Thursday 25 May 2017.
7 hours, 25 minutes. 31 kilometers, 15 locks.
With a light mist hovering over the water we left in time to catch the first lock some fifteen hundred meters upstream at nine o’clock and for the rest of the day we were treated to long tunnels of greenery interspersed with the odd village, farmhouse, groups of fishermen (today being Ascension Day) and chateau breaking the ‘monotony’ of the spring sprung landscape.
For some inexplicable reason, Lynn now leaps onto the lower coachroof and flings the bow mooring line, with deadly accuracy, over the nominated bollard. So what is so different today from the last couple of years where the thought of climbing onto the coachroof was an action of last resort and the success rate with the line throwing was akin to that of the current Springbok rugby coach? Dunno.
Of the Port de Plaisance at Charmes our Fluviacarte (waterway guide) has the following to say: “Municipal stopover managed by the Tourist Office. Accessible all year, except during the canal’s unemployment period (???). Capacity: 20 “visitors” places” so we were expecting no problem finding a berth especially this early in the season but on arrival, the first section in front of the VNF offices was taken up by two peniche sized barges (one of which seemed deserted and the other advertising on-board accommodation) and a new Dutch style cruiser with no fenders hanging from its side, an indication that they did not want anyone rafting up to them.
|Approaching Charmes port.|
The second section had a small cruiser, a very big Fairline type powerboat with a cruiser rafted up to it, and a small barge-type thing Wander-lust (wonder if it has stuff leaking into its bilges?) moored against the wall. And that was all the space available unless one wished to chance the rocks sloping down from the long bank. And upwards of 50-odd camper vans parked cheek by jowl.
Firstly we tied up to the deserted barge only to find that it was not moored against the wall but about a meter away so getting to land would mean putting our gangplank from it to shore – not ideal. So we untied and moved to the second section where a friendly Swiss couple said we could moor up against them as they were leaving the next day.
Being three or four meters longer than they did not make for the best situation and I think we had them swinging a bit in the freshening breeze. Staying put aboard was the best option until the morning so Lynn produced a delicious chili con carne for a late lunch/early supper followed by a long chat to Ian and Sian who are now in Antoing, not far to go to their home port of Diksmuide.
And the solar panel regulator seems to have malfunctioned so we have no solar input to the batteries – let’s hope it’s only a wiring issue as Ian thinks it is….
The next morning early I had a look at the solar connectors and found one which might have been faulty and the yellow ‘absorption’ light started blinking on a fully charged battery bank. Methinks a new regulator might have to be acquired.
Just before nine the sweet Swiss couple moved off and by eleven o’clock the two German flagged boats had also departed and we had the wall to ourselves apart from Wander-lust.
Having paid €14 for two nights (not including the first night which I didn’t think was worth paying for), electricity, water and ablutions (not showers) included, we climbed up the circular staircase to the main road, made our way to a very small market where we bought some cuisses, a sundress for Lynn who had not brought a single summery dress on the trip, geraniums and lemon thyme then on to Lidl for some odds and ends and finally to the nursery for 10 kilograms of potting soil;
|Destroyed in WWII, the new windows were added in 1963.|
back aboard Elle Lynn potted while I fitted connectors to the new radio connector having cleverly cut the wires short on the wrong end of the harness!
That afternoon Nos Rêves, a British flagged barge, moored up front fitting precisely into the gap left by the German launch.
The solar regulator eventually settled to a solid yellow light (float charge) but I don’t feel like switching off the electricity supply to check its efficacy.
Bikes were unloaded the next morning but first the stern name decal had to be affixed; it looks okay but perhaps we should have one made two thirds the size? Then off to the tourist office where the very chatty young man offloaded tons of literature on us, suggested a short cut to the WWI Lorraine memorial, thanked us for bringing the African sun and bid us au revoir.
|Charmes main road at 10am.|
Eventually reaching the rather underwhelming monument but one with a fantastic, ceramic, semi-circular panorama describing the battles for Lorraine, we whizzed down the hill, visited the Leclerq and Match supermarkets and bought two hanging flowerboxes.
|The view over the Voges valley|
Dropping our purchases off at the boat we returned into town for a beer followed by lunch at an Italian café. A stunning sea-food risotto for Lynn and a very tasty but ‘un-warm’ (and therefore congealed) cheese and ham tortellini dish for me.
Being largely destroyed in both World Wars, Charmes was not reconstructed with beauty in mind but it does have some charm of its own in a tatty sort of way.
Thoughts of an afternoon zizz were dashed by the loudly animated conversation going on between two sets of camper-van owners, not five meters from our cabin window.
We hoisted our Sharks rugby flag and incredibly, they beat the Stormers!
|Now we know what friend Gerd dreams about at night! A humorous|
Unfortunately our last night's sleep was destroyed by a large clod of late-night revelling youths who, from 01h30 until about 03h00, screamed their drunken soccer war-cries from the bridge near our stern (and no, I cannot change the font size of this sentence).