Sunday, June 3, 2012

Start of the Cruising Season - May 2012

Dear Family and Friends

Our first two weeks in France were anything but auspicious. It had rained almost non-stop day after day. Last year it was so dry that canals were closed because there wasn’t enough water and now they were closed because there’s too much! Quelle domage!
French bureaucracy raises its silly little head as always when it comes to getting connections to the internet. You need either a French bank account or a French Visa card to buy a monthly contract and of course to get a French bank account you need a French address along with completing a multitude of forms and references. We’d been dealing with Bouygues, as we had their dongle from 2 years ago, but even they threw up their hands in frustration and sent us off to SFR, a competitor. So we now have a mobile connection – not as good as Wifi but better than nothing. We can reload by going to a store and buying more time like you do with a prepaid phone. It means access isn’t as reliable but it’s better than  waiting for free wifi cafés which are not usually available in small towns and villages. However parts of the Nivernais don’t even have mobile phone service so our communications will be spotty at best!
As always we enjoyed our brief stay in Auxerre – what a lovely city. We met a very nice couple from near Lewes, Sussex, where Phil was born. They are heading south to the Midi as well, so we hope that we’ll run into them on occasion. While in Auxerre we also reconnected with Wendy and Roger (our friend Helen’s brother and wife) and had a lovely visit over several glasses of wine! They live on a really awesome barge – all amenities and then some!  They are mostly permanently moored in Auxerre with summer cruises and visits off the barge to a second home in England.  I want to be adopted!!!
   Stuart and Angela Farrar from Lewes

Saying goodbye to Auxerre
They’ve closed a section of the Nivernais canal where it meets the Yonne river as the currents are so strong; it’s too dangerous to open them to pleasure boats. So instead of spending our 43rd anniversary imbibing at Deux Pieces – a Michelin starred restaurant where we ate last year, we ate on the boat. The upside was not having to stagger back to the boat – I just had to crawl into bed while avoiding bumping my head on the door sill. We ended up sitting in Chatel Sensoir for 4 days but it is a pleasant little town with at least a cafe and food. No internet access however. That’s a bummer!
Chatel Sensoir – view from the moorage
When we finally were able to leave Chatel, we made our way to Clemecy and we did get to eat at our favourite restaurant. We had an absolutely lovely time – great food and only ½ bottle of wine this time!! The restaurant only seats 20 people and the chef is great. A delight for the eye as well as the stomach. The hostess is the chef’s wife and she is a real charmer. Two other Canadian couples from North Vancouver were there and the hostess regaled us with the history of the building – it used to be a bank and there is a tunnel in the basement leading to a vault.
   Deux Pieces

Amazing appetizer – 3 scrumptious sensations

   Charolais filet with Burgandy wine reduction – yum, yum!
Dessert – heaven!!!
As we left to head south, we enter a part of the Nivernais Canal that we haven’t travelled before. In my mind, it is prettier than the section from Auxerre to Clemecy - but that’s just me! The North Van couple were videoing the canal for a promotion for Le Boat rental company and were asked to do the northern section. Interesting! The added feature of this section – Clemecy to Baye – is that it is all uphill, or as we boaters like to call it – upstream with the emphasis on UP. Multitude of locks – really hard work.

  The entrance to the “new” part of the Nivernais
Charlolais country – boeuf on the hoof!
June 1, 2012 will remain indelibly etched in my memory forever. If you think 16 locks in 3 ½ kms looks scary on the navigation chart – you should experience it in person!! There was very little cruising between locks – few hundred metres at most so there was no break. It must be done in one day as a crew follows you to prepare the locks and there is absolutely no place to overnight. My arms now have muscles that it didn’t know where even there! The journey was compounded by the engine overheating so we had an unexpected stop in one of the locks while it cooled down. To top the day off – and who doesn’t relish the icing on a cake?? – we had 3 tunnels at the very end. But 2 were 212 and 268 metres long respectively and the last was 758 metres. They are so narrow that boats can only go in one direction so you have to wait for the tunnels to be clear before you are allowed to set off. There is no lighting so while Phil steered (only bumping the side once!) I was down below with a hand held spot light to light the way. We were never so glad to see the end of a day in our 3 years of cruising. Thank God we don’t ever have to do that again! The bad news – in Baye no restaurants or stores; the good news – it’s all downhill for the next few weeks!!!!! 

  One of the lock crew to help us - Phil keep your eyes on the canal!
Beautiful cruising
   Entrance to the first tunnel
End of the day at Baye!!!!
We are looking forward to the next and final part of the Nivernais and then both the Canal Latéral à Loire and the Canal du Centre as we head to Chalon-sur-Saône – a major milestone on this year’s cruising agenda. But that’s many weeks of cruising!
Until then – love to all 
The Captain and the ‘much skinnier but hard working’ Crew


  1. Greetings Captain & SC (Skinny Crew!),
    Great blog as always Sharlene. You two have really been tested by those locks and tunnels --well done. Happy, Happy Birthday Phil on the 8th. Trust you'll be fine dining at one of those Michelin restaurants. All well here.
    Lots of love from A & G and extra special XOXOX's to the Birthday Boy!!

  2. Hi to you both,
    I am just looking for adoption from my son in law Chris !!!!!! If there is such a thing as reincarnation I want to come back as their child !!!!!!!!
    Looks fabulous...are you sure you still want to retire from this ?
    All the years I have known you I didn't realize that Phil's birthday is on the 8th June...mine is on the 14th.Phil that explains why we have such sparkling personalities:)
    Do you have any photo's of my brother and Wendy.
    I hope you are stopping in Toronto when you come back...we have a spare bed here.
    Love Helen and Charles

  3. Great stories and pictures - you just keep wetting our appetites!!

    Gordie and Janice

  4. That tunnel looks incredible! Beautiful photos of the landscape but also of the food. Too good to eat... but I am sure you tried. Keep having fun.

    Susan and Bob

  5. BEautifull thanks for sharing
    Diane P.