Cruise May 23-30

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Inbetween stuff, I was gonna call it the doldrums, but that felt like a downer.

Uh oh, first world problem, I do try not to dwell on the negative, but really? I just had to get this down.

I’m not bemoaning the situation, but sometimes it does get challenging; life in France with no fixed abode, no smart phone and no credit card can get really bloody difficult. Génelard is a lovely little village, maybe a bit behind the times though, for instance, there’s no WiFi, (unless you’re a bank customer, or you already have internet?¿! Maybe I should explain that last, if you have an internet connection with this particular company, they’ll then give you WiFi at no extra cost, hmm, having read that back it makes sense, but when your trying to get a simple blog post online it gets infuriating as they don’t actually say why you cannot use their free WiFi service unless you’re online, and they won’t let you?¿!). Anyhoo, Vanessa needed to get her tickets to get to the UK to visit her folks, (big wave to Alan & Marion, you’re both in my thoughts). I’ll not bore you with all the hoops that Vee had to jump through, just this one example that still has me shaking my head in despair. Génelard has a train station, but, SNCF (French rail), in their infinite wisdom closed the ticket office, now this is normal in this wonderful era, but they neglected to employ an agent like the town hall or the library to sell train tickets like they do in other towns. They also didn’t think it would be a good idea to install a ticket machine that doesn’t just deal with credit cards, listen, (or read), if you have a credit card you’re probably wondering what in blue blazes I’m talking about here, so I say to you, the next time you travel anywhere by public transport, leave your card behind, you’ll have a lot of fun, believe me. So, here’s the irony, if you want to travel from Génelard to Montchanin, thirty minutes up the rail line, (without fare dodging), you have to get to Montchanin to buy a rail ticket.

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Huge mural by the canal in Génelard

The one place in the village you can access the internet is the library, great, this is where I’m posting these blogs while we’re here. It’s not WiFi though, it’s an actual computer, I’m really not a member of the 21st century, but even I find that a tad odd. While we were prepping to leave St-Jean de Losne we got talking to someone in a pub, (this guy is even more technologically backward than we are, although he does have a “smart” phone), and he said that the daze of internet cafes are long gone, everyone has a smart phone now. I understood that, but thought that there would be lots of places we’d be able to hook up, hmm, well you know how plans go when a boat is involved. So, if I go weeks without posting anything here, know that I am writing something everyday, it just has to stay in my ever faithful Kindle until I can get online to post it.

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I said last week that we had some power problems, all is good now, I just feel the need to write down what happened for the sake of what is becoming the “log book” for the cruise. I’m probably going to make a mess of it as my head was all over the place these last few daze trying to work it all out. Also, this will probably get boring, feel free to skip ahead if I get tedious. Ya know, all this stems from me asking people about the workings of a boat and not taking into account that Vanessa and I live totally different lives to most people, here’s a typical conversation. Wait wait, for those that aren’t in the know, an inverter is a device that converts direct current into alternating current, ie you can plug your household appliances into a socket and the power comes from the battery when you’re not plugged into a shoreline.
So…
Me, “tell me about inverters”, “ooh, you need an inverter, crikey we couldn’t….” . It doesn’t matter what was said next, I heard them say “you need an inverter” and that was enough, my eyes glazed over at all the rest, it’s a fault of mine that I just want the facts ma’am, the rest is surplus. (I should just say here that a (quite powerful) inverter was already installed on Adventurer). So, there essentially is the mistake, what comes next is the story of an idiot out of his depth and taking a crash course in marine electrickery. I might just add here, I am the man that caught a fairly huge bolt while working in a house where the isolator switch was firmly in the “off” position, also, I got blasted by 480v and hospitalised for a night while in Australia many years ago, I don’t like electrics. Also, (yeah yeah, I did say this may get tedious, bear with, bear with), I got a book on marine electrics while we were still in Spain, did I read it? Don’t be silly!

We have a fridge, (how else would we keep the beer and wine chilled), it’s called a Shoreline, now that’s a stupid stupid stupid misdemeanic idiotic name, I thought this meant it only worked on alternating current, when the boat is stationary and plugged into a shoreline. (Yep, you can laugh). So when we’re cruising we need the inverter switched on to make it go. (The manual for this fridge is a tad inadequate, it basically tells you your new appliance keeps stuff cold). Because the fridge *seemed* to take so much power, we shut it off at night, but placed a frozen bottle of water in the middle to keep the temperature down. Now, I did know the inverter was taking power from the batteries, but for the life of me, I could not find out how much, it seems to me that it’s a great fat secret, I eventually found out how to divide watts by volts to find the amps needed to run it, but here’s a bonus laugh for you, I thought because it was running off of 12v batteries (which it is, another mystery), I did the sum and thought it was taking a battery draining 125 amps, (no no no, go back and do it again and you’ll do it again and again until you get it right young man). It turns out our inverter takes a whopping 6 amps +/-, for ten hours a day that’s 60 amps (there maybe an “amp hour” thing going on here?¿!), and the fridge, (while being turned off at night) takes about 25 amp thingies. So with nothing else on, there goes eighty-five amp whatsits straight out the window. So what? Well we only have 200 amp hours in the batteries, that’s all we can fit onboard, and you don’t actually get those 200 hours, have you ever bought a 200 gigabyte hard drive only to find it only holds 170? Well the world is full of shortcomings like that. So, without a recharge, we can only run the fridge and the inverter for two days before the batteries are dead, (akshully, we’d be lucky to get that, but no way am I getting into explaining the 11.5/12.6 volt window here). So that was why our batteries were draining fast, and why I thought the alternator wasn’t doing a very good job, if it’s only putting 7 to 10 amps into the batteries, greedy old inverter was taking most of that straight out, (I’ve just sussed that last out as I was writing, woo hoo it just gets better and better). Anyway, we don’t need the inverter to run the fridge, it’s a 12 volt fridge and runs off the batteries. Bangs head against a bulkhead! I’m gonna try to cut this short now, you kind’ve get the gist. But wait, when I asked people about inverters, as I said earlier, I didn’t take into account that Vee and I live very differently to most other folks, we don’t have an electric kettle, we don’t iron our clothes, (because that’s just a big fat waste of time Jasmine), we don’t spend hours watching television while an air conditioner is desiccating us, no toaster, no “tea hot” water from a tap (bwa ha ha), blah blah etc etc ad nauseum. We do have a washing machine, (unused so far but next week I reckon we’re gonna have to christen that, oh yes), and this is ALL we need the inverter for, that’s it, and that only when the engine is running, hmm okay okay the laptop, but I’m working on that, I may be able to get a 12V charger for it if they go up to 5 amps?¿! All the rest can be direct currently charged (huh?¿!) (directly from the batteries). All told, on the very outside we use 40 amps a day, 65 if we leave the fridge on overnight, and we pull 41 from the solar cells ON A CLOUDY DAY!

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Squeaky and Lara chilling by the boat.

Just a quick note here; while the inverter was on standby, (the actual on/off switch is in an awkward place to get to), it was taking a whole 10% from the batteries overnight, please bear that in mind when you put your entertainment equipment or whatever on standby for the night, you may think its off but in reality its drawing almost as much as when being used!

I’m quite a spiritual person, I believe what I believe. After I’d sussed all this out, (what is written above is really just the tip of the iceberg), I was wondering how to fit a 12V charger (cigarette lighter/car charger whatever),  so that we could fill the Kindle and ‘phone batteries without adding 6 more amps to the mix, when there was a crash from the bedroom. Of course I investigated as on a boat the kids can get into all sorts of things, not always good for them. A service hatch had fallen off from beneath the sink in the bedroom, and inside I found a wired in and operational 12V charger?¿! To my knowledge, this hatch has never fallen off since we’ve been on the boat. I’ll not say any more except a hearty thank you to whoever visited that night, I have a rough idea as since being onboard, whenever we have a problem I ask, “what would ______ do?”.

Weird fact of the day, apparently, while car manufacturers have been adding more of these chargers to their cars, boat makers have been taking them away?¿!

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Baby catfish

It rained yesterday, (29 May), oh boy did it come down, so hard and so fast the decks filled and spilled (spilled?? It was a veritable waterfall Spike), under the canopy into the cockpit. There are drains in the cockpit that take any excess water into the bilge, though not really meant for the gallons that were pouring through them right then. I lifted the front service hatch to find it nearly full, the drain leading to the bilge proper was partly clogged with cat fur, (it gets everywhere), and water was getting damn close to spilling over into the salon. Having cleared that and seen the amount of water spilling into the bilge it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe the bilge pumps might not be able to cope with this torrent. With Vanessa away I didn’t want to be responsible for actually sinking our home, so I quickly scuttled off to the rear bilge access to bail and help the pumps do their work. Meanwhile the kids were stressed, Lara howling, there was hail in the mix and fibreglass don’t half make a racket when you play the drums on it, it was louder than the engine, and she finds that disagreeable. I pulled 16 large washing up bowls from the bilge (bloody hell, that’s 130 litres), while BOTH bilge pumps were doing what they do. (Note to American/Canadian readers, a washing up bowl is just that, even though we have sinks, with plugs, we wash up in a bowl with said bowl in the sink, don’t ask me, it’s a thing?¿!). I’m making light of this after the fact, but if the rain had been “spilling” into the rear stairwell like it was in the bow, the bilge would most certainly have filled to a frightening degree. Thankfully it was over in about fifteen minutes and the kids were back to their naps not long after.

Vee is back early next week, so we should be back to the cruising soon. We both can’t wait to spin the propeller again.

1048.2 engine hours.
34.8 trip hours.
0 hours today.
0 locks 0 km.
Total 49 locks 141 km.
pk 81 Génelard.
76 litres of diesel added. Fuel tank and two 20l jerrycans full to capacity. 2.18 litres per hour approximately, however, the main tank wasn’t full before we left and I’d used some fuel from one of the jerrycans. It maybe closer to 1.84, we’ll find out for sure next fill up.
And just for a laugh…
4.05 km/h, (warm-up, locks and mooring time takes a toll).
12.8 km a day up until we reached Génelard, I would say I could walk faster, but with three cats and all our kit, I’m not so sure?¿! And besides, we have all summer for this trip, no rush.

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Sculpture back at the château in Santenay.

Thanks for readin’  🙂

 

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Cruise May 19-22

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Finesse

May 19

Man, we really need some Wifi soon!!!

We’ve been playing leapfrog with an hotel barge called the Finesse, a truly lovely boat. She was in the basin as we left St-Jean, anyway, blah blah, yesterday, in the midst of all the housekeeping, the Finesse slowly crawls by and one of the crew asks if there’s a mooring (for them, she’s huge), in the “marina” around the corner, yeah Vee says, but there’s not much here in St-Julien-sur-Dheune, (it’s true, even in the map book it says, new marina, no services). It turns out that she had no punters on board, the crew wanted a place to lay up to prep the barge for the next group. As Vee walked by the boat a bit later, one of the crew gave her a bottle of rosé, cool!

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Not so full now!

Today we made plans to do the seven locks plus one, into Les 7 Écluses (the 7 locks?¿!), yeah yeah, plans, plans but hey, it was just a jaunt. Weirdly, the starter battery didn’t have enough oomph to start the engine this morning. I think I’ve said before in this blog that I’m a bit clueless when it comes to the gubbins that make this boat work. I have a rough idea, but unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily correspond with reality. I think the that while the solar cells should throw charge into the starter battery if needed, they don’t, and the alternator should throw charge into the leisure batteries when cruising, it doesn’t?¿! I jumped the starter from the leisure batteries, all good. With careful positioning of the solar cells, aiming them directly at the sun for maximum benefit, we managed to get the leisure batteries up to 60%, (starting the engine from them wiped them out), today we should easily get them up to 100%. I checked the alternator belt, all good, now I just have to wait and see if there is enough charge for the engine to start on Monday, fingers crossed as if it doesn’t, I’m all out of ideas, except to jump again and cruise until we find a mooring with power so we can plug in and do a complete recharge, (which would point a finger at the alternator, I think).

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(E.T.A. (edited to add), 23 May). I’m still working on this, according to the amp dial, whilst cruising there’s only about seven-ten amps being generated, that would take a long time to recharge the starter battery before switching over to the leisures. Also, the third solar cell is working super, we only use about seventy amps a day but we easily claim that back with solar energy now).

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Look closely, there are three kids

In the meantime, we have another great spot, right outside a VNF depot, (the kids have a tractor to play on), very quiet, and only a few minutes walk to a huge supermarket, oh joy, fresh produce, I was starting to worry about scurvy! It’s the same shop we use in St-Jean, (Intermarche), but cheaper, heaps cheaper, we haven’t had fish in ages because it us unbearably expensive back “home”. Yesterday we tucked into a delightful, (even if I say so myself), fish curry, the first in two years.

1039.9 engine hours.
26.5 trip hours.
3.2 hours today.
8 locks 7 km.
Total 38 locks 122 km.
pk 52 Montchanin on the Canal du Centre.

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So much wine…

May 20
Day off. Quite literally, and wrote nothing more.

1039.9 engine hours.
26.5 trip hours.
0 hours today.
0 locks 0 km.
Total 38 locks 122 km.
pk 52 Montchanin on the Canal du Centre.

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Is it the red wire or the blue wire?¿!

May 21

Just a small two or three hour jaunt today, ha ha, you can tell where this is going already. Montchanin is the summit of the Canal du Centre, so now we start heading “downhill”. Going down in a lock is nowhere near as turbulent, but nonetheless, as we entered the first lock and saw a boat not far behind us, I frantically pulled the blue rope hoping we could be on our own as the lock did it’s thang. Yes, believe me I know that this is a tremendous waste of water, but I didn’t want any mishaps or collisions. The lock refused to start until the other boat had entered, but no biggie, this hire boat, Fontaine, was smaller than ours and there was plenty of room between us. This was the first lock in a chain of eleven, so we’d be travelling with them for a while. The couple on-board were an Aussie couple, renting the boat for a fortnight and trying to do as much as possible, even if that meant cruising nine or ten hours a day?¿! The idea for today’s jaunt was to stop in Blanzy so that the next day we could clear through Montceau-les-Mines, a five klick town where we wouldn’t be able to stop comfortably with the kids. That was the plan, until the lock keeper stopped by, asked how we were doing, and where we’re heading to today. Oh, says he, Blanzy is full because the town marina in Montceau is being renovated. As usual, best laid plans flew out the window and turned into a longer trip. One thing we must buy is a sickle or some shears, at least then, if the bank is overgrown we could moor up, cut the grass and let the cats off the boat without losing them in dense vegetation. It was getting on for five hours when I had an inkling that this is how it’s going to be, for a long way. Luckily, I spotted a beaten down area in the tall grass, so with a bit of reversing, (quite tricky), and boat hook manipulation, we managed to moor. Within a few moments, two old-timers appeared, again it seems we had stolen a fishing spot, (hence the beaten down grass), but these guys were fine about it, they set up a few metres off our bow, got their shears out, mowed the lawn and then settled into their favourite pastime. I don’t know if it was a ruse to keep a noisy child quiet, but fishing in the UK is a quiet affair, be as quiet as a mouse or you’ll scare the fish away. With this in mind I was a bit loathe to get the guitar out and play for a bit, but the fishermen didn’t mind a bit, and so I played for the cat’s supper, they were given a fresh fish to eat, (which they didn’t touch, preferring Whiskers with gravy, go figure). We were offered a fish too, but having already eaten we declined and let them keep their hard won reward).

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At one point the lock keeper pulled over on the road on the opposite bank, again, asked if we were alright and went away with the knowledge that we would be setting off at nine the next morning. I need to say here that after the shenanigans of dealing with the VNF via email, telephone and post, an altogether difficult, bureaucratic, (and sometimes depressing), experience that the guys that deal hands on with the waterways, are simply awesome! They make sure all is good at every opportunity, they let us know of any oncoming traffic, are knowledgeable about moorings further down the canal and give us phone numbers (that aren’t in the map books), to call before we head off again, so that they can remotely reset the locks for us, (now that we are heading downstream the lock’s default setting would mean that we would have to wait for every lock to fill up before we can enter). Hats off to these people, they do a sterling job, and are very happy in their work, always a bonus.

1045.4 engine hours.
32 trip hours.
5.5 hours today.
11 locks 19 km.
Total 51 locks 131 km.
pk 71 Just north of l’Essart, on the Canal du Centre.

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May 22

Today is the day that we made a plan and managed to stick to it, yay! Ten klicks and four locks should equate to a two and a half hour trip down to Génelard, spot on (with time added for warming the engine and mooring time for those that are actually reading the facts and figures included at the end of each day’s post). There’s a basin with moorings in Génelard, but we decided to moor up as soon as we entered the village to scope where is best for us to stop, as we might be here for some time. What a great idea that was, this place is perfect. Grass for the kids, safely away from any danger. Okay so there the ever present road on the other side of the canal, but the traffic isn’t too noisy, we did wonder about the streetlights, (picky aren’t we), but it seems they never get switched on. Vanessa is going to the UK to visit with her folks, so we’re going to be here for a while, but we couldn’t have found a better place for me to stay all lonesome for a bit. The only downside is connection to the internet, not only so that I can finally get these here journal entries posted on the blog, but so that I can keep in touch with Vee while she’s away, but I’m sure we’ll find a way?¿!

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Our wonderful mooring at Génelard.

So that’s it for now cruise wise, lots of people said that once we get a few locks behind us we’ll (kind’ve) know what we’re doing, and this is true. The thought of going through a lock is no where near as scary as we’d first thought, which is a relief being as we chose a cruise with nearly four hundred. I’m going to sit here for a bit learning some new songs on the guitar and do some bits and bobs on the Adventurer.

1048.2 engine hours.
34.8 trip hours.
2.8 hours today.
4 locks 10 km.
Total 49 locks 141 km.
pk 81 Génelard

 

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