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

  • January 2016
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for January 27th, 2016

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.


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.


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


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.


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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