Monday, 15 September 2014

Canal de Nord and the River Somme

Sep 14

We joined the Canal de Nord at Pont l'Eveque - a definite change to northern architecture with lots of brick and stepped house gables.  The bassin had been emptied 'for fireworks' so the only mooring was very tightly squeezed  between two peniches on the mainline. A peniche anchor took off my stern jackstaff overnight so another repair job.

A charmed run as we didn't have to share or give way to any commercials travelling our way. No good moorings so after doing a longish tunnel we found a small rather bleak layby for the night, Between one bollard and large stakes we survived a windy night helped by very few commercials passing.

The next afternoon it was into the River Somme, a slightly different scale.

First Somme ecluse (only automated one)
The Somme is Somme Conseil General rather than VNF operated - much friendlier eclusiers overall and all the facilities are immaculate. After the first lift bridge (and having been given our guide book and map) we tucked in for the night at Frise. Massive wetlands all around (peat cuttings and we arrived atthe start of the hunting season   - most dawns sounded like a reprise of the Battle of the Somme - Kes was not amused.

An easy to spot eclusier
Through the lift bridge at Cappy where a Danish bargee got stroppy with La Capitaine because we weren't listening out on Ch 10 (nothing about that in the Somme reglements :) and into Froissy for a night (and a visit to the narrow gauge train museum) then into Corbie for a few days. Nice system at a lot of the moorings where  €2 provides 4+ hours electricity and water (cheap barging).

Not coypu - snorkellers at Corbie (takes all kinds)
At Glisy we moored on top of a wasps nest - but once we had moved 15m to the other end of the quai we coexisted in harmony. We slid through Amiens checking out the moorings for the return trip.

Amiens - should have turned right
Amiens ecluse - should have lowered the wheelhouse
Quite a lot of rain so the River was running quite fast, interesting on the tight bends as the boat wants to follow the current rather than the rudder. Picquigny was a nice stop with the remnants of a chateau (with church) we also visited some of the WW1 war graves (all these villages were on the Lof C so had hospitals, with the canal running barges of casualties).

Picquigny - chateau bits
Picquigny chateau church
Please can I come
End of 100 years War - Treaty de Picquigny 1475
It all got exciting in Long with a fast current, a tight bridge, a weir on one side and a boat in the middle of a short mooring on the other blocking the ecluse entrance - backed off into the undergrowth and managed to get a rope on a bollard with much cursing.

Angie liked Abbeville, After stocking up at the Intermarche, she risked a haircut with the last of her euros, while Peter jerricanned 200 litres of diesel onboard (going to need it coming back against the current). St Vulfans had a nice exterior but the rest was renovated on the cheap.

Then it was down the tidal Maritime canal to the coast at St Valery.  We slid under two of the four lift bridges but the eclusiers opened the others manually (we were expecting a sea shanty as they swung on the windlass but no luck).

Maritime Canal bridge
St Valery was quite like a Cornish port without the 'cove' and extreme commercialism. Useless knowledge - William the Conqueror embarked here for the Battle of Hastings.

St Valery port
More trains
A 'beach holiday' in the rain
Well silted up bay
The day we started on the return the sun came out.  We tried for some different moorings - especially as we were travelling at half speed against the current.  A narrowboat we met (Genie's Wish) was a bit worried it wouldn't make it with a small engine). A lot of water in the peat etangs.

Are you sure this is the right way?
Pont Remy was free electricity but not a lot else so a few days later we slotted into Samara - Angie visited the neolithic theme park and Peter did some varnishing and painting. Day 1 a couple of peniche working barges/tugs missed us by not a lot streaking downstream - one took a lot of the bank with him (so much for professional boatmen), Day 2 we were joined overnight by 10 boats from a Friends of the Somme rally, we all rafted up on two tiny pontoons (they gave us a Pennant for our troubles).

Samara craftsman
We stopped for the day in Amiens before moving on.  Mainly the cathedral and the ancien quartier (wall to wall restaurants).


Looks pagan to me
Long was much easier from the opposite direction and with the current slowing.

Long Chateau - lovely gardens
A few nice chateau en route

Angie fancies
Angie expects
A night at Cappy then to Feuillieres after the last lift bridge which ended our Somme excursion (a nice trip recommended to all). A bit thin on plaisanciers and social life though.

Then it was back on the Canal de Nord - still being lucky with the ecluses with no hold ups. We had five ecluses - then the Ruyualcourt tunnel 5 km with a passing spot in the middle where three commercials passed us without slowing - rumour has it La Capitaine shut her eyes!

Needing a beer break we stopped for our last night on the Canal de Nord in a layby at Hermies.

Hermies Canal de Nord
Then the 'final' push off towards Douai on the Grand Gabarit - Wednesday and every commercial in Northern France suddenly appeared, luckily mostly going south. All the moorings were peniche haltes which Angie didn't fancy, but running out of options we ended up on a concrete wall tied to a dolphin and rocked to sleep by the wash of passing commercials.

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