La Neuvillette (poor gas supply)

Approaching Reims from the south east
We were moving to Reims on Sunday but had a few chores to do first like taking on water and sorting out the gas bottles.  We had noticed that the flames in the oven and on the hobs have been feeble for the last few days just like the behaviour when the gas bottle is about to finish.  The trouble was that it would mean the bottle had only lasted for half its normal three-months.

As it was our first French bottle, we thought maybe the gas wasn’t as pressurised as much as UK bottles hence we wouldn’t get so much gas.  Just in case this was true I changed over to a fresh bottle (another French one) on Saturday but it made very little difference.  As gas isn’t really my thing, along with electrics and water, I put a post on a waterway’s discussion forum and the overwhelming response was that the regulator had failed. 

Of course, a spare regulator wasn’t one of the items we had thought to carry as a spare.  I took it out anyway and soaked it in warm soapy water for a while.  There were no signs of any gunk in the regulator or in the tubing linking it to the gas pipe.  When I reassembled everything and checked the flames everything was back to normal. So one of the Sunday morning chores was to buy a spare regulator.  The Intermarch√© at Sillery wasn’t very big so it was surprising to see they had gas regulators amongst the light bulbs.  Sadly, they didn’t have the one I needed but no doubt we will be able to get one in Reims.

Even though it was a lovely warm day there was quite a strong wind blowing across the port, so I was a little concerned about getting back out into the main channel without embarrassing myself.  At times like this we think of Chris & Sue and their manoeuvring exploits.  Chris is quite open about it in his blog as it seems every time they need to do a tricky manoeuvre, either a strong wind blows up or a large audience gathers, and usually both.

As we set to reverse out with a 90 degree turn to add to the trickiness it seemed all the boaters were out on deck waving us goodbye; I think they were secretly watching how a narrowboat without bow thrusters handles in the wind.  Anyway, I had got part way around the turn when one of the girls called out that a commercial was coming out of the lock and was heading our way.  Her boat was too big for me to see it but if I had carried on reversing then I would have been in a mad panic.

I couldn’t hover where we were while we waited as the wind was taking us towards the backs of some of the moored boats, so it was back to where we started.  By the time the commercial had passed we had an even larger audience as passers-by had gathered on the quay too.  I started off in reverse again feeling rather confident but heard a shout from Karen at the front.  She was positioned there to help fend us away from any boats if the front got too close to any.  She was shouting because she was still standing on the quay holding onto one of the bowlines! So, it was back in again, pick Karen up and then, fortunately we completed a faultless manoeuvre and we were off on our way.  To be fair, Chris’s moments tend to pass without mishap too and we both enjoy his candid reporting ūüėä

When we arrived at the lock we had to wait because another commercial was coming up:

Keeping out of the way
This one was fully laden as it was so low in the water.  I mentioned in the last blog entry about how far down in the water they are when laden, so I have included a picture showing an empty and a fully laden barge of the same type and dimensions:
The position of the anchors gives it away
Karen & Buddy got off at the lock and walked a few kilometres to the outside of Reims and I picked them up just before the VNF control centre:


Smart VNF vans ready for √©clusiers to go and help boaters stuck at automatic locks 
Karen then whiled away the rest of the cruise by opening some of our walnuts ready for a coffee and walnut loaf she wanted to bake later:

I know there's very few here but we have a whole crate of drying walnuts under the dinette table 

We knew we were on the outskirts of a city as there were so many runners, walkers and cyclists on the paths that run either side of the canal.

A sign at one of the locks contained information about the lock opening hours and also the days the locks are closed on this canal.  We already knew it would be closed on 1st November as all canals across France are closed for a national holiday.  We hadn’t realised about closures on the 11th (Armistice day) so we were glad we took notice of the sign:

Seasonal opening hours and the main national holidays
We arrived in Reims, moored up near Puddle Duck, popped around to see Nikki & Gorete for a while and then had a good walk around the city.

Buddy straight into normal post-cruise position once we moored at Reims
I know we have been here before but that was in August when it was full of tourists and probably many of the locals were away on holiday.  The whole place had a completely different feel to it; yes, I know the temperature was a lot cooler but as it was still in the mid-20s it meant the bars on the squares were packed, likewise the green spaces .  There is a stretch of gardens running for nearly a mile along the western side of the city from the Place de la Republic in the north down to the canal.  In August many of the sections were closed off for maintenance but today it was fully open.

There were people everywhere, groups picnicking, children playing and just general promenaders as is the French way on a Sunday.  It rather reminded us of Victoria Park in the east end of London which was built to provide the workers with a green space in Victorian times.  What particularly struck us were the number of hammocks that had been provided.  Most were so large that groups of four teenagers or adults were sitting quite comfortably in them.

What was most striking was that we didn’t see a single person taking photographs, a sure indication that there were very few tourists.  We certainly would have felt very uncomfortable if we had taken any.  When we got home, we settled down to watch the crucial Scotland – Japan game only to find it wasn’t on catch up yet. 

On Sunday we cruised ten kilometres down four locks.  Oh, and here’s the coffee & walnut loaf:

Yummy of course!
By Monday morning we had avoided hearing the result of the Scotland - Japan game and, as it was now available on catch up, we watched Scotland crash out of the world cup after Karen returned from her run.  If you think it’s odd watching television during the day then remember we’re retired and need some ‘relaxing’ time sometimes.

With temperatures forecast to drop from Tuesday it seemed Monday may be the last shorts and tee-shirts day for a while.  It also got us wondering about when we'll need to start lighting the stove in the evenings; that will signal autumn is here like the first orange tip butterfly marking the start of spring.  We made the most of it, exploring a bit more of the city of Reims, seeing Nikki & Gorete for a while then taking a short cruise in the afternoon to find an out of town supermarket for the weekly food shop.

As we headed north out of Reims, we were on new waters for us and were soon leaving the city behind us.  We passed a cut called Port Colbert that used to run further into the city, but the far end is no longer used.

Reims cathedral can just be made out at the far end of the cut at Port Colbert
Next, we passed many working wharves in an area called Courcelles.  There were six commercials moored up in different bays, some being emptied, and others being loaded up.

Wharves at Courcelles
We found a length of old quay near the supermarket and it had bollards close enough together for us to use.  Generally, on old quays, the bollards are 40 metres apart making it impossible for us to use but these were about 20 metres apart which was perfect if a little industrial.  By the time we got back from the supermarket it was six o’clock, so we decided to stay put for the rest of the day.

Our insalubrious mooring on Monday evening
We were moored next to a low bridge and a commercial that we had seen being unladen earlier was heading for it incredibly slowly as we returned from the supermarket.  As it got nearer, we could see that he knew it was going to be a tight squeeze.  Obviously, because he attempted it, he sometimes gets through so it must depend on the water level at the time.  This time he wasn’t lucky and reversed out to lower the cab a foot or two before going through successfully. 

Will he make it?
On Monday we cruised five kilometres through no locks.
















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