Winter, Beer and Bikes

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Here we are in our mooring for the winter, it wasn’t quite the summer that we were expecting, by a long chalk. We had ideas that we were going to be cruising around St-Jean de Losne area for a while to get used to the boat, and then going south to get across to the Canal Du Midi, and moor up in Carcassonne area for the winter, ha ha, oh how that went by the by. We’ve learned many things this summer, the learning curve has been incredibly steep, but I think the most important lesson is that if you have a boat, never make plans (especially if those plans are to be somewhere at a certain time), or you will be sorely disappointed. Having said that we have made one plan for next year. I’ll be doing some work for Jimmy (the Scottish Sparky) over the winter on his boat, he’s just had a complete new super structure fitted (long story, one I probably will tell here), and by next May he is hoping to take it out for a shake-down, so the one plan made is to cruise the 25 klicks up to Dijon alongside Jimmy and Monica’s “Tante Hanni”. I was in Dijon briefly last year when I came up to view some boats, I stayed in an Airbnb and, (honestly guv, this is the truth), I had to pick the keys up from a bar, not just any bar, this was a micro brewery. I felt it would be rude to just pick up the keys, so I had a beer (or three), oh man these guys really knew what they were doing, wonderful beer! I have promised to take Vee there, and mentioned it to Jimmy who instantly said that we should go, plan made. Did you see that? That’s one of the things I love about the boating life, in an instant we made a plan to go to a bar, EIGHT MONTHS in the future, no rush, we’ll get there.

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One of the many confusing things about French rules and regs is that if you buy a boat, you need a licence to cruise the waterways, which is fair enough. But, if you hire a boat for a holiday, you don’t need a licence, the hire company will give you a crash course (what a strange expression) and you are free to go where you will. I thought the quick course would involve being taken out for a jaunt on a boat and definitely taken through a lock, just to see how everything works and what to expect. While I was searching for some broken fenders to protect the Adventurer last week I was in one of the hire places as a young couple were talked through all the aspects of safety and how to operate a lock. Apparently these companies actually lose four or six boats a year due to stupidity/incompetence?¿! Maybe I’m different, but between telling me how to do something and showing me how to do it, I would choose being shown every time, (I’m a big fan of YouTube).

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  • I ordered my guitar yesterday, woo hoo!
  • We went for a bike ride this last Sunday. Vanessa did very well considering she only has one gear on her bike, (I will get around to fixing that… eventually). There are some photos scattered around this post of stuff we saw.

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  • Every evening flocks of ducks fly down the canal, very low to the water but, for some reason they will not fly under the bridge, they leave it until the last possible moment before climbing in an almost vertical climb to clear the bridge?¿!
  • We did have a lovely view all the way down the canal to the lock, but on Sunday someone moored their boat in front of us and have apparently (according to JP), left it there for the winter. Hey ho, but once it starts getting cold and the cover is on the front, we’ll have no forward view anyway.

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  • Now that we are getting acclimatised to the (often ridiculous) prices in France, we’ve started to try the vast array of French beers. Unfortunately only cans from the local supermarket, but good enough. There are so many to choose from, red, brown, blonde?
  • It is truly amazing what some people throw away, the other day while wombling I found a big bundle of insulation for boat windows, and then Vee brought back a couple of big sheets of tarpaulin, we’ve not got around to measuring them yet, but everything helps. You remember Vee found me some Turkish leather sandals a while ago in July? I didn’t tell you that a few weeks later our Jolly Fat French Friend Christian saw them on my feet and said that he was the one who’d thrown them away.

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All Good Things

Courtesy of Jean Pierre Noblecourt

Courtesy of Jean Pierre Noblecourt

Our small holiday on the cut is at an end, it didn’t go quite the way we expected power wise, too many cloudy days for the solar panels and problems with the batteries, but all is good and we know what to do and what to expect the next time. Neither Vanessa nor I wanted to come back in, as the new mooring will be our home for the winter (boo hoo), also, it was just so wonderfully peaceful out there. We could have stayed for a while longer, there really was no rush to get here, but we needed power, everything was dead (laptops, kindles, iPod, all these first world problems), and we’re really not supposed to let the boat batteries go flat. Also, with no fridge it was getting kind’ve hard to plan what to eat.

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We had to charge the battery at JP’s so that we could start the engine, we also had to confirm to JP that we were total novices, and that this is only the second time we have cruised the boat solo. It occurred to us over the weekend that when we came out onto the cut we moored up where we wanted, in other words where the boat stopped, this time we had a target to stop at, in between two boats. JP was there to guide us in, thank goodness that I now have above basic understanding of French and have half a clue what he is saying. I wasn’t sure of the first place he put us, there was a rock under water that I really didn’t like the look of, our hull would be too close for comfort. JP pulled us back and slotted us between two metal posts sticking out of the water, that seemed worse but we found some old fenders and put them over the top as protection, there is very little chance of touching them though as we are strapped in so tight.

Low flying weather balloon?

Low flying weather balloon?

Since writing that last, Jimmy the Scottish Sparky has been on board to check our batteries, it seems that we made a newbie mistake. We should be starting the engine every other day and let it run for half an hour to an hour to keep the batteries topped up when we are away from shore power. This doesn’t really sound like the self-sufficient boat that we are aiming for, but Jimmy says that is how it is at the moment. He’s coming around later for a couple of beers so I’ll bend his ear and see what can be done.

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The Alcyon painting job hasn’t started yet, so much for the big rush to get the boat ready so that his daughter, Orane can live in it while attending college in Dijon?¿! I’ll be chasing him up in a bit. In the mean time, Frank the man whose boat I cleaned last week came to our boat (while we were still on the cut, quite a walk) and personally thanked me for doing such a great job, honoured. He asked me to come around and change the engine oil on his boat today, he cannot get into the cramped quarters of his engine anymore. So, today I was paid to learn how to do something, I did say that I didn’t want paying but he wouldn’t hear of it. In a few weeks I have to go back and he’ll teach me how to winterise a boat.img_5976

Christian has gone, he left Wednesday, and he has some really good weather to get him quite far south. We’ll both miss him (and I’ll miss his seemingly bottomless tobacco pouch). We’ll probably meet up again next year, maybe, we have decided to make no plans for next year as, well we just don’t know what is happening. At the moment we are moored here for at least eight months.

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I had a lovely present this morning, one of the “kids” left me a dead mouse to wake up to. I presume Lara as I’m pretty sure that the thought of a present for me would have crossed Felix and Heidi’s minds, but the temptation to eat it would have been overwhelming. So, I was honoured again, nice. Where we are now there are about thirty ducks, thankfully quiet until after 8am which is a blessing, thing is though anything that goes into the water is considered theirs and they fly, jump or paddle (swiftly) to get to it. I decided to give Mr Mouse a burial in the canal, bleary eyed I opened the window and out he went, poor little mite had so much posthumous attention as thirty ducks all zoomed in to see what they were being treated with for breakfast, and worse, he floated.

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Our little space “away from it all”.