Sunday 12 May 2019

Chalon-sur-Saône (a busy rest day)

Our ‘paid for’ mooring on Friday night at Fragnes
We left Santenay soon after nine on Friday morning and, by the time we reached our first lock at around ten, four boats had come past us.  One was a hotel boat that we fortunately met on a straight bit.

Grand Cru looking a bit like a stretched limo

The weather was a great improvement on the previous couple of days, warmer and fewer clouds too.

Having had two days cruising without any issues with the automatic locks not working, we certainly paid for it on Friday.  Three times we had to call out an éclusier and, to make matters worse, it was just gone noon when we made one of our calls, so we had to wait nearly an hour for him to finish his lunch break.  Not that any of this really mattered, it just made it feel like we were cruising for a lot longer than we had planned.

I hadn’t paid enough attention to the lock depths in the guidebook before we left, and we were nearly caught out at the first lock of the day.  Rather than the usual depth of around three metres, it was double that which meant there were floating bollards and our approach to getting secured hadn’t changed accordingly.  This did highlight an advantage of automatic locks as it enabled us to sort ourselves out before setting the lock going.  If we had been in a lock operated manually then no doubt we may have panicked and ended up shouting at the éclusier to wait and not open the paddles until we had sorted ourselves out.
Leaving our first lock

Depth of second lock was back to normal 😊
The deeper locks were a sign that some locks had been removed in the 1870s when the locks were enlarged.  We passed further evidence at one point as one side of a lock chamber was still intact and the remains of a lock cottage could be seen.

One of the bypassed locks – on the left you can see the curved recess where the lock gates sat
Another piece of evidence was the lock numbering on the lock cottages.  Whereas yesterday the original number was seven greater than the renumbered lock, today we were up to a difference of 12.

Lock number 34 was originally lock number 46
We cruised through some wonderful scenery as we left Côte de Beaune and entered Côte Challonais.  The vineyards were full of white vans just like they are in the autumn when the grapes are picked (the vendange).  This was spring so we assume the workers were in the vineyards just pruning and checking the start of this year’s growth.

Not sure what I was doing here but Karen caught me in the act
Passing a derelict church…
…and enjoying the sunshine
At one lock the cottage garden was completely given over to chickens, geese and French hens.  We rather hoped that the French hens weren’t in the habit of laying eggs in this position:

During the afternoon I received an email from VNF explaining that a gate on the first lock we had travelled through in the morning had since been struck by a boat and the lock would be out of action for at least a week – rather fortunate for us that it happened after we went through 😉

After 17 kilometres and 11 locks we finally reached Fragnes and moored up in the port in the hope we could get some free water and then move on to moor out in the country.  Until today we have never seen more than four boats on the move in one day - well we smashed that with passing eight boats today!

Moored at Fragnes
As we were mooring up a young lady came out to see us and take our details.  She was so pleasant and helpful and, after explaining we could moor for the night for €10.50 including unlimited water and electricity, we decided to stay.  Our decision was also influenced by the fact the port looked really nice and there was a boulangerie about 50 metres from our mooring.

We didn’t (and have yet to on this boat) use the electric hook up but we took advantage of the water supply and washed towels and bed linen etc. as well as the normal weekly clothes washes.

Another reason we decided to pay for water (in effect) was that water points have been very few and far between for quite a while and it doesn’t look like getting any better over the next 100 kilometres or so unless we want to pay through the nose at a port on the River Saône.

Next to our mooring was a community garden, given over to fruit trees, fruit bushes, herbs and wildflowers.  There was also a hive and plenty of bees around.  The garden produce was for the benefit of the villagers, but we felt OK taking some rosemary sprigs (our plant needs replacing) to use in our evening meal.

Entrance to the community garden by our mooring
Fruit and herbs available for the villagers

The weather forecast wasn’t particularly good for Saturday with strong winds forecast for the afternoon together with a high chance of rain.  We decided not to head down onto the River Saône in those conditions and just have a short cruise to just short of the river instead; we would leave the start of our river cruising until Sunday .  

We had another walk around Fragnes in the morning and bought some eggs from a little farm shop.  They had to go and collect the eggs first and then let us choose the ones we wanted.  Two dozen nice warm eggs and some home made chèvre later we were back on the boat and setting off for Chalon-sur-Saône.

Some of our egg providers
We had about five kilometres to travel, without any locks, to a large supermarket on the city limits. 

About ten minutes after setting off the wind got up, the skies opened, and we had about ten minutes of heavy rain followed by a few minutes of hail.  It then brightened up, the wind stopped and it remained partly sunny for the rest of the day.  It seemed the forecasters got their morning and afternoons muddled up.

Passing the now disused branch to the centre of the city of Chalon

The same shot taken by Karen when out on her run earlier in the morning
One thing we have noticed over here is that the sound of crickets seems to be much louder.  I know it’s not the cicada level of the south of France, but the crickets can be heard above the sound of the boat engine which is quite a feat.  We love the sound of insects, including cicadas, but you do read of holidaymakers complaining that the insects are too loud and spoil the evenings when sitting outside – amazing!

Looking for our mooring outside the supermarket
We found some rickety posts and some old decking just the other side of the restaurant and moored up for the day.  After lunch it was a trip to Leclerc for food and diesel.

Moored for Saturday night in a non-descript part of Chalon
At one point in the afternoon a lovely young French couple came down to the boat and started chatting.  They had been in the restaurant over the canal and were fascinated by the boat and wanted to understand about living on boats and the differences between the UK and France for boaters.  It was really good to have a stress-free conversation in French, made even better as they deliberately spoke slowly.

On Saturday we cruised five kilometres but not through any locks.  We now have a deep lock ahead of us to drop onto the river tomorrow and then two or three days cruising until we turn off onto the Canal de Bourgogne.

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