Waulsort (B) - Laifour (F)

  • Lock cottage

    At long last we left Waulsort on Tuesday the 28th of June at 10:47AM. We have been there for exactly a month. A full month!! The last Belgian lock, Ecluse Hastière…

  • Detail

    …was tackled around noon. Admittedly it’s got number one, but was the last Belgian one for us. For the time being that is.

Bye bye Belgium…

…hello France! No ‘France’, just ‘douane’. Are they strict or what?

The first lock, just a few hundred meters after crossing the border, is named ‘Quatre Cheminées’. The fifty ninth according to the French, the first French lock for us. As remarked before, the Belgians count looking downstream, the French upstream. Given the present political situation one expects some form of checking. To our amazement: nothing, not noticeable anyway. We like to think that we do look pretty harmless. Nobody checks what’s inside our little ship.

We moored in the little town of Givet at 2:00PM. This is what it looks like; we travelled there by bus a week or so before and had a sun-drenched lunch close to the tower in the distance. This time the sky was grey – again.

A lot of times campervans do use the same facilities as ships, so they tend to cluster together. Not in Givet though, the campervans are to be seen on the opposite side – the right bank. Huge amounts of water not only in the river Meuse -that’s normal- but up in the air as well – that’s less normal on the 28th of June, insn’t it?

Wednesday morning, we left Givet at 10:35AM, planning to cruise to Fumay. On the way however we spotted an attractive looking mooring space at Haybes. We used the break spontaneously and tied up at 3:15PM – after having passed 4 locks and 1 tunnel.

The next day we did the easiest cruise so far: 1 lock and 3 kilometers from Haybes, to Fumay as yet. Wherever one looks, the combination Meuse/Ardennes is just gorgeous – even though the summer, contrary to last year, has still to arrive. The cruising time was 55 minutes – an all-time low.

Traces of high water are still visible on the grey stone edge of Fumay’s quay. It’s the light-brown stuff that remains as a residue after the water has gone down to its normal level. Well, ‘normal’, let’s call it summer level. We approached an elderly couple, living in the second (narrow) house next to our ship –see the last picture- for information. They told us the water had risen just over the top of the quay in June and that their basement was inundated. Some four steps lead to their front door. The living quarters are around 3 to 4 feet above street level, hence unaffected. ‘And what about the basement?’ we asked. Who cares, was their reaction, it’s a fact of life. Sometimes the river is a bit nasty, that’s all.

Fumay’s capitainerie is housed in a charming corner-house, opposite an inviting ‘friterie’.

It was really too tempting for us not to buy French fries and croquettes for a dinner. This picture, and the 8th one, shows how near we were moored to the ‘friterie’. We remembered another great one, at Vireux-Wallerand, that we had to skip a few days earlier – to our regret, we have to admit. This one compensated for it; its products were of the same high level! Spread the word: Vireux-Wallerand and Fumay alike are absolutely worth a stop for the lovers of French fries.

Strong current

Fumay was left behind on Friday the 1st of July at 10:25AM. Watch this little video, meant to show you the still strong current. We cruise on 1.200 revs, sometimes 1.300, at a groundspeed of around 3 to 3,5 knots (between 3,25 to 4 miles/5,5 to 6,25 kilometers) an hour.

The railway-bridge that we passed underneath on the video in its full glory now. It’s all utterly scenic in the French Ardennes. (For the curious ones among you: it’s at PK 45, just downstream of lock 48 ‘Dames des Meuse’ – a fairly deep and difficult one. We survived. Again.)

Revin was our destination for that Friday but, oops, for the first time all spaces were occupied. On top of that not a soul was visible to tell us they were planning to leave shortly or to invite us to breast up. Under these circumstances it always seems as if everybody has gone shopping. Or dived below deck maybe. Shame on us, we should not have these bad thoughts! Anyway, we had to turn around (strong current!), continued and found a lovely spot at Laifour, some 10 kilometers further upstream. The sign promises a lot. Don’t believe it, the only remaining utilities are the restaurant (?) and the dépôt de pain (no s, there’s only one).

Laifour, still our present mooring, reached last Friday at 4.15PM, after a cruise of almost six hours, 5 locks and the short Revin-tunnel included. Idyllic, that’s the appropriate description.

No facilities at Laifour, as stated before. Rescue is at hand, fortunately, a train travels up and down between Givet (PK 4) and Charleville-Mézières (PK 80). It’s a luxury slow train, stopping at all the villages between the two towns, Laifour (PK 49,5) included. So we took the train on Saturday, travelled into Charleville-Mézières, and did our shoppings there. One cannot ask for anything better.

A little adventure now. Late Friday afternoon a cruiser arrived. See the flag on the rear for its nationality. (We sincerely hate stereotyping!) The cruiser had passed by before, obviously unable to find a proper mooring-space, therefore came back and used the two remaining bollards where the bank has no longer a concrete quay. We already noticed their ropes to be on a heap, not ready-to-use and knots in it. Well, so far, so good. The next morning the couple planned to leave and they untied the upstream, front rope, first. That was not wise, to say the least, as the strong current pushed the boat immediately in an impossible position, the rear rope tight like a violin string, more or less right-angled to the current, less than 2 yards from our bow. What next??

The couple had no clue whatsoever, apart from permanently arguing. Very well audible too. The man rebuked the woman for untying the front rope first and uttered his annoyance even to us, the woman very well able to overhear. We only could think: ‘you are the captain, aren’t you, you plonker’. (What a lovely word: plonker!) Nothing helped, the remaining rope could not be removed – not by them, pardon: her (it was very dangerous to her hands!), he only raged, not by a neighbour, nor by us. There was only one solution – and that was to cut the rope. Reluctantly the man eventually did it – but not before we shouted to him to accelerate as much as he could, to avoid colliding with our ship. He did not dare to accelerate (plonker!), so inevitably the cruiser collided with a firm bang against our floating home. We feared for damage, but to our relief the only visible traces are the protruding parts of our anchor, now being white – in exchange for the black imprints on the port side of their cruiser. They never waved or looked back – just got the h**l away from us.

  • Snipe sattelite finder

    Already around November last year we bought a Snipe, capable of receiving the same TV-signal a 60-cm disk is capable of. The former little disk is not usable for the signal of Astra 3 – the one we need for a better signal. Apart from that broadcasters are leaving Astra 1 for Astra 3, thus forcing us to do something about it – or read a book. The Snipe (cheapest when bought in Germany, which we did) was installed shortly before we left Antwerp at the start of last April. We are very happy with the thing, it works perfectly and is automated too, folding down included, so there’s no longer any need to aim a disk at the satellite with a device that beeps when approaching the right position – while the other half of us loudly calls from the inside: ‘no, do…

  • In-house 'switchboard'

    …not see any picture' and the one outside, suffering from the cold and/or the rain, with fingers more stiffened every second, not understanding at all why there’s no picture yet (the beep cannot be any louder, can it?). Now one just make a choice inside the comfortable ship and ‘friend’ Snipe does the rest. We only used Astra 1 (no High Definition picture, who cares), 2 (BBC) or 3 (HD picture). Until now we skipped Turksat (Erdogan!) or Eutelsat (with a K in front it would be Dutch for ‘Turdsat’) and the rest. It’s pure luxury – the European Championship of football has our undivided attention. Our favourites, Belgium and England (though, after Brexit…) are out. Therefore now we fancy Iceland and, well, France. Tonight’s the night! Bye for now.