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

  • June 2016
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for June, 2016

Briare and it’s Pont Canal

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/06/2016

We moved on the 4.5 kms from Chatillon to a lovely wild mooring just short of the 662 metre long Briare aqueduct across the Loire and old canal. With wide towpaths either side of the trough, we had good access (either by foot or bike) into Briare. To get to Briare by car from ‘our’ side, however, you have to go back to Chatillon or onwards another 9 kms before you can cross the Loire.

I am delighted to report that the kilowatt of solar panels now installed on Francoise’ roof (courtesy of ‘deliveries by Kevin’) has revolutionised life on board and we are now able to wild camp with gay abandon and we have had a lovely stay here for the week whilst we’ve waited for life upstream and ‘radio gunwales info’ to sort itself out a bit – the fact that the barge moored in the layby behind us is occupied by a VNF eclusier lady has been rather useful on the information front. The heavy rain continues, but is breaking into sunshine and showers which is altogether better (especially for the solar power) but the only problem with this mooring is that it is in a hay meadow with no path. Every time we step off of the boat we step into wet grass up to our armpits and we all know about Baxter’s opinion on wet grass; he also loves the sun on his tired old bones – his brain is still functioning though, as it didn’t take him long to find a happy solution … gotta love him! Neither G nor I had a dry pair of shoes left on the boat between us by the time we left – despite my efforts with the wax, polish and waterproof spray.


Our nearest neighbours were just delightful, one of the babies thought my jokes were hilarious and they were so curious about the dogs – fortunately Daisy didn’t get involved in the mix – I bet they were chilly having just had their coats harvested.


As for the aqueduct itself, it was pretty special. I think Francoise looks quite majestic cruising across this structure which was opened just 6 years before she was built.


We were planning to leave Tuesday when points north (up as far as the breach) officially re-opened, but then there was a strike so G decided to take the train to Roanne; paid 12 months rent on the garage, checked up on MR and brought the car back to within half a mile of the boat. Our plans were to leave in the morning for Ouzouer-sur-Trezee (try pronouncing that when you’ve had a glass or two) but, at gone 9.30 pm (nearly dark), we were joined at our wilderness mooring by the hotel boat Horizon II who said they had scuttled down here to avoid getting cut off by the rising river Trezee and advised us to stay where we were for a bit longer – more radio gunwales. So we went shopping in the morning; our first decent shop in weeks and we have coffee for our machine, fresh milk for tea and cat litter again – whoopee! We humped as much as we could through the half mile of wet grass and left the heavier, non-perishables, in the car.


We had some interesting visitors – this coypu had 7 babies and this other splendid chap is a, rather unimaginatively named, Bar Headed Goose. We Googled this Goose and it is not meant to be anywhere near Europe, ever! He seemed quite happy, albeit very noisy, with a couple of common or garden ducks for company but he’s not going to find a mate this side of India any time soon.


No case of mistaken identity over this one!

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Posted by contentedsouls on 13/06/2016

A feast for our eyes

Although it was only 8 kms, the contrast in scenery was immense and such a delight after two weeks in one place. The sun was out and the humidity levels, as you can imagine, high. It was late when we got there so our major exploration had to wait until the Thursday morning which left me with a lot to pack in. First off it was market day so we were able to extend our, somewhat limited, supply of veg purchased at Beaulieu and buy fish – yes FISH, joy! I can’t remember the last time we had fish that wasn’t out of a tin! Great market, friendly people and oh so pretty. I left G in a cafe bar to watch the world go by whilst I climbed the hill to the old town; well worth the climb and we definitely need to bring our friends here (could be the start of a plan). Just look at this:-

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So then it was back to Francoise for a quick lunch as I wanted to bikle out to look at the old locks down onto the Loire in the afternoon and Muttley still needed walking before we left (skipper had his moving hat on having been stuck for so long).

A gorgeous lunch of gambas and samphire before heading off in the opposite direction.


You’ll note the horse turn around in the centre of the bridge – confusing to the eye at the moment as the towing path is under water and the embankment can’t be seen. There are moorings down there too with a barge on – no idea if it can still get out again.


With everyone having spent so much time on board due to the weather, neither of us had the heart to shut Daisy in as we travelled, so we tried leaving her to roam as we cruised (whilst I danced behind in nervous attendance) for the first time ever. As with all things – except Herbie – she took the short trip in her stride.


Very little in life phases this extraordinary little cat

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Beaulieu. Decisions, rumours and mis-information.

Posted by contentedsouls on 08/06/2016

2 weeks today we’ve been moored here now and, for the last couple of days, I’ve been able to get out and about again with Muttley who has suddenly decided to become a bit of a water baby. I was actually able to get down to the Loire again but kept Muttley’s lead on as, if he’d lost his footing, he would have been swept away and never seen again!


After a day and a half of sunny, sticky, humidity; we copped this lot yesterday

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We have not had notification that navigation on this canal has re-opened however, all the boats pointing south have gone leaving just Stefan (on the bike barge hotel boat) and us pointing North at Briare and the breach. Stefan says that VNF are doing an ‘inventory’ of the condition of the canal to Briare and the locks (hopefully the aqueduct too!) and it is still closed beyond our bridge. Also, that movement to the south is restricted to draughts of <1.4 m. Then, yesterday, the huge hotel boat Deborah came trundling passed us (with a draft of 2 metres plus) towards Briare saying that they had been given clearance to Chatillon; 8 kms north of us and about  7 kms south of Briare – the French have a name for all this conflicting information – radio gunwales, which I rather like.

So with no further info to go on, Stefan left this morning to start a 6km cruise in reverse to the nearest winding hole as the one by the bridge is not long enough for him.


Our, inherited, rental of the garage at Roanne was up for renewal at the end of May and, despite letters and emails, we haven’t been able to contact the owner and pay another 12 months. We’ve been getting quite worried about it as our car is in it, so G decided it would be a good idea to take a train back to Roanne, visit the owner of the garage in person, check Matilda Rose and bring the car back. We were up at 6.30 am and G left for a 20km bike ride to Briare to get the morning train to Roanne – it was cancelled due to flooding, so he bikled 20 km back again.

Meanwhile I’d walked up to the village market for our ontake of fresh veg, cheese and eggs, where G caught up with me, and we sat and had coffee and pastis and scoffed the pastries I’d bought in the boulangerie – they were so good that we went back to get more to take home with us!!!

French parking cracks me; a narrowish street with cafe tables on one side and parked cars on the other – first the post lady abandons her post van in the middle of the road whilst she come to the bar for a coffee, then another car driver and a tractor driver did the same. No-one bothers or honks horns – they just sit and wait or come for a coffee themselves.


The market was bigger this week – it had a clothes stall


Returning to the boat we were Billy No Mates (but our calorie stash was very comforting) and we decided to turn and head back south the way we’d come.


Then G realised that he’d bikled to Briare and back and not picked up the post ……… so we headed north instead, to the delightful town of Chatillon–sur-Loire and, discovering the massive Deborah wasn’t there, rang the port of Briare to be told the port de commerce was open but not the locks beyond to the marina. G cycled back in the 7 kms to pick up the post and, guess what ….. Deborah wasn’t in the port de commerce either – perhaps she fell out of the breach!!!! Poor Stefan could have gone forward to Briare to turn rather than that long reverse.

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Posted by contentedsouls on 02/06/2016

I’ve fast forwarded the blog to our arrival in Beaulieu a week ago today. We stopped here (about 15 kms South of Briare) because it was an ideal place to pick up our house guests; the Airedales Teddy and Herbie. This decision turned out to be brilliantly lucky!

On the last blog, Kevin and Debbie had just left us to sort out their boat and their dogs’ paperwork prior to returning to the UK for K’s brothers wedding last Saturday. There was a problem at the vets which meant they – the dogs, not K & D – couldn’t return to the UK for 3 weeks, so they left their boys with us for a few days. By now you will have seen the weather problems we are experiencing in France and, whilst we waited here for Kevin to pick the dogs back up on Tuesday, first they closed the canal in the direction we were heading and then the canal behind us. I say that this was brilliantly lucky because there has also now been a serious breach ahead of us and, had we not stopped for the dogs, we would have been the wrong side of the breach for the DBA rally (IF it still goes ahead) and on flooded rivers. As it is, we are in a nice little spot on the canal with free electric and water plus a small shop UP the hill (i.e. not down the closed and flooded roads to the river Loire). Whilst the weather is bloody tedious and miserable and all my lovely circular dog walks are no longer useable, we are not being unduly inconvenienced. We shall have to do some drastic re-planning for our friends later this month and G’s sister and b-i-l coming out from Australia in August but, ultimately, there are no choices other than to turn around and go back the way we’ve come, to Decize, once the floods have receded.

Here’s a pic of the breach less than 50 kms North of us


For the first 2 or 3 days we had enough breaks in the rain for me to get out and about with the two younger dogs leaving the two older dogs, Daisy and G to have a bit of peace and quiet. Herbie is a sweetie, but he bounces and Daisy doesn’t know how to deal with this ‘Tigger’ action so we kept her in the front half of the boat and Herbie in the back half. There are plenty of safe places to let Herbie and Muttley off leads and they had a lot of fun.


The only time I worried about Herbie was trying to hang onto him on his lead when dogs ran down their gardens barking through their fences at us – he’s a big, strong and excitable lad. Strangely enough, Muttley seemed to be on his best behaviour, rather than join in, which helped. Teddy settled down quickly and was quite happy to sleep and eat.


I took this picture around Sunday lunchtime and it was, really, the first indication that the situation was getting bad – they were starting to dump water. By Monday, the only place left to walk was uphill into the village.


Graham nearly jumped out of his skin when something stuck it’s head out from under the shelves – clearly, the wildlife is starting to board the Ark, but we evicted him as it’s too early for boarding.


Kevin returned to pick the boys up Tuesday and deliver our solar panels!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No comment.

At least I don’t have to pound the roads with poor Herbie now – it’s a good job Herbie wasn’t still with me when I came across this little lot. Two men and their dogs were moving sheep up the road across the canal to higher ground and the sheep broke and jumped over the road barrier onto the canalside in front of us. I don’t think I could possibly have held on to Herbie in that situation, such would have been his excitement, and can you imagine a Herbie running amok amongst this lot – it doesn’t bear thinking about!!!!!!


So now we are a jolly little band of boats all sitting about and waiting. The cycle/boat hotel passengers are from Australia and Germany – even if they were prepared to brave the torrential rain, the Loire Velo cycle trail is, like most things, under water and the hotel boat can’t pick them up – they only had a week. The Brits on the barge had a month, with their guests onboard for just a week and their cars miles away – just to add insult to injury there’s also a train strike. You’ll see a gap behind the second boat from the far end – that’s a hire boat’s spot; it’s gone to cruise up and down the pound rather than just sit there. The people immediately behind Francoise are a jolly natured French couple – just as well after what happened last night!

With the dogs’ routine disrupted, Muttley got caught short and needed to go out at 2.00 am this morning. G let him off the boat and he didn’t come back as per normal. G went in search of him and couldn’t find him until his presence triggered the security light on the boat behind. Muttley was stood on the roof over their bedroom looking through the window at their Yorkshire Terrier – they could hear something on the roof and their dog was going mental so they came out to see what was going on! G said his French deserted him in his embarrassment and he had to go round this morning, ‘tres desolate’ ing. They were completely unphased and had thought it was a cat – little bugger.


So here we sit and are grateful as it is a whole lot worse for many.

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