2009 Dispatches
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The Full Story - with pictures...

French Canals Adventure PDF

Gosport - Hornet Sailing Club, Home Port

Wednesday 0845, 4th November 2009. We have been home for just seven days now. It has rained more in those days than it did the whole of our adventure! Unloading the boat was relatively easy, it is reading all the mail, catching up with administrative jobs and getting back into the daily routines that go with being home that seem like a mountainous task. Christine has started to sort out all the pictures that we took whilst we were away and I can then use them in any album or presenter we choose to create.

Saturday night was our sailing club Halloween Night which we were lucky enough to attend. A little wine flowed and we sat with friends who a couple of years earlier had 'done' the Med via the French canals - A good time was had by all. We have also spent the last week catching up with friends, which has been great and  I endeavoured not to spoil any stories about our trip for the sake of the truth! I guess it will take some time to settle down to 'normal' life but I am looking forward to the space of life on land.

Wednesday 1550, 28th October 2009. Well, job done, adventure finished, for the time being! We left Honfleur at the crack of dawn through the lock and into the Seine at 0630 on Tuesday to make the journey of 95 miles or so to Gosport. Well it went very well and although the sea state was, a mere, moderate with the wind from behind it was a reasonably pleasant, although tiring, trip and we arrived in our Gosport mooring at 2230. After a good nights sleep we were up at 0800 and reconnecting car batteries, as one does, ready to fire up the very much missed vehicles. Would you believe it, they both started first time and because we had not applied the hand break, they were driveable immediately! The rest of the day has been a great day for communicating with all our friends who have been around or have come to see us specially - lovely. Ben is back from his new found friends and is currently sleeping with a slightly miffed look on his wonderful face! Christine is out and about being the good granny, visiting family. Here I am on board, alone with Ben, doing this internet thing. Hope our readers and supporters everywhere enjoyed the briefs and will do the same when they venture into their unknown at some time in the future.    

Honfleur

Monday 0845, 26th October 2009. The bridge is not working and there is a chance we may have to wait two days before we can get out of here. Looking on the bright side though, we could be in worse places other than Honfleur! Time and weather is our only other potential problem 'cos I have an appointment in the UK on Friday - Oops! Watch this space...

Sunday 1600, 25th October 2009. We've just had a visit from a Club Nautique official to tell us that the lifting bridge is not working, which means we have to stay in the Vieux Bassin until it is fixed! Hopefully, the bridge will be sorted out tomorrow morning so we will be delayed leaving here, no one knows for sure how long it will take.

Sunday 1020, 25th October 2009. We are still here in Honfleur because the weather is not ideal for our crossing, hopefully tomorrow will be OK to set off. We had a very nice evening out last night aboard a Rustler 44 called 'Little Dove' - great hospitality! This morning the sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky. The restaurants and cafes are very busy with patrons sat out on the quayside eating their croissants and drinking coffee. We are intending to have a quiet restful day in readiness to sail back to England early tomorrow. We will soon be back in the UK time zone too with UK weather to look forward to. 

Friday 1320, 23rd October 2009. Well, Christine reports by text being aboard the ferry at Portsmouth, ready to make passage to Le Havre, arriving at 1830. I've been busy sprucing up the deck and inside the boat in readiness for Christine's return at about 2030. Just had a light lunch of Croque Monsieur at L'Albatros cafe - Delicious. The passage plan for leaving France on Sunday is on paper with a few alternatives, but it looks like an 0800, or just before, start through the Honfleur lock. The boat is now fuelled up ready for the crossing; not easy when one has to transport 10 litre cans just over a kilometre and back three times!

Tuesday 1300, 20th October 2009. So far today we have been busy taking Ben to the vet for his pre cross channel ferry check-up and medication. The vet service here in Honfleur at 'Cabinet Veterinaire De L'Estuaire', 10 Rue des Vases (Opposite the gare routiaire (bus station)) Tel: +33 (0)2.31.98.82.46 email: dr.letisse@wanadoo.fr, was excellent and only cost  £48.00.

Monday 1815, 19th October 2009. Yesterday evening we had dinner with our friends and Wow! It was a gastronomic delight, a really nice way to finish off our adventure. This morning we went through the three bridges to have our mast stepped in the inner basin. By midday it was up and we then spent the afternoon tweeking the rig ready for the sails to be put on tomorrow. The cost of stepping and storing the mast was a bit steep we felt at  £280.00 - Ouch! This afternoon at 1730 we came back into the Vieux Bassin in the centre of Honfleur to relax and make preparations for Christine to return to the UK by ferry from Le Havre. Christine also has to arrange to see a vet before Ben will be allowed to enter the UK. The ferry is now booked for 1700 on Wednesday, returning 1200 Friday with Ben making the one way trip to the UK, and all for  £50.00. The bus service from Honfleur to Le Havre is good with a one hour journey and only  £5.00, we just have to check times.

Sunday 1100, 18th October 2009. Roger, Christine's brother joined us in Rouen for the trip to Honfleur. Francis, the capitaine, had kindly allowed roger to park his car in the compound out of everyones way and he came along at 0745 to cast us off. We left in good spirits at 0750 and with a little tide with us we made good time down river with the engine revs at 2200 (That gives us a boat speed of just over 6 knots). At one time in the first part of the journey the boat was doing 16kph over the ground until the tide turned and we slowed to about 5.8 kph for about four hours. Once the tide again turned we increased our speed without changing the engine revs to 21.7 kph, with the countryside whizzing passed. When we got within 20km of Honfleur a quick calculation indicated that we could lock in with the 1700 opening as long as we kept up the speed. Excitingly touch and go we headed ever onward and with 15 minutes to go we called the eclusiere (lock keeper) to let him know we were almost there. He was very accommodating and we motored straight into the open lock at 1709. At 1730 we moored against the outer harbour wall. To celebrate we managed to find a great restaurant that wasn't full and had a gourmet 'knosh' - delicious! This morning has been busy; I was asked to move the boat to let a large barge have a turning circle and shortly after they opened the bridge to allow me in to the town basin. Later we prepare the rigging and await friends who are in Honfleur for the weekend, then later we move into the basin where our mast will be stepped. 

La Seine - Rouen

Friday 1045, 16th October 2009. The boat is now ready for the last leg to Honfleur with all unnecessary 'stuff' such as large fenders deflated and hull protection mats stowed. Frederik (Tec-Ocean. Mob:06.85.10.85.00) the man who will step the mast is also ready and expects us to be in position under the crane at the start of business on Monday. I have also contacted the Capitainerie to make sure we can get through the lifting bridge into the inner basin in the centre of town on Sunday. Today is a last minute shopping and tourist day with lunch out if we find somewhere that takes our fancy. all that then remains is to pay Francis the marina capitaine for our stay ( £11.90 per night with electric and shower), return the gate key and tuck ourselves up for the night ready for the early start at 0800 (0700 UK time).

Wednesday 1330, 14th October 2009. We have arrived at our penultimate, planned, stop in France with only Honfleur to visit to have our mast stepped. Departure from Rouen will be at 0800 Saturday when the tide times are suitable to make the journey to Honfleur in daylight hours. We should arrive at the lock at about 1800 if we can maintain a speed of six knots, irrespective of tide/current flow. The fenders we have used for the canals will now be deflated, the boards and the hull protection mats stowed. We also need to prepare the boat to step the mast which means sorting the rigging, rigging screws, pins, aerials and lights. Hopefully, our mast is safely waiting for us in Honfleur!

La Seine - Oissel

Tuesday 2130, 13th October 2009. Well, the mist did clear at 1230 so we moved on toward our last lock, Amfreville, some 28 km downstream. When we arrived at the lock, behind a huge tanker barge and another carrying sand, we had to wait 3/4 of an hour before being given permission to enter with the sand barge. After leaving the lock we were at last in tidal waters and no more locks on the river, bar one into Honfleur. At 1830 we came across this pontoon, a new one, and decided to moor here for the night. It's quite a pleasant stop except for the occasional bumpy ride when a fast moving barge goes past - they can travel over the full 24 hour period whilst we can only travel in daylight hours.

La Seine - Les Anderly

Tuesday 0815, 13th October 2009. We arrived here in good time to have a reasonable scout around the town and to do some shopping at the Carrefour market. The day was really sunny and we had an enjoyable sail here, passing a number of barges and being passed by three. We descended two locks without problem and ventured down a couple of backwaters in an effort to find a mooring for the night without passing barges, but no luck, nothing suitable. This morning has started with thick mist shrouding the river and visibility is no more than 25 metres. From 0600 convoys of barges have been passing by in both directions. Some of them we only hear as they pass by, others we see their head lights followed by sidelights and eventually the stern light - very eerie! Ben is obviously aware as he is still curled up asleep, not even woke up for his morning biscuit. Hopefully, we can get underway when the mist clears, which we hope will be sooner rather than later.

La Seine - Port de L'llon

Sunday 1550, 11th October 2009. Andresy was definitely a centre for barges, there were hundreds of them of all shapes and sizes. We moored up at the towns nautical halte which was situated up a disused part of the river - very quiet with no other river traffic. this morning at 0730 we stirred out of bed and after a hot bowl of porridge we set off through the first of two locks we needed to pass today. Although the day was a bit chilly it didn't rain and our journey was nice and easy. Being Sunday we did not see much commercial traffic and the locks were negotiated effortlessly. We have fuelled up ready for the onward journey tomorrow and found out that the electric supply will not allow a kettle to be boiled, it's limited to 5 amps!

La Seine - Andresy

Saturday 2000, 10th October 2009. Having enjoyed our few days break in Paris we said our goodbyes to our new friends, paid the bill, got the bread and locked out into the river Seine. We then waited ages for a green light to pass the bridges to get down stream. After that we really got a move on and had a clear run through the two locks in company with large barges before getting here late this afternoon. We are now getting back into green, autumnal, countryside and enjoying the scenery. Tomorrow we hope to be on our way soon after it gets light or just after eight.

La Seine - Paris Arsenal Marina

Wednesday 2030, 7th October 2009. Had a lie in today 'til 0830 (0730 in UK)! After a restful start and light breakfast listening to Terry Wogan on satellite radio I got on the bike to visit a big store in the centre of the city called BHV. It must be the biggest 'ironmongers' I have seen and sells just about everything from plumbing bits to every type of light bulb that there ever was. Having spent an hour mooching about I cycled down to the rivers edge to meet up with Christine for lunch. The lunch was great and I took the risk and had black pudding which turned out to be a real tasty delight - yummy! Tonight we are in the middle of an electrical storm and very heavy rain. It is so nice to be tucked up with the sound of rain beating on the outside of the boat and the rumble of thunder all round us. Ben sleeps on through all the noise, as usual!

Wednesday 1000, 7th October 2009. I was wrong about the barges working on into the night! At about 2030, on Monday, seven very large barges came along to find the lock closed and so moored just in front of us. The first was a triple barge about 150 metres in length, closely followed by four others of about 50 metres each. They all manoeuvred with great skill and without a lot of wash; it was a sight not to miss. At 0700, on the dot, all the barges positioned themselves to move into the open lock and with no fuss the ALL entered. It was an amazing sight to witness, a real memory to take away. We eventually got through the first of four locks of the day and chugged our way toward Paris Arsenal Marina. As we closed our destination it certainly got a lot busier with both commercial barges, water buses and tourist boats and we were pleased to come through the small lock and into the marina. It is nice and peaceful here and we are right in the centre of Paris - costs  £19 a night! 

La Seine - Evry Petit Bourg

Monday 1930, 5th October 2009. We left our last stop at 0900 in the rain, yes, it rained today. Our plan was to have an easy day and to stop at a suitable place about lunchtime. This was not to be as there is nowhere suitable and the river banks tended to be beautiful bottoms of private gardens. The river traffic was something we hadn't experienced before with many commercial barges hurtling passed us in all directions. The locks too are ginormous and we shared with five barges in one of the locks - quite scary! Tonight we are moored just outside a lock, as the only suitable place we have found, unfortunately the barges work into the night and we are vulnerable to being rocked and rolled by those passing. We could very well be in Paris tomorrow!

La Seine - Moret-sur-Loing/Saint Mammes

Sunday 1100, 4th October 2009. We are still here because Moret-sur-Loing is a nice 'walled' 12th century town with lots of interesting places to see. Our neighbours whose boat we moved turned out to be a really nice couple from the UK. We had supper at a local creperie on Friday evening and aperitifs at 1800, on their boat, last night - very nice. This morning they have moved on in the opposite direction to the one we are taking up the Seine. The free wifi is just what we need at this time and we can do our bank 'stuff' and Skyping today with no problems.

Friday 1700, 2nd October 2009. That's that then, canals finished! After a slow day behind a large barge we have made it to the River Seine just about 80 Km from Paris. Christine just got back from walking Ben round bits of the town and said it looks lovely and worth spending a day here tomorrow. We are moored behind a British power boat which was taking up two mooring spaces. A dutchman called Ap helped move the boat so that we could moor up; hopefully the owners will return and accept the move without fuss!

Canal du Loing - Nemours

Thursday 2115, 1st October 2009. We are out of the Canal de Briare and into the Canal du Loing after a trip through 14 locks. Our short stay in Montargis was uneventful and we didn't manage to do any, in depth, sightseeing. Nice place though. Today we scurried through the canals in the cool autumnal sunshine and beautifully coloured trees readying themselves to shed the reddish brown leaves of autumn. At Nemours we found the fairly barren moorings and had an exciting two hours getting electric. No satellite TV though so we watched 'Benjamin Button'. The nights are drawing in so we decided on an early night. Nemours is quite a large rural town with a good shopping centre and lots of traffic, which we are not used to. Tomorrow we hope to press on for Saint Mammes through, just, seven locks - then the River Seine. 

Canal de Briare - Montargis

Wednesday 1650, 30th September 2009. We are almost at the end of the Canal de Briare and only have four kilometres and two locks before we get to the Canal du Long. After that we have 19 locks and 49 kilometres to get into the River La Seine. Coming through the town is really good with ancient buildings coming right to the waters edge. There also appeared to be lots of floodlights so tonight it could be a sightseeing trip along the walkways. And finally - There is a bricolage about 200 metres away and a chandlers somewhere nearby according to the chart.

Canal de Briare - Chatillon-Coligny

Tuesday 1830, 29th September 2009. We passed through Rogny because the marina wasn't deep enough and the only other place suitable for us was on the other side of the lock we had just come through! Undeterred, we travelled on to this place and have found a nice spot with electric, water, shower and a potential washeteria just up the road. We've been told there is a reasonable restaurant in the village so we are off to sample the local culinary delights tonight. The lock keeper is expecting us at 1000 in the morning but we might just cancel and stay here a little longer.

Canal de Briare - Ouzouer-sur-Trezee

Monday 1130, 28th September 2009. Sadly we found the body of a man this morning at 1020. He was floating face down in the river at a place called Beaulieu. We had to wait 4 hours for our statement to be taken and for the body to be removed - all rather harrowing! We have moved on to enter the Canal de Briare and have ascended two locks to our current mooring. Our day of rest at Belleville yesterday was very good and we enjoyed the stop and the rest. Tomorrow we ascend a further six locks before again descending toward Rogny, our next planned stop.

Canal Lateral a la Loire - Belleville

Saturday 1845, 26th September 2009. This is a very well looked after village with beautiful flowers everywhere. In the shadow of one of Frances nuclear power stations, similar to Cruas, we get the impression that the village is supported by the power station. Adapters for electricity and water are available from the nearby information office, who were also very helpful. Mooring, electricity and water are free and the jetty, although quite shallow (1.7 metres) is perfectly lawned. The small but well stocked supermarche is just 150 metres away. We both liked this place very much. 

Canal Lateral a la Loire - Menetreol ( Nr. Sancerre)

Friday 1710, 25th September 2009. We've had a nice day poodling down the canal with two other boats and enjoying the ever changing scenery. Initially we were heading for a small marina at St. Thibault but found the canal leading to it too shallow at 1.5 metres so we turned back and moored here. We hoped to get fuel at the marina but as that is not possible we have been lucky and have found a Carrefour with gasoil pumps about fifty metres from the canal. When we do leave we will tie up on the bank adjacent to the fuel station and transport gasoil by can (plastic) to ensure we don't run out. It will take about four or five trips I reckon. The little village is quaint and to get electricity you have to visit the local restaurant / tabac for the key to an electric cupboard on the quay. Sancerre is about 1 km away on the top of a hill so we might just pay a visit tomorrow before moving on for diesel.

Canal Lateral a la Loire - Cours les Barres

Friday 0900, 25th September 2009. The meal last night was very nice and we got back to the boat, watched "I, Robot" on satellite TV, and had a relatively early night. This morning we are off on our journey downstream and looking for replenishing our diesel fuel as soon as we can - not that easy and it could be a trip across fields with our gerry cans, if we aren't lucky.

Thursday 1800, 24th September 2009. We have stopped at this little Nautical Halte with water, showers, toilets and electricity - all free! the village is lovely and has a small restaurant which we intend to visit at 1900 for supper. The mooring is picturesque with a lovely garden with winding pathways and well kept flower beds. The fairly steep sloped garden has a water feature trickling over small waterfalls - all very idyllic. We could fall for this place. More to report later...

Canal Lateral a la Loire - Nevers

Wednesday 0900, 23rd September 2009. After an excellent lunch with family we waved them off, for their trip back to Annecy, and then paid a visit to the all important supermarche for victuals. We also managed to get round the town which is quite hilly but it does have numerous places of interest. Looking at the river Loire which runs parallel to the canal it is hard to believe that it was once navigable, with sandbanks and natural weirs guiding and aerating the waters respectively. This morning is definitely autumnal with 'steam' rising off the canal in the bright sunshine and the decks are wet with the morning dew - lovely.

Monday 2100, 21st September 2009. Our quiet night in the country turned out to be rather nice and we met a couple from the UK and had a couple of drinks together - nice. This morning we again met up for morning coffee and left for Nevers at about 1300. This town seems to be a religious tourist attraction and tomorrow we hope to have a mooch round the place. We also have Christine's mum paying us a visit from Annecy so that will be a treat for us all.

Canal Lateral a la Loire - Fleury-sur-Loire

Sunday 2100, 20th September 2009. We decided to have a short day because it is dull and rain showers prevail. We have stopped at a nautical halte at a small village with no pub but the village hall was buzzing with a wedding party. We couldn't get within 3 metres of the wall so took up the offer from an English couple to moor alongside their barge. As the sun set over the 'yard arm' we all forced down a couple G&T's before dinner. The weather is not ideal for once so we have resigned ourselves to a night in, watching UK TV; hopefully Film 4 will have a good movie showing.

Canal Lateral a la Loire - Gannay-sur-Loire

Sunday 0830, 20th September 2009. After another day of good progress we have stopped at a popular Nautical Halte amongst about 20 other boats, mostly pleasure barges. The small bar / cafe was very welcoming and the other visitors are very friendly. We had planned to meet the eclusier (lock keeper) at 1000 this morning to go on but we are considering staying here another day, it's so nice. There is an almost party atmosphere and everyone is in chatter mode - great feeling! Ben thinks he is in doggy heaven with all the fuss that is made of him and he's currently doing his morning walk with Christine.

Canal Lateral a la Loire - Digoin

Friday 1815, 18th September 2009. It was another short day today and we moored in the small marina very close to the town centre. After a trip to the nearby lavarie (washeteria) we had a beer and then had a walk through the centre - very pleasant. This evening we managed a shower, courtesy of the lady capitainerie and Christine has pooped off to do a little shopping before we go out to dinner at a recommended restaurant. The Intermarche / Bricomarche is about 300 metres from the mooring. Here is where we change rivers!

Canal-du-Centre - Paray-Le-Monial

Friday 0840, 18th September 2009. We arrived at about 1330 yesterday for a short days break from sailing. The town is very clean and obviously a tourist attraction to its Basilica and churches. It is picturesque with modern cobbled, narrow, streets and a well kept river walk. The canal stop has water and electric and is very close to the town centre. The nearest supermarche and bricomarche is about 800 metres from the nautical halte on the opposite side of the canal. Today we are having another short day, we hope, moving on to Digoin, which hopefully has a marina with all the facilities we need.

Canal-du-Centre - Geneland

Wednesday 2130, 16th September 2009. After a damp morning, topped with a superb 5 course,  £10.80 lunch at the 'La Cigale' restaurant in Blanzy we pressed on through another six ecluses to Geneland for a well earned rest stop. It has been another day of being escorted through the locks which has made our progress much quicker. Although the lock descents are mostly less than three metres, there are quite a few to descend and the water almost laps over the top, making it necessary to use our 'matts' to prevent damage to the hull when the fenders inevitably pop out. Tonight we are having a night in watching Batman on Film 4, now that's entertainment! We haven't yet decided whether to take a day off movement downstream tomorrow; if it's a nice day we could move happily.

Canal-du-Centre - Montchanin

Tuesday 2200, 15th September 2009. What luck we had today! the single hander we ran with yesterday met up with us again today and turned out to be a local lock keeper returning from the Med with his boat. Why lucky; well we enjoyed VIP treatment through the 24 locks and managed to do all the uphill locks in a single day. When locks failed to work properly the VNF engineers were there within minutes and for most of the locks we had our own lock keeper. From here on in it's downhill all the way to Honfleur. The day started rather cold then warm sunshine and then this afternoon rain and it is still raining! This evening I flashed up the boat heater for the first time in a couple of years. The marina we were heading for was roped off when we arrived so we are moored about 2 metres from the bank with our gangplank in use. The resident lock keeper has got us in gear to start tomorrow at 1000 to start at Ocean1 lock the first of many downhill locks toward home. 

Canal-du-Centre - Santenay

Monday 1820, 14th September 2009. We are on our way again, toward home, but via a different route this time, the Canal du Centre, Canal Lateral a la Loire and the Canal du Loing to Paris. On the first couple of days we are hoping to ascend the 44 ecluses before going downhill! It's been an exciting first day, in company with a single handed French yacht, we have 'done' 11 locks, some automatic with floating bollards some where you tie up and pull a lever and a couple with a lock keeper, all very exciting - and stressfull! It's an early night tonight in preparation for tomorrow. Quite an exciting incident occurred in one of the locks when it started to fill from sluices below the boat a great spurt of water shot up and landed square in the cockpit. Ben was not amused and quickly slipped below. Santenay is very quiet and with no electricity it looks like a well deserved early night, ready for the trip tomorrow.

Chalon-sur-Saone

Thursday 1430, 10th September 2009. Ben and I have had a very restful and quiet week so far. I removed the log impeller without too much water coming into the boat and gave it a good clean off of the numerous barnacles and other sea creatures that were lurking, even fresh water shrimps had made the spinner cavity their home. We've been around the town and while Ben left his mark on most things I enjoyed a very nice pizza for lunch in the centre of town. Today I gave Ben a hosing down and shampoo and whilst he wasn't too enthusiastic about the hose he just loved the drying bit with the towel. He is now sunning himself on deck, just watching the world go by. 

Sunday 2030, 6th September 2009. Another beautiful day and not too hot that I can't do any jobs! Engine oil and filter changed, stern gland greased and bilges cleaned out. The marina is lovely with both local and lots of visiting holiday panache's and foreign boats from all over the globe. Everyone is very friendly and it is quite hard to get on with jobs outside for the many bon jour, hi there, and G'day, not to mention the Swiss, German and other northern European people who pass by with greetings. Ben took me for a walk earlier and has now gone to bed whilst I do this and then watch a bit of UK TV and do a bit of reading canal books before going to bed myself.

Saturday 1100, 5th September 2009. This could be our last stop on the river Saone before turning off onto the Canal du Centre, unless we change our plans of course! Christine has gone off to Annecy to see her mum and Ben and I are on board for the next seven days doing a few boat jobs. I'm within a couple of hundred metres from the supermarches, bricolages, pizza house and McDonalds, so I don't think Ben & I will starve or have boring days! The satellite TV is working well and I can watch uk programmes in the evening. Of course, if I do get bored, I can always do work on the PC, watch this space.

Creches-sur-Saone

Thursday 1500, 3rd September 2009. We stopped here on the spur of the moment for lunch and it was quite a nice spot. Good value for money cafe/restaurant where, for  £30 we had three course lunch and half litre of rose wine. We are currently debating whether to stay the night or move on toward Macon or just beyond. Anyway, we can recommend this place as a good spot and great to take Ben for a walk. Only downside is that passing boats can cause a wash!

Trevoux

Wednesday 2130, 2nd September 2009. We were looking forward to eating out at one of our favourite restaurants when we got here only to find it was shut. This morning we had our first rainfall during the day since we left the UK and it lasted until just after lunch. Lunchtime was also when we left the Rhone and entered the Saone. The water flow is much less in the Saone and we made much better speed than we had in the Rhone, it went from 7.5kph to 10.7kph . The night storm had brought with it lots of debris in the water with great logs floating down river together with all sorts of rubbish. Fortunately, we did not get bothered by the stuff! Trevoux is a little sleepy place it seems and our highlight is to watch 'Hidalgo' on DVD before bedtime.

Les-Roches-de-Condrieu

Tuesday 2000, 1st September 2009. Good run today against the current and once we got here the showers were just delightful. We had a nosh out at a little restaurant overlooking a lake with an automatic water skiing bit of kit! Having enjoyed our meal and the free exhibition of water skiing we decided to get back to the boat as quickly as possible to beat the thunderstorm coming toward us. For once Ben did not dawdle he was first back to the pontoon, just as the rain started to fall. What a storm it turned out to be great flashes and bangs together with torrential rain - we battened down and went to bed.

Valence

Monday 2130, 31st August 2009. We were ready to stop here, it has been a long day! Christine went shopping to L'Eclerc Supermarche and I went to the local bricolage for a rubber mat we intend to use for underwater protection in the locks where the water laps the lock top. I also visited the Casino Geante a huge supermarche just 1km from the marina - has a good restaurant too! 

Cruas

Sunday 1100, 30th August 2009. We are still here, it is such a restful spot and the capitaine, Claude ( capitaineriecruas@orange.fr ), is great. We are also waiting until tomorrow for the forecasted Mistral wind to go through. It is reckoned to be up to 60kph winds today. Last night we visited the local restaurant, on the camp site, for a stuffed tomato and salad starter followed by a juicy entrecote steak & frites, loverly. Tried my new toy, a wifi dish antenna, with Marina's new wifi with great success but less luck with satellite TV, only got the German channels - again! Ben loves it here 'cos there are lots of open spaces and woods to run around in or just sniff about a bit, also local dogs all very friendly. Another lazy day ahead in the sun!

Friday 2200, 28th August 2009. Another dawn start today and we made it the 95 kilometres to Cruas by 1945 tonight. Four locks ascended without problem and we only waited 30 minutes at one of them, the rest were cracked in about 15 minutes each. Claude, the Cruas Capitaine, came out of his barge home to welcome us even at the late hour and was really pleased to see us on our return. Ben hadn't forgotten Claude either, he made a real fuss of him. The showers here are superb and we both relaxed for quite some time in the luxuriousness of them before returning to the boat for supper under the light of our 'cowboy' paraffin lamp. We think a lie in is due tomorrow!...

Avignon

Thursday 2100, 27th August 2009. Crack of dawn start this morning and up at 0515 ready to enter the lock at 0620. It was a good move because it was cool for most of the morning and only became a little unbearable after lunch at 33 ºC. We poodled along at about 8 KPH, yes, I've changed the units from knots to make reading the Navicartes easier, running the engine at 2000 rpm. It seems to help costs as the fuel used was only 18 litres for the 75 kilometre journey against the current. Our second lock of the day was a breeze although it was a bit stifling until the water reached the 16 metres and the we had a little wind. Avignon is just as we left it a few months ago - hot. Tomorrow I'm hoping that we can again get up at the crack of dawn and move toward Cruas. The big benefit of keeping on the move is it is cooler.

Port St Louis

Wednesday 1730, 26th August 2009. Our Navicartes for the canal trip up the Rhone have just arrived so we are planning to get under way at 0600 in the morning when the lock opens. We haven't really done much over the last two days apart from get the boat ready with fuel and stuff. We did manage to have a lovely lunch out at the local Brasserie and last night we met up with a couple and went to the Tapas bar before watching a John Denver DVD on board accompanied by a couple of bottles of wine. The Marina fees are paid and Christine is out doing the last minute victualling. Can hardly wait to get under way at last.

Monday 1200, 24th August 2009. Wow! What a weekend of entertainment. There was much goings on Saturday with teams in boats, knocking each other off a platform at the rear of each boat. A large crowd of people gathered to watch the event and it had a regatta feel about the whole day. There where stands with local produce and representatives of the local trades people with lots of flags flying. In the evening we had live music on the quay, not more than 40 metres away, which started at 2130. At 2300, there was an almighty BANG! which was the start to a really brilliant firework display that lasted until 2330. We had a front row seat with the base of the fireworks about 60 metres away from us, very impressive. The music played on after the display and we eventually got off to sleep at about 0100 Sunday. All day Sunday the festivities continued with the boat jousting continuing throughout the day. In the evening we again had live music but it was certainly not has crowded as on Saturday. So far today I have mended a puncture in one of our bicycles, having ventured far and wide for a patch and then rubber solution (Not sold together!) This afternoon we hope to get our hands on the Navicartes that have been posted to us and decide on a good time to go. We have certainly enjoyed our weekend here - great memory to leave with.

Friday 0900, 21st August 2009. We've moved! Only a couple of miles round the corner to the municipal halte, which is a little lower priced. Our Navicartes are now on their way by courier from Holland so should be at Port Napoleon either later today or tomorrow. Christine has volunteered to cycle the 2.5Km to check for a delivery. Luckily for us we had just finished cooking supper last night when the power went off - and stayed off until this morning at 0855. It was the hottest, most humid and uncomfortably hot night we have yet experienced. It seems quite odd not having a mast and the boat does move differently, more like a cork on water. I'm hoping my internet dongle is still working without the need to re-charge it, otherwise I can't upload this missive until later.

Port Napoleon

Tuesday 2230, 18th August 2009. Today has had its excitements! At 0800 we had the mast taken down and prepared for road transport to Honfleur. Our transport guy, Wolfgang Graf, of Mast Transport was a great help and about an hour the mast was ready to load onto the transporter together with boom and spinnaker pole, I think we got a reasonable price too at  £660.00. Anyway that's that job done. At 0800 it was wet with dew everywhere and lots of mosquitos that bite but 0900 the temperature was 32 ºC and humid. I must have lost a gallon in sweat! After lunch in the port restaurant (a treat so to speak) we returned to our "canal" boat to continue preparations for our journey but it was bl---y so hot we just rested below with fan full on. Our second excitement started at about 1630. Everyone sweating profusely and Ben panting heavily, wandering about looking for a cool spot, the power suddenly went off - NO FAN! The port office said it normally came back on at six, which it did for about ten seconds, but it has only just come back at 2230. We are waiting here at the moment for our Navicartes (charts) for the canals to be returned by post. We loaned them to a couple and have not yet received them - frustratingly! Maybe tomorrow!

Saturday 1700, 15th August 2009. Arrived here at 1600 yesterday and got ourselves booked in for the mast to be lifted on Tuesday at 0800. Before then we have to bag the sails and get ready to move as soon as we can round to Port St Louis and then on into the Rhone and head homeward. This place is huge, I've never seen so many boats parked and there is still loads of room. Monday will be a busy day trying to organise transport for the mast and then stepping it at Le Havre in a few weeks time. Last evening we had supper in the Port Napoleon restaurant which turned out to be lovely and we had a bit of fun with the other yachties that were dining!

La Ciotat

Thursday 2230, 13th August 2009. We had a very pleasant and relatively cool sail the 25 miles or so here and moored stern to on the town quay to a temperature of 32 ºC - a bit too warm if you ask me. The place is evidently an old shipyard which is in the process of becoming a centre for the maintenance of yachts and up market ships. The town quay is not yet up market and feels a bit run down with only a single shower which shuts at 1845, Ugh! I have managed to pick up a double dose of internet vouchers to help us on our way up the canals. Tomorrow we head for Port Napoleon, some 35 miles west, to complete our Mediterranean adventure. We're getting quite excited about going on the canals again it was good fun coming the other way.

Hyeres & Plage de la Baume

Wednesday 2000, 12th August 2009. We sailed from Cavalaire to Hyere on route to the Rhone and found the marina packed. We anchored outside the entrance for a couple of hours and decided to find a more restful spot to anchor for the night and where we could take Ben for his constitutional walk. Well we found the spot at Plage de la Baume, about 2 miles south of Hyeres. Nice beach, pine forest with crickets chirping incessantly and a smooth anchorage. Supper is kidneys, one of my favourites, then an early night under the stars.  Tomorrow we head for Ciotat some 25 odd miles west.

France - Cavalaire-sur-Mer

Wednesday 1000, 12th August 2009. To carry on about Sunday - we had a very nice meal out at a restaurant with a live Latin American band and loads of people who where evidently passionate about the dancing. A real good nights entertainment. During the night we had a little excitement! Christine had luckily decided to sleep in the main cabin as it was very hot and I had a twitchy knee. Well. there was a sudden screech of Christine shouting 'ITS RAINING!' which woke me with a startle and I was looking up at a starry sky with a lovely moon shining. Peering through the darkness into the cabin I saw this 'apparition' of a dripping wet Christine endeavouring to battle through the main hatch against a torrent of water coming the other way! It turned out to be a burst pipe on the pontoon which had created a fountain/jet of water straight into our boat. Having cursed and then giggled we mopped up and went back to bed having had enough excitement for one night.

Sunday 1730, 9th August 2009. After a very smooth sail of 140 miles we arrived and waited just 1 hour for a mooring in the marina. The staff remembering our previous visit and were very welcoming, they even remembered Ben. We are now back in business having rested in the heat of the day (32 ºC). There is very little breeze so it seems a lot hotter to us both.

Italy - Capraia

Saturday 2100, 8th August 2009. We didn't manage to get fuel in Elba, there was a queue of half a dozen big boats. We left for Capraia at 1300 arriving at 1800. Couldn't get a marina or buoyed mooring so anchored. The island is lovely and has some rather quaint little restaurants, one of which provided us with a pleasant dinner. We arranged for fuel ( £1.65/litre) but did without the shower (expensive) and water fill up. As soon as the fuel was on board we set sail at 0900 for Cavalaire-sur-Mer.

Italy - Elba

Friday 1800, 7th August 2009. Not been having a good day, could not withdraw any cash at banks or ATMs. Came back to boat and called both our banks who confirmed that problemo was with Italian banks! After much running around we found an ATM that accepted a card and paid out. This may have been the catalyst to assess our plans and we decided to call a halt to going further south through Italy, instead we will return to France via the Italian island of Capraia. The heat is very uncomfortable and, in terms of value for money, France seems a better deal.  

Thursday 1100, 6th August 2009. We arrived here at 2015 last night, anchored in the bay, and then rushed ashore to a recommended restaurant on the beach. The meal was absolutely great starter - octopus, mussels seafood mouse, followed by the best pizza I have ever tasted, almost as this as paper and really tasty. Today we are off to town across the bay by dingy and plan to move on fairly quickly south, probably at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Oh! the other good news is that my Italian internet connection is up and running - great!

Corsica - Calvi

Tuesday 2130, 4th August 2009. Still in Calvi! Guests departed yesterday by ferry so boat now feels empty. We've had a busy week and it is nice to be back to normal with just the three of us, me, Christine and Ben. The plan for tomorrow is to be up at the crack of dawn (0500 ish) and set sail in the direction of Elba, via the northernmost tip of Corsica. the weather window looks good and we may even pop into Capraia, a little island between Corsica and Elba. This is also the last day of French internet access so it could be a little while before we again get on line with an Italian provider. Today I managed to provide a secure stowage for the new Danforth anchor, in readiness for kedging when we need to. We must say that the marina at Calvi provides an excellent service, even for us small yacht people, with a smile and all the help they can give. The endless beaches, narrow gauge railway and beautiful mountain views that change to a purple hue at sunset are all good memories to take away with us. 

Friday 0715, 31st July 2009. Guests arrived as planned and we got into holiday mode with a quick tour of the town and lunch out - Sardines of course! There being no room within the marina we had to swim direct from the boat on her mooring buoy in crystal clear water - a real hardship, Ah! Ah! Everyone loved it. In the cool of the day, after 1630 we visited the supermarche to re-victual before having supper on board and than ashore for some night life and a beer. Wednesday everyone just chilled out with swimming and pottering in town and then on Thursday we caught the narrow gauge railway to Ile d'Rouse a small town about an hours journey north. the beach was magnificent and everyone, including Ben, went in for a swim. A good day was had by all and to end the day we managed to get a mooring in the marina - yippee! Today we are up early, well most of us, preparing to sail south, hopefully, to Cargese. Our guest is paging through the pilot has I write! Watch this space...

Tuesday 0840, 28th July 2009. We've been having a great time here in Calvi, just relaxing and taking time out for a walk and a beer. Today we are up early sprucing the place up ready for guests arriving at noon from Nice. As promised by the local guys, the wind dropped to a pleasant breeze and it has been a very comfortable 29 ºC. I got a shock yesterday when visiting the local hole-in-the-wall money machine; It rejected both of my bank cards, leaving me almost penniless. Ever had that sinking feeling! Anyway pulled myself up and wandered about until I found another machine which I gingerly used to get more funds - Successfully, thank goodness. Had a beer to celebrate at an up market cocktail bar! Today is as exciting for us as it is for our guests and we can hardly wait to meet them off the ferry. Not more fun....!!!

Saturday 1500, 25th July 2009. Arrived in Calvi yesterday morning at 0830 after overnight passage from Cavalaire-sur-Mer which was a little lumpy toward the last twenty miles. This place is magnificent with lots to do and restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets. Although only a small town by UK standards it seems to have everything one would ever want, even a railway station in the town. Yesterday we did our customary mooch about the centre, getting info from the tourist office and locating things of interest. Today we got up early and took a trip around the Citadel, home of the Foreign Legion, which was impressive in itself but the views were absolutely stunning. We actually found a restaurant of note specialising in Sardines etc, but it was fully booked - We'll try again! The wind is ceaseless at about 26 mph and gusting in the 30's, however, the mooring guys say that it will reduce by tomorrow 'maybe'. We live in hope but still enjoy the free air conditioning it brings in the 30 ºC temp!

Cavalaire-sur-mer

Wednesday 0830, 22nd July 2009. Still in Cavalaire-sur-Mer and thoroughly enjoying our stay. Yesterday we headed for Gassin, a little village between here and St Tropez, but some confusion with buses found us in St Tropez. We thoroughly enjoyed the old town, it was narrow lanes and full of romantic restaurants with loads of ladies designer clothes shops! The marina was buzzing with about 15 large (50-60 metre) power boats mostly British flagged, and everywhere was packed with tourists. In the bay, there were as expected, more big yachts than I could count easily. Lunch was well up to the mark and so after a few hours of mooching about we caught the 1715 bus back to Cavalaire. Well that turned out to be a 2.5 hour journey - not the best end to a day out but nevertheless a really nice day. Cavalaire is definitely on my list of places to stop it has shopping for the girls to die for, three, well stocked, chandlers for us blokes and one of the finest night lives I've come across with music and restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets. Today I have a few pre-sailing checks to do on batteries and rig ready to move off to Corsica later in the day.

Monday 1700, 20th July 2009. We had not planned to visit here but here we are and it's charming! we really enjoyed the Porquerolles and were sorry to move on; necessary before 'marina rot' set in. With lotsa help from my French based brother-in-law I have got internet access back on and here we are! Special 'mench' Roger. We have already fuelled up ready for crossing to Calvi in Corsica and we will top up with water tomorrow afternoon, hoping to leave at about 1600 Tuesday. Tonight I'll get the forecasts from www.windfinder.com for St Raphael, Nice Buoy and Calvi before a final check tomorrow. The wind has died to about 8 knots from the SW which is ok for our trip, however, things change quickly around here! for those wondering why we are going to Corsica and not visiting anywhere further east on this coast, well, it's cost and the fact that we can do it on the way back whenever that may be! We also have a friend coming to meet us in Calvi next Tuesday. 

Island of Porquerolles

Friday 1930, 17th July 2009. We are still here and thoroughly enjoying the island. Early up and got the washing out of the way whilst eating out for breakfast at a nice little beach cafe. Washing hung out on boat, we ventured across the island to the cliffs adjacent to 'Le Phare' (Lighthouse), overlooking the Mediterranean - What a view! This evening we are on board moored at a buoy weathering out a Mistral wind which is building up over the next few hours to 35 knots or so. It's a bit bumpy but the sun still shines. I'm hoping to renew my internet access via my brother-in-law tomorrow because the French telecom company do not accept anything but French Visa cards, Mmmmmm! Over the next week we have to plan our step off mainland France to Corsica landing at Calvi by midday a week on Tuesday. Exciting stuff, so watch this space.

Wednesday 2045, 15th July 2009. Arriving at about 1200 we moored on a buoy just inside the harbour and a short dingy trip (5 minutes) from the town centre. the town is very busy with tourists who arrive by the boatful all through the day. The busiest shop in town was the bike shop which was almost automated to cater for people hiring bikes to tour the island. It is, yet again, unique and gorgeous with bars and restaurants in abundance. Ben just loved the place with lots of new sniffs and smells. we are off now to take an evening walk through town.

Port Pin-Rolland

Tuesday 1200, 14th July 2009. Bastille Day, and we decided to stay here another day because our next stop is probably very busy with long weekenders. The cost here is  £27.11 a day but it is very pleasant and the walk across the peninsular to the beach on the other side is ideal for Ben. Yesterday was our admin day with loads of washing being churned out at the local Laverie (Laundrette) and online banking being cracked. Today is just relaxing and enjoying the day.

Sunday 1230, 12th July 2009. After a lovely few days in Mandrier we decided to take a quick look at Port Pin-Roland; more to check it out for leaving the boat over winter than anything. There are a lot of boats here and it says only one visitors mooring! We have electricity, water, showers and Laundrette with a pleasant little restaurant at the end of our pontoon, just 20 metres away. Today, being a Sunday, the Capitanerie is closed so we won't know the cost until tomorrow. The plan for the day is a light lunch of chilled soup and after the usual siesta Ben will take us around town!

St Mandrier-sur-Mer

Thursday 2000, 9th July 2009. Well we managed to cross the Rade in windy, rough, weather to our new location which is a sleepy village with a couple of chandlers and a dozen or so restaurants, tabacs and creperies. It is a bit rocky - feels like being in the womb! but it is sunny and the cool of the wind, a little more than a breeze, is very welcome. We got here at lunchtime and joined up with our Swedish friends for a beer ashore and a walk round town. I also managed to get hold of a new French almanac which the lady gave to me FOC; very nice. The marina here is being completely refurbished with new pontoons so at the moment we have water but no electric. However, it is a nice place to shelter from the strong winds and so I don't know how long we could be here. I've just sipped the last of my cool G&T and finished off the stuffed olives so I'm going to finish this off. Bye for now.

Toulon

Thursday 0900, 9th July 2009. Hopefully we will get away from Toulon today and head across the Rade to St Mandrier-sur-Mer to meet up with friends. Since visiting here in the mid 1960's a lot has changed but it is still a bit of a dirty place! Wasn't impressed by the two showers either; they were well past their sell by date with black mould, slow drainage and just enough of them to meet the marina demand.

Monday 1530, 6th July 2009. Made an early start, 0730, in order to miss the forecasted strong wind. Well it wasn't exactly not strong, a good F5 I reckon. We came along the coastline like a train enjoying the high craggy rocks and deep blue sea. Coming into the 'Rade' (a natural harbour, similar to Poole, but bigger!) meant going into wind which was quite a pleasurable experience after the heat of downwind sailing. We are in the town marina, which at  £27.11 a day is not cheap, but no more expensive than the UK. Later, after about 1600, I might get to visit one of the chandleries having got mild withdrawal symptoms. Exploring the town is also on our list of things to do when it gets a bit cooler, until then we are having a snooze in a well ventilated, darkened, boat.

Cote d'Azur - Sanery-sur-Mer

Saturday 2200, 4th July 2009. Had a lie in until 0900 this morning and almost missed staying another day! The place was fully booked by 0930 and our Swedish friends were just too late. We had to move our boat to make way for a deeper draught yacht so that was the effort of the morning and by lunchtime it was too hot to raise even an eyebrow! After a light lunch of chilled soup we rested until 1630 and then perused around the town before having a nice pasta dinner ashore. We have been really impressed by the evening shopping market which starts at about 2030 with stalls all the way along the sea front selling anything from beads to art and perfumes - not just rubbish either! The market finishes at about midnight. Tonight we are in for a little bonus on our new mooring because we are close to an open air music concert which is just about to start. It's a little cooler - around 28 ºC just comfortable after the 34 º of earlier this afternoon. Another great day today!

Friday 2100, 3rd July 2009. Great sail here in F4 winds and yet again not a cloud to be seen. Got into the entrance and called on radio to get an instant response in good English, directing us to our mooring where two marina staff assisted. We've been ashore to get a few victuals for supper and had a beer in a local Tabac - It just hit the spot! Our Swedish friends came in a little later and joined us for the beer before going back to their own boat for supper and then joining us for a movie 'August Rush'. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?...

Cassis - Port Miou

Thursday 2000, 2nd July 2009. We arrived here after finding Cassis marina full, which was really a bonus in the long run! The port is like a deep canyon with shear cliffs of limestone about 100 feet high. One end of the boat is moored to a buoy and the other to rings in the cliff face. It is idyllic with crystal clear water and a cool breeze blowing in off the Mediterranean. Christine has been swimming and the 'garden spray, with paint nozzle' has been put to good use for a fresh water shower. We walked up and down hill from here to the town centre at Cassis for lunch and a walk round with a final ice cream on the way back. this place is said to be one of Rod Heinkel's (Mediterranean Pilot writer) favourite places - which I can understand. At  £16.50 a day, without any frills, it is worth it just for the beauty. Oh! Ben has been swimming too he was delighted and swam around for ages. We like it enough to stay another day - at least.  

Marseille - Vieux Port

Wednesday 1100, 1st July 2009. Gosh it is hot! (32 ºC @ 1000) Have completed re-siting the foresail winches onto the cockpit sides and have filled the holes of old position with filler - it just needs levelling off. The rig is 'tweeked' ready for more sea trials and a couple of other small necessities are ticked off the list. Ben is out for his constitutional walk with Christine whilst I sort out a few on-line chores like bank, boat insurance and prescription renewal - all quite mundane. I can recommend this stop if you like being near the buzz of the city, and its turned out not to be that expensive at  £20.70/day, including WIFI, showers and electricity. The 'plan' for later is to set off for Cassis, some 16nm east of Marseillle. We partied on board a yacht neighbour last night with a group of locals who have told us the lowdown on where to moor. That's it then for now!

Monday 1900, 29th June 2009. Got the mainsail up today - hooray! Brilliant sail from Carro in F5 and just enough to check the rig for tensioning which needs a tweek. Originally bound for Iles de Frioul we finally decided on Marseille has it would have cost us for ferries and the island does not sound dog friendly. We've got a mooring right next to the CNTL Club House, which seems very up market and plush. I'd best polish the RNSA black buttons on my reefer jacket. Tonight we look at the jobs list of 'stuff' to do on the rig etc before dining at sunset and listening to the Marseille church bells. Once it gets cooler I'll tweek the rig, sort out the spinnaker halyards and consider repositioning the foresail winches. Oh! I almost forgot, I need to visit the local French Telecom shop to renew my internet access - very important! Now it's time to relax in a nice warm shower.

Carro

Sunday 2000, 28th June 2009. Arrived at the small marina on the Med coast at about 1830 today and after a slight amount of effort mooring 'Med fashion' (bow to the wall) we settled in. I took Ben for a constitutional along the sea shore and he went in for a dip up to his ankles! He did make up for it on the slipway though where he immersed himself up to his ears!  This is yet another delightful place, quite different from Martigues, and we are planning to take a walk round the town after supper. Isn't life just a pleasure? 

Martigues

Sunday 1500, 28th June 2009. We could easily become marina bound here it is gorgeous. All day on Saturday there were things happening at the 'Fete de la Mer'. There were jazz bands, Hoompapa bands, Portugese groups and violin players walking around the three town centres of Ferriers, L'Ile and Jonquieres  and all sorts of parades took place including about 250 police motorbikes coming through town with sirens at full volume. The finale, after a really full day of activities, was an aerial spectacle from huge great cranes holding tight wires aloft. The Marseille Circus acrobats zipped across from one side of the 3 waterways to the other leaving a trail of feathers being lit by spotlights in the cool night air. I even managed to visit the local chandlery whilst here - after suffering chandler deficiency! We are just deciding whether to move on to our next port, Carro, later this afternoon. We'll see how we feel.   

Thursday 1930, 25th June 2009. We put up a sail today - Hooray! The wind blew a gentle 19 knots on the quarter so we only needed the foresail to get us the 7.5 miles across the bay full of large, ocean going' ships that have evidently been sheltering from the Mistral. we entered Port de Bouc and eventually found the Canal de Caronte to make our way the couple of miles to the marina at Martigues. After fun picking up the mooring chain which holds our stern out into the marina we tried out our home made Passerelle (boarding gangway) needed for us and Ben to get off the boat by the bow. On completion of mooring we rushed ashore to find the harbour office, but it was closed for the day, so we just had to be content with a couple of cold beers in the centre of town. Whilst taking the evening beer we did meet a couple of Tasmanians and another couple from new Zealand who were waiting for their ship to take them to Hong Kong - interesting people! We are now having our evening, home cooked, gourmet supper watching the local rowing teams race each other in the evening sunshine. This is the life!

The Mediterranean - Port St Louis

Wednesday 2215, 24th June 2009. The Mistral wind turned out to be blowing 75 mph some of the time and didn't let up until Tuesday evening. Today the weather has been brilliant sunshine and a much more acceptable Force 4 (15 mph-ish). A whole bunch of sailors going up the canals and into the Med got marina bound over the 5 days of the Mistral. So what does one do in a Mistral, stuck in port? We partied! Meeting up with a couple from Canada and another couple from Sweden we found that we had 'things' in common, a thirst for wine, good appetites, happy spirits and all social 'animals'. We've visited each others boats and dined together every night and during the day the girls have done shopping and generally organised us blokes. Today it was calm enough to put the sails on ready for the first trip out into the Mediterranean tomorrow - exciting! Once I finish this, Christine and I will study the pilot and decide what next. Once we get round past Marseille the Mistral wind isn't as active so we will head generally in the direction - not too early mind, we are after all retired and cruising. Well, the induction hob is in full swing cooking our somewhat late supper, so I'll sign off to open the wine.

Sunday 1200, 21st June 2009. Our 'baptism' to the Mediterranean is 100Km per hour (50+mph) winds (The Mistral) which have been blowing since Friday evening. We did get the mast up, at 1600 on Friday, in just 22 minutes by a team of three French guys who only spoke a few words of English; very professional, and only  £80.00 ( www.navyservice.com ). Undeterred by the high winds we have almost completed preparing the rigging and lines for sailing, it is just too rough to put the sails on. Although windy, the sky is cloudless and it is still around 28 degrees centigrade inside the boat, even though we have curtains drawn and mosquito nets in place on all openings. Port St Louis is a charming little town with an Intermarche store (Closed on Sunday) and some very pleasant and coolly located cafes and restaurants. The town quay moorings host yachts coming too and going from the Med with all the associated banging and knocking of mast supports in the making. There is lots to talk about to everyone, swapping information about the canals, locks and towns on the way north and recommended places to visit in the Mediterranean, anywhere from Gibraltar to Turkey. The evenings are great social occasions and so far we have either entertained or been entertained on each others boats, enjoying home cooked cuisine from all parts of the world. Of course all this is washed down with copious supplies of French wine. My task of the day is to reconfigure the Navtex weather thingy to get the local area forecasts. Oh! it is great to have the mast up! Bye for now. 

Thursday 1630, 18th June 2009. We have made it to the Mediterranean after a very enjoyable cruise through the French canals. Great experience from all points of view and we've made so many new friends - I only hope that we can maintain contact with everyone. The trip here from Avignon went without hitch and although we were prepared to stop at Arles, it was not possible because the mooring places had not been replaced after last years storms. We completed our last lock and are now tied up for the night at the local marina - not sure of price 'cos we hanen't been to the Capitainerie yet. We've now met up with other people we saw earlier who have managed to get their masts up so it sounds like a good excuse to meet up and share their experiences. The temperature here is a mere 34 degrees Centigrade (Too warm for me!) but we are reliably informed that the Mistral wind is due to blow at the weekend. Watch this space!...

Avignon

Sunday 1900, 14th June 2009. Future plans considered, we are staying here for a few more days before moving on toward Port St Louis to get the mast stepped. The city is definitely a tourist attraction and has all the outdoor cafes and restaurants that make life interesting as well of course as the historic features. We crossed the river yesterday to take lunch at the restaurant 'Le Bercail' with three fellow boaters from Holland. everyone had something different and it was absolutely superb - No wonder the restaurant is full every lunchtime and evening. We started lunch at 1215 and leisurely worked our way through three courses and then coffee until 1515. Great company and a recommended restaurant. We all meandered down to the ferry, settling under the lime trees for a little shade, before returning to the boat and welcomed shelter from the sun. It's been 32 degrees Centigrade for a couple of days now. This morning I cycled round the city, on the outside, finding LIDL's, Carrefour and L Eclerc supermarches, before coming back through the city centre to 'recce' for tomorrow. My 3G internet has run out and the french phone needs topping up so I can't go on-line 'til that's sorted.

Friday 1930, 12th June 2009. Awakened by aggregate making machinery we quickly got underway the short distance to Avignon and having descended a single lock were here by 1200. This very old town is steeped in historical facts and the Popes Palace, which is an impressive sight from the mooring. Earlier we entered the walled city to do a quick bit of shopping and pre-sitrep of sights for visiting tomorrow. We are very tempted to stay here for seven days but need to consider how this will affect our future plans. I have just come back to this dispatch after enjoying the company of a Swedish couple who are also on there way to the Mediterranean. Isn't life just great?

Port de l'Ardoise

Thursday 1930, 11th June 2009. We said our farewells to the Capitaine, Claude, and our friend John Bowes before leaving Cruas at 1050. We both felt quite sad to leave such a peaceful spot. However, we did make an entry in the port visitors book which was very positive, and we will definitely recommend Cruas to others. With quite a distance to cover and the largest of all the locks we have had to encounter we made good speed with a following current (17 Km per hour) and quickly got through the 18.5 metre lock at Chateauneuf, which we did with three other small boats and a large 'hotel' ship. Another hour or so and we were at 'Ecluse de Bollene', gulp, with a 23 metre descent! Set up the camera and got the automatic movie which I need to see. It's mind boggling to think of all that water quickly emptying to drop you the almost 75 feet in just a few minutes. We then eventually descended a mere 9.5 metres at 'Ecluse de Caderousse' before taking a right hand turn back on ourselves to overnight at Port de l'Ardoise a very quiet marina in the middle of an industrial area (Actually it's very countryside!) and they have internet access - yippee! Tomorrow we are again off south hopefully to Avignon via a single lock of 10 metres.

Cruas

Tuesday 1100, 9th June 2009. Well if we thought friday nights thunder storm was as noisy and wet as it can get we were wrong! Last night the wind got up and did it rain just like in the tropics. The lightening just never seemed to stop and with the constant clap, bang rumble of thunder stopping us from dozing off. Anyway that's enough of weather because it did not stop Christine from painting the decks white-ish to reduce the heat inside the boat. Our friend John, off 'Bonus', arrived from the Med on his way back to the UK, so had supper with us. We swapped stories and contacts for mast stepping etc and just generally had a good chat. The highlight of today is a trip, with Dave and Jenny off 'Irish Rover', to Montelimar and a visit to the Carrefour supermarche. The second deck coat is almost finished, so hopefully the weather will be kind to us until the paint is dry. This seven day stopover is flying by and we will again be on our way south before we know it. 

Saturday 1630, 6th June 2009. We have now been here a couple of days and it is a sleepy hollow of a village with a small store (Casino) two boulangeries a couple of banks (hole in the wall) an ancient church and a very scenic castle ruin. The views are stunning and we are nestled in the valley between tree covered mountain slopes. Last night, as predicted, there was a thunder storm and torrential rain which lasted most of the night leaving us with the clean after storm smell of countryside and more sunshine. However, about ten minutes ago the cloud darkened to almost black and with a huge crack we were again hit by torrential rain and a new thunderstorm; even the electric pylon about 100 metres away was struck by lightening. We've managed the climb to the dizzy heights of the mountain side castle, through narrow 16th century alleyways, where we took in the magnificent views of the river toward Montelimar and the surrounding mountains. We also had a beer in 'Harry's Bar' which was very welcoming and Harry turned out to a be a scotsman who's been here for seventeen years. The plan tonight is to batten down the hatches and watch a video or, weather permitting, the final of 'The Apprentice' on satellite tv. In the meantime, the rumble of thunder is still close.

Thursday 1800, 4th June 2009. We finally got away after a visit to the Bricolage (DIY Superstore) where we bought a 2.5 metre ladder, for Med boarding when stern to, and then a quick trip to Eclerc Supermarche for yet more food. We edged the Alps coming down the Rhone and the scenery although different from the upper regions is quite stunning. We also saw romantically turning windmills otherwise known as wind farms - can't understand all the fuss! Squeezing in behind a great hotel ship in the lock was something new! They only had about 6 inches either side and just a little less than the length of our boat enabled us to share the lock. Cruas seems so nice we have decided to rest here, which means doing a few jobs in readiness for the Med.

Valence - port de l'Eperviere

Wednesday 2130, 3rd June 2009. Another great day on the Rhone! The trip downstream is gorgeous and if it were not for the fact that there are only good things to look at and nowhere to stop we would not be cracking along quite so fast. The three locks today were vast cathedral like caverns when the water goes down. Voices bounce back and forth off the walls and there is a smell of fresh vegetation. It is evident that the lock keepers know we are coming because we are welcomed in concise English; my trigger conversation just 2 Km before a lock is: "Ecluse blah blah, bateau de plaisance, Inadee, avalant.", and back comes "We are expecting you, the lock is ready".  It couldn't be easier! The marina here is big with 400 berths and 60 boats ashore. There is a chandlery, sparingly stocked, with a willingness to order bits from suppliers. The induction hob is doing a brilliant job cooking supper on the 5 Amp electricity supply and boiling the traditional kettle for cupsa tea! Oh! I may not have mentioned it before WE ARE HAVING A GREAT TIME! Cruas is planned for tomorrow after a trip to local supplies shops. 

les-Roches-de-Condrieu

Tuesday 1830, 2nd June 2009. We have made great progress today mainly as a result of not finding a suitable mooring in Lyon. We also left the Saone at about 1230 after picking up fuel from a barge which also had a super chandlery below deck. We could see the Rhone before we actually entered it because it was a different colour, lighter green! Once in the Rhone it was time to venture into our first BIG lock, Pierre Benite, 11.80 metres descent - formidable! No problem here, and we continued to yet another lock Vaugris, 6.70 metres. It makes life so much easier to have locks with floating bollards, we even found time to take pictures! After a very pleasant and picturesque journey through country side and the City of Lyon we have found a small marina with some very friendly and interesting occupants. One of the residents, residing on a purposely hand painted black and white boat complete with pirate flag, is currently giving the port Capitaine a massage on the pontoon - maybe I'll have some of that given the chance. There is a cool breeze blowing which makes for a very pleasant evening aboard Inadee dining together.

Trevoux

Monday 2130, 1st June 2009. After a quick shopping trip to the large Intermarche at Belleville and learning that today is a public holiday, we said farewell to our South African friends who were going North and set off toward Lyon. No sooner had we left the pontoon when we got a call from Christine's brother suggesting we meet for lunch and a family birthday party! Could we refuse? Trevoux was an ideal stop and we arrived here at 1310 just 40 minutes before the five from Annecy. Lunch was a great gourmet occasion and a bottle of Champagne suddenly appeared to top the day. We said our farewells to the group, including Christine's mum, and returned to the boat for a siesta. Tonight it's just nice and cool at about 28 degrees Celsius and an almost cloudless sky.

Belleville

Monday 0900, 1st June 2009. Well we are still here in Belleville. It was too nice to move on and we made some new friends off a boat called 'Idefix'. By gum it was a hot day and we ended it by joining our new friends for a bbq on the grass nearby. This morning it's still cool enough to move about and we plan to get on our bikes to visit the village about 1.2Km  up the road. We can then decide to move on downstream or stay here? Ben is in his element yet again sniffing around and playing with the local population of people and dogs.

Sunday 1230, 31st May 2009. Got underway from Macon centre at 1000 in beautiful sunshine and with our newly erected bimini (Thank goodness) Having negotiated Ecluse Drace 3 we came upon this lovely nautique halte at Belleville where we stopped for lunch, water and internet connection using the free electricity. Two huge barges have passed us going upstream, empty which makes them look even bigger, and we have encountered a couple of jetskis and small fishing boats. Makes life interesting! just having a quick snooze then off we go again, south.

Macon

Friday 1830, 29th May 2009. Arrived here in the Port de Plaisance at 1600 in an howling wind and brilliant sunshine. (Had to don the factor 50 sunscreen for lips; I look like in inverse Al Jolson!) It was a lovely journey down stream and the only lock of the day was a doddle, even though we shared it with a large barge and other pleasure boat. The highlight was being overtaken by a huge ship who must have been rushing home for supper! We are now tucked up in the marina and have booked a table at the local restaurant which we believe is mentioned in 'Narrow Dog to Carcassone'. Got to go for drinks on another boat first. It's a hard life - retirement in the canals! Now returned from the restaurant and had a good nights sleep getting up to another beautiful sunny day. So it's onward...

Saturday 1300, 30th May 2009.  We have moved on to moor in the centre of Macon. It's market day and it's just 20 metres away from the pontoon. The midday sun is hot and I am trying to avoid Christine's plea to put a tent over the boat. Siesta time after lunch I hope!

Chalon-sur-Saone

Thursday 0915, 28th May 2009. Back on the water, we fuelled up at the St Jean de Losne barge, and set off downstream for Chalon-sur-Saone. Dare I say the weather was again perfect, if not a little too bright, and we really appreciated the breeze created by our speed through the water. The agricultural countryside is ever so flat after our Alps visit, but nevertheless picturesque. We have now started to see more pleasure boats and the three barges we saw were much bigger than expected and moving fast. We arrived here at 1600 and moored next to a fellow RNSA member on yacht 'Big Ann'. After visiting the huge Carrefour where we got pans, suitable for our new induction hob (Pressy from MiL) we returned to 'Big Ann' at 1800 for the customary sundowners - Outshtanding! hospitality for which I've just taken a cure. Today we plan to do the sightseeing thing in and around Chalon-s-Saone, so I'll land the cycles now. No internet at marina but there is a WiFi McDonalds nearby.

Parmelan

Monday 1600, 25th May 2009. We move off tomorrow back to Inadee at St Jean de Losne by car - some 262Km NW from Aviernoz. Over the past days we have visited Annecy and the surrounding areas where the local hostelries have been tried and enjoyed. This afternoon we drove up a very scary mountain track, with a shear drop one side, to visit the 'Parmelan' (1500 metres) a mountain that overlooks Annecy with absolutely astonishing views of the city and lake and with other views to see as far away as Geneva and almost to Mont Blanc. The weather here has been great with temperatures in the mid 30's centigrade. Our next report will be from on board Inadee.

Plateau Glieres

Wednesday 2200, 20th May 2009. Today we went to pay our respects to the French Resistance by visiting the location of a bloody world war 2 battle. The Plateau Glieres is some 1440 metres above sea level and is a micro climate high above the surrounding countryside. It has the French National monument to the French Resistance and this immensely beautiful scenic place was the location of an ambush, set up by the German forces, that killed many of the resistance members. Five of us paid our respects at the monument before taking lunch in a local mountain restaurant run by one of the surviving family members.   

Dijon, Lyon, Chambery, Annecy and Aviernoz (Hotel Camelia)

Tuesday 1100, 19th May 2009. A diversion from our boating adventure we took the train to Annecy via the above locations. What a pleasurable experience. Clean, almost noiseless journey with convenient stops and reasonable waiting periods to get breakfast and Lunch. Arrived everywhere on time and at Annecy we caught a bus, driven by Christine's brother's next door neighbour, Christian, to Hotel Camelia in readiness to welcome Christine's mum to her new home with family in France. Ben was exceptional on the journey and was no bother. We are now lounging in the Alps about 300 metres above sea level with a backdrop of scenic mountainous views to drool over. I've got use of a car so we will probably venture out and about during our planned weeks stay. Uho! I hear the call to a cup of tea.....

Saint Jean de Losne - H2O Marina

Friday 1245, 15th May 2009. We have decided to leave the boat here and visit family at Aviernoz, near Annecy, on Monday 18th May.  At  £56 per week we don't think we can better that down stream. Today, it is raining and has not stopped yet. This is the first day since we left Gosport that we've had rain during daylight hours so we can't complain - but do! This town, although small, seems to have everything and it's all acceptable. Went for meal with our friends from the USA which was fun and the food was super. We also seem to have guests on board most evenings for 'sundowners' so it's a busy life. The marina capitaine sold me his satellite TV dish which will come in handy on rainy days and to get the news occasionally. Lunch is about to be served so that's all for now. 

Tuesday 1030, 12th May 2009. We've moved! The mooring on the town quay was not ideal and Inadee was actually aground about a metre from the quay and I was a little worried that some passing boat would cause us to 'bounce' on the rocky river bed. The marina is at the junction of the Saone and the Canal-de-Bourgogne and is very good value for money. There are two chandlers, one about 25 metres from our mooring, and a supermarche about 150 metres away. Just a bike ride away there are two more large supermarches, a LIDL and a bricolage (sort of B&Q). Guess where I'm off to shortly! For our eu10 per day we get internet, electricity and a hot shower.. Today the sun is shining but a few showers of rain keep rolling by - not enough to dampen our spirits though. Well, I'm off to the bricolage before lunch, which will be a variety of French cheeses and crusty baguette, oh, and a little wine of course.

Saint Jean de Losne

Sunday 1930, 10th May 2009. We eventually found the washing machines and driers in this little town. Christine is there now with a couple of machines running full ahead. Supper is gently simmering on the stove and Ben is fed and watered. We had a pleasant trip coming downstream through two easy locks with quite a few holiday boats coming and going. The Saone is quite wide so far and trees drip their green leaved branches into the waters edge. More new friends from New Zealand (Kiwi Land) and beer is only EU1.20. However, for the pessimists amongst our readers the downside is electric and water is EU9.50 a shot! This'll be uploaded under battery power! Ooooh! I can smell those fresh leeks and the chicken that's almost ready for supper - so I gota go.... 

Pontailler-sur-Saone

Sunday 0945, 10th May 2009. Well we have made it to the river Saone after three long days of travel to get through the canal before it closed for a month. We promised ourselves a day of doing nothing 'boaty' and decided to have lunch ashore. During our feast of mussels marinaire we met a French couple with their son on their way to a garden centre. No sooner had they left but another couple arrived who had were on their way back from the same garden centre some 20 Km away. At this point fate took a hand and we were invited to visit the couples home some 30 Km south, returning after a delightful afternoon out and having made new friends. Today, Sunday is hopefully going to be restful with only a tubfull of washing to do if we find a washing machine at the local marina; too shallow for us to enter. I also have a small greasing job to undertake on the prop shaft seal, if I get my mind up to it! And then it's south.... 

Saint-Sauveur

Friday 2000, 8th May 2009. Have you ever lay, snug in a bunk, looking at the stars and thinking this is the life! We have, and last night it was at that moment that a brilliant flash occurred followed by a tremendously long clap of thunder. We nearly jumped six feet! The thunder and lightening was followed by torrential rain which lasted almost all night, with raindrops as big as snowballs! Anyway, by this morning it was again fine and even greener as we left our pals off the French canal boat and set of on the days new adventures. We have done 32 locks and a couple of lifting bridges with two forced stops due to automation failure with locks. We did not get to the Soane but instead are lying bows embedded into the bank and the boat tied to a couple of trees at Saint-Sauveur, just 5 kilometres from our target - The Soane. The sound of chirruping crickets and croaking frogs seems to get ever loader as we move south, and of course the descending locks are almost a pleasure. Got a yummy supper cos we are in the wilds of France, it's a Fray Bentos Steak & Kidney pie. So its bye for now!

Piepape

Thursday 2000, 7th May 2009. Long day today! into 1st lock by 0700 and on our way to the top of the journey and then through the tunnel (Balesmes). On the other side we start our descent to the Mediterranean. Ok, so we went through this 5km tunnel very slowly behind a canal barge. It went from +25 degrees C to something that felt like sub zero. Anyone doing this needs winter woolies at the ready. We then descended through another 11 locks before the last one shut, I might say just one hundred metres before our goal that included electric! tonight we are moored next to the barge and have met the guys aboard - true gentlemen.

Foulain

Wednesday 2015, 6th May 2009. And I thought yesterday was busy! we had three lockkeepers over the day, and as we 'wore' each of them out, with ascending locks, they changed! Whilst on route the then lockkeeper got a call from what was evidently 'head oncho' and we were told that we must do more kilometres. In fact we did 18 locks and ended up in an unplanned stopping place that unfortunately, although idyllic, doesn't have water, electric or showers - just have to go unwashed then! We had lunch of Quiche on the move, only broken by yet another lock coming up. Our worries about having to DIY the locks turned out to be my language translation! The guy meant we were to have a different escort. Tomorrow it is a 0700 start for us - could be croissant for breakfast, and on the move. We are now in the hands of the lockkeepers!

Froncles

Tuesday 2250, 5th May 2009. Cracked a few locks today with the aid of our own lockkeeper. We are now getting to go through locks very efficiently, so much so that tomorrow we get to DIY 9 manual locks on our own - according to the lockkeeper of today - Gulp! Tonight I managed to change the engine oil and grease the prop shaft with a makeshift syringe full of grease from the local pharmacy. We have electric tonight too! Whoopee! Oh! and internet access. The scenery is truly spectacular and today I felt as though we had arrived in the Alps, it was so fresh.

Joinville

Tuesday 1045, 5th May 2009. This is a pleasant little town with a LIDL supermarche and a very nice halte with electric, water, somewhere for ben to run and a garage for fuel about 100 metres away. The lock keeper has been motoring much of the way today and I get the impression that they want us to keep up a pace to make it through this section before the 11th when the canal closes for a month! The lock keeper enjoyed his cup of coffee before escorting us on our way at 0745! Next planned stop Froncles.

Orconte

Monday 0900, 4th May 2009. We really cracked on yesterday achieving quite a few kilometres only to get to the last lock at Orconte just too late to get to the fully serviced moorings just 150 metres on the other side. We moored with our mooring spikes alongside the canal. This morning we have got through the lock and I'm writing this at the moorings we should have been at last night. All we can hear are the birds, oh! and the kettle. We are shortly to get on the move again - ever onward!

Chalon-en-Champagne

Saturday 1600, 2nd May 2009. Really picturesque town with Tudor like beamed buildings that looked very old dotted in the streets. We both had a scout round the town centre before returning to Inadee for our supper. Tomorrow we intend to start early and crack on about 40 Km to Vitry-le-Francois.

Cumieres

Friday 1500, 1st May 2009. Left Epernay to get into position to start through locks early on the 2nd May. we moored at Cumieres next to a canal boat called Manatee crewed by an Australian couple. Had a very good evening started by walking round the village and then shared our evening meal and a few stories and experiences - excellent company. Got going at the crack of 0830 on Saturday to start the trip through quite a few locks. Our new mates had provided us with info that the canal we were to pass through was to close between 11 May and 7 June - Ouch! Well we got going and in company with Manatee headed for Conde-sur-Marne where Manatee would head off for Reims and we for Chalons-en-Champagne. We had a nice farewell lunch and met more happy wandering English sailors before heading off. Having got to the last lock just at the start of Chalon we found it didn't work and had to moor up alongside the road. Just got tied up when a young guy turned up and cheerily said in reasonable English 'do you want to go through the lock today - I'm the keeper'. Ten minutes later we moored up on the townside of the ecluse and found ourselves in a very nice park in the town centre - No power though!

Epernay

Wednesday 1200(Local), 29th April 2009. A short trip today to Epernay (Champagne Region Capital). We pulled in to 'Societe Nautique d'Epernay' at about 1130 just behind two American yachts that had arrived a couple of days ago from Gosport! The welcome was very good and lots of information was given to us. We have seen a Carrefour supermarche, about 8 minute walk! We got a pass to Castellane Winery to see how a very large producer of champagne works - Wow! Absolute miles of tunnels all at 11 degrees to ensure ideal conditioning of champagne. Spent evening with crews of other boats - drinking at the club house. 

Damery

Tuesday 1530(Local) 28th April 2009. Got up early (0830 ish) and after a light breakfast got our bikes out and travelled about 1.5 km to the Champagne vinyard owned by Arnaud Billard. Arnaud and his daughter looked after us and we tasted the local champagne before buying a bottle at 18.50 euro (good deal). Cycled downhill back to boat and made ready to move on. Well, we got as far as Damery and met up with the French people who had been moored in front of us at Reuil. We ended up taking lunch at the local Auberge 'Le Bateau Lavoir' with the eight crew, and we didn't speak any French and they spoke very little English - good time was had by all!!! Later this afternoon we are destined to visit a champagne producer with our local new friends - Could be trouble ahead! Weather today is mixed, either bright sunshine or light rain, whichever we have not prepared for, take the gear off - it rains, put the gear on - it's sunny; but who cares after a good lunch and more fun to come! We have power now and internet access so it could be that we stay tonight - 'specially' after the champagne trip later. Oooh! La! la!

Had a brilliant afternoon at a local champagnery 'Caillez-Lemaire. We were made really welcome by our new mates, one of whom was the Mayor of Damery, Gerard (Name dropping!). We ended up not only tasting the premiere champagne but got ourselves 6 bottles of the magic potion! Oh, we are staying here tonight! Ben is in his element, and loves wandering around new areas claiming anything that he can pee against!

Reuil

Monday 2000(Local), 27th April 2009. We were up bright and early to get to the local Carrefour supermarche so that we can get our mobile topped up and also do a spot of shopping. The Carrefour was just what we wanted and a friendly guy topped up our mobile for us. we got the victuals and headed back for the boat, leaving at about 1000. The moorings were quite well below the standards set elsewhere and the water and electric had been vandalised evidently some time ago and not fixed- not impressed! Two automatic ecluses later we stopped for lunch at Dormans. Not that impressed and we stopped just to have lunch. One more ecluse and we decided to stop at a nice little village, Reuil, in the champagne district for the night. Very peaceful place with excellent views of the local vinyards. We needed two power leads to make up the 50 metres to the power point. First thing in the morning we intend to visit cycle a short distance to Domaine and Bacchus to see how champagne is made - We'll taste it too, with a little encouragement! Tonight we have power but no internet access, blast! 

Chateau Thierry

Sunday 1800(Local), 26th April 2009. Left our overnight stop at 1005 and quickly got to the first normal ecluse of the day, Courtaron, at 1030. Once through the ecluse we gently poodled along some lovely Champagne countryside with jus a few spots of rain to dampen the decks but not our spirits. At the next ecluse, Mery,it was straight forward but the lock keeper came out and handed us our remote control for the next seven 'unmanned' locks! Intrepidation! We had lunch at Nanteul-sur-Marne before moving on to ascend  our first automatic lock, Charly. Well we got in very smoothly but then, having worked out where the 'blue handle was we had to change sides. Well, it didn't work and after pondering our lot we decided to back out of the lock and re-enter again. This time I ensured that we got under the detector that sits directly above the centre of the lock and sure enough this time we managed to get everything to work exactly to the book. We patted each other, verbally, on the back and continued on to our second automatic lock Azy. This we ascended with a companion, French, boat behind us and although a tight fit we both got in OK and within five minutes we were again on our way. 1700 and Chateau-Thierry came into sight with a promise of electric and water. We got a mooring but electric and water - NO! Oh well we will have to manage without power so I hope I get my laptop to make the upload! We also found that a one day local show with tractors and grape harvesters like I'd never seen before. It was a definite farming community do!

La-Ferte-sous-Jouarre

Saturday 1600(Local), 25th April 2009. We found this delightful little municipal stopping place in a bywater just off the main river. It is quiet, has electric and water, a place for Ben to run about and is within easy reach of the village centre. There is even a garage close by for fuel if needed. For supper I can smell the gentle aroma of Apple & Walnut Tarte cooking in the oven and the pan full of pork and herbs - yummy! (Eaten in reverse order of my mentioning!) Two more electric ecluses tomorrow and then, Dah Dah Dah Dar! a string of automatic ecluses. That'll be a new experience.

Saint-Jean-les-Deux-Jumeaux

Saturday 1500(Local), 25th April 2009. This was our next ecluse and the lock keeper came out to lend a hand by taking our warps and slipping them over the bollards.Ben even stepped off the boat to greet the lock keeper, which really pleased the guy! The rain, although not heavy, kept on as we left the ecluse, so we decided to make it a short day. Plan 'B' coming up!

Mary-sur-Marne

Saturday 1240(local), 25th April2009. Left Meaux at 1000 in dry but grey conditions. our first ecluse of the day would be Isles-Les-Meldeuses just 21Km upstream (approx 11 miles). we came up to the ecluse and waited for the green light at a waiting pontoon down river (pretty shallow about 3 metres before the pontoon). Our passage through the ecluse was, even though I say it myself, textbook stuff. Just as we cleared the lock the rain began to spatter our decks so we decided to find a suitable halt for lunch. Mary-sur-Marne was our choice and it was just right. Ben had a whole field to chase about and the mooring was in a lovely position. Had lunch, leetle sleep, and we were off again.

Meaux - Municipal Halte

Thursday 1530(Local), 23rd April 2009. Had a very pleasant trip from Lagny along the wood fringed canal - ideallic. With a tow path either side, just behind the trees which just dipped their leaves into the water, ideal 'Ben' walking environment. Excitement lurked at the ecluse Meaux when we got the message that the lock gates had stuck open and we were told no timescale could be given for our entry! Well it was French lunch time! An hour later and we were given the green light - just after we had taken our lunch too! The village on the other side of the lock was just too good to miss and here we are. Electric, Pontoons and tranquillity with shops fairly close by. It looks like a DVD evening tonight!

Friday 0200(Local), 24th April 2009. Excitement at 0200 when three policemen knocked us up! They had come to make enquiries about our two bikes, just confirming that we actually owned them (at 0200!!!). Looking on the funny side though, Ben slept on, gently snoring and totally oblivious to the action - Great B----- guard dog, ugh! After a lie in 'till 0900 we did a bit of sightseeing and sat outside the cathedral drinking coffee (1/2 the price of Paris) at the local tabac enjoying the gorgeous day! Finally sorted out internet access codes with SFR so that I can recharge my time. Tomorrow is market day at Meaux, whoopee!

Lagne - Halte Nautique

Wednesday 2000(Local), 22nd april 2009. Arrived Lagny at 1730, a very nice little town with quite a long pontoon for visiting boats. We left Paris d'Arsenal at about 1045 and quickly made our way to the left turn, off the Seine, into The Marne. our first ecluse of the day was Alfortville (Saint Maurice) which at 4.5 metres was a doddle! Another 3 Km further up river we turned left again into Ecluse Saint Maur (4 metres) which again was ascended with ease. And then, our first tunnel, Tunnel de St Maur. Not too bad cos we could see light at the end of the tunnel (Excuse pun). Further meandering up river brought us to our first ecluse where the water brimmed over the top of the upstream gate, water level almost over the lock edges and Christine tried the tyres for the first time - successfully! This was ecluse Neuilly-Sur-Marne and, having got through it we took lunch for an hour or more alongside a picturesque wooded towpath. This was a 'canal proper'. We set off behind a huge barge and spent the next few hours doing about 2Kn before reaching ecluse Vaires a mere 0.24 metres ascent. We then travelled some 5 more Km before reaching Lagny and a welcoming walk before supper.

Now using SFR for internet connection which has so far been super. Just got to manage on line time by downloading/uploading and then switching off.

Paris - Port de Paris l'Arsenal

Tuesday 2030(Local), 21st April 2009. Guests took 1700 train back to Paddington having had lunch at local restaurant. Monday was a busy day, we took the Seine Boat bus from close by marina on a round trip as far as the Eiffel Tower and back to start. We decided to do the round trip before getting off to walk up Champs d'Elysees and up to Arc de Triomphe before again walking to the Eiffel Tower to get the boat bus back to the marina stop at Quay St Bernard. Today its been glorious sunshine. Tomorrow we plan to move on from Paris and about 2Km up river turn left into the Marne. Watch this page...

Sunday 1230(Local), 19th April 2009. Guests Penny and David Russell arrived from UK on Friday morning on the Eurostar from Paddington to Garde du Nord. They took a taxi which cost 'peanuts' and arrived with us within ten minutes of leaving the station. Had lunch on the 'hoof' at a small bistro whilst having walked along the banks of the Seine toward Notre Dame.Then took the road 'inland' cos it was a bit chilly on the Seine toward Hotel du Ville and the shopping centre. Supper was slow cooked beef on board - delicious. Saturday morning we got up quite early (0830) and munched through the fresh French bread before setting off to catch the Metro (route 5) from the Bastille to Garde du Norde and then a short hike uphill to Montmarte (They said I would be taking the Funicular but it did not happen until we came down!). Just like the books say lots of 'Artists' taking money from tourists! on the way back I popped into the French telecom shop SFR and found an English speaking assistant who sold me a 3G Internet dongle and explained how I could get on line throughout France cheaply!! Still got to try this Gizmo! Had supper at the restaurant on the marina, which was very nice indeed . Sunday morning, the girls have gone to the market and we'll have lunch on their return before going on a cultural trip to the Louvre. Well, with two artists visiting it just had to be on the itinary! Ben is in his element with David because he just loves animals. Still thinking heavily about cost of Camping Gaz and alternatives; will report soon.

Thursday 2100, 16th April 2009. Found a gem of a veg market today not too far away and a source for Camping Gaz at EU23 for a bottle it seems excessive! Now thinking about alternatives, Camping Gaz, at 23eu for 3.75Kg and not much more for an alternetive 15Kg in a bigger cylinder, it has to be considered. I must have cycled a good 5Km looking for the Gaz and all through the busiest parts of Paris. Tomorrow our guests arrive from UK at about 1030 until Tuesday; we have saved up our touristy bit for the next four days! Will report as and when!

 Wednesday 2100, 15th April 2009. Walked what seemed halfway round Paris today along the banks of the Seine to Notre Dame via the Pont de Sully and Pont St Louis. Lots of tourists around the place to go with the sunshine. Walked round to the palace of Justice (impressive amount of gold leaf work).  from here we gently strolled along to the Hotel de Ville area and to a store called BHV! Wow! if this aint got it nowhere has! I purchased a high power lantern ready for a forthcoming journey through a long tunnel (location to be revealed).Earlier this evening christine and I spent a happy hour with a couple from Bern and a guy from Belgium in the capitaineries office emailing, Skyping and surfing the web. We also exchanged information on the locale and the route ahead. It was a really nice way to spend time. Monday and Tuesday we walked miles with Ben getting to know the terrain and taking in the sites like the 'Viaduct des Arts Promenade Plantee', an old railway line turned into a walkway with trees and shrubs. This runs for about 5Km from just behind the Opera House. Ohoh! my hot chocolate is up and i need an early night - well, its 1030 here.

Sunday 1700, 12th April 2009. Oh, what a restful four days! The whole team, in particular Ben has had a restful time, that is, apart from Christine who has continued to feed the crew no matter what. We've been to two supermarches just off the Rue du Faubourg - exciting! Today is market day at the Bastille, where there was an abundance of fresh fish, vegetables (all shapes and non-european sizes!) and the usual bric-a-brac stalls. the relatively quiet Easter weekend is only broken by the 'mating calls' of the emergency vehicles. Tomorrow is expected to be another quiet, restful day with nothing more to do than possibly write blog stuff, emails and Skype friends and family from the cockpit of Inadee. The weather has, so far been very kind and whilst it rained heavily in the night last night, the sun has had its hat off to us all day. Well, it is time for a loverly hot shower and the customary G&T at 1800 BST / 1900 local.

Wednesday 1630, 8th April 2009. We are at our first landmark spot, Paris! We cracked two ecluses today without hitch and arrived at the Bastille at about 1630 local time. Ben could hardly wait to get ashore to mark the place for England! This marina is very nice and the other boaters seem like a small community of really nice people from all sorts of places. We passed the Eiffel Tower (I thought of Blackpool! - Northern git!!!) and it was like a tourist trap, even today. The most memorable thing about today is, for me, INTERNET ACCESS! I have downloaded about 530 or so emails and can now work out where we have been so that I can complete my 'trip tracker'. Many thanks to all who have sent them - be patient for reply!

The weather has been a little disappointing with a few patches of rain, but nothing to stop the intrepid trippers - Christine stayed below and made 'brews'. Tomorrow we start by finding the bread shop - about 100 metres away, I sniff!

Frette (Halte de Plaisance)

Tuesday 1700, 7th April 2009. We were getting a bit worried that we would not find a comfortable spot to overnight when we saw this little halte at the riverside. It was 1700 and the sun has been out almost all day so we needed to relax in the shade. This village has nothing to shout about within easy reach of the boat but it is quiet and safe.

Tomorrow we think that we may get to Paris with only 65 kilometres to go and only two locks. Oh! I almost forgot the ecluse today turned out to be shear simplicity. Ecluse d'Andresy was ascended without a hitch and we both felt really pleased with ourselves to have attained this success.  Well supper awaits - seafood navarin accompanied with boiled rice, yummy! bye for now.

Limay Village For Lunch

Tuesday 1230, 7th April 2009. We decided to stop at Limay for lunch and some exercise round the town. The mooring was ideal, just before a bridge and within two minutes of the main high street. Ben did his duty and marked the territory before making friends with the local population of people and dogs.

We found yet another excellent boulangerie and a very helpful local store where we topped up with tonic and other goodies including a pizza for lunch.

The journey here took us past some luxury country houses and a couple of 'seen better days' chateau's and we have all the signs that we are closing in on Paris - more people!

Port de L'ilon (Just round the back of ecluse de Mericourt)

Monday 6th April 2009. A very pleasant days potter from Les Andelys and two locks ascended, we have arrived at Port de Plaisance de L'Ilon where Eric the port Capitaine welcomed us with excellent english. We've got showers and electric and the promise of internet tomorrow at the office. The surrounding area is doggy heaven with grassy bits and woods with lotsa lovely doggy smells for Ben - he loves it, Oh! and rabbits!

The trip here was lovely, going through small towns with norman period houses and great chateau's atop great white limestone cliffs. Many French people were out having their Sunday picnics on the river bank and gave us a friendly wave as we passed. After our testing experience with the Amerville ecluse (lock) we were pleasantly suprised at how easy the ecluse de Notre-Dame-de-la-Garenne  was to ascend, slight problem with the french/english but nothing catastrophic! We are perfecting our ecluse technique each time we do the task. We patted ourselves on the back on uneventfully getting through the ecluse and stopped on the bank for a lunch of french bread, cheese and chirozo - and a glass of lemon juice. We again set off on our adventure up river toward Paris with sunny weather all the way - our faces are tingling. We arrived at ecluse de Mericourt at 1730 local time and, having practised some French phrases, were surprised to hear the ecluse operator speak very good english - a confidence boost! We successfully navigated the lock, and the some 300-400 metres further on turned left into this haven. Christine has taken Ben for a constitutional and then it's Chilli beef and rice for supper - I'm starving but the G&T and stuffed olives have gone down well! And this is the end of week one!

It rained heavily overnight and Eric, the port capitaine, had said that Tuesday would be 'not so good'. Anyway we had breakfast at 0800 and left this haven with cloud and a prospect of rain...

Overnight - Les Andelys

Having left Rouen at 0730 we travelled up the tidal part of the river Seine to the first of many locks 'ecluse d'Amfreville. We arrived at the lock at 1130 and thought that we were the only boat to enter into the huge lock about 7+ metres below the water on the other side. How wrong can one be! Just after we entered a double barge came in behind us. It was almost the same width as the lock and we had to move up close to the forward lock gates - a mistake! Tying up to the lock presented us with our first test, having not experienced such a system as this. We also tried to tie the boat to a single mooring pin at the centre of the boat at about boat level, remember we had to rise about 6 metres!

We didn't expect what happened next - the water started to sluice in, gently then faster and then like a wall of water! The boat tugged and wrenched and unfortunately the forward line line came adrift and the boat swung freely across the width of the lock. Luckily the engine was running and after a frantic 5 minutes, whilst the lock filled, we managed to come to rest without any damage to the boat or mast. However, both Christine and I had a couple of rope burns and a few abrasions. Ben none the worse for ware had gone below even with his lifejacket on to escape the action! On the bridge across the lock stood four onlookers who, on completion of our incident, gave us a round of applause. We stopped for lunch and a rest just the up side of the lock before moving on to Les Andelys. The journey here was calming and picturesque with about 6 canal boats and a passenger boat passing us in both directions.

 

We arrived at 1700. Oh! What a good nights sleep. Not long after 1900 to be honest, we were both in bed and asleep. Woke at 0800, 5 April to the sound of birds and ducks followed at 0900 by the call to the local church with very nice, not too noisy, bells. Having bought bagettes and croisants from the local bolangerie on Saturday we had these for breakfast.

At about 0930 a huge, 150 metres long, barge pull up with his bow ahead of us and his stern poking out behind us - a bit daunting until we realised one of the crew had gone for fresh bread from the same baker we had used (On Sunday!). Just to assist the barge we decided to slide out backwards and set off for our next leg.

 

Rouen 2nd Port Of Call

Friday 3rd April 2009. Up at the crack of 0830 local time - breakfast and then out and about to the town centre. Very commercial but interestingly old mixed with new buildings. Found the internet cafe but decided against this and went for a cheese and ham panini instead. Had a walk round the cathedral and the location of Joan of Arcs 'hot' demise, before wandering in the older part of town taking in the ancient architecture. Finally, had a nice coffee and made for the boat. before my afternoon snooze I'm updating the web and putting together a couple of emails ready to send when we next manage to connect to the internet (If ever!!).

Thursday 2nd April 2009. Restful day, well almost! Inflated two large fenders, approximately 0.7 metres diameter, and two 0.5 metre diameter fenders. One of the local French canal boaters came to our rescue with an electric pump - it took ages! Anyway it was an excuse for having a beer and a chat with the outcome that we bought Navicarte 3 & 8 to travel down the Marne & Champagne et Bourgogne. Our local 'expert' mentioned that this would be most likely to be at least 1.8 metres deep the other route he said was lower than the specified depth of 1.8 metres! We also stocked up with a visit to the local supermarche - Just like ASDA really!

Wednesday 1st April 2009. Wow! Arrived at Halte Plaisance de Rouen (yacht Haven) at 1930 local time after a very good sail (motoring) from Honfleur. Even with the late LW at Honfleur we managed it with a little time to spare. We were made ever so welcome by Francis (Port Capitaine) who had been just going for his supper. The weather was again excellent and we have both got that tingly hot face feeling from being in the sun.

Honfleur 1st Port Of Call

Monday 30th March 2009. We arrived at Honfleur at 1530 BST (1630 French Summer Time) and only had a short time to wait for the outer lock to open. The trip of 17:30 hours was excellent apart that is that it was perishingly cold. Thank goodness the Wallas heater was in good working order. Ben (the dog) was marvelous, curled up down below once we cleared Portsmouth Harbour and came up on deck as soon as we got within a smell of land - he then went back below till we got in to the inner basin, through the two bridges and Basin L'Est, where the mast was to be removed.

Tuesday, 31st March 2009. The above pictures show us moored up in the town centre marina after having had the mast taken down and put on deck. The weather is glorious but chilly and we definitely need the heater on. We had frost on the sails this morning! Taking the mast down was painless and Frederik did a splendid job - good value for money. We have now watered up, got electric & internet access (Albatros bar) most of the time. Tomorrow Wednesday we set off at 0830 for Ruen.

Got up at 0700 on Wednesday 1st April, opened my birthday cards, and nipped along to bakers for the customary baguette, pain chocolate and croissants. After a general boat sort out we started the engine with five minutes to go to the bridge opening and entry into the lock. At 0835 we were on our way toward Rouen with a slight foul tide for about an hour and three quarters (LW Honfleur 1030). Ben got his head down as usual and Christine and I studied the Navicarte as we went along - a doddle! I was a little surprised at the number of large ships and numerous barges that went up and down the river. But no problem to us at all.

And, we are off up to Rouen! it's 0830 and we sit in the lock waiting for the grand entrance to the Seine and onward. The last image is of Inadee leaving behind Pont Normandie. This bridge is magnificent as it towers some 50 metres above the boat. 

Gosport - Our Home Port

Sunday 29th March 2009, Well It's the OFF on our trip day. Weather reports are favourable and the boat is as ready as we can make it, albeit a little lower in the water.

The sunset is terrific, so here is our last Hornet picture for a while...

Wight
Shipping forecast 1725 Sun 29 Mar
Wind

Variable becoming southwest 3 or 4.

Sea State

Smooth or slight.

Weather

Fair.

Visibility

Moderate or good, occasionally poor.

We are leaving at about 2130 and heading directly for Honfleur where we hope to arrive at about 1530 on Monday. There is a wonderful smell coming from the galley, cottage pie and brussel sprouts. Just the thing to fortify us both for the Journey. A couple of Stugeron for pud, just in case!

Monday 23rd March 2009. With more than two weeks of great weather for sailing behind us, Sunday 22 March has brought us a weather forecast of 5-7 for Dover, Wight,  Portland and Plymouth - Oh! damnation. The plan was to sail from Portsmouth direct to Honfleur from about 2130 on Monday 23rd March, weather permitting.  We will look for a suitable weather forecast before starting across channel on our adventure to the Mediterranean via the French canals.

Wight
Gale warning 0951 Mon 23 Mar 

Northwesterly gale force 8 imminent

Shipping forecast 1725 Mon 23 Mar
Wind Northerly or northwesterly 6 to gale 8, occasionally northerly or northwesterly 6 to gale 8, backing westerly 4 or 5 later.
Sea State Moderate or rough.
Weather Squally showers.
Visibility Moderate or good, occasionally poor.

We can always nip across to Bembridge, Oh! Oh! 

Or, have Barry  Tidy pop down to the boat to make a cuppa... without whose support getting ready would have been that much more difficult. Barry, the marinas resident carpenter and yacht repair specialist is one of those treasures we will miss on our trip.  And the evidence...
 
Wight
Gale warning 1604 Tue 24 Mar 

Westerly gale force 8 expected soon

Shipping forecast 1725 Tue 24 Mar
Wind West or southwest 4 or 5, increasing 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8.
Sea State Moderate or rough.
Weather Rain or showers.
Visibility Moderate or good.