Le Chesne - Asfeld

Last week we ended with a picture of our mooring spot at Le Chesne, a vibrating town without an Internet-signal. In spite of this disadvantage we stayed there for 4 nights, eventually because the weather conditions prevented us from leaving earlier. After the heat wave at long last it was raining, notably on Wednesday the 7th of August, the day that we were planning go back into action. Take our word for it: you don’t want to execute the task awaiting us in the rain! During our stay commercial boats were going up and down regularly – they even passed in the narrow section in front of us, as this picture shows (note the one in the distance).

The same boat, photographed from the bridge next to our temporary residence. As you can see the commercial boat –and his colleagues- were hired to transport the waste, created by dredging the canal further down. The canal is a bit shallow for commercial purposes so it is impossible to use the hold to its full capacity.

On Thursday the 8th we left Le Chesne at 9:50AM, knowing that on that very day we had to negotiate 28 locks going down on a distance of 16 kilometers (10 miles), including a flight of 27 locks within 9 kilometers (a bit over 5,5 miles). This map shows where we left and the first 23 locks of the flight.

The second map shows the last 4 locks of the flight and the 28th one, called ‘Attigny 5’. We descended 80,99 meters (270 feet), which is comparable to a building of over 30 storey’s. On Facebook le capitain has claimed it was 81 meters. Now he has regained peace of mind. His conscience is clear again…

On the way down we passed the scene of the dredging. The sign on the lock gate already warns us ‘Dragage dans le Bief’ (Draining in the Pond) although it is all clearly visible. The commercial boat that is waiting for us, later to be filled up by the dredger, descended at least two locks astern as there is no turning point available in every pond. We did not notice a turning point before, so it’s everyone’s guess how many locks the commercial boat had to negotiate going backwards. Seeing the professionals manoeuvring with their unwieldy boats (39 x 5 meters – 130 x 17 feet) always wins our admiration.

A picture of just one of the locks during the process of descending. As you can see the level in the pound behind us causes a mini waterfall which makes a lot more noise than one would expect. Isn’t it a lovely scene – the colours, the water, the surrounding, the old lock (automated and well functioning). Bliss!

Another one which shows the surroundings, the hill that we are descending and the distance between the locks. It’s a fun idea that our ship and the boat in the lock in the background, still being at the same level, will have created a difference in level of around 6 meters (20 feet) within minutes.

Our floating home, moored at Attigny at 4:08PM. So we needed a little bit over 6 hours to do the job. Not bad, we thought, keeping in mind that the astern moving commercial boat slowed us down and a few locks had to be reset by a VNF-employee. We did not visit the place so are unable to give you any detail about it. Sorry!

Friday the 9th of August we left Attigny around 9:30AM and, only having done 4 locks, moored 12:55PM at Rethel. We had to deal for several days with places where decent shopping, apart from the (almost) ever-present bakery, was impossible. Rethel, being the biggest town in the region (almost 8.000 inhabitants!) offers a genuine supermarket, the inevitable Intermaché. So we shopped extensively. Again, we could not work up the energy to visit the place. Another factor was the high density of Dutch boaters, moored at Rethel. There is no escape from talking!

Saturday the 10th of August we left Rethel 11:00AM, had to do only 4 locks again on considerable distance from each other and moored at Asfeld at 2:45PM. The weather: great. The surrounding: predominantly green, we dare say.

A striking building at Asfeld is its 17th century church, Saint Didier, in the shape of a viola da gamba. We were unable to enter the church, because it’s Sunday and the Mass was going on. So we made a picture and listened outside to the singing inside. Since 2002 Asfeld hosts an international viola da gamba festival. It’s a bit too complicated to explain the difference between a viola da gamba and, say, a cello. If one insists on knowing we have to refer to Wikipedia.

Asfeld’s town hall (Mairie) made us think of being made out of a box of building blocks we used to play with when we were a child. It’s a charming building and has even got a ‘wing’ for a judge of the peace (Justice de Paix) and another ‘wing’ for weddings (Salle de Mariages).

Tomorrow, we think, we’ll leave the Canal des Ardennes and enter the Canal latéral à l'Aisne, followed by the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne (Reims!, Champagne!). Distance covered on the Canal des Ardennes: 88 kilometers (55 miles). Locks: 37. Hours on the engine: approaching 23. Places visited (moored): 5. According to the book ‘Frankrijk per boot’ (France by boat) a bit slow; the writers say it can be done in 20 hours. We absolutely agree, our revs are low most of the time – consequently so is our speed. We are in no hurry at all!