Friday, 15 August 2014

Meuse, Ardennes and Aisne-Oise

Aug 14

We left Toul on a grey showery day and that has persisted for weeks.  On the Meuse we were covering old ground, albeit four cruising seasons ago and in the opposite direction so it seemed a bit different.

Lots of weed in the canalised Meuse so had to clean the filters a lot and, hard to believe, some of the pounds had low water levels. We got held up at an ecluse near a cement works so Kotare had a new colour scheme - grey! The Meuse width was all over the place though not much current (we were going downstream)

Meuse narrow
Meuse wide
We were struggling with moorings, all those Dutch and German boaters, but managed to sneak in on the last one on the wall at Verdun.  It was the WW1 100th anniversary but not a lot of noticeable commemoration.

Verdun entrance (from south)
Lot of misty mornings but we pressed on, Consenvoye had a 'one off' sloping sided ecluse and a good bar.

Dun sur Meuse was a nice little town, unfortunately the church was at the top of a steep hill so Peter suffered again. A huge church for a tiny fortified village almost impossible to get a good photo not helped by the rain.

Dun sur Meuse

That's Kotare on the right :}
Another green bank mooring at Alma near the barrage - an obvious surplus of red paint but one of the best maintained barrages we have seen.

Alma barrage

Our last effort on the Meuse before turning off was to tie up on a very dodgy 8m pontoon in shallows near a Sedan Intermarche - managed to get a new gas bottle (as well as food) ready for the darkest Ardenne.  The last ecluse and the xxx eclusier shut the gates and opened the paddles before Peter could get the 2nd rope on (and untie the first).   Our 2nd best rope shortened by another metre or so!!

A dog's life
Our first attempt at a mooring on the Ardenne at Pont a Bar was foiled by a sloping sided quai and not much water so off to the St Aignan complex (two ecluses and a tunnel) for the night where we tied up in the reeds near a a tatty English tjalk being helmed by two sisters and three whippets.

St Aignan
Then to the top of the Canal des Ardennes at Le Chesne, a sleepy town but we managed some shopping and we will remember it for the yowling cats which kept us awake. Next day it was showery but we pushed on down the main Ardenne lock flight - we managed the first 19 locks in 3 hours which was good, but they were chained and it was 'downhill'.

Next stop the Grand Union
The next day we finished off the Ardenne and on to the Canal Lateral de Aisne - at the Vouziers junction we were back in 'commercial' territory but only the odd one at this stage.

Vouziers junction
Into Rethel after a couple of very nice green bank stops. Rethel was 95% destroyed in WW1 and then it was bombed out again in WW2 - the only residual features that survived were the church tower and entrance.


Then we took the Canal de Oise-Aisne, cutting north west towards the Canal de Nord. Commercials in front of us on day one and also coming the other way ( 4 or 5) on day two, very overgrown so we ended up in the bushes occasionally, making room for them. In the Braye tunnel we found we had caught up with a commercial  so ended up choked on diesel fumes and deafened by the engine noise echoing in the confined space. Tomorrow on to the Canal de Nord and the traffic will at a guess get worse.

Braye southern entrance
Braye northern entrance (plus fumes)

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

the Luxembourg loop

Jul 14

It was hard work dragging Angie away from the Port bar at Sarreguemines given cold Bitburger Pils was €1.50 a bottle! A nice port.

Then with knees knocking we set off for the German border on the Canal de la Sarre. We had already had an officious German boater (10m tupperware) carefully pace out the boat length and tell us loudly we would need a special Fahrerschein and that was still in France! At the border/first Schluese they waved us though onto the River Saar and wished us a Happy Holiday - must have been our new German flag.

Onwards through Saarbrucken which was full of  large daytripper boats and we felt relatively safe after that. The first 30km was mostly Saarstahl both sides and our first overnight was at the World Heritage site at Volklingen  (aka rusty old steel works).  The town was more Turkish than German but Peter got some brotchen at last!

Cheaper than pulling them down - call it Heritage
Turn right to Luxembourg - easy nav
We were back into big commercial locks and our first actual experience of a (water saving) divided lock though we had seen them before we had never used one.

A lot of the locks had one massive swinging gate rather than the usual double or guillotine type.

We stopped at Merzig so Angie could stock up on her favourite German foods at a supermarket - Angie was enjoying eveyrone speaking German (though that was true of Alsace as well). We then went on and overnighted on a nice commercial stop at Schemlingen. It was a popular female bike route so Peter spent a few hours watching girls legs with a beer to cool him off. We were now well into the German forests - very attractive.

Chapel for the River boatmen
Enjoyed slowing down the Dutch
The Rhine traffic must have been slow as we had a Rhine holiday boat come past - must have been full of steelwork enthusiasts as it was never seen again.

The first vineyards at Saarlouis - nice little German 'wine town'.


At the end of the Saar we stopped at a small pontoon to let Kes visit some trees and were nearly put ashore by a commercial - must get heavier ropes! Then at the Saar/Moselle junction trying to turn we met another one - do we go left or right?

Need to get a bigger camera
We were now pushing against the current which slowed us a bit - easy to forget that the Moselle is nearly as big as the Rhone.

River Moselle
Very hygenic - must be the German side
We pressed on with Germany to port and Luxembourg to starboard - the first try at a mooring we got pushed off by a big trip boat but second attempt we got in at Wormeldange (on the Luxembourg side but the bar we found was very Germanic - though they let Kes in). We pulled into Schwebensange to fuel up at Luxembourg prices (€1.17 litre) but a Brit boat took the last mooring before we finished.  Feeling hard done by we pushed on - Schwengen on the border was day tripper only (typical EU) so it was back into France - fairly knackered we ended up tied fairly precariously on a piling commercial wall at Malling. Peter and Kes have not had to do the ladder trick for a while.

Kes is going on a diet (as well)
After that we needed a break so stopped in the centre of Thionville for two nights - a good pontoon and we were joined by the usual boater riff raff.

Thionville sunrise
I had a propeller last time I looked
Then Metz - the Marina was mostly small stuff and fairly full so they pushed us onto the one 'town mooring' by the Moyen bridge (a few mins from the town centre).

Metz Cathedral
Mooring - end of the line
Temple de Neuf (Protestant)
A white water competition was under way adjacent to the mooring - we admired it from a distance.

Then we went on to Pont a Mousson - first we tried the marina but didn't fancy that so went onto a quiet canal cut reserved for commercials - lovely spot with a large park on one side. The town must have been wealthy as it had a large Abbey and a very large triangular town square with arcaded shops. We were joined by a commercial overnight but no fuss.

Pont a Mousson Abbey
Parish church with tourist
Off to the Nancy turn off and moored at Pompey - a new mooring we have bypassed usually - normal mod cons in the town and the local model boat club turned up with their expensive remote control boats.  Then into Villey St Etienne, a tiny inlet and small pontoon with a buoyed entrance, before back into Toul and completion of the loop'. Angie was struggling with reverse as the morse control cable had a .kink. in it - then the cooling impeller on the generator failed - another day in the life of a happy bargee.

My walk is overdue you idle lot!
After 5 years we need a new set of ropes but hopefully that can wait till a trip to Antwerp this Winter. Lorraine Marine (Toul) replaced the morse cable and we are all set now to head north on the Meuse.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

and then to the German border

Jul 14

We idled after the Mauvages tunnel - downhill all the way.  Two nights at the VNF stop at Void, a nice little town with a reasonably 'original' town gate (still has its gate chain slots).  Angie squandered the housekeeping on local produce (honey, jam and wine).

Through the Foug tunnel and another lift bridge (better than sunsets Terry).

A couple of nights later we were in Toul at Lorraine Marine.   The sewage pump had been playing up and Duncan, the proprietor, being half Peter's size managed to squeeze in and replace the pump valves, after we managed to get replacements from UK. Peter did some gardening (he needs a greenhouse!

The crew of  'Romany' a kiwi boat (Ruth and Roger) arrived from down under, which was an excuse for drinks and they kindly gave us a lift to Lidl (3 months beer supply replenished) but then after five days it was off to Nancy by way of Liverdun.  Liverdun is a small inlet that looks dodgy so we had avoided it previously,  but we forced through the weed and mud  and an extremely large dead fish and had a good night in peace - reversing out round a 90 deg bend was accomplished with Angie's normal panache the next day.

Liverdun Inlet
Not sure what breed
We were now off the canal and onto the River Moselle for a period.

River Moselle nr Liverdun
Always get good reflections on the rivers
The high point of the run through Nancy was the Intermarche (in a previous life it had been Auchan, but we noticed they were developing a new Auchan closer in to town). No one we knew so we tucked in on a quai by the lift bridge.

Nancy port de plaisance
 The Cathedral St Nicholas de Mariniers always looks totally stranded but is actually on the riverbank

At Parroy we met Nautilus (Sue and Mike) liveaboards who are also wintering at Brugge.  Lots of hire boats on the move - not helped by the closure of the Arzweiler Plane which is pushing them west. The last act before turning north was the Rechicourt ecluse (15m) as usual the eclusier tried to pack us in with lots of shouting.

We turned onto the Canal des Houliiers/Canal de la Sarre and we were on  new territory at last. Moored at Diane Capelle before tackling the 15 lock flight down to Mittersheim.  Angie is like a pig in muck as everyone speaks German (or a version of it). Tarte Flambe at the village bar - Angie preferred the beer.

Mistakenly worried we would get trapped by Bastille Day we pushed on to Sarralbe - nice town and the Bastille festivities were much more 'family oriented' than those previously attended - more like a village fete (beer tent by the tennis club, tarte flambĂ© by the rowing club, cake stall by the french WI ....)  We noticed that most of the towns had old RC and Protestant churches - unlike further west (as Alsace was unaffected by the Wars of Religion).

Sarrallbe Gate tower
More churches
The Canal de la Sarre moved us back into the 'debateable' lands with old defensive works we hadn't noticed since Belgium.

A Dutch flagged peniche put us into the side near Wittring and the bowthruster expired after picking up a load of rubbish - once we stopped Peter dissassembled it and put in a new shearpin (amazingly it all worked on reassembly). Finally into Sarreguemines last town before the German border. Not sure they will let us through given length and licences but fingers crossed as Angie desperately desperately needs a German supermarket (and bratwurst mit frites - or is that Peter). Peter squandered €6 on a Deutschland cruising flag which he will burn if we are turned back.

Port de Sarreguemines (and 'Casino')