Thursday, 26 May 2016

Tournai to Peruwelz…via Montagne-Nord

Monday 23 May 2016

33kms, 2 locks, 6 hours

 Only having French phone cards we need to cross the border into France before 10am so that lock service for the afternoon could be arranged; we depart Tournai early – 07h15. A gas cylinder, which should have been inspected and exchanged when we fuelled up at the fuel barge near Antoing, was found to be within two boiled kettles of being empty so a quick stop at the Neptunia was part of the travel plan. A new cylinder duly purchased for E30 plus E18 for the gas (no comment on the legitimacy of the ‘unacceptable cylinder strategy’ transaction) we were on our way to the delightful sounding town of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux.

Grain conveyor.
An hour and a half later we arrive at Montagne Noord on the French side of the border,

The old Belgium customs office.
moor up next to a water/power point and Lynn starts calling – five numbers later we are no nearer raising assistance to open the two locks between us and our destination, so we give up on the Scarpe Infereior, top up our water supply with the magic ‘key’ which refuses absolutely to switch off the tap thus leaving our remaining literage to the mercy of the next user, and head off to the two big Peronnes locks and our overnight stop Perulewz.

Amazing that the let all that water (about 18,000 tons of it) out of the two locks for one tiny boat
The locks were negotiated without mishap although the good ship Peabody must have thought we were absolute prats for first passing them into the first lock (in response to our “Permision sil vous plais” we were told, in excellent English, “You enter first”)  and then overtaking them after the second lock – I had not realised that the speed limit was 8kph, our worst engine vibration speed – sincere apologies Guys (grovelling in order).

The good ship Peabody
Into the port at Peruwelz in no time only to find it very full with a mooring-and-a-bit against the high wall; Lynn would really have battled to have gotten ashore despite deployment of the ladder fender.

My bike was handled ashore and after a quick trip to a nearby Hubo the computer 12v charger had a new fuse and the iBoost provided excellent internet connection.

After Captaine Dominique had relieved us of our E15 for mooring and electricity (not used as the box was a way away) we settled down to a favourite, copied-from-the-Njordians meal of barbequed chicken Maryland.


 And so ended a bit of a disappointing day, France-ways.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 May 2016.

Early Saturday morning I unloaded my bike and rode downstream along the banks of the river, a part of Tournai we had only seen from aboard Elle; what a pretty city. After reaching the 13thC ‘Pont des Trous’ arched stone bridge (it is one of the world’s three remaining military river bridges) I turned away from the river riding past leafy parks and some striking residences until I came to a major road where I turned down Rue Lille back into the city to find a market in the process of being set up mostly in a huge, elegant square which we had not even seen on our last visit.

Back at the boat I finally finished putting together our new flagpole holder

and then slowly but surely the party animals from last night began emerging. By 10h30 we had said our goodbyes to our cruising companions of the past week; cheers guys, safe cruising back to Diksmuide and a safe flight back to the Azores – hopefully we will catch up with you in France at the end of the year before we return home, or next year.

Onto our bikes and into town for a leisurely stroll around the market,

a beer at one of the many bistros and pubs dotted around the square and while the traders packed away their wares, cycled the few metres to a little Italian restaurant which we had wanted to visit in September but which was full, for lunch. Fortuitously we arrived just before 12h30 as ten minutes later the place was packed.

Tagliatelli Vognole and Lasagne

 A lazy afternoon spent reading and watching the passing traffic finished off a most relaxing day apart from an incident where I somehow managed to blow the fuse for the 12v computer charger (somehow I had contrived to leave the 220v charger at home) and had no hope of finding a replacement the next day.

Sunday morning dawned grey and drizzly but better than the pouring rain, thunder and lightning we experienced last night. But the drizzle was soon replaced by torrential rain so we decided to abandon sight-seeing and stay aboard – we ventured out once  during a break in the rain primarily to buy some milk but also to source the loud music we had been hearing. With some surprise considering the inclement weather we found a skateboard competition in full swing and the remnants of a second-hand clothing market which had been going the whole day. And later, despite the conditions, a rock band started up in the main square!

One negative about the Tournai mooring - the flotsam (and effluent?) which gathers between the pontoon and the wall is a real eyesore

but definitely not worth putting off a visit to this very old city.

Valenciennes to Tournai

Friday 20 May 2016

36.6kms, 2 locks, 5 hours (including 45 minute
refuelling stop).

 I suspect that Ian is keen to get back to Diksmuide to do some repairs to Njord especially as he has discovered another rusted skin fitting – if the rust eats through the valve connection they will sink so it is quite an important issue, especially as he had luckily been fixing a weed blocked toilet when the first valve broke off and managed to block the hole there and then. Close call! We hummed and har’d about staying another night in Valenciennes but eventually decided to fill up with fuel from the Neptune fuel boat which is moored at Tournai. So after showering (my only complaint about the port – the men’s shower drain was blocked and the bathroom could have been cleaner), collecting a free VNF pendant and t-shirt, buying croissants and a baguette, we cast off at the unusually late hour of 10h45. The first big lock is just outside the marina entrance so, after an easier than expected U-turn into the current which runs through the marina, Lynn called up the lock on Ch 22 – silence. As the green light was showing we drove in and made fast and after about five minutes a VNF employee arrived and after inquiring why we had not called on the radio before entering, looked at his radio and announced that the battery was dead.

As the drizzle set in (always, when locking through so Lynn sometimes gets quite wet) we dropped down the lock and proceeded through another two big locks on a surprisingly quiet river Schelde until eventually, passing under a stone bridge adorned with French and Belgian flags of opposite sides of the road, we crossed the border into Wallonian (French speaking) Belgium. And it poured!

The border

Just after the small town of Antoing

Mural of the castle

The real thing

and with the sun making an effort to appear, we drew up alongside the fuel boat, topped up with 200 litres of diesel at E1.12 per litre

Waiting in the queue

and headed downstream again

Tournai in the distance

Tin lizzie

to the halte plaisance which is conveniently close to a laundry, a big Carrefour, and the heart of the city. Being our last night together we decided to have Ian and Sian over for a steak and chips braai; delicious sirloin from the Carrefour which, despite not having spent any time marinating, were surprisingly tasty

and delicious Belgian frites from a nearby chip shop, bought while the steaks were ‘resting’ so everything was hot when we sat down to eat. And drink…

Tournai halte plaisance by evening.

Cambrai to Valenciennes

Thursday 19 May 2016
35.5kms, 8 locks, 6 hours 40 minutes

A long but enjoyable day.

After topping up with another 120 litres of water, buying some Dremel bits from the Lidl-Thursday-special bin, we cast lines at 09h30 sharp and proceeded through the five small automated locks 

serving the pretty canal


and into the big commercial L’Escaut (or Schelde as it is known in Belgium). At the first big lock (144m long x 12m wide with a 5m drop) Sian called in and we were told to wait for the barges which were in the lock to exit after which we could enter – it seemed like we would have the whole thing to ourselves! How they fitted those three boats in is beyond me as they were cheek to jowl and virtually scraping the paint off each other’s sides.

After about twenty minutes of waiting, the radio beeped into action and we heard the lock talking to another boat and the words ‘plaisance’ (pleasure boat) was mentioned. Sure enough, around the corner behind us came an 80 meter commercial headed straight for ‘our’ lock. Sian jumped into the conversation and inquired whether we could go in first or whether we had to wait for the commercial. “Vous primerier” (or words to that effect) and that is how it was for the three very big locks ahead – Elle and Njord tucked right up in the front of the lock, away from the propwash, with the large Vaya Con Dios behind. Way to go!

 Nearly seven hours after departing Cambrai we entered the canal side arm adjacent the Folien (entering from the south) tried unsuccessfully to do a U-turn against the quite strong current,

and moored up on a sparkling new finger, one of many of 12m and 9m in length,at the newly opened Port of Valenciennes (

A section of the Port looking toward the captainerie

 For dinner it was butter chicken curry aboard Njord and off to bed.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Bassin Rond to Cambrai

Tuesday 17 and Wednesday 18 May 2016

13 kms, 5 locks, 3 hours

The days are almost identical; cool, overcast mornings, clearing to mostly sunny without any wind – good for cruising but still a bit chilly.

After buying croissants and a baguette from the lady in the mobile boulangerie (she arrives at about 08h00) we were on our way again.

At the first small junction exiting Bassin Rond we stuck fast in the mud loosing even steerage which probably meant that the rudders were also lodged in the goo (+1m draft, be careful). With a bit of blue smoke work and using opposing engines to turn into the new waterway, we finally popped loose and then proceeded down a beautiful, winding country canal.

At the first lock,a small one relative to those on the Liaison, Njord was issued with a control (‘telecommander’)

The control center - comms to operator on left.
for the next few locks – the trick is to know that,at the first lock you have to first activate the lock mechanism by pushing up on the blue pole which then fills the lock so that you can step off, walk to the small edifice, place your hand into what looks like a postbox and voila, you have your control.

Once you are secure in the lock press the 'bassinee' button and the lock gates will close and the lock will start filling/emptying. Once full/empty it will open automatically and when you get to the next lock start the process by pushing 'avalant' or 'montant' and then the bassinee button and carry on.. On your return you place the unit in the opposite box, push the pole and exit - we think. Or maybe just before depositing the gadget, push the u/down button, deposit and jump aboard.

Departing, going upstream - lock behind us now full.

Going downstream.
It was a most delightful cruise to Cambrai and in no time at all we were through the five locks and, at the port captain's instruction, tied up to the Armco right next to the diesel pump.

Diesel pump off the stern.

I don’t want to get into the debate about liveaboards versus voyagers BUT Cambrai is a typical example of a port where I have do have an issue. The marina is choc-a-block with permanent moorers: Njord managed to squeeze into a small space at the entrance to the marina with us opposite – not really the safest place to be. Another +/-16m boat came in, moored partially in a bit of marina space and partially in the space reserved for peche-people but left after an hour or two, probably after having been harassed by the fishing folk. Another +/-20m barge, the American flagged Libellule, also arrived, moored up against the far wall, a horrible place right adjacent to the very busy road but was told to move as this is apparently a fish breeding spot. There not being any other moorings open, they had to moor in the canal outside the marina. And all the while the liveaboards stay put, some growing another layer of moss, some abandoned, and some left for long periods of time while their owners return to their homes, mostly in England. Over winter I have no problem with long stayers but once the cruising season gets going (1 April as far as we are concerned) then they should somehow be made to move regularly so that visitors (who probably put a lot more into the local economy) can at least have a chance to enjoy the marina facilities and the city – Sian says this will be the case from 2017 but time will tell. Otherwise Cambrai will be privately marked on waterway maps as a ‘Plettenberg’ (prefab house) park equivalent, (of which there are many in this area), and simply by-passed.

Elle  extreme right, Njord almost opposite, front of Njord are permanents, then reserved fishing quay. Wall on
extreme left of pic is fish breeding ground, whole quay bottom of pic are permanents. Libellule top of pic facing locks on
After lunch, while the girls walked for miles trying to find a decent laundry (ended up at the one near the Aldi across the river from the town center), Ian and I went looking for a bricolage to buy some drill bits; there is a big one next door to the Match supermarket – walk across the railway bridge which overlooks the marina and head straight up the tree lined avenue for about a kilometre. There is also a laundry there.

Later, a Lynn dinner pasta creation washed down with a glass of wine closed off another great day and at 21h45 off to bed we went – in daylight.

The next morning we spent sightseeing,

The main square - another stunner!

Old city wall bastion.

Just another Rubens (yawn) The Entombment. Unprotected!
Created in 1616 and has been in the same church since 1793.

finding an optician to fit new cushions to my glasses, buying more wine and then joining the Carters at the port-side restaurant La Petit Chef for a very tasty veal with mushroom sauce dish. Back to the boat for a read, sorting out trivia and an earlyish night.

Oh, and another big Dutch cruiser came into port and seeing no space available, departed.