Thursday 28 March 2019

Laroche St. Cydroine (yes, we’re now in Burgundy)

Finally, in French water
All my siblings and their families stayed in Gargrave over the weekend for my mum’s memorial ceremony in the village hall.  There was a tremendous turnout from the village too and, although it was very moving, it was a wonderful way to celebrate her life.

It was back to the boat at Gayton on Sunday afternoon and we spent the rest of the day packing the inside and outside and making sure everything was secure.  We were up early on Monday morning to finish off the last bits and pieces before heading down to the crane ready for the start of the journey.  One of the last things to do was to put all the plant pots inside and they all fitted in the bedroom.

We had been moored opposite Toby & Sue on Baleine while we had been at Gayton and they came along to wish us luck as we were waiting to be lifted out.  They’re such a lovely couple and seemed so excited about our new adventures; Toby was even waving both arms in the air and saluting us!

The crane driver was ready, so we cruised slowly into the sling.  There was quite a bit of trial and error as he tried to find the balance point.  After four attempts of lifting and dropping us again to move the sling he finally got it.

Driving into the sling
At one point I had to get back onto the boat to put back the front and back lines; I had removed everything, forgetting they would need a means to steady the boat as she was lifted.

Clearly too heavy at the front
Level at last

The lorry hadn’t turned up when the boat was ready, so the lads went off for a tea break and we sat and waited.  We spoke with the trucking company and found out that there had been issues on the M25, but Paul was about 12 minutes away with 15 minutes to go before he had to take an enforced 45 minute break.

Paul arrived and immediately split the deck and lengthened the loading area
The operation to swing the boat around and lay her on the lorry deck went very smoothly, but…


and on the truck ready to remove the shackles holding the sling
…there wasn’t enough room for the sling to be pulled out from under the boat.  So, it was back on with the shackles and up in the air again.  Thicker lumps of wood were found, and everything was sorted out.

Struggling to get the sling out
We were finally on and then Paul needed me to help him measure for height clearance.  As I was clearly nervous about our home being damaged, I made sure the tape measure had some kinks in it ūüėČ

Measuring for the height
Once we had seen the restraining straps had been put on, we set off for Reading after arranging to meet Paul at 8.00am two days later in Migennes.  We were staying with Lauren & Lewis overnight and also seeing Sophie & Yanos and Polly & Lochlann for our final goodbyes.

On our drive down we both realised how nervous we had been watching our home being lifted out of the water and being swung around.  We also remarked, that considering there were four guys from the yard involved in the operation for well over an hour, that £350 seemed good value for money.

We arrived in Reading well before the girls got home from work, so we made ourselves at home and went for a last UK walk along the River Thames to Sonning lock.

Sonning lock in the distance
Before having dinner at Lauren’s, we went around to see Sophie & Yanos’s house that they had moved into last week.  Having been in house or flat shares for all their academic lives (they are now both lecturers at Reading university so still in academia), it was lovely to see them finally on their own and starting to make a home together.

We left at 6.30 on Tuesday morning and without too much trouble on the M25 were soon in the tunnel and on our way to France.  Unlike our holiday this year we took the autoroutes and headed straight for Burgundy.  After another four hours or so we were in Auxerre where we had an Airbnb for the night. 

Wednesday was another early start as the boat was due to arrive at the yard at 8.00am.  As it turned out, Paul had arrived the night before and had left the truck in the yard overnight ready for an early craning.

Simon, the yard owner, soon got things moving and it wasn't long before we were being lifted off the truck.  Unlike the UK, there were no hard hats in sight of course.

My weight was needed to keep the boat level ūüėČ
We had wondered why the boatyard at Gayton hadn’t marked where they placed the sling so that it would make it easier to get the balance when lifting it off the lorry.  It soon became clear that it wouldn’t have helped because the cradle sizes were different, but it only took Simon two attempts to find the balance.

The barge in the middle, Catharina Elisabeth, belongs to Ian who has been very helpful during our preparations for moving over here
It took a couple of hours to unpack the boat to get it back to normal and we were pleased to find nothing had broken on the journey.  Once we were sorted out, we sat down to open a present Chris & Sue had given us to open once we were afloat.  It was a gorgeous circular sun catcher complete with chalkhill blue butterflies.  Such a thoughtful gift and we were so pleased to have received it.  We put it up in one of the kitchen windows but somehow, whilst we were adjusting it, managed to drop it on the worksurface where it broke into pieces

Karen has since been in touch with the maker to order a replacement
We were now on the River Yonne which is navigable for over 100km all the way to the Seine.  We were very close to the southern end of the navigation where it joins the Canal du Nivernais at Auxerre which is where we’re heading for first.  We had been very fortunate as this time last year the water levels were so high that the yard was flooded, and the lorry wouldn’t have been able to get in.

The locks on the river weren’t due to open until Saturday so Simon said we could stay at his yard until then or go up into the port at Migennes and wait there. We had a wander up to the port and thought that would be the best solution as it was in the town centre and meant we could spend a couple of days making sure we had everything.  Simon rang the √©clusier to see if he would open the lock and let us into the port; he had to leave a message as the √©clusier was out but was hopeful all would be OK.

The port is at the eastern end of the Canal de Bourgogne and if things work out as planned for the first few months, we will be travelling the length of the canal at the end of our anti-clockwise tour of Burgundy.

Walking up to the lock that connects the Canal de Bourgogne to the Yonne
The port of Migennes is the far side of the lock
When we had driven past the lock in the morning, we had noticed it was empty and the gates were open, so we had assumed that Simon had already spoken with the √©clusier during the week as he had offered.  As you can see above, the gates were now closed and the lock was full – it seemed that the French lock keeper wasn’t going to let us up before the official opening date.  Walking back into the boatyard we saw a couple of small whites, our first for this year.  Although small whites are among the commonest of British butterflies, it’ll be interesting to see how many non-UK species we’ll see this year

When we got back to the boat Simon came and found us to apologise for not being able to get the lock open and he also understood that it wouldn’t be easy to stay at his yard because of Buddy.  He had more boats to lift into the water over the next few days so we would have to moor four boats deep and Buddy would not find it easy clambering over three large barges.

Simon had been out and found a good mooring for us further downstream.  We knew it was in the opposite direction to that which we wanted to go but it was safe and quiet whilst we waited until the weekend and it would also give us a little cruise.

First, we took the car down to the mooring which was at Laroche St. Cydroine.  Although we are going to leave the car at Simon’s yard while we are cruising, we fancied keeping it by us until we set off, in case we found we needed to get something.   As we walked back to get the boat, we passed several couples also out for a walk along the river and exchanged pleasantries just like walking along the cut in the UK.  When we got back, we joked about how easy it had been to have conversations in French albeit not much was said other than, ‘bonjour’.  

We set off downstream as soon as we got back and had a small farewell party of French liveaboards to see us off. 

And we’re off
Simon’s yard behind us
Heading for the SNCF railway bridge across the Yonne at Migennes
We were a little conscious of flying the Red Ensign but it’s illegal not to fly your national flag in mainland Europe.  We were a little concerned that we will get backlash as we come from that mad country that seems to be heading for a black hole at present.  As it was, we got loads of waves from walkers along the river bank and also some toots and waves from cars.  We suspect it was also because we would have been the first boat they had seen on the move since October.

Self-conscious being a Brit

As we were on a river Buddy had his life jacket on
After a mile or so we found the mooring which was just long enough for one boat and soon settled in for the evening.

Our first overnight mooring in France
Our first sunset – feeling so happy ūüėä


Jennie said...

I am so pleased to see you have made it safely and I look forward to reading about your travels in France - a perfect time to leave the UK for a while!! We were in the South of France on Referendum Day and all the locals were as shocked as we were by the result! There was a lot of shaking of heads and shrugging of shoulders. Take care and have fun. Jennie nb Tentatrice

Ian said...

Nice to see our first 2019 photos of Catharina Elisabeth - thanks for including her! Congratulations, and enjoy your new adventure in France. Lisette and I are looking forward to following your travels in case we head in the same direction.

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Thanks Jennie - you too. Looking forward to reading about your travels this season. (BTW I didn't have you on my blog list for some reason)

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Thanks Ian - We should have got better pictures of her now you mention it!

Steve Parkin said...

Great post of your "journey" to France.Glad you arrived safely.

Looking forward to more stunning blossom pictures. Steve (NB Albert)

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Thanks Steve :)

Paul Stockwell said...

Oh wow! I saw you were in France and I wondered how you got your boat over there (I thought sailing a narrow boat across the channel seemed a bit ambitious!)

Enjoy your adventures. I'm very jealous!

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Great to hear from you Paul and thanks for your comments. Yes we're really enjoying retirement as I hope you are too. I can't believe I stopped over five years ago!

Paul Stockwell said...

I've been retired nearly 4 years now and there's not a day goes by that I don't give thanks for not having to get up early and drive to L&G! We now spend about 50% of our time away in our caravan which we love, but a narrow boat is just that little bit sexier! Enjoy your travels, you've earned them!

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Well, if you're touring in France you can always pull up next to us. It seems over here that camping grounds are often by canals and people tent/caravan/van right next to it. Would be good to catch up - happy travels too.