Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The River Saône (and a 7 kilometer detour up the Canal de Centre and a 1 kilometer detour up the River Seille) – Seurre – Gergy – Fragnes – Chalon-sur-Saône – la Truchère – Tournus.

24 July to 31 July 2017.

102 kilometers, 6 locks.

Tuesday 24 July – Seurre to Gergy. 26 kilometers, 1 lock, 2 hours 50 minutes.

Having said goodbyes to Tony and Elaine, we backed out into the barely flowing Saône, executed a ninety degree turn and headed south again, through the apparently infamous Ecuelles lock (lore says that the lockkeeper filled the huge lock too quickly resulting in the death of a boater and the introduction of compulsory life-jacket wearing – I cannot find anything to corroborate this story but it is unusual that it is an enforced requirement that life-jackets be worn at this and the nearby Seurre lock, unlike most other locks in France), through déjà vu territory, until we tied up at the equally déjà vu quay below the restaurant ‘Guinguette l’Eau a la Bouche’ (difficult to translate; perhaps ‘Tavern from the Water to the Mouth’?) where we paid our €2 for electricity and where we settled down for a déjà vu lunch of fritures a la vin rose.

Luxury hotel boat Danelle

The view from the restaurant.

The restaurant from Elle

The very lovely, albeit very warm, day was marred only by a late hirer arrival, the occupants of which looked quite desolate that the mooring was full; we invited them to brest up to us which was asking for trouble with the ‘speed is good’ attitude of the skipper. After very nearly hitting us hard and dragging one of our bicycles down the deck we eventually had them tied fast to our offside bollards but this did nothing to prevent the distressed partner from looking as if she was abut to burst into tears – later we watched as she disembarked, crossed our deck with cellphone held determinedly in hand, and headed in the direction of the tiny town. Neither of us saw her return and when the boat departed early the next morning she was nowhere to be seen. Sad.

Wednesday 25 July – Gergy to Fragnes. 20 kilometers, 1 lock, 2 hours.

The heat has become stifling so we thought sitting it out in the more pleasant surroundings of the port of Franges would be better than staying at the slightly grubby restaurant siding of Gergy – it wasn’t and the temperatures in the coolth of the saloon hit 35C by mid-afternoon. But the cruise down was pleasant giving us a chance to burn off some carbons from the forty three year old engines. The ten-and-a-bit meter high lock leading onto the Canal de Centre was also a bit déjà vu-ish as we had an almost identical Locaboat peniche in the lock with us as we had when we ascended last year.

The Fragnes lock with a Locaboat peniche in front of us.

The lock door closing.

The port of Fragnes is well kept and efficiently run by the young lady who has been the Capitaine for the past ten years but the heat has kept sight-seeing to a minimum and apart from a ride to the shops to provision up, we have just panted away our time here although, having spotted barge Hoop Doet Leven on our way in, we invited owner Harvey aboard for a beer or two on our second evening – with the ‘mister’ working flat out, we chatted and kept cool albeit getting somewhat wet in the process.

Sister Mister.

Friday 27 July – Fragnes to Chalon-sur-Sâone. 9,4 kilometers, 1 lock, 1 hour 30 minutes.

Leaving Fragnes in time to be at the lock at the start of operations, we are a little early but the charming lockie has no hesitation in setting the mechanisms in motion and by nine o’clock we are already exiting and are on the ‘phone to Rory and Jenny on Paula at Chalon to check that there is space available in the busy port. An hour later we are tied up in the last available berth and are enjoying coffee in Paula’s air-conditioned saloon – pure bliss!

Approaching Chalon.

Jenny, Rory, moi aboard Paula.

The very full marina.

Our short stay in Chalon-sur-Sâone was characterised by reciprocal meals aboard Paula and Elle, a quick shopping trip to the Action bargain shop and the huge Carrefour (where the portable air-conditioning unit sorely tempted me), and coffee with Rory and Jenny in the main square after having done some shopping at the fruit and veg market.

Sunday 29 July – Chalon-sur-Sâone to La Truchère. 39 kilometers, 2 locks, 5 hours.

With the best intentions of stopping at Tournus but having little hope of finding a place as we had departed Chalon well outside our usual ‘window’, we were not disappointed – the place was packed!

These guys broke down and we towed them 10kms back to Gigny.

Approaching Tournus.

Beautiful Tournus.

So on to Plan B which was to re-trace the last of our 2012 trip by cruising up the Seille River to Branges where our 2012 trip had ended, and then continuing to Louhans which we had been told by Rory and Jenny was a ‘must do’. The lockkeeper at the first lock on the Seille asked about our draft (which is 1.15 meters) and advised that we should not have a problem getting to Cuisery which is about ten kilometres upstream but that the water levels between there and Louhans was at about 1,2 meters and was expected to drop another ten centimetres in the next day or two unless rain arrived, none of which was on any forecast.

So Plan C involved an overnight stop at La Truchère and an early departure in order to catch the early departees from Tournus.

Do people tie up like this to deter other boaters tying up alongside?

Looking toward the capitainerie - fab croissants and pain chocalat.

Monday 30 July – La Truchère to Tournus. 7,5 kilometers, 1 lock, 1 hour.

On the dot of nine o’clock we slid into the lock and as we were exiting we looked back to see the boat that had shot past us in order to make Tournus before us only to also be disappointed and having had to overnight in La Truchère, waiting. So the revs were upped a bit as we headed upstream and about twenty minutes later we spotted the blue hulled cruiser chasing us for all they were worth. As we crossed under the services bridge which marks the southern boundary of Tournus they gave up the chase and shortly afterwards we skidded into the last open slot, somehow crabbing between two boats each less than a meter in front and behind us.

The starling 'bang man'.

Off they go.

The continuing heat is becoming just a bit too much and is certainly not conducive to doing any sight-seeing so, after a walk to the Achun shop to buy an item that they no longer stock, followed by a visit to the ‘having-a-sale' Tefal shop and leaving there slightly lighter of wallet, all we could manage was a late lunch followed by a session of hire-boat watching; we are continually amazed at the selfishness of some of the private boat owners who refuse point blank, under some pretext or other, to let other boats raft up to them. It is high season, Tournus is a very popular stopping place with insufficient moorings, yet these people wilfully deny holiday makers, who have spent a lot of money hiring a boat to do the waterway tourist experience, an opportunity to tie up and visit the ancient town.

Needless to say, we had a group of German speaking Swiss tied up to us on our first night.

A double pusher dwarfing the huge Swiss Corona hotel boat.

Swiss Corona on her way back to Chalon-sur-Saone.

With temperatures heading into the thirties for the rest of the week we finally gave in and decided to purchase a portable air-conditioner, so bikes unloaded and off to the Carrefour and Mr Bricolage we cycled; unfortunately neither establishment advertised the box size or weight of their respective products and, on inspection, the twenty five or so kilograms and bulkiness thwarted us. Too far and too heavy to carry back to the port on foot, no delivery service, no taxis, no air-conditioner…yet.

34C inside, 3C fridge, -1C beverage fridge, 41C outside.

Despite the late morning heat we ‘walked the town’, one of our favourites. Quaint little lanes brimming with aged homes stacked up against each other, lots of eateries and chocolatiers and chacuteries artisinals and cafés and boutiques and galleries and…point made? Tournus is truly a wanderling town.

Looking upstream.

One of the many art galleries.

We had lunch in the restaurant with the red awning in 2012.

Lunch at 'Lazarella' opposite our mooring.

A big commercial passing near the upstream quay.

Elle looks like a Matchbox boat compared to the commercial.

Boats queuing for pontoon space.

We are now half way through our six month tour having done some eight hundred and fifty kilometres, passed through about one hundred and ninety locks and another twenty ‘other’ obstructiions.