Sunday, 12 October 2014

Saturday 11th October 2014 Wez to Condé. 17.9kms 8 locks

Northern end of Mont de Billy tunnel
10.8°C Foggy first thing so we waited until we could see the lock then set off at 9.30 am, just as Advenir (an empty péniche that we last saw at Berry) was coming up in Wez. Cindy was under the loading chute at the first silo quay waiting for loading on Monday morning no doubt. There were fishermen on the corners of both ends of the silo layby. Three men with guns over their shoulders were walking the field towards the silo and their dogs were searching the standing corn to flush out any rabbits. Advenir was catching up, he didn’t stop at the first silo. The sun
Kingfisher at Vaudemanges
started breaking through briefly around 10am. We went into the next silo layby so Advenir could pass us more easily. As they were passing Madame was washing the gunwales down and chatting with Mike who asked where they were loading, when suddenly they went into hard reverse – hotel boat Adrianne came through the next bridge and went past heading towards Reims. Waved hello to the crew on the hotel barge and followed Advenir on towards the tunnel. Noted that, as the summit level was full and overflowing well, the bridge clearance was reduced a bit on the next two bridges which are normally low ones both marked at 3.6m – Advenir did what we hadn’t seen an empty working boat do in a long time, as the wheelhouse was about level with the bridge the skipper applied the throttle hard to
Vaudemanges lock, first of a flight of eight locks
dig the stern end down into the water and pull the back end of the boat down to clear the bridge as they went under it. A neat, if risky, solution. Our top light on our mast cleared the bridges with just a few centimetres to spare.  Into the cutting. VNF had done a lot of bank clearing along the right bank where the towpath should be (but hasn’t for years), there is a footpath beyond the trees. A man with a van was fishing in the feeder channel for the
Lock cabin at Conde bottom lock of the flight.
canal from the little river Vesle. The empty peniche had a green light for the Mont de Billy tunnel and had just entered as we turned the bend. The light changed back to red so Mike called the lady tunnel keeper on VHF radio. Madame answered him and said that as there was an empty in front of us we would have to wait fifteen minutes. OK, we stooged about until the light changed to green. I cooked a quiche while we went
Jammed lock gate covered with boat graffiti
through the 2.4kms long tunnel, which is lit by fluorescent lights all the way through. It took a mere 25 minutes. There seemed to be more vacant space in the layby at Vaudemanges, just two DBs and a cruiser. I turned the pole to start the flight of eight chained automatic locks down to Condé. I made some lunch as we went down the flight, slowly, delaying lifting the bar each time as Advenir was not far in front.
17 Vaudemange, 18 Champ Bon Garçon, 19 Longues Raies, 20 St Martin, 21 Foss Rodé, 22 Isse, 23 Coupé, 24
On the pontoon at Conde ready for winter
Half the lock houses had completely gone, one of the remaining four was derelict and the roof was leaking (Coupé) one had been refurbished, but looked empty, (Foss Rodé) while only the other two, Isse and Condé, were lived in. The last lock (Condé) failed as we were leaving – we’d had no other problems – the bottom end gates didn’t fully open and the twin red lights were on as we left the chamber indicating that it was “en panne” (out of order) someone came to fix it before we’d tied up. We winded and tied up on the last vacant space on the second pontoon at 2.35pm. We went in the car to get some coal from the Bricomarché at Mont Héry in Chalons.

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