August 12 Saturday. The first half of August has been more like October, weather-wise. It was only 14° as we headed away from Vraincourt at 9am and the temperature didn’t warm up. It felt as if we were the only boat for miles as the locks were all set for us and we made very good time. The only issue is the 3.9m locks where I struggle a little, being short (5’2″), to reach the bollards with my rope and boat hook. I used to throw the rope, hallelujah style, but my elbow complained bitterly. We got there though and after eight locks, one short (308m) tunnel, a couple of lifting bridges and 17kms we cruised into Chaumont at 1pm.
Having seen how quiet the canal is we were surprised to find an almost full port, mainly yachts with their masts stepped. Are they all heading to the Med, ready for winter? There were two spaces so we moored up and waited for the Capitainerie to open at 4pm to turn on the electricity, about €12 per night. A VNF guy drove up and asked us when we were leaving as after the next two locks there are a number of manual locks which need an eclusier booked.
Later on we walked 1.6km to the commercial park where the large Leclerc supermarché is. It was packed. They close on Sundays and Tuesday was a public holiday (Assumption Day) so I guess everyone was stocking up. We didn’t walk up the hill to Chaumont ville as we had had a good look around in May.
August 13 Sunday. A very quiet day to catch up on washing and cleaning. We went for a walk along the towpath. Some of the yachts left and other boats arrived. We saw ‘Winedown’ arrive, another kiwi boat with a great name!
August 14 Monday. As we promised VNF we went through the first lock at 9am and presented ourselves at the third lock (first manual one) for our eclusier de jour but there was no one there so I called VNF and sure enough a few minutes later our lovely student eclusier showed up. And she was excellent. She had the lock doors opened when we arrived at each lock and with Alan helping by opening one of the doors once we ascended, we had a lovely hassle free day. Such a contrast to our experience on the way down. We finally had a sunny day, and it was very enjoyable, albeit we were pestered by swarming tiny biting bugs all day. We had to wait for a boat coming from the other direction at one point so took it as lunch time and made some toasted sandwiches.
We pulled into Rolampont at 3.15 after thanking our éclusiers with kiwi key rings and paniché. There is only a short quay and two boats already moored. I asked if one of the boats could move forward a little as there was a gap between them and was told off by the well-fed Dutch owner of the boat for being rude. Oh the irony. He said no he wouldn’t move (so friendly) but we managed to squeeze in behind him. Kind of killed the mood somewhat. Free power though! There’s always a silver lining.
August 15th Tuesday and Assumption Day (public holiday). A warm morning but black clouds formed behind us. The first lock was manual but from then on they had recently been converted to automatic. It’s a shame in some ways that the human touch will be missing soon. No poor sod to comprehend my french conversation attempts. It is faster though, assuming no breakdowns.
We arrived in Langres just as torrential rain hit and I managed to slip getting off the boat and twisted my shoulder. Not my most stylish arrival. (Great bruises though). Especially since I was covered in little black midges who, for some reason, followed me around, both inside and outside the boat. No one else, just me. Lucky, lucky me. I spent most of the next couple of days hiding in our cabin, trying to fight the little buggers off.
August 16 Wednesday. Langres has free power but only from 7-8am, 12-1pm and 7-8pm so we thought we’d run the generator to boil the jug but, uh oh, the battery died. And then the engine battery wouldn’t start either. We needed a jump start! Luckily the lovely kiwis on Winedown, Keith and Ian, let us borrow their battery and then VNF lent us some leads and low and behold the generator was jump started. We ran it for hours to charge things up.
August 17 Thursday. We were up at 7am when the power came on and tried the generator at 7.50. Voila. Ça marche. On y va! It works. Let’s go! We travelled with Winedown all day, two locks then the Balesmes Tunnel, all 4.8km of it. Including the embranchements it’s 10kms. Things went much better this time! (Last time was an experience, a dark one, both literally and figuratively). This time the lights stayed on and after an hour underground we reappeared into blue skies and hot sunshine. Now we are descending all the way to the Saône. 8 deep locks, each over 5 metres, followed by another couple and we came to lock 12 Piépape which wasn’t working, so we decided to tie up for the day. It’s a great setting, lots of shade although no other facilities. We put our tables and chairs under the trees and had aperos with Cynthia, Ian and Keith from ‘Winedown’ and ‘Ali M’, Peter and Sally from Adelaide. It was a beautiful evening. And no bugs. Hurrah!
August 18 Friday. A beautiful morning, blue skies and sunshine. There was beaucoup de rain in the forecast though. We headed off at 9am with ‘Winedown’. The second lock, unlucky number 13, was broken again. Same lock that wasn’t working on the way up. An eclusier arrived very quickly to reset it once Ian called them from the intercom.
We arrived in Cusey and managed to squeeze onto the quay, behind Kiwis Shirleyanne and Roger on ‘Hilda’. Free power, no water. There is room for 5 boats but by the evening, after a rainy afternoon, there were 8 of us, including a barge. Lots of rafting up!
August 19 Saturday. We woke to sunshine and a day off the locks. ‘Winedown’ and ‘Hilda’ headed down the canal and we decided to stay for another night and instead go for a bike ride. We biked to the village of Cusey, just up the road, and then through the countryside to Vaux-sous-Aubigny. We saw fields of sunflowers, heads bowed, black and white cows, lots of agriculture and puffy white clouds. Vaux has a Michelin starred auberge, a post-office and a new-looking Casino supérette which is a depot de pain so we picked up a baguette, a beautiful avocado and a bottle of Pinot Gris from Alsace. Happy days. We biked back partially along the canal and passed two commercial barges slowly making their way towards the Saône. The round trip was 13kms so a good bit of exercise!
August 20th Sunday. Another beautiful sunny morning but only 12°. Is Autumn here already? Casting off from Cusey we headed downstream, past fields of sunflowers, corn and a pheasant farm. Didn’t see the pheasant plucker though before someone asks. After 17 locks and 7.5 hours we finally tied up at the small quay near Renève at PK215. Room for maybe 4 boats our size (11.5m) but no power, water or shade. Very rural and quiet other than a church bell that rang every hour during the night.
August 21 Monday. Off we went just after 9am heading for the Saône river, 4 locks away . The 2nd proved a challenge as there was an obstacle in front of the open lock gates, a big thick metre-wide tangle of grass and weeds. We managed to sneak past it going into the lock luckily, the gates closed and it was all fine. By 11.30 we were through the last locks, handed back our télécommande and turned starboard onto the Saône. It is so nice to be back on this wide and very pretty river. Downside? Beaucoup de rental boats to contend with. I was slightly horrified (can you be slightly horrified?) to see on the 20′ hire boat in front of us in the lock, the couples 6-7 year old walking around the outside of the boat, no rails, no life jacket and in socks while we descended. Quite scary to watch. What are they thinking??
Anyway, we cruised into Auxonne at 1.45pm, happy to be somewhere with water as our tanks are almost dry and we need to do some cleaning and washing. We’ll be in Auxonne until daughter Georgie and boyfriend Chris arrive for visit later this week. The temperatures are set to soar. Maybe summer isn’t over after all!
Vraincourt to Chaumont
Engine hours: 2.8
Lifting bridges: 2
Tunnel: 1 x 308m
Chaumont to Rolampont
Engine hours: 4.5
Rolampont to Langres
Langres to Piépape
Tunnels: 1 x 5km
Piépape to Cusey
Cusey to Reneve (PK215)
Reneve to Auxonne
Year to date
Engine hours: 185.1