So off we set and this time successfully get onto the Canal du Centre through an amazing mechanically challenging looking huge lock. It really is rather daunting but the smiling face of the lock keeper looking down on us is a little reassuring.
It really is nice to be back on canals to be able to see the sides of the banks and to moor where we like. That lasted about five minutes until we realised that handling Bluegum on a much narrower and shallower stretch of water is very different from handling her on a river where in fact we have been spoiled and given a rather false sense of our competence. Charles soon gets to grip though and before long is feeling more confident whilst I feel very uncertain and quickly pass controls back to Charles when we see an oncoming boat or lock.
We make good progress through 12 locks to moor at Chagny. Locks are very different over here – these are automatic and the local lock-keeper sets them so that they are ready for you to go straight in. Once in you have to rope fore and aft (not so easy at the bottom of a 5 metre deep lock) and pull the blue cord to close the gates and fill – or empty – the lock. The gates then open and off you go.
All good in theory but positioning a 26 ton barge, climbing up to reach the cord and then securing the boat before the huge rush of water make the practice quite scary!
We set off in very hot sunny weather and all is going well until an alarm goes off and a red light appears on the dash – engine overheating!!! A check on the header tank – no sign of any coolant so we fill with water and carry on – the gauge stays level until we are ticking over and the alarm sounds again. We limp along and moor at St-Leger-sur-Dheune to consider our dilemma. A call to Piper’s in England is rather inconclusive – perhaps there is an airlock in the system. We decide to stay where we are and get into conversation with an English couple, David and Joy, on the barge moored next to us. They invite us on board and we enjoy a couple of beers as the conversation turns to careers – we find we all have ‘police’ connections. David asks if we have heard of Maybo! We soon realise that we have met before when David gave a talk on handling the media to a Maybo training day!! An amazing coincidence and we celebrate with several bottles of wine and a photo for Bill Fox.
We have a lovely evening sharing stories and learning about their 6 years in France – which helps us to forget our overheating engine for a while. Whilst Brian appears to have jinxed us we have to say that we will be happy if we achieve what he has – piloting his boat single handed from Carcassonne in the South of France up the Rhone in your 80’s is no mean feat!