Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Friday, June 28, 2019

Montbard and Around, June 10-14

We departed Ancy at the usual 9 am Monday headed for our next stop, La Grande Forge de Buffon. We pulled into the small mooring about 2 pm just as it was beginning to rain. Luckily after just an hour or so it let up and we were able to walk up to see the old industrial site itself. Unfortunately, it closed at 5 so we would have to wait until it opened the next morning (we were told) at 10 to take a tour around the museum.

The wheat fields around Raviers were full of poppies in bloom.

The Comte de Buffon founded a metal working factory in 1768 which used nearby watercourses to power hydraulic bellows and hammers, turning cast iron into pure iron. The original industrial site was completely restored in the 1980’s. Metal work is still a major employer in the area, with several specialty manufacturers in the nearby town of Montbard. 
But to the Grand Forge. We dutifully turned up at the front gate at 10 am. It wasn’t open. 15 minutes later the gentleman we had seen the day before turned up, let himself in the gate muttering something we couldn’t understand and then disappeared inside. After another 15 or 20 minutes it became apparent that we weren’t going to get in (We still don’t understand why. It never did open while we were there.) so we went back to the boat, unloaded the bicycles and rode the 3 k up the canal to St. Remy, just another picturesque small village.

We cycled up and around the church then headed back to the boat, getting underway just after the lunch closure so we could be tied up in Montbard by around 2. Since it was still early in the day we had a chance to wander around town and see some of the sites.

Some very small rooms in there.

Looking down on town from the Parc de Buffon.

The Tour de l’Aubespin and Tour Saint-Louis, also in the Parc
from the banks of the River Brenne that runs around the edge of town.

But the real reason to stop in Montbard, besides some shopping, was to travel the 8 k away from the canal to visit the Abbey de Fontenay, which we would do on Thursday.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Tanlay to Ancy-le Franc, June 6-10

It’s been a tough couple of years for the Canal de Bourgogne.  It was very hot and there was very little rain last summer, then again very little rain this winter. That led to low water levels in the reservoirs that supply the canals. In order to keep the canals operating, the VNF, the national waterways authorities, have had to lower the water levels in the canals. That means many of the “wild” bank moorings (and some other more developed stopping places) are unavailable and, in the case of the Canal du Centre, the hotel barges have had to leave because they need more depth than is available to operate.
There’s also a problem with weed. It looks sort of like aquarium plants gone wild. It chokes the canals, wrapping itself around propellors and clogging engine cooling systems that use canal water (not us). We haven’t had that much trouble with weed this side of the summit but we’ve been told that on the other side, especially in Dijon and below, that’s it’s pretty bad. We’ll see.

We delayed our Wednesday morning departure from Tonnerre long enough to do a little shopping at their open air market and made it to our first lock about 10:30.

From the market, fresh local cherries for about $3 per pound.

 With an hour stop for lunch we managed to cover the 8.5 k and 6 locks to be tied up at our next stop, Tanlay, by about 2:30. We wandered about town in the afternoon to get our first look at the main reason for stopping here, the Chateau de Tanlay. We would be taking the tour on Thursday.

Construction of the existing chateau began in the mid 1500’s by Francois d’Andelot and was completed about a hundred years later.

Those entrance pillars sort of reminded us of Angkor Wat.

The whole chateau is surrounded by a moat.

The most amazing room was the Grand Galarie, all trompe-l’oeil.

After our visit to the chateau we unloaded the bikes and headed up the road for the Abbey Notre-Dame de Quincy.
According to a sign there it’s open for visitors later in the summer. It was a big, active self-contained Cistercian community founded in 1133 but most of the buildings are from the 13th and 15th centuries.

Tanlay is also the starting point for the hotel barges that operate in the region. They make the trip back and forth to Veneray les Laumes, about 60 k towards the summit.They’re big and deep, helping to keep a channel open for us and keeping the weed down. There were only two currently on the move and we were able to avoid them for the most part.

Friday morning we headed out, hoping to make our next stop at Ancy-le-Franc but by about 11 am the predicted wind started and it just got too difficult to handle the boat entering and exiting locks. The lock keeper agreed. We found a mooring at Lézinnes before the lunch closure and tied up tightly. We spent a couple a hours with Neil and Karen on the narrowboat Chalk Hill 2, heading in the other direction. They were able to give us some good information on potential stopping places before we reached the summit of the canal.

Saturday morning the wind had died off and we were able to make it through the 4 locks to Ancy-le-Franc before noon.

Between 1766 and 1807, Ancy was a center of faïence, tin-glazed earthenware, with a large factory founded by the marquess of Louvois-Cortanvaux. In the early 1980’s, archeological excavations at the site turned up many examples of the china produced at the factory and today the buildings have been turned into a small museum. For the princely sum of €1 each we were able to roam through the 5 vaulted rooms, viewing some of the china and fragments produced in the factory and learning all about the manufacturing process.

There is a chateau in Ancy but we’d just been in the one in Tanlay so decided to give it a pass. We had seen in a tourist office somewhere, however, that there was an old church with restored frescoes not too far away. It was only open in the afternoon on the second Sunday of the month. We were in luck. We made the short bike ride up the canal to Chassignelles to see L’ eglise romane St Jean Baptist de Chassignelles.

We were about a half hour early for it to open and we despaired that, since it was Pentacost, the keys might not arrive but luckily, just a couple of minutes late two elderly ladies arrived and opened up the main doors.
Built in the 12th century, the interior walls were covered with geometric decorations and medallions of the apostles. Over the years it was all covered by many layers of whitewash that had to be carefully removed during the restoration, completed in 2008.

One of the ladies gave us the story of the church and it’s restoration, at our request speaking her French very slowly so we could understand. We felt really lucky to see this monument.

On the left is a fresco mural of the Annunciation and the surrounding black funeral band 
commemorates the death in the 16th century of the Marquis de Louvois, the Count of Tonnerre.

Monday morning it was off to our next stop, “Metal Valley,” the area around Montbard.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Up the Canal de Bourgogne, May 31-June 6

242 kilometers with 189 locks, the Canal de Bourgogne connects the Yonne River at Migennes to the Saone at Saint Jean de Losne, traveling though the 3 k long Pouilly tunnel at it’s summit. First conceived in the early 16th century, construction didn’t begin until 1775 when three gangs of 600 workers started construction on part of the eastern section. In the early 1880’s work began on the Saone side but wars and the Revolution caused many delays. It wasn’t until late 1832 that a barge left Paris and made it all the way to Dijon.
We’ve traveled the eastern section from Saint Jean to the tunnel several times but somehow just never made it over the top. This time we’re doing the whole canal. Since we’re not in any hurry, we guess it will take us about a month.
After departing Migennes on Friday morning we made our first stop after about 20 k at Saint Florentin. Back in 2015 while we were waiting for our offer on Oldtimer to be accepted, we cruised a small portion of the canal with Jenny and Adrian on their then-new-to-them Piedaleau. We stopped in Saint Florentin, a small bank mooring and basin. Not any more. In the last five years the port had been upgraded with a brand new expanded capitanerie and all new facilities. Unfortunately, that means the portion that used to be free now costs. Such is progress.

The town is dominated by it’s church and the one tower that remains of the 6 in the 12th century fortifications.

We headed over to the tourist office, first walking under the church. 

We had read that it had beautiful stained glass windows but we couldn’t get in; it was locked. We did find a note on one of the doors, however, that told us a key was available at the tourist office. The tourist office woman gave us the key but told us to lock the door behind us when we went in. We’d get our own private viewing.

Built in the 16th and 17th centuries in Gothic and Renaissance style, L’église Saint Florentin was restored between 1857 and 1871. 
Entering the door we found a beautiful rood screen from 1600. It is unusual in that it’s carved in stone.

As advertised, the windows, from the 15 century from the Troyes school, are incredible. I just can't get good stained glass pictures with the phone but I hope you can get an idea.

The St. Nicholas window

The window explainer.

A window detail.

Saturday we decided to go for a walk. The weather was finally improving and there was a hike we could make that took us across the fields and onto a portion of the old Roman road. It turned out to be a little more that we expected. The walk was about 7 miles. We waited until the afternoon (after the market) and it had really warmed up. We did see some interesting things, though, like this church in Avrolles that was never completed.

Along the old Roman road, some paving still visible, we found a stone marker from sometime in the BC’s near a former army camp.

After a couple of nice days, the weather turned threatening again with spitting rain and cool temperatures.

Sunday we were off to our next stop, Tonnerre, 25 k and 11 locks up the canal, mostly because just on the other side of the canal from Tonnerre is Epineuil, a small vine growing area where they make some fine wines. We paid a visit to a couple of tasting rooms and came away with some tasty red wines from Domaine Gruhier. One domaine had a sale on their rosé’s so we picked up a couple of those, too.

Lavoirs are all over Burgundy. Public wash houses that were usually located along rivers and streams, they were a gathering place where clothes were washed and “news” was exchanged. Tonnerre has an exceptional lavoir. First it’s round while all the others we’ve seen are long and narrow. Also, this one is fed by a spring so instead of being along the river, it’s on the side of the hill up by the church.

Oh, yes. The church.

We couldn’t get in the Tonnerre church 
because its undergoing some restoration work.

Tied up behind us was a Dutch couple that we spent several enjoyable hours with. Hans and Tineke on Tinus (a very unusual Dutch-built hire boat in steel) helped us out with a cheese and wine surplus. Hans also introduced us to Spanish cognac, something we’re going to have to find when we get back to Ventura. They were headed in the other direction so on Wednesday we headed up the canal while they headed down.

More Boatyard

I mentioned that we had a few glasses for John’s birthday with other boatyard denizens but failed to identify some of them. I’ll rectify that mistake. 
We’d met Brits Gail and Julian on Kikkerweiss (Dutch for “Tadpole) on the Nivernais Canal last year. We had looked at that boat on the internet when we were looking for Odysseus back in 2007. They retired, rented out their house, bought the barge and a motorhome (“caravan” over here) and live on the boat in the summer and travel to warmer climes (Spain, Morocco) in the caravan in the winter. They were in the yard getting some rudder repairs which, being a boat, turned into a bit more than they planned. All it took was the application of euros and a few extra days.

Peter from Australia is the new owner of La Belle Helene. A rare breed of insane person, he is a two boat owner, having bought the newbuild barge before selling his current boat, an ex-hireboat. He was in the yard having some modifications made to his new boat so he could carry his scooter on the back.

Also, after completing the painting we decided we deserved a night out. We had a very nice meal at the Restaurant du Canal. Note to self. Next time don’t order the fois gras entre , duck plat and extra rich chocolate dessert washed down with a nice burgundy. Just a little too rich. Luckily the hard boatyard work was done and we could use Saturday as a recovery day.

On to the Bourgogne!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Out of the Water, May 16-28

Nestled between the abattoir and the sewage treatment plant, Evans Marine Resort and Spa provides the finest weight loss program in Burgundy. Simon and his staff, Philippe, Roger, Laurent and Mark will assist with all your needs. Climbing ladders, scraping bottoms and sanding and painting topsides will fill your busy days.

Seriously, there is a slaughterhouse across the open field and there is a sewage treatment plant next door but luckily the odors from both rarely made it into the yard. We did hear the occasional cow bellow.

We had thought last year that we were going to head down to the south of France this year (We changed our minds. Probably next year.). Our insurance company was going to require a complete survey and valuation of the boat for our 2020 renewal and we thought it would be easier to find a yard in the north to take care of the haul and launch. In addition, the owner of the yard, Simon Evans, is a well known and recognized surveyor whose work is accepted by all the major companies. We had stopped at Migennes on our way down the Yonne last year to check in and make sure he could do the work and all was arranged, although without a firm date as the yard is right on the river and if it’s in flood, well, that could cause a problem. No flood this year so we called Simon about a week ahead of time and he said space was available. We made tracks for Migennes.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon and checked in with the yard. It would be Thursday before we could be lifted out so there were some small projects that could be completed in the water. A new exhaust hose was installed on the generator so it would no longer leak water into the bilge and a new water tank gauge went in so we could tell how much drinking water was on board.
Thursday just before noon the crane was fired up and Oldtimer came out of the water.

Since Simon was going to have to crawl around under the boat to measure hull thicknesses he left the boat in the slings just resting on some blocks. The first job was to power wash the bottom to remove the moss and barnacles that had accumulated since the boat went back in the water in 2015.

Roger has the high pressure water.

Now it was up and down ladders for us until the boat went back in the water.

It would be a couple of days until Simon could get to the bottom survey so we began the paint prep. The bottom had to be wire brushed and any flaking paint removed, and the whole topsides from the rail to the waterline was going to have to be prepared for shiny paint. By Monday afternoon the measuring had been completed and we were moved to our spot in the yard for the next week or so.

During his soundings, Simon had found one spot up near the bow that was a little too thin so we decided to have a patch welded over the spot. That was Laurent’s job.

The bottom had it’s first coat of paint 
except for the place where the patch will go.

Laurent applying the fix.

Meanwhile Cathy Jo and I had been madly prepping the topsides for paint. Luckily the weather was cooperating and we had no rain for the several days it took to complete the job. Cathy Jo provided her magic touch on the topsides. I rolled on the sloppy bottom paint.

All shiny and ready for the splash!

Even the anchor got pretty.

Tuesday afternoon it was back onto the trailer for the trip back to the crane.

Simon and Roger very carefully adjust the trailer.

After a minor crane hiccup, back in the water we went, just 12 days after our lift out. We’d gotten everything we wanted accomplished, had a good survey and, after a bunch of laundry and cleanup, were ready to get underway again.

In the days before we got underway, though, we met a couple who had just pulled out their tjalk, Petronella. It turned out John was celebrating his 80th birthday so the boatyard patrons got together for a few drinks to celebrate.

The birthday boy with Simon.

Friday morning we were off, heading to the Canal du Bourgogne.