Saturday, 4 November 2017

Digoine - Roanne (Or, That’s The Cruising Over For This Year Then…

Autumnal morning at the Port of Roanne

It was cool and overcast when we pushed off from the port at Digoine and headed off across the aqueduct and towards our last downwards lock of the year.  It was a deep lock and the lock-keeper helped us with our ropes and asked which direction we were headed so he could alert the lock-keeper at the first locks on the Canal de Digoine a Roanne.  It was a bit odd with the sorry acceptance we were heading to port for a long stay over winter in Roanne, but excited to be on a new bit of canal for us, and a very, pretty, rural canal at that.
Approaching the Pont du Canal at Digoine
On the aqueduct
Taking a left onto the Canal de Digoine a Roanne

The first three locks on the canal here are in a chain and are automated, but we were still accompanied through by an eclusier, which was just as well as the locks are deep and with no floating or climbing bollards, a hook was dropped down to us to pass our rope up to the eclusier to secure to a bollard.  Once tied on, Mike engaged the engine and we prepared to be thrown around, however, we discovered that the deep locks on the Canal Digoine a Roanne are as slow and tranquil as the canal itself and we smoothly slid up to the top without a bounce.  After the second lock the eclusier asked what time we’d be at the next lock.  I understood his question, but gave a blank look as I had no idea and thought he’d probably have a better idea how long it would take us to get there given he was familiar with the waterway.  When I asked how far it was, he then asked if we had been here before and I clarified that no, it was our first time on this canal.  Ah, he smiled broadly and explained that we were back in the land of lunch hours on the canal and with it being 12.05pm, he was off for his lunch.  I asked what time was best for him and we arranged to meet at the next lock at 1.15pm, as he was putting a boat up the first lock at 1pm.  As it was only 10 minutes to the next lock, we pulled in and had a bite of lunch while we waited til it was time to go.

Despite the lack of sunshine and blue skies we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon’s cruise, it really is a lovely little canal, with the only other blight on the horizon being the lack of consistent internet signal.  Having the radio drop in and out all the time is the thing that makes Mike most angry these days and he has little patience with areas with a weak signal, and this canal is unfortunately full of them.
Without the radio to entertain him Mike resorts to the sport of Fly Swatting
Always happy to see cows cooling their hooves

Sunset at La Beaume
Lovely quiet mooring at La Beaume

We were off sharp the next morning as we’d said we’d be at the lock before lunchtime and it was a couple of hours cruising to get there.  We were accompanied through the lock by Mr Grumpy and then as he headed off for lunch, arranging to meet us at the next lock at 1.30pm, we pulled over and did a pump-out, deciding that it would be good to arrive in Roanne with an empty tank.  As we had plenty of time, we did a good few rinses, and seemed to get the tank pretty empty – well, certainly empty enough that the pump stopped pumping and put us in a bad temper for several minutes as we thought the pump had gone.  A few more buckets of water for another rinse got it going again and again we pumped until it could pump no more, had some lunch and then headed off to the lock.

We arrived (23km and 4 locks) at the little port at Melay late afternoon and just got moored and settled in when the sky darkened and the rain came on and stayed on for the rest of the evening.  We couldn’t complain, it was the first rain we’d had in weeks, but it meant we didn’t get a look around the area – not that there appeared to be much to see…….
If only we knew our mushrooms.....

More lovely cows :)

At this lock as the keeper dropped the hook for me to pass our rope up he dropped it completely and it just missed me!!  He laughed and said it was the first he'd done that...... I had to tie on to the ladder and move the rope up as we rose..........

Sunday 22 October would be our last day of cruising this year.  We would arrive in Roanne a week earlier than planned, but the weather forecast wasn’t good and we were kind of ready for the ease of water and supermarkets on hand for a while.  With another couple of hours cruising before the first lock, we had arranged with the lock-keeper the previous day to meet at the lock at 1pm.  He said it wasn’t him that did the next few locks, but he’d phone and let his colleague know.

We probably shouldn’t have been surprised when we arrived at the lock to find no one there, and the lights out showing it wasn’t in use – despite it not being lunchtime or on winter opening hours!  We hung around, and even had time to reverse a bit further back and pick up two huge logs to add to the pile of wood we’d been collecting along the way to use in the wood burner.  The front deck was now full of wood and difficult to move around to reach ropes and bollards in the lock, but hey-ho – we had free firewood!!

Eventually we managed to get the boat into the side and Mike went up to the lock where he found a phone number taped to the lock hut door.  He rang and the chap, who spoke very good English, said he’d be there straight away, and sure enough, pulled up in his van a few minutes later.  Clearly Mr Grumpy hadn’t made the phone call yesterday…….

As we came up the lock, the wind started to get up, so I helped the eclusier and opened the second gate (we had been going in and out on one as we’re narrow enough to do so) to make Mike’s exit easier.  However, the wind was strong enough that he couldn’t come back for me so the lock keeper told me to walk around the corner and there was a mooring he’d be able to get me at.

It seemed in no time at all we were coming into the outskirts of Roanne and our final lock of the season came into sight, which would take us into the port, the very large port!
Getting closer to Roanne

The lock into the port up ahead

Bye bye canal, see you in April.... :(

We had been told it was a very large port - and it is!!

As the Capitainerie was closed on a Sunday, there was no Capitain (Herve) to tell us where to go, so we pulled into the only available space we could see, waving to Andy and Sally on Puzzler who came out to greet us, and got settled in for the night.  Although we’d had a lovely couple of days cruising to get here, and were dreading being locked in for the winter, it felt good at that moment of arrival to have arrived and it was lovely to see Andy and Sally and Shannon the dog again.  After a cuppa with them and a quick catch-up, Mike set off on the Ninebot to the other side of the port (it’s a mile round) to see Bill and Jane on Lazybones.  Despite never having been here before, it felt like we’d come home!!

The next morning, we went to see Herve first thing where he hummed and hawed a bit and said we could stay where we were til Wednesday but would then have to move, but he wasn’t quite sure where too.  He had a couple of options, one of which was down on a pontoon, it was either that or, “…….em…. I’m not really sure what the second option is……” Herve confessed as he studied his Port Plan, with magnetic strips with boats names on them so he can work out where everyone goes.  We went and looked at his suggested pontoon, next to Victoria, and decided that would suit us.  The power wasn’t switched on yet, so Herve suggested we stay where we are until he confirmed the power was connected and we could move.

Knowing we wouldn’t be moving for a couple of days, we set about chopping all the logs up, finding space in the locker for them, filled the water tank, did a diesel run so the tank is full over the winter and then Bill very kindly ran us up to Grand Frais for groceries.  We’ve never been into a Grand Frais and realised what we’d been missing – it’s the Waitrose of French Supermarkets with a superb choice of fresh fruit and veg and fantastic butcher and bakery, for which we were happy to pay a little bit more for……

The next couple of days were spent catching up on cleaning, paperwork, Mike doing some work for a client, meeting other boaters, having cuppas with Bill and Jane and on Tuesday afternoon we walked up into the town to have a look around and familiarise ourselves with the local shops.  We didn’t hear from Herve again, so on Wednesday afternoon we went over to speak to him again and he confirmed that we should move between 9-10 on Thursday morning as someone was arriving on Thursday that were going into the space we were in. 

The weather had been getting gradually warmer and on Thursday as we prepared to move we both had our shorts on!

We got moored up with the help of Steve and Anna (our new neighbours on Victoria) and various other neighbours who came to take a rope and say hello – it’s quite the little community which is lovely.

We took the opportunity of the warm weather to start work on the paint work – the gas locker and bow of the boat was in a sorry, faded state, and Mike had been rubbing it back and filling in chips over the last few weeks, so it was desperate for a coat of paint.  It was also a good opportunity to get the plank and poles sanded back and a few coats of varnish back on to protect them over the winter.  Thursday evening is the Port Social night in a local bar that opens up especially and it was nice to see a couple of familiar faces and meet some new ones too.  They seem a good bunch and lots of activities get organised over the winter, so I think the time will pass quite happily.

Our first social event (apart from Thursday evening) was a Chinese buffet on Tuesday for lunch and very nice it was too!

Work on the boat seems never-ending as inbetween all the painting and sanding and varnishing, suddenly it was time for the monthly checks and I was in the bilges cleaning out the shower pump.  Mike serviced the engine the other day, and having completed the oil and filter changes, ran the engine to check all was good and a huge fountain of oil squirted out and all over the engine bay!!!  Needless to say, the air was blue for a good hour as he cleared the mess up as best he could and tried to work out what had happened.  He tightened the new filter, but it was still leaking, not as badly though, but there was clearly a fault with the seal, so, depressingly, he had to drain what was left of the new oil he’d just put in, put in another new filter and then we had no more new oil left to fill it!!  Bill came to the rescue with the car and not only took us to the supermarket out of town for oil, but to the Decheterie to dump the two loads of old oil – well, one old and one not so……….

In between all the boat jobs I’ve managed a few runs and was hugely delighted to complete a circuit of the port (1.06 miles) with no knee pain at all!!!  The track round the port is red dust, so a bit softer than the tarmac I’d been running on, so I wonder if that did the trick.  Anyway, I’ve been running every Monday/Wed/Friday and last Friday Mike joined me on a second circuit of the port, on the promise of a full English breakfast on Saturday morning if he did.  I’ve also been doing squats and lunges with my weight and side leg raises, tummy stuff and the plank, so hopefully strengthening the muscles supporting my knee.

With us both having done a few runs (well, Mike’s done three now!), we were looking forward to this morning’s weigh-in, and you can imagine the disappointment when I had gone up 1.2kg since last Saturday and Mike had gone up ½ kg!!!  I put it down to muscle weighing more than fat………

So life in Roanne is good so far – I can’t believe we’ve been here for two weeks already (remind me of that sentence when I’m slitting my wrists mid-February, struck down with cabin fever and desperate to be out on the canal).  It’s a good sized town with all amenities and the port has a friendly and active community.   Sadly we’re missing the Petanque game tomorrow afternoon as we’ve hired a car and are off for a few days, but we’re going over to Puddleduck, with Nicky and Gorette onboard, for drinks tonight.  
Chopping up the wood at our first, temporary mooring

The port by night

View from our first mooring, across the port

Now our view, down at the other end and on the other side :)

We are on a pontoon jutting out from the quay, so this is the view from the kitchen window!  From further forward on the boat we can see up the port which is nice, and being this way means we have less people staring in our windows....... they stare in the back doors instead........ :O

Thursday, 19 October 2017

19 October 2017 Chagny to Digoine (Or, Mike's Feet, My Knees - Is This Old Age??!!)

Les Sept Ecluses taking us up to the summit of the Canal du Centre

We were in no rush to leave Chagny the next morning, following a good drug/wine induced sleep and with Mike’s foot already starting to go down – thank goodness, as it had looked like it was about to burst!
Oooooooowwwwwwwwwwccccccchhhhhhhh..................... :(
We’d told the lock-keeper the previous day we’d leave at 10am, and it was a couple of hours cruise to the first lock of the day, however, when the hotel boat passed us heading in the same direction at 9.30am, there was no point in heading off before 11am.  The hotel boats are large and deep and travel very, very slowly so being stuck behind one is not much fun.  When we did finally head off the day was warming up nicely and it was a cruise through some fantastic autumn scenery.
Lock keepers come in all shapes and sizes.....
"Excuse' moi madame, there ees a small fee for using zee lock......"
"Ah, zey have a veree good looking bird on thees boat...."
"Oui monsieur, zat is correct - une slice per bateau..."
Yet again we struggled a bit in the deep locks and when I again suggested to the lock keeper that I thought we were too low for the sensors, he agreed that this was possible.  We finally caught up the hotel boat and as she headed up the lock ahead of us, we pulled over, did a bit of painting and had some lunch, which gave the hotel boat time to get up the remaining locks and us a clear run up to St Leger.  We moored up and Mike went for a quick Ninebot to see if the restaurant was open tonight.  We’d had lunch at the Au P’tit Kir in April and it was excellent so we were keen to have dinner that evening.  Meanwhile, the English lady who lives in a house on the canal side came out for a chat, and I enjoyed her company and that of her gorgeous cats for almost an hour.  They used to have a boat but had to sell up due to ill-health, and now she and her husband are looking for a place in the UK to return to.
Beautiful patchwork of vines passing through Santenay
The pilot on Hirondelle has to duck to pass under the bridge!

Au P’tit Kir was indeed open that evening, so we headed along for dinner and again had a fantastic meal accompanied by very good, reasonably-priced wine.  The owner is English but has been living in France since 2005, so finds that she now thinks in French and has to think to go back to English sometimes – how I long for that!!  As we went to settle our bill, she very kindly gave us our aperitif and coffee on the house, as it was a returning visit for us.

A cool start on Saturday morning allowed us to enjoy our bacon butties and coffee before setting off for the day’s leisurely cruise with today’s target being St Julian sur Dheune.  Beautiful scenery and autumnal sunshine was accompanied by the awful deep locks, and as we were rescued yet again as the lock wouldn’t operate once we were in it, I explained again to the lock keeper that I thought we were too low.  So at the last lock of the day, he watched as we came in the lock under the sensor, as I stood on the roof with a brush in my hand, which I swept under the sensor as I passed.  As we rose up, being thrown around as usual, the lock keeper confirmed that the sensor didn’t pick up that we had passed, until I held the brush up, and that had worked apparently, but it was just a bit quick ie. the brush was a bit short.  So the practice worked but we’d need something a bit bigger that stayed under the sensor for longer.

Once moored up at St Julian sur Dheune we had a good few shots on the Ninebot and I went so fast at one point that it bleeped at me and slowed me down!
We then set the kermits (folding chairs) up on the corner of the basin and sat in the sun to listen to York City lose (again!) on the radio.  We couldn’t get a signal sitting on the boat, but found if we went round the corner we did and it was a lovely sunny spot.  There was another hotel boat moored, Finesse, and it turned out to be the crew’s night off, so we joined them later for drinks and it was quite a messy evening with us getting back to the boat at 2am!  They were a great crowd, from Wales, Preston, Glasgow originally and had been working on the boats for some years, and this was the final week of the season coming up before they would head off and do something else for the winter – or just relax and enjoy living off the amazing tips they make on the boat!

The next morning the surface of the canal was as foggy as our heads so there was no rush to get away.  We had only a short journey but quite a few locks including the Seven Ecluses flight up to Montchanin.  Half of the locks were deep ones……
The crew of Finesse start the clean-up for the next guests arriving as we sail off into the mist...
It worked!!!  The brolly was big enough to register us entering the lock and we operated it with no problem :)
At the second lock, a boat was already in, but the lock-keeper waved at us to come in as well.  This was good as it meant we were right at the back, but also that the other boat would trigger the sensor, so we wouldn’t need the brolly again!!
The mist soon cleared and it was so much easier going up with the cruiser in front.

Not quite sure how that got there!

We pulled in at Montchanin for the night and after doing some more painting, enjoyed the sun while reading on the front deck and making some travel plans for the winter months.  We were joined by another couple of boats and later in the afternoon the lock keeper came to ask if what time we’d be leaving tomorrow.  “Ten thirty”, Mike replied.  “Ten o’clock.” Nodded the lock-keeper in agreement.  “Ten THIRTY.” I replied.  “Ten o’clock.” He confirmed and left bidding us a good evening. 

The next morning we were just sitting down to our breakfast at 10.01 when the lock-keeper appeared.  “You are leaving at 10?”.  “We’ll be ready to leave in 20 minutes if that’s possible?” I replied.  He grunted, said, “OK”.  And went off.  Either he’s really efficient and works to a tight schedule which has no flexibility or he has OCD……..  Eitherway, he was polite, did what he needed to do but wasn’t in the mood to chat with us.  We didn’t care, we were elated because………WE WERE GOING DOWN!!!  Oh, the joy, the ease, the smooth, easy speed of descending the locks and we seemed to be done with deep ones!  It was a lovely day’s cruise and the lockie headed off at 11.50 leaving us to do the last couple ourselves.  In no time at all we had pulled onto the pontoon outside the large, new L’Eclerc at Montceau les Mines and did two trips to the petrol station for diesel, we were at the lowest we’d been for a while on fuel.  We then took our time doing the shopping as it’s a lovely supermarket, and really, a visit to a big supermarket is like a day out for us – so full of things to look at and not buy.
Autumn colours galore
We then headed along to the lock that would take us to the port at Montceau where we would spend the night, slightly nervous as to whether there would be space for us as when we’d arrived in April we had got the second to last space, just managing to squeeze onto the end of a pontoon.

We needn’t have worried.  It was like a ghost port, to the point that I thought it must have closed down.  There were four boats, two that looked lived on and were perhaps there for winter, and two that were a bit rickety and closed up but the rest was empty, including one whole pontoon finger that had signs on it saying it was closed as it was dangerous.  So we moored up, and Mike went up to the Capitainerie, still enjoying his newly restored ability to walk without pain, where the chap was on the phone and said come back later.  Well, at least it was open for business!  We duly returned and paid our 3euros 40 mooring fees (no electric or water included) and settled down for the night.

Another hot and sunny day followed as we left Montceau under its three bridges and headed for the port of Genelard, where we had first met NB Puzzler with Sally and Andy on board back in April.  It was an easy cruise with each of us single-handing down the locks when the other was busy doing something and not meeting any other boats – it was sooooo quiet!
The middle bridge, with the footbridge behind in the distance, next to Mike's left shoulder.
Waiting for the last bridge to open
An old tile factory on the way to Genelard
We stopped at Genelard for water, and then continued on to the next village of Palinges.  We’d stopped at Genelard the last time we were here, so decided that we should stop somewhere different, and as we approached Palinges, we saw Out of the Blue moored up, who we’d last seen at Saint Dizier on the Champagne Bourgogne.  We caught up with Yvonne and Roger on board and then as I settled down to get another coat of paint on the front locker, Mike went for a look at the village and came back with some cakes from the patisserie – yum!  We then relaxed with our books until the sun disappeared and the temperature dropped and we headed inside and put the fire on.

Another lovely day awaited us and as Out of the Blue cast off at 10am, we decided to give the boat a quick wash before our departure time of 10.30am heading towards Paray le Monial for the night.
The last lock into Paray le Monial, with the lovely park alongside
We moored up on the free moorings beyond the port as we didn’t need electricity or water and after doing some more painting, took the Ninebot out to play.  We are now adept at starting, stopping and going in a straight line, but we’ve not had much opportunity to practice our turning.  Mike has even got quite good at shuffling his feet into a better position once on the move, but I’ve yet to reach that level.  After that, with the realisation that my muffin-top was making an unwelcome return and I need to be ready for my bikini in a few weeks’ time, I decided to try a run.  Since January, each time I’ve run I’ve had some knee pain about 7 or 8 minutes into the run, even with supports on.  Having rested it for a few months, I thought it might be okay , but the problem was still there, so I hadn’t run for a few months.  I headed off and all was well, until 7 minutes in.  I continued for another minute, then stopped and walked a minute, ran a minute until I got back to the boat.  Even doing this though, during the minute run, the pain was kicking in after 45 seconds – most annoying, as I was enjoying the run!

Back at the boat I got my weight out and did some squats, lunges, leg lifts, arm lifts, some tummy exercises and finished off with the plank and 10 minutes of stretching.  When I started running back in 2014 I had been doing two kettlercise classes a week, so my legs were strong, and I think over the years of not doing the weights, my muscles have weakened and hence the knee pain now when I run.  So I’ve decided if I can build the muscle up around the knee again, it should be okay!  We shall see……..

After a quick shower, Yvonne and Roger popped round for a pre-dinner drink.  They are also heading to Roanne for winter but are not looking forward to being moored in the one place for five months, so are going as slowly as possible to eke out their time of freedom until the last minute.
Paray by night
So we left them at Paray the next day and having seen a couple of boats pass us, assumed that the locks were open and that the local lock-keeper was not taking part in the national strike day.  It was slightly overcast, but actually warmer than the previous few days, although not as sunny, and as we cruised along we were rained on by colourful leaves falling – very autumnal – I loved it.
Lots of leaves!
At Digoin we walked out to the pont du canal (aqueduct) over the River Loire – very impressive, and then headed into town for some messages.  Back at the port we paid our dues for one night and settled in for the evening.  The next day would take us onto new waterways, as we would make the turning off the Canal du Centre on to the Canal de Digoin au Roanne for our last few days cruising of the season.