Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tuesday 30th September 2014 Rethel to Asfeld 21.4kms 4 locks

Lock house at 10 Acy-Romance
13.4°C Overcast dull grey morning, sun out 1.15 pm with lots of grey clouds. Mike walked round to the Citroën garage to get the new biellette (a small connecting rod) for the gear linkage on the Xsara. Set off at 10.50 am I made a cuppa and sat out as we were approaching lock 10 Acy-Romance. Twisted the hanging pole and the lock gates opened as the lock was already full. The house was lived in, there were outdoor shoes on the doorstep. Down 2.15m and on to a 2.15km pound. A feature of this end of the canal are the long lines of tall ancient poplar trees all along the towpath, behind them on our left was a steep bank to
Lock cabin and banana palm at 11 Nanteuil
start with, which eventually became lower and lower until the ploughed fields beyond it came into view. The right bank was a tangle of lower trees and bushes with glimpses of more fields beyond them. A large gathering of mallard ducks flew off as we got closer to them. A moorhen raced across the canal, disturbed by the flighty ducks. Lock 11 Nanteuil was also full, so at a twist of the pole the top end gates opened. This lock had a smart garden with banana palms growing on the off side of the lock and there was a new lock cabin to house the controls should the roving keeper need to work the lock. Down another 2.35m and
Not smoke on the water, this is harvest dust
off on a 7.7kms pound. Not far below the lock there were a few houses in the village of Nanteuil that were on the banks of the canal, smoke curled from the chimney of one house. Beyond that the surface of the canal was covered in a layer of dust, the sort that descends after harvesting. There was lots of it so it must have been a very dusty harvest. There were trees growing along the bank of the canal right next to the canal, hiding the towpath from view. Lots more dust and then the trees gave way to open views across the empty fields as we neared the town of Château-Porcien. The town itself was hidden from view from the canal as it stood on the far bank of the river Aisne to our right, the river whose valley the
Lock house at 13 Asfeld
canal had been closely following since the bottom of the Montgon flight of locks. There was a VNF workshop and house on the left before the road bridge, then silo quays on the right and a saw mill on the left. Just beyond the silos there was a quay that we had moored next to in years gone by, which was now heavily overgrown with Japanese knotweed. First signs of life, other than wildlife, appeared on the towpath - a young Frenchman who had put down a knapsack and was shedding his jacket as the sun had just started to come out from behind the thick grey clouds that had hidden it all morning, he said hello as we passed
Oops, we're sure he didn't know we were in the lock!
by. It was 1.15pm and time for lunch. Mike did the honours with the lock poles at 12 Pargny (which had a nice house and garden) while I made lunch. Down another 2.89m on to a 7.9km pound. The hiker had caught up and, when Mike asked where he was making for, he said Asfeld (that’s where we’re going too). The next 3km section of towpath might prove a little difficult unless he has a machete! The towpath was difficult to see and looked well overgrown with trees right down to the water on both sides making the canal seem much narrower. More layers of dust on the water. The canal widened out again after a towpath
Safari's skipper steering with a joystick  into Asfeld lock
turnover bridge and a 2km straight section into Blanzy la Salonnaise. More signs of life! A young lady was walking four Sheltie dogs along the towpath. Mike saw a basking terrapin, quite a large one, but it didn’t want any publicity so when he picked up the camera it dived. Several other animals made loud splashes as they dived in the canal as we approached the next lock, couldn’t see what they were, all I saw was the ripples in the water where they’d been. The house at lock 13 Asfeld looked empty as it had no garden and the garage windows were broken. A car was parked on the road, but we suspected there were fishermen below the lock (there were). Down another 2.42m and as the gates opened we
Moored on the quay at Asfeld
were very surprised to see the bows of a loaded péniche a few metres from the gates. A VNF van appeared on the bridge over the tail of the lock and the VNF man waved. The skipper of Safari from Saarbrücken (in Gemany) didn’t look any too happy to see us, although he hadn’t got a green light for the lock and he had been about to enter on a red and let the VNF man in a van sort it out. He stopped and we went round his bows, there was just enough space. The skipper was steering from the starboard side of the boat with a joystick control and his wife was in the wheelhouse; they both waved. About ten minutes later we winded and tied up on the piled quay in Asfeld, just before the road bridge and the silos. It was 3.35pm. Gave Mike a hand with the bike and he went to collect the car from Rethel. 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Thursday 25th September 2014 Attigny to Rethel. 18.2kms 4 locks

Hanging pole to twist and activate lock. No 6 Givry
7.7°C Thick mist first thing, then sunny later. Mike took the car to Rethel and came back on the moped (he said there were three boats on the town moorings in Rethel including a British replica DB called Linda from Sheffield), I got on with the chores. He was back at 10.30 am, I gave him a hand to load the bike back on the roof and then we set off from Attigny at 11am. 2kms and we were soon at lock 6 Givry. Mike twisted the pole and the yellow light flashed on the apex of the left hand bend (the lock was out of sight round the bend)
No posh lock cabin at this lock (Givry) no lock house here either
so a metal box contains control panel (anti-vandal)
and we stooged down to the lock, it was still slowly filling. No lock house at this one, but they’d added a shiny new metal box to house the controls for the automatics as there was no lock cabin either. A new sign with the lock name and distances to the locks in either direction (just like they used to have over the door on all the old lock houses) had been added to an orange post with a life ring. It emptied quicker than it filled and we were soon 2.95m lower. The next pound was a long one 7.85kms. There was a lone fisherman by the village of Givry, then the canal
Refurbished lock chamber and new style rods
split level - on lockside for downhill
behind the ladder for uphill
became like a wild river with both banks covered with trees and bushes down to the waterline, maybe there was a towpath lurking under the trees but we couldn’t see it. On a 2km long straight we could see a boat coming towards us. It was a very wide, large, Swiss cruiser called Arc en Ciel (Rainbow) whose crew were steering from the roof. We spotted their navigation lights were on as we passed, lot of use that was as we’d seen the boat easily from 2kms away! The sun finally burned through the mist. The leaves on the poplar trees were starting to turn bright yellow. About 1km before Ambly the trees thinned out and there was a towpath again on the left. A few old wooden chalets were hidden under the next thicket of trees. Lock 7 Seuil had been totally renovated with new concrete walls and metal edges, new short control rods on the lockside for going down and new ones set into the wall behind a ladder for coming up. The house was lived in and well maintained. We dropped down 2.54m and set off down the short, 2.7m, pound to the next lock. A former Nichols hireboat called Orchis
Gottcha! Honey buzzard
was tucked in between the trees growing along the towpath edge close by some wooden bungalows. A man waved and shouted hello as we passed. Another very wide three-storey cruiser was coming up in the next lock, this one was Belgian-flagged and called Jeu d’Eau from Liège – on his way home no doubt. Lock 8 Thugny had been refurbished, just like lock 7, and again the lockhouse was lived in and well looked after. Below the lock there were new signs that said “no fishing” and “night fishing for carp allowed” – 75m further on a man was fishing with a long roach pole! Vive la France! Bet he’s fished
Recovered sunken boat on the bank near Rethel
there since he was a wee lad! The view on the right opened up across a big field of maize and we could hear the mewing calls of birds of prey before we saw three honey buzzards spiralling up on thermals. Lock 9 Biermes hadn’t had the revamp treatment yet. The house was surrounded by a motley collection of ancient agricultural equipment, péniche propellers and anchors. Down another 1.72m and on to the last wriggly bit before the town. Houses started appearing on the left bank and a cyclist came whizzing round
Moored on the old quay at Rethel
the corner on to the towpath which was now metalled. Another fisherman was seated by some pilings out on the bank next to an old rusting cruiser which, by the marks across its roof, had been sunk for some considerable time. Still on the left bank we passed a factory processing huge bales of waste paper just before the bridge and the start of the moorings on the right bank. We passed DB Linda (they left late afternoon) moored by the water and electricity posts (wow, more refurbishments!) and winded to tie up on the old quay at 3.10pm. Yipee, we got 3G. Made a cuppa and settled down to do the log and photos then start the great catch up. One day caught up, 15th is the next day to do so I’m still ten days behind.

Wednesday 24th September 2014 Le Chesne to Attigny 16.3kms 28 locks

Leaving Le Chesne on the summit level c des Ardennes
4.6°C Hazy sunshine, clouding over later in the afternoon with short showers of rain. Mike moved the boat on to the town quay at 8.30 am just as the boat that had stopped there the night before, called Satur, set off for the locks. We refilled the water tank from the tap on the side of the road bridge. Mike had his breakfast, bought some bread (1,20€ for a gros pain) then, after giving the boat in front some time to get moving down the flight, we set off at 9.30am carrying on through the shallow cutting, leaving the
Former Bureau de Declaration (papers please!) lock house
above the top lock of the Montgon flight of 26 locks
Meuse Basin for the Seine catchment area and arriving at the top lock of the Montgon flight at 10am. A VNF van had gone past us heading for Le Chesne. Pleased to see that the lock house atop the bank by lock 1 of the Le Chesne flight of four was still inhabited. Zapped the new post and the lock filled, no lock keeper in attendance nowadays. I lifted the blue plastic rod and we started our descent. The locks are all chained, all 26 of them, so as one empties the next one starts to fill. I took photos of the top
First lock, all automatic all 26 linked, the great descent starts here
lock then later decided to photograph all the rest from lock 4 onwards. The top four are the Le Chesne flight, at lock 5 the Montgon flight of 11 locks starts, this becomes the Neuville-Day flight of five locks which runs from 18 to 22, which is followed by the Semuy flight of four 23 to 26 and we worked down them like clockwork, each lock dropping us down around 3m. Most of the lock houses were in a derelict state or gone altogether. Just four houses were still lived in, the top lock, locks 12 and 14, plus the bottom lock. As we went into lock 26 the young lock keeper came
No weirs, all the excess water flows over the gates
out of the house and went into the lock cabin to get his clipboard. First question - do we speak French, yes, look of relief on his face. Did all the paperwork and then asked him where all the boats were, he didn’t know, he said it had been busy during the holidays in July and August, but now there was very little traffic about, it was a little worrying but he reminded us that a scheduled stoppage for repairs commences the beginning of next month. He asked for the zapper and then wished us a good journey. Mike lifted the
Gaps in the masonry where L shaped bars had to be pushed into the
slot to activate the early system of automatics - fun for a narrowboat
designed for peniches that fill the lock chambers.
bar and we dropped down on to the river below. After a short distance down the river Aisne we were at the river lock at Rilly. There were several fishermen camped by the lock with lots of lines out and some strange looking floating things over by the weirstream that had lights on top (maybe crayfish traps?). The young man at the lock cabin wanted a rope, but we said there wasn’t any real need, so he gave up and let us down the 30cms. To the left of his lock was the Vouziers branch, a dead end canal which we’ve never explored by boat. There were more fishermen along the high banks as we went past the village of Rilly. Lock
Lovely lock house at 12
activation now is by a different method, no more zapping, each lock has a suspended hanging pole to turn, situated about 50m before each lock. I turned the one above lock 5 at Attigny and the lock filled. We dropped down another 2m and trundled on into the town, past the old silo quay and moored by a small park area in front of a few houses at 4pm. Gave Mike a hand with the bike and he went off to collect the car from Le Chesne. Internet was rubbish again, on EDGE or 2G, just
Compare this - derelict empty lock house with the one above
 - new lock cabin with control desk on left
about good enough for e-mails. He was back at 6 pm as it started to rain, so we left the bike until later, except he decided to put it back in the car and move it on to Rethel next day before we set off.
Moored on the quay at Attigny

Tuesday 23rd September 2014 Malmy to Le Chesne. 16.1kms 2 locks

Chicken on the lockside at La Cassine 
3.4°C Misty start, sunny. Mike and I went in the car to Flize to the gendarmerie to get our livrets de circulation stamped. Mike took the scenic route via Chèmery-sur-Bar with views down into the valleys where the low-hanging mist looked like fallen clouds. A pleasant young lady did the honours, without any queries as to what it was or surprise and we were on our way home again five minutes later, calling in at the boulangerie in Dom-le-Mesnil for bread. I did some catching up with the log then the photos and made a recovery drive on t
Purple flowers of Autumn crocuses below Sauville lock
he new 16gig thumb drive, while Mike moved the car on to Le Chesne and came back on the moped. A fisherman in a car had parked behind the boat and set up his gear right behind our stern (Why do they do that, I will never understand the logic). We set off at 12.10pm. The first bridge was an old farm track bridge over a very battered old concrete structure, badly knocked about where the highest bits of some boats had hit it, leaving great gouges. Just after the bridge there was a sweeping left hand bend taking
Below Sauville lock
the canal south for a while. A cattle egret flew over the adjacent field and went out of sight in a ditch, where it stayed. A little later a snake zipped across the water, far too fast for the camera. I tried the new 4G router as we approached the quay below the lock at La Cassine and surprise, surprise we’d have got 3G there! On up lock 2, gently rising a mere 1.3m. The PC finished doing its recovery drive, so I added
Above Sauville lock
Paintshop (now I’d found the disc for it) so that I could edit our photos. Mike saw another snake swim across the cut and a big bird of prey swoop down, grab a big fish and fly off again before he could even switch the camera on! At KP19 the one and only boat of the day went past, a shiny new 40m DB called Miró from Antwerp. The lady of the boat was on the bows taking photos as we passed. Below lock 1 Sauville the banks were covered in the lilac flowers of autumn crocus. Zapped and we went up another 1.64m on to the
Piling slip on the summit level
summit level. All the lock houses of the seven locks up from the Meuse were inhabited, which was nice to see as so many lock houses on this canal have been left to ruin, but we guessed that they were no longer VNF employees that lived in them. It was 2.15pm as we went across a little aqueduct carrying the canal over a tiny un-named tributary of the river Bar. 9.6kms to the top of the first lock downhill into the Paris basin. We weren’t going that far today and kept a check on the Internet, nothing but GPRS - slowest of the slow. Poplars full of mistletoe lined both banks, with oaks, alders and silver birch beneath them.
Moored at Le Chesne by the silos
Round several more sweeping bends, then on to a long 2km straight passing the empty old house where the VNF controller of the feed water from lake Bairon used to live. A lone fisherman sat on the bank by the house, now door-less and window-less. Still the internet was rubbish. A VNF man in a van was cutting the grass with a strimmer and he paused to chat with Mike about the weather as we passed by. A lorry was being loaded with grain from the big concrete silos just before Le Chesne. At 3.45pm we moored next to an old quay before the town centre moorings (where Miró had been moored this morning when Mike left the car in the town). No one on the moorings now below the pont X. Mike went to have a look to see if the taps were working. He found one that did, so we’ll top up before we leave in the morning. The Internet was still useless even with the antenna up. You can’t amplify a signal that isn’t there. 

Monday 22nd September 2014 Pont-a-Bar to Malmy. 11.3kms 4 locks.

Digger bouncing off the end of the bridge at Hannogne
7.6°C Sunny with a few clouds, cooler. Uprooted all the pins and set off at ten. The DB had gone the day before but a hotel péniche Night and Day that arrived the day before was still moored about half way back to the bottom lock. Zapped the post and lock no 6 Pont-à-Bar was already empty, so the gates opened and we went up. When the lock was almost full (a lift of 2.8m) Mike hopped off with our bags of rubbish as there’s a very useful dustbin by the road bridge. Looked like most of the hireboats were at their base (Ardennes Nautisme) on the
An old boat full of flowers at St Aignan
right above the lock and on the other side the moorings at Pont-a-Bar Services (Maubacq’s boatyard) were full to bursting with private boats. The only bit of empty quay was the section left for péniches above the lock. Following the beautiful winding bends of the canal we were soon into cattle country with low wooded hills both sides and small farming villages. Several lorries and a big CAT digger were on the towpath at Hannogne-St-Martin, they’d been dumping piles of earth on the towpath to
St Aignan top lock gates and tunnel
strengthen the banks where the canal was on a slight embankment. The caterpillar-tracked digger went across the farm track bridge followed by one of the lorries. Zapped lock 5, the bottom lock of the two at St Aignan, it emptied and we went up 2.3m then round a sharp right hand bend and into lock 4 which had opened as the two locks are chained (linked) and up another 2.26m, then straight into the 300m tunnel which cuts through the hill under the Bois de Queue. The little river Bar (off to our left) that the canal follows to the summit level, winds all the way around this low hill, the tunnel
Below Malmy lock 3 - back pumping station on left
cuts off a six kilometre loop. Almost 6kms to the next lock, no 3 at Malmy, up another 2m and we moored at 12.45pm next to an old quay where the VNF had dumped loads of earth for doing their bank work. Mike went off on the moped to get the car. I had some lunch then I tried the Internet only to find it was very slow. The péniche Night and Day went past heading uphill. Mike was soon back with the car. He’d called at Carrefour for bread, etc, and also got me a 16gig thumbdrive (12,90€) for
Moored on the old quay above Malmy lock
making a recovery drive for my new PC. It was 3.30pm when he got back, so he had a late lunch and left the bike in the car as he said he would take it to Le Chesne the following morning and come back on the moped. I used the WiFi dongle to check emails, it was too slow for anything else. I found the right details for Bouygues profile to use our dongle with an antenna on the roof. Mike tried it and its software indicated that it was actually on GPRS, slowest of the lot. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday 19th to Sunday 21st September 2014 3 days off Pont-a-Bar

Friday 19th September 2014  Day off Pont-a-Bar
Hot and sunny. We did some shopping at Carrefour in Charleville.  A large tjalk called Parelion had come down the next lock and moored on the end of the quay by the VNF workboats. After lunch I found my laptop wouldn’t switch on. Dead. Mike checked the power supply and the battery, then put the Internet on to find out what to do. None of the tricks they suggested worked. Still dead. Really annoyed as I was hoping to get the log, blog and photos up to date while we were moored here with a good Internet connection. Fed up. Found a repair shop in Charleville via yellow pages, but it was only open afternoons on Saturdays.
Saturday 20th September 2014  Day off Pont-a-Bar
Hot and sunny again. Chores in the morning. I phoned Tesco to inform them that my laptop had died and I might not be back in the UK before the warranty ran out. The young man said that was OK it was recorded that I’d reported it. After a bite to eat we set off to Charleville in the car to the PC repair shop, which opened at 2 pm. The young man did the same checks we’d done and told us that it was most likely the motherboard (la carte mére) that had failed. I said it was a problem that must be repaired under guarantee in the UK as the laptop was less than twelve months old. I said I couldn’t get at my stuff on it which was going to cause me big problems, then he showed me a box that I could put my hard drive into and it could then be plugged into another PC to read or upload the contents. We paid him a paltry 20 euros for the gizmo and went home. Mike extracted the hard drive and took the side brackets off it so I would fit in the box. Then I realised that it wouldn’t do any good as Mike’s PC (Harold, who works on XP) wouldn’t be able to read all the Windows 8 stuff on it. The only solution was to get another PC on Windows 8 that would read it. We went to have a look to see what they had on offer in Carrefour. Didn’t think much of the notebook they were promoting by offering 50 euros off the normal price, but found an Acer laptop similar in spec to mine. The demo model was the only one they’d got so I asked for a discount and had 120€ off the asking price of 429€. Got persuaded to buy extra insurance on it and I picked up a Bluetooth speaker. At the checkout our purchases were given the once over by a security woman, that’s the first time that’s ever happened. It was 7.45pm by the time we got home. For speed, I cooked steak and onions in the pressure cooker and then after dinner we set to work getting the new PC working. At 1am we went to bed shattered having just managed to get it into English by downloading a language package from Microsoft. I’d changed the keyboard to a UK one but, as I never learned to type properly, I will have to remember which keys are which – like press A and you get Q!
Sunday 21st September 2014   Day off Pont-a-Bar
13.1°C Heavy showers. On with the jobs. I got on with setting up the new Acer laptop while Mike started to sort out a diesel leak he’d got in the engine room. After emptying he bilges of 4 litres of diesel (to be filtered and added to the central heating tank – waste not, want not!) he still hadn’t found out where it was coming from. Had an hour’s chat with Yvonne on Skype, really good connection and audio very good on the new laptop, didn’t need the new speaker, finished around 12.15pm. I was very glad to find that the gizmo worked and I was able to load all the stuff I needed from the old Acer’s hard drive on to the new one. Finally got set up to catch up with the log and blog, a long, long way to go. Mike went for a nap. I struggled with the azerty keyboard but managed to get the log up to date. Then the photos, but I hadn’t been able to find the CD to add Paint Shop. A loaded Dutch péniche called Shiva went up the canal around 3.30p, followed by a VNF man in a van. I carried on editing the log into blog versions. Mike watched the F1 GP from Singapore. I managed to catch up just one day on the blog.

Thursday 18th September 2014 Bogny-s-Meuse to Pont-à-Bar. 34.2kms 7 locks.

Below Levrezy lock
15.3°C Rain overnight, sunny start then black clouds until midday back to sunshine and hot again. Mike moved the car over to the Bogny side of the river as there were roadworks in progress by the post office. We left at 9.25 am and had a good look at the old quay further upriver as a (free) alternative to the pontoon. It had rings and bollards and road access via a path between the houses. Round the right hand bend and zapped Levrézy lock, the lock emptied and we went up 2.4m. I sorted the washing out ready for starting when we leave the next lock. 6.31kms to Joigny lock. A team of
Rock-bolting catch nets above the railway KP67
climbers were rock-bolting catch nets on the rocks above the railway at KP67. A DB called Dwaalgast (I think) went past heading downriver while I was taking photos of the climbers. The noise of a big heavy hammer reverberated up the valley as we got closer to Joigny – at one time the whole river would have had forges in each village. Into Joigny lock, which was already empty, and waited some time before the paddles opened, we thought for a while we were going to have to call the VNF roving keeper out –  just slow electric. We
DB Dwaalgast heading downriver
rose another 1.72m. Paused in the lock cut while Mike engaged the Markon drive then we set off on the 9kms reach. Along the right bank there were fences keeping a large herd of domesticated deer away from the river. More rock-bolting was going on at KP75. Two boats went past, a cruiser with Japanese tourists on board and an Eau Claire called Cheval Bayard, both heading downstream. On the outskirts of Charleville, we went into Montcy lock and lifted the bar but nothing happened. It was lunchtime, 12.50pm so I tried
More mountaineers at work doing the day job
rock-bolting nets at KP75
ringing the Mézières phone number and got no reply. Mike went up the ladder just as Madame came out from the house and shouted hello as she crossed the bridge over the bottom gates and went into the lock cabin. She operated the lock and we rose another 1.76m then motored on upriver, just 2.2kms to Mézières lock, a deep one surrounded by tall blocks of flats, that has always been operated by a keeper before. Today, the automatics were working - there were sparkling new red and blue rods (plastic, where they’ve always been metal tubes before), I lifted the blue rod and we rose (ropeless, as usual) 3.4m. Started the washing machine then switched
Below Mezieres lock
it off again as we’d realised we’d forgotten a lock. It was only 2.9kms to Romery. Big CAT diggers were at work making a new cycle path along the left bank and one was pulling a tree out by the roots as we passed. Further on upriver another digger was adding huge boulders along the river bank to support the new pathway. Up Romery, another 2.09m rise and we set off along the 9kms reach with the washing machine going. Wild hops were ripening in the tops of small trees and a fisherman
Coming up in Mezieres lock
surprised us as he was hidden by the bushes, fishing in a gap just wide enough for him. Out of the lock cut by a big needle weir and a yard full of sand and gravel - but no quay for loading or unloading barges, all must go by road. A British replica DB called Ailsa went downriver as we were passing the moorings at Lumes, where a lone French yacht called Fetiv was moored. A bit further upstream Mike took a photo of a very impressive fishing platform, a veritable living room complete with flowers and a picture of the wall. Another fisherman was fishing from a small boat using a fishfinder. Into Dom-le-Mesnil lock and rose another
An extraordinary fishing platform
1.07m. Children were playing in front of the lock house, we were through the shallow lock in no time and out of the lock cut back on to the river and then it was just a short distance upstream before we zapped Meuse lock at Pont-à-Bar. It was half full, it emptied and we went up. No signs of life at the former checkpoint lock. Only a short distance along the first pound of the canal des Ardennes before we tied up next to the rough steep grassy bank. It was 5pm. The lock gates hadn’t closed behind us so the lock went “en panne” two red lights, heaven knows why. As we were finishing tying up a VNF van went down to the 
lock to reset it and, a little later, the Eau Claire cruiser we’d seen earlier, Cheval Bayard, came past heading uphill on the canal.
Moored at Pont-a-Bar. Canal des Ardennes

Wednesday 17th September 2014 Bogny-sur-Meuse. Day off to get all our communications stuff sorted in Charleville.

The 4 sons of Aymon rocks above Bogny
11.2°C Hot and sunny. After breakfast Mike unloaded the bike and we stowed it back on the roof, just as the cruiser Blue Steel was leaving, going the same way as us but heading ultimately to Paris. The lady in charge of moorings today came to see if we wanted to fill up our water tank, Mike said no thanks, we were OK and we were staying today and would fill up later this evening. We went into Charleville-Mézièrs by car to find the Bouygues phone shop. Parked by the port de plaisance and walked over the footbridge into the city centre. Took our place in queue and eventually spoke to a young
Moored on the pontoon with Bogny on the far bank
lady who went through all the bits and pieces necessary for getting a contract. Disaster! We hadn’t brought our Post Office chequebook with us and they needed a cancelled cheque as well as an RIB (proof of identity slips that are included in each chequebook). We did the shopping at Carrefour, bought a phone SIM for SFR Red for 4,99€ a month for the phone, then went home to unload and get some lunch. Back to Charleville. Another queue. It’s Wednesday and schools are closed in the afternoon so the place was much busier than the morning. Waited a short while in a queue then spoke to a young man who passed us on to his colleague, another young lady, and she did all the paperwork. Another thing we were
Moored at Bogny, looking upriver
short of was a justicatif, in other words proof of living in Condé (usually a utility bill, but we’d explained that we don’t have them as we live on a boat). Promised to e-mail our certificate when we got home. Paid 1€ for a little mobile 4G router as we’d taken out a one year contract for 16 gigabytes per month for 24,90€. It says you can connect up to ten items at a time, such as laptops, PCs, smart phones and tablets. That means we can both use the Internet at the same time. Whoopee. All we need now is a good signal and that might be difficult in the lovely Meuse valley. We’ll see later. The lady in charge of moorings was late - it was after seven – and it was a third lady (not had the same one twice) who attached the adaptor on the water tap so Mike could refill the tank while she did the paperwork and charged us another 5,90€. He told her we’d be leaving in the morning. After dinner we set to work getting all the new French systems up and running. The router worked well. I replied to e-mails, sent the justificatif to Bouygues, and then registered the new SFR SIM online. 4,99€ a month for a minimal amount of talk time in France (two hours a month) plus unlimited texts, etc. They’ll send a number for the phone and activate it within 48 hours (couldn’t you just guess that SFR is the nationalised phone company of France?) Mike went online to do banking, etc, (Bouygues is a private enterprise, their stuff works straight away). Nice to be reconnected!

Tuesday 16th September 2014 abv Vanne-Alcorps lock to Bogny. 35.8kms 7 locks

Fumay in the mist
10.7°C Grey, misty start but the sun burned through and it was hot. Set off at nine, reversing out of the short lock cut, through the old flood gates and on to the river to wind and head upstream through the low-hanging river mist with our headlight on (that’s a first!!). 4.75kms to the first lock. There were two Locaboats on the mooring at Fumay plus the cruiser which had passed us the previous evening, a British-flagged cruiser called Blue Steel. The latter was untying as we passed and soon overtook us with navi-lights on. The mist was pretty thick all the way around the almost complete circle that the river does around
Coming up in L'Uf lock
Fumay to L’Uf, we zapped and the lock emptied. Up 2.25m and Mike switched our headlight off as the mist was thinning out rapidly. The Cablerie Nexans just above the lock had had a new extension so the electric cable industry must be doing well at Fumay. A short reach, 2.75kms. Around the bend there were allotments along the river on the town side and a man was chatting with a very elderly couple who were tending their plot. As we went up St Joseph lock (2.62m rise) a train went over the bridge
Old quarries above St Joseph lock
over the lock deafening us for a few seconds as it passed directlyoverhead. Big sweeping bends with forested hills on the right and left. The remains of an old quarry on the right were covered with purple heather. The first downhill boat was a Belgian-flagged DB called Gliske. I baked a quiche and cooked Mike some fish for his lunch on the 6.1kms reach up to Revin. Zapped and the deep lock (4.6m) emptied. We went up ropeless as usual, although we’d marked our chart to remind us to use fore and aft ropes if a roving keeper happened to be in attendance. It was just midday as we left the lock. A British couple on
Railway track over the lock at St Joseph. NOISY!
bikes had stopped to say hello by the lock. A sharp left turn into the tunnel, with a fisherman on the apex of the bend! We’ve always wondered why the canal builders dug through the hill here and didn’t at Fumay, maybe it’s a question of the type of rock. Just a short reach of 1.6kms to the lock at Orzy. Up another 1.68m and on to a longer reach, 4.73kms, so we ate lunch with a backdrop of dramatic scenery as the hills became steeper and higher. Up Dames de Meuse lock (3.08m) which has a permanently open
Train on the bridge at Laifour
liftbridge at the top end. A long lock cut avoids the shallows at the foot of the hills on the right called the Rochers des Dames de Meuse. 4.59kms to the next lock. The first roller-blader went past on the towpath – there had been many cyclists - a young lady keeping up with a fast trotting young chocolate Labrador. In the lock cut we dodged several large semi-submerged large tree branches. Back on the river and round the long bend at Laifour, under the road and railway bridges. A group of disabled people in nine or ten wheelchairs, and their carers, were taking a gentle promenade along the towpath. A diesel passenger train
Dames de Meuse lock
went very slowly across the bridge into the railway tunnel, giving Mike plenty of time to take photos of it. The cruiser Blue Steel was moored on the quay at Laifour. Up La Commune lock (2.07m) and we were surprised to see Blue Steel arrive below the lock as we went round the first bend, we thought they’d stopped. It was only 4.24kms to our last lock at Monthermé and as they would probably be travelling at twice our speed of 6 kph, if not more, we reckoned that they would catch us up before we arrived at the next lock, which they did. Mike zapped and the lock emptied, then he called them past to
Montherme and the viewing platform above it
go in the lock first. One of their crew went up the ladder to take their ropes and asked for ours. We’re OK, we’ll just sit here quietly at the back. We rose 3.30m with no problems. The cruiser’s crew went to the lockside café for ice creams while the lock filled. I noted that the lock gate access was blocked with an old white plastic chair and a block of wood at the bottom end and at the top end with a big mowing machine – VNF keeping the roaming public away from their walnut trees? There was a very nice VNF house by the lock, the last two locks no longer had houses, not even a sign of where they were now. Another long
In Montherme lock with cruiser in front
lock cut following the S-shaped bends of the river. A new automatic weir had replaced the needle weir here quite some time ago. A large cruiser was moored on the right, about half a metre from the bank, before the road bridge in Monthermé. Upstream of the bridge there was a new concrete quay with all mod cons, a couple of electric day hire boats and a tripper called Le Roc, the rest of the quay was empty. A cruiser by some houses further on looked like it was permanently moored there. Six swans and four Canada geese were paddling around in the town, there used to be hundreds
Automatic weir at Montherme
of swans here. At the junction with the river Semois, a beautiful small tributary of the river that is only navigable by canoes and kayaks, there was a big campsite full of tents and caravans and a couple of campervans. A little further on two donkeys were having a great time rolling in the dust, taking a dust bath just like birds do. Another half a dozen swans were chasing people on the bank who were carrying bags (they were picking blackberries) by the next railway bridge. Round a couple more bends and we were at Château Regnault on the right with its statue of the Quattre Fils d’Aymon on the legendary
The four sons of Aymon and the legendary steed Bayard
CLICK HERE for more about the legend of Bayard
horse Bayard, up high on the hill. Bogny-sur-Meuse is on the left but the pontoon mooring on the right belongs to Bogny. Two electric day hire boats were moored at the end and Blue Steel and another cruiser called Liberté were moored there too. Just enough room for us between Blue Steel and the hireboats. We set the TV up and got the bike off. Mike went to get the car from Givet. A lady came for mooring fees at 6.20 pm. 5,90€ without electric. I asked about the water taps and she said that she has the adaptor for the water, we didn’t need any today, and she said her colleague would be there at ten in the morning. Mike returned before I finished the photos. He said as it was late we’d leave the bike in the car and unload it in the morning. We decided to stay the next day and get the phone and Internet sorted as well as getting groceries.