Sunday, 28 May 2017

Canal des Vosges: Richardmenil to Charmes

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;

Market day.

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.

Lorraine monument.


The view over the Voges valley

Loading flowerboxes.

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
newspaper advertisement.

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).

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The last of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin (Est) and on to the Moselle Embranchement de Nancy and the Canal Des Vosges: Nancy to Richardmenil.

Monday 22 May 2017.

16.4 kilometers, 19 locks.

Another fabulous morning brings the promise of yet another warm, clear and windless day, perfect for cruising and for tackling the string of locks ahead of us. But first we settled our dues with the harbour master, transferred our mobile contract to a nano card so that we could enjoy the monthly 100GB of data afforded to 4G enabled devices and then we were off, stopping briefly at the Intermarche to load up with sixty litres of diesel and then on to the Embranchement

and then the very wearying series of locks; wearying because they are almost all 3.15 meters high and that is a very difficult height for Lynn to throw ropes around the bollards, some of which you cannot even see, so aim is taken at the yellow mark painted on the lock wall and one hopes for the best. I suppose we should have climbed the ladder at each stop but it is easier to stay under power and deal with the inrush that way.

Tough cruising conditions!

A boat!

Finally we reached the summit and the next five ‘downhill’ locks were a doddle! Suddenly we had turned into the Canal Des Vosges and were at our mooring spot near the town of Richardmenil – we even have a small iron bridge behind us designed by a student of one Monsieur Eiffel!

Right outside the saloon window looking up to the village.


The town has very little to offer apart from a small but pretty well stocked CarreFour(great cuisses!),

a cave (a specialist bottle store - but no Drambuie or Chivas), a boulangerie and one or two other businesses. Be warned, the hill up to the town will defeat most eBikes!

The Hill!

And the view looking down.

Someone did not like this family.
The lady who came to collect our mooring fees (€7 for mooring and €2 for electricity – water is available from a tap but not one to which any of our connectors will fit)

said we were the first South Africans they had had visiting so as a memento we presented them with one of our SA beaded ‘flag’ key-rings.

We also met a Tesla driving Swiss guy who had retired from ownership of his brewery last year and who was trying to find some cruising friends (they turned right at the junction instead of left) - he left us a couple of his beers including one with a re seal-able (no idea why the font changed) top which he has patented. Why on earth does one want to close half a beer?!

With lovely weather forecast, we stayed three days and did more maintenance – stern decal removal and repaint (and were admonished by some bored busybody that we could not work on the boat because we were in a marina – with the nearest boat about 80 meters away),

And who might we be disturbing with our bit of stern sanding?

fitted grab-rails,  and attended to miscellany. A very, very fine curry for the mid-afternoon meal on our last day, a nap and then it was readying Elle for the trip to Charmes tomorrow.

The Canal de la Marne au Rhin (Est): Einville-au-Jard to Nancy.

Saturday 20 May 2017.

Under grey skies we left Einville for probably the very last time and continued westward to Nancy. Luckily a smattering of rain as we passed through Dombasle-sur-Meurthe

The old quay at Dombasle-sur-Meurthe

Mr Postman.

was as wet as we got, past St-Nicolas-de-Port and its amazing Flamboyant Gothic basilica with its links to Joan of Arc,

over the viaduct which takes the canal across the Meurthe river, through a couple of double locks

and, with an abrupt about turn, we moored up beside a large Intermarche, where we stocked up on the necessary including two jerry cans as our one seems to have disappeared (only to be found the next morning buried under the life jackets in the forepeak – why I had not stored it in the engine room is beyond me). About an hour later with the contents of two groaning trolley loads stashed in the saloon

we did another one-eighty degree turn and headed for the Port de Plaisance Saint Georges Nancy where we moored up on the short finger with nary a nod of welcome from the three card playing long stayers on the boat alongside, whose cigarette and cigarillo smoke permeated everywhere. At about five o’clock we made our presence known at the captainerie where we organised water and electricity and, with it still being pretty cool, decided to have an early spagbol and do some planning.

Sunday dawned beautifully with a pastel sky rising in the east but shortly thereafter the river fog moved in with all its portend of a fine day ahead. Waiting until it had warmed up somewhat we eventually unloaded the bikes and rode into the city for a coffee and a chocolat at our favourite people watching place on the magnificent Stanislas Square.

Having found the Free Mobile shop and confirmed their opening hours for the morrow, we continued cycling through the city streets, some not so salubrious and some truly stunning. We also happened upon a huge supermarket which had a Sony ‘point and shoot’ on special – not as good quality as ours that had started malfunctioning but it will have to do. It also sold live crabs.

Back on board it was time for a late lunch of Cuisse Carter with very tasty free range chicken cuisses Lynn had found the day before and then it was back into Stanislas Square, through the gardens thronged with people enjoying the warm, sun filled day and on to the old quarter

where, much to our excitement, the magnificent Eglise St Epvre, closed for renovations on our last visit to Nancy, had reopened in all its sandstone glory – this church must have the most stunning stained glass windows of any we have yet seen and the Gothic arches are a glory to behold. 

All this magnificence had quite exhausted us so we crossed the street to the Le Ch’timi beer pub where we savoured an Orval and a Leffe Blond and watched the world go by before returning to Elle for a quiet evening marred only by the racket coming from the group of ‘live-aboarders’ (freeloaders?) who had once again gathered on the boat next door.

The entity managing the Nancy Port de Plaisance really should do something about the situation there – people who cruise their boats are of a different ilk to those who take advantage of the relatively cheap ‘rent’ offered by living on a boat in a port in the middle of a beautiful city. The vessels of the latter group are usually dreadfully tatty

An example of 'tatty'.

Our neighbor - another morning after.

and it is no wonder that more and more cruisers are either mooring against the opposite wall or simply by-passing the port completely. If they are not going to charge proper, in-season, daily rates to the long stayers as they said last year they were going to do this year, then the least they could do to encourage cruisers into the port is to cluster the large group of long-stayers into their own section and have a section reserved exclusively for visitors. We will never stay in this port again while the status quo prevails – and to pay €42.30 for the two nights would have been perfectly acceptable under different circumstances but just added insult to my secondary smoking cough.


Enough griping - we depart on the morrow.