Friday 20th March arrives so we do our last shop, collect our fire extinguishers which have been checked and certificated, pay our final bill and enjoy a coffee with Maggie and Nigel. We set off in the afternoon with a nice send off and waves from our friends and head north.
Our first stop is Ouzouer-sur-Trézée, the little village where we met Simon and the family last summer – and who is moored next to us but the offending boat leaking diesel in Briare; we won’t tell. We decide to stay over on the Saturday so we can watch the Six Nations finals and as expected I get over excited – shame England lost but they were all great games and it’s good to see sportsmanship at its best and don’t you just love the submissive and polite way the players take feedback from the ref. It is a nice warm day on Sunday so we set off early travelling through Rogney-les-Sept-Ecluses; the location of the now redundant seven contiguous locks built during the reign of Henry IV and the amazing annual firework display each July.
We moor at Dammarie-sur-Loing for the night and it is surprising that since Friday we have already worked 18 locks and travelled 23 kilometres. One thing we have noticed is that many of the eclusiers now wear life jackets around the locks – not sure they did last year as we both commented that in the UK all lock keepers were required to wear life jackets at all times and could be fired if they didn’t. We find the electricity and water are turned off so read the guides properly to learn that in this area of France the season doesn’t start until the 15th April – oh well we can manage for one night.
Excitement is not far from the Polkey’s…… As the evening starts to get chilly I ask Charles to light the oil fired heater (one of the men jobs on the boat). This requires opening the valve to allow some diesel oil to escape into the base of the heater before igniting it. In the meantime Charles takes a call with Bill who he doing some work for – this call takes sometime. Afterwards Charles duly lights the fire and goes up into the wheelhouse whilst I set about making a Sunday dinner (one of the women jobs on the boat). I notice the fire in the heater is rather fierce and in one of those tones of voice that implies an immediate response is required call for Charles to attend to the fire.
He wanders down and I am somewhat unnerved by his immediate response when he sees the fire. He fiddles about but the fire does not abate and when the metal glows red and Charles says ‘Oh shit’ –realising the situation is serious as Charles is usually so laid back and rarely gets worked up about anything – I grab the fire extinguisher – thank goodness they have just been serviced but Charles shouts ‘don’t you dare pull the pin out it will make a right mess’. You think I had got hold of a blooming grenade and wonders to myself what sort of mess a fire would make of the boat not to mention the brand new settee. Its amazing how much goes through your mind in a situation like this including how to call the fire brigade in French and where are we going to sleep tonight. In a favourite film of mine; Leap Year; a question is asked that if there were a fire and you had sixty seconds to decide – what would you take – as it happens this actually passed through my head and the answer is mobile and ipad – my rationale being at least I would be able to contact family and friends and hope someone would take pity on us. Drama over Charles deals with the emergency with relative calmness and we now know the fire alarm works because ‘she’, together with the alarm, keeps on telling us we have a fire on board – no shit Sherlock…….! The fire was banned for the night but the evening passed without further incident.