Tuesday 22nd July.
We had arranged that the workshop at H20 St Jean de Losne, (where we had left the boat in June) would take the boat from its moorings, through the lock and up to the quayside by the workshop. The plan was that the bottom would be cleaned, and then repainted, but we had received word whilst in England that Philippe, the yard manager was not willing to paint the bottom because of what appeared to be bad adhesion near the welds.
It turned out in some critical areas welding had previously taken place without subsequent shot-blasting, and in Philippe’s opinion, the bottom blacking would not adhere along these seams. Bad news for us, as we tried to obtain prices for the job that now needed to be done.
We arrived back at St Jean de Losne in France in the early evening The boat had been put back in the water after its (expensive) trip out onto dry land – the bill for taking out of the water, bottom cleaning, anode changing and putting back into the water coming to close on 3,000 euros. And still we had the shot-blasting to arrange.
There was a fair bit of cleaning and unpacking to do, so we decided not to set off the next day. It was hot, around 27 degrees with hotter still to come.
Wednesday 23rd July
We did some shopping at the Casino supermarket close to the marina, and in the afternoon went off on our bikes for a ride round the town. Another typical old French riverside town with lots of small shops. We bought a new pot plant for the top of the boat (kalanchoe) – the artemis (which we took down to Spain and back to England with us!) is not exactly flourishing, and the geranium (also well travelled) looks healthy but with quite small blooms compared to when we bought it.
Thursday 24th July
Thursday dawned fine and sunny, and having been to pay our bills (300 euros for one months moorings!) we decided to set off.
Mid morning we pulled out of the marina and started off up the Saone. It’s a lovely, wide and gentle (mostly) river and we cruised until we reached the town of Auxonne. This turned out to be a lovely halt, and we decided we would stay on for two nights. The moorings were floating pontoons, and water and electricity cost 8 euros for each night.
(Please note however, that a new marina was nearing completion in winter 2010/11 to replace these pontoons. Whilst the old pontoons still are there, there doesn’t appear to be any bournes for water/electricity. The new marina is run by H20, as at St Jean de Losne.)
At first we breasted up alongside Narwahl, a boat owned by a Swedish woman and her English husband (and 2 dogs), but later on a mooring came free and we moved down a bit.
We were now moored next to a couple in a small boat, who, when we got talking to them, we discovered quite close to where we used to live in Huntingdon. They had taken some time off work (3 months) to try out the life style in readiness for retirement and had covered quite a distance in that time.
The town was quite old and picturesque, with a lovely church which we visited twice to
Friday 25th July
A lazy day, doing a few jobs, and going for another walk round the town. Friday was market day – it’s amazing how many clothes and handbags stalls there are on these markets, far more stalls than there are for food. We bought some veg from the market, and a melon. In the evening we invited the Huntingdon couple round for a drink and then we went off into the town. We had identified a restaurant earlier, and it was the one the Huntingdon couple had been to the night before for their 35th wedding anniversary, but when we got there it was unexpectedly closed. We found another pavement restaurant, and had a reasonable salad dish each.
Saturday 26th July
Although the Saone was lovely, it can be very boring cruising rivers with only a handful of locks to break the monotony. So we decided to turn round and go back to the turning we had seen for the Canal du Rhône au Rhine at St Symphorium. This stretch of canal, which we reached around mid morning, has intermittent canal and river stretches, the river in question being the Doubs. It is a pleasant river, but quick to flood and requires careful navigation as it can be heavily silted. The greater part of it has automated locks and at the start of the navigation you are given a zapper, a thing like a huge remote control which you use to start the lock cycles up with when you get within range. Very useful, and the whole operation is completed by just zapping the detector, and then raising the blue lever when in the lock to start the cycle.
At lunchtime we stopped at a newly constructed mooring where there was sufficient space for at least a couple of boats. So this 12 metre plastic French hireboat had moored up right in the middle of the pontoon, so that no boat of any decent size would be able to moor up. They were all in the middle of their lunch on the top of the cruiser, but as the lock a few hundred yards ahead was closed for lunch, we decided we would ask them to move their boat so we could fit in, which they grudgingly did.
Later on, when the lockie returned, we set off, only to find that they hurried up to join us. We couldn’t see why they would want to share a lock with us, most plastic boats don’t want to be sent flying by 26 tons of steel, but we soon found out when we got in the lock. We had secured ourselves in a safe position for us, a reasonable distance away from the front gates to avoid the arching sprays of water which occur on this canal when the paddles are opened. But no, in they came and imperiously gestured to us to move up the lock. This is not the easiest of things to do, once you have secured your ropes about 15 feet up the lock wall, but Neville harrumphed and then climbed up the (long) lock ladder, moved our ropes along and then climbed back down the ladder onto our boat.
Then the lad on their boat indicated that he wanted us to take their ropes, ie climb back up the ladder (because it was by our boat) and take their ropes and pass them round the bollard and hand them back down again. We were a bit tee’d off about this, since their boat was higher than ours, and if they had used their boat hook to pass the rope round the bollard (which is the way I had tackled the problem in the first place, standing on the roof), they could have managed. But hey, holidaymakers, entente cordiale and all that, not to mention wanting to get to our next destination this side of midnight, so we helped them out and Neville shinned up the ladder once again.
I guess we must have shown our feelings, because as we left the lock they hung back and let us move on our own to the next lock.
We stopped late afternoon at a charming village called Choisey, where there was a wedding in progress. This seems to involve a lot of driving the bride and groom around in a car with continuous horn tooting, and lots of guests walking hither and thither in procession. I guess it was a civil ceremony followed by a church blessing, so the guests had to walk from the “mairie” (town hall) to the church and then back to the place where the wedding reception was taking place.
A thunderstorm started as we were having dinner on the boat.
Sunday 27th July
Another hot day (around 30 degrees most of the day) and we set off early to get to Dole. We arrived mid morning to find a beautiful city, birthplace of Louis Pasteur, complete with cathedral, fantastic floral displays everywhere, bridges dripping glorious blooms of assorted colours,. It’s an old town that used to house tanning industries, and has quite a lot of shops lining the quaint winding streets.
There is a walkway that runs along the side of the river which used to be the locale for the local leper colony, we were told, and the kinder townspeople used to throw food from the bridges across the river to them.
We moored up on the quayside and had access to electricity. Went for a walk up to the next lock that evening, arriving back just in time to avoid another shower. Sadly, there was a mini racetrack set up nearby where some noisy racing cars were performing daredevil stunts – it was very noisy – not only the car engines revving up but also the music blaring out from the stadium. You could hardly hear yourself think.
Monday 28th July
Another hot day, and we walked around the town in the morning. The motor show was on yet again, probably because Saturday’s show had been cancelled due to thunderstorms but it did not seem so noisy. Overnight another thunderstorm.
Tuesday 29th July
Visited the local market early on for fruit and veg, and then carried on up the Rhône au Rhine, seeing few boats along the way. This must be quite a deserted stretch, oddly so because there was a canal boat hire base in Dole. We have been struck by the quietness of the canals – but they do say that the French migrate en masse to the coasts and waterways from the 1st August to the end of the month. Maybe it will be different next week.
We reached our intended mooring (Ranchot) around 1.00pm to find that it was occupied by a long old barge, and a holidaymaker’s plastic cruiser. The latter indicated that they would move in the afternoon so we breasted up with the barge (no-one on board) to wait. After a while the barge owners returned (Scottish couple – really nice) and they asked us if we would mind moving as earlier that morning he had dropped his spectacles over the side and he was intending to try to search for them. (In that water!) He very kindly helped us move back down the canal to a sloping sided quay, and then spent half an hour trawling the bottom of the canal bed with a fishing net, but with no success. Then, the prospect of submerging himself in the murky depths must have palled, because they indicated that they were moving on and asked if we wanted to draw alongside of them to make sure we got their space when they left.
We had a pleasant evening there, and eventually four other boats came to moor up, more boats than we had seen throughout the course of the day.
Wednesday 30th July
We left around 8.30am and for four hours or so we intermittently switched between the River Doubs and the Canal Rhône au Rhine. Some of the locks were particularly deep, not the water level but the lock sides, and it became less possible to put your ropes up to the bollards, even with our extended boathook. Then we noticed that a bollard had been set within the lock walls, and we secured our ropes round this, whipping them off as the water level rose to the height where we could in fact use the lockside bollards.
It was another bakingly hot morning and we were glad when we reached our lunchtime mooring just in front of the Tunnel de Thoraise, where, we had been led to believe, some spectacular lighting effects give the impression of moving through a mini waterfall. A treat to look forward to for the next day, as we couldn’t face what would be a 15 kilometre, 5 lock journey to the next potential mooring at Besançon in these baking temperatures. Thank goodness the forecast was for cooler (well 25 to 28 degrees) weather after the next two or three days of this.
Thursday 31st July
Left around 8.30am but sadly the tunnel didn’t give up its illumination display – maybe it doesn’t come on until 9.00am. The locks appeared to be open from 7.00am though not manned. We were still on automatic locks using the remote control, and for some reason today we were able to activate the locking mechanism from a greater distance than before.
As we cruised along, alternating from the River Doubs to the canal sections (where the river is unnavigable) the scenery gradually changed into something like that we had in Germany. High, sloping roofed houses, towering wooded hills, lots of conifers as opposed to the usual plane trees. This is certainly a navigation of contrasts.
We went through maybe five or six locks, one of them a double lock, the first chamber of which was high rise, and manned (or womanned) by a young blonde girl. She seemed pretty smart about shutting the gates and starting the water inflow, I just hoped that she has some way of checking that the lockers are ready and secured before she does so. She came out to stand on the bridge and watch us but by that time we had been through the turbulent phase.
Eventually towards midday we arrived at our destination, Besançon. This is an old city (birthplace of the writer Victor Hugo) with a citadel towering on the ramparts, and is rich in history. The Doubs circles the city in a large loop (or boucle as the French call it), and it is (or was) possible to either cruise the loop or alternatively use the tunnel at the neck of the loop to go straight on. We opted for the loop as we believed there were several mooring opportunities, but apart from one rather remote place without electricity, we only found one other.
This had small finger pontoons and we had a fairly stressful time trying to negotiate our way into a suitable position as we were far too long for the pontoons. At the end of the moorings was the lock, but whilst we were mooring another boater obligingly informed us that when we left we would have to go back the way we had come as the lock wasn’t working. This worked to our advantage, as we then went to the far end of the mooring right by the lock, where we stuck out right across the canal, but since there was no through traffic we weren’t a problem, except perhaps to the tiny plastic craft moored alongside. He should be able to get out though. It was a nice mooring, apart from the fact that the woods above the embankment seem to be a popular meeting place for a group of young people, who seemed to be there, drinking, sending out for fast food and generally chatting right through until at least 3 a.m. They didn’t get rowdy though, and didn’t bother the moorers below them. Well not that particular night, anyway! A rude awakening was in store for us the next night.
Took a walk through the city and were well impressed. We were staying here four nights, and there would be plenty to do and see during that time. And best of all, the forecasts all agree that temperatures will be down to a far more comfortable mid twenties for a few days.
Friday 1st August
The weather had turned cooler and more cloudy. We went out on the bikes through the City to the Gallery Lafayette where they had a good range of foodstuff available. Whilst we were in there it became darker still, and on our return journey (whilst still looking for a boulangerie), the heavens opened and we got drenched to the skin. We sheltered for a short time in an alleyway along with several other people who had obviously mistaken the weather and were quite wet through in their summer clothes.
During the afternoon we caught up on some computer work with the photographs and the printer.
The night was a nightmare. We woke up at around 2.00am to hear the usual laughter, screaming and shouting from the youths up on the picnic benches at the top of the embankment. There were some girls involved too. After an hour or so they drifted away, and we were just about to go back to sleep when another gang arrived. These were all young men and they were a far different kettle of fish. At one point they threw a stone at our boat, and then later they came down to the pontoons and sat on the one between us and another boat, talking and laughing at the top of their voices. We watched them through the curtains, as did the occupants of the other boat, a French couple. They were looking at our boat, and we were expecting the worst. Then I heard the gate from the pontoon to the embankment walkway slam again and they went up to the top where they proceeded to throw more stones at us before eventually drifting away.
Didn’t sleep much after that.
Saturday 2nd August
We made up our mind that we would not risk another night so first thing we went out on our bikes to look at the other mooring we had seen, back the way we had come. It is a nice pontoon but no facilities. There were some Swiss people in a boat called Coconut that we had seen on our journey upstream, and they said they had no problems during the night. I spoke to the French couple in the boat next to us down in the centre, and they were leaving the mooring to go to Ranchot (where we stayed earlier in the week).
They had been concerned over the rowdiness during the night, and they apparently had spent three nights there last week, gone on upstream and had returned for two more nights. Every night had been the same, with different gangs either spending all evening and through to the early hours there, or dropping off there after the clubs and discos had closed. The capitainerie wasn’t interested, just told us to go and report it to the police, although later the capitain of the large trip boat that moors there came up to me to apologise. A police car cruised up to the picnic site, as one had when we first arrived on Thursday (should have twigged it then!) but they didn’t stop.
So we moved on to the other mooring. There was a lot of passing on the road above us but it was quite near to the gendarmerie. The Swiss people moved off around lunchtime, and I would feel better if we got some other mooring companions. I needed to look up all the words I need to know to be prepared for calling the police if necessary. This is the first trouble we have had in France, and you might assume that it’s because Besanςon is a city, but we didn’t have these problems in Dole.
(During the summer of 2011 we heard that some cruisers on holiday who had been ferrying their car around with them, had their car seriously vandalised whilst parked above this mooring.)
There was a tiny boat next to us which moved off around lunchtime too, just a motor boat really. We are moored close to the mouth of the tunnel to go upstream, and near to the other lock that goes downstream. The owner of this boat went into the downstream lock and did something that I have nearly done once, when not concentrating. When you are in the lock there is a blue steel rod which you push upwards (quite difficult) to start the lock mechanism, and next to it is a red cord which you pull down if there is an emergency whilst the operation is underway. And this guy had pulled the wrong one! This immobilises the lock, and you need to get a techie to come and reset it. He managed to locate the lock-keeper but he couldn’t reset it, and eventually an emergency breakdown vehicle had to come out to fix it. Boy I bet he was embarrassed. It’s easily done though if you are not concentrating.
Sunday 3rd August
We passed a relatively peaceful night. There were a couple of occasions when rowdy youths went by, but they were up on the top road, not even on the quayside, and certainly not on the pontoon!
We went out on our bikes early to explore the city before the traffic became heavy. We had a good ride round, and stopped for coffee at a little café and thé shop in the big square. We also had a croissant, which was not quite so fatty as those you get in England or on the ferry. We called at a wine shop on the way back to replenish supplies (!) and then did quite a lot of cleaning on the boat.
Later in the afternoon we went up to the Citadel right on the top of the hills surrounding the city. It’s a kind of walled fortress which was constructed by Vauban in the 15th century. Nowadays it houses museums, aquarium and a zoo. The animals in the zoo looked bored, restless and very confined, and in the fish tanks there were way too many large fish for the size of them.
We went round the museum of the Second World War which was fairly horrific. I hadn’t known that during the war the southern half of France conceded to the Germans, and several holding camps for the concentration camps deep in Germany were set up in southern France. Members of the French resistance and British soldiers who had been captured in France were taken to these places prior to going into the dreadful German camps, many of them dying in transit. It was a sobering experience and I am not sure that any German visitors to the museum would feel disposed to own up to their nationality.
We stayed up there until almost seven, when the citadel closes, and then we descended the 212 steps and several stony screes back to the boat. There is a regular bus service up to the Citadel and back, for those who are not anxious to burn off a few calories!
Monday 4th August
Up at 6.30 as we wanted to be away fairly quickly in case a lack of suitable moorings meant that we had to do the full 35 kilometres and 10 locks to Baume les Dames. Although the lights had activated on the downstream lock, when we cast off and turned round to face the lock at the entrance to the tunnel leading upstream we saw that the lights there were not on. It turned out that because it was a tunnel this was a manned lock and no-one would turn up until 8.30am.
We did three locks and moored up around 11ish at Novillars, a quiet pontoon between two villages and close to a restaurant. It was a dull day with light showers, and still reasonable warm.
Tuesday 5th August
Started the day with a double lock and did another 6, some of them quite deep with intermediate bollards set in the lock wall. The scenery was quite picturesque, wide lazy river winding between wooded hills and towering cliffs. The houses dotted along the floor of the valley are similar to swiss chalets and everywhere is green, green, green. It would look beautiful in the autumn, but then of course when the rains come and the river is in spate you probably can scarcely take your eyes off the river as you navigate downstream, desperately trying to keep within the channels and to avoid the pull of the weirs!
Towards lunchtime we arrived at what is probably our end destination for this stretch of water, a picturesque town called Baume les Dames. Here the navigation halt is very well equipped with plentiful electric and water outlets, showers, etc which are shared with a number of camper vans. The noticeboard sports a ten day weather forecast, and a note to advise that the baker calls at the site every day at 8.30am. How enterprising is that! The weather, which had been grey and rainy, brightened up and it was up in the late twenties, but set to cool again the following day. We decided to stay here two nights at least – and eat out for a change as there are 13 different eating places shown on the map of the town.
Wednesday 6th August
Relaxing day at Baume les Dames. Neville did a bit of boat painting, I did a bit of washing. It was very hot 32 degrees during the afternoon. The mooring is quite a way out of the town, and up a hill.
Thursday 7th August
We turned round and set off on our return journey at 9.00am, just behind Platypussy, with whom we locked down six or seven locks. We moored at Deluz which was a nice little village, surrounded by densely wooded slopes.
Friday 8th August
A miserable day. We set off at 8.30 am and it soon started to rain, at times very hard. We got quite wet as the showers always seemed to coincide with the locks. When we approached Besançon we saw that small cruisers had breasted up against the big barges at the north end of the tunnel, which led us to believe that the pontoons at the other end of the tunnel, in the basin where we stayed last weekend, might be full. This turned out to be the case, doubled up right along so we carried on downstream. Hard to believe after last weekend when we were the only boat moored there from Saturday lunchtime to Sunday teatime.
We didn’t expect Thoraise to be free, but it was. I am not sure about this particular mooring, there is evidence of “get-togethers” in the little shelter close by, and again it was Friday night. But we didn’t have any problems last time we stayed. It’s funny, we passed more boats coming down here than we have in all the time we have been on this river, but now only one boat has gone by since we moored up, so it didn’t look as though we would get any company, which would have been nice.
Eventually another boat arrived with two Germans in it, so we didn’t feel quite so isolated. And then things went from bad to worse. The mini computer we bought in Auxerre (the darned thing with the French keyboard) refused to connect to the Internet. We can only hope that it is due to our location, but we both felt sure that we had a decent connection when we moored up here 10 days ago.
And as if that were not enough, whilst I was working on this log and Neville was working in the engine room down below, there was a loud crackling noise, the power went off on my computer, the TV stopped and then clouds of smoke and a strong smell of burning emanated from the invertor in the engine room below.
This is the thing that gives us the “home comforts” ie television, microwave, hairdryer, computers, phone chargers, electric kettles, toasters etc, ie the 240 volt supply. Neville checked it out, switched it back on again and then it arced again and more smoke and burning. So big (and expensive) problem, not to mention inconvenience. Worst of all was that the freezer was full of meats, turkey, duck, chicken, sausages, pork fillet……
We worked out that the freezer would probably stay efficient for 12 hours so planned to use the genny the next day give it a little boost. But the genny doesn’t provide power to any of the sockets, (apart from two), so we still had a problem. We rang Philippe (the boat repair boss) at St Jean de Losne and he advised that he was the agent for Mastervolt (the invertor) but this was going to be an expensive job. What another one? And we haven’t even priced up the shot-blasting of the hull yet!! Now we need to cut short our travels as we cannot rely (during this peak holiday period) on finding moorings that have electricity. So a delicate balancing act in order to conserve the frozen food, combining shore based electricity supply with generator, and with relying on minimal periods without power. Oh joy!
And then the little shelter on the lockside began to attract lots of young men carrying six-packs of beer, bottles of wine and bread… this really had been a dreadful day and I was feeling very tee’d off about boating in general.
Saturday 9th August
A restless night. Some noise from the youths in the shelter but they were not interested in us. I’d worried about the lack of invertor and what it might mean to our boating, but in fact it didn’t seem to affect us unless we stop somewhere without electricity. We set off early, about ten to eight, dropped down the lock onto the Doubs again and reached our scheduled stop at Ranchot after 20 kilometres and 5 locks, by about 11.15am. We had a similar journey the next day to get us to Dole. We were so relieved to find that a mooring was available with electricity, and linked up. The stuff in the freezer (which is in the engine room) was just beginning to soften slightly, probably with the heat down there, but not enough to affect it too badly. So now we were plugged in and hopefully if we had power right through the night, the freezer will tolerate one morning without power until we reach Dole the next day.
Later in the morning we spotted a narrowboat heading out of the locks, quite an unusual sight over here, and soon discovered as it came in to moor that it was Linda and Eric Chamberlain on Last Farthing. Their boat was literally festooned in flowers, and as it came through the mist clinging to the water, it looked for all the world like an elaborately decorated floating coffin as it approached. We last met them at Montereau, right at the beginning of our travels, when they were heading up north and we were heading south. Later we had a drink with them at the hotel bar close to the mooring, picking brains and exchanging tales.
Sunday 10th August
We set off early around eightish, whilst Eric and Linda were still in bed The big luxurious barge which had moored up just beyond the bridge beat us to the start, and seemed to take ages to negotiate the first few locks. We had to wait at the second lock for the VNF staff to start work and raise the swing bridge, then at the third lock the fault lights came on as soon as the big barge in front exited the lock. We were stuck for about an hour, receiving messages on our hand held control that the fault was being worked on etc. We eventually reached Dole around 1.00pm but couldn’t get any electricity so we emptied the freezer contents into the freezing compartment of the normal fridge, which works off the batteries (not ideal) and switched the freezer off. Used up the turkey first of all, and tomorrow we shall have the beef probably.
Monday 11 August
We had intended to set off for St Jean de Losne after we had been to the Dole SFR branch to see what they could do about the dongle that wasn’t working on the French computer. We were there before they opened, only one girl working but boy could she multi-task. She said she would have to reboot the computer so we would lose a lot of our information and whilst she was doing this she was dealing with at least three other customers. Very impressive.
But it took an hour and we didn’t get back to the boat until 10.45, by which time it was getting cloudy and we would have had to cruise non-stop for St Jean de Losne. The big Aussie barge, Imagine, which had been hogging the electricity for quite a few weeks, went upstream past us during breakfast, and then downstream. We later had noticed that she had gone, so we decided we would stay one more day – we like Dole very much – and move the boat down to the mooring where she had been. There was only electricity here for two boats, and another old working barge was in the place where we last moored on our upstream journey.
Neville spent the rest of the day restoring the facilities on the computer so that we could at least download and send some emails and catch up with what has been going on in the world. Then we could get an early start the next day and hopefully be in St J de L around lunchtime with luck.
Tuesday 12th August
We were up early but the rain was bouncing off the roof of the boat and it didn’t seem wise to set off if we were going to get soaked within minutes whilst we cast off and tackled the first lock, about half a kilometre downstream. But by 7.40am the worst of the shower was over so off we went, just at the same time as a huge working barge moored a bit further downstream. So we hit the lock just a few minutes after him (no room for us) and of course bargees do everything slowly.
When we got to the second lock, he went in and the lock emptied, but then the two red lights came on indicating a breakdown in the locking mechanism. So he was stuck in there, and we were stuck out on the river. Fortunately there was a mooring stage so we tied up and waited for VNF to get on the job. Funny that, two lock malfunctions in three days! VNF don’t actually start work until 9.00am, but they must have an emergency technician because within 30 minutes we were underway again.
We could see a spectacular big black cloud heading east of us, and hoped it would pass us by, but unfortunately the canal meandered east and we were stuck in it. Boy did it rain! We were near a motorway and our only consolation as we waited to enter a lock amidst all this monsoon-like downpour was that at least we weren’t driving on the motorway – it would have been impossible.
And so most of our journey back to St Jean de Losne was undertaken in short, sharp showers and our gloves, trainers and even waterproofs were sodden. As we left the Canal du Rhône au Rhine (handing back our “zapper” for lock operation – I shall miss that), we headed downstream on the Saone. At one point the surface of the water was absolutely covered in twigs, branches and general debris which had been washed down a small gushing tributary into the calmer, quieter Saone. Clearly the weather had been bad all over the region and the river was running fast and high.
We went to the marina, but were redirected to the boatyard site which was on the banks of the Canal du Bourgogne and moored up alongside a rusting old hulk, across which we have to climb to get to our boat. We saw Philippe, the boatyard owner, who told us that the invertor would have to be sent back to Mastervolt for them to fix (or at least determine what had gone wrong). So we said that we would hand the boat over to him the following Tuesday and he could do what he has to do with the invertor and also complete the bottom blacking and shotblasting work that he already had scheduled for us for September. God only knows how much this lot is going to cost. And the invertor was just three years old. We were going to have stiff words with Mastervolt.
So we decided we would probably go up the Saone to Auxonne the next day, stay a couple of nights and maybe another night somewhere else and arrive back here on Monday. We booked our ferry home for Tuesday teatime, and would be in England for six and a half weeks. Quite a long time for us to be in one place.
By evening the rain had passed and there was a glorious but angry multicoloured sky as the steely clouds were replaced by fading blue.
Wednesday 13 August
Woke up to a wonderful day, such a contrast to yesterday. Our shoes, gloves and waterproofs had dried overnight in the engine room. We decided to stay here one day whilst Neville changed the oil on the engine and set off the next day for Auxonne, all being well. He struggled trying to remove the oil filter and had to buy a clamp tool from the supermarket (we’d left our car at St Jean de Losne so it was great having a car available to do these things) and then borrow a more sturdy version of the same tool from the guys in the boatyard. Eventually, close to 4pm, the job was done.
Thursday 14 August
Took the car round to the marina to leave it there for the next four days, and called at the lock-keeper’s office on the way back to advise our time of departure. He didn’t start emptying the lock for us until dead on nine o’clock, and it was gone 9.15 by the time we cleared it. We set off upstream along the Saone, and after half an hour were dismayed to see that we were being pursued at high speed by a police speedboat with flashing lights etc. We were sure we hadn’t done anything wrong.
They signalled we were to stop (right in the middle of a reasonably fast-flowing river) and secured themselves alongside. One of them asked if we spoke French so I indicated “only a little” and they said they wanted to “control” our boat. We have come across the European use of the word “control” before, when we were in Germany and had Neville’s father staying with us. When I had to take him to the doctor, he said he would have to “control” Frank’s chest. Would that that were possible!
Anyway, they asked to see our life jackets and fire extinguisher (checking the validity of the dates) and then all our boat documentation and VNF permits, and apologised, saying that this was a training exercise. There were eight policemen and woman on this small launch, plus a photographer who was snapping away taking pictures of the whole proceedings.
After a short while they pronounced everything in order and sped off, creating a huge wash for us which had us rolling like a channel ferry, and we later saw them collaring another boater. That was a good lesson in organisation for us….. fortunately we had everything collated altogether in one folder in the wheelhouse ,…. I would have hated to be stuck in the middle of a fast flowing river, rummaging around to find everything they wanted to see.
We arrived at Auxonne just after midday. We were amazed to see that the pontoons, at which we hope to spend at least another couple of days, were virtually full. A Frenchman with a small plastic boat indicated we could moor alongside him, and I asked if they were staying all day. They said not, so we tried to moor alongside a longer, stronger boat to wait for them to depart. But these Americans were unwilling, saying their cleats would not take the strain of two 20 odd ton boats. Pretty fragile cleats then!. But then the Frenchman moved his boat up a bit, the Americans moved theirs up a bit, and then we managed to squeeze in the remaining gap. We really didn’t want to continue on for another couple of hours to the next mooring. Later in the afternoon it started to rain again – and the river is already flowing quite fast again with loads of debris skimming by, branches, logs, weeds etc.
Friday 15th August
A mixed day, some sun, some showers. Today was a bank holiday in France so there was no market. The water skiers were out in force along the river, causing lots of turbulence. We were having problems getting a signal for the television, but although Neville eventually solved this by wedging the bow of the boat out from the bank, we had to have a loose bow line which made the turbulence worse. A pleasant relaxing day, and a friendly capitaine at the moorings who spoke many languages.
Saturday 16th August
A nice day, but quite a cool breeze. Went into the town early to get bread and salad. The mooring was quite crowded, and an American woman came from the end barge to have a chat around lunchtime. They had been moored at Grays, further up the river, but were moved on by VNF when the river rose during the downpours on Tuesday of last week.
The dog in the boat next door fell in the river when his dog ramp collapsed as he was boarding the boat. He soon got out though, in a very bad temper.
Quite late in the day a towering great “gin palace” turned up and hovered around waiting for us to invite him to breast up with us. Eventually he asked if he could, and though we agreed, we did point out that the pontoon was already broken and the effect of another large boat pulling on the already damaged, cordoned off section might be catastrophic. They moved off and moored next to the American barge, blocking their light and their view. It’s a dodgy issue this breasting up – no-one really likes it and everyone hopes people won’t do it, as you find yourself staring into the face of your neighbour all day. But really you should accept it with good grace, as it might be you who desperately needs to do it the next time. For this reason, especially in peak holiday periods (and this is a bank holiday weekend) we always try to get to our moorings by about lunchtime, so we don’t have to ask.
We planned to go out to eat in the evening, but after getting ready we found that both of the restaurants that we wanted to try had moved their tables and chairs inside, despite it being a relatively nice day. The French are a bit relaxed about smoking, and think that standing in the doorway of the restaurant smoking your head off is compliance with the law, so we decided to go back to the boat and eat in.
Sunday 17th August
A quiet day.
Monday 18th August
Set off around 8.20am, and arrived back at the boat yard about 11.30am, having had to wait a good 20 minutes for the lock at St Jean de Losne. Looking forward to going home the next day and having a bit of space and creature comfort for a few weeks. We’d be back in September, ready to tackle our journey down the Rhône to the Canal du Midi/Garonne.
During our time in UK, we had protracted discussions with Mastervolt and eventually secured a deal where they gave us a new one at a substantially reduced price – 2000 euros instead of 3500. We had little change out of 12,000 euros by the time we finished paying for everything that needed to be done. Chilling, but as long as we have relatively trouble-free cruising after this, the cost is more reasonable spread over the number of years we expect both the shot-blasting, bottom blacking and invertor to last.
It’s like people say – a boat is a large hole in the water, lined with steel, into which you pour all your money!