Tuesday, 12 May 2015
4 locks, (or 6 Locks) 40 km, 6 hours
Arriving at Chatèau-Therry we moored up on what I think was the old commercial quay. Next to us was kiddies mini merry-go-round with PA music, which actually wasn’t too far off several of my play lists. Anyway this stopped about 7pm.
Having donned our glad rags we set off for a posh looking French restaurant. I had Froi Gras, for starter, followed by Duck and finished off with a superb Crème Brule. I think I did a French menu justice. The meal and the service was 1st class and surprisingly reasonable.
Next Morning (Sunday 12th May) we were awoken at 8.30am by another PA system. This time it was some sort of fun run, Nordic Walking, dog walk event, although there was nothing to show what it was (if anything) in aid of.
About 10am they set off and about an hour later they started arriving back, then for the next couple of hours various classes came home.
I caught the 11.30 train to Epernay, then cycled the remaining 18km back to Condè-sur-Marne along the perfectly tarmacked towpath.
When I arrived there was a hotel boat “Who Knows” moored. We had a chat for about 10 minutes about the river conditions and the general lack of boats on the move, then I headed back via the pretty route through the very heart of Champagne Country.
I had 42 miles of fuel on the computer when I set which was enough. This very quickly went to zero. The panic was on to find a pump. In the rural back roads of France this is not something one expects to find. Then I spotted a lone self service pump at a restaurant car park. At this point I had done about 25 miles on zero and it was a welcome site. I was convinced the engine was beginning to hiccup.
My troubles didn’t end there. Most pumps in France don’t take my UK based € card and it was the only card I had on me. I did try but as expected it was rejected. In desperation I went to the restaurant and explained my predicament. They said the pump was nothing to do with them but one of the diners offered to use her card and I could pay her in cash. €20 later and I was back on the road.
Once back there was no sign there was ever an event there. Still, the delay let Deb finish her OU essay and freed her (us) up for a walk into town with the boys. On the way through the back roads I saw a car rally all parked up for lunch, when we got to town they had arrived in the square. I must be getting old because cars like the original VW Golf GTi and XJS now class as classics.
I spied an original Citroen DS just off shot. On the way back we stopped for a couple of beers and watched the world go by and I spied one of these.
On the way back we came across a hotel boat “Raymond” that had moored up in the town while we were drinking. We had a nice chat with guests on deck and a crew member took me on a tour of the boat. The cabins were quite small but fit for purpose and all en-suite. It has a capacity of 24 on a 39m boat so well packed in. More about this boat later!
The following morning we did a mini shop to restock the
bar fridge and set off around 11.15 to be away before the hotel boat at midday.
The plan was to moor on a pontoon mooring at Saâcy-sur-Marne about 3 hours along. When we got there it was quite small so we went past turned and made an up stream approach. On the 2nd attempt Deb was able to get on the pontoon, but the current got hold of the Avalon, I again made another approached and managed to get a line on, but still the current was too much causing me to again abandon but this time taking me backwards like a phoo stick under and hitting the bridge arch with the top rubbing strake.
On the next approach I spied the hotel boat exiting the lock some 500m away. I had seen him enter the lock as I was whisked backwards under the bridge. I can’t see how he didn’t see the problems we were having, but anyway he decided to exit the lock and start blowing his horn, which he did for almost all of the 500m. I aborted my approach in time enough to get out of way but having to make a dash under the wrong arch of the bridge.
Needless to say I was not best pleased and have written a complaint to the company and VNF about his reckless regard for us. All he had to do was wait in the lock until we were safe. So now I have to go down steam about 1km while he overtakes us. Not content with nearly ramming us and causing emergency action on our part the captain them comes out an hurls a load of abuse at me in French as he speeds past. Wanker!
Having turned I headed back up stream to retrieve Deb now back at the lock. Once back on-board we locked up, exited the lock and turned to re-enter so we did 1 lock 3 times. We are both safe and sound if a little shaken, Avalon has a battle scar but nothing too serious and we have gained a bit more experience. You never stop learning.
We seem to have gained a little masonry. The bridge is still standing but a tiny bit less of it.
So we press on to to the next available moorings at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and are glad to find the last spot available. Actually these are rather delightful moorings.
On the pontoon in front of us is a highly modified Liverpool widebeam owned by a French man.
Afternoon beers were taken on his roof deck which has set my mind thinking!
We went into town for lunch next day with the intention of getting a Plat de Jour. At this restaurant this extended to a 3 course slap up meal with wine. No wonder the French have a 2 hour lunch hour.
Having done 2 day in one yesterday we decided to stay put for today after a huge lunch.
On our cruise yesterday we again encountered the phenomenon which make you think you are going down hill, which of course you are when going down stream, but this is what the locks are for, to keep levels between the pounds.
Knowing trees grow vertical look at this picture taken from the boat with my camera that has a level built in the display.
The trees are defiantly leaning to the left as we go forward. Its a strange effect and one that has to be seen because I can’t describe it.
Saturday, 9 May 2015
2 Locks, 15 MIles, 3 Hours
We woke quite early. Why? well because the bells started off a 7am and we got belled every 15 minutes thereafter.
From the lounge window last night.
As it was market day we strolled in to town, bought some local produce and Deb got a top which apparently was “perfect for the boat”. Hmm? Having done that and spoken to several locals about the dogs we retired to a bar. It was still only 10.30am! I had a beer and Deb had coffee which apparently made her buzz so she then forced me to join her in a beer to bring her down from the caffeine hit. Again, Hmm?
Once done we set off for the local supermarket. Deb was lost in there for ages so I patiently sat outside answering more questions about the dogs. She was forgiven when she appeared with beer.
The planned next stop on our list was Château-Thierry which was to be Sunday or Monday, but having “done” Dormans and it still being only 12 when we got back to Avalon it was decided to do the 25km today. This under normal canal conditions would mean 5-6 hours, but as the current is whisking us along at up to 16kph it was only a 3 hour stint including locks.
Deb did lunch on the move and settled into her OU work while I got on with the helm and locks. In a flash it seemed we were ready to moor. By 3.30pm we were all tied up.
Friday, 8 May 2015
8 Locks, 1 Swing Bridge, Day 1 11 Miles, Day 2 15½ Miles, 7½ Hours
We set off from Condé-sur-Marne about midday after taking a walk with the dogs into the largely shut village.
With a right turn we were on new water heading towards Paris.
The cruise for the day was fairly unremarkable, accept of course you can still play
Eddie Stobart Norbert Dentressangle being the French version.
The half plan was to moor in Epernay but at €36 a night for us we decided that was just a bit too much so we moored for the night just past Dizy, for free on a nice quiet stretch of green bank, ideal for the dogs.
I took off the town on my bike, but once in there, there was nothing of great interest for us. I did meet another English couple with and Airedale called Teddy and an Autotrail Motorhome.
Next morning 8th May, we set off about 11am. We woke at 9.30am having gone to bed at 10.30 the previous night. We all slept 11 hours! A few minutes later we arrived at our first lock for the day, which also marks PK 0 on The River Marne. Once through this lock we found ourselves bowling along at 12kph on just over tick over.
At lock 1 Cumifrès we were furnished with a very posh remote control. This one beeps, has messages on the screen and best of all it has a lights duplicator on it.
The locks so far today have been the taper sides with floating pontoon.
Having safely moored we wandered in to the town we got 3 types of bread and some general perishables. See Debs blog for the very strange shaped loaf which is a local type.
The town was marking VE Day with a marching band.
Its good to see that even a small place like this marks such occasions.
The only other boat seen today was a trip boat in paddle steamer style.
Finally about 4.30 we moored at Dormans, again turning and mooring into the flow which must be 5-6kph.
We are now on The River Marne which will take us to Paris. Here is a map.
Thursday, 7 May 2015
11 Locks, 1 Tunnel, 14½ Miles, 5 hours
We did it, we moved. Up at 7.30am and on the move at 9.59am Not bad for us at all!
So it was goodbye to Avalon’s winter mooring at Sillery.
Reversing out ready to turn 180° and head towards Condé-sur-Marne
Once under way it wasn’t long before reached our first lock. Despite being away for 6+months it all came back in a flash and the first 3 locks up were soon done. These were the type that need to be set with a twist pole.
The 3 lock saw us at the summit level. 3 miles later we got the green light to enter Billy-le-Grand tunnel. 2.3km long. Boy was it cold in there!
Once out a short hop to then next 8 locks down. These were all auto setting accept for the last lock into Condé-sur-Marne A call to the VNF required a visit by the man in a van to make it work.
We are back a the same mooring as we were last October.
I then headed back to Sillery on my bike to get the motohome. I have fitted a bike computer and to my surprise it was just over 16 miles back using towpath and roads.
Tuesday, 5 May 2015
We have arrived back at Sillery to find everything “ship shape”. No problems aboard and after a systems start up home No.2 was up and running.
Once off the ferry on the way down on Saturday we headed to Jill and Graham on MR who are moored on the Somme with June and Mike on Tenmujin. As always when boaters reunite a party night was inevitable. Jill rustled up one of her “oh I just threw it together” meals which I am sure have a lot more planning than she lets on and as always it was delicious and strangely there was enough for “Kevin” seconds. Yum! Graham has a new toy we delivered for him. It’s a rechargeable vacuum cleaner. Jill says the novelty value of this will see him cleaning with it for at least 6 months before he get gets fed up and its here chore again. She is actually hoping for more, but will be happy with 6 months.
A lovely peaceful night in the motorhome close to MR was followed by dog emptying by myself in a lovely country park while Deb made breakfast. Later Jill and Graham came over for coffee then we bid our farewells for now. We will see them again on 17th / 18th May but more on that nearer the time.
A couple of leisurely hours drive saw us at Sillery. Driving in France is simply a pleasure compared with the UK. 2 hours here seems like minutes.
Arriving on Sunday lunch time our plan was to leave on Monday, but as we are on no set time schedule Monday got eaten up with a very long lay-in (well we do have to get in sync with the time difference). Sunday here is as it was in the UK 30 years ago. Nothing is open, and in the short time we have been away we had forgotten that supermarkets if open at all will be closed at midday. Not compatible with a long lay-in. So Monday saw restocking, re watering the tanks, refuelling the tanks and general making ready for Tuesday.
Tuesday saw another monumental lay-in, we’re still not in tune with local time you understand?. First impressions of the day gained through cracks in the curtains was a lovely bright perfect spring cruising day. Then as the bleary eyes and senses came too, it was clear we were going NOWHERE today. It was blowing a Hooley, 25mph, gusting 40mph. Had we been season hardened we would have set off, but being our maiden voyage for the year this was not the best idea, so another day at Sillery was on the cards. Once the boys were walked and lunch had, we decided to go to the vets to to get worming pills for the boys and stock up on Metacam is half the price it is in the UK and we got 180ml, a size not even available in the UK. After this we went to the local shopping zone. Deb wanted to get some Yoga clothes to keep on Avalon. Decathalon is a chain sports shop here, so while she shopped I used one of the demonstration scooters to wiz around the store many, many times. I had so much fun. Scooters have come on a lot since I was 4.
So that’s me up to date. The plan is to leave bright and early Wednesday morning. Lets see how this pans out.
We are heading towards Paris on the next leg.