the locks up and down, whether they were chained, automatic, manual or any other ways you can think of for operating locks – but no mention of ‘the tunnel’, just marked at nearly 5 km long. No instructions at the beginning of the cutting or at the tunnel mouth either – just a single red light. Fortunately we had been given the heads up by Peter and Glen who had just come through it the other way when we met them. We understand that they let boats through from one end at 1 km intervals and have a light system, within the tunnel, to maintain that 1 km gap. If you’re going too fast you get a string of red lights in the roof which means you must slow down – if you don’t, you get verbals  over the tannoy. If you’re going too slow you get a string of greens (lights; not cabbages and brussels) to speed up, followed by more verbals if you don’t respond. A single green light means you are maintaining the correct separation (I’ve no idea why they need 1 km of separation). Clever but how the hell are you meant to know? The 2 boats that went ahead weren’t about,P1100010P1100015P1100019P1100022P1100024so we reckoned we were in with a good chance to go. Sure enough, when we ‘phoned, we were told to hit the telecommander and the red light went green allowing us to enter the cutting. The light stayed steadily green all the way through (just over the hour) and we returned to daylight ready to start heading downhill towards the Saone. This canal used to be called the Marne a la Saone canal for very good reasons. I’ve absolutely no idea why it was re-named.

We moored up just through the tunnel at Hueilley Cotton (pronounced Wheely Cot on), 340 metres up, where the left bank is the left bank again. We’ve travelled 155 km uphill through 71 locks on this canal with the left bank being on our right and it confuses the hell out of me. Whilst I’m on this subject, which bank is which on the summit pound if there’s no tunnel? One of you clever people will know!

After lunch G set off by bike to find the car – he tried to take a short cut which, as so often happens, turned out to be a ‘long cut’. On turning round to re-trace his steps wheels he fell off into the mud but, undeterred, he reached the car and returned to Langres where he actually, finally, managed to collect Daisy’s tracker collar from the post office – hooooray!

Now you all know how much G loves a new gadget and the tracker was fitted to Daisy’s new collar (standard, elasticated, with bell – just the old one was tatty) in the blink of a cat’s whiskers. So out of the side hatch she was thrown went, whilst G stayed on the boat, closed his eyes and counted to 100. With a cry of, “coming, ready or not” he was off with the bleeper control in hot pursuit – I don’t think he explained the new game properly to Daisy who was sat on the gunwales in the sun. On the 2nd attempt we could see her from the side hatch sitting next to the boat in the grass. A third attempt wasn’t instigated as she curled up on the bed for the night – some cats are just no fun anymore.

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