Thursday 10 July 2014
You will realise by now that we are a couple of weeks behind – and that we have found easy internet access – so you get all the blogs at the same time!
We leave the Canal du Centre and enter Le Canal lateral a la Loire – to be honest there is not much difference except all the locks have lock-keepers and they do all the work. We are kept waiting for over half an hour to enter the first lock as we are informed that due to the water shortage (hard to believe with all the rain we have had over the last week) they wait up to two hours for a boat to travel the other way to save wasting a lock full of water. Makes sense and we have nowhere to go in a hurry so enjoy a coffee and some toast.
We discover the seriousness of the 12 to 1pm stoppage when we enter the last lock of the morning at 11.50 only to be gently admonished by the lock keeper and we didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t quite 12 but perhaps he was hungry. We stop at Pierrefitte-sur-Loire for a spot of lunch before continuing on our way to Beaulon which shares its mooring with an area for mobile homes which on this occasion seemed to consist of very rotundal fishermen who were very friendly but didn’t seem to grasp that our French was minimal as continued chatting away whilst we smiled and said the occasional “d’accord “and “oui”. Charles has managed to have email contact with Simon Piper who concedes we are having an unusual problem and needs to contact Beta Marine for advice. However in the meantime Simon makes some recommendations for Charles to check certain wiring and things (I’m sure there are some technical names here but you get the drift) For some reason I am very positive about this but Charles comes up from the man place being the engine room to report everything was OK and nothing needed tweaking although he did check everything by re –connecting anything that he could re-connect. We set off in trepidation at 11 am and can only travel for one hour before the obligatory lunch break so stop at 12 and resume our journey at 1pm. So far so good and we have a further six locks to look forward to. We even see a lockkeeper wearing a beret but alas no string of onions or garlic around his neck. As I was manning the bow rope I asked Mr P to take a photo for the blog but he declined – some people have no sense of adventure. Charles is uncommonly quiet about the ‘problem’ and as each lock looms we hold our breath for a little longer – thank goodness we only have the six locks otherwise we would have been asphyxiated. It’s a shame we are having a no alcohol night because we have something to celebrate – no alarms, no flashing red lights – oh what bliss. Life could be on the up. We arrive into the Port at Decize and moor up next to our newly found friends Murray and Gail on their barge Saison Estivale. We are invited on board for a beer to celebrate – not sure what exactly but we have learned one doesn’t need a reason to share a beer and we quickly forget it’s a no alcohol night!!! Then we bob back to our boat for some more beer. After dinner Murray and Gail join us for some wine and it’s interesting to hear about their lives and careers in teaching. This is their second year cruising the waterways of France so are also relative newcomers to this life. We then watch the last of the football and see Brazil are at least playing consistently badly.
Sunday 13 July
After stocking up the fridge we head off on Sunday morning toward Nevers. We’re back in shorts and T shirts as the weather improves but it’s not long before we don warmer clothes. I speak to Laura and Daniel in the UK and am not happy to hear they are having lovely weather – in fact I think Laura was being a little cruel when she told me she had to find somewhere in the shade to cool down. It will get warmer here one of these days after all we ARE in France. I cannot believe that I made some homemade lentil and veg soup yesterday to warm us up. The waterways are very quiet which we think is due to it being a bank holiday on Monday for Bastille Day where everything is closed including the locks so we suspect most boaters have found a mooring for the next few days. Around 6pm we arrive at the arm into Nevers only to find a couple of hire boaters lingering so we wait awhile until I get bored (about 5 minutes later) so moor up to investigate. The occupants of one of the boats seem to think we are pushing in by mooring in front of them but I smile sweetly and learn they had been waiting over 2 hours for a lockkeeper to turn up so no wonder they were not very happy. We decide to continue on our way up to Plagny and are soon followed by the hire boats. There is a cut in the canal which is already occupied by a large hotel boat called Renaissance but there is plenty of room for us.
Charles does some calculations and say Nevers isn’t too far away so on Monday morning we have a 4 to 5 kilometer walk into the town, we enjoy a walk around and a leisurely lunch. Nevers is the capital of the Nivernais region and owes its nickname of the ‘pointed town’ to all the church towers which jut out above the roofs in the old city.
By the time we return to the boat with sore feet we have covered over 10 miles – a further good reason to get some bikes. As it was a beautiful evening we decided to have a little cruise and moved up to a very pretty spot in Gimouille. We had a walk along the tow path to take a look at the lock we would be descending in the mooring as it states in our guide it is 9.23 meters which makes it a pretty big lock. There we find the hotel boat moored up and is clearly intending to get an early start on Tuesday morning. We hear English accents and learn that a party of 8 have chartered boat from the Sunday and being the nosey sort we look it up on the web to find that a 5 day trip for 8 people is only £30,000.00 (no that is not a typo). You would think the company would have known that the 14 July is Bastille Day and they wouldn’t be able to cruise – I wonder if they got a days refund.
One thing that surprises us is the lack of information and history in the waterway guide books – perhaps we should consider writing some ourselves. We hadn’t realised how spoilt we were with the guide books back in the UK. On Tuesday when we enter the lock I ask the lockkeeper for the history behind them but all he can tell me is that they were build in Napoleon times.
After about half an hour we meet up with Hotel boat which is travelling at 3 knots – it is that wide there is no way we can overtake it so we settle back to follow it until Charles gets fed up with having to go from tick over to reverse so we moor up in Marseilles-les-Aubigny for a spot of lunch and take as long as possible to give the hotel boat time to get ahead but that didn’t seem to work because it wasn’t long before we see the large white umbrella, the tell tale sign that we were approaching it once again.
A hire boat is keen to overtake us so we have a wry smile to ourselves as he passes only to encounter the huge hotel boat and smile even more when it tries to over take it not that the captain of the hotel boat was having any of it. We decide to call it a day and moor in the middle of nowhere near to La Charite-sur-Loire.
Apologies to Brian – seems some of our problems were self inflicted!