The Journey -
Monday 5th August 2002
The next lock was at Lucy, and the lock was as delightful and pretty as the other Lucy in my life - who doesn't read these e-mails, but whose Mother does.
After an overnight at Coulanges, I came to the first self-operated lift bridge that I've had to deal with. There was no specified mooring point before the bridge, and the canal had sloping sides, so it was pretty tricky to get close enough to the bank to leap ashore. I ran the bows in as close as I could, and managed to get ashore. Nothing to tie the bloody rope to, of course, so I laid it across the ground and kept an eye on it whilst I got to work. It was one of those bridges counterbalanced by a great weight. I started winding the thing up, and it was so low geared that I had to wind forever to lift the bridge an inch. I'd lowered Rosy's mast, to reduce height, so I only had to raise the bridge by a third of its travel, ignoring the sign telling me to fully wind it up. 'They' then wanted me to hold the winding handle whilst the boat travelled through but, as Rosy is not radio controlled, this was not possible. Instead I lashed the handle to the bridge framework with the length of rope that I carried for that purpose. A quick sprint to Rosy to catch the bow line before it slipped into the canal. Boarded Rosy, and passed safely under the bridge, and then a similar rigmarole at the other side to get ashore, retrieve my rope, lower the bridge and away. 20 or 30 minutes!! 'Such is life' (being the last words of Ned Kelly).
We then came to a watery crossroads, where the River Yonne crosses the canal on a level. The crossing point is a sizeable basin, with four chunky, rusting windlasses strategically placed, reminding one of the days when loaded peniches made the crossing in times of flood. Talking of which ...
Each of the locks has a pair of cut-outs, opposite each other, near the tail of the lock. It took a while to work out that these originally housed the lock gates, which means that the locks were lengthened to meet the Freycinet standard, which means that there used to be 'short' boats navigating the canal.
The lock keeper was quite chatty, and had what looked like a very elderly wooden khazi propped up against a telegraph pole. Leastways I thought it was a khazi, complete with glass-less windows on either side so that one could see to right and left whilst sitting there. Doing things. He said it was the old lock office, but as it was only about a metre square, I stick to my theory.
On up to Clamecy. One skirts around Clamecy, but emerges at the far end beside the Palais de Justice at a delightful (free) mooring with an arm that leads a bit further into town. (Indeed, this arm used to cut through the middle of the town). Clamecy used to be a centre of the wood trade. Timber was cut further up the Yonne, and tossed into the river. At Clamecy, some was extracted and worked in the timber yards. More was made up in to rafts for onward journeys to Paris. Old photos show the river jammed with timber.
Clamecy has a lovely church with a fine looking west end, though the statue is a bit weathered. The stained glass is extensive, though nearly all is 'modern' - 19th and 20th century. There is a wine shop selling wine 'en vrac' (from the barrel) and Absinthe, which is legal again, though at 28 Euros a bottle it's more expensive here than most single malts.
Mike and Jim, whose boat Island Gypsy is moored pretty permanently at Briare, were visiting her from England for the weekend, and drove over to say 'Hi'.
On up to Villiers - a lovely, remote country mooring.
Then on up to Cuzy, via another lift bloody bridge and a two-lock staircase (where the top gate of one lock is the bottom gate of another). Talking of radio controlled boats (as we were a few lines back) there was one at Cuzy. A narrow boat, called 'Presque-là' (Nearly There), with an engine driving an electronically controlled hydraulic pump. The hydraulic system includes rudder control, so she can be driven from the shore. Such a set up ain't cheap, but then again it's not sickeningly expensive, and could be most useful for single handed boaters dealing with French (and other) lift bridges. Is this the end of the Banbury Stick?
On! On! towards Marigny, our path impeded by a crocodile lurking beside the gates at the top of lock, which meant that the éclusiere(esse) could open the top gates. Investigation revealed that the croc was a massive tree bole, with bits of root and branch sticking out of it. It was too heavy to lift, so I offered to tow it up the cut a bit, and try to dispose of it. Off I set, but after 15 minutes I looked astern to see that the croc had been revolving in one direction as we went along, and had unlaid some of my best rope!! I cast it adrift, and spent a happy half hour at rope making.
I spent a whole day at Marigny, which is staffed by Geoff and Rose of Burgundy cruisers two days a week, so I could spend a bit of time with them. AND we did a book swap. I also changed the two fuel filters on Rosy, bled the fuel system and swabbed the bilges.
It was sunless but breezy, so I did some washing and rigged a washing line - the first time I've done this on Rosy. I emptied out my jar of clothes pegs, and there at the bottom were two, pink, plastic ones. Ooops!! Back several years, and the end of a beautiful relationship. She and I had met each other, liked each other, and met each other again. And again. We'd done a little bit of this and a little bit of that and got to the stage where we were also doing a bit of the other. This night she appeared, and I'd prepared a candle-lit dinner with lashings of vino collapso. She arrived and after a rather lengthy 'Hello' she said that she had a little present for me, and into my hand she put two pink plastic clothes pegs and said "You know what these are for, don't you?" and fluttered her eye-lids. I said "Yes. Of course I do. But I never hang washing up! I have a tumble dryer and no clothes line or whirly-gig at all". "No!" she said. "They're not for that!!! They're a bit ... nippy. You know!!" And she winked. Several times.
Now, all my life, people keep saying "You know" when I DON'T. I don't pretend not to know when I do know!! If I don't know, I don't know, and I hadn't a clue what she was on about!! So I said "Er... No. I don't know."
She gave a seductive smile and yet a few more winks and said, "Yes you do".
It then took about 30 seconds for our relationship to de-materialise. I insisted that I didn't effing know, and her lower lip quivered. She told me I'd made her extremely embarrassed, and how could I? She then about turned and marched out of the front door, never to return. I thought about trotting after her to see if she wanted the clothes pegs back (they were still in my hand) but on second thoughts, I decided that it was better not to, but to drink the vino collapso instead, and the two fillet steaks on a garlic impregnated croute and the zabaglione. So I still have them - the clothes pegs, that is. And they're a bit small for the clothes line rope that I have.
Anyway. Then it was but a short hop to here. Chitry les Mines, home to Ted Johnson who supplies boaty bits to boat engineers. He had no rope (but could get some) or a water filter (though he could get one). I saw his stock, though, and enginey and pumpy bits he has masses of. I'd heard a lot about him, so it was good to meet him.
Tomorrow is a gentle day. The day after will be a lorra, lorra locks.