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 January, 2016

Fragnes to Chagny

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/01/2016

11 locks, 11 kms, 4 1/2 hours

The timing of our trip to clear the river Saone was absolutely spot on. We received an email this morning to say that the Saone was closed again to pleasure boats. It’s nice when you get it right – well done G.

I, also, was absolutely right about the church bells; they started with a discordant melee and then broke into the 7am chimes – I misjudged the poor cockerel though, who never made a squeak let alone a crow – so we were up bright and early again. We had been expecting VNF to appear at the first lock, but there was no sign of them and the lock was set with a green light showing so we carried on; our exit from each lock setting the next one. We sailed through the first 6 locks with no problems – despite the fact that we were going uphill and we couldn’t reach any bollards; as long as we lurked right at the back we easily controlled the boat with the engine and we quickly fell into the routine required for this flight:-

Enter the lock exactly down the middle of the chamber (or the radar doesn’t detect you) head right up to the front of the lock and put the nose onto the side with the ladder. Behind the ladder lurks two bits of manky cord – yank the blue one and hold onto the ladder whilst you wait to see if the gates open; if not, repeat cord yanking. As soon as the gates start to move, reverse to the back of the lock and get your arse over to the wall.

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Happily pootling along this pretty canal we reached the 7th lock of the day; this one is 5.2 metres and we were delighted to spot that it had rising bollards.

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A slightly modified technique required for these:-

Get the long rope over the rising bollard and pay out the rope as you go right to the front for the ladder/manky rope combination. As soon as those gates start to move (and never once did they start after the first attempt) reverse right back and get your arse over and hook the other bollard with the stern rope before moving forward again to a suitable position at the forward bollard. Then hang on in there as ground paddles open viciously and water surges up all along from beneath the boat. The rising bollards need to be further back in the chamber away from the filling action.

4 out of the remaining locks were of this type and the only good thing about them was that we didn’t loose any paint in places that we shouldn’t and that, under this pressure of needing to manoeuvre quickly and get it right first time, my boat handling didn’t let me down. When I was on the front end I managed to keep the long rope (which I hate) payed out, gathered in and not trip over it and fall in or tie it in knots. All of the above G takes for granted – I don’t. The last lock of the day seemed even livelier and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the odd whale or the Loch Ness Monster rise up out of the waters below us. Fortunately G was on the helm for that one and he had to let the back of the boat cross the lock. We were both very pleased to moor up for the night knowing that there would only be the ordinary 3 metre locks the next day.

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I walked Muttley into the town which, like so much of this part of Burgundy, was still hanging on to all things Christmas

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You can tell our days are pretty long at the moment; each blog seems to start with a photo of sunrise and finish with pictures of me walking dogs at dusk or in the dark!

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Chalon sur Saone to Fragnes on the Canal du Centre

Posted by contentedsouls on 28/01/2016

1 lock and 8 kms

Given that VNF were on strike (together with most of France apparently), tired as we were, it would have been criminal not to have a look at the town we had unexpectedly visited – it had certainly looked pretty from across the river when I’d walked Muttley the night before. So we left Baxter to sleep off our disturbed night and went for a quick looksee. A very beautiful city and worth the effort it took us to walk in.

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The rest of the day disappeared in the usual chores and we were early to bed – Baxter deigned to let us sleep through the night, for which we were extremely grateful, and we were up and raring just about with it again at 7. A very different day weather-wise; very misty with high levels of humidity and a bit of a breeze, but still warm. The mist seemed to make those gargantuan hotel boats even more ominous somehow, as MR ploughed through the water against the stream – now we’re on the opposite side from them you get a better idea of the vastness of this waterway.

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Very soon we hung a right and the big lock up off of the Saone onto the Canal du Centre was ready and waiting for us – even from the opposite end of the boat I was sure I heard Graham let out the breath he’d been holding since Monday morning! This lock was over 10 metres deep, with rising bollards and we were given a very gentle ride to the top. If you look very carefully at the centre photo you will see that everything looks very wet – water was pouring down the side of the lock and hitting the top of the riser that the bollard is mounted on; it then bounced off to shower both me and all the contents of the well deck – as I wasn’t expecting it I wasn’t wearing wets and I had no choice but to stand in the cold shower as we slowly rose to the surface. All the other risers were completely dry, it was just the one we used. One of us thought this was very funny.

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This was the only lock of the day and the little canal was refreshing to our eyes as it meandered passed pretty buildings into Fragnes village. Blue tits were nesting in the holes in the wall in the second picture below – it was lovely watching them pop in and out.

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We moored just in time to give the boys a quick walk and then hit the popular, port-side, restaurant – it was so nice not to have to feed ourselves or wash up. Afterwards we returned to MR to chill with our books and doze, with nothing else to do, for once, until Muttley’s walk at 5. Once again we were in bed by ten and with no need to set an alarm clock; the nearby church bells and local cockerel would make sure we didn’t oversleep. We’ve certainly experience some different countryside over the last few days.

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St Symphorien to Chalon sur Saone

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/01/2016

4 locks, and 78 KMS; YES, 78 in ONE DAY! 

Plus a bit more in between and 204 km in the car. After my notorious – never to be repeated – cycle ride, we wound up the internet and found that the Saone and the Doubs (which flows into it further South) had gone back to normal water levels. In addition the weather forecast upstream of both rivers was good, with no rain anticipated for 2 weeks. Much as we were enjoying ourselves poncing about on the fat lady, sometimes very occasionally you have to be grown up and do the sensible thing – although we have already paid out for licences and insurances on both boats, we needed to go and fetch MR so we can empty our stuff off, give her a good valet and put her up for sale. We shall put her on the market in France as so many people want to come boating out here for a limited period, before returning with a boat to the UK, that it seems to make sense. If necessary we’ll return her to the UK which will give me a chance to return for a visit for the first time. If I was a wealthy woman I would keep MR for winter; but I’m not!

So Captain Sensible and his Co-Pilot turned around on the Wednesday morning, back through the 3 locks and passing both the places that we’d previously moored at to overnight in the village of Brienon. We stopped at Iguerande initially and had lunch but then decided to move on as we were worried that our generator would annoy the people in the canalside houses. On our arrival at Brienon we were ’captured’ and moored up, before we could blink, by two enthusiastic Frenchmen (who were over-wintering there on a rather nice barge) who then sorted out electric for us. I made a trip to the little village shop where Madame’s eyes lit up at the prospect of custom and free entertainment. The lady in the chemist was no fun, didn’t have any of the items I wanted and set her cat on me – I still carry the damage from the latter. We awoke to a small market in the morning and the fruit and veg man didn’t really want to take his hands out of his pockets to sell me 0.50 centimes of carrots. We were back in Roanne by 4.30 Thursday evening – just in time to make the 5.30 boaters’ happy hour to say hello and goodbye.

Yes that is a letter box attached to the car window!! The owner occupies a tiny, almost derelict, cruiser moored just below and behind the car.

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We knew we would be in for some long days, so Friday was busy with packing and making sure we were all going to get fed as simply and quickly as possible. Whilst I was whizzing up tubs of soup, G was trying to get an airlock out of the central heating system (self induced) and get the electric back on – an EDF supply, not the port, so involved emails and neighbours. Things were getting a little tense.

Saturday was back to Matilda Rose and our friends, Helen and Chris, had lit MR’s fire and made dinner for us – I think these two acts of kindness just about stopped us tipping over the edge. I was amazed to find that MR had sprouted a wheelhouse – albeit at the wrong end – in our absence. We were still clambering over the inside boat and we had two severe frosts which made life very slippery and difficult. Poor old Baxter went in again off their gang plank – I’m surprised he didn’t have a heart attack when he hit the freezing water.

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Sunday was unpacking and provisioning with food, fuel and water and 8.45 am Monday we were ready to lock down through the last 2 canal locks onto the Saone. We were given a good send off

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The mist cleared and the sun shone – we weren’t stuffed into tons of clothes and it was a really pretty cruise. We were making between 10 and 12 kms per hour so arrived where we had intended to stop for the night before lunch; we wanted to be off this river as quickly as possible so decided to push onto Gergy which we thought we’d reach between 3 and 4pm. VNF were co-operative with locks (only a couple) and we saw some commercial traffic.

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The sun became our enemy as it was strong and low and we were pointing into it all day – so very tiring and difficult to see fallen trees in the water. As all the marker poles were silhouetted against the sun, we couldn’t see whether they were red or green without binoculars and, even then, quite close; God bless the instant response of a tiller and the ability to constantly check either side. We were both very glad to turn into stream and pull onto the rise and fall pontoon at Gergy around 3.30. I left G sorting the boat out whilst I ushered two dogs with their legs crossed up the steep ramp; on reaching the top my heart sunk into my boots when I found the exit gate into the world firmly locked. On the other side of the gate was a vast expanse of deep, wet, slime from the flooding and it was as if someone had just laid ready-made concrete, so I went back and broke the news to G. VNF were on strike the next day and there was no way we could spend two nights there with the dogs. We had no choice but to push on, so we called VNF and asked for the big lock onto the Canal du Centre for around 5pm – pas de possible. Our only remaining option was to go on passed the canal and the winter parking lot for cruise ships, into the port at Chalon sur Saone – a night cruise had not been part of our plan when we set off that morning nor had 78 kms. Someone had informed the port Captain that we were heading his way and, bless him, he had stayed on to direct us to a mooring and take our ropes. Safely tied up at last and with the dogs walked and all crew eventually fed, I was so grateful we had comfortable seats and a comfortable bed to sink into (neither exist on Francoise at the moment!). I will not repeat the language that was exercised when we were woken at 4 am by Daisy scratching at the cat flap (that I had forgotten to unlock) trying to get to her litter tray. This, in turn, woke Baxter who decided he needed to go out for a pee and then at 8 am he woke again and decided he was lonely!

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Melay to Chambilly

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/01/2016

3 locks, 7kms

I set off in search of the Loire on Sunday under lowering skies. I didn’t find it.

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I did find the most elaborate cow shed I’ve ever seen and more Storks though.

A knock on the boat early Monday morning revealed a VNF lady in a van who had come to confirm that we wanted locks 3, 4 and 5 operating at 11am. We were somewhat relieved to find that we had, finally, spoken to someone who was in a position to make this happen. We left at 10 which gave me a chance to get used to the time lapse on the wheel before the first lock! I find it quite strange that, in moments of pressure, I turned the wheel the wrong way – I wouldn’t do it in a car. The major differences (for me) are steering the front rather than the back, not being able to peek down the sides and remembering there is boat behind me – the latter is important as I don’t want to be bumping the back end and spilling my guests’ cocktails, that wouldn’t be good form. I settled down to it fairly quickly and was quite comfortable whilst manoeuvring nice and slowly (even G actually said I did well) but I find the slow steering response too daunting to manoeuvre at speed i.e. coming out of a lock fast to counteract the side stream waiting for me outside. I will get used to it but I would rather build confidence slowly than frighten myself – she’s quite skittish on the water (leeboards for my birthday?).

I’m stood on a small stool which gives me a good view of everything I can’t see – this is actually taken in the lock but you wouldn’t know that the lock was there!

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We had a few VNF guys to help with the second lock and G had a good French natter. No need to get fed up hanging around when you’re indoors next to the radiator! On our own at the last lock G took some exercise and wound the other gate – no worries about getting him back on the boat as the lock isn’t a lot wider than us and, anyway, I have a twin speed girly button. We had hoped we might get water en route but VNF said it was all turned off until Digoin which is about 25 kms further down (and not guaranteed). We have used half of our water supply in just over a week.

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Shortly after we moored at Chambilly (pronounced Shombee) it started to snow heavily, so we didn’t get a lot done. Some idiot (that would be me) suggested that we cycle into the nearby far distant town of Marcigny today – no electric cycle involved in this (the electric bike is on the other boat). Apart from a quick zoom up the tow path and back on the electric cycle I haven’t been on a bike in 46 years; it was wet, it was cold, it was hard. To cheer me up, I suggested we had lunch out – starter, main, cheese (normal or wet), pudding, coffee and 1/4 litre of wine each for 13 euros and it was really good; I swapped puddings with G as I thought his was even nicer than mine. The locals were really friendly too – we’ll go there again as we’ll be back and forth along here at least a couple more times. A brilliant day if I could have just walked home and not cycled – I did suggest pushing it home.

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Not far from home I stopped and refused to cycle any further – given it was only 3 km each way I didn’t understand how it could be so destroyingly hard. I took photos of the Loire (which, I’m pleased to say, had reappeared after getting lost last Sunday) whilst G laughed good naturedly (ha bloody ha) at my discomfort – he then looked more closely at my bike and fiddled with something on the wheel, “you’re on the wrong cog” he said nonchalantly. “Whadya mean?”. “Nothing; it’s just the gearing is stuck on high”, “but the indicator shows …., “yeah, bikes can be funny like that”. I cycled the last 500 km home with comparitive ease.

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With help from the dogs we put the bikes back on the front of the boat – which is exactly where mine will be staying for the foreseeable future!

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I already hurt – the next two days are going to be a nightmare!

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Melay sur Loire–cigogne & sanglier

Posted by contentedsouls on 16/01/2016

When we arrived at Melay the lovely Nicolas (Frenchman over-wintering next boat but one) came and took our ropes for us and stayed to chat. After a while we suggested he came in for coffee and we all chatted in a mixture of French and English whilst I prepped the dinner and wrote and published the last blog. Both kept saying that they needed to get on with some work but neither moved. I went out with Muttley for his long walk and they were still sat nattering when I came back, so I ushered them both out of the door whereby they started nattering with the chap who was fishing behind the boat for another 30 minutes – and they say women can talk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have seen a fair bit of Nicolas over the last few days and he has been a good friend to us. On Thursday morning he came round with another lead and we are now, also, plugged into the village electricity supply – only in France!

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Nattering over coffee, it transpired that he is fitting out his boat with two en-suite guestrooms to let in the summer, so was as pleased to improve his English as we are our French – a happily symbiotic relationship. Throughout long conversations with him, both G and I keep spouting, “it’s on the other boat” – so much so that I’m thinking of having T-shirts printed with that as a slogan and Nicolas suggested we change Francoise name to “The Other Boat” – the plaisancier’s equivalent of, “my other car’s a Porsche”. The problem opportunity is that we never thought that we would set off cruising in Francoise until after we had taken MR to Roanne and recovered the rest of our ‘stuff’. We only took from MR enough stuff to last us for 5/6 weeks in a port and we don’t have with us a number of critical items; the most important of which being  our water filtration system and, of course, the water is switched off for the winter at all the little halte fluvial. Due to this we’re not sure how long we will be able to stay out for, but we’ll see – we have to go back to Roanne to park Francoise and get the car in order to fetch MR down as soon as the Saone subsides anyway; that has to be our priority but, in the interim, we are enjoying our jolly.

Thursday was grey and intermittently raining but I walked into the village anyway (my wet weather gear is on the other boat) and was glad I did when I realised that the flock of birds in the field were Storks – Cigogne in French. Amazing.

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I also spotted my first ever French style – not useable though due to an abundance of barbed wire strands

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The village itself was charming, as were the people, but I thought I’d stepped back into a mid December time warp – everywhere was in it’s full Christmas glory – not just the street lights and decorations, but the village supermarket had one aisle dedicated to Christmas confectionary and general consumables (not on sale). I asked Nicolas why this was and he just shrugged and said there was no particular time to remove them. The crib amused me as the sheep had been replaced with Wild Boar – Sanglier – you can just make out their white tusks!

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Friday morning was market day and dawned (yes, I did see the sunrise) bright and sunny so I was able to persuade both G and Baxter to walk in with Muttley and I. The market itself consisted of 3 comprehensive stalls; cheese, meat and fruit and veg – with a boulangerie (and the little supermarket) in the village we had everything we needed without the tat. The cheese stall was something else and we realised that we had missed out when we saw people handing over empty jam jars,  Tupperware containers and the like. These were being filled and returned with local crème fraiche, yoghurt, cream cheese and goodness knows what else – oh well, the cheeses we bought were delicious and we’ll know when we come back through.

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With enough goodies to re-stock our pantry (I love my pantry), we retired to the busy little bar where we met up with Nicolas for coffee and some good natured banter with the locals. Perfik! I love this little place and it’s friendly inhabitants and can definitely see the attraction of staying here for the winter with free mooring and free electric!

We should, of course, have left by now but the weather forecast has been predicting heavy minus figures and, now we have electric, we thought it might be sensible to stay put for the week-end and see what happens (this canal is closed Sundays). No contest between being able to use the electric blanket and a hot water bottle; I expect you’ve guessed where our winter duvet is – yep, on the other boat. Daisy likes to get as close to the blanket as possible too and I’m sure Baxter is delighted that Mary kindly finished his new PJs before we left as it has, for the first time today, turned bitter – or maybe we’re just not used to it anymore.

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We tried to book a man in a van to do the 3 locks for us on Monday but couldn’t get an answer from any of them – Nicolas had no better luck than us when he tried but had to go out on his moped for something and stopped by at our next mooring and obtained three more telephone numbers from the boaters there for us to try – the last of the three numbers was answered and we (think we are) good to leave on Monday morning despite the weather.

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A few more pictures of the ‘room to let’ boat behind us (as promised to Kevin Too) including their tariff if you fancy a short break. I love that their summer shade canopy is currently keeping their log pile dry.

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Briennon to Melay sur Loire

Posted by contentedsouls on 13/01/2016

0 Locks, 12 kms (and one winding hole; twice)

After 2 nights off of shore power it has quickly become apparent that we need more power if we are going to avoid living of of the genny in the winter! Many boats are advertised as ‘liveaboards’ but if nobody has actually lived on them throughout the winter it is unlikely that the power will be sufficient – we are already missing Matilda Rose’s big battery bank and solar panels. It’s not an urgent problem but it is something that will need to be addressed before next winter. I wonder if we will need Grade II listed planning permission to put solar panels on a 114 year old tjalk (is that screams of horror I hear from the hystericals)? 

We spent yesterday just outside Briennon and it was a lovely spot but very muddy – too muddy to get the bikes out. It is amazing how quickly we have become used to totally mud-free towpaths. Muttley and I slithered through the mud to the little village which, although not particularly pretty, had everything you could need. It was also nice to be able to draw up the blinds and enjoy the benefits of our beautiful big windows – I don’t envy Graham having to clean them though; it’ll take him ages to make sure that I can’t see any smears.

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In view of the somewhat bumpy ride on Monday, I made sure that the crew were safely strapped in before we left this morning.

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Beautiful sunshine this morning and a pleasantly uneventful trip with no locks – we found a winding hole and tried turns to the left and right; she definitely dresses to the left. Now moored up with a few big boats who are wintering here and occupied by friendly French people; so much better for us! We can get free electric here if we had a 60 metre lead (only 50 metres of cable on board) – everyone is tapped into the nearest telegraph pole!!!!!

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We need to pop into the village now and offer to pay our visitor taxes at the Marie’s Office.

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Roanne to Briennon–Shakedown cruise

Posted by contentedsouls on 11/01/2016

3 locks, 15 kms

Shortly after I’d posted the blog on Saturday, saying that we were abandoning the trip to fetch Matilda Rose, we received an email from VNF saying that the Saone was closed. The alternative plan, to take Francoise out for a cruise, also saved us from having to do any packing so I had time on my hands to drive Muttley further afield for a walk along the Loire which we hadn’t done before. The rain threatened us the whole time but never actually caught us – the light was fabulous.

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Goodbyes said, we purchased and printed off an annual licence for Francoise – £400 (the second one of these we’ve had to pay for this week!) and put last year’s paperwork to bed. We negotiated 466 locks and 1,665 kms on Matilda Rose last year.

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This morning we started a new boating chapter and untied Francoise ropes under dark clouds and a little rain and hovered in the port at 8.55am and watched the VNF man winding the lock paddles for us at spot on 9.00am. The rain cleared and the sun started to come out. Unfortunately the wind started to come out too with nasty, intermittent, strong squalls! The first lock wasn’t pretty and nor was the second. I had mentioned to G that we were likely to turn the wheel the wrong way after years with a tiller, “no we won’t,” he said, “you don’t do it in the car”. Sadly I was right. Yes, you can turn it the wrong way under pressure and you also have to remember that you are not stood on the ‘end’ – there is quite a bit of boat behind you which is easy to forget.

G aced the third lock but, sadly, I didn’t do so well with the front end. The bollards are well back from the lock sides and we were sitting quite high in the water so I decided to get off with the rope. It was too high to step up to get back on so I put my bum on the gunwales and pulled my feet forward in front of me; but I couldn’t get up. For a long while I have needed to roll onto my stomach to get up off of the ground but this wasn’t an option in this situation – our gunwales may be a lot wider, but they’re not that wide – as I would have rolled into the cut. The situation was exacerbated by the shape of the tjalk which slopes upwards to the front so I was embarrassingly stuck on my bum falling backwards – the rope was on though so the boat was secure. At least I gave the VNF man a good laugh.

As we moored up just through the village of Briennon the wind took pity on us and allowed us to moor with a semblance of dignity. A beautiful spot but a bit muddy – we’re not used to mud anymore. Baxter did his first foray along the gunwales to alight at the lowest point; easy peasy. His idiot son kept trying to squeeze under the safety railings; a dog of very little brain! We’re just off to get a cup of tea now and change our trousers.

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Great to be on the move again.

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Plans are afoot! We have movement.

Posted by contentedsouls on 09/01/2016

We are gearing up to start cruising again; driving back up to Matilda Rose on Saturday with almost everything in place to start moving her down to Roanne.

Le Doubs is still closed, but VNF will open the 2 locks required for us to drop onto the Saone although, unlike here, they have had quite a bit of rain up there and friends advise us that there is a bit of a run on it – hey ho, we’ll be off of it quicker!! The Canal du Centre has water in it again and the Canal de Roanne a Digoin is open. Simples – I bet it’s not!!

Now we have made a plan and booked the necessary passages our, previously glorious, weather is deteriorating; inevitable I guess with us needing to be out on the tiller in all the elements. Not that we have had any opportunities to get used to cosy cruising in a covered and heated wheelhouse; up until now it has made a very good ‘cloak and boot’ room (not that either of us sport a cloak very often these days) and a nice sunny space to lie up and read or watch the world go by.

I cannot believe how quickly the days just seem to slip away whilst we are in port. I promised myself faithfully that I would do an hour a day on my French (especially verbs), a minimum of 5 hours a week painting (recreational), some exploration of the local area and sort out the blog format. Of those four things we have managed one trip into the hills for a ‘fizzy tasting’ trip and I’ve spent one hour with the watercolours – not a good hit rate. Once we get MR back it will be work time and I feel I have squandered these 5 weeks, I haven’t even made any shopping trips to start filling up my new, and vast, wardrobe – I’ve had a lot of fun though and met loads of lovely new people!

As Baxter ages he seems to feel the cold more and we need a new jumper for him to sleep in – we hadn’t been able to buy one big enough for him and I casually mentioned it to another dog owner in the port who contacted another boater who found a pattern and came round to measure him. She was heading back to the States though, so passed the pattern on to another boater who is now knitting it up – he’s had a couple of fittings and the new coat is nearly finished. All arranged without my even knowing about it until Debbie turned up to measure him; they’re efficient this lot.

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Muttley has had a much needed haircut. Unfortunately our styling request (totally conducted in French/mime) lost something in the translation so he still has a full head and tail of hair. At least the bit in between is clean and tidy. When we went to pick him up she said that he didn’t much like being bathed – we feigned surprise. She also said he didn’t like having his paws cut –we feigned a bit more surprise. Then, mon dieu, the noise when I tried to clip his paws!!! Our levels of feigned surprise, in French of course, have now reached magnificent levels of total fluency.

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We ate out on one occasion and the food was excellent but the service very, what I call, ‘Parisian snotty’. It came to a head when she asked us if we’d be wanting desserts whilst we were still eating our mains – hurrying you along whilst you are eating is probably the most unforgiveable thing you can do to someone in France and G had a firm, but polite, word. She did actually look quite contrite and her attitude then improved. We still didn’t leave her a tip though. These were our starters, I had fish for a main course and probably the best crème brulee I’ve ever eaten.

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spoon

Graham disappeared into a Tabac to buy a paper the other day whilst I waited outside with the dogs. He was gone ages so I picked up one of the free papers from the stand and browsed through the adverts to kill the time, stuffing it half into my handbag when he eventually reappeared. On the way home. I popped into the supermarket and, at the checkout, the lass spotted the paper and asked me if I’d picked it up from outside. As I said no, I realised that she thought I was shoplifting it and then, of course, realisation dawned that they weren’t free at all and I had shoplifted it from the Tabac. Ooops! My French certainly wasn’t up to sorting all of that out, so I remain a 57cent thief – I don’t even know which Tabac I picked it up from.

New Years Eve was a party of 10 on a neighbouring Aussie boat – they were nominated whilst they were away Christmas week because they had the next biggest boat to the one we spent Christmas on. We took a box of oysters and quite a few of the Brits lost their raw oyster virginity; Mick said we’d never get him eating raw oysters and then ate 5!

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I started typing this blog the day before yesterday but ran out of time to complete it, in the interim we have discovered that the Saone is getting ever livelier and the cubic metre per second speed of the water has doubled with heavy storms forecast for all of next week. The lockie says it’s not safe to lock us down onto the Saone so that’s the end of that plan.

So plan ‘E’ was to go for a shakedown cruise for a week or three on Francoise instead. The necessary phone calls were made and we were set to leave at 10.30 tomorrow. Then we received a phone call that tomorrow’s destination was closed but that was fine as we’d just wild moor. Then we were advised that the locks would be closed too; followed by an email to say that they were on strike on Tuesday. The current plan is that they will lock us out of the port Monday morning at 9.00 am (10.30 was inconvenient for them) but we shall see – watch this space; if I get up before 7 to walk the dogs etc., and they don’t turn up I shall not be a happy bunny!

Meanwhile I continue to pound the local countryside with Muttley and enjoy the big skies and cloudscapes

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Someone made a break for it yesterday!

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