Updated: Mar 17
The dawning of each new day in Roanne now brings the departure of another boat. Since mid-April, we have been to the lock many times to wave goodbye to friends made over the winter.
The first of our friends to leave were Bill and Francis, the only other Americans who spent all winter on their barge. They were great gym, country drives, circus going, lunch, dinner, happy hour, and just plain hanging around talking friends. They taught us how to braid rope to make elegant bumpers for our barge, and we took French lessons together. Being friendly Texans with personalities as big as their state and a million funny stories, everyone missed them as soon as they left, especially us.
Winter has brought us many new friendships. The port is large, with boats on each side, so we slowly met the other boaters, first with a greeting, then a conversation, and soon an invitation to come over for an afternoon or an evening. We have had drinks, snacks, lunches, and dinners on neighboring barges while getting to know each other. It has been fun with all of the boaters' different nationalities to experience foreign dishes cooked by someone who considers it home cooking.
George and Maggie are English, but have lived all over the world, most recently in Cypress (where their dog Korri Mou was born). They have been great neighbors and friends. We went to our first Boxing Day party on their barge, Limey.
Korri, sat outside wagging her tail to welcome everyone as people came and went all day. The food never stopped coming out of the kitchen.
Whoever started the rumor that English food is bland has never been invited to eat on George and Maggie's barge.
Limey got a makeover this winter and looks terrific with her new enlarged wheelhouse.
Peter and Jane owned a French restaurant in Cape Town for many years, where Peter was the chef. They just bought a new barge, and they are in the process of remodeling from bow to stern. They will stay in Roanne all summer having the work done, and we look forward to seeing the finished project in the fall.
They cooked a delicious meal for us in their old kitchen, and we can hardly wait to taste what they will be able to do in their new kitchen with their restaurant-quality stove.
Roy and Anneke are our next-door neighbors, and we have enjoyed their company all winter. We tap on each other's doors to borrow a cup of sugar or whatever we might need at the moment but forgot at the store. They are Dutch, and Roy's family was originally from Indonesia. Anneke cooked us a delicious Indonesian meal one evening, recipes she learned from her mother-in-law.
John and Lizanne are English but have lived in Africa and Asia for many years. It was their idea to start a weekly happy hour, which has turned out to be a big success. They invited us for lunch on their barge one Sunday afternoon along with Bill and Francis. It was dark when we came home about 8 hours later. Both John and Lizanne and Bill and Francis have been living on Barges for almost ten years. There were some great stories and more good English food with a hint of a foreign accent.
Willy and Ilse and their dog Bruno are Swiss; they have both a barge and a camping car. They travel on the canals in the summer and then take car trips in the winter. Ilse works out at our gym, and Willy works out on their boat; he is always busy improving something.
One of the winter's social events was a trip to the local theater for the musical La Belle Helene. John and Monique, French neighbors, wintering here in our port, had joined a local amateur production, and they were singing in the chorus.
Dymphna, a Dutch woman who lives on a cruiser with her husband Andre, organized the evening, and 20 of us went as a group. Before the musical started, we were surprised when an actor came on the stage and thanked our group from the port for attending. The audience applauded, and everyone smiled at us. It was a lovely moment, and we felt the warmth of the people in this town. We realized that we are lucky to be here and that something like this would never happen in a theater in Paris. As the port's rookies, everyone wintering here has been so helpful that it has been like taking a Boating 101 class in college. We are now ready to cast off into our first season of cruising. Look out, Paris, here we come!
Sailing Notices: 10 May from the Port de Plaisance, Roanne
Eclaircie's Designation: Namur, Belgium