Saturday 26 March 2022

Juvigny (slow boat to Châlons)

Moored at Juvigny for a couple of days

While a lot has happened in the world over the last three months or so it feels like we’ve been stuck in a groundhog day back in the UK.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a brilliant time with our children and grandchildren and meeting up with a few boater friends but there is always something missing when not living on the boat; we hate the thought of leaving but it’s probably just that we’re itching to get back on the move.

One of the main family events happened a couple of weeks ago when Polly & Lochlann provided us with Olyvia, our first granddaughter.  Of course, being back in the UK for a solid period of time we were able to look after our two grandsons on a regular basis and were soon into a weekly routine.  We constantly chuckled in the difference in approach to childcare from their two mothers; one would arrive with a comprehensive operations manual and maintenance schedule whereas the other was lucky to be sent with a change of underwear!  I’m not being harsh at all as both their mothers are aware of their differences and will understand the sentiment and we are so fortunate to have two lovely, happy grandsons.

It’s been a very mild winter, but we haven’t seen anything like the number of butterflies we would have expected.  Since January 1st there have been reports from all over the UK of hibernators on the wing.  Our sightings have been a bit slow off the mark; but it just started picking up in the last week before we returned to France which we did on Wednesday.  We rose at 2am so we could get back to the boat before lunch and have plenty of time to sort out any problems.  It was an easy and uneventful journey back as most of the 550 km were on motorway and we were settling in by 10am EU time.   Apart from a thick coating of Saharan sand covering the boat, everything was shipshape and Bristol fashion as they used to say. 

We had a few jobs to do before starting to cruise including carrying out an engine service, disposing of the plants that died off over winter and giving the boat a thorough clean.  As we’re starting later this year, we’ll forego spring plants and go straight to summer ones at the right time.  We also needed to do a shop for large items like Buddy’s dog food while we had the car as we won’t be taking it with us this year.  Because of the jobs we decided to stay in the port at Condé-sur-Marne for a couple of days to get them done.  Buddy was soon settled in and seemed to be really happy spending most of the time sunning himself on the pontoon.

Regular readers will know that Karen lost her French residence permit (carte de séjour) in a lock late last year and we’ve been going through hoops ever since trying to get a replacement.  Fortuitously, on Thursday afternoon we received a text saying the replacement was now ready and to book an appointment at the préfecture in Châlons-en-Champagne.  We went online and managed to get an appointment for Monday morning.  This was great news as it meant we could get on the move later the same day, especially as we’d imagined having to hang around in Châlons until the card arrived.  This meant we had to get to Châlons by Sunday evening and as it was only 17 km away, we decided to cruise to Juvigny and spend a couple of nights at a nice spot we knew where Buddy could roam freely.

We left around midday and were soon back into the swing of things.  We were almost instantly rewarded with the sight of a kingfisher and reminded of how prolific cowslips are in this part of France growing in swathes along the banks.  The port we’d been in was at the bottom of the canal de la Marne à l’Aisne by the junction with the canal latéral à la Marne which we joined and turned left to head south.

Joining the canal latéral à la Marne

It wasn’t long before we were heading unto our first lock at a place called Vraux.  This particular lock has quite a fierce bywash even when there hasn’t been a lot of rain.  Extra care has to be taken to avoid being pushed into the side of the lock as the boat entered especially with Karen on the roof waiting to get her line onto a bollard.

Getting ready to steer into the side flow

We moored up just above the next lock at a spot we stayed in a couple of years ago.  The mooring is on the offside, or opposite side to the towpath, although there was a track running down to the lock cottage.  Once again, we were puzzled why benches and picnic tables had been placed there as any passing walkers or cyclists would be on the other side of the cut.   

Incongruous picnic area on a straight stretch of cut

Once moored up we sat outside and relaxed for the afternoon while finalising our cruising plans.  Every year we make plans for the entire year and always seem to be thwarted by closures due to low water levels or over abundant weed growth.  This year we’ve agreed to plan in stages so first of all we’re heading for Nancy followed by Strasbourg, cities neither of us have been to.  It will be a journey of 365 km through 165 locks and one inclined plane.  

The purple line shows the first part of our 2022 travels

First, we will head down the canal latéral à la Marne to Vitry-le-François where we will join the canal de la Marne au Rhin (ouest) to Toul.  We have travelled on both of these canals before so will probably stop at places we haven’t visited before.  At Toul we will join the Moselle and head north on a section that will be new to us and then pass through Nancy before travelling the length of the canal de la Marne au Rhin (est) to Strasbourg, again a new waterway for us.

Later on, we were talking about how we hadn’t seen any boat traffic yet when a commercial came past at 7pm.

Veredis Quo not quite fully laden

As I said in the introduction this was a short update to help get my mind back into blog writing and I hope you will continue to join us on our travels this year.

On Friday we cruised nine km up two locks.


Don said...

We’ve done the trip from Nancy to Strasbourg several times. It’s lovely. One of our favorites. You’ll enjoy it.
We join you in France in two weeks but will be heading in the opposite direction; to the south.
We’ll be following along with you.

Neil & Karen Payne said...

Good to hear from you. Karen will be scouring your blog for useful bits on the trip to Strasbourg. We will be following you too. Enjoy your trip south. Safe cruising!