Monday, 22 September 2014

Toul to Commercy

18 locks, 1 tunnel,18miles, 7 hours

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We wanted to stay on the red canal but had to take blue

Having spent another couple of days and nights in Toul doing things like getting the canopy repaired AGAIN, re-fueling and restocking etc we set off for our winter moorings in Sillery. This is a journey of 125 miles and about 120 locks.

The day started badly and got progressively worse.  A local fisherman left a rod on the moorings well away from where he was sitting over which I tripped.  I was fine, but he insisted I had broken his rod.  He showed me the damage which was clearly not new judging by the ground in dirt.  I told him to “do one” which he seemed to understand because he mentioned calling the police.  This seems to be the norm in France so I invited him to do so as is my norm.

Setting off we waited for a boat to lock down, as it was doing so we pulled out of the mooring to indicate our intention to the lock keeper only 50m away.  The boat exited the lock and we moved to enter and he closed the doors and filled the lock.  I called him on the VHF, and tooted but nothing.  So I had to moor up again so Deb could go and knock on the office door.  Deb could clearly hear me in his office on the VHF calling him.  Eventually we got in the lock and I questioned him as to why we didn’t get access. He didn’t see us he reckoned and said the radio was on the blink.

Lock keepers usually ask what you are doing as in where you are going as they have information on the current state of the waterways etc.  Not this one. Once out of the lock we passed within 15m of the main regional VNF office and into the next lock only 200m away.  This went on as per normal until re reached lock 8 where we were greeted by a VNF bod in a van.  By this time we have been going a good 2-3 hours.  He asked where we were heading and we told him towards the Marne.  “Oh no your not” he said (this was all in his best English and my best French) it is shut and we could only go to the Meuse, and further there was no stopping on the link until we reached Commercy on the Meuse.  Apparently there was a breach and it had been out of action for nearly 2 weeks but should be fixed in a couple of days.

So with no choice, I say no choice, because the lock keeper at lock 14 would only let us pass on our assurance we would only head to Commercy.  Now, having known this from the first lock of the day we would have sat it out in Toul, but no we were now forced to do a 10 mile detour to Commercy.  This would have been fine accept locks 2 and 3 on the Meuse were broken requiring a call to each time to the VNF to come and operate them.  Result, we ran out of time. 6pm the locks stop and we couldn’t reach Commercy as instructed so moored at Euvill which was fine.

This is the junction where we wanted to turn left, but we had to take the right.

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At lock 1 on the Meuse there is a cement factory.  From a distance it looks like a theme park ride.

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The next morning we did the final lock and 5km to Commercy where we stayed for a couple of nights. I called the VNF and it was confirmed that the closure would be lifted at 9am Sunday morning.

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Commercy Mooring

On Saturday I moved the MH from Toul and when I got back the town MH parking area adjacent to the moorings area had now been joined by 100’s of people engaged in a Boules tournament.

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It was going on in the building, behind us, and the other side of the building.  In fact the whole area was gravel and every available bit was being used for Boules.

It must have been an eliminator because as evening drew on the last players battled it out under floodlights. At the height of the day there were families BBQing, picknicing, drinking and all having a good time.  On Sunday morning when we walked the dogs not a trace of litter or debris was left.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Toul To Metz And Back

9 locks, 1 swing bridge, 46 mile, 12 hours 2 overnight stops (each way)

It’s been ages since I have blogged, but we have been having so much enjoyment travelling and what with boat time I really haven’t made the time to blog.  I often wonder if anyone is really interested our little lives. The when I don’t blog I get messages asking if everything is OK.

The other problem is that there is too much to share.  By this I mean the scenery is stunning, constantly changing and my words or even pictures just don’t do it justice, the towns all have individual character but I’m not really a lyrical person but Deb covers that aspect of things in her blog Avalon Abroard much better than I do and she blogs different things that I would never think of.

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Our route

So from memory Friday 5th September we were sitting at the mooring in Toul moored up against a rather nice barge when without warning MR arrived.  We had expected them on Saturday but it was a welcome surprise all the same.

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Once greetings were exchanged we decided to go out for dinner into Toul that evening.  We all ordered different things from the La A Carte menu, all was delicious and we all proclaimed our meal was the best choice. The girls managed between themselves to down 2 bottles of the local Rose (vineyard 5 miles away) only here it’s called a Grey.

Our original plan was to spend the W/E with MR then start towards Sillery for our winter mooring.  Over dinner we decided to go to Metz with Graham and Jill as we still had plenty of time.  This as you will se later turned out to be a good decision.

We all set off for Metz Monday morning MR went ahead and we followed about 1 hour later.  There is no point being together in the first part because we can’t both easily fit in the 38 x 5 m locks.

Once down on to the Moselle we turned left this time with the first scheduled stop being a charming and secluded mooring at Liverdun.  This hop took us about 4 hours by which time we were only about 10 minutes behind MR.

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I took myself off for an exploratory bike ride and found this disused canal. I didn’t see any old locks but there must have been some as this is actually well above the river.

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Even a disused tunnel

We spoke to a local and I asked about the disused canal but despite living there for most of his life (60ish) he knew nothing about it.  Here’s a wiki link.

The moorings at Liverdun are set in a wooded leisure area popular with dog walkers and lots of Boules being played and many picnic tables. They even have sun loungers with great views of the Moselle.

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A great place to spot MR set off

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We set of again about 20 minute later than MR just after taking the photos, heading this time for Pont-a-Mousson.  The locks here are much bigger so we locking together.

All this river was new and old to us.  We had, the previous week, travelled upstream when we journeyed from Nancy back to Toul.  This time going downstream we turned left.

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Look at the height of the gates and the height of the lock walls here.  If you ever doubted that rivers can flood big time, just look at the mooring pegs on the upstream side.

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They are that high for a reason

A few deep locks and about 4 hours later we arrived at our mooing for the night. Pont-a-Mosson.

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Just under the bridge and to the left were the town mooring.  These are them on the way back.

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A walk into town saw us all down a few beers and Deb buy another new pair of boots.

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At this mooring I deployed the anchor and put out a grapple anchor at the back just in case we were untied as this is a commercial waterway and the big boats go through the night.  We most certainly didn’t want to be a floating hazard here.  The cast adrift at Nancy has made me a little wiser so it wasn’t a bad thing.

So after a restful night we set off for the final leg to Metz.  We lead this time as MR did some pirouetting in the river for a local photographer.  NB’s and WBNB’s are a rare sight here. 

Not long into the trip and I saw this monster making for the same gap.  I decided I could make it through before he got there, but knew MR wouldn’t and at that point they couldn’t see it.  I radioed Graham twice but got no reply which I thought strange, only later when Graham asked why I hadn’t warned him did it I find my aerial cable was broken. 

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It was close though

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From MR blog.  Their view. Tight or what?

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My view

I decided to take the pretty route into Metz on the little used Bras Mort de Moselle.

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Very narrow, very shallow, very pretty

This ends at the town moorings.

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Initially I had decided we would moor on the free mooring just in front of the bridge to the right but decided on inspection it was too public and the new overhead walkway looked too tempting for things to be dropped from.

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Having taken the lead from other “long” boats we moored end on front in, but we are not designed for safe exit and boarding other than from the side.  Despite trying I decided it was not safe and having read the sign could see no reason not to moor alongside which I did. Now going back a bit remember the sign in a previous blog? Here is the tale of why I posted it.


We arrived mid afternoon and as is customary the capitainerie came by about 6.30pm to collect our dues.  He told me I had to move my boat so it was end on.  I explained this was not safe and there was nothing indicating I should do this.  The sign says clearly in 3 languages 1 boat, 1 night 13euro and refused to move it.  He took my money but said I would have to move it in the morning.

The next morning we went off into Metz to shop and lunch etc, and arrived back mid afternoon.  The capitainerie  arrived as if he was in hiding waiting for us.  I suspect there is CCTV but I couldn’t see it.  Anyhow, he demanded I move my boat to end on or leave.  I said I would do neither and offered him 26euro for 2 more nights.  He refused my money and again ordered me to move or leave.  I insisted that neither was going to happen so he had the choice of taking my fee or not.  He said if I didn’t do as he said he would call the police.  I said fine.

About an hour later 4,………… yes 4 Gendarmes arrived to tell me to move or leave.  One of them spoke good English and I explained the sign to him and once I had satisfied myself I was breaking no law or doing anything that could lead to arrest I flatly refused to move or leave.  This went on for about another hour in one way or another until I finally convinced them that I was applying the sign and if the capitainerie wouldn’t take my money I would pay it the next morning at the tourism office.  (The moorings are city owned).  Once they were convinced I wasn’t moving they left.  I do have some good video of some of the events which I will put up once I’m home.

The 4,…………..yes the still 4 Gendarmes then stood for another half hour talking to the capitainerie with lots of pointing and waving in our direction.  Then about 7pm along he comes to take our 26euro. He was not happy to say the least. Before he left he amended the sign.

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Having read this far I suppose you are wondering what all the fuss is about?  Well the capitainerie  decided that because we were a “long” boat that we should be charged 3 times the fee for not mooring end on. 39euro a night? I think NOT!  The more observant of you, NO, anyone with half a brain can see the sign has no mention of price per length which is common in many marinas.

This episode both soured and enlivened our visit to Metz.  If nothing else it is a tale to tell.

That evening ended up with 8 people on MR for a very enjoyable impromptu curry night with 2 other boats from Australia Peter and Jo and Peter and Joan, then 2 guitars and singing ensued.  We left around 10pm, but hear they went on until about 2 am with suitably sore heads from the late nighters the following morning.

Sunday was spent doing more shopping and sightseeing in Metz and a generally lazy day. 

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One of many Gyppo beggars at the Cathedral

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We set of on Monday morning leaving MR and saying our goodbyes in Metz as we will probably not be seeing them by boat for a while to come as we are on different routes and we will be going home for winter.

The journey back to Toul was a retrace of our route out and moorings along the way.

At Pont-a-Mousson we met and had drinks aboard Avalon with Helen and Phil. When we arrived at P-a-M there was a fishing match going on.  The chap I assume was the marshal started shouting and gesticulating at us.   We moored up at least 100m form the last fisherman but clearly this was not enough.  I just waved and said bonjour and like a good Britt “ I carried on mooring and kept calm”

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Their DB De Volendammer leaving the next morning

The waterways are very quiet.  The only other boat we saw this day (Tuesday) was this commercial loaded to the gunwales with coils of steel wire.

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After this and all the way back to Toul we saw no other moving boats, or indeed stationary ones with people around.  It’s like having a personal waterway.

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This is the exit from the Moselle to Toul & our onward route

So that was a 9 day excursion. We drove the to Metz (Ikea) a couple of weeks ago from Toul and it took less than an hour Smile.

We have now done over 500 hours on Avalon of which 300 have been since we arrived at Nieupoort in mid April. A very rough calculation is that we do an average 4mph so based on that we must have done up to 1200 miles so far in Europe.

This brings me nearly up to date. Phew!  Sorry its been so long.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Nancy to Toul

7 locks, 2 lift bridges, 21 miles, 6½ hours

Seems an age ago now, but probably only a week or less we set out from Nancy to back to Toul completing the ring.

We set off from the bank we had tied up on after being set adrift, only a few yards in and it was a call on the remote for a lift bridge.  Another strange design.  The whole road lifted up like a tail lift on a truck.

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Then a mile of so past this line of live aboard barges on a more traditional one.

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Apart from this rather unusual “boat”

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This was a raft on oil drums with a garden marquee & outboard

we had the whole canal to the first lock to our self. Had we approached Nancy from this side the impression would have been totally different.  This piece of canal was rather pretty as was the buildings fronting it.

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The reason we had the canal to ourselves was a boat jam at this lock.  Because we tend to leave late we had missed the early rush and subsequent queue for this lock.  We were just under an hour at this lock as we have to wait for a boat locking up that must have been some way away.  It gave us time to chat to the owners of the barge.  Janet & John have had it for 25 years and were on their way to their winter moorings.  It also gave us time to walk the dogs and take some photos.

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About 8m drop to the next lock

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The final lock to the River Mozelle

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River Mozelle and we turn left to Toul

The river Mozelle here is really quite stunning.

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The locks here are pretty big too as this is a commercial waterway. This was the biggest we saw on the day.

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In the lock was our cruising companions for 3 locks on the Mozelle.

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DB Janske

Lock times eventually beat us so we decided to wild moor on the Mozelle.  As Janske was in front of us I didn’t think we would make all the locks and liftbridge back to Toul this evening and I didn’t want to be stuck between locks.

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This would do for the night.

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Had we not stopped here I would not have got this shot of the ½ super moon rising. I am really pleased that the pylon is captured too.  To the naked eye this was not visible.

The following morning we finished the last 2 locks and couple of miles to moor here in Toul.

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Unofficial moorings below Toul marina.

Later in the day when this photo was taken MR had arrived to join us again.

This was on Friday 5th September 2014.  Since then we have travelled back to the junction of Nancy and are now on our way to Metz.