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