​Cruise August 2- 5

Last view of the cathedral as we pass through Auxerre.

In which Spike and Vee meet the Pink People and then Beavis and Butthead. Heidi goes for a walk. They paved paradise. And all those Fishermen with their hands held far apart on the Bourgogne are vindicated.
2 August

Bye bye Auxerre, thanks for everything! And off we go, I don’t mind admitting I was a bit nervous about setting off again, I’d been sitting on my arse for the last two weeks, (playing guitar, re-hydrating) and I was concerned that I might be a little rusty. After Auxerre the next nine locks are of the ninety metre huge-bathtub-and-us-the-toy variety until we turn off onto the Canal de Bourgogne. We both thought a short first day would be a good plan. Because most of this stretch is now the river Yonne, it’s difficult to moor just anywhere like you would on a canal because of shallow waters, in the mapbook we have, (which I’ve already said is horribly out of date, and it is, it was printed in 2003, ouch), there are “blue anchors”, a safe place to moor. The one we’d chosen was a mere ten klicks away, we’d forgotten it is now  the high season, this quay was rammed out, in one place three boats parked side by side. The next “blue anchor” didn’t exist, and judging by the trees growing around the site hasn’t existed since the combustion engine took over from horses and ropes. The next was, oh, there wasn’t, so we headed off to the Bourgogne, a long day but doable and thanks to a long stretch betwixt locks we only stopped for a quarter hour at lunchtime. So here we are, on the Canal de Bourgogne, the “home stretch” ha ha, I think it’s two hundred seventy klicks to St-Jean de Losne and another hundred eighty locks. (I say “I think” because every time I looked ahead in the mapbook I started to get a little over-whelmed, particularly when I see this page, that’s forty locks in 

sixteen klicks, we’re aiming for ten Klicks a day, but I thinks we’ll be on this page for three or four daze), so I don’t look ahead anymore, it’s better that way.

Sunk?¿!

A couple of weird things happened in the way to the Bourgogne. I think we saw a sunken vessel, it was very deep in the water, but from what I could see into the cargo it was empty so, dunno what happened there. When we got into the next lock about half a klick away there was another huge barge that we presume couldn’t get passed the “sunken” one, He must’ve been going up n down in the lock all day, it was the only place deep enough for him to lay up that wasn’t in the central channel. Oh, and between these two was another barge roped to a dredger that was pouring water into the cargo hold of the barge?¿! We started cruising with a hire boat for a bit after this next lock, as usual they went on ahead and we caught up at the next lock, but then, we come around a corner to find the next lock closed and them going down, we weren’t far behind maybe five hundred metres. Kind of annoying but what can you do, these huge locks take a while to go through a complete operation, so we moored and waited. After we got inside and had started to go down, three boats came around the corner, so either none of the the other lockies talk to this guy to let him know what’s coming, or, as Vanessa said, he just likes pressing buttons, (these locks are so huge they’re all hydraulic), either way, that’s a lot of water and a kit of time.

Okay, another shot of that fabulous cathedral.

After this little episode, we’d had enough of rivers and their sparse mooring spots and were gagging to get onto the Bourgogne, the first lock is deep at five metres, and now we’re on the Bourgogne we’re starting to climb again, but as we came up the lockie was all smiles, in t-shirt and cap and welcoming us to the Canal de Bourgogne. There was another VNF guy there with a very new pair of garden shears who offered to cut my hair for free, um, non merci! The first thing we noticed was the clarity of the water, it was crystal clear to the bottom, I knew the fish were huge but I didn’t expect them to be *that* big. I don’t know how this could be as it clouds up again after Brienon-sur-Armançon, the river Armançon must have a lot do with it, ‘twould have been lovely to have that last longer, it was fascinating to see the fish and the weeds, it was like cruising on an aquarium.

1138.5 engine hours.

125.1 trip hours.

8.0 hours today.

12 locks 30 km.

Total 200 locks 444 km.

pk 6 Esnon on the Canal de Bourgogne.

8.10 ascended

Yay, the Bourgogne!

3 August
Breakfast was strange, we saw a boulangerie van park up near to our mooring, off I go, one baguette and two croissants, huge things, except they were bread rolls disguised as croissants, gutted.

Home in Auxerre

We had a few problems today, it was gusty windy and Adventurer seemed to be misbehaving, also there was a headwind which didn’t feel that strong but slowed us down to four km/h. The thing is the Bourgogne is quite weedy and we both started to get worried that the prop and the rudder were clogged up, even though I know that the engine would (surely) sound a bit different. Hey ho, all is good, the wind changed and we started travelling at our normal speed.

Heidi and Lara

Now, this isn’t going to turn into an us vs. them speed thang, I’m just writing here what happened, even though I don’t really know?¿! As we went through Brienon-sur-Armançon a boat pulled out of the town mooring and within a few hundred metres was looking to overtake us, we waved them by and as they passed they asked if we were going through the next lock, yes we say as they throttle up and leave us behind. The next lock was only a klick away, so really their wait was negligible. Once we arrive and are roped up, the lock keeper asks us if we are continuing to the next lock, (about five klicks away), yes we are says I, to which, astonishingly he says can you go a bit faster then, to which I reply, no we jolly can’t, and then apologise immediately for that escaped but surprised expletive. As we’re leaving the lock, I again apologised, I said to him that we go at our own pace, six km/h and if we are too slow for the other boat that he should phone ahead and let the next lockie know to put them through, I’d clocked another boat behind us that would probably have caught us up by then and we’ll go through the next lock with them, no biggie. The canal has a long three and a half kilometre straight after this lock, and we watched as this boat, (“the pink people”, they’re going to a festival in St-Florentin and they were all wearing pink shirts and the boat was dressed in bunting), got smaller and smaller as they powered along much faster than us. At one point Vee wondered aloud if the next lockie would hold them, I said I hope not, cause they’d be livid, they had already disappeared from view around a corner and were about two klicks in front, with another klick and a half to the lock. We weren’t going to make the next lock by lunch but wondered if we could moor in the shadey lock, but as we arrived the pink people were having *their* lunch in the lock. I have no idea what happened, did the lockie hold them up and then disappeared for his lunch, I have no idea, but they must’ve been waiting for at least twenty five minutes before lunch even started?¿! They weren’t shouting and screaming at us when, after lunch we entered the lock so that’ll be one of life’s mysteries.

We were still cruising with them for two more locks, very obviously they weren’t going so fast, easily four km/h slower. The last lock was being run by Mr. New Garden Shears from yesterday, we had a laugh together, he told us about the festival and then I happened to look forward and all six “pink people” were looking back at me with confused expressions?¿! Weird people, weird day.
During the course of the day, Heidi decided that she would have a look at the catflap, and with a bit of carefully positioned scratching, found it easy to unlock and took herself outside while we were running. Luckily, Vee happened to look over her shoulder and saw Heidi slip through the flap and warned me and put the engine in neutral. I think Heidi was wary as she’s never seen the water flow by so quickly (ha ha), first hand before and so was easy to pick up and put through the door again. I’m going to be turning the catflap around so the locks are on the outside though, clever girl!
1143.9 engine hours.

130.5 trip hours.

5.4 hours today.

6 locks 16 km.

Total 206 locks 460 km.

pk 22 Germaigny on the Canal de Bourgogne.

29.39 ascended
4 August
We weren’t sure yesterday if we’d be cycling back to St-Florentin to check out the festival. We were told by a lock keeper  that our choice of mooring for the night was “paradise”, well mate it looks like they paved it, no parking lot though, phew! Picky yes, but after the lush greenery of Auxerre, concrete just doesn’t cut it, so we decided to stay for just the one night in this kid’s idea of paradise. I cycled back to St-Florentin for some beer and popped by the last lock to arrange the next lock for the morning.
We arrived at the next lock at nine, and no one’s there, hey ho. When they did arrive, about quarter past, Vanessa instantly christened them Beavis and Butthead, which was a bit mean being as they were with us for four locks and were out and out professionals compared the two herberts that escorted us through the final two locks of the day.

It’s the high season, a Saturday, it’s now four o’clock, and we haven’t seen any other boats today?¿! The port de plaisance at St-Florentin was rammed though, I think the pink people had the last mooring, maybe everyone is there for the weekend? Another boat did arrive later, moored up and asked us what is there to do in Flogny, according to our maps and apps there was the highlight of a pizza restaurant, but on my recon into the village earlier found the restaurant on permanent holiday and the village itself to be almost a ghost town, I answered “nothing” and after their walk through the village said “you’re not wrong”. I know it’s a Saturday, and there is a particularly hot heatwave at the moment, but I can’t help but feel rural France is fading?¿!
1146.6 engine hours.

133.1 trip hours.

2.6 hours today.

6 locks 9 km.

Total 212 locks 469 km.

pk 31 Flogny-la-Chapelle on the Canal de Bourgogne.

44.99 ascended
5 August
With nigh on four klicks before the next lock booked for nine, we cast off and started cruising at quarter past eight this morning. And that’s it, no happenings, boring really. I could tell you how Vanessa held Adventurer steady in the middle of a weed infested bassin, despite a slight breeze, but it would go to her head, so I won’t
With the kids out for the count from the heat of the day, and the you-will-sleep-all-day exercise they had this morning, we sloped off to find a cold beer and do a spot of sightseeing. La Fosse Dionne is fascinating, and good crikey that water is cold, actually toe numbingly cold. There are a few caveaus here, and being as we’re making really good time, (after my little omg-omg-how-long-is-this-taking stress out), we’re going to have a free day here, see some sights and hopefully get some Pinot Noir for the winter, and some plonk for the now.
1150.1 engine hours.

136.6 trip hours.

3.5 hours today.

5 locks 14 km.

Total 217 locks 483 km.

pk 45 Tonnerre on the Canal de Bourgogne.

58.28 metres ascended (I’ve added this cause it’s fascinating, we’re going to “climb” four hundred metres to the summit)

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Cruise Hiatus July 22-25

🎶 The cygnet’s off the starboard bow 🎶

Here’s a small story from Villiers-sur-Yonne. Vanessa went for a walk through the village, this is one of the many villages we’ve passed through that has no bakery, corner shop or (shockingly), a bar. Vee got talking to an octogenarian lady about anything and everything, the conversation turned to how the lady copes living in a village that doesn’t have any amenities, the woman said that it gets harder, she used to catch the bus into Clamecy and do a weekly shop, it was easy, but then the bus company said that it wasn’t economical to stop in Villiers, but still the lady went to the bus stop and the driver very kindly stopped and picked her up. This went on for a while before something happened and the driver had to tell her that he wasn’t allowed to stop for her any more, even though the bus still runs through the village?¿! So now she has to walk the seven kilometres, (4.2 miles), do her shop, then walk back, it takes her all day, and the summer days in that region are debilitating. Vee asked if there isn’t a neighbour who could take her, or maybe even pick her shopping up, the lady replied that she is deemed “uneconomical”, she has nothing to offer in return so no one will help her. When I was a kid in junior school, every September/October there was a “harvest” celebration wherein we kids would bring in tins and packets (with long expiry dates), of food to share out to the people that could use a helping hand, (mine used to go to a grumpy old codger called Percy Watts, a  tin of peaches seemed to brighten his world). I don’t know, France is a very strange country, in Spain this (the thing with the lady), just wouldn’t happen, the bus may stop but someone else would step in, and this isn’t a far away country, it’s right next door. So the lady is trying to sell her house so that she can move into a place with closer amenities, with the current house market in France, I wish her the best. Apparently, if you are a pensioner living in a village with no shops you’re supposed to receive a loaf of bread and a bottle of water each day, but no one knows who does what. The thing is, when she moved to this village there probably was a bakery or small grocers, everywhere we go we see closed up shops, I’m thinking no one can compete with the larger supermarkets or internet, I hate to admit I’m not helping, when my guitar strings (for instance), are 30€ in a shop but 18€ on Amazon, of course I’ll get them from Amazon.

Ancient effigy of St. Nicolas.

The Canal du Nivernais is behind us now, the scenery was beautiful, some of the loveliest lock houses and gardens, (not always owned by the VNF, they sold many off), and the lock keepers that took us through the Sardy lock staircase were brilliant, if a little fast, though if we’d been on our own we could probably have slowed them down a little, (the hire boat we were behind controlled the pace, and being a hire boat…). Unfortunately, I think that most of the other lockies should be bussed down to the Canal du Centre and shown how its done by the professionals that work there. The guys on the CdCentre let us know when there was oncoming boats, on the Nivernais there’re a couple of very narrow stretches, only wide enough for one boat, luckily an oncoming boat had *just* come out of these areas as we encountered them on two occasions, a little heads up would’ve been wonderful, and they do know, they’re always in touch with the locks either side of them, they know exactly where all traffic is at all times. Am I being picky? maybe, but meeting a hire boat in a narrow stretch with shallow banks fills me with dread, I don’t want to think about all the things that could go wrong in that scenario. I mentioned this a while back, barely anyone wears their VNF uniform, believe me I hate uniforms (although the red polo shirt from the Tudor Tavern in St. Albans was quite snazzy), so I maybe shouldn’t comment on this. But. One time I went back to ask the lock keeper if he would ring ahead to book us through the next lock for the morning, a guy got out of a car, dressed in civvies (you think I’m a scruffy herbert?), I must’ve had a puzzled expression wondering who this guy is as he gestured to the lock and said he is the lock keeper, just a t-shirt or a cap is all I ask. 

Just love this caricature of Charles Bronson.


The kids are very happy here in the park at Auxerre, they come out with me (and my coffee) at half six, Squeaky chases about, Lara walks about and Heidi lays about. Then, about half seven, once the weirdos start running by in earnest, (I have tried jogging several times, it seems weird to me to make a lovely walk go by so much quicker and sweatier, and nowadays they have electrickery strapped to their arm and their phones in hand, checking their time, heart rate, global position? The other day, Heidi got spooked and ran in front of a weirdo jogger phone in hand person, he faltered with surprise – “ugh, un shat” – and then he actually checked his phone, I presume that Heidi had knocked valuable milliseconds off his time, or the butterfly effect had made his pension dip, who knows), they go in and sleep until dusk, when they come out again and do what they do. Sometimes Squeaky gets off the boat early afternoon and gets deep into the plants nearby, she’ll be there for hours watching the world go by, (and possibly having a catnap too), and dogs seem to be oblivious to her presence, maybe the scent of the plants covers her?

Apparently we’re in for a heatwave for the next three days, (though if Vee got this info off of her Accuweather™ app, it means it’s probably going to snow), so with only shade over the boat late afternoon, I’ll be building teepees on the bank for the kids to relax and hopefully sleep in, (the fibreglass boat does get incredibly hot at times), if it is going to be *that* hot, hopefully the dog walkers will rethink their trip to the park.

Things we’ve seen on our trip. (This is only off the top of my head before I post this mañana, I’m sure Vee will remind me of loads more).

“Home” in the park.

  • A dad, mum and son all dressed in leathers out on their bikes, only their bikes were push bikes mocked up like Harleys. They tooted their oogah horn and Vanessa tooted ours. I wish I’d taken a photo.
  • Again a dad, mum and son at a picnic bench, this time the child trying to not be bored while his parents were in a world of their own on their phones.
  • In Genélard, an under ten year old fishing day, only the word “competition” had been used to promote the day. This meant the dads were in serious competition against the other dads and the kids didn’t get a look in. At one point I watched as one boy wanted to hold the rod, only to have his father bark at him, tears and sulks and an unhappy afternoon on what could have been a great family day out.
  • Many times small children trying to approach our cats to pet them (hopefully), the cats not wanting anything to do with these strange small human beings and bolting to the safety of the boat.
  • Loads of people taking snaps of our boat, if it’s not of the cats lounging around the deck then of the smiley face on our front fender, (which brought a smile to a lot of the lock keepers too).
  • A croissant bought in Auxerre for 80¢ that was easily twice the size of some we’ve paid a €uro for. (I snuck that in didn’t I).
  • Lara jumping cartoon-like and wide-eyed three feet straight up as something crawled (or slithered) by her in the long grass.

  • Three large wooden sheds joined together and put onto a boat hull making a floating pub that is rented out for parties.
  • While moored near to an airfield, we watched plane after plane of people jumping out doing parachute jumps, skydiving and at one point, ten or so people with those flight suits on and “flying” for a good minute and a half before opening their ‘chutes. (Vee said it was flying, I think it was more falling fast, but with style).
  • Yellowing and soft and basically inedible broccoli at 2.90€ (And that).
  • A 1.5 litre bottle of la Chouffe Belgian beer, apparently it was for parties, pah, too good to share but 1.5 litres? You’re gonna feel that if you see the next day.
  • An incredibly skilled bargemaster place his 20 metre barge in a 23 metre gap between two boats with no back and forward shuffle, he just plonked it in there.
  • An obnoxious man in Beaulon who insisted on showing the cats to his dog every time he passed our boat. And then last night a man who let his dog *off* the lead when he saw our three kids, I don’t know what he was expecting to happen, but either the dog was too stupid to see the three cats hunkered down and glowering at it on the deck or it just didn’t fancy its chances.
  • A hire boat with bow thruster totally miss the gap in a bridge and opting for the brickwork instead. (Since beginning this adventure we’ve got heaps better at navigating and feel that we can now have a chuckle at this sort of thing).
  • In the beginning stage of the cruise, being around a string of venues that a Johnny Halliday impersonator/tribute act we know from St-Jean de Losne was playing, but never being in the right place at the right time to watch him perform.
  • Having gone to bed safe in the knowledge our cats are safely onboard, I see a cat outside wearing exactly the same collar, thinking it’s ours I nearly let our cats out while trying to bring a stranger in. (Bring the bairns in, BRING THE BAIRNS IN).
  • Three unicyclists on a unicycling holiday.
  • An ordinary pair of reefs for 99€
  • More of an observation this one. We lived in Spain and were taking notice when the Spanish team won the World Cup, and again two years later when they won the Euro Cup. In France we again were taking notice when they got to the Euro Cup final and then this year when they won the World Cup. My point is that if any low-cost-of-living countries are reading this, (Thailand springs to mind, or maybe Vietnam), and you want two real-life good luck charms to help you get into a big international sporting tournament just by being in your country, leave us a message here on this blog, all expenses paid relocation for us and the kitties, and of course a boat and/or a tree house thrown in, ta very muchly.