Come with us as we travel round Europe in our floating home

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Rolompont to Pontailler-sur-Saone

Hello again,

We finally made it up to the last lock before the summit on Tuesday morning and were met by our lovely lady lockie who operated the lock for us and then phoned the control centre to check that we were clear to go through the 5km long Balesmes tunnel. We'd been cleared to pass but when we arrived at the tunnel entrance all we could see were red lights!  Looking through the binoculars we could see red lights on the roof all the way into the tunnel and didn't know if we should go or not.  As we'd been given the all clear at the lock we decided to trust in VNF and their ever-present CCTV and go for it. It tuned out that the red lights were for the CCTV cameras but I have to say I wish they'd chosen a different colour light as they were very off putting!  Proper traffic lights at the tunnel entrance would have been a good idea too. We came out the other side of the hill into glorious sunshine and checked into the control centre beside the first lock on our decent, little knowing then how much contact I'd be having with them this week. The locks on this side of the Canal Entre Champage et Bourgogne  don't appear to be as well maintained as the locks on the other side and I've had to phone the control centre 4 times when the lock hasn't worked properly. My French is definitely improving 😊 which is a good job as the VNF here staff don't speak English.

Our first stop on this side of the hill was at Villegusien alongside a disused silo. Not the prettiest of moorings but safe and quiet and bollards at the perfect spacing for our boat.  It was a hot sunny day so we took Chico for a long walk up to the lake/reservoir. This was the view from the swimming "beach"

The road leading up to the lake was lined with a stone wall which was populated by lots of small lizards basking in the sunshine.

Just before the locks shut for the night at 7pm we were joined by a large commercial barge who moored behind us.  Shortly after that another commercial arrived from the other direction and moored alongside them.

Then just as it was going dark yet another commercial barge arrived, breasted up totally blocking the canal and from the sounds of it they had quite a party!  At 7am, as soon as the locks reopened, they set off again so quietly that we hardly noticed them leave. They seem to work very long days and it's slow going on this canal as it's not very deep, they hardly ever get above 5k/hr.

Over the next 2 days we had 2 more broken locks but to give them their due, a VNF van arrived each time within 10 minutes and got us going again. Each time it was a problem with the remote controlled mechanism that had to be manually reset.

Good moorings on this side of the hill are few and far between although every few kilometers there are these mooring dolphins.

We've never seen anyone moored to one but decided to give it a go the other day. We originally thought we'd moor at the end of the gangplank but realised we'd be too far out into the channel and on closer inspection found mooring bollards in the bank 15metres either side of the dolphin, so we attached the bow to bollards on the structure, checked the depth at the edge and fastened the stern to the bollard on the bank.

It was perfect for us and we stayed for 2 nights while Roger did some work on the boat.

You can tell that Autumn is here as we've seen several groups of men, women and children gathering in fields or car parks all with shotguns!  We also had a visit form the local hounds as they were taken out for a walk

And instead of there being tomatoes or courgettes for sale at lock cottages it's now truffles!

When we got to the last lock on the canal there was a machine beside the lock for us to deposit our telecommande unit

Unfortunately this was another lock that failed to work and I needed to phone up for help once again. This time the control centre re-set the mechanism remotely and we left the canal and cruised onto the River Saone. We've moored on the quayside at Pontailler-sur-Saone along which a car boot sale was being held.

It's a section of the river where speed boats are allowed to race or tow water skiers and while it's entertaining to watch we're being bounced about a lot. I'm sure things will be quiet overnight though. It's also a section of river heavily populated by hire boats and we met our first one coming at us around a blind bend on the wrong side of the river!  These hirers get hardly any tuition before they leave the hire base, whereas we had to take a competency test and get a permit before we came to Europe.

That's all for now, see you again soon 😃

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