Bignicourt-sur-Saulx (onto the Marne au Rhin)

If you've read the previous blog update, you may remember that we're heading onto a new canal for a few days before going back to Châlons-en-Champagne by next Sunday where Matthew is due to join us.  Overnight on Tuesday we had moored below the first lock on the Canal latéral à la Marne which meant that to reach the new canal we had to turn around and go back up it when we set off on Wednesday.  The locks on the 'latéral' are operated by using a ‘twisty’ pole so we had to go further down the canal and turn around by the pole so we could set the lock.  A boat came down the lock soon after 7.00am (while we were having pre-breakfast coffee and tea) and we noticed, that after they had passed, the lock rather than closing up, had made itself ready for a boat to come up and the light was on green. It dawned on us that the boat that came through made the same mistake we did when we came this way last year.

Soon after going down the lock there is a sharp bend and a little way further on is a twisty pole.  The pole is for use when coming up the lock but because it is quite a way from the lock which is no longer in sight behind, the instant reaction is that it’s the twisty pole for the next lock.  Like us, these guys must have twisted it by mistake which meant the lock got itself ready for a boat to come up.  Once I was convinced another boat hadn’t set the lock and was coming up, we quickly got dressed, turned the boat around on the spot and went up the lock.  The lock is right next to an aqueduct over the River Saulx which, for a reason unbeknownst to us, had a string of bollards along the edge, so we immediately stopped for breakfast before setting off for the day. 

Breakfast on the aqueduct

Look at the bollards on the aqueduct – normally they’re like hens’ teeth

Early morning mist whilst having pre-breakfast drinks

After a mile or so we were back at the junction in Vitry; this time we were going to turn left and venture onto the Canal de la Marne au Rhin for the first time, rather than turning right onto the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne.

Turning left at Vitry-le-François

The canal is 313km long and runs due east to join the River Rhine in Strasbourg which is where we had hoped to get to at the earlier this year but confinement hit.  It was opened in 1853 and takes small commercials, or péniches, 39 metres long by just over 5 metres wide.  It is regarded as two canals, the Ouest and the Est, divided by a short section of the Moselle in Toul, south of Nancy and Metz.

The locks operate differently depending on where you are on the canal. The locks on the section we would travel on are set in motion by sensors registering that a boat is approaching the lock.

Waterside sensors

Once inside the lock one of us gets on the roof to pull up a rod that starts the remainder of the lock operation. 

Karen lifting the operating rod at the first lock

Like all the other canals we’ve been on over here, every lock seems to have a lock cottage but unlike the other canals, none of the cottages had information plates over their front doors.

The style of the lock cottages on la Marne au Rhin

Each lock has a Nissen style hut where éclusiers have access to controls to override the automatic lock operations.  There is a limited amount of information on plaques on these huts such as lock number and name but nothing like the lock cottage plates which often include the names of the next lock in each direction and the distances to them.

Nissen operations hut for éclusiers

An éclusier was waiting for us in his car at the second lock.  He was making sure we knew the canal was closed after the first 30km.  We assured him we were turning around before then and he then said that in a day or two it will close 10km sooner which is at the point we were planning on turning anyway.

He got back into his car to make a phone call and we set the lock going.  Only one gate closed which was the first time we have seen this happen.  Fortunately, the éclusier was still on the phone in his car at the lock so I attracted his attention and he popped into the Nissen hut to sort things out.

A first for us – one gate refusing to close

As soon as we were on this new canal, we could feel it was different.  It’s not always easy to explain why the character of one canal is different to another.  A lot of it may be to do with our own excitement of exploring somewhere new.  Many canals in Europe have had their towpaths converted to cycle routes which, in touristy areas, make a cycling holiday very attractive to some people.  The previous canal, although extremely rural always seemed to have some activity going on, whether a group of people cycling down to their next stop for the night or walkers out enjoying the scenery and peace of the countryside.

This latest canal has no such cycle route and the towpath is just a grassy track used by VNF vehicles. This meant we saw no one other than éclusiers and a couple of people at lock cottages all day.  The canal wasn’t too weedy and in most parts there was a clear channel along the middle.  Tall plane trees lined one or both banks most of the way and every so often we caught glimpses across the arable plain of vineyards on the hills beyond.

A straight section at the start of the canal

After the first four locks we arrived at Bignicourt-sur-Saulx where we planned on having lunch and then moving on further in the afternoon.

Moored at Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

We were moored under tall trees and it was obviously going to be shady all afternoon and evening, so we decided to stay put and go for a walk instead.  The village seemed to be even quieter than usual which made the reading of the WWI information boards somewhat eerie.  Like many of the villages in the Marne area this one had been badly damaged in the war, and many villagers lost their lives.  One harrowing account explains how 14 women and children were found dead in one cellar.  Another account highlights the hand to hand combat that took place as the French tried to stop the German army from crossing the canal.

A convenient bench at one end of the main street gave us a good place to rest in the shade and we joked that we would probably have to stay there all day if we played the game of, ‘Not moving unless a car comes past’. A car did come but stopped at the house in front of us, a jolly lady got out, posted something in a letterbox and then turned the car around to go back the way she had come, so technically not passing us.

Sitting on the bench looking down the main street

Next to the bench was a sign indicating that the village had won some sort of floral display competition.  It never ceases to amaze us the number of UK and French villages and towns that have won or been runners up for one flower award or another – how many awards are there?

Settled in for the evening

On Wednesday we travelled 11 miles up five locks.

Not only did we have shade all afternoon and evening at our mooring in Bignicourt-sur-Saulx, we were fortunate that we had shade on Thursday morning too.  We had thought of cruising further up to Pargny-sur-Saulx but looking at the satellite pictures it looked like the mooring was probably in full sun all day.  We changed our mind about cruising and decided to walk the 3½ miles to Pargny instead.

When we cruised up to Bignicourt yesterday, we had noticed a hundred metres or so before each lock stood a precast concrete post.  We saw them close up during our walk and could see they had the words, ‘Limite de stationnement’ stamped on them.  They were indicating that péniches couldn’t be moored between that point and the lock.  These would have been used when there was far more freight traffic than there is nowadays.

Limit of mooring

We also came across the only distance stone we have seen on this canal.  It was a bit of an anomaly, not because it was on its side, but because it was showing the distance to Brusson which is a tiny village halfway back to Vitry.  Normally the distances are shown to both ends of a canal or at least to the next major town. 

Lone distance stone

When we arrived at the port in Pargny-sur-Saulx we could see that moored boats would indeed be in full sun all day but as the picnic tables were under some small trees and there were pleasant views, we stopped for our lunch.

The port at Pargny-sur-Saulx
The view across to Pargny-sur-Saulx from the port

After lunch we walked up to Pargny but found nothing of particular interest to us.  Like the village we visited yesterday, there were information boards about the decimation that occurred during WWI and also first-hand accounts of the horrors of war written by local people such as a primary school teacher.

The mairie

On the way back we stopped for a relaxing break by the river Saulx.  This is the river that joins the Marne just after it goes under the aqueduct we moored on for breakfast yesterday.

Relaxing in the Saulx

On the walk back to the boat we popped into the village of Ètrepy as it wasn’t far from the canal.  This had a stream running through it and we immediately thought that it would be a good place to find a lavoir.  The stream turned out to be a millstream diverted off the Saulx and we soon found the mill but sadly it was abandoned, and the waterwheel had been removed.

Old watermill in Étrepy

The village was just after the mill and was deserted apart from an old man sitting in a chair outside a window of his house.  He was friendly as we walked past, and we then noticed his wife was sitting at the window too but inside.  The mad English couple with a dog walking around their village must have made their day as it didn’t look like much else happened there 😉

Étrepy (the old couple just out of shot to right as I felt it would be rude to include them)

The building to the left caught our eye as it looked very lavoir-esque but seemed rather large for the number of houses.  It was indeed a lavoir, complete with a drinking fountain outside.  The basins were dry, but it shows that there must have been a larger population when it was built compared with nowadays.

The dry washbasins

When we got back to Bignicourt-sur-Saulx we crossed the canal and could just see the boat but were relieved to see it was still in the shade.

We didn’t cruise on Thursday but will be heading back towards Vitry-le-François on Friday.

Vitry-le-François (change of direction)

Sheltered mooring for Monday evening

The temperature was due to be in the 30s on Monday, so we wanted to get to a mooring that provided shade, especially for the evening.  The only place we knew was at Ècriennes which we weren’t able to use on the way up as a boat was already there. We assumed it would be free on Monday as we now believed we’re the last boat trying to get off the northern end of the canal before it closes.   

Getting ready to leave on Monday morning from Hallignicourt

We had quite a long way to travel, for us, so we set out early from Hallignicourt.  Karen and Buddy walked for the first couple of locks and I was just behind them before we reached the second lock when a deer crashed out of the woods next to them.  My initial thought was that Buddy had flushed it out but then saw he and Karen were just ahead of it.  The deer leapt into the water just in front of the boat, quickly swam across and jumped out the other side.  When we’re driving our car and a deer runs across the road we always slow down because of the likelihood others would be following.  I was prepared for the same on the boat but no more appeared.

While Karen was walking in front, I saw her beating back some undergrowth and wondered what she was doing.  I knew she wouldn’t be trying to get a look at a butterfly as she wouldn’t have been making a disturbance. I found out later that she’d found a distance marker that we’d missed on the way up.  It had fallen over and become overgrown so it wasn’t surprising we'd missed it.


It was a pretty uneventful journey until we reached the penultimate lock, other than we saw more kingfishers than we have for a while, oh and the deer and the kilometre stone.  It was showing two red lights, meaning it was out of service.  So, it was on the phone to the control centre yet again and the girl recognised our number so knew who we were.  Although an éclusier turned up very quickly it took about 45 minutes before we got going again because he had to go and get a part from a hut at another lock. When we finally arrived at the mooring it was both empty and under the trees as we remembered. 

As you can see we're back on the long straight sections

After a late lunch we walked into Matignicourt-Goncourt which was a lot smaller than expected but still boasted a large mairie.  Approaching a bridge over a stream it looked like the bank was lined with an old washing stone.  When we got closer, we realised it was a series of separate blocks of stone probably used to prevent damage when the flow was heavy rather than somewhere for the village women to have done their washing 100 years ago or so.

The news about Brits holidaying in Spain having to quarantine from today did make us feel like the government is in a bit of a cleft stick.  If they had given notice of, say two weeks, then they would have been criticised for not acting quickly enough.  Likewise, they will probably be criticised for imposing the quarantine immediately and not giving people notice.  By the same token, we can’t feel sorry for anyone complaining that they have been caught in the situation as the risks are going to be there for a long time to come.

Before anyone says anything, we know we're abroad, but we're not on holiday and we've been here through lockdown.  We're hoping to pop back to the UK in a couple of weeks but are well aware that we may have to cancel the trip.  It’s a risk we’re prepared to take especially as we're self-isolating by living on a boat, don’t mix with people and Karen socially distances when shopping for food.  Anyway, that was a rare stray into politics that I normally avoid so I’ll end Monday by saying we cruised 10 miles down seven locks.

The latest situation report for the canals in our current area in north eastern France makes grim reading.  It certainly looks like we will have to head to a different region to the one we originally planned.

Red = closed, orange = restrictions in depth, green = open

The vertical red line in the middle on the left is the canal we are currently on.  With the orange indicating that the waterway is too shallow for commercials it'd be foolish to attempt those waterways because, with very little rain likely for the rest of the summer, things will probably get worse and more of the orange will turn red.  Clearly, we need to assess the situation carefully over the next couple of weeks to decide where to head next. 

We had to get off the ‘entre’ (Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne) on Tuesday as it was closing at the end of the day because of lack of water.  We set off soon after breakfast and it didn’t seem long before we were at the final lock and handing in the télécommande we used for operating the locks.  The goodbye sign at the lock showed the canal is 224km long.  Last year we manged to get 30km along to St-Dizier before turning around due to water shortages.  This year we managed to do more than double that, well 62km, to Joinville, before we had to turn around.  Will we get the whole way next time?

Goodbye to the ‘entre’

Our plan was to turn left back onto the Canal latéral à la Marne and head very slowly back to Châlons-en-Champagne where Matthew was going to meet us for a couple of days from next Sunday.  Before we got to the junction, the engine started labouring entailing a quick trip to the weed hatch.  While I was down there Karen suggested we turn the other way at the junction and head east along the Canal de la Marne au Rhin for a couple of days and then turn back to head for Châlons at a quick pace by the weekend.

This was essentially a good idea as it would mean travelling along a new canal for us, but we needed to be sure it was open.  This meant checking information on the VNF site and, as it was lunchtime, we turned left to pull up at a mooring spot we knew was just past the junction.  We knew we turned in the wrong direction, but the canal was wide enough to turn around if we ended up following Karen’s idea.  Coincidentally an email arrived after we moored saying the Marne au Rhin was closing from 30km upstream which, fortunately for us, was further than we would get in a day or two,  This decided it for us and we thought we would stay at the mooring, spin around in the morning and head for pastures new.

Whilst eating lunch we could hear the odd firecracker and air rifle shot.  This was a bit disconcerting as it was coming from a group of people not far away on the other side of the canal.  To be honest we had always thought it was a rough looking part of town which is why we had never stopped there before,  When firework rockets started being aimed across the canal at the houses opposite we decided enough was enough.  So I carried on out of town to moor below the first lock, where we knew it was nice and peaceful, while Karen popped to the supermarket.  After I'd dropped down the lock and moored up, Buddy and I walked back to meet Karen.  

When we got back to the boat Karen put the kettle on for a cuppa and found the gas had gone.  This was a bit odd as normally one of us has to clamber out to the front where the gas locker is situated in either pouring rain, icy conditions or when it’s pitch black or any combination thereof.  With it being daylight and dry it took no time at all to change the gas for once 😊

Reading below the first lock on the latéral à la Marne

On Tuesday we cruised eight miles down five locks.

Hallignicourt (not alone after all)

A canal but not built for boats?

To get a good breeze through the boat during the hot weather, we take the porthole windows out and leave the side hatches and front and rear doors open.  At night we put up our Karen-made mosquito nets over the openings so we can keep cool without worrying about being attacked by mossies.  We have to keep an eye on the overnight forecast though, just to check there’s no chance of rain, otherwise everything has to be closed up and we end up sweltering during the night.  We had some unexpected rain in the early hours of Friday morning, so we had a bit of a panic running around the boat putting windows back in and closing the doors and hatches before it got too wet inside.  The rain didn’t last long and, apart from some cloud covering, there was no sign that any rain had fallen when we got up.

When VNF stopped yesterday to check we knew the 100 mile northern end of the canal was closing next Tuesday we asked them what other boats are around.  Apparently, there were none in the 40 miles in front of us and also none coming the same way as us in the 60 miles behind us.  This meant we knew we wouldn’t meet another boat or have one catch up and overtake us for the next five days and definitely wouldn’t have to worry whether or not mooring spots were free.  Karen also pointed out that we could revert to mooring UK-style and moor anywhere we like using pins because there would be no commercials or large barges passing.

In the spirit of finding new places to stop we set off on Friday morning for Laneuville-à-Bayard where the mooring guide told us there were three bollards between a lift bridge and a lock. We weren’t convinced they were there because we hadn’t noticed them on the way up, so it was a pleasant surprise when we found them.

Laneuville-à-Bayard and the three blue bollards

It turned out to be a good spot as the willow tree, where you can see Buddy asleep in the shade, provided shady cover for the boat in the evening. Just before we stopped, we had gone down a lock with an abandoned lock cottage and we could see why it wouldn’t be an attractive proposition these days.  The railway line ran right outside back door so there would have been no garden whatsoever.

Not a place to bring up children

The flowers in Laneuville-à-Bayard followed the same scheme throughout the village:

Church of Saint-Joseph

Bridge across the Marne

On the outside of the village was an iron foundry that makes iron pipework.  Even the factory continued the flower decoration theme.

The iron works  

The green bridge is crossing a mill stream from the Marne that was used by the original iron foundry built here.

At the other end of the village we came across a lavoir fed by a stream running into the Marne.  Considering how villages often show off their lavoirs we were really surprised to see it wasn’t adorned with flowers.  It was obviously looked after though, as it appeared to have been recently re-tiled.

Renovated but unadorned lavoir in Laneuville-à-Bayard

On Friday we cruised seven miles down five locks.

With only four days left to get off the canal, Saturday saw us making our way to St-Dizier where we had only left a week ago.  It was an eerie feeling being the last on the canal.  It was almost a sad feeling as the lights on the locks and bridges were turned off after we’d been through because they wouldn’t be used again until who knows when.  An éclusier in his van came alongside every so often to check our progress and we were glad he was there as he was on hand when one lock and one bridge failed to operate for us. 

Worryingly, the weed was quite thick in some pounds which meant we had a few trips to the weed hatch.  I say worryingly because, if the canal is not going to be used during the summer, I would imagine the weed will only get worse, making it more troublesome when it does finally open. 

We’ve agreed that we still want to go down the length of this canal and make it third time lucky.  The latest suggestion (Karen’s idea) is that we do it early next year, in say February, on the assumption enough water has fallen by then.  At least, as a commercial canal, it would normally be open all year and no doubt will be re-opened as soon as possible for economic reasons.

As expected, we didn't see any boats and were the only boat at St-Dizier when we moored up.  Our first task was to go and check the car was OK where we’d left it, which it was.  As it was a hot and sticky day we felt quite tired and just lazed around for the rest of the day.

Lonely in St-Dizier

During Saturday we cruised 10 miles down six locks.

On Sunday morning we were just about to go and visit Lac de Der to have a picnic, a large reservoir near St-Dizier, when we heard a boat coming past.  It was a small Dutch barge flying a German flag and we were quite shocked as we thought no boats were headed our way.  They were clearly in a rush to get off the canal as they went straight through the port without even stopping for water.  Stepping off the boat, we saw another boat heading our way and could see it was a commercial.  Clearly my understanding of the conversation with the éclusier when I concluded we were the last boat on the canal, wasn’t quite right!

Lac de Der, with its 7 ½ mile long circumference, was an impressive size, not surprising really as it’s the largest artificial lake in France.  It was constructed in 1974 as part of the flood defence system for Paris.  Water from the River Marne, which feeds the Seine, can be held back in the lake to perform this function.  Quite amazing when you think it's 250km from Paris.

Our picnic spot by the lake

The lake is fed by a 12km long canal that runs down from the River Marne in St-Dizier and the outflow enters another canal that re-joins the River Marne 20km downstream of St-Dizier.  Three villages were lost when the lake was constructed, and we don’t know if they had any lavoirs 😉

The feeder canal

We walked around some of the lake and saw quite a few butterflies including this male silver washed fritillary that was rather the worse for wear.

You can see where a bird has attacked the body and wings

As we still had a fair way to go to get off the canal by Tuesday, we took a bite out of the journey during the afternoon and cruised down to Hallignicourt.  It also meant Buddy could stay outside in the evening whereas in St-Dizier it wasn’t possible as we were moored in the middle of a town.

On Sunday we cruised four miles down three locks and will now feel very surprised if there are any more boats behind us.


Autigny-le-Grand (the news we didn’t want)


Another earlyish start on Wednesday saw us leaving Rachecourt-sur-Marne before nine as we wanted to get to Joinville by lunchtime.  We made it through the six locks and several lift bridges without any problems just enjoying the stunning countryside.

Approaching Curel

Passing through Autigny-le-Grand we saw a mooring spot with a couple of bollards and a picnic table.  We made a note of it in case we’re coming this way again (little did we know then what we know now).

Leaving Bussy

Unusually, one lock didn’t have a lock cottage, the first since leaving Châlons-en-Champagne nearly two weeks ago.  We did have a slight concern at one lock as there was a lift bridge at the exit and we could see no way of operating it.  We made the assumption it would rise automatically as we left the lock and, sure enough, it did.

Lock and bridge side by side

An old lady came out of the lock cottage at Rongeant to greet us and make a fuss of Buddy.  I’m not sure how we attract these people, but this lady had no teeth just like the lady who greeted us at one of the St-Dizier locks last week.

We made Joinville by lunchtime and moored up in town at the Halte Nautique which is also shared with campervans.  We were the only boat but there were about a dozen vans, a mixture of Belgians, Dutch and French. They all looked like they were from an even older generation so we knew there would be no rowdy gatherings long into the night.

Moored at Joinville

After lunch we set out to explore the town.  It was really rather pretty and originally made good use of the River Marne by not only building mills but by diverting the river to run in three millstreams through the town thus making it possible to have more mills.  Even though Joinville is a town, it seemed just as deserted as the villages in Champagne villages.

We started our walk at the Château du Grand Jardin which dates from the early 16th century and stands on the banks of the river on the northern edge of town.

Château du Grand Jardin

We then followed a mill stream through the centre of town starting at the northern end.

Poncelot, the oldest bridge in Joinville dating from the late 15th century 

Another pretty bridge

The southern end of town

Walking through the streets we came across a lavoir right in the centre on the high street.  A waterway had obviously been built over as the town developed but was left exposed between two buildings to form the washing place.  Unfortunately, a locked gate had been installed across the steps leading down to the basin thus preventing us from getting a proper look.

Lavoir in the high street

The streets were so narrow and twisty that it wasn’t possible to get a full view of the church.  The best place was across from the market square and even then, a lot of the building couldn’t be seen.

We were just settling down for a relaxing evening after dinner when an avis arrived in my inbox. An avis is an alert sent by VNF about issues on the waterways in a similar vein to those sent out by CRT in the UK.  So far this year, none have affected us other than the one announcing the total closure across the country during lockdown.  This is the avis we received which was in a strange mix of English and French.

VNF’s English version of the closure avis

Basically, from 23rd July, which was the next day, the 162km section on the northern side of the summit (our side) is closed to all craft with a draught of more than 1.6m.  This wouldn't affect us as our draught is considerably less than a metre; however, from 7pm on 28th July, next Tuesday, all boats will be banned.  This was a most unexpected blow and our evening relaxation suddenly turned into a replanning session.

The first decision was do we carry on or do we turn around?  As much as we wanted to carry on heading south, we decided that it could well be foolish.  This canal is closing because of water shortages and, looking at the reserves in the reservoirs around the system, it seems likely that other canals will close too, especially those away from the north.  Although there are several routes between the north and the south, they were all closed by the end of last summer and with the closures starting earlier this year then the chances of further stoppages must be increased. 

We do want to get back to the north east by winter as it is so much easier to get back to the UK from there, so the first decision was easy: we had to turn around.  Luckily the canals here are generally wide enough for us to turn around at any point so we did that, in front of onlookers from the vans who must have wondered what we were doing at that time of night.

One immediate impact is on our son Matthew who is coming out from Norway to see us for a couple of days at the end of the month.  We were going to meet him at Langres, about 100km further south but that’s going to have to change.  He’s catching a train from Charles de Gaulle so it should be a simple matter of getting off a few stations earlier.

Another impact is that we will now be retracing our steps so, to the relief of our busy readers, there probably won’t be so much to write about until we get to somewhere new again!

On Wednesday we cruised seven miles up six locks.

After a quick top up of food items from a supermarket on Thursday morning, we set off back down the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne. We were heading for the mooring we had spotted the previous day at Autigny-le-Grand.  We hadn’t realised then how soon we would be using it.

To be honest we’d had another planning session before we set off, to re-check all the options if we just carried on as originally planned.  As much as we wanted to do it, the options were either too risky in terms of being trapped by potential further closures or entailed cruising an average of 3 ½ to 4 hours a day until November.  We could keep that average up, but it would mean we wouldn’t be stopping and exploring places like we do when we average only two hours a day – rather defeating the object of why we’re cruising in France.

Leaving Joinville the way we came

The toothless lady came out again to see us at her lock, but we couldn’t chat as we were going down on the other side to where she was standing. We had noticed a low table outside her cottage yesterday and wondered what it was used for.  Today, it was covered in potatoes which was a bit of a conundrum as we were brought up to believe that, once harvested, potatoes should be kept in the dark.

Low potato table

Between the table and the water butt there appeared to be a distance marker standing proud looking rather as if it had been removed from its original location.  As we were on the wrong side of the lock we couldn’t investigate further.  It wasn’t long before we reached Autigny-le-Grand and we moored up to the two bollards we spotted yesterday.  There was a wasp nest at one end so we made sure the windows were closed near it and, as there didn’t seem to be many, and they were quite dozy, we decided it would be safe enough to stay. 

Moored at Autigny-le-Grand for Thursday night

Later on, we went for a look around Autigny-le-Grand which, as expected was deathly quiet.  

The obligatory marie, church and war memorial

We carried on to find the River Marne and were soon attracted by children shouting.  Three young lads were having fun jumping off a bridge into the river.  Sadly, it was too deep for Buddy so he wouldn’t go in, but he loved seeing the boys swimming and got really excited every time one got out to climb up and jump off the bridge again. 

We'd forgotten how attentive VNF are and most days an éclusier will stop in his van to find out our plans for the next day or two.  Now the canal's about to close they are even keener to talk to every boater to make sure they know about the closure.  While we were sitting outside in the evening, two of them arrived to find out where we plan to stay for the remaining five days we have left on the canal.

On Thursday we cruised three miles up two locks.   Since we set out from Châlons-en-Champagne two weeks ago, we’ve travelled 61 miles through 37 locks down to Joinville where we had to turn around.

France 2020 so far