On the 31st August we sailed from St Katherine's Haven to the South of France. The Sea passage was again skippered again by Tommi Neilsen. We sailed from the Pool of London in glorious sunny weather on the 10.30 lock out. We hammered out of the Thames Estuary, swung down through the Goodwin Sands, and turned left at the South Goodwins light making for Calais. The sea state was slight, however having to observe the rules for crossing one of the World's busiest waterways, we were unable to dodge the waves coming from the south west. We rolled like a bugger, but not in an unpleasant way!
A Thames Estuary traditional send off! Wartime Forts still stand sentinal.
Calais is a busy working port, and the Port Control office were briskly efficient with our arrival at around 3.30 am. Their english is perfect..far better than my French. There were a number of British Yotties locking out not long after dawn. Including a certain "Lancashire Lassie", who came over the airways inquiring in broad Rochdale whether the Captainerie spoke English? This caused a fair amount of Gallic giggling before they replied in the affirmative.
We locked in to the Inland Waterways system around midday, and puchased a Four Month "Vignette" licence for 395 Euro's. The very jolly VNF lady was most helpful. She called ahead to the notorious four low bridges which need opening to exit Calais environs...and we sped on our way to near St Omer.
A typical tumbledown Cottage on th Calais Canal. Charming none the less.
Through gaps in the hedgerows we can see that the harvest looks good!
Large Barges pass each other ahead. Saul Nomad tucks into the bank, using her side thrusters.
Within hours we reach the Junction with the Aa River. The signs show their age!
Tied up at Arques (the home of Durand Glass), the barges seem to get bigger.
...and keep coming!
On the Saone...classified as a bloody big boat .. this is a sea going vessel registered in Nassau.
On the whole the batelliers are a jolly bunch, and this one may have a quirky sense of humour!
Largish locks that steady the nerve..this one is the Fointenette in the Pas de Calais. However the big one's are on the Rhone, with for example "Bollene" at 29 meters deep which was the deepest in the world when it was built.
The amazing Ruyaulcourt Tunnel. 4350 m long and built along with the Canal du Nord in 1965. The Brits were building motorways instead. Where did we go so wrong, Mr Marples?
Lost in space...look for identifying landmarks!
Notre Dame provides a suitable backdrop beautiful Paris.
The entrance to the Paris Arsenal Marina in the Rue de La Bastille.
After the trip on the Seine, a photocall is essential!
All the small Canals that we took after we headed south from Paris had a team of Eclusiers (Lock keepers) who followed us along the canal in smart little vans operating the locks for us. Most were cheerful, and even my pigeon french was sometimes understood. It must all cost a fortune, but eighty percent of all the waterways costs are met by the French Power Industry who use the water for cooling.
The French have somewhere around thirty percent of their power from nuclear. "Green Peace? We sank the ship!"
..and the cows seem happy too!
Sancerre not particularly smart by the Canal, but those vines stretching up the hill produce some of the best white wine in the world. The lock keeper sells bottles of Sancerre and Pouilley Fumé for six euros a bottle. Beat that Tesco's!
Rush hour traffic comes to halt as Saul Nomad cuts through town.
.. and we are soon chugging along wooded valleys.
Crossing the Loire just after dawn.
At one lock the Eclusier entertained us with an authentic Hurdy Gurdy machine playing traditional French tunes from early in the last century. Marrionetts played instruments in time to the music.
Very Gallic Houses rise above the waters. The French are very house proud and a badly kept garden is the exception...not the rule.
Jaques says " I have this little gaff near the Rhone Alpes. It has been a tough year, is my CAP subsidy cheque in the Post?"
5th October..now bombing down the Saone towards Lyon. Nice to be on a big river, after several weeks of negotiating narrow, shallow but very pretty canals.
6th October tied up in Lyon which is very beautiful.
On our favourite Lyon mooring!
So is it true that every frenchman's castle is his home?
All that remains of the famous Bridge at Avingon (aka the famous nursery rhyme) just after dawn. I nearly ran in to it taking the picture..whoops could have been nasty...even WWII managed to miss it!
Flamingo's hang out in the Aigues Mortes salt marshes.
Veritable mountains of sea salt that are produced in the brackish marshes of Aigues Mortes.
An Egret takes it ease on the back of a young male wild camargue horse..and a few insects. The horses don't go completely white until they are five year's old.
The Little Egret is a handsome bird..smaller than a heron, and very much in abundance in the marshy waters of the Camargue. Always immaculately turned out with black beak and legs, yellow feet and brilliant white feathers.
...insect free it's then a wander along the canal bank with his mates!
A trawler heads back into "Grau de Roi", against a backdrop of the "La Motte" resort.
The Med at last! The ten year dream comes true!
The Port Camargue harbour master's office. It does not scream "Great Yarmouth" does it?