Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Canal du Centre to the Canal Latéral a la Loire; Paray-le-Monial to Decize via Digoin and Beaulon.

Friday 4 August to Monday 7 August 2017 – 81 kilometers, 21 locks.

Friday 4 August - Paray-le-Monial to Digoin. 12 kilometers, 3 locks, 2 hours 30 minutes.

Unfortunately the horologist was unable to source the required parts for my watch in time so, after doing a bit of provisioning at the Friday morning market, we retrieved the watch, untied and set off on the last piece of the Canal du Centre, a canal which we have thoroughly enjoyed despite most blogs almost treating it as a transient waterway. Lots of interesting places to overnight and pretty to boot!

Goodbye Paray!

Strange name...

The beard is to help against sunburn.

Pretty waterway.

Miss Mop at it again.

We were quite excited to be arriving in Digion on the weekend of the annual Fête Escargot but when we saw the menu we were somewhat underwhelmed; if they had offered sixteen snails presented in four different ways we could have been tempted but an ‘ordinary’ menu with a dozen snails as the main was not that appealing and we didn’t even go into town!

The Loire river passes through Digoin and the canal follows it northwards consequently changing its name to the Canal Latéral a la Loire.

Saturday 5 August – Digoin to Beaulon. 34 kilometers, 8 locks, 6 hours 25 minutes.

As usual, we had made an arrangement with the lockkeeper to have the first lock ready for us at 09h00 but when we arrived at the lovely aqueduct over the River Loire there was a private peniche and a small hireboat already waiting;

The aqueduct with the peniche and hireboat waiting.

the peniche went down, the four meter rise filled and we followed the hireboat (which had no idea what to do in a lock) in and were followed by a small speedboat.

Thrilled at the prospect of eight locks with a hireboat.

The lock emptied and we waited for the hirer to cast off but they sat and waited, for what I have no idea. Eventually Lynn explained to the young girl manning the stern line how to pull the line back on board and we finally exited to find the peniche which had now turned around and was waiting to go back up the lock, smack in the middle of our side of the waterway. The hireboat managed to squeeze past, almost taking the reed bed with them and we gestured that perhaps they might like us to pass on the ‘wrong’ side as there was much more space – no reply but laboriously the barge manoeuvred across to the correct side and we nipped past. New owners doing a trial?

At twelve twenty we tied up at the quay at Pierrefitte-sur-Loire (PK19.2), lunched on smoked salmon sandwiches, and were soon on our way to make the ten minute run to the next lock in time for the one o’clock resumption of services, thankfully leaving our hireboat companion behind.

No mooring within 50 meters of a bridge?

The halte at PK8...

...and the one at PK15 (Coulanges)

Lockkeeper left, volunteer family right.

The abbey near Diou.

Finally, hot and weary, we arrived at the quay near the village of Beaulon, had a mild altercation with fishermen/campers and tied up only to find that our 50 meter line would not reach the junction box so we upped lines again and made one of the fishermen move his rod so that we could moor within reach of the box but still leaving enough space between ourselves and the boat on our bow (a long stayer hogging the small wooden part of quay nearest the electricity and water) for them to fish. Everybody happy!

Beaulon quay - water and electricity off the stern of the boat in front of us (downstream).

Mike and Gudrun in Beaulon?

A fellow boater on his way to the tip.

Our plans for Sunday lunch at the Auberge based restaurant in town were dashed as they were fully booked so we treated ourselves to a cut of Charlerois entrecote and some ready-made salads from the charcuterie and had a braai on board.

Later we were joined by another De Ruiter (the make of our boat) cruiser Abraham J.

and the owner and De Ruiter Club member, Andries Fontijne, soon introduced himself and came over later to return a De Ruiter brochure I had lent him for scanning and adding to the Club records; I now have a De Ruiter Club flag (second hand) and bow decal (50) and we are also now Club members.

The De Ruiter bow emblem.

Monday 7 August – Beaulon to Decize. 35 kilometers, 10 locks, 7 hours 45 minutes.

We woke to a mist floating over the water

portending a warm day ahead but suiting Lynn to the ground as she was determined to sand some woodwork which was caked almost black with decades old stained varnish. After a fifteen minute delay at the first lock – the ‘holiday job’ apprentice had emptied the lock for a 9 am upcoming boat much to the annoyance of her boss who arrived at the same time as we did. She was seriously admonished as she would have known that we had a nine o’clock lock-through booking and should never have emptied the lock without us being inside it.

Nine locks and nearly eight hours later,

covered in sawdust, we arrived in Decize after having made a detour to the start of the Nivernais canal in search of a municipal mooring with free water and electricity as indicated in our guide but the waterway to said mooring had been buoyed off so it was back up the two locks to the new port of Decize with its very shallow berths – lots of kicked up mud on our arrival.

As an aside, at the first lock on our return from the Nivernais, a British couple in a tiny replica narrowboat thingy kindly waited for us before activating the lock mechanism but on arrival at the lock we found them tied to the downstream ‘pole’ and, with our bow in their faces and some six meters of boat still behind the lock gates, the gentleman just stared at us. When Lynn asked him if he could move to the front ‘pole’ he said “Calm down!” and grudgingly moved forward with the crew being overheard to say “What a rude woman!” Strange…

With the first coat of thinned varnish applied to our newly sanded woodwork barely dry, the heavens opened and we gratefully fell into bed and slept like the dead.

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