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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Call It What You Will, I Dunno!

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Hmm, I’m not even sure that I wanna share this with as it is a bit embarrassing being as I like to think of my self as a bit of a movie buff, and I know a reasonable bit about music. Last week Chuck Berry passed away (goodnight Chuck), so I decided to watch a movie about him in remembrance (or whatever you wanna call it), I knew I had one somewhere in the depths of the hard drive that I hadn’t seen yet, Get On Up, (for the movie buffs out there, you’ve already have seen the mistake), I watched although it isn’t the best of movies, but all the while I’m wondering why a) he isn’t playing guitar and b) while the music is okay this must be a part of his life thatI don’t know about. Listen, before I give the punchline, I was very tired (in any way you understand that phrase). It got to the end of the film and I was a bit nonplussed when all of a sudden this image comes up on the screen saying “James Brown, the godfather of soul, 1933 – 2006” hmm that’s weird, I thought he died this weekend, still the penny hadn’t dropped (a serious mental block along with being a bit tired, I dunno?), can you believe I actually went online to see if there was a huge error with this movie and they had got the date wrong. Sorry Mr Berry, I totally ballsed that one up!

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The “Muriel”

So, Vanessa has been away for a week now, though it feels like she’s been away a bit longer as I never really saw her for a few days before she left as she had her head (that was endlessly being scratched) behind her laptop trying to book her tickets and stopovers. There is something to be said for the internet, while it was supposed to be a great help in some ways, it bloody isn’t (unless you like funny cat videos and laughing at people, see above paragraph). It took Vanessa two days to get her tickets booked to get from here to there and booking into a couple of AirBnBs so that she could see her dad in Papworth, (hi Alan, big waves and best wishes, you are so in my thoughts dude). Then, a spanner was thrown in the works in that there was an opening for Vee to take her Captain’s licence exam in Cambridge that threw all the plans into disarray, and so another day was spent changing and making new plans. Ya know, I love the internet, but in situations like this it would be so nice to go to someone, say I wanna go there and there, I need a night there and then there, book it Dano, and I know you’re gonna take 100€ from me for your time, but I have seen the alternative, just do it! Any hoo, after a week without Vee and loads of work coming in, the boat was a veritable bachelor pad this morning (and the Universe knows there was so nearly a bottle of Jack to add the finishing touches), so before I could do anything with my day off, I had to clear the wreck of washing up away, take the rubbish out, it had actually reached the ceiling from the kitchen worktops, how does one person generate so much crap? Oh yeah, beer cans and the detritus left over from quick and easy cooking without a freezer, hey ho. So now the boat is spic and span (can I say that?) and after four days away the guitar has been played (sorry, baby had to go in the corner). Am I making sense? Ooh talking of making sense, have you read Time magazine interview with a certain oompa- loompa, go on click the link, it’ll just take a few minutes. Well? How can even the most ardent supporter of fake president read that and not have some serious misgivings about his mental capabilities, there are four year olds, hell there are two year olds out there who can string a sentence together better than that twunt, nuff said.

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All Stop?¿! What!

Do you want to know what I did on Wednesday? While Vee is now la Capitaine of this vessel, I went out on a wide beam barge called Muriel, and drove (?) her for quite a while, including taking her into the lock and out again, seriously scarey as she is about 20 tonnes heavier than Adventurer and another five metres or so longer. The owners, John and Georgie had come down to St-Jean to have Muriel pulled out of the water for an examination and some therapy and wanted a hand getting her the 20 klicks upstream to her home base. A great opportunity for me to get some needed experience, and blast some cobwebs out of my skull, (see first paragraph). We left at ten, through the lock and onto the Saône going upstream which didn’t seem to have an affect on Muriel, it being the time when the spring thaw should be effecting the current, all was good, (I’m not sure Adventurer’s 55hp engine would fair so well, or have I been listening to too many stories again???). Now, at this point I should say that I have a thing with engines, I have no clue how they work, it’s all magick to me, but I listen. When I had my beloved Mini Clubman I never had a stereo in her as the engine noise, oh how she, hmm, no she didn’t purr, she farted and burped, but it was music to me and on occasion, listening gave me a heads up to potential problems so the local mucky-neck could earn some more money from me. Anyway, I digress, over an hour into our little jaunt, just as I’d handed the wheel back to John, there was this little hitch in the engine noise, my spidey-sense tingled and I asked if he’d altered the throttle (thinking something like, typical, I have to putt along but now the owner takes over we’re gonna zoom zoom zoom). Just as I asked that, the engine died, it was there merrily burping along, and then it wasn’t. Think about this, we’re going upstream in a big boat and suddenly the only source of power ceases and desists all that it is supposed to do (a “you only had one job” moment if there ever was one), John, after a moment of calmness, (full acknowledgement for that mate, by then I would’ve probably been doing my frantic clucking chicken running in a circle impression), wonders aloud if we’ve run out of fuel, hmm, sounds like it I say, so where’s the spare fuel and we’ll fill up, says I. Err, there isn’t, he retorts! (Now the clucking chicken is seriously starting to bubble beneath the surface). Quick as a flash, John bounds to the front of the boat and drops the anchor, something he’s never done before (we’re all novices here), and any motion we have (going backwards was just starting to come into effect), was arrested. Once upon a time, I was stranded in another boat, in Poole harbour, I forget the why now, all I remember was an interminable time sitting in a 16 foot power boat that had got caught on a low tide sand bank, and wasn’t going anywhere until the tide came in, ah memories?¿! Luckily John has some amazing friends in Auxonne that were able to come to our rescue with 40 litres of diesel to get us on our way, say thankee sai. With the three or so added hours the entire trip took about six hours, but I’ve been for the first cruise of the year and gained some lock experience, thank you John and Georgie for that.

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The “Joanne” I think? So many boats, so many names.

The new style (for me) of guitar playing is coming on well, Sweet Child o’ Mine and a brilliant version of Madonna’s La Isla Bonita are going great, don’t knock that last, it does sound brilliant (at least when my YouTube guitar teacher plays it)! One thing I’m having a nightmare with is having nails on my right hand. A long time ago to cure my nail biting, I started cutting my nails down as close as I could get before hurting myself, so now something like thirty five years later I have some nails again, (tip, such a long time does cure one of bad habits). The only thing is playing around scraping and cleaning boat hulls and then painting them leaves a lot of crap where there was never a place for it. Yes yes, I know I can clean them, but this oily thick black paint isn’t made to go anywhere for a very long time?¿! I guess when I’m a more proficient guitarist I could be called the man with the black nails (a la Johnny Cash??? Man in Black, Oh forget it). Any hoo, I’m doing well, hopefully soon I’ll bebale to put another film clip up onto my YouTube channel?¿!

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Anti-fouled prop, must remember this for the future.

I’ve just finished working on a huge 22 metre (I think thereabouts) boat, Joanne in the dry-dock, I had a great time, because the weather was a bit iffy and he has to vacate the dock tomorrow (27/March) we had to work flatout. There wasn’t much cleaning and prep to do so I managed to paint all sides of the hull, (there was another guy painting the under belly), twice in one afternoon. There was a couple of hours this morning (on Sunday?¿!) cleaning and oiling the anchor before rolling it back into it’s housing, I think it’s call anchor management. I got a tip of a six pack too, yay!

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The cats are all good, getting better now that the sun is out, Felix spends his daze on the boat in front of us, and Heidi, Lara and Blackie wherever they may roam, and roam they do, it is so good to see them going for a walk again. While Vanessa is away Heidi is my bed-time buddy, though she has taken to waking me up in the night to say hi, not sure about that as if she doesn’t get attention in a millisecond, she bites my nose.

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Our diesel carrying saviours

Fabreze, our landlubber neighbour fishes around our boat, we exchange the occasional beer and just now as I’m typing, I was offered a pike, unfortunately I couldn’t take it as I have prepped food for a few days and it was really too much fish for just me, gutted but hopefully another will come along on another day?¿!

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Fabreze.

That’s about it, as usual there was a whole raft of stuff to write here, but I’ve either forgotten it, deemed it uninteresting, or I can’t be arsed, it is such a lovely day here that I just want to sit in the sun, drink some beer and play some guitar. Plus my ever faithful little Asus notebook died yesterday (gutted, but it has been expected for a long time), so I’m now on Vee’s super huge laptop that I find very hard to use, having to move my hands around the keyboard to type is far too energetic.