Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Monday, May 27, 2019

(We Hate) The Yonne, May 10-14

We started the engine and were just pulling away from the dock about 8:15 on Friday morning when Elle and Nord steamed past. We would be heading up the Yonne together. (horn fanfare!) Trois Plaisanciers are on the move!
After negotiating the one big lock on the Seine, we entered the Yonne about 10:15.
The lower Yonne is a very difficult navigation. There is some commercial traffic and nowhere to stop until Pont sur Yonne about 30 k up from the confluence. The worst part, though, are the sloping sided locks (the first three. After that, there is a small pontoon is the lock for tying up that rises with the filling lock and some have one vertical wall.). It’s impossible to get a line on to the bollards without assistance from the shore and special care must be taken not to bang the hull against the side of the lock as you go up since the rock wall meets the boat underwater, away from the fenders that usually prevent damage with a straight sided lock. When we did this stretch in 2009 we had Tim on board and we were able to put him ashore before each lock to take care of the line handling duties, but this time it was just Cathy Jo and I and we’d have to rely on the lock keepers. Luckily, they were there to help.
We found that by hanging a small tire on the side just under the bow bollards (not strictly allowed because if they get away the sink to the bottom of the lock, causing trouble) and using one rope to the shore, using the engine and rudder very gently we could angle the boat away from the lock wall and balance on the tire. Compounding the problem is that the rockwork on two of the three locks is very rough with big holes that could rip the tire off so the bow thruster has to be used to push the bow slightly away whenever one of those appeared.
Elle and Nord had even bigger problems as they are cruiser type boats with fine pointed bows and really no way to balance the way Oldtimer can. Compounding all of this was a small snafu at the first lock. Commercial boats have first priority at the locks and so we had to mill around for an hour waiting for our turn. When we finally got in, the lock keeper took one line from Nord, the smaller boat, ashore and then instructed Elle, the larger boat, to tie alongside. We went in the back of the lock by ourselves balanced on our tire. Much blue language and boathooks were used to keep the two cruisers under control. 
More merriment took place as we navigated the 6 locks to Pont sur Yonne with all of us finally getting secured on it's pontoons about 5 pm, almost 9 hours after we cast off.
The weather on Saturday was forecast to turn ugly again but we wanted to push on. Since both Elle and Nord only have outside steering, they would be staying put while we headed further up the river in our snug, warm wheelhouse, ignoring the wind and rain outside, except at the locks, of course. We got a little wet but the poor lock keeper got drenched. These are mostly manual locks.
We made good time through the two locks to Sens, our next stop, arriving just before noon.
We had visited here in 2009, spending several days as Tim was leaving, Ines arriving and being in a great place to view the Fete National fireworks. This time there was a big carnival set up very close to the mooring but luckily the noise wasn’t too bad and they shut down around 11 pm.
Sens was one of the major centers of religious life in the middle ages and it’s Cathedral Saint-Étienne  is regarded as the first of the grand gothic cathedrals. When we were here before the tower was covered in scaffolding. Not this time.

It is a beautiful building that features some amazing stained glass from the original construction and on this Saturday afternoon, children were practicing for their First Communion ceremony to be held the following day.
At the moorings was another barge, Jazz, and it’s English owners, Ian and Gill. They have owned the boat for 20 years so they had lots of stories. Wine was drunk. Sadly they had decided that age was catching up to them and the boat was going to be put up for sale.
Sunday afternoon we had lunch at the only restaurant we could find open (the town was totally shut down on Sunday), the Restaurant de la Cathedral. Later, Elle and Nord made their appearance at the moorings, planning to hang around for the Monday morning market. We wanted to get underway. We were due in the boatyard in Migennes and it would take a couple of days to get there.
Tuesday we made the 35 kilometers and 7 locks to arrive at a small mooring just before the town of Joigny. We had spotted the place last fall on our way down the Yonne and Cathy Jo had realized it was very close to a big shopping center. Less than a 3 minute bike ride on a paved path took us to a couple of the usual grocery stores (an Intermarche and a Lidl) and a home improvement store where we could stock up on painting supples for the haulout. We made two trips!
You can read about our previous visit to Joigny on Odysseus here.

Joigny from the shopping quay.

Departure was Tuesday morning at a little before 9 am. Two hours and two locks later we were tied up at Evans Marine in Migennes, next to an old neighbor that you may recognize from the “Corcelettes Resort” days of last year. Ian and Lisette won’t be here for another month. Let the boatyard fun begin!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Canal du Loing, May 5-10

As forecast, the weather Saturday was frightful. As our Aussie friends would say, it was “blowing a hoolie”, pouring rain and cold; the high temperature never got out of the 50’s. The wood stove was going pretty much all day. 
We did bundle up and head over to the market for some vegetables, dodging downpours. Even in that weather there were plenty of merchants under their tents. We got a good deal on some delicious French artichokes (which we love!) and various other delicacies.
Moored behind us was a hireboat and we struck up a conversation with Tony and Kris who just happened to be from Hollywood, California. (Tony is a native Hollywoodian, no less.) The had rented the boat for about a month and were due to turn it in in about a week in Migennes, where we were headed for the boatyard.
In the afternoon between showers we paid a visit to the Musée Girodet. Featuring the works of native son Anne Louis Girodet, a neoclassical painter from the early 1800’s, it was not yet open when we visited Montargis last year and it’s really kind of a tragic story. They were weeks away from reopening after major renovations when the River Loing overwhelmed the town during the flood of 2016. Much of the artwork and sculpture was damaged and the building suffered greatly. The facility finally opened again last December and it’s a beautiful small museum, easily covered in just a couple of hours.

The three exhibit rooms on the second floor feature beautiful ceilings.

Some of the masters works.

The Man himself.

Sunday morning the weather was some better, although still very cold. We made the 18 kilometers and 8 automated locks to the Neronville mooring about 2 pm. We had used it as a base for our bike ride to Chateau Landon last year. We were going to go for a walk to the ruins of the Abbey de Cercanceaux on the other side of the canal but first we were waylaid by a local asking about our boat. It turned out Alain lived most of the time in Paris, had spent quite a bit of time in California, and had converted a nearby old mill into a gite with 10 bedrooms and a small apartment for himself. We gave us a tour of the grounds and building. It was very impressive.

The gite’s garden and the old mill building behind the trees.

Mssr. Alain and some woman.

Shortly after our tour of the mill it started to rain again so we beat a hasty retreat to the boat, missing the Abbey. Maybe next time…

Monday morning when I got up to make the morning coffee I glanced at the gauge showing the outside temperature to see how cold it was. Cold!

That’s freezing in centigrade!

We fired up the radiators and managed to thaw out enough to get underway for our next stop, the small village of Épisy. Again, just some bank moorings with no services but we wanted to get close enough to our next stop, Moret sur Loing, so we could arrive there early the next day and hopefully snag a spot. Luckily the sun was out so it warmed up a little. We arrived early enough that we could take a walk over to the Marais de Épisy, a restored marsh and nature preserve. It had a nice walking trail.

Our plans for an early arrival in Moret were foiled when two loaded peniches trundled past just before our 9 am departure. They each take up the whole lock and go very slow. We delayed leaving for about 45 minutes to try to let them get far enough ahead but we still ended up having to wait for each of the 4 locks. The lock into Moret took almost an hour as they used the last one out onto the river and to the Seine to lash the two barges together into a double.
It turned out not to matter, though, as the moorings in Moret were full and some boats were going to have to leave that afternoon as a large barge had reserved some of the space. Shaun and Lynn on Elle, now joined by Lynn’s brother and his wife on Nord had managed to grab a mooring as they had arrived the day before. We would see them again later. 
We traveled the 1.5 k down the Loing to it’s junction with the Seine where we tied up in the moorings in St. Mammès. Even though it was right on the river and there was some wash from the passing commercial traffic, we liked the view and the activity. 

We were on the outside of the long finger where the two small boats are.
That’s a fuel dock across the Seine and the Loing enters
the Seine at the left.

We did manage to get in a few walks around town, visiting the tourist office in Moret and the laundromat in St. Mammès to dry our laundry. We also got a look at the old last lock on the Loing with it’s marker showing just how high the flood waters got in 2016.

That little round marker shows the water 
got up to the bottom of the window of the old lock house.

We had intended to use this as a base for a cycle trip to Fontainebleau but the weather would not cooperate. More rain! We left on Friday for the 13 kilometers of the Seine and then up the Yonne River to our next stop, Pont sur Yonne.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Canal du Briare, April 28-May 5

Our first stop after a grueling 2 hours underway was the small village of Ouzuer-sur-Trézée. We stopped here last year on our way down the canal and its a very nice easy mooring with free services. Since we had just left with full batteries and water tank, we didn’t need the services and the weather was pretty bad. We did leave the boat in the afternoon for a quick stroll around town but the weather was so ugly we just stayed inside “reading.”
Monday morning we got underway about 9:30 (the weather was a little better) and headed up the canal to Rogny les Sept Ecluses. We didn’t stop here last year and just took pictures of the old lock staircase from the boat as we waited for the locks. This year we stopped at the halte at about 2 pm and had time to wander about town and visit the new park surrounding the old locks.

At it’s busiest, as many as 3,000 barges a year traveled up and down the staircase. 
It was finally replaced by 6 new locks separated by small pounds in the 1830’s.

Tuesday morning it was off to our next stop, Montbouy. We used this as a lunch stop last year and it looked intriguing so we planned it for this year. Also, May Day is a big holiday in France and the locks are closed that day so we’d be spending a couple of days. Luckily, those days coincided with some passable weather so we did some cycling on Wednesday. 

A mooring all to ourselves.

The village church looked very old and we wanted to visit but the door was locked. We went to the boulangerie across the square to ask if we could get access and the helpful woman there gave us the key. Quite a key it was!

A very old church door.

During our Wednesday ride along the canal, signs led us to the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. Thousands of people attended performances and religious services here in the BC years.

Leaving Montbouy on Thursday morning we put in about 3 hours travel time to a mooring just after the last lock before the town of Montargis. We needed to do some grocery shopping and there was a big supermarket close to the mooring. The tie up was also close to Les Tanneries, the modern art museum we visited last year and we wanted to return to see what they were up to this year. One exhibition covered the floods of 2016 (when we had to turn around a Briare because of a canal breach) and another, by the Belgian artist Ante Timmermans, was titled “Rien/de Nier/de Rien”. Once again, we enjoyed our visit.
Friday shopping completed we left just before 2 pm and negotiated the two locks in the center of Montargis to reach the town’s commercial and residential moorings on the north side of town. We found a spot to tie up and hunkered down. Saturday was market day and the weather was supposed to turn really bad. We’d stay put until Sunday when we’d enter the Canal du Loing.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Briare, April 16-28

The Air Malta flight was smooth and uneventful. After arriving at the Charles de Gaulle airport we collected out rental car and managed to find our way out of the maze that is the road network at CDG. I think we made three complete circles before we were completely out of the complex. Then it was time to tackle the Boulevard Peripherique, the Paris ring road. Those of you in Southern California who have driven the 405 have gotten a taste. A couple of hours later we were in Briare, awakening Oldtimer from it’s long winter sleep.
Other than the drifts of leaves from the chestnut trees that had dropped over the winter, the boat was in pretty good shape. The solar panels had kept the batteries fully charged and all we needed to do was fill the water tank, remove the bicycles and other boat bits stowed inside while we were away, unpack the suitcases and head for the grocery store.
Giving the boat a good scrub the next day was helped along by the good weather. Daytime temps were in the upper 60’s to lower 70’s. We were wearing shorts and t shirts, flip flops and bare feet.
We would have the car for about a week so we had several shopping trips to make. The garden had to be bought and planted, Cathy Jo wanted to paint the deck and there were several little maintenance jobs to be tackled, but we did take one day off to travel up the Loire to Sancerre. We paid a visit to a cooperative and came out with some bottles of a very good Sancerre pinot noir and made another stop at the Domaine Roger Pabiot where Mssr. Pabiot was very happy to sell us some of his pouilly-fumé.

Easter Sunday we decided we should visit another of the famous Loire River chateaus, this time Chambord.

Building began in 1519 by Francois I but when he died in 1547 is was unfinished. Louis XIV finally completed the works between 1660 and 1685 but he only spent a few days there. Various nobles carried out projects and expanded it’s grounds and in 1840 the chateau was on the first list of Monuments Historiques de France, and later opened for visitors. The state acquired the chateau from the relatives of Henri of Artois, the last direct heir of Louis XIV, in 1930.

It’s still very early so the gardens haven’t really leafed out.

While the exterior is pretty spectacular, we were disappointed by the interior. There were a few displays of furniture and paintings and a nice exhibition of royal carriages but most of the many rooms were empty. The chateau does feature Leonardo da Vinci’s double helix staircase.

We got back to the boat in time to enjoy an Easter dinner of barbecued lamb and topped it off with a decadent Paris Brest, especially made for Easter.

The boulangerie-patisseries really go all out for the Easter holiday. We saw a huge chocolate Easter bunny for €120. Our favorite boulangerie in town had this display of their Easter treats.

Tuesday it was time to return the car to the Paris airport. This time the maps program gave us a route that didn’t include the Peripherique. The traffic was still bad in places but not the complete standstill we experienced before. The Paris Metro took us to the Bercy train station where we caught the train back to Briare. It was feet and bicycles from now on.

Monday had been Cathy Jo’s birthday but the restaurant we wanted to visit was closed that day and we were returning the car on Tuesday. We booked a table at Le Petit San Trop for Wednesday dinner. We had another delicious dinner (I had been dreaming of their escargot for months) and Cathy Jo topped it off with her favorite desert. If you don’t know what you want, order the Cafe Gourmand. It’s all there!

Other boaters were also returning for the season. The marina’s rates go up for the summer on May 1 so everybody was getting ready to leave. Brits Klaus and June on Doris Pickle and spent the winter in the port but Chris and Jackie, also British, our neighbors on Jolie Roger (pronounced the French way) had returned. Shaun and Lynn returned from South Africa for Elle. John and Sharon from Seraphim II arrived from Paris where they spend the winter. In a switch, they close up the boat for the summer so they can spend the time in Massachusetts.

On Tuesday the weather decided to turn iffy; cold and occasional rain for most of the rest of the week. We did manage to make a visit to the Museum of Mosaics and Enamels in Briare (no pictures allowed). We had planned to leave on Saturday but the weather was awful. 

The cherries will follow.

Sunday, although the weather was only slightly better, we decided to leave anyway. We would only have 5 locks and a couple hours travel up the Canal du Briare to reach our first stop, Ouzour-sur-Trézée.