Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Pont de Sainte-Sabine (baby courgette at last)

The area we are cruising through at the moment is often called Burgundian Switzerland
After a trip to the boulangerie first thing on Sunday we were off and into our first lock by 10 where our éclusier for the day was raring to go and kept up his pace all morning.  As Karen said at one point, ‘He must be on a promise’!

It was another grey day which was more than made up by the stunning countryside we went through.  The change between east and west Dijon is amazing.  The trip from the Saône over to Dijon was dead flat along the Dijon plain which gave some fantastic views across to the hills in the far distance but was quite exposed.  Now we are heading through rolling, heavily wooded hills with the odd limestone outcrop.  It doesn’t really feel like we are in the middle of a wine producing area. 

When we were nearly at the top of one of the locks Karen was doing some deadheading and suddenly shrieked! She noticed that our first courgette of the year had appeared.

Our first baby courgette
Back to our éclusier, after closing the bottom gate behind us (he was only opening one anyway) he ran along the length of the lock to open the paddles.  After checking it was OK with us, he was opening both paddles all the way as quickly as possible.  Although it made for feisty ascents, we were securely fastened at the front and I was holding the rear against the wall with the engine, so we were happy to comply.

Unusual decoration on a VNF office
Ironically, bearing in mind the comments we have received recently, neither of the marked water points were apparent today.  From recent reports we’re pretty confident that the ones in the next village we will be stopping at will be present and correct though.

At our penultimate lock we had to wait for a boat to come down and, as it was gone 11.30, we assumed we would moor up at the top of the lock and let the éclusier have his lunch break before continuing.  To our surprise he wanted to carry on – hence Karen’s comment.  We ended up mooring for the day at lunchtime in Pont de Pany about two hours earlier than we had expected.

 Heading for the final lock at Pont de Pany
Pretty lock cottage at Pont de Pany

Moored for the rest of Sunday in Pont de Pany
After our own lunch we explored the village.  It didn’t have a boulangerie, but it did have a baguette machine – the first time either of us have noticed one.  This one was producing baguettes sourced from the boulangerie at Velars-sur-Ouche that we had visited first thing in the morning.

Baguette dispenser
Apart from the main road through the village there was only one side road and, as that was called Rue du Lavoir, we had to investigate.

The Lavoir by the river in Pont de Pany
Our cruise on Sunday had taken us eight kilometres up eight locks.

On Monday morning we got the bikes out and cycled to Fleurey-sur-Ouche where we locked them up and followed an historic trail around the town.  I know it’s not yet historic, but we saw our first pizza dispenser; now all we need is a pain au chocolate dispenser 😊

One of the chateau-like buildings in town
Lavoir by the river Ouche has been completely renovated
Fortified gatehouse of a large chateau

The main street through town
After lunch we set off to rendezvous with an éclusier at the first lock.  For only the second time in manned locks here, there was no one there when we arrived so we temporarily moored up and decided to wait 20 minutes or so before calling up the control centre.   Whilst mooring up, a VNF guy came past on his scooter.  He stopped to find out if we were OK and I explained that we were expecting an éclusier to meet us. He was on a maintenance mission but made a telephone call for us and said someone would be with us in 30 minutes. 

We went indoors for a cuppa while we waited and after 10 minutes Karen went to the cratch to fetch vegetables for the evening meal and she noticed a guy had turned up, set the lock and was waiting for us.  We set off and met our éclusier for the afternoon.  He stayed with us through all 13 locks and was occasionally joined by a colleague.

He was a really lovely young guy and was very helpful too.  He knew we wanted water and made some calls to check which points were working.  As it turned out there were none working on the length we were due to cover during the afternoon, so it’ll have to wait until at least Tuesday.  

Yet another restored lavoir
Approaching one of the locks we were passing what we thought was a hotel boat until we neared.  A guy and a woman came out and were waving like mad; we pulled up next to them and it turned out to be Lisa and Tim on Rabelo.  Karen and Lisa had been in contact, through the Women On Barges group, over the last week or so exchanging information about this canal.

Approaching Rabelo – a boat that you could play hide and seek in, unlike ours
Our last lock of the day was at La Forge and, although nearly all the 250-odd locks we have been through over here so far are all closed between 12 and 1, it was the first one where we have seen a sign indicating as such.

Lock closure times notice
We moored up for the rest of Monday, just around the corner from the lock, having cruised 14 kilometres up 14 locks.

Our Monday night mooring
We had an earlier than usual start on Tuesday as we had arranged to meet the éclusier at 9.30.  We wanted to make sure we could get to Pont d’Ouche by midday so we could stop for water whilst having lunch.

The weather promised to be a much better day than of late and, indeed, the sun was out all day with the occasional heavy cloud rolling over.  We actually had two éclusiers and when we were getting set in the second lock, they asked us if we minded waiting as another boat was coming up the lock behind us.

We were more than happy to wait but, unfortunately it was to no avail.  When the French couple arrived, they had a go at fitting in the lock with us but, even after we moved forward to the final bollard, they decided they would rather go on their own as they felt it would be too tight for them.

The French couple reversing out
We saw three other boats on the move during the day and all were hotel boats; two of which we met in bridge holes and the last one on a bend.

Waiting for the first hotel boat to clear the bridge hole
It felt wonderful cruising through the wooded valley, and it was made even better by having the sun out.

We made Pont d’Ouche by lunchtime and one of our éclusiers told us to see the guy on a boat called Catherine, the boat not the guy.  We found Catherine and moored up in front of her and I went up to find out where the water was.  An Englishman called David owned the boat and he was busy preparing an area of the side for painting.  I asked him where the water point was, and he said that it was best just to use his hose. 

He told me that he and his wife have overwintered the boat in the port for the last nine years and I must admit it was in a lovely location.  I tried to insist I paid for the water, but he would have none of it, especially as we were just a narrowboat with a small tank.  He even declined coffee and cake that Karen offered him.  Anyway, we had a good chat and learnt a few more things about the canal whilst waiting for the tank to fill, oh and the washing to finish and for us to have showers 😉

Moored against Catherine for water
After taking on water we said our farewells and moored in a hotel boat mooring just in front of David for our lunch.  We knew the hotel mooring was OK as the éclusiers had told us it would be coming down the next lock when we went up it after lunch.

Moving off for our lunchtime mooring on the left
Waiting for the second hotel boat to emerge through a bridge hole after the lock

Passing through Crugey
We met our final hotel boat on a bend and had to move over to the ‘wrong’ side in order for them to get around it in the deeper channel.

Heading for the final lock of the day
It had been yet another entertaining day chatting with our éclusiers and for the second time running we were thanked for smiling a lot and being so understanding.  We can’t imagine how they must have been treated recently for them to say that, but we hope it was an isolated incident.

We moored at Pont de Sainte-Sabine on Tuesday night having covered 12 kilometres up 11 locks.  We now only have seven kilometres and 13 locks to cover before reaching the summit at Lochère which we hope to do on Wednesday afternoon after walking up to and visiting the hilltop town of Châteauneuf.

Our mooring for the day on Tuesday evening

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