Wednesday, 28 May 2014


Just a very quick update.......we are still in Roanne!  We are enjoying the town, marina, especially the extremely friendly long term residents of the marina, so we have decided to stay until Monday 2nd June.  Normal posts will resume once we start travelling again.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Chambilly to Briennon/Briennon to Roanne

Wednesday 13th May
Chambilly to Briennon
3 Locks 16km
We set off at 9.30am, sharing the first lock of the day with a small hire boat.  We continued to share all the locks with them.  We had a lovely trip to Briannon, noting some places we want to stop at on our return journey.  As this canal is a dead end, terminating at Roanne we will have to retrace our steps.

There is a nice marina at Briennon, its quite small and busy and no room for us, so we moored up on a grassy bank; there was only one bollard so we used our pins and spirofix to make sure we were secure.

We had been told about a very annoying church clock at Briennon that chimed twice on the hour and half hour 24/7.  Someone (an insomniac maybe) must have sabotaged it as there was no chiming clock during our stay!

Most of the locks on this canal have a fast flowing outlet of water
just in front of the entrance to the lock,
you maybe able to see it coming out of the wall on the right

Interesting lock gate mechanism

One of the deeper locks 6m

The lock keepers help with the ropes and the lock chamber fills very sedately

Beautiful scenery

A large restaurant boat that sets out from Briennon
Luckily we met it on a wide section

Black clouds looming behind

Our mooring at Briennon

Thursday 14th May
Briennon to Roanne
3 locks 15km

We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, but this unfortunately disappeared to become a cloudy, chilly, very breezy day.  We got to our first lock for 9am as arranged.  The lock keeper was a little late and we were concerned we wouldn’t make the last lock into Roanne marina before they closed for lunch, but we made it with 30 minutes to spare and we were moored up by 12 noon.

The Roanne lock keeper kindly rang the Captainaire of the marina called Hervé to say we had arrived.  Hervé walked round from his office to speak to us while we were still in the lock to tell us where to moor.  We had booked online on the Roanne website so he knew we were arriving.  At our first mooring we found that we didn’t have an electricity point that worked that was close enough; so later in the afternoon we changed to a mooring with electric.  Kev did a magnificent job of mooring up in a very tight space with very strong winds.  We moored up perfectly; he says it was more by luck than judgment!

We were told about a regular Thursday drinks party at a bar overlooking the marina and we invited to join the group.  We had a great time meeting people many who are long-term residents at the marina.  They were really friendly, so much so they invited us to join them for a Chinese lunch buffet tomorrow.

 Leaky lock gates and a very active water outlet on the left.

Our second lock of the day just about to depart. 

Our last lock of the day coming up only 0.6m
a fairly brisk wind blowing as you may see with the flags
The wind got stronger later in the afternoon

A large expanse of water in the marina

Our final resting spot.
We hope we will stay here for at least one week, if not two

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Beaulon to Pierrefitte-sur-Loire/Pierrefitte sur Loire to Chambilly on the Canal de Roanne á Digion;

Monday 12th May
Beaulon to Pierrefitte-sur-Loire
5 locks 19km
We stayed an extra day in Beaulon, it was a nice spot, there was a great bakers and butchers, both open on a Sunday morning.  So we had a relaxing day, had a boules game where we scored and Kev beat me 15 – 10, so we will have to have a re-match.  We had some thundery showers during the day which were quite heavy.

We had a thunderstorm Sunday afternoon
and I was amazed to witness a very low slung rainbow, you can just see it above the telegraph wires

Our mooring at Beaulon after the storm

Storm clouds still looming
We had booked the lock at Bealon for 9am on the Monday and the lock keeper was there dead on time.  We had a great trip through the 5 locks, all the lock keepers very helpful with the ropes; the last lock we had to do after their lunch break.  We arrived at Pierrefitte-sur-Loire at 1.45 and decided to stop and moor up.  There was a shop signposted in the village so we got our bikes off the boat and cycled to buy some bread etc.

We were visited by a VNF man in his van.  He explained that the canal further along, where would be going tomorrow was going to be shut between 11am-3pm as they were doing work on a bridge and we would have to go through the first lock by 9am to be certain to be past that section before it was shut, so that put paid to our planned lazy start to the day!

Tuesday 13th May
6 locks 36km (7 hours our longest day so far this year)

We were woken up at 5am this morning hearing a scrabbling on the deck above our bedroom.  We banged on the roof and we heard footsteps that sounded like a mammal walk along the side of the boat.  I got up to see if I could work out what it was but couldn't see anything, the fact I couldn't find my glasses and I hadn't got my contact lenses in might explain why!  We are not sure what it was.

We set off at 8.15am this morning to make sure we got to our first lock in plenty of time, we arrived at 8.40am and the lock keeper just arrived, so we were through our first lock before 9am, a first!  We had one more lock, and about 3km to get through the section they were closing.  We did in great time, with about 50 mins to spare. 

The river Loire close to the canal

The bridge they are working on

By 10.40am we left the Canal Lateral a la Loire turned into the Canal de Roanne à Digion.  We were unsure how far we would go before we moored up for the day.  We did think we’d save the very deep lock 7.2m until tomorrow, but we did everything in such good time, and the locks (all going up) were incredibly gentle so we carried on to Boug-le-Comte the deep lock.

The first three locks on the Canal de Roanne à Digion were all automatic but there was a lock keeper present who used a boat hook to collect our ropes.  The third automatic lock was 6m deep but very gentle.  Some of the locks have water flowing out from the left just in front of the lock entrance which makes entering a little difficult.  We left the third lock at 12 noon, and we had a clear run, no more locks for 16km so we carried on, eating lunch on the move.

The Bourg-le-Comte lock looked quite daunting as we came up to it.  There is a long straight canal section before the lock, about 0.5km so from a distance it looked like the lock gates were shut, even with our binoculars. So we slowed down thinking maybe a boat was coming down the lock, as we got closer we realised the lock gates were actually open and we could enter.  The top section of the gates don’t open.  We had joined ropes together to make them long enough and the lock keeper used a hook on a rope to collect the rope on the bow, and there were bollards in the wall for the stern that Kev used, moving up to the next bollard as we came up the lock.  It was again really gentle, no straining on the ropes, just smoothly raising us up the 7.2m.

We decided to moor up at Chambilly because two hire boats got in front of us just after the deep lock.  They had moored up after that lock, possibly for lunch and when they saw us coming I think they decided to leave their mooring to get to the next lock before us.  We were pretty tired by then so we thought it was a good reason to stop for the day.

We have had mixed weather today, some sunshine, but some very heavy downpours.  Weather is set to improve for the weekend.

Difficult to tell that the gates were open for us

A little easier to see now, the top section stays closed,
only the lower section opens to let you enter the lock
You can see on the left where water is streaming out causing a current
and the leaky lock gates at the far end of the lock

Quite deep, quite clautraphobic

Looking back you can see how high the lock has taken us up 7.2m

Our mooring at Chambilly, sloping sides but seems ok with our pin fenders

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Canal Lateral a la Loire Decize marina to Gannay-sur-Loire/PK 52 Gannay-sur-Loire to PK 44.5 St Martin-des-LaisSt Martin-des-Lais to Beaulon

Thursday 8th May
Canal Lateral a la Loire
Decize marina to Gannay-sur-Loire
5 locks and 15km

We enjoyed our two-night stay at the Decize marina.  On Wednesday evening we had dinner at Le Charolais, only about 15 minute walk from the marina.  They are closed Monday and Tuesday, which is why we stayed the two nights in Decize.  We had a fabulous meal, we would highly recommend the restaurant.  Even though it’s called Le Charolais they also serve excellent fish and seafood. 

I spent Wednesday washing everything in sight, bedding, towels, clothes, and the bedspread!   Kev thinks I have a problem but when you have unlimited electric that you have paid for then you feel you should use it!!  The washer and dryer was going for hours.  I also cleaned the boat inside from top to bottom, its amazing how dirty it gets.  The marina cost for two nights 22 euros to include water, electric and Wi-Fi.
A handsome visitor just by our boat

Leaving the Decize marina
There is a hotel and restaurant, all very new

We joined the Canal Latéral à la Loire towards Digoin

On Thursday we set off around 11am to join the Canal Latéral à la Loire, going through the automatic lock out of the marina.  We found it strange to be on such a wide and deep canal after the meandering, shallow Nivernais.  The boat is much easier to steer when you have more water underneath you.  We also found it strange to not have to slow down for bridges, as they are wide and with good height.  We had one stretch of canal that was almost an hours motoring without any locks or obstacles, positively boring!!  Just joking.  But this canal has a very different character to the Nivernais.

Good depth on the Canal Lateral a la Loire
On the Nivernais we were lucky for the depth gauge to read 2.5 feet

Very wide and straight

We came to our first lock at about 11.45am, the gates were closed and there were two boats already in the lock. As we knew it was too late to get through the lock before lunch we moored up on the bollards provided just before the lock.  The next thing we knew was that the lock keeper had walked to us and he spoke to us in French asking our boat length, and then saying he had two other boats already in the lock, which he didn’t think we could fit in the lock with, at the same time.  He said something else, pointing to his watch, which I understood as “its now midday, so you will have to wait until after lunch at 1pm to come through”.  (This is what Kev calls a 'Debyism', complete guesswork at the French being spoken to us and me guessing what is was)  So we sat on the back deck with a cup of tea, Ipads up and running, facing away from the lock.  A while later we then noticed him reversing towards us in his VNF van on the other side of the canal, and he tooted his horn.  We looked back at the lock and the gates were open, so we leapt into action.  I now think I had totally misunderstood what he had said to me!  

We moored up just after lock 12 near Gannay-sur-Loire.  We walked into the village, about 1km to find everything closed; after reading a notice on the village shop door we realised that it’s Armistice day, so that explained why it was all shut.  The mooring at Gannay/Vanneaux PK 52 is a very nice, there are lots of long term barges moored up and a town mooring too with free electric and water.  There is a restaurant but we think its only open at lunchtime.

Friday 9th May
PK 52 Gannay-sur-Loire to PK 44.5 St Martin-des-Lais
2 Locks and 8km

My birthday!!  We aimed for a rural mooring where there was supposedly a pizzeria, as it was only 2 locks and 8km it didn’t take us long.  There was another barge moored up onto the two bollards that were available so we used our pins and the spirofix to moor onto.  We then cycled 2.5km into Paray-le-Frésil, quite a pretty village, with supposedly two grocers, and a baker.  There was only one shop that was also a bread depot, so we bought a baguette for our lunch.  There is no sign now for the pizzeria near the canal where we are moored so we presume it is closed, we cycled around and couldn't find it.  It’s a great spot though, and we are not under any trees so we can get a TV signal for Masterchef tonight!  We did a big shop in Decize so its steak tonight for my birthday dinner.  
Kev banging in our 'Spirofix' ground anchor
No bollards here.  A large barge went past later and our pins and ground anchor held us perfectly 

A nice rural mooring 

Saturday 10th May
PK 44.5 St Martin-des-Lais to Beaulon
1 Locks and 6.5km

Yesterday we were asked by the lock keeper at our last lock on Friday, what time did we want to go through the next lock on the Saturday morning, I said 10.30am.  As we had to travel about 50 minutes to get to the lock we set off at 9.15am to get there in good time.  No one was there when we arrived at 10am, as we were early we waited until 10.20 to phone the number left at the lock.  I wish my French was better, I felt confident the lock keeper knew we were at the lock but I didn’t completely understand his answer, so we waited patiently until 11am when finally he arrived in his van with two boats coming in the opposite direction.  We then shared the lock with another boat and we left the lock at 11.30am.  This was our only lock of the day (taken us 1.5 hours), but not a problem as we wanted to stop at Beaulon, only 2km further on.  There were two more boats waiting to come back through the lock, this was the busiest we’ve seen the canals so far this year.  And our slowest journey, 6.5km and 1 lock in just under 3 hours!

As it was 12 noon when we arrived in Beaulon, we quickly got our bikes off the boat and cycled the 1km into Beaulon before the shops shut.  It’s a very nice town, with a fabulous baker and confectioner, we bought some desserts as a belated birthday cake, and we then popped into the butchers, which was also fabulous and bought some more steak.  Last nights steak was so good we wanted to repeat the meal.

We bought a Boules set in Decize, a kind birthday present from my Mum.  There is a Boules court here at the Beaulon mooring, so we had an enjoyable first practice.

We are right next to the lock for tomorrow, which we have booked for 10am.  We will travel a little further tomorrow.

All our locks are going up again, but they are much smoother than the Nivernais,
four sluices carefully opened by the lock keepers.

We enjoyed our Boules practice

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Cercy La Tour to St-Léger-des-Vignes/St-Léger to Decize Marina

Monday 5th May
3 locks and 16km

We left Cercy la Tour at 8.10am and arrived at our first lock at 9.25am and our lock keeper was waiting for us, perfect!  It was a beautiful sunny morning, with clear skies, and mist rolling off the water.  We arrived at St-Lédger-des-Vignes for 11.40am, getting through our last lock of the day before the lock keepers lunch.

We did a major shop at the supermarket located a few steps from the mooring.  There is a Leclerc and a Carrefour, so there is a good choice.  Kev also did three fuel runs with 2x 20litre diesel cans.  We are fully stocked again, food, wine and diesel!

When we entered our last lock a mother duck and 8 ducklings jumped in with us.  All very sweet, but sad to say when we went for a walk after dinner she now only has 7 babies.  Nature is tough.

Yesterday we went for a 14km bike ride from Cercy to our first lock; it was another lovely sunny day.  We saw a white Stork; we were surprised how big it was.  It flew away before I could get a good enough photo of it, which was a shame.  We've not seen any Storks before in this area, we will have to keep our eyes peeled from now on.

It was a beautiful morning the day we left Cercy
It was the longest section of canal without a lock
we'd experienced since we left Auxerre
And this section was the straightest!

We decided to let this lorry go over the bridge before we went under it!

This mum and babies jumped into the lock and went down with us
We were sad to see she had lost one of her brood by the time we saw her that evening

A big shop at the local supermarket, a very handy mooring

Tuesday 6th May
2 locks and 3.5km

We had an easy morning, it rained so we planned to stay put.  At lunchtime the sun came out so we changed our minds and decided to move to the Decize marina.  We rang the lock keeper at 1pm and we were moored up at the marina by 2.30pm.  To get here we went along a short section of river Loire, the flow was very quiet. 

We are now safely moored at the marina, we are perched at the end of a pontoon; on a short finger again, with half the boat hanging off the end!  We are staying here for two nights, costing just under 20 euros. 

The forecast is supposed to be good tomorrow.  It is pouring down at the moment but very mild.

We were very sad to leave the Nivernais and we will certainly be along that way again, maybe next year.  The canal has been very kind to us, friendly lock keepers, putting up with our poor French, and we always managed to moor where we planned.  There was also free Wi-Fi at most ports along the way on the Nivernais, which was very much appreciated.

There were loads of herons at Decize,
this must be because we are close to The Loire
this is our last bridge on the Nivernais

Our last lock on the Nivernais

Sunshine has disappeared
Decize and the River Loire

The blue rope hangs down from the metal structure
You pull the cord and it sets the automatic lock into action

Very convenient slidey pole for the rope, no need for bollards

The Blue pole needs to be pushed upwards to set the lock into action

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Châtillon-en-Bazois to Ecluse 24/Ecluse 24 Ansty to Cercy La Tour

Friday 2nd May
Châtillon-en-Bazois to Ecluse 24
8 Locks

We set off at 9am; it was quite busy with hire boats going off in opposite directions after the holiday yesterday.

We had a good trip, but we had quite a bit of rain, we shared locks most of the way, but all ok.   There were loads of lock keepers on duty today, probably because yesterday no boats could move they knew most would be today.  We are now moored up just above Ecluse 24. Just after the bridge there is a wide section where we moored last year, its very quiet and rural.  We have knocked some pins on to moor up to. 

As we arrived we noticed some chaps fishing, so we moored a long way away from them.  A while after we had moored a lady walked up to our boat and saw us sitting on the back deck, she called to the chaps who had been fishing, they were about 50m from us.  It sounded like she was speaking Scandinavian.  Shortly after two young guys around 13-14 years old knocked on our door and asked if we spoke English.  They explained that we had “cut” across the pound to moor and ruined their fishing lines and what ever was attached, around 14 euros worth.  They said they were on a weeks fishing holiday, and now couldn’t fish anymore.  You can imagine Kev giving them a piece of his mind, saying that they were sitting in their car not taking enough care of their lines and that we did take a wide berth to avoid their rods.  They said that all the other boats they had seen today had gone straight through to the lock, on the opposite side of the large pound and were taken by surprise at us coming into moor.  They were nice lads and we ended up giving them 20 euros to go and buy some more stuff to fish with, Kev must be getting mellow in his old age!  The lady who came to look at our boat, we now think was their mother telling them to come and speak to us; I think they were quite brave to do so!

The weather seems to be improving, and set to be better for the weekend, hurray!

We had company for some of the journey

A very energetic, lady lock keeper 

Lunch in the lock

Last bridge of the day just before Ecluse 24

Our mooring at Ecluse 24

Saturday 3rd May
Ecluse 24 Ansty to Cercy La Tour
6 locks and 16km

We had booked the lock we were moored near by for 9am, the lady lock keeper was dead on time and she took us through 3 locks.  She was lovely, she lives at the lock keepers cottage, it has really well kept gardens, and a massive vegetable patch.

We had a really great trip to Cercy La Tour, the canal has quite long sections in between the locks.  We travelled through beautiful pastureland, with grazing Charolais cattle and calves, sheep and lambs and horses.  All the farmhouses look very affluent in this area.

We saw quite a few Black Kite, they were circling high above and we saw some diving steeply to take fish from the canal.

We are moored up now in Cercy La Tour exactly where we were last year, on the floating pontoons, with free (6A) electric and water.  I wonder whether we will hear the same owl hooting tonight that we heard last year?

We walked to see if the small supermarket that is mentioned in the fluvial guide was open.  It was shut, permanently, which is a shame.  We found a newsagent open that sold bread, and the butchers near our mooring was open so we bought some long life milk, eggs and sausages.  We do have enough food in stock but its good to support the shops that are open.  There is also a new shop selling local specialties, such as Honey, chocolate, olives, walnut oil, etc.  We bought some nougat and what we thought were some hazelnut chocolates, they were hazelnut but more like a boiled sweet, not so nice, but I am sure we will manage to eat them!

We are coming to the end of our journey along the Nivernais Canal; next stop is Decize and then we will join the Canal Lateral a la Loire.  We have really enjoyed the Nivernais.  It’s a beautiful canal.  The lock keepers have been fantastic; nearly all of them have been really friendly and very helpful.

The lock keepers cottages today were all very pretty and very well kept

Not a pretty bridge but it frames the view well

A posh looking farm

An extra big Lock keepers house at Cercy la Tour
Our mooring at Cercy you can just about see Rangali