Wednesday, 21 August 2019

The River Doubs/Canal Rhone-au-Rhin: Ranchot – PK57 (Boussiers) – Besançon (Port de Tarragnoz) – Besançon (Port Cité des Arts) - Deluz.

14 August to 19 August 2019. 54.2 kilometers, 16 locks, 2 tunnels.

Wednesday 14 August. Ranchot to PK57 (Boussiers).  18 kilometers, 5 locks. 5 hours, 50 minutes.
Waking to a fog-shrouded Elle, we were on our way long before any sign of life had appeared on our solitary neighbours’ boat, into the dank cutting, past the camping place, and eventually meeting the river where the visibility really closed in to the extent that, although the waterways guide said that the channel was fifteen meters from the bank, we could not see the bank even although we were on the edge of the lily-field, a sure marker of the shoreside-edge of the channel.

After this, it really closed in.

Approaching where the first lock should be, we cannot see a thing but slowly the banisters at the top of the waiting pontoon are silhouetted against the pale sun – but not the floating pontoon which I duly drive into, giving Elle a nasty scratch along her side. Ouch! The fog lifts a little until we can see the control light, we activate the system and, somewhat shaken, we lock through.
By nine, there was not a trace of mist, and the day, a little cooler already, was a gem, with clear and absolutely stunningly reflective water beaming back images of hills and trees and peeking houses.

Waterways traffic is definitely slowing from when we were here last, nearly a month ago; hireboat traffic has definitely slowed significantly, and the flotilla of Swiss, German and the occasional Dutch flagged boats, racing toward the Rhine is, thankfully, almost a memory – they should be back at work next week.

We saw this boat two years ago on the Canal Des Voges.

PK57 was its normal beautiful, peaceful self with only one Nicols hireboat there

on arrival, so we tied up and chilled until a very large, saved-from-the-scrapyard, cruiser, pushed into the space between us forcing the hirer to up-lines and move a meter back (we refused) although there was more than enough space for them to fit into the mooring available – fortunately, after lighting a large braai and reducing a dozen sausages to charcoal, the smoke of which, together with that of their most foul-smelling cigarettes, powered down our hatch, they retired early. And left early the next morning.
Mid-morning on Thursday another Nicols hirer rafted up to the one already there and Crew 1 embarked onto Nicols 2 and they all disappeared toward Besancon leaving us in splendid solitude!
Friday 16 August. PK57 (Boussiers) to Besançon (Port de Tarragnoz). 16 kilometers, 6 locks, 1 tunnel. 4 hours, 0 minutes.
An unusually late start for us (First Mate is becoming mutinous with all the early departures) saw us through the Thoraise lock and tunnel an hour later, leaving behind at PK57, the deserted Nichols. still moored and deserted.

An uneventful but, on only one engine, slow cruise against the slight current,

That house again.

until we reached our penultimate lock where there were two gentlemen, one armed with what looked like quite an expensive camera, who took an instant interest in our approach. The camera shutter never stopped and once secured in the lock (we made a bit of a mess of it but noting more serious than a crossed line, which jammed for a minute) they explained that they were journalists from a national publication L’Est, and then they proceeded with the questions: “Are you going to Besançon?”, “Have you been to Besançon before”, “What nationality are you?”, “Is this your own boat?”, “How long do you travel in France for?” etc.

The journalists.

The results can be seen on the L’Est website

Before entering the lock, put yourself in line.

Passing a lock is a delicate operation. Fortunately, most are now automated.

A couple from South Africa at Lock 52.

At less than 10 km / h, the time to appreciate the landscapes of the Doubs.

We then lock through into Besançon through my most-hated lock where the current from the Doubs River flows at right angles to one’s beam – some get it right but I am just unable. No damage however, and passing the next lock and tunnel under Besançon and a twenty five meter barge secured to the one-of-two thirty-meter (waiting? – we’re not sure) pontoons we find a space in front of a neat Linsson,
Sonate at the adjoining mooring. A great place to spend an evening before morphing into the Port Cité des Artes upon the morning where there is a much-needed laundry nearby.

The battlements all lit up.

Saturday 17 August. Besançon (Port de Tarragnoz) to Besançon (Port Cité des Arts). 1 kilometer, 1 lock, 1 tunnel. 30 minutes.
The reason we had spent the evening at Port de Tarragnoz rather than the main port, Port Cité des Artes, was that it is quite a bit closer to the Intermarche, a four kilometer cycle trip which we undertake the next morning, arriving five minutes before the eight thirty opening time.
Not sure why but the ‘early’ morning shopping crowd at supermarkets are quite a different breed to those shoppers who arrive later; local beggar sets up her office, a longish queue at the doors, doors open and they rush for the specials, inspecting and grabbing and stuffing into tatty trolleys, inspecting the wheelie pallets with yet unpacked, newer specials, try and get the assistant to put the necessary discount label in place so that these can be added to the trolley load and then move to the checkout counter, slowly unpack the trolley contents onto the conveyor, say the necessary pleasantries to the cashier, pack the totaled products back into the trolley, dig around for the purse/wallet, produce the loyalty card, replace, dig around for the vouchers and receive the necessary credits, dig around for the credit card or millions of small change, cashier chit-chat some more, and finally, thankfully depart. Only three more in front of us…
Sometimes they can be quite rude. Lynn had found seven bottles of her favourite wine, which we buy whenever we can find it, and had loaded five into our trolley when a packet toting, rheumy eyed, early shopper barged Lynn out of his way and grabbed the remaining two, a mini-scene reminiscent of Solent Green. C’est la vie!
The ride to and from the supermarket gives a tantalizing glimpse of a lovely part of Besançon which we have not seen before but are sure to on our return visit.
Shopping and bikes loaded, it was a short trip though the lockie operated lock and tunnel, a sharp turn to port to the Port Cité des Artes, an about turn to face into the current and, with a helpful onshore breeze we were safely tied up in no time at all. Lynn walked off to the nearby laundry while I kept watch to ensure that no-one locked the left-open gate which allows exit from, and entry to, the mooring – and also to make sure that the hirer, who had borrowed our water connector, returned it. Positives on both counts were followed by a pork roast on the Weber, something which I still have not quite mastered – give me two more attempts and all will be good.
After the hirer had departed, there were only two of us left on the quay, the other boat being a lovely, new-build barge named Emily – it appeared deserted until we saw a person heading for the poubelle (rubbish bin) but never saw her return – and, although not battened down, we never saw a sign of life on the boat again. The boat was flying a US state flag, this time the ‘Republic of California’ flag, something in which we have noticed an upsurge, presumably in protest against Donald Trump. This was confirmed by a State-of-Texas-flag-flying, barge owner. Personally, I find this behavior an affront to all who have moulded the history of the United States of America. Despite our ex-(thankfully)-“Bring me my machine gun”- giggling, numerically challenged, embarrassment of a president, we have always flown (worn, sigh…) the ZA flag. Not the old Republic flag and not the Colony of Natal flag. Just our national flag. Anything wrong with that?
And, as an aside, why are so many SSR registered boats now not flying their national colours?
Night falls, bed calls, and we drift off, moi with dreams of new waters ahead – we have never been upstream of Besançon before.
Three AM. Footfalls on the ‘secured’ pontoon, rubber soles against our hull, running. Lynn drags the curtain aside and sees a teenager climbing back over the steel, barred gate, supposedly clutching my straw hat which is normally housed over the control levers on the bridge steering position. Jumping out of bed, I grab the camera and our most powerful torch, head upstairs, give the youngsters (two guys, two girls) as many lumens as possible directly into their eyes, see the one whip off my hat, take a photo, Lynn hands me the cellphone with which I attempt, in vain, to phone the gendarmes. Darth Vader lumens still blinding said yoofs, I demand “Mon chapeau, s‘il te plait” and, after a bit of discussion, the two adolescents, somewhat embarrassedly deposited my hat back through the barred gate.
Saturday night in student town.
Sunday 18 August. Besançon (Port Cité des Arts) to Deluz. 19 kilometers, 4 locks. 5 hours.
After the incident the previous night we just could not wait to leave Port Cité des Artes and so, still single-engined, we head up the Doubs River, pass through our first lock accompanied by the old yacht, Kinderen van de Wind, which had been moored behind us on Friday night, get passed by them shortly after exiting – our single engine is only sixty-four horsepower and with the river narrowing and the current consequently increasing, our speed is slowly diminishing.

Lovely holiday home!

Then it's through a floating slime-ball and lily infested cutting

It's the floating balls of slime which clog up the strainers.

And lily stalks foul the props.

before joining up with the lovely river again; and the wind starts to blow, fortunately directly onto our stern, whipping up white-horses and making locking-through a tad tricky.
With our speed down to just over four kilometers per hour, we exit our last lock into a cutting, decide not to moor up at the Deluz port as this would mean docking at right angles to the strong wind gusts (up to 60kph apparently), and tie up against a bank directly opposite the workshop where we hope to have our diesel leak repaired.

Port of Doubs Plaisance.

A walk through the village elicits nothing of note – the recommended restaurant is closed on Sundays - so it is back on board for lunch and some serious reading.

The Mairie

On the Mairie notice board - we did not
realise that there is a tick problem in France.

Foraging again.

Monday dawns and, after leaving our potential mechanical saviours time to settle in after their three weeks annual leave, we stroll over the bridge and introduce ourselves to Claude, ‘Le Chef’. In no time at all we have three people swarming over our engine compartment and, after an extended lunch break during which they went somewhere to buy a copper crush-washer which they hoped would be the solution to the problem, they return, spanners are wielded and eventually we get the instruction “Please start the engine” which happens without any issue.


After a few moments of torch shining and intent peering, the long grey haired and bearded, tiny mechanic who is tucked behind the engine give a thumbs up – fantastic, no more diesel leak! Very reasonably priced and lovely people, we cannot recommend the Chantier Nautique Deluz at Doubs Plaisance (06 82 07 61 81) highly enough, and we were very pleased that we made the decision not to have the work done by the dubious crowd in SJDL. We have also ordered a new water pressure container which they will fit on our return – and the quote that they gave us to lift Elle out of the water, apply four coats of International to the hull and then anti-foul her was by far the cheapest we have been quoted anywhere.
So to celebrate, we wandered into the village to have lunch, find the restaurant open, but are informed that they are actually closed for their August holiday…we did not suggest that they put up a little sign to this effect  on their prominently displayed menu. Back to boat with baguette for lunch and eventually to bed with high hopes that tomorrow’s cruise to Baume-les-Dames will prove conclusively that the diesel issue has been properly resolved.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The Sâone to the River Doubs/Canal Rhone-au-Rhin: Saint-Jean-de-Losne – Abergement le-Ronce – Rochefort-sur-Nenon – Ranchot.

7 August to 13 August 2019.  44 kilometers, 15 locks.

Wednesday 7 August. Saint-Jean-de-Losne to Abergement le-Ronce. 10,5  kilometers, 3 locks. 3 hours, 45 minutes (See delays below).
Waking to a very grey day with heavy rain forecast after the big storm of the night before, we pushed off before nine, turned downstream to the quayside fuel bowser and then, just on cue, the heavens opened! We managed to get in one hundred and fifty liters of diesel (and hopefully no water) before setting off again upstream to our first lock, upon arrival at which, there were two boats waiting for service. So we tied up, Lynn scrubbed the one side of the hull and, after a good thirty minutes, the lock emptied, I executed a very clumsy turn and scraped Lynn’s newly painted handrail, up we went, collected our telecommand and we were finally on our way to Dole.

Madame scrubbing the hull in fine weather.

Or so we thought.
A short way before the second lock we spot a very small boat (maybe six meters long), with two people aboard, tied to the side, and see their engine splutter into life. The man does a little jig and I think that they had just resolved an engine issue but they have more devious plans. As we pass, they up-pins and follow us to the lock, forcing us to the front to fight the deluge. He then asks that we move even further forward because they need to get to the ladder to climb up and get their lines around a bollard; I asked him why he had waited for us to pass and then follow us into the lock rather than just going into the lock before we arrived on the scene. His reply: “Why don’t you just help with our lines – you only have a couple of steps to climb up the (very slimy) ladder and we have a lot” - and then the penny dropped. They were waiting for a single, ‘big’ boat to come along who would do their dirty ladder work for them and take the force of the inrush, while they just sat back and relaxed on the way to their next destination – probably Dole, another seventeen kilometers and five locks ahead. Hence the jig when they spotted their prey. And they took forever to sort themselves out in the lock. Even the maintenance lockie looked on in utter astonishment!
So five or so kilometers later we tied up at the empty quay at Abergement le-Ronce which is just before lock number four and watched as they passed in the pouring rain to do the lock-through on their own. And it’s a high one which we hope they enjoyed – the boat’s name is Archibald Haddock, by the way!

And then there was nothing much to do but sit out the torrential rainstorm which lasted, with intermittent sunny breaks, well into the evening.

One hour later!

More storm clouds building.

Thursday 8 August. Abergement le-Ronce to Rochefort-sur-Nenon. 19,5  kilometers, 8 locks. 4 hours, 30 minutes.
Early the next morning, a quick walk through the nondescript and deserted town (except for the neon flashing boulangerie)

The view from Elle's foredeck the next morning.

The main road looking left...

...and looking right.

ended with us heading off into the lingering fog, passing the almost ghostly chemical factory

until just before Choisey when the sun came out, showing off a sparkling day. We had a short delay at the first lock after Dole but thankfully no other boats came up behind us and we glided into the lock all on our ownsomes. Rising, a glance over the lock doors revealed Archibald Haddock waddling toward the lock and, with hopefully only one more lock to go before our intended and earnestly hoped-for stopover at Rochefort-sur-Nenon (described in a cruising guide as “Peaceful, picturesque river mooring. Pontoon in high demand”), we knew that they would never catch us but, after the previous day, probably didn’t want to anyway.
The seven kilometers after Dole has some very pretty cruising and just after passing through the narrow check-lock one passes onto the wide Doubs river, bordered on one side by high sandstone or limestone cliffs topped by the Forest of Chaux, at the base of which is the twenty-five-meter long pontoon – with only one small Med-type speedboat parked there. Another bonus of this particular stopover is that the cliffs give protection from the hot, late afternoon sun.

Toilets (well frequented by the dozens of passing cyclists), a washing up basin with water,
 rubbish bins and a bottle recycling container.

View forward off our bow.

And astern.

The riverbank seems a favourite place for couples and families to picnic under the trees, fish in the river and relax in the most decorous way – no loud music, no drunkenness, and no mess after they all went home. Bliss!

So much so that we will extend our stay here, even if it means running engines for an hour or two to keep the batteries topped up so that the fridges can cope in the high temperatures expected. And the village is having a ‘fête’ all weekend with petanque competitions, bands, and dancing - and a vide grenier.
The village itself is mostly quaint but seemingly devoid of any commerce except for a Tabac.

The Tabac.

The 18thC Eglise Saint-Laurent - the first church
in the area dated from AD1000.

Anyone for a fixer-upper?

Part of the fortifications which eventually included
the town into the hilltop fortress' defences.

The village's history goes back to prehistoric times where evidence that Cro Magnons inhabited the area. Later it was occupied by the Romans and a town named Hebe was established on the salt road to Auxonne – it was at this time that a castillum was built on the Rochefort cliffs to protect the road. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the hilltop castle and town below fell under the control of the Dukes of Burgundy and the castle and town were named Rochefort after one of the powerful Burgundian nobles who, during a period of power-struggle amongst the ruling Dukes, did a land grab and refused to pay homage but eventually, and after a few wars, the land reverts to France.
“On May 23, 1479, two days before the sack and the taking of Dole by Louis XI, the Emperor Maximilian sells for 10,000 francs, Claude de Vaudrey "the city, castle, town, and seigneury of Rochefort..." Less than a century later, Philip II King of Spain and grandson Maximilian, bought Rochefort for the same sum to the descendants of Claude de Vaudrey.
For two centuries (from 1477 to 1678), Rochefort is almost autonomous under the control of the Parliament of Dole appointed by the Emperor of Austria.
This relative autonomy does not mean peace because the Franks Comtois see their country ravaged successively by the Spanish troops, the Protestant "reiters", the army of Henry IV, the War of Ten Years, the Swedes and the rampage and looting by Louis XIV.” (Source: Rochefort-sur-Nenon Tourism ).
How’s that for a complex history!
It is only in 1678, in terms of the treaty of Nijmegen, that Rochefort, along with Franche Compté, finally becomes French territory. And for the history buffs, follow this link to the Wiki font of all Dukes of Burgundy and the Kingdom of Burgundy knowledge - molecular physics is less complex!

The Friday night pétanque doubles competition and modern dance exhibition we gave a miss as the weather turned and it poured with fat gobbets of rain the whole night.

The next morning dawned cool and sodden but soon dried out to a lovely day, thankfully even a bit windy. With long overdue maintenance done

Painting again Bobette?

we enjoyed a light lunch and then sauntered into the village


A portion of the visitors to the fete.

to have a look at what was on offer; a small exhibition of motor-cycles,

 ‘pétanquers’ by the dozen, at least fifty triples teams giving it their best,

and, in one corner of the community sports center, a marquee had been set up for the music evening – “"Punchy Slug's" (rock) et "And Co" (variétés françaises)” – fireworks display and an Eighties Evening to end the day.

Punchy Slugs setting up.

We sauntered back by way of the ramparts which have lovely views over the valley.

The stop-lock.

We are moored behind the big trees on the left.

Sunday 11 August. Rochefort-sur-Nenon to Ranchot. 14 kilometers, 4 locks. 3 hours, 35 minutes.
Before seven the next morning

Sunrise - a great shot taken by Lynn.

WE (yes, both of us!) took a stroll into the village where a ‘vide grenier’ had been set up and, after having wandered past the forty-or-so tables and bought nothing (two in a row – a miracle!)

it was back to Elle

Another lovely one.

and we were on our way well before eight o’clock.
Our second lock gave some issues but Lynn hit the ‘reset’ button and all came back to life, allowing us a gentle cruise through the next two locks to find, on arrival at Ranchot, a space just big enough for us to fit into between two other cruisers, waiting. By nightfall, a tiny German cruiser had squeezed into the space in front of the boat on our bow, the sloping wall mooring on the opposite bank had three boats attached and, on our side of the canal but beyond the bridge downstream, a small Swiss cruiser had attached itself to the cycle path railings.

After the storm and before the next lot of rain.

The next morning after the madding crowd had departed.

Earlier in the afternoon, the skies blackened, thunder rolled and the rain came pelting down. During this deluge, we heard a knock on our window and, on opening the curtain, there stood a very wet Swiss gentleman with an electricity cord in his hand who asked, in what sounded like Flemish (I could understand him but he could not understand my Afrikaans), if we could move our connection to the outlet on our bow (which we knew was not working) as their cable was ten meters too short to reach their boat. Not understanding what I was saying, he summoned his friend who spoke English and, when we offered to resolve the problem with a splitter, there were broad grins all round – and we ended up being presented with a bottle of lovely Swiss Chianti!

The weather cleared somewhat the next morning so, armed with brollies, we took a stroll through the surprisingly cute village, the only downside being that the boulangerie is closed on Mondays.

The hotel fifty meters from the mooring.

Looks nondescript but there are some little surprises.

A gorgeous 'gite'.

An old train tunnel built solely to service the iron mine.
When the mining company moved its business to a barge company, the railroad company
removed the tracks so that no-one could use the system.

Founded in the 15thC, it has been
deconsecrated and is now a small
exhibition hall.

Lunchtime at the smaller boat quay.

On the last day of our extended stay in Ranchot, we off-loaded the bicycles and rode the three kilometers into neighbouring Fraisans (the forge town), past a huge field which had been host to the NoLogo music festival, to a Colruyt supermarket to stock up and, after dropping said provisions off at the boat, rode across the bridge to Rans (can someone tell us how that is pronounced differently to Reims?), another quiet but pretty litte vilage

We think an old pottery factory.

The Church of St Etienne, dating from the 14thC

Once a mansion, then a school, now apartments.

The elusive Chateau de Rans dating from the 12thC. Now a private home.

I just could not find a decent view from which to photograph it.

A Brexit statement?

Foraging rewards.

Back to Ranchot and our plans for a braai were swept aside by the news that the nearby hotel was serving ‘pied de veau’ (veal foot/trotter/knuckle) as part of their plat de jour – and a most enjoyable and inexpensive meal it was too!

Did I mention that our house water pump is dying? The diaphragm seems to have collapsed so a new one will have to be installed in Deluz.

The little blue pig.

We have thoroughly enjoyed ‘slowing down’ in Ranchot but it’s time to get moving again.