Cruise May 11-12

Goodbye St-Jean de Losne

May 11, 1013.4 engine hours BC (Before Cruise). 

We’re off and cruising!

We woke up Friday morning, (as you do), our list of things to do before we head off, was incredible, mine especially as after about five weeks of work with only a day and a half off, on my first day off (Thurs 10th), I couldn’t get motivated and lazily, could barely lift a finger to do a thing from my list except a couple of odd jobs. So when Vanessa woke and said, “ya know, we could leave this afternoon”, I groaned but said “yeah, we could… But”, there was no but, motivation kicked in. We ran around and get this, a list of stuff that I felt would take all day was done by lunch. “D’ya wanna go for it?” “Why the hell not”. So we quite simply, threw the bikes on the back deck, unplugged, untied and the great adventure began. I might just add here that our good Kiwi friend Ted, arrived seconds before we set off, with a bottle of Crement, (sparkling wine from the region), and wished us a merry bon voyage, what a star.

Barge Master Vee at the helm.

Through the first lock, no worries, there was a boat in the lock already, so Vee had to negotiate some tricky backwards and forwards before we could gain access to the lock. And then off n running down La Saône, a huge great river, after having been moored on the canal for nigh on two years, it is so wide. Alright, so I’m not going to bore with EVERY lock we go through, but for the first few daze, yes, because, well we’re newbies and kind’ve clueless, (tell me fifty times, show me twice). The first lock we come to on La Saône, huge, I mean huge, like big huge, and I realise we don’t have long enough ropes to reach whatever depth we’re going to go down, little panic, nothing serious as while I’m running around doing my headless chicken impression, the gates close and we start lowering. There’s a huge sign before entering the lock, “life jackets must be worn, boats MUST be moored”, whatever, we were the only boat in there though, and really, our boat in this huge beasty of a lock, a toy boat in a bathtub. The next lock however, that was scary, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Huge Hotel Barge on La Saône.

The thing about leaving at three in the afternoon is that it doesn’t leave a lot of time, especially if you’re having fun, we sailed(?) into Seurre, and out, it seemed like a good place to stop, but Vee was having way too much fun, and carried on through. This is fine, (we live very near and can visit any time we want, although we haven’t yet, one day I’ll tell you about Castille de Columbus), but there is no place to moor on the river, rivers tend to have shallow shores. So, it’s getting on now, seven o’clock, there’s a village coming up, but alas, no mooring, we could go back to Seurre, but that seems a bit pointless, (going backwards is always pointless), we could moor up for the night at the next lock, which is within four klicks now. Then I see a jetty, but it’s outside of the red (don’t go beyond this) warning pillar. We have a very shallow boat, and this jetty looked so inviting, so very gradually, we crawled in, me on the bow checking the depth all the time to make sure we’re all good. I have the honour of being stuck on a tidal sand bank for about four hours in Poole, Dorset, so believe me, my concentration here was full on. This jetty was only one quarter of the length of our boat with no actual mooring pins, so with much swearing, wtf are you doings, new paint being scraped, and the boat’s arse getting seriously close to shallow waters, we moored. And by golly, what a beautiful place for our first night. No sound of traffic, not even a whisper, and once the sun was down I could only see one artificial light, far, far away on the horizon. Illegal of course, honestly officer, we did not see that (sun faded) private property sign, no, not at all. Mind you, any one that did come by with the intention of moving us on would probably have ended up congratulating us on some superior parking (I mean mooring). I’m not going to describe this place, just feast your eyes on the images. 

Jetty in the middle of nowhere.

I nearly forgot to mention the stars! We haven’t seen stars in so long because of the light pollution around St-Jean, real proper sky like we had in Spain. Paint your palette.

Tranquillity.

I will say that that was a stressful day for the kids (cats) though, not liking the engine noise, deciding they do not want to be stuck in the back of the boat when we’re in the front, which happens to be the quietest place but not the best place for them as the front doors need to be easily opened (so we can both work ropes in the locks), without worry of a feline deciding to make a mad dash for freedom and running out of boat, (splash). But for them, once we moored and they were allowed onto this small slice of heaven, happy as… Trees, grass (man!) and peace  from that infernal hrududu. FYI, we bought a trellis to put in a doorway that separates the wheelhouse/salon from the rest of the boat, it was secured with hooks screwed into the door frame, Lara, who doesn’t take no for an answer, pushed through that like a bulldozer, no back seat driving for her, in fact her favourite spot is on the counter top, right next to the wheel, bless her. 

Lara and Squeaky on navigation duties.

Heidi never looks happy, this is her overcome with gratitude that the engine has stopped.

1017.9 engine hours. 

2 locks.

Pk 180, just south of Chazelle on La Saône.
May 12

I slept like a log, Vee didn’t, she was too enamoured with the stars and kept waking up to gaze. We had no worries getting off the jetty, gently does it, I’ve learned that pushing a boat with all of my strength does strange things, they tend to swap ends, or the end you push harshly ends up pivoting the other end of the boat, (that you also want away from the bank), right into the bank. Off we go, thanking this-hard-to-get-to-without-profanity jetty.

Coffee for me and a walk for the kids.

Not a lot to say here, I worked out we were cruising at 7.5 klicks an hour at a steady 1350 rpm (thank you Pippa and Brian), a bit speedy but we we’re running with the river. We saw heaps of heron, a couple of great crested grebe (I think), shaking their head side to side as they swam, and a few idiots in boats wrecking the banks and upsetting our kids with their huge waves as they rush to get wherever they’re going, and fishermen, my goodness how many??? And in amongst all this, a lock, another huge lock, The Scary Lock, not because of the size, but because of my incompetence. I’ve been told, always moor from the stern, I know, I know, but Vee can’t hear me and I can’t hear Vee because the kids decided that they wanna be front seat drivers rather than in the back, so windows and doors have to be shut. So, being as we’re newbies and need communication, I decided to moor at the bow. There’s a lot of water movement in a lock, water that tends to move boats in an unwanted manner, so there I am at the front, rope in hand, the lock starts emptying and the stern decides that, while the bow is on the port wall, it would rather be on the starboard, sorry about thus, but oh fuck, we’re about to straddle the lock when I (quite rightly, I think), pull the rope from the mooring and shove off from the wall with a boathook. It was okay though, the boat couldn’t have swapped ends, I know this because there was a knock from the quarter stern as it hit the wall, Adventurer is longer than the width of the lock, yay, I think! I looked up at the lock control tower in embarrassment, but all was good, the controller nodded and smiled (and probably thought I need some lessons), and waved us through.

Squeak in a tree.

A brief chat with Vee in calmer waters, and we decided, being as Adventurer is a light boat, only five tons, it may be an idea to try mooring in the locks from the middle, like a friend, (who solo cruises), does. This works a treat, I can see Vee to signal in the rear view mirrors, and she can shout to me and mostly I can hear, though we have only tried this once, but this once was in a deep 10.75 metre lock with floating bollards.

Weird thing, there’s lots of these, but for now… Maybe I’m used to motorways and the like, I really thought that on the approach to Chalon-sur-Saône, there would be huge signs signalling right turn for the Canal du Centre. No, nothing, and unless I’m very much mistaken, the last three pk kilometre signs (counting down ((or up)) to your destination), were missing too. So we actually overshot our turn off by a few hundred metres. It’s all good fun.

1023.9 engine hours

2 locks

Pk7 just south of Fragnes on the Canal du Centre

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​I Have Just Had The Best Day!

Obligatory cat photo to keep Kim happy.

I have just had the best day!! (Monday 7th May). I was asked on Sunday by a Frenchman, Dominic, if I would be able to spare a couple of hours the next day, to help him paint the sun deck on his boat, no problem says I, as normally these little jobs lead to more work. So, off I go to work this morning, painting the deck was easy between the two of us and we had it done in less than an hour, he asked how much he owed and I asked if he’d pay me in beer, being as, well, I like beer. I then carried on working on the Tante Hanni, I made sure that today I had a relatively easy day as last night we had some friends round, (the bass player that I played and sang with at our local last week, more about that later), for drinks and, well you know, better to take it easy if you’re feeling fragile. So I’m taking it easy, painting the winch, the rudder and whatnot when along comes Andy asking if I can spare a moment to move one of his boats, of course says I, cause I’m like that, (and after finishing a week of hard graft with him on Saturday he gave me a huge selection of belgian beer as a thank you, so you can imagine this guy has just attained god status in my estimations). So off I go to take a short cruise across the basin in a 20 (+/-) metre Luxemotor. “Thanks Spike, will you be available later to help get my other boat (the one he’s building that I help on a lot) out of the dry dock”, “absolutely Andy”, says I. So off I go to start playing around with something else on the Tante because I am totally procrastinating as I know that very soon I may have to start proper work, (painting the hull). A couple of hours later, Andy screeches up in his car, it turns out that there was no warning and already the dry dock is half way full and I have to go. I’ve worked in the dry dock four times now but never had the chance to help take a boat out, exciting times. This new boat’s engine isn’t connected up and working yet, so a tug had to pull us out and take us the 200 metres to her mooring, all good fun when he tug is attached at the stern and the pilot can’t see bugger all while putting her into a gap that is made to measure. The new boat is happily moored and I’m just starting to walk back to work when I realise, “are you not bringing Joanna (the 20 +/- Luxemotor) back Andy?” “I suppose that’d be a good idea”, says he, so off we walk to the other side of the basin to bring his home back. Andy is an awesome barge master, I’m on the bow preparing to moor her alongside the other boat, I was so astounded that, instead of five or so metres away, the bollard is right in front of me, touching distance, that I (embarrassingly) forgot to tie off, “er, you might wanna hook us up Spike”. By this time, it’s knocking off time for me, I passed Dominic on the way back to the Tante, he gives me a big merci and a 12 pack of delish French blonde beer. What a brilliant day!!!

Btw, Jim if you’re reading this, your boat looks super (although that hull paint is obnoxious), and will be finished afore we go, (and your wench ((sic)) reminds me of the Scottish flag). And with that white deck, I expect you to take your boots off before even thinking of stepping on board!

Unfortunately, it seems that it’s going to rain on Thursday, (pah), so I’m going to have to work my tiny little arse off for the next two days to finish in time, but ya know, I just had to share my excellent day with you.

Spike and David playing and (sort of) singing at the local.

Very quick, we are starting our cruise this weekend barring any small sticks in our waterway. I will be writing lots once we are under way, promise. Long story short, (again, I’ll get to that later), we may take four months instead of three, (if we even come back here at all). I might add here that both of us are starting to sweat buckets at this huge endeavour, 700 klicks and 380 locks, somewhere in the region of 175 hours of cruising time and two complete newbies at the helm, tell me again, where’s the deep end?

Squeak soon x