Friday, 14 June 2019

Percey (and the duck fish)

Our mooring at Cheney on Wednesday evening
As it was one of Tonnerre’s market days on Wednesday we had arranged to travel in the afternoon so we could pay the market a visit and pick up the provisions we were running short of.  There weren’t many stalls; apparently the Saturday market has many more.  As it was, we got nearly everything we needed and were soon back at the port.

The small market with the church we half visited yesterday at the top of the hill
We set off after lunch and Cecile was opening the lock at the agreed time of 1.15.  She had both gates open and as there were only bollards on the left side that was where we moored.  Unfortunately, that was also the side where she was standing so I apologised that it would take me a while to walk around to close the other gate. She explained that it wasn’t a problem as a wider boat was joining us so we needed to keep both gates open.

As there was no boat in sight she went off on her scooter and was back in five minutes saying the boat was coming.  It was one of the hire boats that had been moored behind us at Tonnerre and they were apologising profusely for being late.  They were clearly new to driving the boat as they were all over the place and, as they were going to be behind us in the lock, Karen took charge of watching our rear end.

Two French couples on the boat coming in behind us with Cecile closing one of the gates
At Dannemoine, as we approached the second lock, we felt we were back in the UK as there were weeping willows growing on the bank.  We hadn’t really realised but we have seen very few weeping willows over here.

A little bit of England
Thinking of England reminded us of the strange noises we had heard for the last two nights at Tonnerre.  In the UK we’re used to the sound of ducks, geese or swans pecking at the algae on the side of the boat.  Sometimes it can get quite loud and even wake us up first thing in the morning, but it’s one of those sounds that we find soothing.

Well, for the last two nights we’ve been hearing a noise like plastic chairs scraping on the ground.  At first, we put it down to the people moored on the plastic boat in front as they were eating dinner outside and were sitting on plastic chairs on the deck.  Once it had got dark and they had gone inside the noise continued so we knew our theory was wrong.  Karen finally got it yesterday evening as she was convinced it was coming from our hull - I was trying to ignore this idea as the last thing I wanted was an animal trapped behind the gunwales.  

The next thing I knew she had taken out one of our windows and was hanging over the water in great excitement as she had sussed it; large fish were busily attacking the algae.  We were so surprised that we had never come across this before but at least we knew what it was.

Anyway, back to the cruise.  By the side of the Dannemoine lock was a stone carving that took the form of a towel and bikini top placed on top of a block.

Unusual carving
Whilst in the lock we noticed a long low roof that looked suspiciously like a lavoir so made a note to cycle back and check it out later in the day.

Is that the roof of a lavoir near the lock?
By the time we reached Cheney, and the third lock, our French cruising companions were getting more confident.

In the lock at Cheney
As we were going to moor up for the day when we found a decent spot, we let the French boat pass us as soon as we were out of the lock.  The first stretch was nice and deep at the sides but had very high trees and we weren’t looking for shade as the hot weather has disappeared for the last few days, so carried on for a while. If we believe the forecast though, it should be returning to the high 20s from Thursday – let’s wait and see.  What we did pass though was yet another lavoir so one more to add to our list for our bike ride later.

Passing the lavoir at Cheney
We soon found an open spot and moored up for the day.  Compared with recent moorings this one didn’t have a pathway next to us, so we won’t have people passing by the boat.  It did mean that we will have a pleasant walk along the grassy bank to get to the closest road back at the lock at Cheney.

Moored for Wednesday – water coming through the gate paddles at Cheney lock can be seen in the far distance

After putting our feet up for a while and having a cuppa we cycled down the grassy track back to Cheney.  As we approached the lavoir we came across the community recycling area that contained some very new looking bins.  On closer inspection we realised how new they were because, in addition to the normal stickers explaining what can be deposited, there were stickers headed ‘New’.  These stickers indicated that they could now take those items like yogurt pots.  We have always found it odd that we could recycle these in the UK but not over here. 

We buy yogurt and similar dairy stuff in 1kg pots which we wash and have been stacking up and storing to take back to the UK.  At least we have now found somewhere that will take them – a job for Thursday morning.

We stopped to have a look around the lavoir at Cheney and, as expected, found that it had been fed through a sluice from the canal.

Sluice from the canal beyond
Next, we crossed at the lock and got onto the towpath to cycle on down to check out what we thought was a lavoir at Dannemoine when we came through on the boat.  Sure enough, it was a lavoir, and I’m afraid I need to include a couple of pictures to explain the two new words and the fact we learnt today.

As you can see the basin was fed by rainwater from the sloping roofs.  There was also a spring running into the basin but that’s not so obvious in the picture.  Apparently, the Romans built villas with roofs like this to catch water and the basin it was collected in was called an impluvium and the roof was a compluvium.  These two Latin words were new to us, but we found out later that they are used in French descriptions of this type of lavoir.

On top of a drying rail we noticed a couple of wooden boxes and we also found out that these were used by the washerwomen as knee protectors when leaning over the washing stones that surround the basins.  These wooden knee protectors are called garde genoux in French and comprised our new fact for the day.

A couple of garde genoux resting on the drying rail
For completeness I will mention the other items in the above pictures but I will try and refrain from further discussions on lavoirs ūüėČ At the far end on the right is a fireplace for producing wood ash for cleaning and at the far end on the left is a twin holed lavatory that is open to the stream below.  Also, the smooth washing stones can be seen around the basin and, the cast iron pillars that are often seen holding the roof beams on impluvium lavoirs.

On Wednesday we cruised six kilometres down three locks.

When Karen went off for her morning run on Thursday, I walked down to use the recycling point we found yesterday.  When I got back, I went in the annual search for suitable large twigs that would make ideal sweet pea sticks. 

We set off at 1.00pm on a journey that should have taken about three hours but ended up taking nearly six!  It wasn’t that we had a lot of disasters, but it seemed everything was against us. At least the weather was back to full sun and in the high 20s so, after the last few greyish days we felt summer was back again.

Before the first lock we went past a fuel point.  We had seen it marked on the waterway guide but couldn’t understand why there would be diesel available in the middle of nowhere.

Fuel point but goodness knows when it was last used
We arrived at the first lock and there were no √©clusiers in sight and as it was quite breezy, we didn’t fancy hovering around in the middle of the cut while we waited.  As usual there wasn’t a lock landing, so we tied up to a pole by the lock and used a stake for the rear.

Waiting for our first éclusier
After about a quarter of an hour a hire boat with a British couple on board turned up behind us.  We thought great, they must have been let down the previous lock so their √©clusier will be on his way.   No such luck but after waiting a bit longer one did turn up but told us there was a lock broken further down which should be mended by the time we got there.

When we got to the broken lock, the British couple were still behind us and started hovering around with us while we waited for the repairs to be finished.  In the end they gave up waiting and turned around to moor about 400 metres back at a mooring site we had just passed.  After another long wait the men opened the gates and let us in and we sat and waited for the √©clusier.  

Going into the broken lock
He finally arrived and then promptly said he should go and get the British couple so he scooted off on his scooter.  He was back in a few minutes and we all carried on waiting for them to arrive.  In the end he gave up waiting for them and let us down on our own.

About to go down at last
The next lock was all set for us, and we were straight in and out without any delays other than a conversation with the éclusier.

Straight in…
…and out of this lock with only a conversation as a delay
Our conversation with the éclusier was mainly him explaining that a hotel boat was coming in the opposite direction, but not to worry as we would get through the next lock first and could then wait for it to pass us at a point where it was a bit wider.

It’s good that they tell us when large boats are coming so that we can be extra vigilant.  As it turned out the next lock was set against us and we could see the hotel boat going in, so we made fast to the bank to wait for them to come up the lock and get past us.  Of course, the pound started dropping as the lock was filled for them and we ended up at a fair angle as we got stuck on the bottom.

The hotel boat had a full English crew and they were most apologetic about us getting caught but we said it didn’t matter especially as we weren’t in a hurry.  With a fair amount of reversing and poling we were soon free and heading for the lock ourselves.

We told Buddy to stay on the boat when we went into the lock as we could see several dogs running around the lock cottage and lockside.  To our surprise, when we arrived at the lock, they weren’t dogs, but goats, so it was just as well we told him to stay where he was otherwise it could have been pandemonium.

An √©clusiere took over for the last two locks and she had obviously got hot as her mum turned up with a bottle of water for her.  Although we offer our √©clusiers coffee, we haven’t thought about offering water.  We took a while to find somewhere to moor for the night as the sides were so shallow, but we eventually found somewhere that even had some shade even if it was four feet from the bank.

Moored for Thursday night outside Percey
Tomorrow we need to get to Saint-Florentin as Peter & Helen are popping in to see us on their way down to their house in the south, so we have arranged for a 9.00am start.

On Thursday we cruised 12 kilometres down six locks.

1 comment:

  1. Don’t you dare! (Stop posting ab out lavoirs). Hope to see you tomorrow sometime. If we’re not on board Catharina, we’ll just be out spending money on her - she has expensive tastes ūüėČ