The journey begins . . . here.
Thursday 28th June 2018
Blanzy to St-Leger-sur-Dheune
This was going to be a heavy boating day – 27 locks and 28 kilometres. We knew that. Since we were meeting my friend in St-Leger-sur-Dheune, we wanted to make sure we got there. And needed a bit of time out before she arrived. The great place across the canal opened at 07.00am so I nipped over for a quick coffee with my laptop to do a bit of banking and last minute communication. She even had decaf coffee. Have to love that! I suggested she promote her WiFi to waterway users but unfortunately – to conform with French legislation – she has to do a whole bunch of things she’s not willing to do.
And then we set off. I’m not sure if it’s typical of local weather patterns or the weather was unique the last few days. The hotter it got, the windier it got. This was a decidedly brisk day. Trees were heaving and there were little waves on the canal. Thank God I didn’t have to drive our boat. We had all the gear down so nothing could blow. And kept the engine running in the locks to help hold the boat in place. An old school lockie pitched up as we got going and popped up at each lock. He did have to make a few things work, that should have worked, but didn’t work. Like open a lock or close it. Or open the paddles. He would quietly pop inside the lock house or pick up this remote control thing and wiggle at controls.
What does an old school lockie look like? They have a bit of an ageing rock star look about them. And wear full VNF outfits. They’ve seen it all and have an unfazed demeanor. They know when to arrive and what isn’t going to work. They make it all happen with minimal fuss. But they also don’t fall over themselves to help with ropes in a lock. These locks were also filling hellava fast and that, combined with the wind, was turning an already busy boating day into a stressful one.
At our fourth lock the same lockie was quietly removing vast piles of grass built up in the lock and observed us. I saw more VNF staff and vans rocking up. Much chatting between them and our lockie. I suspect they were engineers. They all stood and watched us. I couldn’t help but wonder what was being discussed. It was all in French so we would never know.
We climbed 17.5 metres in the locks to Montchanin which is the summit of this area. You can see the etangs (resevoirs) which feed the canals as you pass. And we dropped 66.9 metres down by the time we got to St-Leger-sur-Dheune. Some of the locks on the other side of Montchanin are deep. Montchanin marina is as awful as we remembered it from the previous year. Dead beat boats galore, not only tied up but toppled over on the banks. Plus old cars and anything you can think of wrecked and decrepit all lying around in a mess. I would call that a junk yard, not a marina.
A hire boat full of Germans joined us as we approached our 20th lock of the day. As we got closer to the lock we realised the lights weren’t on. We’d learned not to go in and hope for the best. Instead my husband tried to hold the boat in the howling gale and phone the Help Centre. The woman who answered didn’t understand a word we were saying.
Why would we phone the Help Centre if we didn’t need help? Complete waste of time. The Germans climbed off their boat, walked to the lock house and pushed the emergency button. Then phoned. Then pushed the emergency button again. And phoned again. We waited 45 minutes for the lights to finally come back on.
At the very next lock there was more commotion. The VNF staff had all rocked up there. Fortunately a young lockie popped over to explain that two humungous Dutch commercial barges were coming through. One would pass and then we could go through, but the other one was so big it basically obstructed the canal. He suggested we tie up and helped us with our ropes. Been a while since we saw a boat that size. How they fit through the locks is a miracle.
We arrived in St-Leger-sur-Dheune at 17.30pm. Tied up and plopped onto our bed to rest our feet. After a drama filled day a quiet night was much needed.
The journey continues . . . . . . right here.