Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Onward to the Petite Saone, June 9-12

And down we went. Saturday it was 18 locks. We were tied up by around 3 at a spot we’ve used both times we’ve traveled this canal, just below lock 18. This year, though, what used to be a sketchy wall with a couple of mooring rings is now a brand new concrete quay with bollards all along it. (Note the portion of the old wall and mooring ring at the bottom of the picture.) Quite an improvement! We didn’t see the barnyard turkey we spotted last time we were here, though.

One annoyance was that the automatic locks default to empty after a boat’s passage. Since we were going down, that meant we had to wait for nearly every lock to fill and the doors to open before we could proceed. It made for much waiting. Another result of the locks being kept empty is that there is plenty of time for a “lock wall garden” to form, seeing as it gets regular watering. Clearing of this wall doesn’t seem to be part of the regular maintenance program by the VNF.

The skies are pretty clear in the top picture but shortly after, the clouds began to thicken and this time we did get hit by a thunderstorm. Rain, wind and crashing thunder, one flash simultaneous with the thunder, craaaack! right over our heads. We were later told that the bolt had hit an old factory a little further down the canal and blown out the power to all the locks in the vicinity for a short while.

Thunderstorms had been rolling around France for a couple of weeks, some doing some serious damage. One unlucky spot was on the Canal des Ardennes. The waterways authorities circulated this picture of a lock severly damaged when the creek alongside the canal overtopped it’s banks and overwhelmed the lock doors, collapsing the lock wall and tumbling the lock control house into the chamber. It’s going to take considerable time to fix and in the meantime the canal is closed. Luckily it’s not one of the canals we need to use this year.

Sunday we were off to a mooring we had twice noted in our logs as a great possible stop and that proved to be the case. Just 7 k and 6 locks down the canal, the very short pound had a good bank with a couple sets of bollards, a fireplace, picnic table and nice green lawn, all in pretty much the middle of nowhere. We shared the space with a very friendly Swiss couple; drinks and boat tours were exchanged. We would see Dani and Elsbeth several more times as we headed down the canal. They were bound for Auxonne where they would park the boat and return to Switzerland for a couple of months before continuing their summer cruise.

Next stop was Fontenoy le Chateau, another place we had visited before and, since we were tied up a little after noon, we had plenty of time to wander around and reacquaint ourselves with the very pleasant village.
 We also had a chance to visit the Museum of Embroidery. In the 1800’s the village was the center of a thriving embroidery industry. In fact, the skillful women’s work was so prized that they made higher wages than men. Also, since their work required incredible dexterity, they were excused from the usual household chores which might have damaged their hands, the work being left up to the men. 
Fontenoy is also known as the home of Julie Victoire Daubié. In the early 1800’s she became the first woman to pass the Baccalauréat exam to become the first female bachelor of arts in France. After becoming a journalist, she lead the fight for women’s rights and retired to Fontenoy until her death in 1874.
We made the obligatory hike up to the ruins of the 13th century chateau to get a view of the village, it’s old cemetary and the surrounding countryside.

and then to the bridge over the canal so we could get a look at what we’d face leaving town Tuesday morning; the lock in the middle of the cutting.

The port capitanarie had told us there was a market in town beginning about 9 Tuesday morning so we hopefully wandered into the village. The “market” turned out to be a guy and his wife with a small vanload of vegetables. Rheims it was not!  We picked up a couple of things and then headed back to the boat. We shoved off about 10.
One more travel day and we would reach the Petite Saone and be river cruising.

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