Sunday, July 10, 2022

Square Hole - Round Peg

 Barge Date:  07-07-2022

We developed a dripping kitchen sink recently and the tighter we turn, well, everything must come to an end. Tightening it more was impossible. So I pulled out the valve thinking that it was just like the fittings in the shower. That was not the case. I have never seen a fitting like this but I assumed if I went to a Brico that they would be able to fix me up. When I showed the valve to the man in the store he quickly said, non, non, non. I was led over to the plumbing section and there was nothing there that matched the washer that is needed for those valves. I have never seen anything like this, but when you have a boat that has been owned by a number of parties it’s possible that this valve may have originated in France, Belgium, Holland, the UK, or maybe even Australia. 

I did see on a wall a valve that looked to be very much like what I needed except with a different washer. Without a valve we are out of business at the sink so I purchased this new valve and hoped for the best.

And, indeed, this new valve slipped right into place and I thought great, my troubles are over. All that was left was to put on the old handle. This gets us to the square hole/round peg problem. There was no way to get the old handle to work with this new valve. I returned to the store to search for handles, just handles, and there were none to be purchased just by themselves. 

I have been looking, as a solution, for a new faucet to replace what we have and this would probably get us a long term solution. For the moment, we are having to pinch the end of the valve to turn it on and off. So goes life on a boat.

Now back to more boat stories. 

We have been visiting and moving on from town to town along this canal. In case you’ve gotten lost, we are on the Loing Canal. We spent a wonderful day inspecting the town of Nemours. You will see below a good number of pictures of a former castle that has been converted into a museum and a number of businesses down on the waterfront. This waterfront area has a variety of food vendors and a stage where performances can be made to the audience that shows up. I don’t know if they charge for this but nothing was going on while we were there. We helped ourselves to several crepes.

Love seeing old woodworking and hardware.

Of course if there is a church in town we always visit it. In fact, I can’t recall a town or village that didn’t have at least one church. The one in this town was interesting because of the architectural detail that caught my attention. I can’t recall the architectural name - perhaps vault - but up at the very top, what we would call the ceiling, the important bracing was made with wood, not the typical masonry product. Just an interesting detail.

The next village is unique if for nothing else then its name: Souppes-sur-Loing. Soup.

Montargis was a surprise by the amount of retail space that is available and being used. It seems as if the leaders of the town are doing a lot of work to improve streets and in many cases making the streets pedestrian only. Everything looks great and it is one of the exceptions where a town looks clean and modern, or at least as modern as an old town in France can be. 

We moored along a quai and I was able to bring the boat into the wall between two large barges. Some days I think I’m getting good at this boat handling (see opposing viewpoint below).

We had two very nice meals in this town. One for an evening sit down and the following day sitting out on the street with some boating friends. Two nice meals in a row.

Leek salad with dried ham.

There was a castle near our mooring but only the gardens were available for a visit. We also took in a very nice art museum and a special show they had going on.

And, as always, here are a few pictures of the town church. We did have some trouble finding the entrance but when we did we did our duty.

Here is an interesting fact about this town and some history that has to do with China. In the 1920's and 30's many Chinese students came to Europe for education. They seem to have gravitated to certain towns and cities and even this modest size town had a gathering of about 400 Chinese. In addition to doing their education they also worked and typically it was in a shoe factory in town. 

But the really interesting fact is that these Chinese were developing ideas about how to govern their country. They were socialists and communists. And not just any communist Chinese but future rulers of the country. Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai were some of the famous people that came to this town for education. There is in town a small museum that tells the story of these people. Perhaps some of their views about capitalism were developed in the shoe factory. Typically a French worker could produce 10 pairs of shoes a day. But some of the good Chinese workers were able to double that number and they got paid for this extra output. You would think they would have gone back to China thinking that capitalism was better than communism. These two Chinese leaders mentioned above were very important in the opening to the West and having an open mind about what progress might look like in China.

Down on the water again we were involved with two other barges that were having some problems. The one tied up to the wall has been experiencing electrical problems and is hoping for an expert to show up and give him some help. The other boat had started the morning hearing an engine sound that was not quite right so he wanted to pull over and make an adjustment which he did in just a few minutes. This couple are Americans and have been doing France for about 14 years.

The next town we walked through, Chatillon-Coligny, was not all that impressive  but we lucked out and we were able to do a town tour given by some of the locals. A good number of French scientists seemed to have roots or some connection to the village. And the author Colette lived here for two years and was married here as well.

And you can see that every day life finds a way to keep up with us. A couple of loads of washing out to dry.

This next town is famous for what it doesn’t have anymore. Seven old locks. Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses is still a canal town but somewhere in the past they built seven locks that just didn’t measure up to a larger standard that was developed. So these locks were abandoned and six new locks were added. 

Rogny didn’t have but one artisan bakery but it had several restaurants and we had a nice meal sitting outside alongside the canal. The next day we would have to go through the new six locks and more to complete the day. This would be the start of a day with multiple errors on my part.

I like to get in and out of the locks without too much bumping on the sides. Normally not difficult but today I made two mistakes at two different locks. Not getting in or out but rather forgetting things or making the wrong choice.

The first lock of the day had me forgetting to move several fenders that had been placed on port side because of how the wall was situated. I left these fenders on the port side and this drastically reduced my ability to get into the lock. Nothing broken but I call it a mistake. The second error occurred as we exited a lock. There was a rental boat just in front of the lock exit and while the lock workers had waved him off to the side he was still in my line of exit. So I made the mistake of trying to go off to my right a bit but with a barge what moves is not the front but the back. So as I am going out my stern moved to the port side and hit the lock door. Again, no damage except one of my tough fenders lost one of its ropes but I was able to recover it by pulling up the other end. These mistakes tick me off.

So now we are tied up in the town of Ouzouer-sur-Trezee and tomorrow we will head into Briare. Briare should be the opposite of this current village. It has just one bakery and a very small store selling some groceries and produce. The only thing it has going for us is that it has a very pretty tie-up location.

We spent a good part of an hour in the church waiting for the bakery to open at 3:30. But this gave us some time to walk around the church and think about some of the objects we saw. The church has its origin in the 12th century. It is by no means a wealthy church as you can tell by the meager holdings it has inside. Some comments are noted below.

Are they being locked in or locked out?


The only pew that is reserved for a family.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Yonne, Seine and Canal du Loing

Barge Date:  06-25-2022

We continued to make our progress down the Yonne River as we stopped at two smaller towns along the way. Pont-sur-Yonne is not a classic looking French village but it had more to offer in terms of retail than it was given credit for at the tourism office in Sens.

You have to look to find what is there. Fortunately we were able to locate a tavern that was serving ice cream and this we enjoyed while looking over the town square. There were several pastry shops and we bought our daily supply. We stayed overnight and in the morning we were on our way to Montereau-Fault-Yonne.

Montereau is our gateway to the Seine River. While we tried to find something interesting in this town we came up with close to zero. We walked a good number of streets again hoping to find a source for ice cream and we failed. But a good number of commercial barges were working the water.

 Notice the beehives in front of this mural.

Back on the boat I addressed a problem that had cropped up in the last several days. The engine temperature had been running higher than normal and I suspected all the wrong things. Was the river water much warmer this year than in previous times? Did I have enough coolant in the heat exchanger that keeps the engine cool? Finally, was the water pump working as it should or should I replace the impeller as I normally do at the beginning of each year? It was none of these.

We take water from the canal or river to cool the engine. There is an exchanger that keeps separate the water from the canal and the coolant around the engine. This is something to look at on a regular basis but I have never had a problem with debris getting into the water take-up hole which is on the bottom side of the boat. This is something that I look for with each start of the engine; throw your head over the port side and look for the water coming out of the engine room. Water was coming out each day but certainly not in the quantity that it should, and this restrictive flow caused the engine to overheat. I used a stick and the water hose to clear this area and it immediately solved the problem.

On the Seine we only needed to pass through one very large lock before we would made our escape on to the Canal de Loing. While the lock could handle a variety of very large boats we were the sole occupant and we traveled unaccosted on this river.

On the Loing the scale of everything returns to our normal. From the beginning there were live aboard barges and boats crowding both sides of the canal. We were moving along at a fairly slow pace taking in the view of these boats when all of a sudden our boat rose up in the middle and there was a sound of collision from underneath. I stopped the prop as soon as I could and turned my head to see what might be now behind us. While we don’t know what it was it was certainly yellow and I have to think it was made of metal. Later in the day we went to the video (hey Jim, it was like Warner Wolf saying “let’s go to video tape”). Yep, yellow, but we have no idea what it was. We could only see it from the stern camera and it soon faded from view. Perhaps the size of a large car hood and there was a large opening surrounded by yellow. We notified the capitainerie when we stopped.

We are tied up just before the first lock on this canal and we walked into town for lunch. A couple that is traveling ahead of us suggested a particular restaurant (La dame du lac) and we wanted to give it a try. Seemed like it was being operated by three young men trying to make a mark in the restaurant business and the meal and dessert were very, very good. I had Steak Tartare.

The town, Moret-sur-Loing, is along a quiet stream but in town they have a small dam and the remnants of an old mill. There is a bridge over the stream at this point and it was a good spot to take some pictures.

Back on the boat I tackled the last remaining problem and as you might guess it had to do with the toilets. You thought we were not going to have any problems in that category this year and you are wrong. But I knew what the problem was likely to be and using the quick access doors that I had put in place several years ago I was able to run a pipe cleaner through the hose that brings water into the boat. 20 minutes and the problem was solved. 

We have remained in this port for a second night and did make a trip back into town for a meal at another restaurant. This also was very good. It has been raining slightly all day long so any thoughts of doing more sanding or painting on the boat was put to rest. I’ve been reading and watching woodworking videos. Tomorrow morning we will leave going up the stream on this canal for about 20 km. Standby for more good news.

Surprisingly, there were 3 Belgian  registered boats tied up all together. The biggest gathering of Belgians I’ve seen in a long time.