Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Just Hanging Around

Dear Family and Friends

What an interesting few weeks! Aunt Jean and Uncle Owen got a very good sense of the joys and minor difficulties that are part of cruising. It was hard to leave Moret-sur-Loing – what a beautiful little village – but we wanted to take them to Auxerre if possible before they had to get back to Paris to fly home.

At Montereau-Fault-Yonne we left the Seine and joined the Yonne River which joins the Canal du Nivernais at Auxerre. Sens was a lovely city (despite the lack of promised water at the mooring) and surprising architecture. I had always associated half-timbered (Tudor) houses with England but they are predominant in France as well in towns and villages that would have been established in the same century.  There was a whole street of these buildings that have kept their character on the upper floors but now house shops on the bottom floor.

Beautiful “Tudor” buildings with shops below

 It was at Sens that we were able to introduce Jean and Owen to crepes. Actually it was galettes which are savoury crepes made from buckwheat. Crepes refer to the sweet dessert with ice cream or other toppings. Galettes have all kinds of fillings from salmon (fresh or smoked), eggs, cheese, beef or pork – name your preference. We were so full from lunch that we had a very Canadian supper – peanut butter and jam on baguettes!

The bonus in Sens was seeing the Canadian flag flying from a lovely big boat. Two Montrealers live full time on their boat in France and travel as their fancy takes them. They have a good size boat with all mod-coms including heat, air conditioning and washing machine!!

The Montrealers

Amazingly the very next day we met another Canadian family in Joigny who had rented a boat for 10 days. Typical Canadian family. The parents were from Scarborough, one son and wife from Winnipeg and one son from Vancouver. He left a day early to get home for a Canucks game –sadly in vain. From the past few years when we have seen only 3 Canadians, we now see them more frequently. Some are boat owners and some are renters. We are now in an area with more canals branching off the rivers - canals of Bourgogne, Nivernais, Loing, Briare, etc are attractive wine-growing areas to visit. In fact yesterday, in Brienon-sur-Armançon we met 2 Toronto couples (one of whom was elderly and handicapped) who arrived to cruise for the next 10 days (one way) along the Canal de Bourgogne. Phil and I were a little concerned as they have no experience with cruising and the wind is currently pretty wicked. Rental boats are light (not heavy steel) and get pushed around by the wind which can be hard to handle especially in the locks. We are unashamedly proud of how well we now handle the boat in all conditions! And of course we had 2 extra pair of hands to help with ropes!

Jean took a turn at the wheel
Enjoying the French countryside

Joigny was a great moorage (no promised showers of course!) and a great town. Built on a hillside, the layers of roofs remind us of Tuscan hilltop villages.
Joigny from the moorage

More half-timbered houses leaning into the alleys (or ruelles as they are called) and 3 wonderful churches. We marvelled that such a small town could support three churches one of which was pretty magisterial. We found a brasserie with a very funny landlord that where we had afternoon drinks and then lunch the next day. I ordered a local sausage that tasted very good until I looked down and saw what was obviously the tip of a nose – hairs and all. While I courageously controlled the urge to heave, I tucked the rest of it under a lettuce leaf so I wouldn’t have to look at it. I shudder just writing about it!

The carvings on this Joigny house were amazing
Lunch with Jean and Owen in Joigny
Our funny brasserie host (just kidding)

Sadly Joigny was also where we had to say good-bye to Jean and Owen as they caught the train back to Paris to fly home. We didn’t make it to Auxerre with them but maybe they’ll come back another year and visit it. In the meantime when we finally get there we’ll share photos of what they missed. We expect it to be a highlight of this year’s cruising from everything we seen and read.

That’s not to say that we haven’t had our adventures these past weeks. Soon after leaving Pont à Bar, Phil noticed that the light on the battery charger wasn’t lit. We weren’t too worried as we were pretty much moving every day which means the battery is charging as we cruise.  As mentioned in the last blog, Phil and Simon discovered that it was fried. Now what to do? We then phoned Simon Evans who owns the boatyard where Calypso will spend the winter and he will order us a new one. In the meantime we are just hanging around waiting until he tells us that it is time to go back to Migennes to have it installed.

We thought that as long as Migennes was at the entrance to the Canal de Bourgogne, we might as well venture down it. Plan A for 2011 had us going down the Bourgogne until we discovered it was 242 kms with 189 locks! No thanks – this is supposed to be fun not hard work! We met an Australian couple who came from the other end. They said it was fun at first but then it was a case of ‘when will it end?’ They also cautioned us about the low water mark and the resulting weed problem. Their prop and bow thrusters were so fouled, it took them an hour to go 200 metres! We should have listened!!
Entrance to the Canal de Bourgogne

Brienon-sur-Armançon was our first stop and we were moored alongside the bowling (petanque) pitch. It was fun watching them play. Like curling on steroids. Some of the players were very good.

Playing petanque (or boulles)

Then we headed for St Florentin. The quai was full so we had to reverse in at the end of the mooring area. Sadly, it was full of weeds. The prop and bow thrusters got so jammed with weeds that we actually had to be hauled in using ropes to position us. Not fun!!! But we did meet a lovely couple from Portland, Oregon who have a similar boat and have been doing this for 11 years. They have cruised most of France and were a fount of information. We decided that this was as far as we were willing to go on the Bourgogne so we decided to go back the way we came. As you can guess, getting out of the weeds was a horror story. The props wouldn’t respond and the bow thruster was jammed. After almost running ashore again, Phil managed to get us free and we were off. I’m sure it’s beautiful but we weren’t prepared to get into serious trouble by trying to go further.

See – I told you the water level is down (St Florentin)

So we headed back to Brienon, stayed a few days and now we are back in Joigny. Joigny not only is a pretty town but it has a McDonald’s for free wifi and a big supermarket across the street.  Our next stop is Auxerre where we will wait to hear from Simon that the battery charger has arrived. After that we might go part way down the Nivernais but we won’t get far as we’ll really only have three more weeks of cruising before we head to Paris for a week and them home. Wow, where has the time gone?

Love to all –Captain Skinny (as in he’s lost 25 pounds from worry) and the Not-So-Skinny First Mate


  1. As usual enjoying your adventures. Edmonton will be a culture shock for you after this summer.
    Love Helen and Charles

  2. HI there, good to hear your adventures sound wonderful, yes they have their moments but what an experience. belated birthday greetings to Phil. take care. see you soon.
    Love Margaret & Keith

  3. Dear Phil and Sharlene

    I finally took the time to read all your 2011 posts. I'm so glad you are sharing your stories (good and bad) and pictures and that patented Coss (cuss?) color commentary. Fondly, if enviously, Susan B

  4. Living vicariously through your adventures, and your wonderful writing and photos bring it all to life. So proud of you both for living your dream.

    Luv, Joyce

  5. Oh yeuch...the nose with hair thing...Still, could have been worse. It might have been the other end!!
    So enjoy your news, which really is all good with some drama and hilariously funny moments thrown in.
    Obviously you are enjoying your trip
    Neil and Sheelagh in Newfoundland

  6. Hi there, Canadian friends,
    What a story you're telling us!! Sorry that it will took sometime to hear from us.
    But we're still following you on you're blog. It's nice to read that you became a real expert in traveling by boat trough European waters. Adventually we can learn a lot from you, But we have to wait for almost 10 years. We also can tell you a lot, because in about 8 months we are triple grandmam and granddad. 3 lovely girls. 9 months Ashley, 5 months Jalou, 1 month Nova. So we are a little bit busy. But we are so rich, you can emagine......... Can we met each other this summer? Maybe when you are in the region of Paris. we can make a rendevouz.
    we can read you're blog, so we know what you're travelling intentions are. We wish you all the best for this trip with lesser locks!!, and less rain. We'll meet again, don't know when, don't know where.........But we will. Loves Robert&Christa from Brielle the Netherlands.