Read from the start – here
We made a reasonable start to the day. At Saint-Symphorien we entered the first lock and were given a remote control as the locks there are automated. This one had to be kept charged to work. Was much bigger than previous ones. And gave little messages as it did it’s job. We would be locking up all the way up to Besançon. The first 3 locks we shared with a hire boat couple. They stopped for lunch so we pushed on. En route we passed a massive chemical factory built right next to the canal. Sky scraper towers of pipes and silos with steam pouring out. Seemed such a pity to have this eye sore in the midst of such beautiful countryside.
We shared the last lock with another hire boat couple. And came alongside a steep paved bank in Dole. It was the last spot. No facilities. An Englishman helped us with the ropes and invited us to join them on their boat for a drink. We first wanted to find out what was on offer before the various offices closed. So dashed off to the Capitain’s office across the water. At the Tourist Info Office we were given a free walking map of Dole. There was also a chance to climb to the top of the Collegial Church for €3 until 20.00pm. On any other day I may have considered it but all I wanted was to wash and settle down.
Back at the boat we showered and went next door to have a drink with our fellow boaters. Lovely couple. Newbie boat owners. Our problems with our generator were mild compared to their engine problems. But that’s boating for you. We could all recite the boaters mantras – “Owning a boat is like taking a shower and tearing up bank notes.” And the other one – “Owning a boat is like throwing money into a hole in the water.” They showed us their boat and we took them to have a look at ours. Always amazes me how boats can be so completely different. Even similar boats.
One thing about European villages and towns is they all have at least one church. With bells. That chime. Around 07.50am the bells started. They weren’t counting out the time. Nor a tune. It seemed they wound up a coil and the bell got going furiously and slowly petered out until it all stopped about 5 minutes later. By then I was awake. We said goodbye to our neighbours, who wanted somewhere quieter, and moved our boat across the river so we could connect to shore power and water. Then hot footed it up to the local market. It’s a covered market that sells produce. Outside are street vendors selling clothes and other items.
We’re learning to not be seduced by local markets. A person can end up buying loads of food if not careful. It’s so fresh and lovely. The Burgundy region is renowned for it’s pale Charollais cows and their produce. We were happy with crisp organic carrots, fresh frilly lettuce and fragrant heads of garlic. I made us sticky soy strips, a huge finely sliced salad with fennel, white cabbage, lettuce and cucumber drizzled with a garlicky, soy yogurt and lemon dressing with our market purchases. Of course we had local wine and Cote D’Or Noir chocolate.
We did the walking tour of Dole on a Sunday morning. It’s not a huge city but we wanted to do the walk when it was quietest. And coolest. By now it was hotting up. Three days of 31’C on a trot. We kept all the curtains closed and covers over the boat windows. Some people place towels and sheets over their windows to break the heat coming in. We also saw foil heat reflective panels as well as mirror film on other boat windows. How about air conditioning on a boat? Yip, it’s around this part of France that the split between the north and the south happens. Europe and the Mediterranean. The cooler and the hotter climates.
Apart from hire boats coming and going – there are a few hire boat bases in the area – other boaters were making their way from north to south. Heading off to cruise the Mediterranean countries and islands. I never saw commercial boats on this bit of waterway. Saw a few yachts but it was mostly motor cruisers.
Dole is a lovely place. Lots of heritage going back to Roman times. Light stone buildings and a moat all around. One nice thing about a town walk is, even if you don’t care for history, you get to see the best bits of a place. Back at the boat we had lunch and lazed about reading and trying to keep cool. At some point the shore power went down. I decided to take an early shower while there was still daylight. Some amenities are impeccable. Some are not. By Sunday late afternoon these facilities were ready for a clean. The place was done in that 60’s and 70’s decor. Beige basins and toilets with burnished copper coloured wall tiles. That look is most probably trendy again. The promised 7 minutes of hot water was more like 2 minutes but with the heatwave I wasn’t too unhappy with cold water.
After a lazy start to the following day we untied and got going toward Besançon. It was hot, hot, hot. The radar arch was folded down so we could squeeze under bridges and was occupying space on the deck. The only cool place was on the side of the boat in a slight breeze and the shade of our awning. At 6kms an hour there wasn’t much wind. I was watching dragonflies flitting across the top of the water. Blue cranes swooping past and locals walking, cycling and rollerblading on the town path. Unbeknown to us it was a public holiday in France and all the world was out enjoying the sunshine.
We were making good progress when a lock failed to open. Double red lights came up. The remote control told us it was an “incident”. There’s always that dilemma, do you re-push the buttons or hope the problem rectifies itself? Two policemen were at the bridge and we wondered if there was a security issue. After waiting long enough to become impatient we tied up and went to see what was going on. Nothing we could see, so we pushed the Help button and called VNF. They arrived shortly and turned out a tree branch had obstructed the lock gate from opening properly. The Eclusier (lock keeper) removed the branch and re-set the lock so we could pass through.
The heat was becoming unbearable so we stopped at Ranchot around 15.30pm. It was one of the places we had in mind for a potential stop. We took a late mini siesta and then went walkabout. There was nothing that piqued our interest and it was a tad cooler so we decided to carry on. Our next stopping place was Saint Vit. The Guide Fluvial map showed shops and a reasonable sized town so we walked 2 kilometres uphill from port de plaisance. I grabbed a pair of flip flops from the deck as we wanted to get to the shops before they closed, only to find everything was closed. Then we discovered it was a bank holiday. We trekked back downhill to the boat showered in warm water. The slow speed limit prevented the boat from heating our water. I made a big fat salad green salad. It was all we could bring ourselves to eat. We were the only people at this mooring. It was so quiet and tranquil.
We hoped to reach Besançon in a day and made an early start. The locks only open 8.30am so a person can’t start any earlier. What a difference it was travelling in the morning. At one lock we encountered a family trying to recover their house keys with a magnet. The keys had fallen in the lock. They kindly helped us with our ropes. Some of the locks were deep that I couldn’t reach or even see the bollards. We passed a lock of 3.8 metres and a double lock of 5 metres. There are slimy steps that you can climb to get out a lock but I’m terrified of heights so that job fell to my better half. One thing I do love about locks is the smell of the spray as water rushes in. It’s a fresh earthy smell.
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