Over the last few weeks we have changed our plans and moved the boat quite a long way and I realise you might have lost track of us and not know where we are or what we are doing.
Two months ago we had decided that we would sell the boat in September, buy a car and caravan and complete the second half of our Gap Year by road! However, when we did the research on living in a caravan for the winter, it proved not such a good idea (very few sites are open during winter and we would have less than half of the space we have on the boat). So we decided to hold onto the boat for the winter and live on it in France.
We have to make a trip to Ireland in October so that I can have my knee looked at again by the consultant. We will take Nuala’s car back to France with us. That will give us car transport in France (if you remember I sold my car, my motorbike and my fish tank as part of financing this Gap Year).
After looking around and thanks to some great advice from Peter and Denni Pringle we decided on Chalon sur Soane as the best winter mooring option. It is as far South as we can get to keep warm and it is a big town with lots of facilities.
This decision was made in Koblenz at the junction of the Rhine and Moselle so it involved a journey of 715 km 158 locks 2 tunnels and travelling on The Moselle, Canal du Marne au Rhin, Canal des Vosges, La Petite Saone and Saone River to reach our winter destination at Chalon!(See the map of the route). On this Gap Year, we are never ones to shirk a challenge or a new experience so after planning the route on our navigation software to make sure it was possible, we set off for Chalon.
As you will remember from our previous blog, we met a lock keeper who visits Ireland regularly and thanks to him we found out that the Canal des Vosges was due to shut in two days due to lack of water. By cruising for 10 hours per day and getting through 86 locks in three days we managed to get past the summit and start down the other side of the canal. We missed the dead line by two locks ( because we got delayed by the only commercial barge on the system and one lock failed to work).
Fortunately, the VNF staff took pity on us and held the system open until we got past the critical point which was lock 18. We were the last boat to get through this year and I had to push through the mud to get over the top (I had this image in my head that the VNF staff were running a lottery on us to see if we could make it!) – So now you will understand why there have been no blogs for a few days!
Now we are on the Petite Saone at Port sur Saone tonight and only 185 km and 20 locks from our destination. We should be there on Tuesday unless we get another hold up like today when an automatic lock would not work and when we rang the VNF number we got an answering machine saying they would not be there from 12.30 to 15.30pm. We reversed the boat for two kilometres and retried the entry process. Luckily it worked.
The weather is wonderful, sunshine all day, so we are quite blessed for our last week of cruising.