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

  • November 2016
    M T W T F S S
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Close encounters and an assault on the head of the Seine navigation

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/11/2016

When you are out on the big rivers with the big boys, there is rarely a problem as you can rely on two things; the Skippers are consummate professionals and there is plenty of room for all …… hmmm. Are you all sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

Having checked on the AIS that there was no activity behind us, we pulled pins only to discover that the skipper on the 105 metre tanker moored behind us overnight did exactly the same; so we pulled over at the lock to let him pass and went in behind him.



As we rose in the lock I could see the skipper leaning down and doing something on the seat of the cab; he started to come back towards us and the lockie radioed him to move forward as he would take his wheelhouse out on the bridge (nobody mentioned squidging us!); he looked up, panicked and shoved his throttles forward. His wash shot us back, hit the gate behind us and surged forward tsunami style – lifting us up several feet and washing our ropes off of the bollards. As we slammed into the wall I managed (unusually) to lasso a bollard at the top of the lock. Once the excitement had died down – sorry, no pics! – I took this picture of his bum, before retiring to the toilet and sorting out my own. I then settled the dogs and Daisy, the latter being unusually upset, before clearing up all the spillages at the front end of the boat.

Fast forward a week, moored at Bray, we were in a dilemma as to how much further up we would be able to go. We knew all the big stuff stopped 5 locks and 25 kms further up at Nogent, but I was hoping to go another 20 kms beyond to Marcilly. Try as we might, after contacting Women on Barges and the Barge Association members and the internet, we couldn’t make contact with the VNF and get a definitive answer as to whether or not La Petite Seine was navigable above Nogent – all indications were that it wasn’t but, as we had been told Nogent was a nice little town, we decided to sally forth and see what we could see. 25 kms and 5 locks with so many commercials was likely to be a very long day, given the commercials, quite rightly, have priority.

Waiting for a gap in the traffic to leave we let the 97 metre Raptor go passed before pulling pins (why are they all named like pit bull dogs? I’m convinced we’ll meet a Tyson any day now) and set off in glorious sunshine. The AIS had one in the lock and Raptor seemed to have stopped, we had one behind – the river suddenly became quite narrow so we continued up to the lock slowly against the bank. As we approached the lock, one was coming out across our bow from our port side (due to the bend) and Raptor had turned and was positioning to reverse into the lock from our starboard side (we weren’t expecting that!). At first we thought we could shoot across Raptor’s bow into the open weir water on our starboard side, but he started forward and we were running out of options. So we decided to move forward and lay along his cabin side until the other boat was clear. In the end we got clear of his stern onto the landing outside the lock entrance to starboard, below the weir itself. Bloody hell. There was a moment when I thought we were going to be a Francoise sandwich. Very difficult to explain but be were in that space between the two boats in pictures two and three.


Raptor reversed in and went up giving me time, yet again, to change my underwear. Another came down. The one behind came in and waited for two more to come up and go in with him and …… quite simply, we lost the will to live. By now, we had done zero locks and 3 kms and it was 12.30. With 4 more locks still to do –assuming we ever got into this one – and another 22kms, we weren’t going to make it. An interim wild mooring wasn’t an option. Interestingly, when we called the eclusier to say we had changed our minds and were turning back downstream she, helpfully, started to speak English – whilst I don’t expect French people to speak English to me (we always give French our best), when it’s all going tits up and we don’t understand, a simple, ‘wait there’ in either English or French would have saved everyone a load of angst. Mind you, these boats go up and down on this short run each and every day and must be bored out of their tiny (well biggy) minds – at least we broke the routine for them!!!!!!!!!!

Still they kept coming as we turned and left; convincing ourselves that we only went up there to wind anyway. I’m still glad we tried – no, “if only’s”. Beautiful day for a cruise.


Don’t understand the problem – plenty of room for a pony (and Francoise).

10 Responses to “Close encounters and an assault on the head of the Seine navigation”

  1. Veronica said

    Come to NL… The commercials have names like Meander there … And they don’t meander all over the lock!! Seriously, scary moments indeed. Well done for lassoing that bollard! xxx


  2. Kevin TOO said

    Well one thing’s for sure… never a dull moment in your lives is their… ROFLMAO


  3. ianmccauley2014 said

    Why? Well, as Mallory said, “because it’s there!” Keep on forging new paths for the rest of us.


  4. […] Just the one lock en route to our mooring at Morolles-sur-Seine, although it was not without incident as a rather large peniche tried to reverse into us and squidge us – the subject of a separate blog here… […]


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