We stop in St Jean de Losne for our lunch only to be told by a French boater that we could not moor on the quay because of an impending boat regatta at the weekend. Whilst repeatedly saying she didn’t mind what we did, she keeps pointing to a notice. In fact we had read and understood the said sign but as it usually takes us less than an hour to prepare and eat our lunch we felt sure we would be gone before the weekend so stayed put. We got some friendly shaking of heads from our neighbours but we were hungry. Before leaving St Jean we decide to buy some fuel and unlike Ebony, with a 120 litre fuel
tank, Bluegum is rather more greedy having a 1100 litre tank – we could only bring ourselves to put 500 litres in and then had to have an alcoholic drink to recover from the shock!! Passing lots of churches – the French really look after their churches we eventually come to our first Eclusier controlled ecluse – that’s a lock keeper controlled lock. Now these locks are built for much bigger vessels than our and whilst we have long ropes, the bollards were just to far spaced out to accommodate us so the friendly Eclusier showed us a new and effective way of securing ourselves. We feel very small and just wonder how Ebony would have coped in these gigantic locks – wonder how much water has just been emptied to get us through? He also told us of a problem on the canal lock but we can’t quite make out what it is … seems it might be out of order till Wednesday.
Unfortunately for a nearby fisherman we are both concentrating so much as we approach the lock we didn’t notice his three fishing rods with lines in the water – why do fishermen have to have so many rods, what’s wrong with just one? Anyway he yells at us in a very angry Gallic tone of voice as one of his lines gets caught up under Bluegum – just as well we couldn’t understand a word he said as we don’t think he was being very nice. Just through the lock is Seurre so we decide to moor up for the night and have a wander around the small town before dinner and watching Andy Murray win again – Daniel and Jonathan you may be in for a treat for the finals if he continues to play so well; fingers crossed. Waking up to beautiful sunshine we set off along the River Saone intending to overnight in Chalon only to arrive around 3pm to find the mooring full. We decide to go an check out whether the Canal du Centre is open as we thought if we could get through the first lock we could moor up anywhere to wait for the problem to be fixed but on arrival the lights were off and no sign of life. Oh well; we examine our guide and spot a couple of mooring south of Chalon so set off again along the river. The weather suddenly takes a turn for the worse with the sunshine being replaced with grouchy looking clouds and typically we cannot find anywhere to moor.
We are both rather nervous of mooring on the river bank because of the huge hotel boats and working barges that frequently use the river but as the time passes so the weather worsens. We approach Gigny-sur-Saone and although the halte looks full we have no althernative but to try and find somewhere to moor. A fellow boater and the Capitainerie run out and yell for our ropes which I pass with pleasure and you have never seen a boat moored up so quickly and then they both disappeared at the same time the heavens opened and we are attacked by huge hail stones.
Within seconds Charles and I are soaked to the skin and we dive into the wheelhouse for cover. It is truly amazing to see how quickly the weather can turn and we cannot see the river at all because of the downpour. Fortunately it doesn’t last for long and we can check our ropes are tied well enough and get to chat to our rescuers. The nearby restaurant is recommended to us and Charles manages to book the last available table. This is our first meal out since our arrival apart from our meal with Mark and Trish when we took over Bluegum. We have a lovely meal with excellent service from the owner and his wife. It’s also a good time to practice our French as we are the only English speakers in the whole place. I don’t get meat, Charles gets a steak but a different starter to the one he thought he’d ordered but he still enjoyed it and we both had puddings to die for.
The forecast for Sunday is much the same as Saturday so we stay put for the day filling it doing very little really. I send an email to our newly found friends Guy and Marleen to see if they know what is happening on the canal. We get a lovely informed reply explaining that it is the first lock that is causing the problem and it will probably be fixed by Wednesday – or maybe not!!!
We set off on Monday for Tournus and moor up along the quay. This is one of the bigger town with lots of shops, bars, restaurants and interesting places to visit. We spot another Piper boat called ‘Para Handy’ moored on the quay. We go and say hello to the owner Brian and when Charles tells him he knows the origin of the boat’s name Brian says Charles must be older than he looks! (Charles was introduced to the Para Handy books by Charles senior). The original idea was to call her ‘Vital Spark’ (Para Handy’s boat) but it was already taken so they did the next best thing. We share a bottle of wine with him and learn that ‘Para Handy’ was one of the first Piper barges and Brian had a hand in the design. We hear about his boating adventures and also the problems he has experienced with the boat. He seems surprised when we say we haven’t had any but we have not had the boat long – “You will!” he tells us – watch this space! The Romans recognised the excellent position of this town and built a castrum for storing supplies for their legions and evidence of their stay is still event with the many narrow streets and architecture throughout the town. Saint-Philibert’s church is very eye catching with a remarkable façade of hewn stone.
As there is also a good train service we visited Macon for the day to try and sort out a French mobile phone and to buy a sim card to get wifi (pronounced weefee over here) This turns out to be interesting with the salesman speaking very little English so Charles works hard to explain what we want with me amazingly being able to help them both out – I have learnt lots of words from religiously doing my on line French course; I just have difficulty putting them into the right order but between us we get by but decide not to buy at this time as we are just not sure what is right for us.
Shame we didn’t visit Macon in May as it is famous for its national fair for French wines during that month.
Wednesday morning arrives and we encounter our first technical problem. After both showering, the water usually discharges into the river through the waste pump which automatically switches on and off – but for some reason it would not shut off. We will blame Brian for jinxing us but Charles digs out what we have as a tool kit (two screwdrivers and a wrench till Sue and Chris bring our stuff) and begins to explore man stuff. He eventually turns up with a tiny plastic cover which he has found in the grey tank which was clearly blocking the outlet to the pump. That seems to have solved the problem and water drains again – Charles has been renamed Mr Fix-it for the rest of the day.