Cambrai - Chauny

Monday the 14th of July – Quatorze Juillet, La Fête Nationale Française. All French men, women and children have a day off and every hamlet, village, town or city celebrates. We were in Cambrai and the morning started with a display, on the central market-place, of all vehicles used by les pompiers. There was more: La Patrouille de France (France’s equivalent for GB’s Red Arrows or US’ Thunderbirds and Blue Angels) did a fly over, as did a refueling aircraft. We think aircrafts are more sexy than fire engines, so we choose for this picture. Borrowed from the Internet, to be honest, because the low flying aircrafts were just a few seconds in sight – by far too fast for us to take a picture ourselves. An interesting detail is that Commandant (Major) Virginie Guyot (Angers, 30 December 1976) is a fighter pilot of the French Airforce who achieved an historical first when she was appointed leader of the Patrouille de France, becoming the first woman in the world to command a precision aerobatic demonstration team.

The festivities continued by having a swimming contest, among, other things, starting from ‘our’ harbour. Here are some heroes at the start-/finish-line.

As this picture shows, one of the competitors wore a natural swimming cap. Well, he did it – and we did not…

Before the display of fireworks started the town hall was appropriately illuminated in the colours of the national flag.

Quatorze Juillet

Traditionally –at least in bigger towns, where it’s easier affordable- the French National Day ends with a comprehensive display of fireworks. See and listen!

After 4 nights in Cambrai we left on Tuesday the 15th of July 2014. While on the way a butterfly landed in front of the wheelhouse on top of our well hidden pile of bags of coal (12!). The little animal strongly reminded us of the early aircraft-builders, say Anthony Fokker’s and his ‘Spin’. See

One of the obstacles that day was Le Souterrain de Riqueval (5,67 kilometers – over 3,5 miles). This is the north entrance of this long tunnel. Entering time: 4:48PM. Exit time: 6:20PM. It was OK this time –mostly because we were the heaviest, so first to be towed- but it’ll never be our favourite activity on the waterways.

It was a pretty busy Tuesday, as we negotiated 17 locks (and the described tunnel). That took us from 8:47AM till 7:16PM. Sometimes we are just slaves of our hobby. To be fair, we planned to do Le Souterrain de Tronquoy (Lesdins) as well – it’s only 1.098 meters. We had to stop, though, the traffic light showed red. Then the two other boats that had accompanied us through the long tunnel arrived. And we had a chat. And a drink. Or two. And then the light showed green. We had a too good time to move and, as one does, continued our lively conversation deciding to ‘do’ this simple tunnel the next day. Here we are, seen at dawn the next morning, close to a village called Le Haucourt.

The next day, Wednesday the 16th, we had to wait until 1:00PM before the traffic light changed from red into green. On hindsight it must be related to the times of crossing Le Souterrain de Riqueval. The times of crossing Le Sousterrain de Tronquoy (Lesdins) are not shown on a sign underneath the traffic light; the only information on the sign tells us to wait if the light is not working. (Yeah, big deal.) Not a single ship came our way out of the tunnel the entire morning. It’s a pity the tunnel is situated around a bend, so it’s impossible to see whether there’s any oncoming traffic. Well, the day started at 1:15PM for a change and ended at 3:55PM. Only 2 and 2/3 of an hour, one tunnel and four locks included. We moored at Saint-Quentin, just upstream of the lock of the same name. It’s not all that attractive there, but close to a low priced petrol station (we mean the petrol) – comparatively speaking, of course, all petrol (gazole in our case) is expensive. We bought 360 liters in 3 jerry cans with a capacity of 20 liters each. Distance from ship to petrol station about 300 meters – not all of it flat. Six times up and down, la capitaine one jerry can, le capitain two. Our backs still hurt…

Saint-Quentin was left behind on Thursday the 17th, at 12:50PM. (Our battered bodies did not allow us to be any earlier.) Initially we planned to go to ‘Le Vieux Port’ of Saint-Quentin, but according to our information boats up to only 13 meters (43 feet) are accepted and it is supposed to be expensive. Apart from that we would not have covered much distance from where we had an overnight stop. So we decided to go to a side-arm of the canal we had been before (Autumn 2012) but not used – only looked at (we were rookies then). It’s next to a village called Seraucourt-le-Grand and it is nothing less than a little paradise. Admittedly pretty weedy – but fortunately not a ‘mean’ sort of weed. We turned the ship where the arm is wider and less weedy, did the last part in reverse and stopped the engine at 2:47PM. Only two locks done, one could say close to nothing.

We were unable to connect to the Internet as from Wednesday (Saint-Quentin). So the news of the chrashed Malaisya Airlines 777 flight MH17 came as a belated shock when reading the e-newspaper on Friday morning. It’s a disaster to the entire world, especially The Netherlands, and hard to take when thinking about what happened and how the aftermath is being dealt with.

Today, Sunday the 20th of July, we left Seraucourt-le-Grand. Almost reluctantly, but we have to – due to a promise to pick up good friends in a few days at L’Isle Adam on the river Oise. We left early, 8:53AM, descended 12 locks, left Le Canal de Saint-Quentin and entered Le Canal latéral à l'Oise. This sign, just downstream of the bridge at Chauny tells us it’s Le Fin d’un et L’Origine de l’autre.

Chauny was our destination for today. We cruised a few minutes over 6 hours, which isn’t bad when 12 locks are included. The locks on the Canal de Saint-Quentin are smoothly responding to the remote control. There was only one space left at Chauny; it’s all we need. À bientôt!