Sunday 13 June 2021

Mantoche (nearly evicted by frogs)

Wednesday was my day for getting jobs done, starting with a drive to Saint-Jean-de-Losne to visit a chandlery.  Chandleries are few and far between in France so only being a 30-minute drive away from one of the largest inland ports in France I wanted to take the opportunity to replenish our spare stock.   They had most of the items I wanted such as a couple of mooring lines, a control cable, and some bulbs but some of the other items will remain on the ‘to get’ list.

When I got back I replaced the first blown bulb successfully.  It provided the light behind the wastewater tank gauge in the bathroom.  Although the wastewater tank isn’t used in France, the bulb is handy in the early hours as it sheds just enough light to avoid having to grope around in the dark during those night time visits.  The second replacement was the engine coolant water warning light.  I have learnt from bitter experience to always isolate the starter battery before doing any work on the engine so as usual I did that before beginning.  In order to change any of the warning bulbs the dashboard assembly has to be removed making the job rather tedious.  Having replaced the bulb I reassembled the dashboard and went to turn the battery isolation switch only to find that I hadn’t turned it off quite far enough.  Consequently, the ignition wouldn’t come on as I’d blown a fuse.

The fuse box for the main engine components is positioned such that the fuses can’t quite be seen.  This means feeling around in the dark practically under the engine.  As is always the case when replacing a fuse, I dropped one and it took ages to find it on the engine bay floor.  It was a 15amp fuse that had blown and of course those were the fuses I was already short of – why didn’t I buy more at the chandlery in the morning?  After a bit of scrabbling around later I found a couple more in the man tin of unknown items that Catherine gave me as a birthday present one year.

Later on, I read an interesting article on mairies and lavoirs that were constructed in the 19th century.  There was a phase in municipal building in some areas when mairies were built with lavoirs underneath.  This demonstrated the worst of misogynism as the women were able to do the washing downstairs while the men conducted their business upstairs.  We have seen a couple of these buildings but as the lavoirs had been converted to offices we hadn’t realised, or rather couldn't believe, they really were originally lavoirs.  The article reminded me that my journey to Saint-Jean-de-Losne in the morning had taken me through the strangely named village of Athée where I’d seen three lavoirs.  I say the name is strange as athée is the French word for atheist.    

6.00am Thursday – our last morning at St-Sauveur

I hate to say it, but we were almost glad to be moving on Thursday as there seems to be the largest number of frogs we’ve ever had on a mooring.  It’s not that we don’t like frogs, in fact we’ve spent time observing their behaviour.  It’s just that as it’s still the mating season, their calls are extremely loud and, being nocturnal, they carry on throughout the night.  Of course, with no windows in at the moment, their sound is not muffled and to be honest we’ve found it quite difficult sleeping over the previous two nights.  

At lunchtime we moved back a couple of miles down to Maxilly-sur-Saône where the mooring is just above the final pair of locks on this canal and where we were last Saturday before finding the better mooring back at St-Sauveur.

Moored back at Maxilly-sur-Saône

Later in the afternoon we drove to a supermarket in Gray to do the weekly shop.  It was so hot that we couldn’t leave Buddy on the boat, so he came in the car for the 15-minute journey, and I walked him in some shade while Karen did the shopping.  It was then that I realised that none of my pictures had taken properly since first thing in the morning.  My French id card that I'm obliged to carry, is kept inside my phone casing and had slipped so it was half covering the lens.

When we move onto the river Saône on Friday we will have finally travelled the length of the canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne.  The 224 kilometres and 114 locks have taken us just under 11 weeks although we’d be the first to admit that we’ve done it slowly.  It’s a beautifully scenic and rural canal and we would highly recommend it.  There were only a few pounds with weed but that’s to be expected as it’s a canal after all.  To be fair to VNF they’ve done a good job as it could have been far worse.

The river Saône is in two sections, the Grande and the Petite and we are now heading upstream on the Petite Saône to its navigable end at Corre, a journey of 160 kilometres and 17 locks.  We will then join the canal des Vosges and head north to Nancy for the following stage of our journey to Strasbourg. 

The Petite Saône in red – we are going from near the bottom to the top

The locks on the Petite Saône are Freycinet sized at 40 x 5.2 metres, although the first few we will go up are the unusual width of 8.0 metres.  The Grande Saône runs from just south of where we'll join the Petite Saône to meet the Rhône at Lyon some 208 kilometres further south.  The locks on the Grande Saône are much larger at 185 x 12 metres.  We went through some of them in our first year here when came out on the Saône from the Canal du Centre and then left it again to go up the Canal de Bourgogne.

The Grande Saône in red – we cruised the top part in 2019

We cruised three kilometres through no locks on Thursday.

When we were ready to leave for Mantoche on Friday, Karen drove part of the way, left the car where the Vingeanne flows into the Saône and ran back with Buddy.  If we’d timed it right, we would meet at the village of Heuilly-sur-Saône before we hit the first lock on the river.  As luck would, or rather wouldn’t have it, I had to get VNF out as the final pair of locks on the canal weren’t working.  There’d been issues with these locks all week and the engineers were often seen there so it wasn’t surprising they’d failed again.  At the final lock I had to deposit my télécommande in the dispensing machine as it wouldn’t be needed for the locks on the petite Saône.

Télécommande deposit, dispensing and recharging machine  

I was then going down the final lock on the canal and heading for the Saône where I would turn left to hopefully meet up with Karen.

Leaving the final lock on the entre Champagne et Bourgogne
A rather tired sign telling me I was at the end of the canal

As it happened our timing wasn’t too far out, Karen and Buddy were able to have a ten-minute rest before I picked them up.  Although the Saône is generally similar to the Marne in its tranquillity it didn’t have the blue colour that the Marne gets from its sources in limestone areas.  With the spring rains there was still a fair flow, and the colour of the water may well have been tinged with the detritus picked up during rain storms.

The tranquil Petite Saône

We noticed the guidebook said that we had to be careful of the crossflow when reaching the point where the Vingeanne flows into the river.  The Vingeanne being the river, whose valley the entre canal followed from the summit level.  In fact, we didn’t even notice any crossflow and the Vingeanne looked more like a stream joining.

The Vingeanne and where Karen had left the car

It wasn’t long before we were approaching our first and only river lock of the journey.  The locks on the Petite Saône are all automatic whereas those on the Grande Saône are operated by éclusiers, sitting in control bridges, who we summon by VHF radio.  The automatic operation was very simple with Karen twisting a pole anticlockwise to let the lock know we were coming upstream.

Twisty pole for setting the lock

The lock wasn’t very deep at just over two metres, but the side walls added a further two metres for flood control purposes.  This meant that Karen still had to get ready on the roof with her pole to reach up to the top.

The water line can be seen halfway up the lock walls

As it happened there was a bollard set into the lock wall just above the high-water line so Karen could easily use it without getting on the roof or using her pole.  Once in the lock it was back to using the control rods set into the side to start the lock going for the remainder of the operation.

It wasn’t long before we noticed the change in boat traffic, we saw at least a dozen hire boats on the move during the day, that’s probably about as many pleasure boats we’ve seen in total since in setting out at the end of February.  When we arrived at Mantoche we could see a few boats on the mooring already but there was room for us to slot in.  When we’d visited the mooring a couple of weeks ago on a scouting mission there were no boats there.

Approaching the Mantoche mooring

As we had a longish cruise on Friday, Karen had prepared a slow cooker dish first thing in the morning.  The only problem was that the vacant spot we moored at was in the shade so there was a danger the solars would stop producing enough power.  As it was, it was so hot that we were glad we had the shady spot.  

The sun protection on the French barge behind us put ours to shame!

Once we settled in, I cycled back to pick up the car which I thought was going to be quite a pleasant journey especially as the path would be under trees most of the way.  The guidebook says there’s a good towpath all the way along the river and tourist information makes a big thing of a green cycleway along the length of the Saône.  I’m sure there was a good towpath about 120 years ago, but it transpired the guidebook hadn’t been brought up to date.  The tourist information also omitted to explain that the cycle route followed the valley roads through villages rather than the river itself.

Apart from the made-up towpath along the lock cut the journey wasn’t easy; cycling across hayfields and along long since disused cart tracks where fallen trees necessitated me having to climb over them with the heavy bike.  I was glad Karen had left the car in the shade when I finally reached it.

When I got back, Sue & Paul from the boat at the end of the mooring were sitting in the shade by our boat.  We joined them and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and drinking.  They were only the second Brits we’ve met this year and after a while it transpired that Sue and I knew each other – our eldest daughters were friends at primary and junior schools around 25 years ago.  Of course, that led to much reminiscing which meant another round of drinks and so on until we all went in for dinner.

Some people took advantage of being on the river and were swimming during the evening but I wouldn’t dare at the moment because I’m not a strong enough swimmer to cope with the current flow 😉

On Friday we cruised 23 kilometres down two and up one lock.

Early Saturday morning

We did very little else on Saturday other than take a couple of walks around Mantoche (pop. 430) and sitting outside drinking and chatting with Sue & Paul.  The main excitement was visiting a ‘vide maison’ or garage sale, a bit crazy really as we can’t fit much into a narrowboat, but we never know what useful item we may pick up. 

Besides a couple of grand châteaux we didn't find much to report about in the village other than several houses reminding us of English cottages with the profusion of deep red roses clambering over the walls.  Oh, and unusually, the mairie wasn't adorned with flowers.

The mairie-cum-post office
The church rebuilt in 1730
The village war memorial

We didn’t buy anything in the vide maison but did pop into see a honey producer where Karen purchased a pot of honey.

Karen making her purchase in the honey shop

Later in the afternoon, Sue & Paul’s friends Stuart & Vicky turned up in their boat and came to join our little party.  All the other boats at the mooring left during the morning and other than Stuart & Vicky, all the boats we saw during the day were hire boats from Auxonne or St-Jean-de-Losne.

Our afternoon companions are continuing their journeys on Sunday, but we think we’ll stay here for another few nights as we can take advantage of being in the shade while the hot weather gets even hotter. 



R said...

Hi Neil and Karen nice following your blog you take similar waterway routes as we used to do with our motorcaravan not been many stopped here or only overnight and it's getting hot no shade. Will catch up later

Paul Stockwell said...

We've experienced French frogs mating ourselves. They don't do it quietly do they!