Cercy-la-Tour - Chitry-les-Mines

Where were we again? Oh yes, at Cercy-la-Tour – arrived on Thursday the 23rd of April, remained there for 2 nights and published our weekly blog-page a few days earlier than normal because of suspicion for a weak of absent internet-connection. (We proved to be right.) Anyway, we left on Saturday the 25th of April at 9:00AM climbed 8 locks and ended up in Biches-Fleury around 3:30PM, 22 kilometers (just under 14 miles) further up and 18,31 meters (over 60 foot) higher, compared to our point of departure.

After many days of (close to) continuous glorious weather Monday the 27th of April reminded us of The Carpenters’ song ‘Rainy Days And Mondays’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPmbT5XC-q0). This was a rainy day indeed and Monday too… Nevertheless we left at 8:45AM.

That day we continued fearlessly, negotiating 6 locks and bridging almost 11 kilometers (6,75 miles). Eventually a bit awkward mooring space was found at Châtillon-en-Bazois – the rope-handler soaking wet (locks!), the other half, occupying the wheel house, 100% cheerful… We moored right in front of Châtillon-en-Bazois’ castle which gave us the opportunity to make this picture. The next morning, that is, when the weather resumed to showing its sunny side again.

An overall picture of the scene at Châtillon-en-Bazois. We moored the day before at the left bank, just visible here, opposite the castle, in front of the lock. Departure time on Tuesday the 28th of April 09:08AM; entering the lock 09:11AM. (Our logbook, kept by la capitaine, is an inexhaustible source of information.)

After having climbed 5 locks, one 2-lock staircase included, we approached another 2-lock staircase, immediately followed by a 3-lock staircase, named Chavance 7-8 and Chavance 4-5-6. We started at kilometer 0, counting up and at lock 35, counting down. All very logical, don’t you think? Anyway, this is what one sees when approaching ‘the 5 Chavances’. It’s a bit of a distorted picture because of using the zoom lens at high capacity. There’s a pond of a bit over 100 meters (333 foot) between the first two in the front and the group of three locks in the background, partly under the bridge.

We climbed the first group of 2 locks and were told by the lock keeper that boats were coming down from the opposite direction, that it was close to noon and that we would have to wait to climb the second group of 3 locks until 1:00PM. As we’ve told before, the lunch break is sacrosanct; we do not have a problem with that, by the way. So we moored in between the short, but wide – to be able to store enough water for a smooth operation of the downstream locks- pond and witnessed two hire boats coming down. Like us, they both had to wait until 1:00PM before being able to descend the 2-lock staircase.

This picture gives a good impression of the slightly intimidating sight when in the middle lock of the 3-lock staircase and looking back. This also illustrates the stories that are told with the former two pictures.

It’s paramount to concentrate on the chain of events when in a lock, arguably even more when ascending than descending because of the force of the incoming water. But… when we were in the middle lock this adorable couple walked by and we just could not resist to ask them to wait, thus offering us the opportunity to picture a man and his best friend, being a donkey - obviously on a walking holiday together.

Back to the middle lock (of 3), as it is a bit of a different design with its a-typical sill underneath the bridge. As you’ll understand it’s wise not to move too far forward inside this lock, because there’s a chance that the stone sill will emerge as the winner when challenged by a steel hull… That’s what we meant when stating that operating a lock requires uninterrupted attention. So the thing with the man and his donkey is not a good example for future boaters!

Ascending a (staircase-)lock

This is what happens after the two sluices are opened by the lock keeper. Carefully one by one because the power of the incoming water is really fierce, illustrated by the movements of our floating home weighing close to 35 tons.

After just over 2 kilometers (1,4 miles) the two groups of staircase locks were followed by the bridge ‘Pont de Mougny’, supposedly the lowest/narrowest on this canal as it has the honour to have a dedicated drawing inside our ‘Fluviacarte’ nr 19 (page 58). So we planned to pass this one very careful – even one of us walking on the towpath with a rope attached to a side-bollard on our ship to pull her as close to the towpath as possible, thus avoiding the low underside (2,71 meters – 9 feet) of the bridge. The height of our wheelhouse is around 2,90 (a bit over 9,5 foot). When we approached the bridge we decided that we could do it without all the wrongly anticipated fuzz. The bridge is 3,50 meters (11,5 foot) high in the centre and passing underneath could be described by the term ‘a walk in the park’. This is the picture when looking back.

At 3:13PM we reached the summit level of the canal and moored up near Baye. It took us altogether 15,5 kilometers (close to 10 miles), 14 locks included, elevating us another 31,74 meters (105 foot) – in a little over 6 hours. We’re moored here on the canal, separated by a wall from a huge lake. The lake is part of a set of lakes that supplies water to the canal.

On Wednesday the 29th of April we left the Loire-basin at 8:20AM and set sail for one of the most beautiful parts of France’s waterways, being the 3,8 kilometers (almost 2,4 miles) summit level of Le Canal du Nivernais. Its narrowness requires maintaining a system of one-way traffic, controlled by traffic lights. Part of it are 3 tunnels, 758 meters (2.525 foot), 268 meters (890 foot) and 212 meters (706 foot) long respectively, named ‘Les voûtes de la Colancelle’. They proved to be pretty difficult as there’s no lighting inside and we were unable to solve this problem in a satisfactory way. We survived. After having tackled the tunnels with a sigh of relief we hugely enjoyed the remaining pretty part of the canal as, we hope, is shown by this picture.

Canal du Nivernais - navigating its summit level

Join us for around 90 seconds to enjoy cruising Le Canal du Nivernais’ summit-level. We baptized this part ‘Gorge du Nivernais’. Savour its beauty and… fully appreciate the reason for the system of one-way-traffic. It’s really narrow! To our disbelieve we spotted a beaver on one of the steep sides, unable to avoid this huge thing, slowly approaching and occupying his/her only way of escaping, being the entire waterway. It turned out to be only a frightening event for the animal and we, in amazement and our attention fixated on the waterway, forgot to make a picture of it.

After the summit level the canal obviously is descending into the Seine-basin – initially towards the river Yonne, eventually joining the river Seine. A purported labour-intensive task was awaiting us, namely tackling a series of 16 locks within a distance of 3,2 kilometers (2 miles) – that’s a lock after every other 200 meters (650 foot) on average! This brings the level down 40,83 meters (136 foot). The task appeared to be a lot easier –and faster- than anticipated; more about that with the next picture. Some of the locks have interesting names, like ‘Demain’ (tomorrow), ‘Mondain’ (worldly) and ‘Doyen’ (same in English). Several former lock keeper-houses are nowadays occupied by artists, bohemians if you like, so it’s a sort of permanent exposition. This picture shows lock nr 6 ‘Planche de Belin’ and its adjacent lock-house, all in pink including the lock gates. Inside the house there’s a permanent exposition of all sorts of paraphernalia (the house is rented by a globetrotter); outside is an outdoor café. Several rugs were, permanently, draped on the road-surface. No lie here!, we can prove it by a picture.

With the last picture we stated to expect a labour-intensive task. In reality we were given an easy ride down as there was a crew of two lock-keepers uninterrupted working with us. Here they are, awaiting one of the locks to empty. Our tasks were limited to those two: (1) cruising out of one lock into the next one and (2) throwing a rope around a bollard inside the lock. They did all the rest – and on a high pace too, travelling together from one lock towards the other in their car. All 16 locks were already set in our favour, another reason why we entered the 1st one at 9:32AM and left the 16th one at 11:57AM. That was 2 hours and 25 minutes to be exact, which is hardly over 9 minutes for each individual lock. A record maybe?

Almost immediately behind the last lock we moored for that day and it was only 9 minutes after noon. This space is just above lock number 17, ‘Champ du Chêne’, visible for the trained eye on the far left side of this picture. It is not far from a village called Sardy and, to be frank, there’s not a lot more to tell you about it.

Thursday, on the last day of April, we entered the first lock at 9:40AM, to discover that again there was a crew of two lock keepers working with us – and they remained so for the rest of the cruising-day (= the morning). When we entered the 4th lock on that day we pictured this old design of a flight of steps for climbing out of a lock, either in case of emergency (after a swim-session) or not (helping the lock keeper). This one misses its handle on top, so it’s virtually a worthless one. The picture is meant as an introduction to the next one.

When descending there was this surprise. A bird’s nest, eggs included, revealed itself to the surprised boat-crew – us. It’s not very busy on the canal, at least in this time of the year; we see perhaps two moving boats per day on average. So this bird-parent-to-be must have thought –well, felt or something similar- to have found an absolute safe place for breeding. We hope for the best, for her, him or both and for their offspring.

Between kilometer 78.3 and 79.8 there’s another piece of ‘voie unique’ (one-way traffic) because of the canal’s narrowness. This is what it looks like when looking back. Why this picture? We think it makes for a nice composition of colours and lines, that’s why.

Here we are, moored at Chitry-les-Mines as from Thursday 12:33PM. We negotiated 12 locks, a double one included, descended just a bit over 30 meters (100 foot) and progressed an astonishing 8, yes 8!, kilometers. Because France is closed on the 1st of May it was our plan to stay for two nights. We have to pay for it for the first time since we left Roanne on the 15th of April. Not bad, we think, so we decided to stay for a third night and, subsequently, to leave not earlier than Sunday the 3rd of May.

Chitry-les-Mines has its own castle, not unexpectedly named ‘Château de Chitry-les-Mines’. We had the plan to visit the castle as it looks interesting on its pictures. Arriving at the entrance we discovered that we are almost one-and-a-half month early. (S..t.) Therefore we were just able to picture a part of the gate and one tower. For a nice picture of the castle go to http://www.villamathilda.eu/fotos/toerisme/IMG_7111.jpg.

One of us was born on the 1st of May some years back. (France closes every year to commemorate this. Bless the French!) Close to the marina where we are moored till Sunday is a camping by the name of Camping de L’Ardan – after the little river where the camping is situated next to. See for more information http://www.camping-bourgogne.com/Camping_de_lArdan/Welcome.html. Part of this camping is a restaurant, not surprisingly named ‘Restaurant de L’Ardan’. We’ve had dinner there on the first day of the month of the year without the letter r in its name. This, slightly blurred, picture shows the inside of the restaurant. The food was excellent. We’re both pictured, so it’s not possible to blame the blur on one of us – or on too much alcohol inside one of us, to be more specific. A funny (we think) little anecdote to end with. The owner/exploiter of the restaurant asked us today (Saturday) if we were planning to have dinner at his place again tonight. Because it is not possible to pay by ‘carte bancaire’ and our cash is insufficient since last night’s extravagance we told him ‘no’. He informed us about being prepared to accept payment by transferring the money from our bank-account into his. It’s an offer we can’t refuse (Vito [Andolini] Corleone). We’ll go. À bientôt.