Friday 31 May 2019

Courcelles-lès-Montbard (foreigners get everywhere)

We fancied a short cruise on Wednesday and met our éclusier at 10 at the first lock.  For some reason, and I forgot to ask him why, he wasn’t wearing the VNF uniform.  He had a very laid back approach but, after supplying him with coffee, we suddenly realised we had gone down seven locks in the first hour.

First lock of Wednesday
As usual, every lock had a cottage, and in three consecutive ones we met the people who lived in them.  The first was lived in by Swedes, the second by Norwegians and the third by Brits!

The Swedes' lock cottage
We could see the Norwegian flag flying in the next garden before we arrived at the lock so we knew the couple standing in the garden filming us approaching them were probably Norwegian.  They were very chatty and explained that they live in their cottage in the spring and the autumn and have been doing so for 20 years.

The Norwegians' lock cottage

Norwegians waving us away from their lock 😉
The next cottage was unusual in that it had vehicular access and the two Brit plated cars gave away the nationality of the couple who lived there.  These guys came out to chat and said they have been living in different parts of France for the last ten years.  They told us about the ‘canal project’ which is where VNF are trying to save their derelict properties.  They are asking for people to use the properties in return for returning them to habitation and providing something sustainable or useful to the community such as growing fruit and vegetables.

The Brits
There were some wild orchids  growing by one of the locks and, because I’m not really up on orchid recognition, I contacted our naturalist friend Stephen who confidently told me they were pyramidal orchids.

Pyramidal orchid
We reached Venarey les Laumes before lunch and made for the port where we expected to be able to dump rubbish and take on water.

The port at Venarey les Laumes
We had to turn left into the basin to get water which was quite fun negotiating because we had to spin the boat around with the plastic hire boats close by.  This was the first hire boat base we have seen on this canal which will explain why we haven’t seen any hire boats so far.

I went to the captainerie to find out about services: there was no rubbish disposal, but we could have water for 3.50.  We had showers, did the washing, washed the side of the boat and had lunch while taking on water and then duly paid.

Moored for lunch and water
We then moved out of the port and headed out of town to moor up before the next lock.

Our mooring for Wednesday night
An éclusière stopped in her car and asked if we were sure we wanted to moor and not carry on for the afternoon.  We told her that we were happy staying where we were. She then explained that there would be five hire boats leaving the basin the next day and that we might want to avoid being with them!  We said we were happy but did arrange to leave at 9 rather than 10 on Thursday morning.

Karen cycled into Venarey to top up with fruit and veg while Buddy and I went for a walk and a spot of butterflying.  As we walked along, I noticed that there were dozens of new poplars growing along the towpath and found out that 350 had been planted along this section in 2017 to replace ones lost by disease.

Attached to many of them was the name of the person who planted that particular tree
We than walked back towards town to meet up with Karen who happened to just be turning onto the towpath as we approached the road.

Looks like Karen got the short straw doing the shopping rather than butterflying 😉
During the evening, three hire boats came out of the basin and headed past us.  The first two appeared to be racing each other but the third was travelling at a more sedate pace.  It was a lovely sunny evening and we could both imagine the feeling the hirers would be havong, moored up with a few drinks in the sun before dinner.

On Wednesday we cruised four kilometres down ten locks.

As agreed, we arrived at the first lock at nine on Thursday morning where two éclusiers were waiting for us but no hire boats in sight.

Karen taking us through the first lock of the day
Looking at the picture above you can see that it was quite cloudy.  We still do not understand how the local French weather forecasting works.  Whichever day we look at it then the weather forecast gradually improves over the following week; however, it seems to be a rolling forecast because the better weather hardly ever seems to arrive.

Forecast for the next few days
We have seen the above profile many times, but those high temperatures have only materialised a few times when the actual day arrived.

At the second lock the éclusière came up to me and started telling me something that was totally incomprehensible.  Usually, when I tell someone that I didn’t understand they will either a) repeat it but at a slower pace, b) repeat it but choosing different words or c) say it in English or at least broken English.  She was a lovely lady but insisted on taking the American option: repeating the same words but louder and no slower.

Of course, by now my mind was going blank.  Usually, in this situation, Karen and I find we can at least pick up on a few words and then get the gist by repeating our understanding in our French.  In the end, she smiled, admitting defeat and went back to operating the lock.  The closest I could get to an understanding was that there was some sort of Swiss cheese, that wasn't weed or a boat, either covering or crossing the canal.  As it turned out, the rest of the cruise was uneventful, and we saw no cheese or boats or anything else that we should have been warned about.

Last lock of the morning
At the last lock, in the pretty village of Courcelles-lès-Montbard, there were cars parked either side right up to the edge.  Looking at the fields around the village we could see lots more parked cars, so we asked our éclusier what was going on, he told us there was a brocante which is the equivalent of our second hand or flea market.

We moored for lunch, and the rest of the day, just after the lock with a lovely view of the village.  During the afternoon the weather improved and, has often been the case lately, the evening was the best part of the day.

Our view of Courcelles-lès-Montbard
During the afternoon we started rubbing down and preparing the paint chips on the boat.  It’s nearly a year since we last attacked these and then we only did the roof, well half the roof, so there’s quite a few chips to sort out.  We also went for a wander around the brocante but weren’t tempted to buy anything.  It seemed that every household in the village were involved and had set up a table full of second hand goods.

Our Thursday night mooring

We even had bollards and they were coloured!
On Thursday we cruised seven kilometres down six locks.  We plan on staying put on Friday and probably continuing our adventure on Saturday.


Shaun & Lynn aboard "Elle" said...

Apologies! I thought that Neil was speaking to Lynn as we were exiting the Courcelles lock, and not to me. Dire Straits and Sultans of Swing at full volume is 'lock through' music which is why I responded miserly.
Travel safely.

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Thanks for posting that Shaun. It did make me feel a bit paranoid for quite a while! Safe travels too and here's to the next time.