Saturday, 12 October 2019

Snugged up for winter

In the final days of September, the long dry summer came to an abrupt end. Time for us to pack up and head South.

On a grey morning Antiope is lifted out at Migennes

During the heat of summer we had found the nylon rudder bearings were binding on the shafts, so once out of the water we dropped both rudders for inspection and arrange for some adjustment to the shafts to be sorted over winter.

These steel rudders each weigh close to 40kg

 In between the rain showers we built the canopy frame and covered Antiope up for the winter.

All snugged up, back in springtime


Sunday, 8 September 2019

Navigation Stop

There is nothing quite like a solid wall of steel to put a stop to your cruise plans.

The stop planks are in place at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne lock.
We have cruised to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne to see what all the fuss is about. The lock here was declared unsafe earlier this summer and closed to all navigation effectively cutting off the route north to Paris by water. New gates are due to be fitted in October. In the meantime massive steel planks hold back the water.
Joigny seen from our favourite mooring spot

Having made it along the Nivernais canal with no trouble, we have time in hand to explore the river Yonne as far down as we can navigate before wrapping up Antiope for the winter back at Migennes. 

A warm still evening at Joigny

The river is strangely quiet, finding handy moorings is no problem 

Auxerre and Joigny became our bases for a week or two, cruising out and back while we had guests aboard.

Old town house Joigny
13th century Northern gate house into Joigny

Built on a hillside, Joigny looks down over the Yonne valley
Above the town vineyards stretch out over the limestone hills
It was the 24th August 75 years ago that Joigny was liberated from the Nazis. The occasion was marked with ceremony. A parade, a fly-past, fireworks and a free dance in the market hall.
The mayor reads a tribute to the liberators of his town

The fly-past, by the local aero club

Vintage but not quite wartime planes.

Clamacy raft parade

Along the Nivernais canal is the charming town of Clamacy, It was here that the annual raft parade coincided with our stop.

We were somewhat concerned in the morning when an exited group arrived in a hurry alongside us on the dock and started to unload what looked like a grand piano strapped to a raft. To our amazement it floated and was paddled away by four dinner suited crew blowing confetti at the crowds.

What is it? It will surely capsize
Will it float?

 The crew paddle past us to join the parade.
A fully elevating piano and a confetti blowing double base.

A very crowded lock and the first rain in months

At least the water was warm.
   We were in Clamacy a month ago now, but I have only just found time to download these pics.

                                                            Cheers Charles and Annie

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Over the top

Having resigned ourselves to having to return Northwards via the Nivernais canal, water shortages and a lock failures having curtailed our plan to cruise eastwards to Nancy and Metz, we figured that we might as well take a very leisurely saunter along this charming nearly two century old waterway. The last time we came this way it was not enjoyable, in miserable weather and probably in a hurry to make a rendezvous.
Typical of the Nivernais, a gently winding canal and elegant bridges.

The lock cottages were well built back in 1834  

The climb to the summit level from Decise involves 35 locks, and not a problem if taken in daily bites. Antiope does like a metre of water to float in, at times however close to the top locks this was all we had beneath us.
Annie on lock duty
The skipper on BBQ duty

At the summit, the massive lakes at Baye and Vaux provide the water for the high reaches of the Nivernais, a reminder of the engineering feat involved in creating this 180 km waterway through the high central regions of France and a vital link between Paris and the Med.
We moor lakeside at Baye at the Nivernais summit
From Baye we cruise through the hill in a series of tunnels carved out of the solid rock before the steep descent through 27 locks in only 10 kms.
No passing room here, The Collancelle tunnels.
A rare sight in France these days, wooden lock gates

We cruise for some days with Kiwi friends aboard Petronella 

 The impressive limestone cliffs at Merry-sur- Yonne

Once through the steep descent the waterway cuts a straight line through flat farm lands
These simple but clever 'needle' wiers on the Yonne river. 
Down from the hills the River Yonne begins to supply the Nivernais with water, the river levels are controlled these days by mechanical barrages (wiers) but in some places the original hand 'pulled' needle wiers have been preserved and restored.
The Nivernais will take us to Auxerre where we rejoin the Yonne river and what has become our local waters and completing the 'Burgundy loup'

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

It Ain't half hot !

This July has been the hottest on record across France, even where we are in mid France the mercury has topped 40c more than once.
From our smartphone last week, but this was not on the hottest day !  
 While we have been able to avoid cruising in the heat of the day and find shade under trees, the continuing dry weather is causing chaos on the waterways. With no significant rain since May the reservoirs that feed the canals have all but dried up. Our planned round trip up the Soane river to Nancy and then down the Marne has also been thwarted by a munted lock on the Yonne river at Villeneuve. The damage is severe and will not be fixed before the end of the season. We have had no choice but to turn around and head back up the Nivernais canal in order to get back to our winter base in Migennes.

Burgundy region canals and rivers, as of 1st August our options are limited, The only route open to us is the Nivernais. 
 Ours is not the only region with issues. We hear that some lifting bridges in the Netherlands are not opening just in case they cannot close them again in the heat.

The lift bridge at Montceau les Mines, This was to be the furthest point of our cruise.

We had reached Montceau-les-Mines when we learned of the broken lock, followed by the restriction and closure notices. Along with many other craft we have had to revise our plans or risk getting stuck somewhere until the rains come.

We arrive in Digoin as they are setting up the firework display on the Aqueduct

 Bastille Day, La Fete Nationale, is marked across France with bands, parades and always a firework display.

The Mayoress inspects her fire brigade in scorching temps 
Pomp and speeches 

Perfect ballooning day
Ducks, almost in a row

A Ragondin (Coypu ) a common sight in the early evenings
Yes, Storks too


Friday, 12 July 2019

Up the Loire valley

It is now July and we have been cruising gently over the hills along the Briare canal which connects the waters that ran down to the Seine and the English Channel ( la Manche) with the waters of the Loire which runs Eastwards to the Atlantic. This is one of our favourite regions of France. In Montargis we find ourselves in the middle of a Maritime festival weekend. Masked performers paraded silently among the visitors, all very French.
Montargis boat festival and on show the traditional Loire river craft 

In the shade for a rest

These costumes must have been very hot in the high 30c temps 

The Briare aqueduct, always  impressive, takes the Briare canal over the Loire river.

Below the aqueduct as we cross, the Loire river is very low

Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses The seven original staircase locks, replaced in 1830 
 The original Briare canal was modernised in 1830 replacing many of the old lock structures that had been working since it opened in 1642 one of the earliest  north south waterways in France.

The Briare canal is a popular route for the luxury hotel boats

Sancerre a fine wine region

We climb 10 metres at the impressive Guetin double lock on the Loire lateral canal close to Nevers.
Under clear blue skies some days we have experienced temperatures of 42c while record highs of 46c were recorded in Southern France.
All this dry sunny weather is no good for the canals, Navigation restrictions are being introduced across the French waterway system,
fortunately we are in no hurry.

What has Antiope and this medieval castle got in common ?

Guedelon castle, 23 years in the making, built entirely medieval tools and methods.
                          Answer- They are the same age, 23 years old.

We took time out, to visit this incredible project, hidden deep in the Morven forest. A no mucking about, full on fortified castle being built from scratch and they working on it, stone by stone. Yes, with regular bits of rock quarried on site and chipped by hand onto shape. Some 23 years ago in the same year as Antiope was launched, this site was a bare clearing in the forest.
Each stone shaped by hand

Flax rope being spun by hand

For more info you should look at

Our plans from here will depend partly on the rain gods. The canals need water and while we do have optional routes and plenty of time, we are staying close to the Burgundy region.