Saturday 31 July 2021

Reading (back in isolation)

Both our Swiss and English overnight neighbours at Montureux-l√®s-Baulay left before eight on Friday morning.  Karen went for a run before it got too hot while I waited for the post office to open so I could ask for the water to be turned on.  As the lady saw me walking up the path from the river, she guessed what I wanted when I went in and she immediately turned the water on for me.  I used the hose which was provided by the mairie and was very good quality, more than long enough and with a large bore.  I went back to the post office when I’d finished and was shown that I’d taken on 510 litres and at €0.005/litre that came to a whopping €2.55 ūüėČ 

We’ve booked into the marina at Corre for when we go back to the UK next week so that was our target for the weekend.  It felt unusual calling it a marina as generally they're called ports in France.  When we first came over here, we found it odd using the word port as we've always used marina in the UK.  We set out in the middle of the afternoon with the idea that we’d moor up for the day at Ormoy, about seven kilometres short of Corre, and the only place on the way where there were moorings.   Things were obviously back to normal now the backlog of boats caused by the floods had cleared as we saw none during the cruise which was hot and sultry under high broken cloud.

Cendrecourt was the only village we passed through on the way and the lawns of the lock cottage must be a right pain to mow:

The gnomes and other ornaments stretched out to the left and the right

Coming out of the lock we could see Cendrecourt up on a small rise:

Nearing the end of the navigable river meant it was now a lot narrower, the scenery had changed too.  The rain of a week or so ago had also benefited the grass and undergrowth as everywhere looked lovely and green rather than the parched yellow and browns of previously.  The banks of the river were generally lower and with the flood plain not being so wide, the wooded hills weren't so far away.

As we passed pk 400 it brought home how long the navigation is; it’s 407 kilometres (253 miles) from Corre down to its confluence with the Rh√īne at Lyon.  We joined the river at pk 253 when we left the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne on 11th June so have travelled just over 150 kilometres in the last six weeks.

Pk 400

It was nearly six when we reached the lock cut at Ormoy and we decided we would definitely moor up there and not continue the last seven kilometres to Corre.  That could wait until later on over the weekend.  The lock was the last we would be going up on the river and when we reach these first and last milestones, we always have mixed feelings.  The sadness of leaving a particular waterway coupled with the happy memories spent cruising it.  Of course, there’s also the excitement of having a new waterway to travel with its unknown cruising idiosyncrasies: how will we manage the locks, will there be places to moor, etc.?

Approaching our last lock on the Petite Sa√īne
Lock cottage built later than many of the others on the river

The lock cut through Ormoy had plenty of places to moor but pins were required as there were no rings or bollards. 

Moored on pins at Ormoy

There were plenty of butterflies on the wing and we also saw a hummingbird hawk moth.  These are so called as they take nectar from flowers while hovering in the air like a hummingbird.  It’s amazing that such large bodies can be kept in the air by such small wings.  I hadn’t realised until I read up later that these are not resident in the UK; all the ones seen over there are spring/summer migrants from Europe.

The proboscis can be seen in the flower head

We also found a cryptic wood white.  In the British Isles, cryptic wood whites only occur in Ireland; however, its close cousin, the wood white, is found in both England and Ireland.  They are one of the species of butterfly that never rest with their wings open but this does not hide how delicate they are – they are really one of the daintiest of butterflies with their slow fluttering flight.

Cryptic wood white

On Friday we cruised 11 miles up two locks.

Saturday dawned partly cloudy and with rain showers possible in the afternoon we set off for Corre straight after breakfast.  It didn’t take long, and we were soon approaching the visitors’ pontoon outside the marina.  There were already a few boats there but there were two spots free, and we took the one behind Tony & Caroline on Imagine who were moored with us at Montureux-l√®s-Baulay.  The pontoon wasn’t the best surface for Buddy, so he appreciated having his bed to lie on.

Visitors' moorings at Corre

There are three sections to the marina; two on the River Sa√īne and one up the first lock on the Canal des Vosges.  As were leaving the boat for a month we had decided to go into one of the river section as the moorings were secure and private whereas the finger pontoons on the canal were open to the public.  You may think us mad leaving the boat for a month on the river after last week’s escapades but all the moorings are on flood pontoons so it would be totally safe.

The smaller of the two river sections of the marina

When I’d rung up to make the booking I’d been told to moor in the visitors’ area and then find the capitaine who would explain where we should moor in the marina.  As it was, we couldn’t find the capitaine and as we rather liked being on the pontoon outside the marina, we left it until later in the afternoon before going on the search again.

After lunch we walked to the local supermarket to get a few things and came back with a stray looking dog that we couldn’t get rid of.  It was most embarrassing as it had no traffic sense and kept dashing across the road.  Fortunately, it wasn’t busy but there was one close shave.  It followed us all the way back to the marina where we popped into the office to find the capitaine.  This time she was there and agreed we could stay where we were, and she would show us to our spot on Sunday.  I explained about the stray dog, and she said it often followed people around as it lived near the marina!

As expected, we had a couple of rain showers later in the afternoon and were rather glad to have an excuse to stay on the boat planning what to do on our trip back.  It seems we’ve filled up a month already and that’s just with seeing all the children and our parents.

On Saturday we cruised four miles through no locks.

Apart from a couple of walks around Corre and along the start of the Canal des Vosges we spent Sunday packing up and messing around on the boat.  Although we’re only a couple of hundred metres from the start of the canal it felt strange that we wouldn’t be venturing on it until the beginning of September.  I went to see the capitaine and she showed me where they wanted us to leave the boat in the larger basin.  As it was rather pleasant being on the moorings outside compared with having neighbours down either side, we decided to put off moving until last thing on Monday ready for setting off to Metz on Tuesday morning.

Monday was ‘get Buddy ready for going to the UK’ day involving an early morning visit to the vets.  As responsible dog owners, we give him anti-tapeworm tablets every month but part of the bureaucracy surrounding getting back into the UK means we have to visit a vet who then gives him the identical tablets.  The difference being that the vet has to make a confirming entry in Buddy’s passport.  Fortunately, vet bills, like bread and property, are cheap in France and they don’t take advantage of charging an extortionate price for doing this like they would in the UK.  The vet also gave Buddy a rabies booster that will last for three years and stamped the passport accordingly.  I’m not sure whether we could get that done in the UK now as there’s probably some regulation about UK vets not being allowed to enter details in French passports.

On the journey back I stopped at a village called Betaucourt where I’d read there was a lavoir with an inscription over the door saying the equivalent of, “Windbags’ hotel”.  Although I found three impressive lavoirs in the village I couldn’t find the inscription on any of them, but I had two surprises.  One of the basins had been sealed and had goldfish swimming in it:

The other surprise was a link to another passion: and was just inside the entrance to another lavoir:

That yellow box in the far corner was a post box.  I know its not Victorian, which are the ones we like to find, but it was still unusual to find a post box in a lavoir and it was use still:

Reading about the village later I found that I’d missed two more lavoirs, the Windbags’ hotel and the other one, now in private hands had been converted to a summerhouse.  The village has a population of 150 nowadays and even if it were three times as large in the 1850s, that’s an amazing number of lavoirs so the villagers must have had the cleanest clothes in France.  Also, being such a small village I found it amazing that I’d missed the other two lavoirs.

Karen was working so Buddy and I had a good long walk up the Canal des Vosges which has a decent cycle path all the way along.  This was good as it will make hopping with the car and boat a lot easier than it was when we were on the river.  Once we reach √Čpinal we will be able to leave the car for a few weeks as we will be back on a railway line.  The next village up from Corre was Demangevelle which had a firewood and wood pellet producing plant.  Of course, the timber piles around the factory were on a completely different scale to the domestic ones we see all over the place.   

The village seemed to mainly consist of ten blocks of terraced houses which was really unusual.  I tried to find out more about them but ended up assuming they were originally mill workers’ cottagers as the wood plant had been built on site of an old textile mill.  It would be fascinating to find out more about these houses especially as the blocks were identified by the letters A to J on the front and only a couple were still inhabited.

Block ‘H’

The Canal des Vosges is not the original name for the canal, like the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne it had a name change (in 2003) for touristic purposes.  The northern end of the 250-mile-long canal was renamed the Canal de la Meuse and the southern end, where we are starting from, the Canal des Vosges.  The original name was the Canal de l’Est, the southern end joined the Sa√īne to the Moselle up near Nancy being the Branche Sud and the Branche Nord carried on up to the border with Belgium.  I mention all this now as we passed some of the original milestones on the walk that have ‘Canal de l’Est - Branche Sud’ inscribed on them.

When Karen finished work for the day, we moved the boat around to the marina.  It wasn’t until we moved into the basin that we saw that it was a lot larger than we originally thought and was at least twice the size.

Karen has got the art of moving between France and England down to a T, so we hardly have to pack anything when we move backwards and forwards.  This time we were stopping over in Metz with friends Maureen & Garry for a couple of nights on our way back to Calais which impacted the packing routine.

Moored in Corre for a few weeks

We left for Metz soon after nine on Tuesday morning and drove up the C√īney valley following the route of the Canal des Vosges to √Čpinal where it joins the Moselle.  It took an hour to reach √Čpinal where we had our covid PCR tests ready for travelling on Thursday.  The booking system had worked perfectly, and we were in and out in no time and, as expected, didn’t have to pay as we presented our cartes vitale.  We had a look around the port in the centre of the town and were rather pleased we’d left the boat in Corre.  √Čpinal had been one of our options but it would have been alongside a public quay and after a week or two it would have become obvious the boat had been left unattended.

After another couple of hours or so we arrived at Maureen & Garry’s who were flying their hot air balloon at the biennial Chambley balloon festival, and we hoped the weather would be good enough for us to go up with them on one of the mornings or evenings we were there.  The event is held on an old American airfield and normally attracts around 500 balloons but this year the numbers were down by about 40% as most British and other non-European balloonists couldn’t make it because of the travel restrictions.  

We went to the site in the evening, but, due to increasing winds, the display was called off during the pilots’ briefing.  The conditions weren’t right for it to go ahead on Wednesday morning either, but the forecast was more hopeful for the evening.   During the day we visited an American WWI war memorial and a local village for some wine tasting and then went back to the airfield for six.  Garry came out of the pilots’ briefing saying there was a small chance of the winds dropping at eight although it didn’t sound that hopeful.  Although most crews gave up for the day, we along with about a hundred other cars and balloon trailers, drove out onto the runway to wait for the all-clear.  Unfortunately, it never came but at least we got to see the place and there’ll be another opportunity in two years, and it had been great catching up with our friends.

We set off for the tunnel early on Thursday morning and got through all the formalities very quickly, catching a train two hours earlier than the one we'd booked.  The systems have obviously been greatly improved since our last trip as it seemed the covid test results, forms for isolation, proof of bookings for day two and eight tests etc. had all been checked after we loaded them online rather than the laborious manual checks performed at check-in previously.

Friday was our first day of isolation and we’ve booked test to release appointments on day five to make the most of our month’s trip.  Our day two and eight mandatory tests hadn’t arrived and if they don’t arrive on Saturday, test & trace will send us replacements.  It seems a ludicrous set up as the tests have to be booked and paid for before returning to the UK.  The tests are sent by courier to the address where isolation is to take place.  For most people, like us, the isolation address is empty as the occupants are abroad, so the tests cannot be delivered.  It transpired that after several unsuccessful attempts our tests have been returned to the sender!

There may not be another blog update for a while as we now have a whirlwind tour of the country catching up with all our children.

Friday 23 July 2021

Montureux-lès-Baulay (back to normal)

Serenity, tranquillity & peace after being released from our lock home
On Sunday, VNF arrived for their morning checks and assured us that the river will remain closed until Tuesday morning at the earliest so we were free to do our own thing until then.  As we only have 40 kilometres left on the river before we get onto the Canal des Vosges, we thought we’d take the car and spend the day doing some investigating.  Our thinking being that we should get off the river as soon as it reopens and head for the canal which should only take a couple of days. 

Our main destination for our trip was Corre where the canal starts, so after breakfast we made sure the lines were plenty loose enough for further falls in level and set off in the car.  The halfway point was Montureux-l√®s-Baulay, and it looked a lovely mooring from pictures we’d seen so that was where we wanted to stop on the first night once we got going again.  The first three moorings we checked were still under water and to make it worse we couldn’t find the one at Montureux-l√®s-Baulay.  

It seemed every village we went through had at least one if not two or three lavoirs.  I will show you a couple pictures; this first pair were at either end of Cendrecourt and they caught our attention as they had the same design even though they were different sizes.

Similar designs in Cendrecourt

At Ormoy we found three lavoirs, two of which were simple, waterside washing stones on the lock cut through the village.

The picture on the left also shows the flood gates under the bridge.  These were preventing the swollen river from damaging the lock cut; they will open automatically when the levels either side equalise.

When we arrived at Corre we were surprised how many boats were in the marina and visitors' mooring alongside but soon realised that quite a few were holed up there waiting for the river to reopen.  As soon as we got out of the car, we met a British couple who were off to meet friends for lunch but not before they explained how they were travelling down to the south on their boat having finally got over to France in May.  We were particularly looking for Sally & Glen who we knew were moored at Corre and finally found them on the visitors' mooring.

We sat chatting on their back deck for a couple of hours and it soon transpired how many friends we had in common on the waterways in France.  As they are heading north in front of us, we asked them about the mooring that we weren't able to find on the journey up and they explained how to find it from the road.  We would see a La Poste sign outside a house that opens as a post office for a couple of hours on two or three mornings a week.  The mooring would be reached by walking down what appears to be the cottage’s drive – no wonder we couldn’t find it.  On our way home, we stopped at Montureux-l√®s-Baulay again and this time found the mooring which was in a wonderful location just as the pictures described.

By Tuesday morning the level gauges showed the water in the lock had gone down by nearly 1.50 metres since we were moved into it and the reach below had dropped by 2.70 metres.

Two days ago the water was 20cm from the top of the gauge and the weir couldn't be seen

We were definitely getting back to normal and expected the river would open later in the day.  Of course, it couldn’t be re-opened where we were until VNF disconnected us from their electricity supply and opened the lock for us.  They turned up at 8.00am and told us the river was reopening that morning so we could move out of the lock as soon as we were ready.  Like when we went into the lock we jumped at the chance to move out, albeit for about 100 metres upstream back to the lovely mooring we'd been on when we were moved into lock five days previously.  Our plan was to stay there while Karen worked for a couple of days and then we'd head to Corre and the Canal des Vosges on Thursday. 

Moored back above the lock on Tuesday morning
While we'd been living in the lock it's been so hot that Buddy has spent most of the daylight hours in the shade of the steps of the lock control hut.  Once the sun was fully up, he showed no inclination in having a walk and as it isn’t fair trying to make a dog walk in the heat especially one with a black coat like his, he wasn't walked very far.

Buddy’s favourite place

Once we were settled back on the mooring, I took the car to Corre to meet Sally.  She was kindly driving me back to the boat so we wouldn’t have to worry about moving the car while we travelled up the remainder of the river.  The journey there and back went without mishap, and we now owe Sally & Glen a return favour.  That won’t be difficult as they're car hopping this year too and following the same route as us so we’re bound to bump into each other again.

It was another hot day therefore Buddy still didn’t need walking much and I rigged up our spare parasol to cast some shade for him on the bank.  I also took advantage of the parasol shade as I ‘d removed two of the side hatches to revarnish them and had somewhere to let them dry between coats, out of the direct sunlight.

I came across a photograph, dating from the 1900s, of the weir next to the lock we’d been in.  In those days it was a needle dam which was controlled by men having the arduous task of removing or inserting needles as appropriate, according to the levels and the flow.  When we were on the River Marne in 2019, we were amazed to come across two needle dams that were still in operation.  The photo was taken in the summer judging by the fly netting on the lock cottage door and the fact that there are only a few needles removed.  Mind you, if it'd been like the week we'd just had then there wouldn’t have been any needles in at all, so you can’t always tell ūüėČ

Buddy caused us some embarrassment on Tuesday evening.  Every morning and evening a small herd of Charolais walk along the road opposite us and over the bridge.  It generally goes without mishap, but Buddy decided to bark at them from the back deck (the only time he barks is if he sees something unusual) and this unnerved them, and they went crashing into the wood beside the road.  The farmer appeared and after some while finally managed to get them to come out, but we kept ourselves hidden inside in case he realised the cause of the skirmish came from the boat.   

August is usually the hottest month over here, so we’ve often thought that it would be a good time to take a holiday and catch up with the family back in the UK.  The heatwave of 2019 set us on that track but last year it wasn’t possible because of the health situation.  This year suddenly looked promising when the UK announced that fully jabbed visitors from the EU could avoid isolating for ten days.  This soon backfired on us when they then said it only applied to people vaccinated in the UK followed quickly by saying it wouldn’t apply to France anyway.  As it now seems both France and England are getting closer to at least one of them putting the other on their red list we’ve decided to bite the bullet and go over before it’s too late.

Of course, we’ve a few things to arrange like covid testing, vet visit for Buddy and not least, finding somewhere to leave the boat for a month.  After a successful couple of hours of research and planning we think we can make it back next Thursday so have booked return tunnel tickets.  We will stay with our friends, Maureen & Garry, for a couple of nights on the way back to Calais.  They are in Metz, taking part in the biennial hot air balloon festival and this will be a good opportunity to attend.  Records won’t be broken this year as many participants from outside of Europe won’t be travelling, especially the Brits.   

Wednesday dawned hot and bright, pretty much as the long-range forecast says it will be for the next few weeks with the odd chance of a thunderstorm thrown in.

A bit of mist over the fields at 6.00am on Wednesday

In the hot weather Buddy wants to get outside about two hours earlier than his usual getting up time of 9.00am.  We don’t blame him as it is the coolest part of the day.

Enjoying the early morning scents and sights

The river was practically back to normal levels and looked like there was only about 20 cm further to drop.  We never took a picture when it was at its highest and just about to go over the lock, but you can sort of see the then and now differences, especially looking at the lock landing.  Fingers crossed that this is the last time we have to talk about floods this summer.    

As expected, a lot of boats had come through on Tuesday once the river was open and we must have seen at least 15, all but two of which were heading downstream in the opposite direction to us.  Wednesday started busy too but in the end, there weren’t quite as many boats but nearly all were going downstream again, so it bodes well for us finding a decent mooring when we set off on Thursday.

I spent a lot of Wednesday morning booking appointments which isn’t as easy as it sounds, not just because of having to have conversations in French, but because of the timings.  Buddy needs his appointment between one and five days before travel and we need our covid test within three days of travelling.  After sorting that out it was a matter of booking day two & eight mandatory covid tests in the UK and also the day five release test.  Fortunately, the price of tests has come down dramatically in England and more than halved since we last had to have one back in February.  The French ones are still free for nationals and residents, but this is coming to an end soon as one of the government ploys to encourage people to get vaccinated rather than keep testing themselves.  They started charging tourists at the beginning of July but I must admit we couldn't understand why they were ever free.

During the afternoon Mary-Jane & Michael on Olivia Rose came past, and we chatted briefly as they slowed to wait for the lock.  It was Mary-Jane’s book that Ian McCaulay had reviewed for the Dutch Barge Association and was the source of the lavoir joke in a recent blog entry.

In the evening we heard the first signs of local youth, since we’d been here, in the form of excited screams followed by splashes.  They were balancing on the bridge railings, in pairs, before diving into the water below.  I know swimming in the rivers is popular all over the world especially when it’s hot like now, but we were impressed at their balancing skills – each pair stood for ages before jumping in at the same time.

Balancing act

Following nine days without moving, other than going into the Conflandey lock for safety and then coming out again five days later, we set off for Montureux-l√®s-Baulay on Thursday morning.  After five miles or so we were passing the mooring at Baulay where I’d stupidly left the car when the river was rising.

Our car had been marooned behind the two poplars on the right

A little further on we were approaching the only lock of the day:

Like all the river locks the water wasn’t particularly deep, at a little over two metres, but as the sides had added height to cope with raised water levels it meant Karen was up on the roof performing her own balancing act:  

Coming into Montureux-l√®s-Baulay the first building we passed was the church whose Burgundian tiled roof was of a different design to others we’ve seen.  Although it likely had the same number of tiles, and the colours are probably in the same proportion as the usual bell tower roofs, we were struck with how different the pattern made it look.

Pictures can’t do the roof justice

Soon after the lock we found the mooring we were looking for and saw that it was empty.  About ten boats had passed us during the morning’s cruise so we were rather hoping that if anyone had been on the mooring overnight then they would have been one of the ones that had passed us.

Moored at Montureux-lès-Baulay

There were a lot of butterflies on the bank, but the heat of the day wasn’t making them very obliging.  A painted lady did settle for a while and let me take a picture.  For some reason, although they are very common butterflies, I always find it hard to find them at rest for any period of time.

Painted lady (its fat abdomen indicates that it’s probably a female full of eggs)

There was a water tap at the mooring, but boaters have to visit the post office to get it turned on.  As the post office is only open for a couple of hours, three days a week, it’s a bit of a hit and miss affair.  It was going to be open on Friday morning so we would be in luck, and when it opens I'll pop in and ask.

La Poste lean-to behind the jeep

As expected, the village was deserted when we went for a short walk after lunch.  A small stream ran parallel with the main street through the village, and we let Buddy play and cool down in the water for a while.

Playing hide & seek in the shade
Eastern exit to the village

We tried to get better shots of the church roof but were still unlucky:

With a stream running through the village, we were duty bound to look for lavoirs.  We found two, one of which had had its basin removed but had an attractive mural on the outside.

The mural depicting lavandières doing their laundry

Later in the afternoon a hire boat with two Swiss couples on board pulled up to share our mooring for the night.  They were really rather sweet, asking if it was OK for them to moor with us.  I do hope that it was out of plain good manners, and not because they’d had a hard time from another boater elsewhere.  A bit later on a widebeam called Imagine turned up and the couple on board turned out to be English, Caroline & Tony.  I went to help them moor up and said it would be fine to moor alongside us if they couldn't get into the bank.  They managed to get in just in front of the Swiss boat and we popped around once they'd settled in and had a pleasant evening over a few drinks on their back deck.

On Thursday we cruised eight miles up one lock. 

Sunday 18 July 2021

Conflandey (Karen’s gendarme encounter)

After saying we’ve been pretty lucky avoiding the worst of the rain it did rain all through Wednesday night having started in the middle of the afternoon.  A lot more rain must have fallen further upstream and on days previous to that as the river had risen quite a bit during the night.  I was glad we’d loosened our lines yet again just before retiring.  We had a further notice from VNF that the whole river and not just the reach below us was now closed until at least midday on Saturday. We obviously wouldn’t be moving in the boat for a few days, so we thought we’d better go and retrieve the car from Baulay having only moved it there yesterday. 

Just as well we went to get the car!

It was only an 8.5-kilometre walk which we managed in the dry - almost.  It’s not that it rained but the road was flooded under a railway bridge and as there was no way around it there’d been nothing for it but to wade through.

At about halfway we went through Port d’Atelier which had been the scene of an horrific train accident in 1949.  This was when passenger trains still ran through here on their way from Paris to Basle.  It was also a busy junction as another line ran from Nancy to Dijon as well as a third local line.  The accident involved one of the passenger trains in a collision with a freight train and 43 people were killed.

Recent memorial to the 43

When we arrived at Baulay we walked along beside a railway cutting which was the scene of several successful sabotages by the French resistance in 1944 during WWII; German munitions and troop trains being the target.  As we’ve seen in other places, there were several information boards showing pictures of the aftermath of some of the attacks and also descriptions of the work carried out by the resistance.

Information boards marking the 70th anniversary

The cutting today

You may have noticed the telegraph pole in the picture above, still with many intact ceramic insulator pots.  We’d passed dozens of these poles in the same state as we'd walked alongside the railway line on the way into Baulay, although some of the ceramic pots had been replaced by glass versions. Railway telegraph poles with these insulator pots intact are a rare sight these days and it's not just because young lads use them for target practice, the pots fetch a tidy sum on auction sites like Ebay. 

We had to walk through the village to get down to the river where I'd parked the car.  As the river came into view, we could see it had burst its banks and the track running down to the car was also flooded.  I dropped Karen and Buddy off where the track left the road and went down to the car.  Once again, I had to wade through the water and fortunately was able to get the car out.   The river had risen so much that the mooring pontoon was completely covered so I was glad we hadn’t moved the boat there yesterday.

A salutary lesson in where not to park the car

When I got back to the road, Karen was being interviewed by a gendarme.  Someone had reported our car down by the river and there was concern it was going to drift away as the levels rose.  The gendarme couldn’t really understand why we’d left the car there to go for a walk until Karen managed to explain that it had been left there the previous day when the river was lower and there were also camper vans there.  After checking Karen’s id and taking a picture of it, he seemed happy with the explanation and let us carry on our way.

We decided to spend the rest of the day on board checking the water levels and lines every couple of hours.  A depth gauge at the exit to the lock was showing that the reach below us was rising by 10cm every couple of hours but the reach we were on was rising more slowly and even looked to have stopped during the afternoon.  VNF were clearly monitoring levels and adjusting the weir heights accordingly.

Gauge shows the level has gone up by 1.5 metres in 48 hours 

Less sophisticated: measuring how high the boat was rising against the bank

The water was flowing very fast past the boat, but pictures make it look quite tranquil.  It seemed that every time we looked out a branch or a tree was going by.

Branches on their way to the weir

We counted ourselves fortunate compared to countries further north, especially Germany and Belgium where the disastrous flooding continues.  Although I have to admit that we had bags packed in case we had to make a sudden exit and we set the alarm so we could make regular checks on the situation during the night.

The river where we were moored was 60cm higher by Friday morning, so it looked like another day of monitoring every couple of hours.  The reach below had also risen, and the water was almost at the same height either side of the weir.

First thing on Friday - lock gates will soon be under water

24 hours previously the lock landing and weir was still just visible

A really friendly VNF guy, Davide, came to check we were OK during the morning.  He wanted to know if we felt safe and if we needed electricity or water.  We told him that we didn’t need electricity and couldn’t believe they would have run a cable from the control hut in the lock if we’d wanted it.  We had a long discussion about how all the flood locks and weirs are automatic on this river and that since the morning all the weirs were laying flat. We said we wouldn’t be worried until the bottom of the boat was level with the top of the bank as we had no way of stopping the boat moving over the side.  He said they didn’t expect the level to rise by more than another 20cm so we were relieved but will keep an eye on the data from the river monitoring stations via  He also said they are hoping to start reopening the river on Monday.  All this made us feel quite relieved and more in the mood for planning what to do over the weekend as we wouldn’t be moving. 

The next monitoring station upstream

As you can see, the levels here are three metres higher than they were during the previous 30 days.  There is a wealth of information and even one tab that shows the water level every six minutes for the last 30 days (Mike Fielding, please note).

During the afternoon on Friday, VNF Davide turned up again and told us that he and the team were worried about where we were moored as they expected the levels to rise higher than they originally thought.  He asked if we would spend the weekend in the lock as it would be safer than where we were.  We jumped at the chance and got the boat ready while he got the lock set.  Our hearts were in our mouths as we let the boat drift back on its own with all three of us pulling it into the side.  Fortunately, we were on the inside of the bend, so the current wasn’t too bad.  When we neared the lock entrance the boat sped up because the river became narrower hence the flow increased.  I jumped on the boat and put the engine in forwards to bring the boat to a halt and we were able to control the entry into the lock.  We were soon tied up and, as Davide was practically insisting we use their electricity, we hooked up into the lock control room.  

Moored in the lock with some spectators from the lock cottage

Davide made sure we would call the emergency number any time during the night if the level rose near the top of the lock.  We promised we would and had another night with the alarm going off every few hours.

Our view of the weir – it’s going to be a noisy night

The weir wasn’t that noisy overnight as the water was flowing straight through rather than thundering down a two-metre drop.  We now have rain-free days forecast and with some days back into the 30s it seems summer may be returning and fingers crossed that's the end of the rain.

The sun was up early on Saturday morning and as soon as I opened the doors Buddy was straight outside to sit on the lock side. 

Looking calm at sunup on Saturday morning

We saw the levels rise slightly during our overnight checks but by the morning they were back to where they were when we went to bed so that was reassuring.  A little while later we received an avis from VNF stating that there will be a delay in reopening the river.  Rather than noon on Saturday it will now be 17.00 on Tuesday and we weren’t surprised as there’s a lot of water to get down to join the Rh√īne at Lyon and then the Med.  It meant we would be in the lock for at least four more nights, so we set about making it more homely by doing this like putting out our table and chairs.

We also wanted to make sure we had access to water so put our containers in the boot of the car and set out for the port at Fouch√©court which was a little further upstream than where we’d had the car/gendarme debacle at Baulay.  Our journey took us through Port d’Atelier, the village of the train stories, and we couldn’t believe we were caught at the level crossing.  Usually, there is only one train a week and it’s the one that carries the week’s production from the wire works at Conflandey.  At least we knew what the coils of wire were on the wagons and where they'd come from.

As we left the village, we passed a lavoir that had two firsts for us: a cast iron basin and wooden washing ‘stones’.

The unusual basin in the lavoir at Port d’Atelier

The next village was Baulay where the road to Fouch√©court, our destination, crosses the Sa√īne where I’d stupidly left the car.  The road leading to the bridge was now impassable, so we parked up and walked as far as we dared.

Bridge from Baulay to Fouchécourt

When we had the issue with the car it was parked on the other side of the two poplar trees in the distance just to right of bridge, so we understood why the police were concerned.  As we couldn’t get over the bridge, we gave up the idea of going to Fouch√©court and went back to our new ‘lock’ home.

The lady in the lock cottage caught my attention when we returned and asked if we needed any food or drink.  I thanked her and explained we had access to a car which she hadn’t realised.  I took the opportunity to ask if we could use her water tap to fill up our containers which she readily agreed to.  We had quite a long conversation but one of those where I wasn’t sure how much either of us really understood.

It turned out to be a bit of a palaver fetching the water as there was a steep bank up to the house.  There were steps down to the lock, but they were at the farthest end of the lock which was also the furthest away from the tap.  As I’m bound to end up doing myself a mischief if we do it again, I think I’ll leave a bottle of wine on their doorstep with a thank you note.  I will then brush up on my hose vocabulary so before we leave I can ask to connect our hoses (we will need both because of the distance) direct to her tap and top the tank right up.

After lunch we drove back down to Scey-sur-Sa√īne to see the state of the river and also have a walk.  Scey was where we were moored right above the weir and we’d had a hair raising time turning in the strengthening stream to moor up.  It was also the place where the weir kept us awake.  Not surprisingly there were no boats moored there as we suspect VNF ensure everyone gets to places of safety when they know the river is rising.  The small, popular campsite by river had been flooded and we could see a few abandoned tents and patio furniture.

I bet they weren’t expecting this July

As the gorgeous weather was back, we spent the evening sitting outside enjoying the peace and solitude, almost disbelieving that we would have four more nights in the lock.  We had to bear in mind that we're in a river lock and therefore when it's back to its normal level the water will be a couple of metres below the top of the lock wall.  That's why, in the picture of us in the lock above, it looks like everything is normal as it would be in a canal lock.  As long as we keep an eye on our lines and loosen them every so often we'll be fine as the level drops back to normal.

To finish this update, I’ll include a joke sent to me by an Australian friend, Ian McCaulay.   We met Ian & Lisette on their boat on the River Yonne during 2019 and sadly for them they have been unable to get over to Catherina Elisabeth since, hopefully they will be allowed over in 2022.  Ian saw the joke in a book he reviewed on off grid life by Mary-Jane Houlton and immediately thought of us:

An elderly village priest felt awkward when the local women told him they had been unfaithful to their husbands during confession. Instead, when they had committed adultery, he asked them to say ‘Monsieur le cur√©, I’ve fallen in the lavoir.’ Eventually the old priest retired and a young priest took his place. Each week the day of confession arrived and the new priest noticed a particular phrase kept cropping up – ‘Monsieur le cur√©, I’ve fallen in the lavoir.’ Concerned that somebody could get seriously injured, the young priest went to see the mayor to request that he carry out work on the lavoir to put an end to these accidents. The mayor, who was fully aware of the real meaning of the phrase, patted him on the shoulder and reassured him, saying there was nothing to worry about. The young priest persisted ‘It is serious. You must know this already for your own wife fell in three times last week.’  

The author’s source was