Tour de France
Place: Gergy, France
Date: July 15. 2006
Author: Øystein Djønne
Translator: Vidar Krovik

Day 59 Maastricht to Huy, Belgium - 32 nm

I had mixed feelings today when I cast off the moorings, because I was warned about the Belgian lock system. Big locks where the lock supervisors only laugh if you are in trouble. They do not care about much. Maybe that has some connection with the Belgium lock system being free of charge. But for me the worries were needless, the journey went very well. The only problems was some lights, which grant you access to the locks, were missing and there was a lot of damaged brackets a long the lock side. The ride can be very exciting when you do not have the necessary brackets :). A little more action happened when I was bound for the harbour that night and the keel hit the mud ground. With a little more speed on the engine I got loose. It was more difficult for the Swedish boat that came behind me, they had to jump out of the boat and rock the boat of the mud.

Day 60 Huy to Namur - 19 nm

A short leg in beautiful sunshine and temperatures over 30 degrees, I am not impressed over the surroundings a long the canals in this part of Belgium. Real dirty water and garbage everywhere. Only industry along the shores and many buildings look like they will fall down anytime. A stone crushing facility fills the air with dusts and the garbage facilities does not make the air better. The city of Namur was much of the same; this city is not on my top 5 holiday destinations.

Day 61 Namur to Heer - 25 nm

The locks in Belgium can sometimes take forever, but time is what I have most of. We were 9 boats in the first lock, but since I am keeping a lower speed I had to wait for the others to get up at the next lock. Today the surroundings changed like a scene change at a theatre. Lovely green nature, high fine mountains, clean water and beautiful old towns. Just like entering a fairytale. I passed the boarder to France this evening, but the first French lock was closed so I went back and spent the night in Belgium.

Day 62 Herr to Revin, Frankrike - 22 nm

I had to enter the lock administration office to pay for the French canal and lock system. The workers at the office could not a single English word, and I am just as good in French. But with a lot of laughs we finally managed to sort things out. I paid 60 Euro for 1 month canal passage. Then they gave me a remote so I could manage the locks myself. Hmmm… are they aware of the risk letting me ravage alone? Later that day I passed 2 tunnels, with a length of around 700 meters. Really exciting.

Day 63 Revin to Charleville Mezieres - 23 nm

The automatically lock system is working great. I open the lock by pressing the remote and enter when a green light appears. When the mooring is fastened, I press push a pole which close the lock, fill up water and opens the doors in the other end. I pass 10-15 locks every day. I have not found a great mooring method, so I get really tired in my arms. The water runs in with an incredible speed and the boat is pushed back and forth from the wall. I work real hard to keep the boat steady. Every lock raises me about 3 meters up towards greater heights :).

Day 64 Charleville Mezieres to Mouzon - 25 nm

I went out to shop bread, but many places here on the French countryside has the Mondays of. So it became a pretty thin breakfast. But I suffer no pain, I am enjoying the summer with over 30 degrees and calm air. The sweat is running down by body, which have changed colour since it left cold Norway. A lovely landscape keeps my eyes busy all day. The mountains raise high covered by green forest. It is mostly countryside landscape farms, cows and grass fields decorating the scene along the canal. Came to a nice harbour this evening with showers, launder machine and power access for only 7,20 Euro.

Day 65 Mouzon to Consenvoye - 29 nm

I meet many nice people along the journey, and they are all pleasant and obliging. I am often invited onboard their boat served cold drinks and we have a nice talk. Then we say goodbye, and the next evening I meet new people. That’s how my days go, and I really like it. The sun lotion is frequently pushed out of the bottle, but it still feels like the sun is frying me. So some days I have to seek cover in the shade. This night I moored the boat between 2 trees in the middle of the canal.

Day 66 Consenvoye to La Croix sur Meuse - 28 nm

Heavy thunder rain passed through the night, but the trees was still standing. Today every lock was operated manual, by persons cranking them up. And I have found a new mooring method for the locks, so now they are more relaxing. There have been some clouds today, but it is still hot. Some thunder rain this evening, and I used the opportunity to take a shower :). Something the people in the neighbouring boat found very strange. Just when the shampoo was washed out, the rain stopped.

Day 67 La Croix sur Meuse to Pagny sur Meuse - 26 nm

Today I shopped fresh baguette at the local baker, wish served as breakfast. Later that day I arrived at a town where there was a grocery store at the riverside, so I hoard up some food before I continued. I usually start the day at 09.00 and stops at 18.00, with 6 hours on the canal and the rest in the locks. The last lock lifted me up to 220 meters over sea level.

Day 68 Pagny sur Meuse to Richardmenil - 23 nm

For the first time in a long while I went through a lock that brought me downwards. 14 locks in fewer than 2 hours lowered me down 43 meters towards the city of Toul. Going downwards the locks are very simple, you almost don’t need moorings at all. You just sitting calm and notice the water level are dropping without much movement. Now I have been in France for almost a week without seeing a single grape, but the big wine yards will probably soon appear :).

Day 69 Richardmenil to Nomexy - 23 nm

Today is Saturday and I am looking forward to getting at port for the night. Tomorrow I will take a calm day at the harbour. I feel the body needs a brake from the travelling. I passed 20 locks today, and they are all operated manual. I still haven’t seen a Norwegian boat since Germany, but there are plenty of Danish and Swedish people driving by. In the evening I enjoyed candy and a movie on the computer. Life is great!!

Day 70 Nomexy to Epinal - 8 nm

This was supposed be a day at the harbour with calm activities. I started by waking up when the alarm normally goes off at 08.00. Then I was full of energy that needed to be spent, so I began cleaning the boat. Afterwards I sat down with a book, but was unable to sit still. The only thing to do was loosen the moorings and drive towards the nearest town. There I was invited onboard a boat and was staying there for the rest of the evening. The whole town was full of people shouting and cars blowing their horn, since France had made it to the final in the World Cup.

Day 71 Epinal to Mèlomènil - 11 nm

It is still very high temperatures and the thermometer inside the boat shows a mild fever at 38-39 degrees and outside in the shade there is around 32-33 degrees. The day brought me through 31 locks, where 15 lay continues. I passed the journeys highest peak which laid 360 meters over sea level. So now it’s only downhill towards the Mediterranean Sea. In the evening I had to look for a long time to find a place to spend the night. The depth was for the most of the time 1 meter. When I was working with this I got plants in the propellers which led to engine failure.

Day 72 Mèlomènil to Selles - 16 nm

This was a short leg, but a long day since the locks are taking its time. I’m wondering if there exist clouds in France, because I haven’t seen any in a very long time :). Some annoying flies had to pay with their life today, but beside from that everything is just perfect. Most of the places I pass by are very small towns, but they all have some things in common. They have a bakery, a restaurant and at least one church. And beside from that, there is very little.

Day 73 Selles to Port sur Saône - 26 nm

I have ended the parts with the most locks, and it will be nice to have some more calm days. Because the sun is strong and that makes you listless. The most ports I use are free as long as you don’t need power or water, but I have no problem spending money. The engine is drinking its fair share of gas and my stomach demands some food every day. I am longing for some saltwater between my toes, but I am enjoying myself in the inland as well.

Day 74 Port sur Saône to Gray - 35 nm

Today I saw clouds for the first time in a long while. That gave me good entertainment; I used my fantasy and found all different creatures. Hmmm.. you probably get a little crazy being alone on such journey :). But there came a little wind, and just as quick as the cloud came, they disappeared. Luckily there were no deep enough harbours today as well, because that is economical. When there is no space I have to double-park and the boat next door invited me to a cold refreshing drink.

Day 75 Gray to Auxonne - 25 nm

The most of the towns I have visited is very alike in the architecture. The buildings are made of bricks and cement and are looking real old. Almost everyone looks like they need some maintains. But it is very charming and I think it looks real French. Today is July 14th and the French national day. Most people have the day off and are enjoying themselves in the sun. The music is played loud from the houses and the kids are playing with fireworks.

Day 76 Auxonne to Gergy - 32 nm

Now I have entered a bigger canal system which is going straight down south to the Mediterranean Sea. So now the landscape is becoming wider and bigger freighters are passing by. Finally I have some parallel flow, around 0,5 knot. I am passing bigger cities and the time goes quick. I am noticing the sun is making the body listless and it is not much I’m taking the trouble to do except for steering. At port I’m just relaxing in the shade by reading a book or solving Su Doku. I am also practicing a little Spanish, learning some grammar and some new words every day. That is fun, I really enjoy these days.

Pictures from this leg can be seen here.