Accolay (how much a night?)

Our Friday night mooring at Accolay

Thursday was moving day and the weather was definitely cooler as we set off at about 10.00; however, the forecast is that this will be the coolest day at least for a while.  On Wednesday I had called up the number for the first lock to agree a time for going up, but it seemed to be an incorrect number as the person had never heard of the Canal du Nivernais and was nothing to do with the VNF.

We decided to risk it and just leave and hope an éclusier either drives past us or is at the lock.  As luck would have it, a plastic hire boat was just coming down the lock, so we only had to hang around a little while.

Waiting for the bumper boat

You can see why they’re called bumper boats
As we were going up the lock, a second éclusier arrived in his van.  It was the ‘novice’ guy from a couple of days ago and he had his wife and young daughter with him.  He stayed with us for the other two locks we went through before reaching Cravant.

Our éclusier beating us to the next lock
Having locks done for us is something we’re going to have to get used to as we only really had it in the UK on the larger rivers like the Thames, Trent and Severn.  We both feel it removes our independence but know we will get used to it and embrace it as part of our daily life.  There are positives too, like being able to practise our French for example.

Our man was a bit eager today and twice I had to shout, ‘Non, non!’ as he started to let water into the lock before we were ready.  It wasn’t easy to get our loops over the bollards on these locks and Karen had to climb up the lock ladders to do it.  The guy had started letting water in before she was safely back on board with the line tied to the front dollies.

We’ve noticed how all the lock cottages we have seen so far on this canal are all built to the same design and we have also noticed that they all have wells and that they all look the same too.

Well outside a lock cottage (with two éclusier vans)...
…the equivalent of British garden gnomes…

…and, unusually, an uninhabited lock cottage (the bike belongs to an éclusier)
The Yonne valley has steep hills either side with vineyards on the upper slopes and the steeper lower slopes are just left to nature.  They would be great places to look for downland butterflies in the summer.

I’ve talked about how easy we find the waterways guides are to follow.  What we have only just noticed is that the scale is not the same all the way through, so we need to be aware of this when making rough plans 😉

The page on the left is double the scale of the next page on the right
We arrived at Cravant as the sun was coming out and moored up alongside a water and electricity point. Mooring was a little problematic as the floods of 2016 had washed the retaining wall into the water and the stone blocks prevented boats getting close to the bank - it was out with the gangplank again.

Moored outside the ‘port office’ at Cravant
The port office also doubled as the tourist office and we duly paid our €4 to fill up with water.  If we wanted electricity as well it would have been €8, and we could have stayed there overnight.  We took advantage of the water and got some washing and general cleaning done whilst having lunch.

Just as we were getting ready to pack up there was a knock on the door; it was a VNF éclusier who we hadn’t seen before.  He wanted to know when we were planning on hitting the next locks.  I told him we would stay in Cravant for the rest of the day and move on after the éclusier lunch hour at 1.00 on Friday.

This exchange taught me and Karen that we need to get used to agreeing our planned timings for each day in advance so that we can present a united front to any enquirer.  Fortunately, Karen was also in agreement with the timings I gave 😉

We moved out of the ‘port’ and moored behind the wreck of a boat you can just see in the picture above.  Paul & Sue on Flubys caught up with us and moored in front of us for the night too.

Moored behind the wreck at Cravant

We walked into Cravant and had a good look around, and will probably pop in again on Friday morning before we leave to stock up on boulangerie type goodies.

One of the old gateways into the town
Centre of Cravant

Le lavoir or old wash house (Buddy had had a good drink)
Commemorating the battle of Cravant of 1423, one of the battles of the 100 years war
For internet access over here, we are using a French data SIM in a French phone that we use as a hot spot.  We have noticed that the signal has not been very good and have put it down to being in rural areas. As it seems to have been consistently bad, we did some investigating and have found that the phone we were sold in Auxerre wasn’t up to the job.  Even though we asked for a 4G enabled phone it now transpires that it was 2G/3G only.  Putting the SIM card in my iPhone solves the problem so we will use that as our hot spot, and I’ll use the French phone for UK communications.

We fancied spending Saturday in Vermenton which is at the end of the Canal d’Accolay, a short canal that leaves the Nivernais at Bazarnes.  The Canal d’Accolay was opened in 1880, some 40 years after the Nivernais, and is so named as it runs past the village of Accolay.  It is also known as the Canal de la Cure as it is fed by the River Cure which feeds the canal at its start at Vermenton.

As we weren’t going to be cruising far on Friday, we had arranged with the éclusier to leave Cravant after their lunch break at 1.00pm.  We were privileged today as we had two éclusiers, each in their own van.

Our two éclusiers closing the gates after us at Maunoir lock
Soon after the lock we turned off the Canal du Nivernais and started up the Canal d’Accolay.

Turning left at Bazarnes
After a kilometre or so we went up the second and last lock of the day.  It was very shallow, at less than one metre deep but had a pretty access bridge for the lock cottage.  The locks on the Canal du Nivernais are numbered as well as having names; the locks on this canal only have names.

Going into La Noue
A heron kept us company as we cruised towards Accolay and we saw it try and catch a fish a couple of times, but each time it was clearly concerned by the boat and chickened out half way into the dive.

Keeping pace with us whilst walking
Flying off after an abortive fishing expedition
As we reached Accolay, the canal ran alongside the River Cure and was separated from it by a high wall.  Although this made us feel safer than the miniscule dividing walls on the Canal du Nivernais, it did mean we couldn’t see the river.

Heading into Accolay
We had read in a review that spinning a 17-metre boat is pretty well impossible at Accolay but we tried anyway.  You may think that foolhardy, but the review did mention lots of rocks in the water and many permanently moored boats.  With the water being so clear we could see that the rocks had been removed and there wasn’t a moored boat in sight.  It took a while as there was quite a breeze, but we were soon moored up, albeit having to use a gangplank due to the sloping sides.

Moored at Accolay
We had a wander around the village before settling down inside for the rest of the day.  Like all the villages we have visited, the place was deserted but we imagine it will come to life in a month or so as the tourist season starts.

Accolay had a lavoir as well as Cravant but this one was right next to the canal
On the outside wall of the lavoir was a notice indicating that we should pay €25 a night to moor in the village.  We quietly pretended we haven’t seen the sign as we are moored some way from it, and it sounds incredibly extortionate.

Notice of expensive moorings
Buddy showing a keen interest in chickens
You may remember that a while ago, we gave Buddy freshly cooked chicken to ease him back to food after a stomach upset.  Since then he has become very alert whenever we cook chicken.  We did wonder if the live chickens smelt the same to him 😉

DIY lavoirs
We came across another notice during our walk, this time it was on a house.  It was advertising local games and depicted what looked like canal jousting for later in August.  The house had a couple of the poles/lances attached the upper wall.

We only cruised four miles up three locks to Cravant on Thursday, and then three miles up two locks to Accolay on Friday, but we felt happy and exhausted by the end of each day as usual 😊

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