Sunday, 27 April 2014

PK 78 Les Granges to Baye - An epic and eventful day

Saturday 26th April
Plan 8 locks and 4km
Actuality 24 locks, 3 tunnels and 12km!

The plan was to have a short day today (8 locks and 4km) to the bottom of the Sardy flight, we were going to save these 16 locks and the tunnels for Sunday.  This didn’t happen.  At our first lock we were greeted by 4 eclusiers, who whisked us through the first lock in break neck speed (about 5 minutes!).  

For those who haven’t been in a 'manual' French lock (ecluse) and going up, what normally happens is you have 1 eclusier to take you through the lock.  To let you enter the lock, he opens one gate with a windy handle, walks all the way around the lock over the closed gates at the other end of the lock, to open the other gate on the opposite slowly enter.......while you are sorting out your ropes onto the bollards, which you often can’t see, the eclusier closes the gate he’s just opened, walks all the way around the lock back to the other gate to close it.  He then walks back to the other end of the lock to start opening the sluices to fill the lock.  This takes quite a while as often the lock keeper walks extremely slowly and is usually on the phone!  This normally takes about 20 minutes a lock.

So on our first lock of the day we had 4 guys, working the lock and from then on they shared the locks between them, 2 guys per lock in 2 VNF vans.  The eclusiers seemed all set to continue in taking us all the way up the flight of 16 locks from Sardy. As it was such a lovely sunny day and we were making such good time, we decided to carry on to Baye.  (Last year we came down the Sardy flight in drizzle, with single manned locks, holiday students, all very, very slow.  That day it took us 7.5 hours to do just the 16 locks and the tunnels.)

Today we did the first 6 of the 24 locks in one hour, including travelling time, we all got very slick, one guy would be closing the second gate while the other would be opening the sluices. 

On the 7th lock it got a bit too speedy.  One of the lock keepers opened the sluices before Kev and I were locked off with our ropes, our 38 tonne boat shot forward, I tried stupidly to keep hold onto my rope to finish locking it off, I didn’t succeed.  Kev got back control by putting the engine into reverse to stop the boat possibly hitting the gate, while one of the lock keepers helped give us back our ropes. 

We prefer to use our ropes to control the boat in the locks rather than use the engine with a rope attached at the bow, which we know is an option. It means you are not sitting in a lock filling up with exhaust fumes with the noise of the engine running, and also it conserves fuel.  The lock keeper apologised to me saying he was too hasty. 

When we got to the next lock, the other 2 guys were horrified when they saw me with bashed hands covered in plasters, and fingers still bleeding.  At the next lock they reprimanded their colleague and he turned to me and put his hands in a prayer position and bowed to apologise yet again!  He did slow down a little after that, checking our ropes were locked off before opening the sluices.

It was amazing how the guys worked so well together as a team, after lunch we just had 2 guys to work the last 9 locks, but we still did them in 1¾ hours.  It was great how they worked together but we did feel like we were catapulted up the locks, not really having a chance to enjoy the lovely scenery. 

After the final lock we said thank you and goodbye to our lock keepers, they were fantastic, and the lock keeper apologised one more time!  We had to wait 45 minutes for two boats to come through the Baye tunnels but we were still moored up overlooking the Étang du Baye by 4.30pm.

We are going to stay here a few days.  We ordered our bread for the morning from a B&B that is also a Depot du Pain.  We hope the weather is nice enough over the next few days for us to go for a long walk around the lake.  But we don’t mind if it rains a bit as we want to make sure there aren’t water shortages in the canals this year as we hear they have had a very dry winter.

Lock keeper crew number one
very helpful chaps, even the one on the left!

Lock keeping crew number two
also very helpful chaps

So peaceful

Could have been much worse

A nice place to have to stop for lunch
Unusual scultpures, an artist/stone mason lives in the lock keepers cottage

You can see then next lock ahead, not far to go

The one way section to take you to the tunnels

The longer of the 3 tunnels, nice that you can see the end.
There are footpaths either side, but the right hand foot path ends about 50m from the exit of the tunnel
I remember that when we came through this tunnel last year coming
from the other direction, that this footpath came as a surprise,
so watch out for it if you are entering from Baye

A beautiful place to moor.

Our view from the wheelhouse

Friday, 25 April 2014

Monceaux le Comte to PK 78 Les Granges

Friday 25th April
9 locks and 4 drawbridges 12.5km 9am – 2.45pm

We had an amazing meal at Auberge du Centre last night.  The hosts are a husband and wife team, we believe from Switzerland, and they spoke perfect English so we cheated and spoke quite of bit of English last night.  It’s a really lovely restaurant, great food, we really recommend stopping at Monceaux le Comte.  We didn’t stop there last year partly because the logs that were being sprinkled looks quite off putting.  Admittedly the woodpile was bigger last year, but once you are moored up the sound of the sprinklers is fine.

We had arranged to be at our first lock at 10am, but we knew we had two swing bridges to get through before we got to the lock so we set off just before 9am.  We have found that some of the swing bridges have been changed to push button affairs from last year so they are much easier and quicker.  So we were early for our first lock, luckily the lock keeper was there so we managed to get started straight away.

We were aiming for Chitry les Mines where we moored last year, there is a brilliant chandlery there in the village, so worth visiting, Ted Johnson who runs the chandlery is English and he can order you items to pick up on your way through if need be.  We knew there was going to be work done at the port and canal during the winter, but when we arrived at Chitry it was evident that it wasn’t finished and we couldn’t moor there.  So we had to carry on until we got to the next lock, not far, but nowhere really to moor up.  The banks on either side had all been worked on, and the soil looked loose so wouldn’t hold our pins, and the sides were sloping so shallow.  Kev and I ended up having a ‘discussion’ about where we should moor up, both with different ideas, the wind had increased and we found that we were floating quietly to the side, a perfect mooring manoeuver.  We were getting rather irate with each other, (we hadn’t had any breakfast, and it was coming up to lunchtime), but when we noticed that we had moored perfectly without either of us doing anything we burst out laughing, so we kissed and made up!

We had told our lock keeper who had been with us all day that we were going to stop at Chitry, so we didn’t think we would be able to carry on, but he appeared at 1pm after his lunch to work the lock for the yellow sailboat.  We shared the next 3 locks with the sailboat to a Locoboat marina at PK 78.  It’s a great spot, nice clean pontoon, electric and water, the charge is 13.50 euros per night.  So the washing and dishwasher has been on.  No other facilities though, no shops, restaurants, and no boulangerie.

We had a lovely hot shower, changed into clean clothes, took a little walk to see the next lock, and we are now sitting with a glass of wine.  We keep saying we are not going to drink today, but by the end of the day our resolve weakens.  We are both stiff and achy, throwing ropes and keeping control of the boat as the lock fills is hard work.  And we have both forgiven each other for getting crotchety so all is well with the world!

This second swing bridge of the day was manual 

The gentleman from the yellow sail boat kindly opened our swing bridge for us
a previous swing bridge the lock keeper worked for us so its been an easy day for me really

All the boats that normally moor at Chitry were moored here at PK85

Our helpful and friendly Lock keeper
He must think we are right numpties, we really struggled throwing our ropes in the first lock
All the locks today were around 2.6m deep, and the bollards are usually set far back,
I stand on the roof to see them but for some reason today
my rope throwing was not good, very frustrating.

Sharing the lock with the yellow sailboat

I am not sure if this will work,
its a video of one of the locks today

Our mooring at Les Granges Locoboat Marina PK 78

So no stopping at Chitry les Mines today, it will have saved us quite a bit of money
because no doubt we would have visited the chandlery there!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Villers sur Yonne to Flez Cuzy / Flez Cuzy to Monceaux Le Comte

Villiers sur Yonne - A fab mooring
Free electric and water
A lovely morning at Villiers-sur-Yonne

Wednesday 23rd April
Villiers-sur-Yonne to Flez-Cuzy (Tannay)
5 Locks, one swing bridge 9.5km

We had an easy trip to Flez-Cuzy near Tannay. It was another beautiful sunny morning, we were moored up by 12.15pm.  After lunch we cycled up to Tannay to look around, the bakers were closed until 3.30pm, so we decided not to wait and cycled back down the hill to the boat.  We visited Tannay last year, but walked up the hill, it was much easier on our bikes (especially on the way down).  Later in the afternoon we walked over the river Yonne to Flez-Cuzy to at Bar/restaurant that said they were also a Pain Depot, and we bought the last baguette and we each had a small glass of the local vino, 4 euros.

Our last lock of the day, a double lock

The second lock of the double lock

The leaves are starting to come out
We also saw our first family of ducklings today, very cute

Our mooring at Flez Cuzy a Le Boat centre

This is the wine cave we visited at Tannay last year, we still have lots left from last year
Its worth visiting, they do great reds, and a very nice Chardonnay

 Thursday 24th April

Flez-Cuzy to Monceaux le Comte
3 locks one swing bridge 5km

It rained during the night but we woke up to another lovely sunny, and very mild morning. We left at 9am as we had arranged to be at our first lock for 9.30am, and just as we arrived the lady eclusier arrived in her van. She took us through our 3 locks for the day and we arrived at Monceaux le Comte at 11.40am.  We saw no other boats today.  We moored up in a lovely spot where they have massive tree trunks piled up being constantly watered.  We walked into the small village to see if the advertised Bolangerie was open, but it was closed due to illness.  We located the restaurant we are booked in for tonight, it looks great and then walked back to the boat to read our books and attempt some more fishing.

Our mooring at Monceaux le Comte
See the felled trees being sprinkled with water

Our restaurant for tonight 

This old house is for sale