Thursday 29 May
Don’t expect much more French from us on the blog – having enough trouble communicating with the locals! Well, here we are at last. After a completely frenetic week cramming stuff into our diminishing storage unit and running around seeing family and friends we head off for a night in London at Daniel and Jonathan’s although they are on their way to Sitges to spend the week with J’s family so we enjoy a meal at The Washington before having an early night. An early start as we make our way across London to board the Eurostar at 7.01am. We decided to bring as much over as we could manage and now have arms like wrestlers after heaving two heavy suitcases, a large holdall and camera and computer bags, not to mention Sally’s huge handbag from York through London and across Paris.
From Paris we take another train to Dijon and then yet another to Auxonne. The train was relaxing though and we arrived in a sunny Auxonne around 2pm to be met by Mark who helped us along the last leg with our luggage. Mark and Trish have already moved out of Bluegum into their campervan and they leave us to settle into our new home. It all feels a bit surreal – it’s less than a month since we came over to Dinant here we are taking over 20 odd tons of floating mobile home!
More arm exercise as we trek to the local supermarket to stock up with essentials (wine is rather heavy!) and we find a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge which we open in the evening to celebrate the formal ‘handing over’ of Bluegum before walking into town with Trish, Mark, Bridie and Remy for a lovely meal in a local restaurant. Now Sally can breath at last after all her fretting, stressing and generally getting her knickers in a twist. Not without some reason to be honest as buying a boat privately is quite different from any other large purchase as there are few checks that can be carried out unlike when one buys a house or car.
Saturday 31 May
A lovely morning dawns and Mark pops over to run through the technical side of the boat operation – all a bit complicated but we get the general idea of everything and we do have two large folders full of manuals. We then say our goodbyes to Mark and Trish – what a lovely couple, they couldn’t have been more helpful and we have really enjoyed their company in the short time we have spent together. We hope to keep in touch trough the blog of course and the usual social media. Bon voyage!
Then we realise we are now on our own with 55′ x 12.5′ on steel boat which we will have manouevre out of the marina and there is quite a fresh wind blowing – I guess we could stay on here a few more days … we have lunch to think about it!
We decide to bite the bullet – we now have the ‘Girlie Button’ (Bow Thruster) which will get us out of any difficulty. We fire up the engine, cast off and gently reverse .. the wind is pushing the boat so I press the bow thruster and .. nothing happens! Not a good time to get the manual out so we resort to the old fashioned way – sheer skill (and luck). The luck holds out until we get the the exit and a person is frantically waving at us from the bank. We see a boat coming down the main channel – closely followed by another which, it turns out, is being towed by the first. Full astern, we manage to avoid drifting into the bank and moored boats and eventually make a reasonably graceful exit from the marina – turn to starboard, relax and enjoy the scenery phew!!!
“There’s a lock up ahead” … “Do you think we should turn round, then ..?” We decide this is not a day for wimping out of things and decide we will take on out first ecluse – and we’ve sorted out the girlie button. Things are very different over here and most locks are either worked for you by lock keepers or they are automatic – they can be ‘automatic’ in a variety of ways. We see a green light and a boat in the lock which quickly turns to red as the gates close and we now have to work out for ourselves how to use the lock.
There is a long rope looking thing hanging down from a wire strung across the river which we think is called a perches. Sally gives it a good tug and .. nothing happens. As typical activists we then read the french instructions and realise you have to turn it – success, we have a flashing white light and then a green light next to the red one so something is happening. The lock empties, the gates open, the lights turn to green and we sail gently into the lock where our recent training kicks in and we throw ropes perfectly to secure the boat – nice to know these things work for real. Blue and red rods in the lock wall – lift the blue one (don’t touch the red one as it stops everything as we heard from Trish which is exactly what Mark had done previously) and the lock begins to fill. Gates open and we sail out smiling – how easy was that!? We turn round a little further up river and come back to do it all again. This time there is a boat in the lock and we squeeze in behind – good opportunity to practice our french on the locals we announce it is our ‘premier voyage at duexieme ecluse’ and suddenly they are running around like headless chickens trying to secure us – turns out they speak excellent English. At least we tried! We gently cruise back to the marina under a clear blue and cloudless sky.
Sally decides she will take Bluegum into the marina – and does so like a professional, manouevring expertly through the pontoons and gliding gently alongside to tie up in our mooring spot. Good job as two boaters had come out to watch putting pressure on Sally to do it right first time. Must have been OK as she complimented by one man – wonder if he would have said anything if Charles had brought her in? Feeling very proud of ourselves we head up into town for une bierre (must find out how to put in accents etc on this keyboard) before dinner in the wheelhouse watching the sun go down.
Sunday morning we decide to take it really easy, our shoulders are still aching from all the carrying of luggage as are our faces but that’s from the continual smiling and smirking. We are back to our healthy diet having fruit for breakfast and salad for lunch (won’t mention le petit verre de vin blanc). We have a walk into Auxonne just to stock up on a few groceries when we see lots of locals carrying their baguettes – we don’t really need one but Sally insists on buying one just to fit in – when in Rome etc or in our case France…….
I think we could get to like this!