Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Barge Date:  12-01-2021

And You Thought I Was Not Doing a Last Blog 

 Yes, I know, you are wondering where I am. France?  USA?

We returned to Auxerre having gone up the Nivernais canal half way.  If anyone is reading this and thinking about the Nivernais we give it a score of C.  At times very nice but other times lacking. Having just come off the Burgundy canal from one end to the other we would say it was a better experience; bigger, bolder views from the barge and a lot of towns and villages of interest.  The Nivernais had a good number of hire boats and less so for the Burgundy (except for the north end). We liked the Meuse more than the Nivernais. The Canal de la Marne au Rhin was much more interesting than the Nivernais.

I met up with the man I had spoken to earlier who was having his deck power stripped with water. Not a totally good experience. Made a big mess but did get down to steel. What he painted looked good and I picked up some tips. And he was not told that the  people who would do the work were on vacation so he did much more than he intended. I spent some time grinding some problem areas on my deck and actually it was not in such bad condition.  Based on some info from DBA I know what I will be doing when I return in 2022.

We were tied up in Auxerre for several weeks and crossed paths with a number of boaters. This year must be a record for meeting Americans. Probably half of them own boats in the US and live on board in both places.  Marianne went on a book buying spree; we now measure books by pounds not by piece.  Visited a few restaurants, had some fun.

Took the bike out to the Brico store to buy painting supplies and some lumber.  I have developed an idea for removing and installing batteries. If the boards don't break, if the rope holds, moving batteries should not be nearly impossible.

Of course everything on deck has been stored somewhere on the boat. Did all the steps for winterizing the boat.  My new plumbing fittings work great to pump out the water system. Once this was done we spent the last day in a nearby hotel then took the train to Paris.  Because it was the weekend and because of work on some of the rail line part of the trip was by bus.  Normally you take a train direct to one of the Paris stations.

Spent a morning tracking down an attorney in Paris that is dealing with English publishing rights for some of the books Marianne has translated.  We arrived just in the nick of time as she was passing us as we entered her building. But a loud yell from me and a conversation with Marianne as we walked with her was fruitful.  She was actually on her way to a meeting that might start resolving the roadblock that has stopped progress with these rights.  Now to find a proper English publisher that wants to do the printing.

Spent several days in Paris doing low stress things: the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, art museums, etc. Tried to eat well. Then zip zip back to Thomasville.

Thinking about next year already. One more item to make in the shop and I am ready. Will have part of the electric system looked at over the winter to see if there is a problem. And provided the old barge is floating in April or May we will return.

Luxembourg Gardens

This little girl is mugging for a photo.

Outside former apartment of Romain Gary

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

 Barge Date:  09-14-2021

Up and Down the Nivernais

 This, we have been told, is one of the prettiest canals in all of France. Our judgement to follow.

The Nivernais is a canalized river.  It is the Yonne River that flows north from the high point of the canal - Sardy - to ultimately feed into the Seine. We are at one point on the river then off for a section of canal. Water levels this year are not a problem so the river and the canal are in a happy state. 

We went as far as Cuzy before we decided that we should turn around to make sure we arrive back in Auxerre in time to do more work on the boat and to get the boat ready for winter. I took some pictures and I have a few stories for you.

We expected to see a lot more hire boats on the water but instead it was reasonable. I, for one, like to be moving and having other boats coming does not bother me. You get to get out of the way and wave to the vacationers. One morning we started out thinking we would be alone in the locks but at the last moment a rather large rental entered behind us.  Not a problem as I can get real close to the front doors.  Six sailors on the rental, all with a Belgian connection of sorts. An Irishman seemed to be the captain. After the lock we were on a river section and the rental decided to pass us. Our fumes?  Anyway, for the next several locks they were in front. Going down in a lock is normally gentle so few concerns. 

Back on a canal section the rental is trying to crash his boat on the left bank. Are they trying to stop? Maybe it was someone else at the helm as we see the Irishman take over. They get a bit ahead and around a bend and as we get there we see a boat barely fitting cross-ways in the canal and something that looks like it might be a radio controlled boat in the water and moving along towards us. Once we determined it was our rental we connected the dots and realized that an umbrella - the RC boat we thought we  saw -  from their boat had blown off and they were trying to turn and recover. After much jockeying they made the turn and were able to get the umbrella.

At an upcoming lift bridge - Marianne has gotten off at  a regular bridge and walked forward to operate it - the Irish went through and then seemed not to want to clear the area. I am coming up on them and through, so I pass.  I do this knowing that we will be stopping soon and that there may be only one space for us. And we get the space.  Win some, lose some.


In the village of Vincelottes we are moored in a little basin.  Marianne has zeroed in on a fancy restaurant for the evening meal. We are greeted by the Chef/Owner and it is a good thing that I had cleaned up a bit. He gives us the menu, talks about specials, and I go for the fish that he says came in at a high weight and you almost never see them that way (does that mean they are better?). It was a nice meal, pretty plates and a nice dessert. So when I go to pay - he takes the money too - I can see the real cooks in the back room - I ask him about his story; how did this restaurant get started?

Forty-three years ago he found the location.  The previous 3 restaurants having gone belly up. His mom told him it was too small. But he worked at it, the restaurant worked, and he is obviously very successful.

So I throw some numbers at him.  We are off a barge that is 101 years old. Take that. And he comes back with a very uplifting story that has a tragic side to it. Forty-three years ago a lady and her family came in for her birthday and has never missed another year eating there on her birthday. She is now 104 years old and just celebrated at the restaurant with her family.  What is interesting and yet tragic is that she lives in a retirement home in town and she was the first to get COVID.  She survived. But then forty-one other residents died.

We have certainly been pacing ourselves. The engine barely gets warm before I am advised to moor. Thus we see a lot of villages. And when we stop we are hoping to find a bakery, a restaurant and someone that does ice cream up in a fancy way. What is the chance that for most of the stops these business are closed that day? Did not make for happy campers.

Tried to do some work on the lead acid batteries that start the engine. You have to crawl into the back of the boat to get close.  I want to check the water. These are the new batteries so I am removing the caps for the first time. Almost impossible.  Was able to do five.  The sixth cap was under some cables and just was not accessible.  So I get the wrench to maybe take the clamp off of the battery post. Sparks fly.

I did a post online to get some advice.  And it was mostly good. Insulate around the batteries - hey, it is a metal boat, the batteries are on a metal shelf and there is only six inches of clearance to more metal. Buy some insulated wrenches. That sounds good.  The best suggestion was from a guy that said when he put batteries in his boat some time in the past he never opened the caps.  They lasted seven years. Guess what I am going to do?

Have varnished all of the wheelhouse on the outside.  Could be better and I will work some more on it. Started chipping paint on the cabin roof.  I will treat for rust and prime with a couple coats of good marine paint. Next year the deck, the cabin, and the wheelhouse will all be worked on and painted by me and any person I can get to do it.  Who wants to take a trip next year?

Dungeon for sale.




In Cravant there is a dungeon for sale. It is a mighty big dungeon and includes a nice garden and living space in an adjoining building.  When we stop again Marianne wants to ask the lady owner and artist for a tour. It has been listed from 350,000 to 800,000 euros.  Sounds like we can get her down a bit.

She is selling the dungeon.

This is a church and other buildings at the top of a very sharp hill.

Tell the time?

The village of Clamecy has a history of wood, firewood. There came a time when Paris could not source enough wood for the winter heating and cooking. With improvements to the Yonne River a new industry was born. Trees were felled in the greater Clamecy area and positioned near the Yonne and smaller waters that fed the Yonne. Each log had an impression stamped into the end to identify the owner.  In the spring these logs, of a particular length - I think 1m14 - were pushed into the water and gathered at Clamecy.  Here the wood would be sorted by owner and great long rafts were created and then floated north to Paris where they were disassembled and sold.  This went on until coal was able to pollute the skies over Paris

Our new runner for the hallway on Lionel

This little French sweetheart wants to eat the new tomato.

So what do we think of the Nivernais?  We have seen a good many canals and the Nivernais is not near the top in terms of the views from the boat. Our earlier trip on the Burgundy gave better views. The Meuse River from Liege to northern France is better.  The trip from Toul to Strasbourg was very nice. We did not cover all the Nivernais and we may never do it all. But from this trip this canal is down the list.


Monday, August 30, 2021


Barge Date:  08-30-2021

Summer Reading

Every summer in Europe I read a good bit.  Mostly everyday trash but sometimes I get serious. Remember the biography of U.S. Grant?

So this year I have gone deep with three books about France. A big (1800 pages) biography of N. Bonaparte, a complete history of the French revolution and lastly a biography of C. de Gaulle.

Napoleon by Andrew Roberts seems to cover the subject from beginning to end. I won't bore you with the details since you probably know as much as I did before undertaking this read. From the typical American educational standpoint, most would say Napoleon was a great man. In the sense that Genghis Khan was a great man then so was Napoleon. Did he do some great things? Yes. Did he do them with France in mind? Sometimes.  Was he always putting himself first? Always. 

Europe was a different place than it is today. Countries, empires, duchies, principalities, cities, the church, royalties, titled persons, priests, bishops, popes, sex and intrigue; all of this allowed Europe to be a mess much of the time. From Spain and Turkey to Sweden and Russia, from the seas that England ruled completely to the far east of Moscow, territory changed hands all the time. Wars, marriages and alliances were made and lost. Napoleon was part of that. From cadet to Emperor, he wanted it all.  Perhaps he even asked God to step aside so he could take over.

What do you know about the French revolution? If you are American and a product of the educational system you know you just spent a day on this and no more. They stormed the Bastille, chopped off some heads, killed a king or two and everything was just fine from there on out. Just like America. The head of state probably looked like G. Washington or T. Jefferson, there were elections and life was good.

The book I read was The French Revolution by Ian Davidson.

In fact, the French revolution continued into the 20th century.  New constitutions, new laws, new governments. There was really no settled form of France until de Gaulle. And that was nearly lost in the revolt of 1968.

The Americans were lucky.  Their oppressor was 3,000 miles away.  Had the colonies been located in south Wales or Scotland you might have seen the destruction that took place in France. Ours was a "clean" revolution. The French had a really dirty revolution and it seemed to get worse with each year until finally the head chopping stopped and reason began to take shape. But even this went on for years. New people, new constitutions, new governments, Napoleon. Compared to France, the US had a clean history (if you ignore the Civil War). France's history is very muddled.

And what do you know about de Gaulle? If you are my age you can remember seeing him (very tall) and being told that he was always against the American political position with regards to Europe, NATO and anything else.  A trouble maker. Churchill wanted to like him but the Americans of WWII always thought the worst of him and did a lot to force him out and to ignore his wartime work and ambitions.

If you are younger than 40 you might not even know who de Gaulle was.

I read De Gaulle by Douglas Boyd.  While the writer certainly has pro de Gaulle sentiments that puts the French leader in positive light, I have to say that my opinion of de Gaulle is now very supportive. I believe the man wanted what rightly should be France's. A place on the world stage, a French view that did not support the US in all regards, the ability to make strategic decisions that were in the interest of France. France first.

De Gaulle brought stability to France.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021


Barge Date:  08-24-2021

Where Have We Been

You might think that we had some terrible thing happen to us.  But for you that view Marianne's FB postings of pictures and comments you must know that one of us is alive.  I will need the last blog to know where to begin here.

 We are on our way to Auxerre where we will spend about a week doing work on the barge. But we are in no hurry to get there so a few stops along the way.

We have been watching for canal weeds as we move forward.  Had a lot of this stuff after leaving Dijon but it suddenly stopped at one point.  Been told to expect more but it really has not been bad.  One section between 2 locks was heavy with the stuff but we found this weed harvester tied up to the bank (it was a Sunday) and some weeds dumped on the bank.

In the city of Saint Florentin we were joined by family from Belgium.  They did not want to stay on the barge or have a run down the canal so we spent a good bit of time just relaxing on the boat, exploring the town, eating well and making some runs to stores for boat supplies. This last part was much appreciated. Here are some pictures around town.

The church in Saint Florentin was having some work done on it but we were able to go inside after first requesting the key from the tourist office. If I have it right, the stained  glass windows are somewhat unique in that the small panes tell stories and those with a Catholic background probably could follow along.

The next town was Brienon sur Armancon.  The moment you find one round wash house you find another. Each has its own character so each stands alone just fine. The ladies had to descend a good number of steps to get to work then a walk back up with their load.

We were hoping to have lunch in town but it looked like a dim chance.  The one restaurant we found said it was open for lunch but it was empty and when we called out the owner said sorry. Where could we go?  Didn't seem to want to help but said maybe, just maybe, the place down the street and a right turn is open.

This did not look good either. Not a soul but we did round up the chef/owner and he said he would serve us. So picture this:  we are the only customers. We had no idea what to do so we said surprise us.  And he did. Now here is where you need to get over to Marianne's picture page because she takes pictures of food, not me. But the chef did a wonderful job from beginning to end. The name of the place is El Toreador (because of an earlier girlfriend from Spain when the restaurant was more tapas).  Now it is  more French food. Try telling your next chef to just go for it and surprise you. We did.

 We asked about the empty restaurant.  He said that when the French COVID rules changed that require diners to show their health pass his patrons just stopped coming. Perhaps the noon crowd more than evenings, but none the less he was hoping he was past the grim days of no income. We helped him out.

Stayed a couple of days in Migennes which is at the very north end of the Burgundy Canal.  Nice large basin and easy tie-up. Here is the one picture I took.

Now it is out on the Yonne River and heading south.  With the river the speed limit changes to 15kph and I opened it up.  This was suggested as a way to loosen the engine and turbocharge up.  Even up stream we could make good speed, but not 15. We are headed to Auxerre but we made a half way stop for the evening in Gurgy then on to Auxerre.

A busy port so we elected to moor opposite the marina but we found it much more convenient for shopping and eating.  I spent a good deal of time on board so I don't have a lot to say about the city; we will be back in five weeks and again next Spring.  But here are some pics around town.

So I did some grinding and painting on the deck of the boat. Actually not too bad.  What does not look good is the peeling paint job on the deck. It has been some time since proper boat paint has been used on Lionel. Talked to some Kiwis off of Petronella who were  in M igennes about to take their barge in to a yard to have deck and cabin steel stripped with a high pressure system.  Not your garden version of a pressure washer; this baby will knock you off your feet if treated poorly. John said it did the trick and was fast.  Made a big mess too.  Next it will be painted and when he is done they will be coming our way and I want to inspect.  May have the same done next year.