Taking Leave of the French – July 2017

Taking Leave of the French…

It’s nine glorious years since I first started posting trip reports about our cruising activities in France, and now, sadly, this log is coming to an end.  It’s fitting, I guess, that the last report should start in pretty much the same way as the first one, with a picture of Desormais being lifted out of the water, this time in Macon, Bourgogne Franche-Comte as opposed to Newark, Nottinghamshire.

Macon is a commercial port, largely servicing container-carrying traffic, although it is a popular lift-out point for pre-sale boat surveys as well.  The crane is a monster, and its lifting capacity was never in question.  We understood the crane operator to tell the haulage company that the boat weighed approx 24 tons – we’d anticipated it was 26.

Once the boat was on the low-loader, Neville and I climbed up to dismantle the wheelhouse, a task we’d run through (in our minds only) several times, and it went fairly smoothly.  The upper sides of the wheelhouse (windows) hinge down against the lower sides, the front and back lie flat on the cabin roof, and three of the wheelhouse roof panels are lowered to fit across the top, protecting  the upholstery from the elements, with one panel and the upper half of the side doors being taken below.  That whole area was then tarped and roped by the hauliers.  It was a hectic afternoon, and took place in temperatures which soared into the mid thirties.

Three days later, and in thankfully coooler conditions, Desormais arrived at Redhill Marine, in the midlands where she was transferred onto a boat lift, lowered onto a trailer and transferred into the River Soar.

From there it was a short, leisurely journey around the corner onto the Trent and through at lock to her new permanent moorings.  We couldn’t help but marvel at the contrast between the Soar/Trent, and the vast expanses of the Saone and the Rhone that we’ve been used to for several years.  “They’re rivers, Neville, but not as we know them.”   🙂

Desormais is now resting at Sawley Marina, in the midlands where we hope to continue cruising for short periods and use her as a staging post for our trips to the north of England to visit family.  We’ll probably sell her sooner rather than later.

How it came about…

Sometimes you need to make changes in your life, and we decided about 18 months ago that we wanted to move to the Dorset coast.  Our last cruise was a short one, in September 2015 when we tackled the Saone heading north for the last time, calling at Gigny, Seurre, Auxonne, Pontailler and Gray.  The weather was mixed, with some glorious autumn sunshine punctuated by heavy deluges.

When we returned to Pont de Vaux, forging our way through a meadow of duckweed, we weren’t to know that this would be the last time we would return to our home port.

Canal Pont de Vaux

In May 2016,  having recently started advertising the boat for sale in a low-key way, we set off for our spring cruise as normal, but discovered that due to flooding we were unable to leave port due to the conditions on the river Saone, which was now level with lock which drops down onto it!

Indeed, shortly after arriving we were unable to get to our car on the carpark at Pont de Vaux without wading through water, and soon it became impossible to get the car out of the car park due to flooding on the access roads.  So we did the usual routine maintenance, had a couple of interested parties looking at the boat, and then when water levels permitted, came home early to deal with our move to Dorset which was by then a reality.

In November 2016, we visited the boat to winterise her, our first trip from our new base, and discovered the journey was much more onerous than when we travelled from Peterborough.  It was time to have a rethink.  Aside from anything else, we also had significant commitments relating to our new lives in Dorset.  Maybe it was time to think about bringing her home.

Autumn in Pont de Vaux

And so, on June 26th, 2017 we left Pont de Vaux for the last time and spent our final night on the boat in French waters, moored just north of the St Laurent Bridge, Macon, as we have on several previous occasions,  and where I took my last photo of the illuminations.


We’ve had a brilliant time cruising in France, and it’s an experience we can heartily recommend. We feel very envious of those who are starting their own French idyll at this time or in the near future and we hope that you enjoy the experience as much as we have.

If we had any advice to offer it would be this:

  • Do try to learn at least a little French, particularly if you are contemplating river cruising where you will need to be in radio contact with the lock-keepers.  It will come in handy anyway, wherever you are.
  • Don’t let the grumpy eclusiers get you down – there are as many good-natured and helpful lockies as there are bad-tempered ones.  Don’t let the latter spoil your cruising.
  • Be aware that the weather can be much more extreme than in England.  Besides being confined to port by floods we’ve also been stranded on flooded rivers. Equally, we’ve narrowly avoided being stranded on canals and rivers when water levels have dropped during long dry summer months.  You need to plan carefully with the weather forecast in mind, particularly if you’re a part time cruiser with commitments at home or work.
  • Don’t be nervous of cruising on rivers. It can be wonderfully relaxing compared to canals, but make sure you know the rules, the protocols, the risks and the terminologies you’re likely to encounter.
  • Be aware that certain spares and equipment can be more expensive in France (we found batteries particularly so).  Source them carefully, and carry spares where possible.
  • And lastly, why not keep a log?  You’ll be amazed how many times you’ll find yourself wondering what the name of a particular mooring was, or where you were at a particular time.  And it’s something you’ll enjoy reading and reliving when the time has arrived for the idyll to end.

Happy Cruising!




About Sandra

I used to cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and wrote fiction and poetry. Now I live on the beautiful Dorset coast, enjoying the luxury of being able to have a cat, cultivating an extensive garden and getting involved in the community. I still write fiction, but only when the spirit moves me - which isn't as often as before. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
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28 Responses to Taking Leave of the French – July 2017

  1. Shaun Cullen says:

    So, so sorry to hear that your adventure is over. You guys were one of our inspirations. Good luck and if you have a hankering, find us.


    • Sandra says:

      Aww, that’s lovely Shaun. If we ever find ourselves back around french waters again, we’ll keep a look out for you. Let us know the name of your boat – you might find us in a hire boat in a lock along side you! 🙂


  2. Sue says:

    Sounds like you’ve had some really great times on the French rivers, Sandra


    • Sandra says:

      It was an experience of a lifetime Sue, but there are other experiences to be had, I guess. We’ll never forget these days, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sue says:

        Well, that’s the thing…keep having great experiences! I’m glad I did a lot of travelling when I was younger and fitter – those travels have left me with brilliant memories. But I still intend to do more, but at a different pace, a smaller scale


  3. Sandra, Bill said to tell you that the day we spent on the river with the two of you was one of the highlights and best memories of a memorable trip to France. I’m sure you’ll miss this part of your life, but knowing the two of you, I’m sure you’ll fill that part with something equally interesting and enjoyable. Bon voyage!!



    • Sandra says:

      That was a lovely day, Janet, and we enjoyed meeting you both and taking a leisurely cruise down the river. We’re already immersed in lots of other activities that take up much of our time. There are things to be done with the house and garden, (we’ve grown all our own vegetables this summer), Neville has his locomotive voluntary work and today he’s taking his classic motorbikes to the Kingston Country Fair to show them. I help out on the village hall management committee and volunteer at the local animal rescue centre. And now and then I write! It’s good to know that Desormais is now close to hand, but in a weird way I’ll miss getting up at the crack of dawn, catching the early morning ferry/eurotunnel, driving and overnighting in France to reach her. Now we’re just four hours away. Thanks for reading and commenting, and best wishes to you both for a long and happy summer.


      • I don’t think it’s weird at all. When I was growing up, we used to leave for vacation early in the morning, when there were no other cars out and the stop lights were changing color but not one was there to stop or go. I still like to be on the road early and it brings back wonderful memories.

        Sounds as though you both have lots going on and are enjoying yourselves (and helping others), so that’s great.


  4. Joyce says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, Sandra, and all the other ones prior during the times you shared your experiences, cruising the rivers. Loved the photos, too. I have yet to even see France and England, but is on my ‘bucket list’. And boating is not something I’ve done, either much of since I don’t own one or are in to water sports. Here in Loveland, Colorado, U.S. we have a lot of lakes and rivers, but most of our sport fun is in our mountains, the Rockies as we have mountain property, that we’ve owned for 25 yrs., but since we are now retired we will either have to depend more on our kids to keep up and maintain our mountain property, or one day sell it. You have I’m sure inspired a lot of people out there in the blogosphere with your adventures. Thanks for sharing them all with us.


    • Sandra says:

      And thank you too, Joyce, for taking the time to read them. It’s good to know that people out there were enjoying them. If you ever find your way to England let us know you’re coming. If you turn left at Dover, and drive for four hours you’ll find us. 🙂 Now we’ve swopped canals and rivers for the sea, and now I enjoy the water from the land, but it’s still a beautiful life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joyce says:

        Yes, indeed. It sure sounds like it. Wonderful opportunities you’ve had. When we took our first trip to Hawaii (Kauai Island) in April I was so amazed at how beautiful, clear, blue and translucent the Pacific is there. We lived in Calif. for four years while my husband attended college in the late sixties and I never remember the Pacific being that color, like turquoise in some places, and sapphire in others, and just incredible views. I just couldn’t get enough pictures of it. 🙂 The Atlantic we’ve seen from all along the east coast on vacations and has a very different look, and colder but still loved the views and always loved hearing the sounds of breaking waves and tide coming in.


  5. Your cruising journey sounds relaxing, exciting and challenging at the same time as flooding occurred. We have had the experience of cruises yet, only flying so far!


    • Sandra says:

      Thank you for reading Miriam. Yes, we’ve enjoyed all aspects of our cruising life, the idyllic parts as well as the challenging ones, and there were plenty of those. I remember telling some friends about the time we had a scary encounter with a large commercial vessel entering a river lock and leaving us unable to untie our ropes as the volume of the tanker lowered the level of the river. They listened in horror, eventually saying “… and you do this for enjoyment????” But in a funny way, we did. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rosemarie says:

    A great write up as usually Sandra, sorry to hear that you have finally left France but glad to hear your trip and lift out and in went well. I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs over the years so thanks for sharing them.

    Good luck with your new life back in UK and very glad to have known you both and seeing you over the years. Will miss you and Neville. Who knows perhaps we’ll see you around in Sawley sometime.

    Lots of love Rosemarie and Bob xxx


    • Sandra says:

      Lots of love to you both Rosemarie and Bob. We enjoyed our get togethers whenever our paths crossed. You were one of the first people, and certainly the first Sagar owners, that we met back in 2008. That was our first summer in France, and we met at the DBA rally at Paray. I can still remember the salmon dish you served up at the get together, and your wonderful cakes. We hope you have many more happy years cruising. xxx Sandra & Neville.


  7. tony Grunder says:

    Been following your blog ….. You have been an inspiration with your photographs and well written blog …… four years to go to retirement and hopefully a barge in France … you have kept the idea alive ….. Good luck forward…


    • Sandra says:

      It’s always lovely to know that people have been reading the blogs. I remember once a complete stranger walking up to us somewhere in France and telling use he’d been reading all about our trips and was delighted to see the boat ‘in the flesh’. I’m sure those four years will fly by, and hope that you have many happy years of French cruising ahead of you. It will be an experience you’ll never forget. Thanks for commenting, Tony.


  8. Dale says:

    Such beautiful pictures to go with your adventures. I can understand the need to do something new… Lovely.


    • Sandra says:

      Thank you Dale. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed them. All I need to do now is get my writing mojo back working again, and start filling my days with something equally creative. Thanks for being there. x


  9. Shaun Cullen says:

    Sandra, our boat’s name is Elle. Blog is at http://www.eucruiserelle.blogspot.com
    Best wishes
    Shaun&Lynn Cullen


  10. It seems you’ve had nine wonderful years and you have made the decision to end in thoughtful manner. Best wishes on your NEW adventure.

    Dave and Julie


  11. Indira says:

    How adventurous life you live Sandra.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. restlessjo says:

    Nice to catch this end of an era post, Sandra. Sounds like you’ve had some fine times (and the odd nightmare 🙂 ). That’s life, isn’t it? I know Sawley marina because a close friend of my daughter lived on a houseboat there. I feel quite sad to be saying goodbye to your boat and I never even met her.


    • Sandra says:

      Thanks for commenting Jo. Yes, it feels like quite a milestone. I’ll still be cruising, but unless something really mind boggling happens, I probably won’t do any more trip reports. The whole idea of the blog came about when we were two days into our very first French trip and came across a sloping sided lock and couldn’t see how to use a rope to secure ourselves. I thought then “I wish I knew someone who’d used this type of lock before,” and so the Cruising in France page was born! 🙂


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