Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Roanne and the Odd Trip Here & There (Or, Where the Hell did January Go???!!!)

A snowy port on Monday morning!
 I can’t believe I didn’t do a single blog entry throughout the whole of January!!  Of course, I could back date this one and do a couple of entries……  Nah, let’s go for it!

We spent New Year at the port and saw in the bells on Eendracht with other boaters from the port.  It was fairly civilised as after a few weeks of overindulging my system wasn’t happy and I was off the booze.  I stayed off the booze for a whole 10 days, and have managed to keep my units down – apart from straying slightly during our week’s skiing……..

The first ‘exciting’ thing to happen in the port in 2018 was a fire on one of the boats.  It happened late on Friday 5th Jan and although the owner was out, his dog and three cats were in the boat.  Two cats ran off when the fire crew popped the door open, the third cat was pulled out from under a bed alive, but suffering badly from smoke inhalation and sadly the wee dog was pulled out dead.  It was awful, such a terrible thing to see, someone’s home in flames and losing his pet.  I happened to be passing as it all kicked off so when the fireman passed the cat out, I took her.  One of the other boaters, Kerry, was a vet in a previous life so she checked her over and said to keep her quiet and keep her eyes and nose clean with saline solution.  Kerry and our friend Jane tried to resuscitate the dog, but it was too late…….
Antara (or Mimine for short!), a bit shocked and suffering from smoke inhalation
On the Saturday, Guillaume, the owner of the burnt boat, came round to see Antara.  He was very pale and in a bit of a state, but very pleased to see her.  One of the other cats had come back but the other was still awol (it eventually did return to the boat and is now safely living at Guillaume’s parents with him and the other cats).  We all agreed it would be best for Mimine to stay with us as it was quiet and she didn’t get on with his parents’ dog, and he was staying with them for the time being.
Starting to feel a bit better

Oh!  Is that cheese?  I'm quite partial to some fromage........

I know which laptop I prefer :)

10 days later feeling very at home, having ousted the AppleMac.....
She quickly settled down and after a nervous first 48 hours started to improve and eat and drink as normal.  On Monday, Guillaume collected her and me and took her to the vet to have her checked out and she was given anti-inflammatory meds and an antibiotic shot, as she was coughing quite badly.  She was thoroughly checked out by the vet who said that she was absolutely fine apart from some inflammation from the smoke and with a week’s course of tablets, the cough should clear in around 5 days – she was right.

I headed back to the UK for a few days, having realised I’d seen more or our friends in the last year than my family, leaving Mike and Mimine in charge.  Well, more the latter………. She had him wrapped round her little finger!! 

I flew into Manchester and took the train up to Kendal to spend a couple of nights with my brother John and catch up with Helen, Alex and Fran and meet the dog, Willow.  It was brilliant to see them and John and I talked non-stop for two days reminiscing about family, friends and places and all about our new ventures.  I finally got to meet Kate, John’s partner, which was great, as he’s been with her for over a year now!  I’m happy to say, she passed the ‘Sister’s Approval Test’ with flying colours…..

I then boarded the train and headed up to Fife to see my mum for a few days.  Another flying visit I managed to squeeze in a coffee with Susan and a legwax at The Crescent in Aberdour, catch up with my mum and nearly catch up with my Aunty Nancy and cousin Diane but the bad weather put paid to that.
Not looking good for the taxi coming....
As always, it wasn’t enough time with mum and at 4am on Wednesday 17th my taxi made its way gingerly through the snow to pick me and the snowboard up to take us to Edinburgh airport for my flight back.  It was touch or go whether the taxi would make it as he skidded around trying to pull away from mum’s and the main road outside of Dalgety Bay wasn’t much better!  However, once on the dual carriageway heading towards the road bridge, the gritters had cleared one lane and we arrived in plenty time for my flight.  Being the first flight of the day we were only delayed by 30 minutes while they defrosted the plane but I had a tight transfer at Brussels, but it turned out, so did a lot of people and the crew were great finding out what gates our connections were at and reassuring us that they’d had it confirmed that we would all make our connections with our slightly late arrival time.

Connection caught and arriving at Lyon, I couldn’t find the snowboard at baggage and resigned myself that it hadn’t made the connection at Brussels, but when I went and asked about missing baggage, I was pointed to the correct place to look for outsized bags, and there it was sitting waiting – woohooo!!  This delay meant by the time I took the tram into Lyon station, I had missed my train to Roanne and the next one wasn’t for a couple of hours.  But looking at the board, I saw the train before mine, had been delayed and hadn’t departed yet.  So I headed up to the platform where on arriving the 40 minute delay was increased to an hour, so I had a 20 minute wait – but better than two hours!!

I got back to the boat late afternoon exhausted, but very pleased to see Mike and the cat! 

The next couple of days were spent packing our ski stuff as on Saturday 20th Jan we headed off to La Tania in the Three Valleys, for a week’s skiing holiday.  We also had to reluctantly hand Antara back to Guillaume, though we did insist that if she did not settle at his parents with the other cats, we would take her back on our return.  Sadly, for us, she DID settle at his parents and he popped in a couple of days ago to show us some photos of her ruling the roost, give us a wee pressie for looking after her and tell us his news about the apartment he has bought.  Although him and his dad are repairing the boat, he’ll just use it for weekends or summer breaks and is moving into an apartment in Roanne.  Anyway, back to the skiing…….
Lots of snow - no people! :)

Warming up with vin chaud at the Ski Lodge

Here come the hot chocolates :) :) :)

The Telemark's 'Cocktail of the Day' proved a popular aperitif.
After a difficult start to the week and threats of retiring, by the end of the week, perfect snow, blue skies and sunshine retracted the threats and we left the group on Saturday 27th with promises to ‘see you next year…..’.

Meanwhile, over the month of January, in the background of all the above, we’ve been progressing with our house purchase, which involved chivvying up the estate agent and paying to have some of the checks expedited, and watching the exchange rate like hawks to ensure we transferred the cash over at a good time.  During our week in La Tania, we received an email from the notaire confirming that all the checks had been done and we would be completing on 9 February.

Well, of course, we’ve been besides ourselves with excitement and the last week has been spent staring at pictures of the house, showing other people pictures of the house, looking into insurance (which you have to have in place for the signing or the house won’t be given to you!), looking at coffee machines, speaking with the rental people who will manage it over the summer for us, making lists of what we need for the rental, looking at table tennis tables, pool towels, high chairs and travel cots, staring at pictures of the house……
One of our Christmas pressies 'Mushrooms in a Box' did well :)

A port outing to the 10pin bowling was great fun - does my bum look big in this????!!!!
Since the new year we’ve kept up with our running and Mike went round the port twice in his fastest time last week – 20 minutes and 58 seconds!  Mike has also joined a band!!  He’s been inducted into the Roanne Rockers, playing his ukulele, and is practising hard for a gig on 15th March.  At least we’ll be leaving the port shortly after that to embark on this season’s cruising, so if he makes an arse of himself, we’ll not have to face folks for much longer…….

Whilst he was at practice yesterday afternoon I went for a lovely, long snowy walk with Nikki, Gorette and Bailley the dog – it was cold!!!

Nikki and Gorette just visible at the end of the bridge in their high-viz hoods :

Quaintrelle shivering under a blanket of snow :(

The next couple of days will be spent getting packed up to move into our house for the next few weeks….. there’s no place like home………
Unfortunately it's not quite going to look like this on Friday, with forecasts of -5 on the cards!!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Roanne (Or, Better Get One Last Entry in for 2017!!)

Christmas in the Port of Roanne
We have now been in Roanne for two months.  Well, that’s not strictly true, Quaintrelle has been in Roanne for two months but we’ve been out and about and probably only spent a few weeks here in total.  Roanne has a fantastic boating community and there is always someone popping in for a cuppa – usually Billy from Lazybones who comes in for a quick cuppa and leaves three hours later……  It’s rather nice to be honest, having plenty of neighbours to socialise with, but Roanne also benefits from good transport links which we have been taking advantage of.  Our first trip was just a couple of short weeks after we arrived and we hired a car for a week and travelled four and a half hours south west to have another house-hunting session around Duras.  We spent a day with each of the two agents we’re registered with and after a second viewing of two properties on Wednesday 8th November, were cracking open champagne that evening as news arrived that our offer on La Ganne had been accepted!!
Apologies for the screen shots but I can't edit pdfs so can't lift the photos out :(

It’s a bit sooner than we’d planned to buy, but the Brexit thing rather forced us to decide to have a house and be resident before March 2019.  The good thing about this house, is that we have bought all the furnishings and fittings as well, so we will rent the house out next summer while we continue our boating taking the boat south to the Canal du Midi late summer, and then onto the Canal du Garonne, where we’ll take a winter mooring and live on the boat for a couple of months while we knock some walls around and then hope to move in in time for Christmas next year!  That’s the plan anyway…..

Back in Roanne for a few days we caught up with friends at the port, unpacked then promptly repacked as on Monday 13th November we were on the train to Paris to catch a flight to Edinburgh to spend a few days with mum, get my hair done, legs waxed, dentist, eye test, repack our summer stuff before heading off to the Maldives for a couple of weeks of winter sun.  Whilst I was attending my various appointments Mike was doing a couple of days work for a client so it felt good when Friday 17th arrived and we boarded our flight to Gatwick where we would pick up our connection to Male.
Arrivals lounge......

Once you've stayed a few times at Komandoo you get your own villa :) (And yes, there should be an apostrophe there......)

Not thinking they would say yes, Mike asked if he could drive the dive boat.  The pilot seemed to enjoy his time off and just flicked his hand now and then to keep Mike on course before letting him try and moor it up, which he did brilliantly and to a round of applause from the crew :)

Have to suck my stomach in these days for such photos..... ;)

Sally does the dive briefing at the Kuredu Caves

We had a great couple of weeks and did more diving than we’d done before as, prior to our holiday, we’d taken the online course to enable us to dive with Nitrox, which gives you a longer bottom time,  and meant we could go on the two-dive boat, which goes a bit further and usually means you see bigger fish!  The Manta Rays had been in abundance right up until the day of our arrival so we were hoping we would have our first sightings of them.  However, that was the last day they were seen at the nearby cleaning station and by half-way through our holiday the ‘How Many Manta Were Spotted Today’ board was put away until the next Manta season…….  We did see lots of turtles, sharks, and some eagle rays, and as always, the reefs provide plenty of small, pretty fish to look at.

All too soon, our time on Komandoo drew to a close and we were packing our damp wetsuits back in the bag for the journey home.  Towards the end of our stay the weather had been somewhat mixed and on the morning of our departure it was windy and rainy to the point of ‘stormy’ and we could barely see the next-door island at times.  All of us that were scheduled to leave hoped and prayed that the seaplane wouldn’t make it and we’d have to stay, but after one false start where we headed out to the ‘airport’ (seaplane pontoon), and had to come back, our plane arrived and we headed to Male International.  There was minor chaos at Male as so many of the seaplanes had been held up with the weather, and it turns out that the main airlines will wait as long as they can for passengers, especially if there is only one flight out, as there was with ours to Gatwick.  At the end of the day, we touched down at Gatwick just under two hours late.  Luckily we’d decided to stay the night at Gatwick and take our connecting flight back to Lyon the next day, as we would’ve missed the last train back to Roanne if we’d gone the same night.  After a minor fall out trying to find the hotel and discovering one of the shower gels we were bringing back to France had shattered and spilled all over the wetsuits, we had a shower and climbed into bed and were sound asleep by 9pm.

The next morning we were up sharp and enjoyed a full English breakfast before boarding our Easyjet flight to Lyon.  As we came into Lyon we could see snow on the surrounding hills and when we disembarked it was absolutely freezing!!  No hanging around for trains though, as Dave and Mel were joining us for the weekend and having arrived a couple of hours before us, had picked up their hire car and were there to meet us.  Driving back to Roanne through snow capped hills made me feel as if we were going on our skiing holiday – very strange……

Back on board we quickly got the fire on but couldn’t get the cooker to come on to put the kettle on.  Oh well, not to worry, we just cracked open a bottle of bubbly instead and as we chilled out, with the fire and the central heating on the boat soon warmed up as did the Heritage stove and it miraculously sprang back to life and boiled the kettle for a cuppa.

We were still a bit jet-lagged and Dave and Mel had had an early start, so we made arrangements to meet them at 7pm after they’d got settled into their digs for the night, and go for something to eat.  Unsuccessful at the first restaurant we tried, the second had plenty of space and HUGE steaks, which we enjoyed with a couple of bottles of wine and then headed to our respective homes for a  good night’s sleep.  

We slept well but woke early, but poor Dave and Mel had a terrible night in their bizarre accommodation, which was like a room in an apartment, but they only had access to their room and bathroom and someone else was in the room across the landing……..  The room had been to hot and the only way to cool it was to open the window which allowed the noise of the late-night revellers in, so they arrived slightly groggy just before 10am and we had a lazy morning, then a walk round the port, then a late lunch/early tea on board Quaintrelle.  Dave and Mel had cancelled their second night in Roanne and given the weather conditions and an early flight on Sunday morning, headed off to Lyon to spend the night at the airport just to be on the safe side.

Whilst we were away we had expected to receive the Diagnostic report on the house from the Notaire and the Compris du Vente, which is the pre-sale agreement you have to sign initially.  As neither of these had arrived we did a bit of chasing with the estate agent, started preparing for Christmas and thinking about our next trip in a week’s time to York.

The documents (154 pages worth) arrived electronically on Friday 10th December, all in French, which meant we needed to go through them with our English estate agent and he wouldn’t be around now until after the weekend.  I used google translate to try and get the gist of some of the stuff in bold, which I assumed was things we should take note of and it appeared there was an issue with the electrics and the septic tank (which we’d been told to expect as they seem to change the compliance rules of these every year, so even brand new ones often no longer comply!).

We were sitting at the station at Lyon airport having just arrived to catch our flight to Birmingham when Jerry rang on Tuesday 12th.  He hadn’t seen the report, so after a chat with him about various things we sent him the link to the files and he promised to read it through and ring us back.

Meanwhile, we waited at the quietest airport in the world for our flights to Birmingham, arrived at Birmingham, picked up our hire car, checked in and had dinner at Fawkesley Hall (our work’s night out for MPQ Safety Leadership Ltd) and headed to bed with no phone call from Jerry.  France time is similar to Canal time apparently.
Waiting at the strangely quiet Lyon airport

Anyone there...?????

Our stunning digs for the night at Fawkesley Hall

Elizabeth I and John Merrick have stayed here.  Not at the same time clearly....

We had tasks to do the next day so were up sharp (for us), breakfasted and heading to Northampton by 9.45am.  Mike wanted a new pair of Tricker boots so we were heading to the shoe-making district of Northampton where Trickers still have their factory and a little outlet shop.  Whilst he tried on a couple of options I (obviously!!) looked at the ladies ones and ended up with a lovely pair of red brogues for my Christmas.  Then it was on to Majestic Wine for some supplies and then onto our old stomping ground at Weedon to catch up with Jim, Steve and Keith.  It was good to see them all and have a guided tour of Jim’s latest creation, ‘Joy Louise’ – very nice – and beautiful paint job by Steve.  Not too keen on the green Heritage though…..

After a cuppa there it was into Braunston to the marina to stock up on various filters, and then as the rain washed away the last of the snow, we headed up the M1 to York.  About an hour into the journey Jerry rang with good news.  He’d actually gone up to the house as he didn’t understand what the problem was with the electrics and wanted to see it for himself.   It turns out a little bit of the plastic white cover has come off a bit of trunking, that you can’t reach without a ladder, but will cost a couple of euros to get a new bit and click it back on.  And then new compliance legislation in France states you must have a little removable cover in your shower in case you need to access the electrics there.  We don’t have one.  But we also don’t have any electrics under there so why would we put a removable cover in that could cause leaks, to look at nothing……. Good old France………. ;)

The problem ‘Majeur malfunction’ with the sceptic tank is because the surveyor doesn’t know where the drainage field is, which renders the whole system as not complying.  But it works, doesn’t leak and if we really want a digger in to dig up and destroy the garden to find the drainage field, then we can, but we don’t really need to.  Unless at some point the Marie insists we do, but as long as we’re not spilling sewage anywhere, he’s unlikely to bother, so it’s another of these French things; officially it doesn’t comply, but you don’t get fined or anything for not complying and you don’t really have to do anything to make it comply unless your Marie tells you to……….

With that we were able to send the 154 initialled pages back to the Notaire in France, which would take 3-5 days, but two of these were the weekend, when they’re not at work anyway, so when I posted them on Thursday morning, we knew they’d be there by Tuesday at the latest.

Meanwhile, we’d arrived at our digs at Norfolk Towers and were delighted to see the Robertsons again – it’d been a while.  Whilst they were in the throes of work and Christmas activities Mike went to see his accountant and financial adviser and I busied myself doing Christmas cards and calendars and various other tasks around the town.  Friday night was a curry out with Vicki and Stuart and Debbie and a couple of drinks in the Phoenix and on Saturday we crossed the cold but gloriously clear North Yorkshire moors to see the rellies in Whitby.  Uncle Ronnie was on good form for his 89 and 10/12ths despite being recently widowed and having terrible pain in his knees from arthritis, and there was the usual chaos up at Becca and Lees as they kept the kids entertained while Becca baked a mountain of goodies for Lees parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party the next day.  Becca’s dad John was there too which saved us a trip up to his house, and it was lovely to catch up with all their news.

Back in York for Saturday evening we took Caitlin and Ollie out to Wagamamas for tea, trying to console Ollie as he’d been at York’s away game in Kidderminster which proved to be a very long journey for no return – they lost – again…….. 
After breakfast on Sunday, a quick coffee at Nicola and Dan’s and we were back on the road to Birmingham where Mike had a day’s work on Monday at the other site of his Edinburgh client.  I had a shopping list of things to take back to France for Christmas and spent the day doing various trips between the shops and the hotel as I could only carry so much.  Halfords for filler was our last port of call on Tuesday morning before heading to the airport to return the hire car, have a full english breakfast and then return to Lyon.  Back at Roanne Christmas preparations were in full swing and over the next couple of days whilst Mike finished off some documentation for his client, I stocked up the fridge for the next few days.
Looks like Santa has been!!!

And he wants me to look like him!!!  Bringing a lovely red duffle coat to go with my red tricker shoes :)

We had a lovely Christmas day spent on Pete and Jan’s boat with Bill and Jane and Nicky, Gorette and Chris with us all taking along a contribution.  We got off lightly with responsibility for dessert and availed ourselves of the stack of M&S Mincemeat pies we’d brought back with us, along with a Christmas pudding, brandy sauce and a bottle of toffee vodka.  Good cheer, food and wine was a-plenty and we really enjoyed the day, staggering back to Quaintrelle and into bed just before midnight.

Boxing day was a quiet affair and we stayed glued to the settee, watched both series of SPACED back to back and ate sweets.  By 6pm my body was reneging and in need of a bit of exercise so I went out for a walk around the port while Mike took the shortcut and his Christmas present and we met up at Lazybones for a half hour chat.  Our running around the port has been somewhat sporadic since we left for the Maldives – well, our being here has been somewhat sporadic – but that will change in the New Year.  Won’t it Mike?!

That will be if I can tear him away from this:
Looking very pleased with himself for having already mastered Twinkle, Twinkle and Frere Jaques :)
So, with lots of new adventures planned for 2018, I will leave you with our boating stats for 2017 and best wishes for the New Year.  We hope it brings you peace, joy and happiness, wherever you may be.

Stats for Our First Season in France:

We travelled 1971kms
Passed through 748 locks
Spent 1147 euros on prop diesel
Spent 507 euros on domestic diesel
Spent 1854 euros on boat maintenance (incl painting, engine servicing and repair to bowthruster)
Spent 2238 euros on moorings (of which 1068 were winter moorings, 400 when going back to UK, 230 in Paris!, leaving 540 for other ad hoc moorings whilst cruising.)
And most importantly, we spent 2200 euros on booze – a mammoth 570 of which was spent in August on Champagne!!

Changed times from the daily grog ration..........

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