It has been suggested to me (by my dear old dad) that a post detailing a days trip on the canal would be a fun and informative read, especially for those contemplating a holiday on a canal boat. So here it is. Hopefully it’s not too boring, although I’m also hoping we don’t have any stressful moments. Although they do make interesting reading!
So here we go… I’m writing this while we are cruising.
8.00am I woke up after hearing the bell ringing from the church over the canal but also from the old people’s home, in front of which we are moored. We have been in St Thibault for 2 nights and haven’t seen one old person go in or out. It’s not a nice looking building so I’m hoping it’s better inside for them. Shame the place didn’t have windows facing the port so they could watch the boats come in and out. But I digress…
Alan was up earlier than me, checking the Stockmarket and news n New Zealand. He made us some scrambled eggs and bacon. Usually we would head out to the local boulangerie for our daily bread but we know that it’s Tuesday and so it will be closed. The next stop should have one. Unless it’s closed.
Alan connected the hoses to a tap on shore and filled up our water tanks while I did the dishes and answered some emails (not at the same time). We had another (4th) attempt at finding the Capitaine to pay for our mooring fees but he’s not around again so we will have to do a runner. Saved €21. Not our fault.
I watered our plants (using canal water) on the deck. We have some petunias, pansies and herbs (parsley, chives and thyme). They have been struggling in the relentless heat. It looks like another hot one today. Yesterday was cooler and it was such a relief.
Next we unhooked the power cable. It could be very embarrassing if we tried to leave while still connected. I imaging that happens a lot. Alan unhooked the back rope to allow the stern to move away from the bank. For those who don’t know about boats that is where the propellor is and bad things happen when the prop hits too shallow water. Very bad things. Anyway I let off the middle rope and then the front and pushed us off using the long boat hook. And we are off.
It’s now 9.30am.
As we cruised out of the Embranchment of the marina a Frenchman on a rusty old peniche shouted to us to stay in the middle of the channel as the sides were very shallow. I should mention here that because of the current heatwave we are experiencing the water levels are low and we may find this a problem unless we have some rain fall. We chose to start this year’s trip going down the Canal du Centre first because we had heard it can close if the water levels get too low. So it was a good decision. This canal, the Canal Lateral a la Loire, seems ok at the moment.
We lowered our Bimini as the bridges here are low.
So off we go, turning North. Two low bridges and we come to a lock. The gates are closed so we will have to wait. There may be a boat in there or we may have to wait for another boat coming the same way as us in order to save water. Using the binoculars we can see there is an eclusier (lock keeper) present so it must be under control. We have seen a lot of young female eclusiers this year. Its a great holiday job for university students. It is interesting that the professional eclusiers go on holiday in the peak season. Leaving 18 year old students to work the busiest time of year. They do a good job though. No problems so far. Some canals have automatic locks, others you do yourselves.
The lock doors are opening so in we go…I’ll be tying up on the left side so that one of us can jump off and close the gates to help…on with the boat gloves…a nice easy lock, 3 metres so we only use the middle rope,
15 mins and we have been lowered to the next level using 4 sluice gates under the water. Out we go, using the boat hook to straighten up the back. There are three boats waiting to go in on the other side. We have seen a lot of hire boats since we came onto the Lateral canal. This is an excellent choice of canals as the locks are slow filling, there’s always an eclusier to operate them and there aren’t too many. Only 30 odd. Very easy.
There’s is a gorgeous field of sunflowers on our right, their heads facing to the sun. Along side a field of golden wheat. it is a very pretty picture. The sun is relentless again today and with the Bimini down due to the low bridges we are getting warm. It’s 28°, a tiny breeze and 11am.
We were expecting to find a place to moor after this lock so we could bike in to Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire but there are no bollards and not really a track to reach the road so we continued on. There goes the plans to buy some more internet time at the local Orange shop. Not far around the corner and here is another lock. Only 2.1m and the eclusier (not a young student) isn’t too friendly even though Alan jumped off to close the gates. Out we go and off down the canal again.
Not far in the distance we can see a lovely monument to modern science, the nuclear power plant. Quite a contrast to the rest of the scenery!
There are three boats coming towards us. This is interesting. The front one is a commercial barge, (peniche) probably a bit under the 38.5m lock length, the following two are hire boats. The peniche is laden down with cargo and is sitting very low in the water so he is keeping to the centre of the canal. The hire boats are obviously hoping to overtake this guy as he is going very slowly. No luck though, they are stuck behind him for the foreseeable future. Passing them, we stayed close to the side and didn’t touch ground so that’s good. The peniche is churning up the mud on the bottom of the canal.
Here’s another bridge, too low for our Bimini so back down it goes, under the bridge, and back up again. We have got the process down to a fine art now. There’s some shady trees along the banks which is keeping the temperatures down on deck as well. It’s 30° on deck now.
We are hoping to get through the next lock before they close at 12 for lunch. We can see it and it looks like there are boats in there. Hopefully there’s time for us to pass through as well…On the other side is Leré where we might stop for the night if there’s room. With all the hire boats on this part of the canal some of the moorings have been full early on. St Thibaoult was full both nights we stayed. Luckily we came in early.
We’ve been told this eclusier is selling wine to the boaters while they are in the lock. If they let us in we will buy some :)…
And yes, she let us through just before 12 so we bought 2 bottles of Sancerre rouge and 2 of Poully Fumé. And a very nice lady lockkeeper she is. Very friendly.
Out the other side and we have one and a half kms to Leré. Here’s hoping there’s some room for us…
Yes there is space and power. We turned the boat around so that our deck area isn’t facing the deck of the boat in front. A bit of privacy. 10 minutes of standing in the sun while tying up and connecting the power cable and I am drenched in sweat. And thirsty. We shut down the engine and have a cold drink. There is a picnic table under the trees but it is taken by workmen having their three course lunch, no doubt with matching wines.
1pm. Having typed up and had a drink we wandered into the village. There is a boulangerie but it’s closed. Of course it is. Open again at 4pm though so no need to alert the Emergency Services or Human Rights Commission at this stage. We shall have our daily baguette. We bought some goat sausages (or maybe they are goats cheese sausages?) at a market a couple of days ago so they will be on the BBQ tonight. The tabac is also closed as is the ubiquitous flower shop and hairdressers. Maybe they will open later as well.
Back to the boat via a path along a tiny stream. The heat has gone up a notch now. 34° on the deck and 32° inside. We enjoyed some cheese, apple and crackers, washed down with a cold Paniché (France’s answer to the shandy) for our dejeuner. Delicious.
2.30pm. Time to try cooling down under the shade of some trees nearby.
2.45pm. Our neighbours who had the best spot on the banks here has moved much further down the canal (turns out they are leaving their boat there for 5 days while they head home) so we quickly pulled up our stakes and moved into their spot. Happy days. Now we have a little shade. During the manoeuvres I ended up standing in the sun for 10 mins and got quite overheated. It’s amazing how fast you can deteriorate. Back under the trees for me and a long cold drink! One day last week I think I came close to heat stroke. Felt faint, could hardly open my eyes as everything went white and my brain shut down. Bit scary. We met a couple of Brits yesterday who have a boat very similar to ours and she said she fainted in a restaurant the other day due to heat stroke and ended up in hospital. It’s not to be taken lightly.
5.30pm. Ok so Leré has turned on a bit of drama for us. Firstly I must mention that Leré is a popular mooring because of the free power and water and the immaculately kept shower and toilet block, also free. Obviously the Mairie spend a bit of dosh keeping them spic and span to attract visitors like us to their town. So we were sitting under the shade of a tree reading our books and minding our own business near to the facilities when a group of young guys turned up in a couple of cars and a van. They were drinking beer and getting rowdy, one guy in particular was yelling at the others. Great we thought. Well maybe they’ll go away soon. But no. A few more beers and they are standing around the loos and showers, making it really uncomfortable for anyone hoping to go in. After an hour and a half the noise level had gone up and one guy turned his car radio up loud. We got really bloody annoyed. Surely they could congregate somewhere else. By this time another 4 or 5 boats has tied up. Alan and I decided we needed to do something so we started walking towards the village to see if we could talk to someone at the Mairie office. However, who should drive around the corner but the Gendarmes in their police car. Alan had a word with them and they pulled over and walked over to the group. We headed into the village because we needed a baguette (priorities) and also we didn’t want these guys knowing it was us who dobbed them in, in case they had revenge on their minds and come back later and untied us or worse.
And lo and behold when we arrived back all was peaceful, the hooligans were gone and now we can contemplate a nice evening of goat sausages and free showers. Hurrah! (Note to self, double check the ropes before we go to bed!)
It’s now 6pm and 35° both inside and outside the boat. Time for a shower!
9pm. Eating dinner. Goat sausages are…unusual. Dry and salty. Not horrible but I wouldn’t buy them again. We had a salad and bread to accompany them. The sun has finally gone down behind a tree and the temperature is now very nice outside. Inside its still hot. Out have come the mosquitoes. I have doused myself in a variety of bug sprays over the last two months and still I have been bitten mercilessly. And the bites stay around for a week or more, getting super itchy when it’s hot. Oh well. What can you do. I should have bought shares in a bug spray company!
Its 11pm and time for bed. It’s still 29° inside the boat. I hope you enjoyed this little slice of our life. Sorry there aren’t more pictures. I am having issues with photos at the moment. Cheers for reading and let me know if you have an idea for a future post.