Monday, 22 April 2019

Châtillon-en-Bazois (might be stuck here a while)

Taken by Debbie, a boater we have met in Châtillon

We stayed put in Baye on Friday with the intention of having a good walk and a bike ride around the lakes.

My shadow saying good morning to the lake we were moored alongside on Friday
By the time Buddy and Karen came back from their morning run it was really rather hot and poor old Buddy still hasn’t got used to it, so we just hung around Baye for the day having little sorties instead.  We can always tell when the weather bothers him as, even though he’s scared of water, he will stand in it to cool down.

Buddy finding it too much
 We were outside having lunch when Paul & Sue arrived and moored up in front of us.

Paul & Sue arriving
Of course, Buddy was in his element as they are rather sweet on him and they give him treats including cooked meat.  Later on, we popped down to the local bar for a couple of drinks and found Paul & Sue were already there.  The evening menu looked pretty good, so we booked a table for us all later in the evening.  

The bar
The restaurant was by the first lock we would be going down when we leave.  Walking back to the boat we saw there was an éclusier letting a boat down, so we booked our passages for the next day.

The only other establishment in the village was a grocery shop although that is rather a grand term for someone’s front room!

We bought some cheese and tomatoes but very little else
On the way back we saw a butterfly we didn’t recognise but, as it wouldn’t settle we didn’t know what it was.  In the end it did settle, and we realised it was a day flying moth – a latticed heath.

Latticed heath, a moth not a butterfly
We ‘re still seeing lots of cowslips in bloom.  It does seem that they thrive on the banks of this canal and for the last 100 or so kilometres the only time we have been without them has been when we’re moored in towns.  Mind you, we haven’t seen a Duke of Burgundy fritillary yet; their larvae feed on cowslips.  It really would be rather apt to see one as we are in Burgundy 😊

Cowslips still lining the canal bank
We had a good meal at the restaurant later and were surprised how packed it was.  A couple of the éclusiers who had locked us up the last flight to the summit were also there and we managed a stilted conversation about boats and living in lock cottages (we think!).

Feeling replete
Paul & Sue left early on Saturday morning and were planning on mooring up about seven kilometres downstream.  We didn’t leave until ten and when we arrived at the lock, we were surprised to see it wasn’t ready and there was no one about.  We were additionally surprised because we had seen our name and boat number being written down in the book when we booked the passage the previous day.  Anyway, after about 20 minutes of knocking on doors and finding no one at home a hire boat arrived behind us full of a couple of French families on a day out.  Within another five minutes the éclusier arrived and we were on our way.

The first lock of the 65-kilometre descent down to join the River Loire at Decize
The cruise on Saturday ending up being a nightmare for many reasons.  After having to hang around for the lock keeper to arrive at the first lock, we shared the first three locks with the hire boat.  Not normally an issue but the men took turns in driving and, despite shouts from me and their partners, kept driving into our bikes at the back.  The trouble was they weren’t looking at what they were doing but seemed to be in charge of the children whilst their partners partied at the front. It got to the point when I was going to stop and let them go on when they told me they were stopping and going back anyway. 

Passing Bazolles with dandelions in place of the cowslips for a change
We stopped for lunch at the top of a staircase of three locks at Chavance and the skies started darkening.  We then saw lightning and heard thunder which went on for a while without any rain.  In the end it started raining and then seemed to stop when the locks reopened after lunch.

To our surprise, not only was a boat coming up, but it was a narrowboat.  This was the first one we have seen on the move and Hilary & her husband told us they brought it over in 2003 for a couple of years but have stayed ever since.

Rare sight – two narrowboats
Back to the nightmare of a day.  For some reason the éclusier was really slow and we had to wait at each lock (not made easy as there were no lock landings) and then seemed to take forever to get things moving.  Anyway, it didn’t really bother us, but it just seemed one thing after another.  For example, in the UK on double width staircases, narrowboats can pass each other in opposite directions but here it seems it’s too much to coordinate.

The middle lock of the staircase had an incredibly long cill and, unlike the UK, there are no markings indicating where the cill ends.  It was just as well we had kept well forwards, or we would have been stuck on it.

Never seen a cill that long

Looking back up the staircase
We then had a short pound to cross to a double staircase which was all set for us.  I was waiting for the gates to open when the éclusier started letting the water out.  Maybe I had upset her because she was emptying the locks to let another boat come up.  It was really odd behaviour especially as we had been having a friendly conversation through the previous locks.

As we were in a wide pound, I thought I would while away the time by practising winding the boat.  I was halfway through my first turn when I suddenly lost my revolutions; all the power had gone.  My initial assumption was that the prop had fouled, and I was quite happy to let the boat drift to the bank and lodge itself perpendicularly while I visited the weed hatch where I found nothing wrong. 

By this time Karen & Buddy appeared, they had been waiting at the locks ready to take the rope but were concerned about what was going on.  We both remarked that if we had wanted to moor the boat at right angles to the bank and for it not to move sideways then it would have been impossible.  As the prop was clear it didn’t take long for it to click that the throttle cable had snapped.

My initial reaction was that I knew that I should have brought a spare before leaving the UK and couldn’t remember why I didn’t.  I then thought that we couldn’t stay in a short pound until it was sorted out, so I got some stout string and improvised.

String leads down into the engine bay and attached to the throttle mechanism
We then headed off down the next staircase at which point the skies darkened again and it started pouring with rain.  We moored at the bottom the lock and had a good think about what to do while we waited for the rain to stop.

In the end we decided to carry on down the next six locks or so and get to the town of Châtillon-en-Bazois where it would be easier to sort things out with shops and internet etc. rather than being stuck in the country with no signal.

At least the lock keepers understood the problem and could see the difficulty I was having using one hand to steer, one hand to use a piece of string as the throttle and my third hand to select forward or reverse on the gearstick.

Coordinating wasn’t that easy
At least the sun was back out and we had a lovely cruise down to Châtillon-en-Bazois.  Karen & Buddy walked some of it and at one point Karen saw a coypu and two young playing in a stream right alongside them.  Coypu seem to be like mink in the UK and are considered vermin as they are also introduced and also kill off the local mammalian competition.

The penultimate lock of the day
As we neared Châtillon the canal became quite bendy as it followed the contours cut by the river.  It wasn’t long before we could see the town ahead of us.

Heading into town

Nice sharp bend into the last lock of the day
As we came through the last lock, we saw boats moored on the right and pulled in next to Sue & Paul; they had carried on rather than stopping as planned at Mont-et-Marré as they found the TV, phone and internet signals to be non-existent.

Moored up outside the chateau
View of our mooring from the chateau
In the end, even though it had been a strange day we were happy and relaxed.  Karen went off to check out the supermarket and I went into the engine bay to see about removing the throttle cable.  The important thing to do when doing anything in the engine bay is to isolate the batteries.  For some reason I forgot to do this and must have shorted something as I couldn’t get the ignition to come on.

I realised that I had blown a fuse (in more ways than one) and then, to make matters worse, couldn’t finds the spares.  When Karen returned, she solved the problem and told me that we had left them in the car!

We decided to retire for the evening and sort things out on Sunday.  During the day we had cruised 15 kilometres down 14 locks.

At least we had an interesting view on Sunday morning
First it was off to the supermarket to check if they had any fuses as they had a good car accessories department.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any fuses, but Paul had managed to find a couple for us in a little hardware shop in town.  It was with some relief that we could at least use the engine again.

At the supermarket we had bought a reel of stout wire and when we got back to the boat, I replaced the string throttle solution with something a bit more robust.  We also spent some time ringing local boatyards to find out about getting a replacement cable but as it was Easter there was no joy.  In the end we decided to leave it until Tuesday and if were still unlucky then we would buy one from Amazon and get it delivered locally.

After lunch we took the boat down to the port where we hooked up at a water point and got all the washing done.

Moored for water at the port in Châtillon with Debbie & Andy’s boat NouNou on the left
Debbie & Andy were lovely people and, as they cruise with a car, had even offered to drive us somewhere to get a new cable.

Following our water sojourn we reversed back up to our mooring and stayed in for the rest of the day.  Well, we stayed outside as it was so warm but what I meant was we didn’t go anywhere else.
We had a look at signing up for but failed because we have no permanent French address.  We rang Mike & Aileen and they kindly offered to order the throttle cable through their account if we were unable to source one locally.

Fingers crossed for the coming week that we will be on the move again soon but whatever happens I’ll be ordering two replacement cables 😊 

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