Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tuesday 7th October 2014 Berry-au-Bac to Courcy. 12.3kms 9 locks

Alongside Berry lock, former boatmen's cafe and chandlery
11.6°C Windy, chilly and sunny first thing, but grey clouds rolled in before we set off and rain showers arrived lunchtime and continued all afternoon. Mike went into Berry on foot to get some bread, but he returned empty handed as the bakery was closed, on holiday. Mike called at the lock cabin (there were seven or eight VNF staff in there, must have be on a coffee break) and told the keeper we were setting off up Berry Marne, uphill on the Aisne à la Marne. He left it set for us as a loaded boat had just come down, two in fact, Jomel
Old lock house opposite the old cafe by Berry lock
followed by La Paix. Fetched all the mooring pins out and set off up the lock, No 1 Berry, at 10.25am. Rose 2.85m, ropeless as usual, but with an audience - a guy in a car stopped on the bridge and a man on a bike. The old lock house was still standing, but gradually decaying. 1.15kms past the silos (with the loud drying fans running) to lock 2 Moulin de Sapigneul. Turned the pole to activate the lock, which is chained to the one after it. (Looking at our old Navicarte of 1990, the first five locks used to be chained (linked) together
Loaded boat Dahna waiting abv lk 3 Sapigneul
and called the Berry flight, activated by the keeper to go uphill and automatically activated by boats breaking the radar beams at the top to come downhill) A boat was going up the locks in front of us, so no use doing more than 5kph or we’d soon be catching it up. One was coming down in lock 2. Loaded boat Guitti from Chauny cleared the lock and we went up. The activating rods in these first few locks are almost by the top end gates, so we motor into the chamber right up to the front, I lift the rod from the bows, the bells start ringing to say that the lock is about to start working and then
Boat we were following moored below lock 6 Loivre - until we turned
the pole and the lock gates opened!
Mike backs off until the stern is about a metre from the bottom end gates, which will have closed by the time we get there, then the lock fills. Up 2,67m. Another sad, empty lockhouse. Another short pound 1.1kms and we had to wait a short while as the lock, no 3 Sapigneul, emptied. Up another 2.67m with yet another forlorn, empty lock house. Another loaded boat, Dahna from Vitry, was waiting to come down, bows to the right bank in the wind. A longish pound of 2.35kms, past the factory of
Old lock house at 7 Fontaines
Caprimeb at Neuville, where they make prefabricated concrete tunnel linings and on to lock 4 Alger. The lock was full, so the boat we were following must have passed the downhill boat on this pound. It emptied and we went up another 2.67m. Glad to see that the lock house was still lived in and it had had new windows and doors. Two black Labrador dogs came out to woof at us after we’d left! There were three cars and a VNF van parked on the towpath side of the lock. 1.2kms to Gaudart lock 5, chained to lock 4, so it was empty when we got there. Up another 2.58m. The lock chamber had new concrete walls and new gates, but they’d put the rods less than a metre from the top end gates, Mike almost had
By contrast with the house also alongside lock 7
this one is lived in and well kept
to put the bows on the cill for me to reach the rod. Another refurbished lock house. Smoke curled from a chimney pot to be blown horizontally by the wind. Dark black rain clouds were coming in our direction so I closed the doors and lifted the mats off the front deck so they wouldn’t get wet. Waterproofs on. 3.5kms to the next lock. We passed two downhill boats, loaded Coxswain from Douai just after we left the lock, then an empty called Amigo about 1km further on, just before the A26 autoroute bridge. The first rain was just a light shower, but the wind coming from our right across open fields of sugar beet was whipping it into the horizontal. Glad when there were
Moored by the old factory at Courcy
more trees on the right bank to shelter us as the canal was on a slight embankment before Loivre. Below lock 6 Loivre there were three moored boats, a houseboat called Louna (a DB) and a retired péniche with no name, plus the empty boat we’d been following. The lock light was red, we thought the péniche had stopped for lunch/shopping/the night/whatever, and so we turned the pole, the lock gates opened – then the boat untied and blasted off into the chamber! Mike had to reverse 50m back to the pole and turn it again. It started to rain, heavier this time. A VNF van went past us and on up to the lock. We came to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, the péniche skipper had missed the turn pole and had called the VNF out. Waited below while the lock turned round and we went up lock 6, rising 2.62m; this lock was chained with the next three over the next 2.67kms. The boat in front had just left lock 7 Fontaines when we arrived, we hung about below while it emptied, then went up another 2.81m. In the distance we could see at lock 8 Noue Gouzaine there were two VNF vans and workmen by the top end gates. A man on a bike was collecting fallen walnuts by the lock. The péniche in front cleared and the lock emptied for us. The itinerant keeper lifted the bar for me and we rose ropeless as usual another 2,51m. This chamber had also been recently refurbished with new concrete walls and new gates. The guy working on the top end gate was a maintenance electrician replacing some wiring. The keeper opened the top gates from the lock cabin and left them open after we’d gone, turning all the electrics off so all the lights went out. On the railway track to our left we spied a large digger going past, the type that has two sets of wheels, one set for rails and one set for the road, no time to take a photo of it. The péniche was still in lock 9 Courcy, so we had another short wait while he cleared then we went up our last lock of the day. Rose another 2.63m on to the long pound (12.45kms) into Reims. A VNF lady in a big van went past and stopped on the towpath just beyond the lock to do her paperwork. We moored next to the old glass works on the left before the road bridge. New bollards had been added, which we found very useful. It was 2.40pm. Mike trimmed the herbage to keep the spiders and insects off the boat and I made us a late lunch. A large, Dutch-flagged DB called Mastodont went past heading downhill at 3.10pm. Amazed that we had our first ever 4G signal! Wow, Reims must have been upgraded since we were here last.

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