Monday the 25th May we are on our way again heading for Vitry-le-Francois by evening so we need to get a wiggle on – 32 kilometers and 8 locks. You may not think that’s any distance at all but you must remember we usually travel at 6 k an hour and only travel for around 10 k so we don’t overtire. Also we don’t usually have any reason to get anywhere fast but in this instance we are meeting Jeff Peters from JP Marines who has travelled over from the UK to service as many boats heating systems as he can in a week. At lunch time we get a text from Jeff asking if we can meet him this afternoon as he is ahead of his schedule so it is a good job we are making good progress and meet him around 4.30. He does a great job at a fair price and we would recommend his services to any boater needing work done. Our guide books tell us we can get diesel which we are in great need of but are informed by the Capitainne that diesel is no longer delivered here but she is so helpful and makes some phone calls. Charles does amazing well to communicate with her as she does not speak any English and we believe that we will get 800 litres of diesel delivered on Wednesday at 1pm at St Dizier where we will need to moor just before lock number 58. We are never too sure that we have grasped a full understanding from these sorts of conversations so can be sometimes surprised with the outcome.
So once again we cannot tarry and move onto the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne – rolls off the tongue doesn’t it??? This canal is 224 kilometers long with 114 locks, goodness knows how many lift bridges not to mention a 4.820 kilotmeter tunnel. Work on this canal began in 1862 and the first navigation took place in 1907 providing a route to the Saone and the south. Now Charles has never been over enthusiastic to use this canal and has suggested an alternative but I put my foot down and insisted – on reflection I do believe the only reason for this is the word champagne in the name. I begin to think the Romans had a hand in the design of this part of the canal as it is dead straight with little opportunity to moor up and our travel is only interrupted by the numerous locks which are all around 3 meters deep but are easily operated with our remote control. They fill pretty fast and require Charles and I to ensure our ropes are secured well to control the boat – this does not always happen and sharp words are exchanged every now and then….. We begin to wonder where we are going to stop for the night when we arrive in Orconte a tiny place in the middle of nowhere but there is a lovely little mooring with space for two boats, electricity, water and lovely views – us boaters have so few needs!!
Charles takes a walk into the village to pay for our nights mooring but its closed – a lady turns up later though to collect the fee, how did she know we are here? It is a very peaceful place and we are treated to seeing deer, coypu and lots of different types of bird and fowl. We also glimpse a pair of bright yellow birds with flashes of black and think they might be Golden Orioles but they didn’t stay long enough to get a photo – hats off to bird watchers who must the patience of Jobe.
We manage to get to our appointed place by 1 pm on Wednesday and within minutes the tanker arrives and the driver prepares to fill up Bluegum with diesel. Once again we have to try and translate as he does not speak a word of English but he gives a lot away with his expressions. He takes one look at our diesel ‘hole’ and looks at his nozzle then shakes his head. He returns to the vehicle and takes out another nozzle, then another one and then a final one – they are all too big. He is not a happy man, in fact he is decidedly angry and starts to gesticulate and raise his voice – fortunately we don’t understand a word he says but one thing is clear – we are not going to get any diesel. He retrieves his hose and drives off. I optimistically ask Charles if he thinks he may come back with a smaller nozzle but we guess the last look he gave us said it all. What is frustrating is that we saw a service station 7 kilometers back next to the canal which would have made filling jerry cans reasonably easy but hey ho life even has its trials and tribulations on the canal. We stop looking at the fuel gauge as its too depressing and carry on again wondering where we can moor up for the night when we arrive in Chamouilley and find a beautiful quay with electricity, water and a lovely setting.
There are five other boats moored up, three unoccupied but it is nice to have company again. There is nothing about this place in the guide books and we decide to stay for a couple of days – who needs diesel???? The weather at the moment is very changeable – one moment we are in shorts and the next are donning our raincoats. Thursday is the former and my washing dries within an hour. We take our usual run/cycle and break our rule by having croissants – and its not even Sunday; sacre bleu!!!
We face up to the fact that we are going to have to do something about this diesel issue and move onto Joinville where we moor at La Vinaigerie – a lovely hotel which also has a restaurant ‘La Cascade’. There is a free mooring a little further into the town but 200 meters away from us is a service station so Charles and I make three trips with our four jerry cans. We reckon we have another three or four trips to ensure we have sufficient diesel to get us down to St Jean de Losne where we can fill up the tank – diesel is not easily accessible on the French canals. We treat ourselves to a meal at the restaurant and the only think to let it down is the lack of customers. The food, service and newly decorated establishment are all excellent.
We are woken up on Saturday morning by a cuckoo – now we know where the term ‘going cuckoo’ comes from – if I had a gun I would have shot the bugger – it drones on and on and on….. but to keep it company the frogs joined in with their deep throated croak that sounds more like a duck being throttled.
Today is the 30th May – we have been the proud owners of Bluegum for one whole year – the best decision we ever made albeit rather hastily and we have had a fantastic year exploring a different side to France. To celebrate – well champagne of course!!!!