This is where it all began; early one Monday morning in April 2008 we drove to Kings Marina in Newark to sail Desormais through one lock round to Newark Marina, where she was due to be lifted out of the water, and onto the back of a lorry to start her journey to France. The wheelhouse had to be dismantled and stored inside the boat for the journey, and neither of us had attempted to do this before. The lorry was due to arrive at noon, but of course, it arrived early and the dismantling of the wheelhouse was eventually successfully completed, albeit in panic mode. The boat looked strange and vulnerable without the wheelhouse, but soon she was hoisted onto the trailer and the lengthy process of rigging and securing her began, taking several hours before it was completed to the satisfaction of the lorry driver and the accompanying ‘convoi exceptionel’ driver. It would be Wednesday lunchtime before we would see her again as she arrived at the boatyard at Migennes, northwest of Dijon.
When we arrived at Migennes, the river Yonne was running high and fast. Joe Parfitt, the boatyard owner was non-committal about whether he would be able to drop her into the water, and it might be that she had to be off-loaded onto chocks to await the right time. This would incur double craneage charges no doubt.
We hung around the boatyard most of the morning and then suddenly we saw the transporter with Desormais riding high and proud, trying to negotiate the entrance into the boatyard. For some reason I found this quite an emotional moment, rather like the re-appearance of a long-lost daughter. We had to climb up onto the trailer to re-erect the wheelhouse, (not something I’d like to have to do again) and by late afternoon we were ready to lift her into the water.
The guys at the boatyard had to move a number of breasted-up boats so that Desormais could go into the water right next to the quay, and this was where the fast-flowing Yonne might have presented a risk. But they knew what they were doing, and eventually, a space was made and lengthy preparations undertaken to make sure Desormais was securely balanced on the crane chains.
Watching her swing out across the quayside was yet another heart-stopping moment but within half an hour, Desormais was safely on the water, none the worse for her adventure. Grateful thanks to CPL (the transporter company) and Joe Parfitt for their expertise.
We spent the night on board before recommencing our journey back down to Spain, where the completion of the sale of our villa was imminent.
On our return, a month or so later, we began the first stage of our journey. We were both a little apprehensive, our boating experience having been limited to five or six years narrowboating on the UK canals, and a few weeks trying out Desormais on the canals and rivers around Brighouse. We had a lot to learn about the French waterways, and about barging in general. And even now, several years later, we are still learning….
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