Friday 29 July 2011
Wow what a day! Up at 6am, packed our bags, breakfast and then waiting for the guy to come and check the apartment (8am). Once done we left for the Metro - 2 trains - numerous staircases up and down and heading for Bercy. When we got to Bercy we had to come up out of the Metro and walked another couple of hundred meters to Gare de Bercy where the main train line left from. Arrived at around 9am and the train was scheduled to leave at 9.20am. Found our platform and our train and boarded around 9.10am. Stowed all our cases and found seats. The train was very nice and comfortable with stowage for cases at the end. The trip was 1 hour 11 minutes high speed - and I mean high speed - when a train came from the opposite direction it gave me a hell of a fright! Out into the country and passing through lots of little villages. Only one stop prior to Joigny where we got off.
We headed off the station and found a small Tabac where we had the most delicious coffee. The young fellow who served us was very cheery and helpful and spoke a little English (pettit pur). We had fun talking to him and he told us where to go for the Locoboat people - about 1km down the road and turn left before the bridge. Wheeling our cases for 1km was not the most easy task but hey we had already wheeled them all around Paris - we were up to it! We finally arrived at the Locoboat office and Kev carried out all the formalities. We were able to leave our bags and were directed to the local Marchee (supermarket). Directions weren't that good and we had a little trouble finding it but we eventually arrived. We spoke to a lady from the Locoboat office who was buying her lunch and she offered to order a taxi for us to take us back to the Locoboat office. The Marchee was at least 1km away and we had lots of stores to buy. In view of this we started loading up our trolley. The Marchee was one of those bulk places which only had large containers of things but we managed to find enough of what we needed to fill the trolley. The boys bought 6 bottles of Cab Sav for €8.00 (that's 6 bottles for 8.00!)which was amazing! Whats more we had a bottle of it tonight and it was very good! Had to get a taxi back to the Locaboat offices as we had a heap of groceries.
The Locaboat people were ready to give us or orientation and we went on board with the lady from the company. She was very professional but not unfriendly, did everything in order and when someone asked about something she said I will get to that!! Once she had told us all she showed us how to start the motor and showed us forward and reverse and then told us to cast off. Kev had to back the boat out from its marina berth and set off up river for the first stop and then our first donut. Another practise stop and then back down the river to moor at the marina berth that we set off from. No sweat and we tied up and we signed the papers and she left us to it - "wished us Bon Voyage and happy holidays".
Then it was up to us to go and get all of our bags, groceries and bikes. The girls found the floating marina a bit of a trial as it wobbled a bit when you walked on it. It took us about an hour to get everything on board and all stowed away and shipshape. I started up the motor, gave the order to cast off and backed out of the marina and then I pushed the throttle forward and away upstream we went on the start of our 10 day adventure. Came to the first bridge, checked with which arch we had to go under and pushed the throttles further forward to get up to maximum cruising speed. On the river we are allowed to do 10kph whilst on the canal only 6kph. Yells from Jannie "aren't you going too fast - slow down a bit. As skipper I took no notice. Bit like that Lotto advert on television back home.
We had gone 3 kms and we came to our first lock. Firstly we had to park up in the middle of the river as there was a boat already in the lock coming downstream. I don't know what was happening but we parked up for more than 30 minutes all the time having to adjust the direction of the boat as the current kept moving us about. Finally the lock gates opened and out came one big boat. By this time there were 4 boats queued up to go into the lock - we were second in the queue. We proceeded to move into the lock following the boat ahead. What a good crew I have got as we tied up to the moorings in the lock perfectly. All four boats were in the lock and the 3 women from Hamilton made a right hash of their mooring and even the lock keeper was shaking his head as they attempted to get a mooring rope to him. The chap in the boat behind us had to fend them off from hitting his boat several times. The gates were closed, the water went up, the gates opened and we proceeded to move out of the lock in procession and soon I set the throttle up to the line and we slowly overtook the smaller boat that was in front of us. Pole position!
We followed the map and set the boat up perfectly to enter the second lock. We got the bow of the boat tied up but missed the stern mooring and the boat slewed around a bit. Jannie had climbed off and grabbed the stern line and soon we were ship shape and tied up to the lock side. Even though we had got a long way ahead of the other three boats that were in the last lock we had to sit and wait for them to get into this one before the lockkeeper did anything. The lockkeeper had the cutest house.
One out of this lock we headed up to the point where we had decided to moor for the night. The girls were going to cook but that notion all disappeared when we tied up 10 metres from a restaurant. Slowly the other boats tied up and the small boat came in to moor just ahead of us. We gave them a helping hand and invited them to come and have a drink with us. They are an American couple from Florida. Charley and Jerry - I leave you to decide who was the bloke? Our boat is called "Flechanboult" and is 1107 metres. Jannie and I have the forward cabin and J&P are in the middle cabin which has an extra bed. We are using that extra bed to house our cases.
We headed off to dinner into the adjacent restaurant and all had a lovely meal. Best one we had had in France. Once the meal was over we headed back to the boat to sort out our beds and catch up with our blogs. That done it was off to bed at 9.50pm - it was dark and we couldn't see to read.
Saturday 30th July
Woke to the sound of Jannies alarm at 6.30am? We had breakfast on board and after abluts and tidy up and cranked up the motor and away we went. Our aim was to go to Auxerre a day of about 24 kms and 9 locks. For the first part of the day we were the only ones on the river. We passed another boat coming out of a lock and didn't see anyone else until we were almost at Gurgy where we had been told by a lock keeper that there was a nice restaurant. We had passed a few wee villages but didn't stop. We went through a lock and then moved off the river onto the canal. Two locks later we moved back onto the river.
Moored up in Gurgy and were sent on a long walk to the restaurant. Beers and salads ordered and we rearranged the umbrellas on the tables. It was very hot and still and the beers went down well. The salads came and were huge - we each had a whole iceberg lettuce and salmon and prawns. It was lovely and we finished and I noted that the lock keepers would be back on duty. Locks are open from 9.00am until lunch at 12.00 and then they come back from their break at 1.00pm and work until 7.00pm. So you are not able to move much before 9.00am and it is forbidden to move after 7.00pm. Ok with us.
After lunch we walked back a much shorter route and were soon under way. The way ahead was clear and we thought that this would be same as the morning. Around the corner and there was a bigger boat in front of us. There were some narrower places between the next three locks so we were not able to get past them. They obviously had a more powerful boat and they were able to move into the locks at a better rate than we were. Although on a couple of the locks we made a bit of a mess of mooring we got though ok and the lock keepers were helpful with looping our ropes around the bollards. There are several different types of tying up that we have so far come across and each is a new experience.
We finally got to Auxerre and went down the river looking for a mooring site for the night. A couple of 180s later we found a mooring and tied up. We locked the boat up and went to the supermarket. Roast chicken on board for dinner and baguette. But when we went back to the boat there had been set up in our absence a DJ and boy was the music crap!! After a few minutes I suggested that we move the boat back up the quay. So although I started the motor we walked the mooring ropes back past another boat that had been moored behind us which in now in front of us.
Beers, wine, chicken, salad, baguette.