Up to the 50th parallel

Tom Fenton and Faith Ressmeyer
Tue 28 Oct 2014 18:16
50 02.806N 2 59.901E
A grey day, early start, ploughed on to Peronne, near where the Canal du Nord meets the River Somme. Stopped in Peronne to buy supplies (larder completely empty except for dried foods). Had lunch. Took advantage of a close filling station to buy another Jerry can of diesel. Should make it to Dunkerque with the fuel and supplies I have now, and so the way is clear to keep going as long as there is lath and the locks are working.

The locks on this part of the Canal du Nord are very deep, more than 7metres/yards I should think. And I am ascending, so I have to go through the business of lifting the ropes into the bollards set in the wall. One of the locks today was catastrophic. I had noted before that sometimes the lck seems to fill quite strongly from one side and was glad I was the other side, because the current across the lock looked fearsome. Today I was on port which turned out to be the wrong side. Suddenly the water bubbled up under Beowulf with a force so great I could not hold us against the wall. As the water rose fast, one of my ropes same off the bollard, which was now well below the surface. The wall was far too far away to reach up the next bollard. The bow swung over and hit the other wall. Well the anchor took the hit. I released the stern rope and crossed the boat to place my starboard bow and stern ropes over the bollards on the other wall. And ended up, as we rise to the height of the lock, in good order. I kept to starboard from then on, but none of the other locks boiled with anything like the same ferocity. I suspect the lock keeper, who you could see striding about his cabin with his mobile clutched to his ear gesticulating and clearly having a domestic in the phone, was not concentrating and filled the lock faster than he should have.

Made about 38 kilometres today, or 22 nautical miles. (They don't always agree. I think this is because of aberrations in the way the kilometres are measured on the canals.) arrived at the entrance to the Souterrain do Rouyaulcourt, which is the longest tunnel on the route, at over 4 ks. It has a crossing place in the middle, so that boats can come at you while you are doing the first half. But it was getting dark as I arrived so I decided to tie up here for the night. I hope it opens again at 7 so I can do the tunnel while the world is waiting for the light outside.

When you take the exam for your certificate to skipper on the European inland waterways, you have to know about what they call a "pusher with two lighters". This is an example. Two barges without power, being pushed by a sort of tug (which has the owners house and car incorporated).

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One photo cannot encompass this monster. The skill required to navigate these vessels is amazing.

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