Auxerre (a deserved visit to Maison Roy followed by otter)

One thing I’ve forgotten to mention is that we’ve been pleased to see plenty of our three favourite common water birds since we’ve been here: herons, kingfishers and great crested grebes.  We were chuckling away while watching a pair of grebes at Gurgy on Saturday evening.  If you know these birds, you will know they can stay under water for what seems an awful long time.  They swim under water for long distances so it’s a bit of a guessing game as to where they will resurface.  One of the pair was staying under for longer than the other and the one that surfaced first seemed to have a really worried look on its face while it desperately looked around for where its mate would surface.

On Sunday we headed for Auxerre and on Saturday afternoon we had let the lockie at the  first lock of the day know that we would be arriving at 10.30am, having forgotten that we would lose an hour’s sleep overnight.  Anyway, it was yet another gorgeous morning and we were happy to be setting off bright and early (for us anyway).

Cruising through Auxerre
Just after leaving Gurgy we went under the A6, better known as the Autoroute du Soleil.  We’ve been down this road many times on our way to the south of France and as soon as we get onto it, the name always gives us the holiday feeling.

Not a particularly inspiring bridge carrying the Autoroute du Soleil over the Yonne
Monéteau was the only town we passed through before reaching Auxerre and it was at the lock in the town where we saw the only other boat on the move during the day. 

Passing through Monéteau

Waiting for a boat to leave the lock at Monéteau
One difference we have noticed is that weirs are not well protected.  In the UK the weirs have booms and other barriers that would stop boats that get into trouble.  The French weirs all seem to be unprotected, so you need to be sure to read the waterway guide to know which side of the river the weirs are on, especially when they are around a sharp bend.

The weir above Monéteau lock which is on the left
The locks on this stretch were closed for lunch between 12 and 1 so we pulled up at the only place we could find to moor before the fourth lock of the day.  Our first load of washing finished as we moored up and with the warm weather and a slight breeze it was nearly all dry by the time we set off again. 

Moored for lunch at I’lle Brûlée
After setting off again it wasn’t long before we were at Auxerre and going through the last lock on the River Yonne.  Just above the weir is a long line of moored barges which looked in a rather precarious position but they’re clearly OK as they looked like they were on permanent moorings.

Barges moored above the weir at la Chaînette lock

Heading into Auxerre
We pulled up at the first length of visitor moorings in the town but decided to carry on as, although they were really nice moorings, they were right in the centre of town so not good for dogs.  Also, the mooring rings were spaced such that it was difficult to tie the boat up securely which is quite important when on a river.

We decided to carry on and moor by a park on the south side of town.  We had met several people who had told us the moorings were pleasant there and ideal for dog walking.

Carrying on through Auxerre
The Canal du Nivernais starts at the southern end of town and we had a little difficulty finding the entrance, but all was well in the end and we were soon passing the welcome sign:

We will be going down the length of the canal until it joins the Loire at its southern end.  The locks are a lot smaller on the canal than those on the River Yonne, so it suddenly felt rather tranquil as we went into the first lock at Auxerre.

Canal sized locks of the Canal du Nivernais
We started to moor up soon after going through the first lock and were immediately inundated with offers of help to moor.  The park was full of people picnicking and barbecuing and many wanted to help.  It took a while to find a spot to moor up as there were so many lumps of rock close to the side, but we got there in the end.

We had a quick drink on the back deck before setting off for a walk around the park and the town.  We were just about to leave when an English couple came up to us (Hilary & Roger? Why are we so bad with names?); they have a Dutch barge moored in Auxerre and they and other residents had heard an English narrowboat was on the way up, so they were looking out for us.  It’s awful but neither of us could remember their names but we had a good chat about their adventures – they started over here in summer last year.

Our mooring for Sunday night by the park
On Monday morning there was a knock on the boat, and it was a couple of VNF éclusiers wanting to know when we would be setting off.  We’re obviously going to have to get used to thinking about timings, but we said we would stay for the day and set off at 10 on Tuesday morning.  We had a long list of jobs to do that meant it would be best to stay in town for the day. 

Our Monday morning view from the back doors
The first job was fine – off to Leclerc to get supermarket shopping for a couple of weeks.  We left Buddy on the boat as we were going to have a lot of bags to carry back as well as a rucksack each.

We then set about our respective job lists.  One of my items was to fix the 12volt socket behind our sofa.  I replaced the socket with one that I knew worked OK but that too didn’t work so it was obviously something wrong with the circuitry at the point.  I couldn’t find anything wrong with the cables that were visible so I put everything back and moved the job to Steve’s job list.  Steve is my electrical son and basically the most practical person in the family.

Putting the working charger back into place I dropped the wires behind the wall cladding which meant I then had to get access through a larger hole by removing a 240-volt socket.  Long story short, I got everything back together and then realised I had blown two 12-volt chargers.  Then it was back to Leclerc to replace them only to blow one of the new ones as I had obviously rewired the socket incorrectly.  So that job resulted in a second socket out of service, two new chargers purchased and three blown.

Walking over a disused railway bridge to Leclerc with our boat looking rather small on its lonesome in the distance

Looking across the weir to Chalkhill Blue on the far side
When we looked around Chris & Sue’s boat a week or so ago, we were impressed with their magnetic bathroom door catches.  We had bought some so that we could stop using old fashioned doorstops that we kept kicking out of the way and thus leaving the doors to swing irritatingly as the boat rolled.

I knew the job wouldn’t be easy as the bathroom floor tiles were really hard, and I ended up finishing off three masonry bits just doing one door stop.  The reviews of the door stops basically said they were really good but getting the magnet lined up could be troublesome.  I have to say that I totally agree with the reviews, but I got there in the end but only managed one of them.

We have a handheld hoover which I used to clear up the mess not realising that the cover to the dust collection bit had come adrift and all the crap had fallen out onto the floor.  Oh, and one other thing with this job was I found that only one of the two batteries for my electric drill would now recharge.

One job that did go well was getting diesel.  Over here there are very few places to fill up with diesel on the waterfront so it’s a matter of using jerry cans when moored close to garages.  We were fairly close to one here at Auxerre and filled up both cans and then went back to refill one of them as it all went straight into the tank.  At least we now have 40 litres as backup.

Success at one job
When we got back with the second load, we noticed the boat was listing and the water level had dropped.  We lengthened the lines and pushed the boat off the rocks it had grounded on and then went in search of a VNF guy.  We found one at the last lock we had come through yesterday and after a lot of broken French and English we ascertained that they had dropped the level to do some work and that it was now at its lowest point so we should be OK.  It also wouldn’t be going back up again until Tuesday, so it was back to the boat and out with the gangplank.

Apparently, Maison Éric Roy in Auxerre is one of the best patisseries in France so we felt after the day we had had that we deserved a visit before finishing for the day.  We can quite easily see why some people find that they end up there for a treat every day.  We have noticed that the same homeless person keeps station outside the shop, and I must admit it’s probably quite a profitable place to be located when all the footfall is from people buying things they don’t need 😉  Karen stayed outside with Buddy and chatted with the guy about dogs whilst I went in to make our purchase.

Our guilty Monday pleasure and top marks to Maison Roy
To make us feel even better, an otter swam past really slowly as we were finishing dinner followed by a second one about ten minutes later 😊

The second otter
Since the last blog entry, we have cruised 11 km up six locks, left the River Yonne and joined the Canal du Nivernais.

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