We arrive mid afternoon and find Bluegum as we left and in no time at all fill her up with all our new goodies before getting off the Intermarché to re-stock. We are both quite tired so decide to potter about and stay in the Decize port until Saturday when we move up onto Canal lateral a la Loire. We meet up again with Maggie and Nigel on ‘Gesina’ and its nice to have familiar faces for neighbours. On Sunday we move to Fleury-sur-Loire where we find Maggie and Nigel again – as we are all heading for Briare I guess we are going to meet each other frequently over the next couple of weeks. We enjoy some walks and cycle rides and generally taking it easy. The weather forecast is depressing but we cannot complain after the glorious summer we have enjoyed. Charles somehow blows a fuse when trying to fix the new deck lights and spends some hours trying to find the afflicted fuse and is quite triumphant when he finally succeeds. It is useful having the car as we can drive back into Decize to buy some spares and a new shower holder bracket as our current one decides to break – oh the trials and tribulations of a boater life…..
On Wednesday we mosey up the canal for 12 kilometers and three lock to stop at La Vielle Tour near Chevenon. It is very remote and quiet and with the frequent down pours we hunker down for a few days. Having the car with us is a mixed blessing. It’s useful to be able to get to supermarkets and DIY stores but of course we have to bring it along with us as we move. We tend to move about 15km and stay moored for several days so it’s not too intrusive and it gets us out on our new bikes to cycle back to our last mooring.
On Friday we cruise up to the port in Nevers where we find all the moorings are taken with boats moored for the winter. Maggie and Nigel invite us moor alongside ‘Gesina’. We invite them aboard for evening drinks and get out the Scrabble board – to the delight of Maggie and a less delighted Nigel – Sally won (again!). They move off the following morning and we slip into their place to stay for a couple of days. We are still looking for a corner sofa for the boat and spend the afternoon at a shopping mall near Nevers looking round the three huge ‘Meuble’ stores without finding anything we like.
Sunday turns out to be a beautiful sunny day and we move up to Le Guetin where there is a magnificent aqueduct across the Loire and a huge double lock which takes us down nearly 9 metres. The warm sunshine has brought out lots of Gongoozlers and we have quite a big audience to watch is descend. We leave the lock and moor behind ‘Gesina’ in lovely sunshine. We decide to cycle back to Nevers to pick up the car. Nigel points out a large cumulonimbus cloud heading our way but we decide we can outrun it. We are just on the outskirts of Nevers when we see the first lightning and clap of thunder. The heavens open and we cycle the last couple of kilometres in heavy rain with thunder and lightning crashing around us. We arrive at the car feeling pretty damp. We load the cycles onto the bike rack and get into the car just in time as it takes a turn for the worse. We set off but soon pull off under a petrol station awning to shelter from the huge hailstones which are now clattering down. It calms down so we move off and arrive back at the boat in lovely late evening sunshine!
Sunday is also a big day as Simon is running the Yorkshire Marathon – amazing we are able to follow his progress around a map of the route on the internet!
The weather forecast is for warm, dry and sunny weather so we move to a lovely mooring at Cours-les-Barres and decide to get some serious boat maintenance done whilst the weather holds. We spend the next few days touching up the damage to the paintwork (mainly contact with the lock walls) and putting three coats of varnish on the mast and the ‘dog’ box on the roof.
We stay here for almost a week and enjoy a return of summer with sunshine and temperatures up into the mid 20’s – back into shorts and T shirts. On Saturday we drive to Appremont – a beautiful village which is like a Harry Potter film set! We then drive up to Beffes, which will be our next mooring, and walk the 9 kilometres or so back to the boat. We are walking along the last kilometre of towpath when Sally puts her foot down and feels something move under it – Charles sees it is a snake at least a metre long wriggling and wrapping around Sally’s ankle. She manages to shake it off and it slithers away into the hedge bottom. Sally is left palpitating and we head for the bar in the village which is closed. In the circumstances, she stayed remarkably calm but deserved a drink when we got back to the boat.
The next day the lock keeper tells us it was probably a Couleuvre d’Esculape (Aesculapian snake) which is non venomous and quite common across France. We moor at Beffes and enjoy a ‘Sunday lunch’ in the evening sunshine – Yorkshire puddings are improving as Sally gets to grips with our temperamental calor gas oven!