And where's that soggy plain?

Tom Fenton and Faith Ressmeyer
Mon 6 Oct 2014 18:15
47 31.202N 5 24.308E
Yesterday was not a good day. It rained and it rained and it rained. I set off from Auxonne in the rain, suffered rain all the way to Pontailler sur Sâone, moored on the step quay, which does not have electricity, and remained damp and cold all evening and all night. The new boat has a cabin heater. I had not realised how much this may be a blessing until last night. I did not even dare to use Faith's hair dryer as a makeshift cabin heater for fear of draining the batteries.

I was moored early enough to cook during daylight. I read most of the afternoon and evening, but when I went to bed my feet were stubbornly hypothermic, and it wasn't until I thought of bed socks that I got any sleep. Bed socks, thermal underwear, and several wraps of duvet.

This is not going to be easy.

This morning I walked a few kilometres to a supermarket in a vain quest for a cheap electric heater. What is the French fort get? I tried "Une chose electrique pour faire chaude la chambre." Okay my French is sub O level. But it seemed to work. However no one had anything closer than a hair dryer.

I phoned for my permission to traverse the Canal. This canal used to be called the Canal from the Sâone to the Marne, but now that it depends on tourists it has been renamed the Canal from Burgundy to Champagne, which sounds like a trip to heaven.

I motored the four of fife kilometres from Pontailler to the mouth of the canal. The first lock threw me by having no bollard at the top of the stairs and no stairs on the side on which you activate the lock mechanism. When this sort if thing happens you have to improvise, but it is the hull that pays the price. You have everything on the wrong side.

At the first lock in the canal, after leaving the beautiful Sâone, I was given my radio device for activating the locks by a smiling man who had no English. Nor did the guy on the phone. But the staff have been fantastic. Every so often they turn up just as something looks like it might go wrong. A lock didn't detect my arrival, and there they were to operate it manually. And make life easier with the ropes. But I have done 14 locks today, and I have learned that the scale and technology require a rethink on my part. I have taken off the lifebuoys from the back of the boat. Man overboard is not going to be the main risk. Scraping the sides of locks is a more serious matter. I have put the majority if the fenders on the side that seems most usual, but then I have to make last minute adjustments as I approach locks, if everything is the other way round. Sometimes the lock is completely non standard, and once I had to walk over to the other side to activate, with the risk that I might not get back in time to release the temporary mooring line that would drag the boat under in the rising water. Tense? I should say so.

All that said, the landscape here is perfect. The views from the canal, which is raised above the level of the surrounding land, are wonderful, and I just wish I had you all here to enjoy it (and cope with it) with me.

JPEG image

Lunch break. Yes, another problem: I cannot leave the tiller for more than a few seconds, so I have to stop for meals.

Hmmmm. I think I better think this out again.