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 side....you 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.
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.
|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|
|A beautiful place to moor.|
|Our view from the wheelhouse|