Barging in Burgundy
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Day Twenty-Six – 23rd July 2017
St-Leger-sur-Dheune to Montchanin
We knew this was going to be long boating day. A friend was joining us on the boat and it’s not possible from a tiny village. She simply wouldn’t be able to get to us. It had to be somewhere she could arrive by train. The nearest likely place was Montceau-les-Mines. It would take one long day to make it in time to meet her. The waterways Gods were on our side. We passed two boats the entire day, no queues and no waiting about. It was cloudy, but not raining, ambient temperature was just right. The locks were all set and waiting for us. The first half of the 19 locks we travelled in tandem with a French family and their grandchildren. Grandpa was doing his best to school the older child in ways of the canals. The hapless child managed to get tangled in stinging nettles and wasn’t altogether enthusiastic. They stopped for lunch and we did the last locks on our own.
No matter how you set up your fenders, you always end up having to move them. On each side of our boat we have 4 main fenders as well as two smaller ones on the upper front and two big heavy ones at each end of the lower back. The placement of bollards, and the unit to set the locking up or down in motion, varies so much in the locks as you move from area to area. Just when you get your fenders right, next thing they’re in the wrong place and our boat gets a scuff mark. These locks were a mix of deep ones with floating bollards and shallower ones. The floating bollards can take a while to come loose and float. Then they suddenly free up and jerk a bit.
Montchanin seemed a good place to stop. Nice big town and the waterways guide indicated a port with water and electricity. We finally got there and found a junk yard full of old boats. No electricity or water. Bit of a let-down. Our next plan was to tie up to a tree on the side of the canal. Turned out to be a lovely spot. Even though it was a Sunday we decided to walk the 2.5 kilometres to see what Montchanin had to offer. I think it’s safe to say that if a town doesn’t have a Tourist Info Office, they are not geared for visitors. And maybe a good way to determine which towns to stop and enjoy, and which ones to skip.
We were walking 2.5 kilometres back to our boat, when we saw a boat with a Dutch flag, which looked like it was going the same direction as us. We greeted them in Dutch. Mistake. They were French. Not sure how that worked as we checked the angle of the flag and it most definitely was a Dutch flag. Then we asked if they would be happy to share a lock with us. They seemed to think two boats would be a tight fit. Our boat is 12.6 metres long and their boat was slightly shorter. These particular locks are designed to take barges up to 38.5 metres. Our reasoning was we would both easily fit in a lock together.
Day Twenty-Seven – 24th July 2017
Montchanin to Montceau-les-Mines
Bright and early we readied ourselves and headed over to meet the French couple. They got going a bit earlier than us. Dutch flag was missing, I particularly wanted to double check it.
The lock-keepers were nice and early on the job too – preparing the locks. We went into the first lock with the French couple. This bloke parked his boat right in the middle of the lock making it very difficult for us to fit in. I can understand when you’re locking up, wanting a bit of space in front to avoid the avalanche of water that surges in, but locking down, that size gap was unnecessary. But to be fair, one never knows which is the best bollard to tie up to, and maybe they got it wrong first lock of the day.
Once the lock opened, they bolted out the lock like a bat from hell and went speeding off ahead of us. Not wanting to be left behind, we did our level best to keep up. As fast as we caught up, they would go even faster. The wash he was creating didn’t help us one bit. Both his engine exhausts were spewing out plumes of thick smoke. It got to a point where our boat simply couldn’t go any faster. We were being sucked to the bottom of the canal. This pattern of leaving us almost no space to tie up in the locks and trying to lose us between locks continued for the next 7 locks. Bit of a hint maybe? Fortunately they tied up in Blanzy and we got to Montceau-les-Mines in record time so a win situation for us. This region is so beautiful, rolling hills, farms and areas thick with trees. The French are lucky to live is such a beautiful country.
We did the last two locks in light drizzle and found a place to tie up in Montceau-les-Mines. Not as busy a port as we were expecting. The Tourist Info Office/Capitainerie closes between 12.00pm and 14.00pm so we had lunch and read up on what to do in Montceau and our journey going forward. Later we popped into the office and a helpful woman gave us all the basic info. Of course the wi-fi wouldn’t work. We ask ourselves this question over and over. How come we can stay at a hotel or go to a wi-fi cafe and get on wi-fi just like that. Yet this Beespot or whatever service the marinas choose to use is almost always hopeless. Across the road was a cafe. No wi-fi there. And as we went from one cafe to the next – same story. We finally found a hotel with wi-fi, had a drink and got lost in communication.
Back at the boat we showered and caught up on photos. We had a snack supper. It drizzled some more. I love being on the boat when it rains. The sound of rain dropping on the deck is so soothing.
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