Crazy weather....or maybe it's normal

Sans Peur
Grete & Fred Vithen
Thu 20 Nov 2014 16:34
After overnight rain, we awoke to nice sunshine. There is a very pleasant daily routine being established…..Fred, ( who I suspect, at 60, is a life-long poster boy for ADHD) is always up at 7am, moving fairly quietly around the boat, cleaning up any condensation moisture, sponging and squeegeeing the deck and windows ( a loveable “Kid Eager”), then he’s putting a bike on the shore and cycling off to the nearest village in search of the boulongerie for his beloved baguette…..and not just any baguette. Fred has decided that baguette “traditional” is his preference. Grete is dozing. Max is dozing. When Fred returns he removes the “black stuff” ( rubber mats) that he puts over the transparent hatches overnight,( which very effectively, reduces the condensation), which floods our cabins with light and tells us it’s time to rise. If you had told me I would learn to love a breakfast of pate, mustard and cucumber, on crunchy baguette, with black coffee so strong…….I would have said you were nuts! And then we’re into our warm waterproofs, casting off, and heading for our first lock at 9am. Today, nearly all the 15 locks were “manualle”, which means we had a VNF guy or girl, buzzing along the canal in their tiny Renaults, winding on winches to open the massive gates before we arrived…..and then open underwater portals to flood the lock. (We are still going “upstream”) We helped with the winches when we could, and despite the language barrier, we found them to be warm, friendly and helpful. As this first pic shows, today started out sunny, with the magnificent Autumn colours highlighted. But the weather deteriorated as the day unfolded, and we were very happy to reach our destination for tonight, a small village called Rolampont, in freezing drizzle. At this time of year, there’s no facilities like toilets or showers open, but we were pleasantly surprised to get shore power. This “floating palace” is very self contained, but it’s always nice when we don’t have to run the generator. Easy day planned for tomorrow…..just 8 locks and 10kms. We should be in the large(ish) town of Langres by midday, and will do some sightseeing and resting.

Max, beside one of the tiny Renaults which the VNF guys use.
Grete watching the gap between the hull and the very abrasive edge of this viaduct, as we glide over the River Marne. The fenders help but canals are designed for flat sided commercial barges, not tapered, egg shaped sailing boats, so when the water level is up to the top of the canal, as it often is, Fred cannot see the edges at all and
 really relies on Grete and I to tell him….”Left , Right….OK” We often only have a gap of 20cms each side!
Here, Grete wrestles with the bow rope as our canal guy opens the subterranean portals which (sometimes violently) flood the lock. Some of these locks are about 4 metres deep and it can be challenging, fending off the slimy walls and scampering up the slippery ladders with rope in hand. I can see our VNF hosts thinking…”You do this for fun?” Sometimes we think the same, but of course, for us it is very exciting….every bend in the canal presents a new vista, and everyday a new challenge. Below, Fred helps our 3rd and final “canal angel” today, to open the gates. They really require some effort to get them moving initially and this lady was struggling on her own. We had the usual “sign language” conversation with her before we parted and we hope she understood that we will be expecting to see her at our first lock at 9am tomorrow (Monday) morning. Fred “tipped” her with a bottle of wine to show our appreciation. Internet connection is not available in most of these overnight stops, so I am preparing this blog, (with Freddy’s help) on Sunday evening and hoping we can send it tomorrow in Langres.