Boating-season 2014

Just in case someone wonders where Roanne - France, our ‘refuge’ for the winter, is situated here’s a detail of France’s map of its waterways. Roanne is situated at the south edge of the centre of France, so to speak, roughly in the middle of a circle formed by Mâcon, Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Clermont-Ferrand and Moulins – halfway between Moulins and Lyon. For more info see: Especially for our UK-Midlands-friends: Roanne is twinned with Nuneaton and Bedworth, among other cities.

After having cruised up and down to/from Digoin with a dear friend in March, our summer season started in earnest on the first day of April 2014. Diksmuide, West Flanders, Belgium, was our destination. We were supposed to arrive their on the 11th of June as a participant of a week-long DBA (Dutch Barge Association) gathering, commemorating the outbreak of the Great War 100 years ago. We followed Le canal latéral de Roanne à Digoin, Le canal latéral à la Loire, Le Canal de Briare and Le Canal du Loing, reaching Moret sur Loing –our residence during the winter 2012/13- on the 23rd of April.

Our two grandsons joined us in Moret-sur-Loing, planning to be with us for several days, cruising through Paris included.

We left Moret-sur-Loing on the 27th, following the river Loing only for a few kilometers, then La Seine downstream –wonderful Paris included- and delivered both our visitors safely back to their parents at Rueil-Malmaison. After Conflans-Sainte-Honorine the easy life was over; we cruised the river Oise upstream, followed by Le canal latéral à l’Oise and Le canal de Saint-Quentin.

Le Canal de Saint-Quentin changes almost unnoticed into the river L’Escaut (Schelde) at Cambrai. L’Escaut is left after not that big a distance and, going towards the north-west, the wide and long canal –sometimes a bit boring to be honest- towards Dunqerque has to be negotiated. Coming from the east the first town of any substance along this canal is Douai. We arrived the 22nd of May and stayed for 5 nights. This picture shows Douai’s town hall with its beautiful belfry.

Via Bethune and Arques we reached Dunquerke on the 29th of May. We moored in the area that is free from the influence of the tide, contrary to a lot of seagoing little vessels on the other side of the separating quay. This picture was taken during low tide; see the difference when looking at the (at present) steep entrance and the quays of the harbour.

Diksmuide was reached exactly on the 11th of June 2014. We’ve told about the town before. Therefore this time an original picture from the trenches along the river IJzer. The Belgians defended the west-bank against the occupying forces on the east-bank. A periscope was used to observe the enemy. It was sheer misery and horror – this picture is a mild one, we’ve seen absolutely devastating others . Apart from Diksmuide we visited Ieper (Ypres), too. Al those deaths and demolition… It’s beyond anyone’s imagination.

Since we were in Belgium anyway we planned to visit some attractive cities in Flanders. Starting on the 20th of June from Ieper we arrived, via again Diksmuide and Nieuwpoort, on the 21st of June in Brugge (Bruges). What a picturesque, compact city, full of atmosphere!

And then there’s Gent (Ghent), larger than Brugge and almost as nice. (Some say: nicer.) We arrived the 23rd and enjoyed a lovely short stay.

As the 4th picture clearly indicates –follow the green marking- we had decided to leave Belgium in a different way from arriving. We left Gent on the 25th of June and cruised, via Kortrijk back into France –again, without any custom-guy or –girl in sight- ending up at a place with the striking name of Wambrechies, hugging Lille. We visited the city of Lille and were pleasantly surprised. Here’s a street scene of the old inner city.

After Lille we stayed for over a week at Douai, eventually deciding to move on. Unexpectedly the opportunity presented itself to stay in Cambrai’s harbour for four nights, even electricity and water available, starting the 11th of July – the birthday of the youngest of the two of us. Of course on the 14th of July there was a parade in front of L’Hotel de Ville, all dignitaries present. Vive la France! Vive la Republique! Liberté – Égalité – Fraternité!

On the way back we did not only cross Paris, no, we arrived on the 29th of July and stayed four nights at Le port de l'Arsenal, situated between La Seine and La Place de la Bastille. Paris looks like this, as seen from (the hill) Montmartre.

Reluctantly we left Paris on the 2nd of August. As we were planning not to return to Roanne before the end of October we had more than 2,5 months left, giving us the opportunity to plan a detour on the river Marne. That proved to be a real treat, the icing on the cake! (Apart from unrivalled Paris, of course.) We made it almost into Epernay, just over 10 kilometers (6,25 miles) short from it. The river, together with the bordering vineyards, makes just a very, very pretty picture. Here’s the prove of it.

Sometimes the locks on the way have been huge and deep. But also…

…they can be tiny and shallow, like pictured here. We negotiated this season some 375 locks, big ones, small ones, automated ones and hand-operated ones.

Tunnels are a feature as well, mostly on canals, sometimes as part of a river when a shortcut is made to avoid a large bend. It happens that an electrically driven tug-boat tows one or more boats through because of a lack of ventilation like here at Riqueval, Canal de Saint-Quentin. No running engine, because of the fumes...

…but most of the times one can cruise under one’s own steam, visible here – Lesdins, close to the one on the last picture.

This season we’ve cruised around 2.400 kilometers (1.500 miles), the week in March included. The number of cruising days has been 100 and the engine ran during 445 hours altogether. We had to replace accelerator- as well as gearbox-cable. Also replaced are 10 domestic batteries. We’re back in Roanne since Friday the 24th of October. Here’s the present (Sunday the 2nd of November 2014) view as seen from the bow of our boat looking to the south. Circus Amar, established 1924, is prominently visible. Next week more about the circus, perhaps, maybe, who knows??