We met Mike and Sally last summer at La Villette during the Paris DBA rally. Be sure to follow the link to their photo album to see their really beautiful photos.
I write the final note of this year as we sit in the port at Tanlay, Burgundy, very close to the wine region of Chablis. As you see in the attached picture we enjoy the same fine weather as the UK, still about 20C with fine clear blue skies. However nights are drawing in and the canal will close shortly, so I guess we should plan to come home. We return in November to catch up with family and friends; and be remembered to our dentists, doctors, consultants and other life support systems.
The year has been a great vintage, meeting many new friends, voyaging 1300 km (800 miles), using 900 litres of diesel (200 gallons), taking 25 tons of boat through 620 locks, equivalent to rising up 750 metres (2500 feet) and coming back down. Sally was greatly impressed that I survived without daily internet fixes. The reason is a very Scottish one. Not spending money; I found free WiFi connect on all but two occasions, requiring a total payment of 3 euro for 7 months. Indeed this email will likely be sent from the McDonalds in Joigny for the price of a coffee.
Next year we intend to voyage down the Rhone and spend time on the Midi, Lateral a la Garonne, Baise and Lot. It will doubtless be hot and thirsty work, so will need rigorous preparation watching Rick Stein's French Odyssey, which shows his voyage on a barge from Bordeaux to Marseille cooking many dishes and drinking much chilled Rose. If you like food and haven't seen the DVD it it is worth adding to your Xmas list.
Our travels are recorded on the Google Picasaweb photo albums. Countless uploads, and I guess 1000 pictures in 50 albums. Hopefully the artistic quality has improved. If you decide to use the link below and look at the albums, apparently the more satisfying viewing experience is to
(1) click on one of the square album covers, then
(2) click on "Slideshow", and then
(3) pause the slide show by clicking on the two vertical lines that appear in a floating window. Finally
(4) use right, or left, arrow buttons to move at your own pace and see the commentary.
A family member commented it was like watching Auntie Amy's slide shows; hopefully not that bad. You can at least have a drink of your choice, and pause at will.
Sadly, I do not own a boat yet, but my wife and I do have THE BUG in a huge way!
We just finished our second canal boat rental in 3 years, and had an incredible time. We cruised the entire Nivernais from Migennes to Decize on a 2.5 week Le Boat rental. Two years ago we went from south of Strasbourg to Hesse over a 10 day trip. The entire barging thing is just fabulous.
After meeting Eric and Sudi, and hopscotching south with them, meeting up every few days for dinner, we're completely captivated with the idea of selling our house and ditching our "regular" life for a stint on the canals. It's been a week since we got home, and it's pretty much all we think and talk about.
I really enjoyed browsing through your website, I know first-hand how much hard work it is to maintain something like that (mine is http://doctorvacation.com/ ). I loved reading about the technical details of Eclaircie, and the FAQ's and of course your travel logs are really useful and a fun read.
Loved the story about getting the boat stuck on the car.
Kent and Heather
The Ailsa Chronicles II
Written by Mike and Sally (Ailsa)
Thursday, 30 July 2009 00:00
(A recent email from Mike and Sally on Ailsa. Don't miss their great photos.)
This message is now a few days old as we have been in areas of poor network coverage.
Today we crossed the final watershed so it is now downstream to the Med where our winter mooring awaits in Toulouse, about 1000km distant. This email comes from the Canal des Vosges as we sit marooned in the village of Girancourt waiting for a lock to be repaired. Apparently it will take 4 or 5 days, so very grateful to be near a supermarket and to be surrounded by four commercial freight carrying barges as it will keep the pressure on Voie Navigable France (VNF) who are responsible for the waterways and their upkeep.
Since the last update; we have voyaged to both Strasbourg and Nancy, been on the mighty Rhine (currents of 3+ kts), explored canals in the North East, and done day railways trips to Basel and the Alsace town of Colmar. It's been fascinating to see the transition from the French speaking to the German speaking part and back again, together with the change in style of house, the different shape of wine bottles, and changes to regional food and the sweeter wines of Alsace. You can see the commentary and where we visited on our photo album at the normal place:http://picasaweb.google.com/bargecat
Photo updates got a bit behind as the Mac crashed and the disc had to be replaced in Nancy. Impressively all done under the extended warranty taken out in the UK and and at no extra cost. Fortunately the data was recovered and three days later the Mac returned to a very grateful owner. That was the first Mac hardware failure in 17 years so I feel I'm still ahead of the game.
Included a few photos with this email to show an impressive piece of civil engineering. It's the Inclined Plane at Arzviller which in 1965 replaced a flight of 17 locks and did in minutes what used to take a working day. The inclined plane moves a large trough of water complete with boats up and down 45 metres in a few minutes. What impresses me is that the moving trough of water and boat weigh about 1000 tons plus the counterbalance set of weights, so 2000 tons pulling on those steel cables and winding mechanisms.
Over the next month we will voyage down the Rivers Soane and Rhone and I'll give an update from the Canal du Midi as we approach autumn's end. Hoping to get to the Montpellier and Agde area at the end of August/ early September, and then complete the Canal du Midi in October when most of the tourists and tupperware boats have hibernated.
All the best for now, Mike & Sally
Written by Vicki and Lee (Ruda)
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 10:00
Vicki and Lee, Londoners who have spent several winters here in the Arsenal, left port this Spring to cruise North just because they could. Ruda is a beautiful sea going vessel, and can take them just about anywhere they want to go.
Hello there you two!
How's it going? How's Paris in the summer?
We've now spent 2 1/2 months in Denmark. We've adopted a new style of cruising this year where we spend half the season in the first port that we come to. The decision to cruise like this was a difficult one and in the end was made easier by the failure of all 5 bearings in the starboard engine. Do you know southern Denmark? We do! We've actually had a most fantastic time. Just like getting stuck in Roanne for 3 months in 2007, we've found lots to do including saving the Harbour Masters' marriage by putting up the greenhouse which has laid undisturbed for 5 years in his wife's garden, "cruising in company" aboard a 1930 Ford Model A with 22 other enthusiasts in theirs, working in a fish stall, staying at Klaus and Grith's (from Mille) gorgeous house in Copenhagen for a week, and, of course, a spot of varnishing.
Anyway, as I type this (the wonders of offline mail prep) we are passing by the dramatic and, today, sunlit cliffs of Mons Klint which is Denmark's version of the White Cliffs of Dover, which caused a pang of nostalgia in the Man of Kent (Lee is from near Dover) assuaged only by an egg sandwich in place of jellied eel which is a rather more traditional Kentish delicacy. After a degree of fiddling about the starboard engine was eventually back in commission and now we're on our way to Copenhagen to meet up with Klaus and Grith again and thence on to Malmo on the Swedish west coast, and then north. Aside from the pesky engine all else aboard is good. We arrived in Denmark after a month of navigation from leaving Paris - it was a trip to get somewhere else rather than to enjoy the pleasures of the Moselle, Rhine, Ruhr etc etc but we enjoyed them nevertheless. And now we're at sea so no more ducklings, grazing cows and calm waters.... it's more rolling around in a swell, disturbing flocks of eider ducks, virtually out of sight of land!
I hope this finds you well and happy and not plagued either by swarms of mosquitos or visitors! Say hi to Mimi, Alain, Charlette and Gilles for us.
Lee and Vicki
Written by Christian and Charlotte Huber (Kinette)
Sunday, 12 July 2009 00:00
Our Swiss friends on Kinette recently sent us this email about their cruising adventures. Chris is a great photographer, so even though their web site is written in Swiss German, you should still go there to enjoy their pictures.www.kinette.ch
When we left Roanne Easter Monday, we had two fixed appointments: The DBA rally in Paris June 12 - 17 and the shipyard in the Netherlands September 4 - 11. So we had a lot of time to mess around the latéral à la Loire, the Briare and the Loing Canal. Here it was again, our Burgundy rhythm: three hours cruising, three days biking and exploring the region. In Beaulon we had "little Roanne" (the escaped ones...) with Andries and Rita (Weltevreden) and the Kyrenia-people. Once in St-Mammès (June 2) we made our DAF breath the fresh Seine air which it obviously appreciated.
The DBA rally in the Villette basin was gorgeous, about 30 barges, decorated with flags and pennants. What an eyecatcher! Socializing from morning until late in the night was hard work but of course great fun. Moreover we had our son on board who appreciated his private chambre d'hôte in the middle of Paris.
Down the Seine, up the Oise and spending a fortune at Guerdin's in Compiègne because we needed new ropes, new batteries and fuel. We discussed how to head north: Canal de St-Quentin or Canal du Nord? We had heard interesting horror stories about the Canal du Nord, heavy traffic and nothing but concrete banks - but we never have done it before so we did it. Just great! Thanks to the economical crisis few traffic, professional work of the lockkeepers and thanks to the VHF no waiting at all. The region around Péronne where we crossed the Somme river was absolutely marvellous! Mooring - to be honest - was not as we were used to but we always found a quiet place to stay overnight, mostly upstream of locks.
At the end of the Canal du Nord, in Arleux, we headed towards Dunkirk on the Escaut-Dunkerque (grand gabarit) Canal, a water highway again. We left it to reach Lille because we had friends on board who wanted to catch the TGV.
The canalized Deûle to Lille was green of algae, and the Don lock so full of algae you could have walked on it. Every half hour we had to stop,turn off the engine and clean the water strainer. Great fun.
Lille is worth a visit. No, absolutely no amenities for pleasure craft, but a hidden mooring in the "bras de la citadelle", just in front of a park and a greek restaurant. You know the Greeks? Their gastronomy? Their overwhelming friendliness? We could have spent the rest of the year there!
From Lille we cruised down the Lys (lilly in english), a quiet, small, rural river with the name it deserves. Weed, algae, shallow - great fun again.
On the Canal du Nord, in one of those endless long lock, we met a professional captain transporting some hundred tons of grain. In the next lock, he said on VHF: "You seem to be nice people. I have a private mooring just before Dunkirk. Come and see me!" He explained us the entrance in the old Canal having to be done in reverse but we would have water and electricity. You have to take those opportunities if they come to you!
It was a very - VERY! - windy day (Flandres is flat as flat can be!) when we tried to turn 180° to enter through a narrow bridge into the Canal de la moyenne Colme. But the wind was so strong we just had no chance to turn on the grand gabarit Canal. So new decision: we enter there forwards. The bridge has on its two pillars wooden crash protectors. To be correct: it HAD two wooden crash protectors. One is missing now by unknown reasons.
Anyway, we managed to get in that Canal and saw (i) our captain friend and (ii) three steel piles close to the left bank. We had strong offshore wind. Repeat: Strong offshore wind. To make a long story short: We managed to throw our ropes to the bank (the steel piles would have cut them), we managed to get as close as possible to those steel piles, there was no gangway with the appropriate length and the wind blew that day, it blew the next day - and we were on our ship and saw the bank. No way to get out in reverse with this wind. Again: great fun.
Day three we woke up at 7 a.m. No wind. No breakfast, no completing our morning toilet. Just our check list "standard operating procedures for take off" and there we went, in reverse, back to the grand gabarit. It was like escaping from jail.
This happenend just some 8 kms from Dunkirk and, frankly said, Dunkirk's barge moorings are more than grotty. So we decided to enter the Canal de Bergues.
And here we are at the moment: Bergues. Scenic medieval fortress with a splendid harbour nobody seems to know, water and electricity and all amenities of a Ch'ti town. By the way: They really turned it here, the movie "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis". Bergues is French, its Flemish and it's marvellous. Once more we wonder how people can choose an other lifestyle than messing around with a barge!
Next week we want to make the Furnes-Canal to Belgium, the Lo-Canal up, the river Ijzer down and then - of course! - Brugge and Gent.
Now that's it for the moment.
We miss you, we hope you are okay, you enjoy life and you have a good time!
Charlotte & Christian Huber M.S. Kinette En voyage sur les voies navigables d'Europe
Their journey continues with this update from September 13, 2009
About two months ago we reported our gorgeous journey from Roanne to belgian Flanders and we told you that boat and crew never did fail. If you now expect juicy stories about break downs in the worst possible moment: letdown! Thanks to the work done by Foster the last winter and the winter before we made it without the usual disaster (you remember Texas Bill? "In fact we do not cruise but we stumble from catastrophe to catastrophe"). Even two very, very long journeys, one of 84 kms (Gent-Antwerp) and one of 98 kms (Antwerp-Drimmelen NL) with full speed ahead didn't get Kinette worked up. Brugge was nice but very, very touristic and we felt ripped off. Gent was much more relaxed, a gorgeous town too and very friendly people. From Gent to Antwerp we took the fast train by waiting for the flood and then surfing down to Antwerp in six hours, sliding around the corners of twisting River Schelde. Great fun!
We left Antwerp 6 a.m. and cruising through the huge commercial harbour in the morning haze just before sunrise was a moment to die for. Hope you'll like the pics on our homepage as soon as report #56 is online.
Some quiet days in the nature reserve "Biesbosch" in southern Holland and then we headed for the shipyard. With Dicky and Ton Wilhelm ("Vrouwe Dirkje") we had arranged to go there one after the other. We helped and hosted each other and this turned out to be a perfect arrangement.
After all the experiences we had made with shipyards ("Oh! You're already here? We are behind! But you only have to wait one week!") this was heaven: arrival 9 a.m., hauled out 9.15 a.m., start high pressure cleaning 10 a.m., ship clean 11. a.m., prop off 11.15 a.m. and so on.
As we had some work to do to make Kinette conform to TRIWV (Technical Requirements for Inland Waterway Vessels) it looked like the pit stop at a car race: shipyard workers painting, insurance expert inspecting the hull, electrician installing an echo sounder and a transponder (expensive and useless gadgets we are obliged to have if we want to get that f... TRIWV certificate), carpenters making lovely teak hatches - above, below and in the boat were workers and in the eye of the hurricane Charlotte made coffee for everybody. Great fun again.
Now we are off the shipyard, our billfold is empty and we are happy. The weather being fine at the moment we have decided to mess around on those beautiful rivers and canals before we slip into the scenic town harbor in the centre of Gorinchem where we will spend the winter. A beautiful, small, medieval and fortified town, on the banks of the Rhine, here called Boven Merwede.
Everything would be fine if you all were here too. We sorely miss you and we are looking forward to seeing you again where ever it may be!
From Holland with love
Charlotte & Christian Huber M.S. Kinette En voyage sur les voies navigables d'Europe