The journey begins . . . here.
Then we set off up the Petit Saone toward Gray. This was new territory. Quite where to tie up was a quandry as for some reason the French have decided to reinforce the quays by dropping concrete blocks only half way up. Standing on the quay, or even from the water, you can’t see the concrete block. It appears possible to tie up – but a mere metre below the surface is a big fat block of concrete guaranteed to damage the hull of a boat. Had they put the concrete blocks all the way up – it wouldn’t have been a problem.
Gray looked lovely, but of course, we had to pass through it as we weren’t about to risk damage to our boat. So we tied up at a camping site on the outskirts of the town. It cost a mere €5 per night and had water, electricity. Facilities in the camping zone were nicer than those next to the water. Unfortunately no Wi-Fi. It was a short walk back into town and we went right past a LIDL, so had a great spot to buy provisions. We had a drink at a local brasserie next to the Saone, watched the fish in the water. So mesmerising. Then ambled back to our boat. Being tied up on the outer perimeter of the town was peaceful. We slept well.
Sundays not a lot happens in France – and even less in a small town so we took the day off and had a lie in, did very little and promptly had an afternoon snooze. We were awoken by a bunch of wandering mistrels who came to have a picnic. They bellowed out lyrics, bashing away at their guitars with gusto. After a full afternoon of it, I confess I was wishing them away.
Monday we set off for the Tourism Office. Our map was a bit old and it had moved so we couldn’t find it. But we did with help from locals. Such a lovely lady working there. She couldn’t do enough to help us and gave us the one thing we had been wanting for years – a VNF waterways map of France – in English! Our original one was tattered and torn from years of use. We wanted to take one home and frame it so we would have memories of where we had travelled. They no longer print them hence our difficulty finding another copy.
Next to us people were coming and going. Mostly hire boats but some boat owners too. A party of New Zealand couples, an elderly Swiss couple. Gray is a lot smaller than we were expecting. Once we’d done the historical walk, seen the river, and got to know our way around, it seemed pointless hanging around for the sake of it. We still had this oil leak that had to be sorted and so we decided to rather return to St-Jean-de-Losne via Pontailler-sur-Saone earlier.
We’ve seen our fair share of odd things on the waterways over the years, but on the trip to Pontailler-sur-Saone, I saw some of the worst ever. First lock, three boats went into a lock. A couple on a hire boat at the rear were right next to the gadget to activate the lock. They made no effort to tie up. Or activate the lock. You can’t miss the mechanism. And you cannot get the locks to work any other way.
We all waited and nothing happened. There was a man in the drivers seat gazing around expectantly. And a woman on the fordeck cuddling her dog. We motioned for them to pull the lever. And pointed to it. She looked around in total amazement. She looked at the mechanism but did nothing. Again and again, we called to her to please activate the lock. She then tried to feebly tie one rope to the steps on the side of the lock. And promptly gave up on that. We had no way of getting off our boat. Thankfully, a bloke from the boat in front managed to jump from the roof of his boat to the quay and did the job.
Next lock, we were behind a group of youngsters. There were three boats angling to go into the lock together. As you do when there’s enough space for three boats. The younsters tied up – and immediately pulled the lever – before we were even properly in the lock. We hadn’t tied up yet! I was so cross that I shouted at them. Not sure they understood English, but I tried to explain they could cause an accident if water came in before we were secure. And further to that, they now forced the boat at the rear to have to wait for the lock to fill – and empty again – before it could pass through. For no good reason. The extremely hot summer and insufficient rain, had casued some of the waterways to close down and instead of maximising use of a lock, here this group were wasting water.
At the last lock of the day two ‘Le Boat’ hire boats went into the lock together and were not happy to share with us. There was more than enough space for two more boats. Again, I called out to the driver asking if he could move over and make space for us and the boat waiting outside the lock. He flat out refused to move and told us their party had been instructed by ‘Le Boat’ not to allow more than two boats in a lock at any given time. We squeezed in anyway but the other boat had to wait outside the lock unfortunately. I can understand ‘Le Boat’ would want maximum manoeuvreability to minismise damage to their boats. Particularly since they have novice drivers. Bit I do think that it’s a selfish policy to inflict on other waterway users.
Back at St-Jean-de-Losne we found a spot right near the marina. Handy for Wi-Fi, showers, toilets, the local supermarket, etc. My other half had made yet another appointment with someone to look at his concerns the following day. And the pre-sale inspection was to take place. We needed to find boxes and start packing too.
The journey continues . . . . . .