Well, life continues to throw curveballs our way. Our remaining few days travelling towards Belgium were rather speedy as we had to travel to the UK earlier than we had envisaged.
We departed at 8 am and at the first lock we had to wait thirty minutes until a commercial barge had gone through. Little did we know we'd have a heart-stopping moment a bit later!
As we entered we turned on our navigation lights - the first part was lit, then the lights went out and we realised our nav lights hadn't come on! Rather frantic scrambling to switch the spotlight on occurred! The light you see here is from the camera's flash - it was completely black, just the pinprick white dot to steer by. Needless to say I took the boat out of gear until we lit the tunnel with our spot light.
A damp, grey and wind battered day welcomed us into Reims. We intended to stop here, but the only suitable tie up place seemed outside of any security. It looked unwelcoming. Aside from that, I could hardly move with a stiff back, so we decided to keep going.
Not the brightest of churches. I was eager to have a look inside, but the doors were locked. It wasn't long ago I found churches a sad place to be - somewhere to contemplate those gone. I always light a candle for a few people, especially those who were taken too soon - but now I feel more positive in churches, akin to the circle of life of which I'm part of - now I just feel lucky that I'm able to light candles for others.
The free moorings in France are blissfully quiet. Although most of them do not provide electricity and water, they do provide a safe place to stop. With our solar panels and water catcher (from the wheelhouse roof) we are self-sufficient and enjoy spending money on more necessary items - like wine!
Today we did 52 kilometres and 13 locks (and 1 tunnel) - the wind is picking up - we think we'll have to stop for a while soon. With a strong wind it can make handling tricky. Of course, it is all doable, but being in the wind becomes wearing - besides it's time for another day off... perhaps.... Catch you tomorrow - let's see what happens then...
It was a cheery farewell from Chamouilley with Jean-Wiffnid (who we met yesterday) Iand his wife cycling down to wave us off.
The stunning colours of autumn are putting on a fine display for us.
It's mostly a picture journey today folks - the internet just will not allow me to do much more - hope to see you again tomorrow!
Well, another late posting! That's one of the challenges when on the move - good internet and the time to use it! Still, it's a small price to pay in comparison to the fun we're having.
We left PK72 at 07:50 and immediately met two commercial barges. It was not much of a drama as there was plenty of room and depth.
Another day welcomed us into her glorious sunshine....
The sign clearly indicates that we should keep to the right-hand side in the channel when passing the blue mooring post (for commercial vessels). You can just see the back of the sign for vessels indicating that they should be on the left of the channel (when going the opposite way). It's only for a brief time, but when passing one of these mooring posts another vessel came around a blind corner on my side. He was following the signs instructions - so was I....
Day 15 - France to Belgium by Boat
Feeling refreshed after a day off and having had enjoyed kindred spirit company, it's time to leave.
You can see the top edge better here. When a moving vessel is near to a structure such as a wall, bank, or another vessel, there is a sucking motion, called barge effect (venturi effect). This is why you should slow down when passing other vessels. The same happens when moving in shallow waters, you are sucked down (called sucking the bottom!) - so we were keen to try not to get sucked into this wall.
In all fairness, Jill and Graham did not intentionally cause a delay on the lock, they were merely chatting to the lock-keeper who invited them (and then us) for coffee. If you spend too long in the lock when you are supposed to leave, then it gets in a pickle and stops working.
The lock-keepers wife joined us and we all sampled the schnapps - except Jill who rather sensibly declined. The lock-keeper dunked a sugar lump in the liquid for my try - as I chewed on half a lump my head became instantly light - Noel muttered something about feeling numb after he took a sip! I'm guessing the thick liquid was about 100% proof!
There are more interesting characters to introduce you to along the way - I hope you will join us on board tomorrow.
Today, we spent the morning buying and repairing my back tyre. Note that "buying" is important in the time this process took - as our transport is simply our legs and bicycles (when repaired!).
Then we were free to take a ride around town and view the viaduct.
Noel and I spent a lovely few hours cycling and walking around the structure. It was interesting to note that tourists can walk across the lowest arches (not the top), if you are in the company of an animal, other than a dog, or if you are pushing a wheelbarrow, you could be asked to pay a fine of 5 francs.
This evening we were visited by Jill and Graham from Matlida Rose. They are moored just a few miles north of us and are sensible enough to have a car.
No photos on them yet (that's tomorrow) - but we'd 'met' them via FB on a fabulous group called Women on Barges (if you are connected to boats, join us!) So, you'll be properly introduced to them tomorrow and told all about how they sabotaged a lock for some Pear Schnapps and our company! Here's their blog. Jill is the author and she has a wickedly funny sense of humour!
Blessed with yet another tranquil night - here's our view while we sip our steaming mugs of tea. Do you ever have those times when you wake up and you don't have any idea where you are? I do - often. But that, I think, is the way it is for nomads.
And we're off..... My thought process when waking from a deep sleep and always travelling is something like this: "Where am I?" "Oh yes, on a boat" "Which boat?" Ah yes, the barge" "Which country?" (yes, really, I often ask myself that) - then I have to figure out which anchorage or port we are in. It's always a bit of a relief, these days, to wake up realising we are not in the middle of an ocean - as we so often have been.
Sorry, you may have to wait for refreshments. It's time to work. These set of locks are manual. A lock-keeper does most of the work, driving between each log as we go. However, we help too. Noel and I take it in turns to cycle between locks and help open and close the doors, while the other brings the boat along.
Tomorrow it's time to take a day off. Rest and have a look at a magnificent viaduct. We also meet Jill and Graham on board Matilda Rose. We had great fun - see you tomorrow.
This journey seems epic, in a relatively short time. That's life - and suits us, we like moving.
I do have to tell you, it isn't just from Aramon (near Avignon) to Belgium - we actually commenced the voyage in Buzet Sur Baise. This tranquil village sits approximately between Toulouse and Bordeaux. So, you see, we actually journeyed south-east towards the Med before turning north and tackling a fair bit of the Rhone before Aramon!
We'd best get going, ready?
We are now locking down, which is far easier than going up. However, sometimes the lock walls are crumbling and lines can become caught in cracks. We keep knives nearby - just in case. Now we press Avalant on our little box instead of Montant. Imagine how embarrassed I was when I radioed the lock-keeper to say the lock wasn't working. He tutted and laughed, "press Avalant not Montant!" - oops! Those more observant readers will notice the red light in the picture. We can only enter on a green light- so just what are we doing? Well, the light was green right up until we were next to it (and taking the picture).
We traversed 23 kilometres and 16 locks today - oh, and 1 tunnel!
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