Saturday, June 11, 2022

May 31 Châtel Censoir to Mailly-le-Château - Celebrating 36 years

 Today was in interesting journey as almost everyone in Châtel Censoir decided they wanted to leave at 9h00, the earliest you can enter an écluse. We made the first batch leaving a few boats waiting for us to go down and the écluse to fill for their turn (putting them about 15 minutes behind us). Things were going smooth, the first couple of écluse were open and waiting, in fact so was the third but no éclusier. We waited and waited, (shut our engines off) and looked back up the canal to see the next group of boats arriving so we met them and helped get them tied to the bank. By this time Joan was calling our first éclusier to see if she knew what was going on, she didn’t but would see if she could find someone to take care of us. When the éclusier finally arrived it turned out that there were way more boats moving this morning than normal, and they just plain got swamped.

Saussois Rocks & the Canal du Nivernais

About half way through our day we passed through a tight 180 bend at Merry-sur-Yonne and the beautiful limestone cliffs of Saussols Rocks. One of the more unique and beautiful settings we have experienced on the canals of France

Around one more bend and we were tied up in a beautiful cutout, complete with power. Set up for lunch, reuniting with a boat that we'd met the night before. After lunch it was time to scale yet another hilltop town. This time Mailly-le Château - now a town with a château, the Keep remaining from a 14th century fortified castle. The walk up the steep road was a bit on the hot side (we did manage to hit the heat of the day). We explored the 13th century church, then found the grocery store we were looking for. Not much to choose from but, they did have ice cream and that sounded like the perfect food for an afternoon snack. While wandering around town we found trail markers that lead to the cliff - must be a trail back to the boat. While steep, the trail offered a bit of shade, no cars and it was much quicker.


Being May 31, Joan and I were celebrating our 36th anniversary. We'd planned a nice dinner to cook along with a nice bottle of Crémant de Borgogne (Burgundy's answer to champagne). We opened the bottle to have a wee apéritif when Albert from the only other boat in the harbor dropped by and asked if would like to join he and Kathrin for a glass of wine - we of course accepted, bringing the rest of our Crémant with us. Wellllll around midnight we made it back to Juniper. Between crémant de borgogne, wine, conversation and the goodies that Kathrin found to eat, we didn't even think about dinner, till we were back on our boat. If I recall the 36th anniversary is the potato chip anniversary - in honor of that milestone we snarfed a bag of chips, then off to bed.

Celebrating our Potato Chip Anniversary
A toast with Crémant du Borgogne
(36 Years together)

Friday, June 10, 2022

May 29-30 Clamecy to Châtel Censoir and Vézelay

 May 29 Clamecy to Châtel Censoir

Before we left Seattle we had invited our neighbors to join us for dinner when they were also in France. While they were on their bike trips and Joan and I canal boating we’d texted back and forth. Andy decided he wanted to take us up on our offer to see Juniper. Today he’ll be taking a train to Châtel Censoir, our destination. As it turns our his train will be early enough that he can walk a couple of kilometers up the canal and meet us at our last écluse for the day.

Châtel Censoir château and church
above the marina

Arriving at our last écluse, Andy was waiting for us to catch a ride back to Châtel Censoir. A couple of kilometers later and we were tied up under the hilltop Château and church at Châtel Censoir. All three of us were ready to find a route up the hill to check things out. Took the road up, but found a wonderful trail back down.

While helping boats tie up as they arrived the crew on the boat next to us arrived by taxi. Talking with them they were just returning by taxi from visiting Vézelay, a historic town located on the eternal hill, crowned by the Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (Mary Magdalene) originally built as a Benedictine Abbey Church between 1120 and 1150. Guess we know where we’re going tomorrow.

May 30 - Vézelay

Walking the Vezelay hill toward the basilica
No écluses today just a cab ride with a driver that knows the road so well (I hope) that he’s comfortable going 120kph on narrow twisting roads, while talking on the phone (ok, the phone part was only on our return trip).

We spent the morning wandering through the town, working our way up the hill to the Basilica. Along the way we found an interpretive center and got a nice presentation about what to look for while visiting the Basilica, including lots of little pieces we would have completely missed if we hadn’t taken the time. Made it to the Basilica just about lunch time and walked in as a service was happening. The voices of those singing and chanting were amazing, that so few could fill that space with glorious sound.

Neighbor Andy checking out the beer & wine cellar

After lunch we continued touring the Basilica and the grounds of what had been a huge Abbey in its day. With views of the villages, farm land and vineyards stretching for miles.

Returned to Juniper in time for dinner and walking Andy to the train station for his evening train back to Paris.

Basilica of Sainte Marie-Madeleine (Mary Magdelene)

Mason Marks found throughout the Basilica

View from the basilica at the top of the hill in Vézelay

One of 15 wooden crosses in the basilica
a translation of the plaque is as follows

1946 - Europe emerged from the Second World War destroyed and ruined. "Christians needed to gather in prayer to overcome the forces of hate which had destroyed the world" in celebrating the anniversary of the preaching of the Second Crusade by St Bernard of Clairvaux at Vezelay in 1146.


The pilgrimage was an event of forgiveness and peace-making. Fourteen wooden crosses were carried along the roads from England, Luxembourg, Belgium Switzerland, Italy and different departments of France converging on the basilica.


Certain German prisoners held in a camp in the vicinity of Vezelay asked to join the procession. Hastily, a fifteenth cross was made. This became a powerful symbol of reconciliation for the world. 30,000 people gathered at Vezelay. During this event, Vezelay became a place of prayer for reconciliation and a peaceful Europe

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

May 27-28 Tannay to Clamecy

May 27-28 Tannay to Clamecy

Joan with her bouquet
With our electrical issue hopefully repaired, we got hold of our éclusier last night and scheduled for a 9h15 passage through her écluse. We knew that tonight’s destination would be tight (very small harbor and lots of hire boats had just left, plus it’s the only real town between here and the end of our trip. We went through our morning routine and finally time to get underway - success, the engine started easily, as always, and all the gauges were where they were supposed to be. We’ll be monitoring every 10 to 15 minutes today to make sure they stay put.

Éclusier with hand crank in
one hand, remote in the other
We arrived at our first écluse to find the éclusier we had talked with and visited with waiting for us. The doors on her double écluse were set up so that she had a remote control for the far gate and she only cranked the close gate. She got the gates closed and started the water going down then started pruning the flowers in her garden. Next thing we knew she brought Joan a nice bouquet, what a wonderful treat. We again had the lock to ourselves and it was looking like a quick day. The turn before our next écluse two hire boats pulled off the beach, where they had spent the night, just in time to be ahead of us and they were big enough that all three wouldn’t fit. With uphill traffic beginning to appear and a shortage of éclusiers our day got quite a bit longer.

Moroccan lamb & fig tajine named
after the earthenware its cooked in
Arrived in Clamecy and found a few spaces still open, though the port would fill to overflowing before the evening was done. Being our first night in a long time with real restaurants and boulangeries, it was time to treat ourselves. First a short walk into the old town for a café au lait, then a walk through the old city and finally dinner out at a couscousery. The next morning it was time for croissants and fresh bread, plus it was market day.

Clamecy is an old medieval town, with a center protected area filled with timber framed houses and the collegiate church of Saint Martin a well preserved gem of Gothic art. Exploring the narrow streets and curving alleyways took most of our day. But that day did include the market and the best boulangerie of the trip, so far.

Lift bridge - Joan would get off on one side and raise the bridge,
Michael moves the boat through while Joan lowers the bridge and gets back aboard

PK Marker (Point Kilométrique) that we've talked about
marking our distance - becoming more rare on the canals

Timber framed houses - and yes they do
lean into each other as they rise above street level

Market day at les Halles - lots of good stuff to stock up on

As the Canal du Nivernais reaches the Yonne River valley we begin to weave back and forth.
from canal to river and back again. Here we've gone through an écluse and short segment of canal
to go around a weir on the river.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Chitry-les Mines to the marina in the middle of no where May 20 - 26

 May 20th

Checking tire pressure for our ride to Corbigny
Outdoor restaurant at Chitry-les-Mines in back

Got a 9:30 start - our eclusiers had spent a half hour preparing écluses so they were up and ready for us allowing us to make good time. We had two new young men who worked well together and had us to the end of what we thought was their territory in time to hopefully be at our destination before lunch break. Just when we thought we had it made, our next écluse, a double, had a boat coming up - the clock was ticking. Made it though with maybe enough time. Got to the second to the last écluse for the day and our two guys were back with us. Made it through the first of their two écluses with less than ten minutes till their lunch break. We said our goodbyes and assumed we would have to wait for an hour to do our final écluse. As we began looking for a place to tie to shore and wait, Joan noticed, with the binoculars, that our guys were at the next écluse and they were opening the door for our arrival. It has to have been a first for us to have an éclusier work into their lunch break. We finished our last kilometer or so and tied up for the night at Chitry-les Mines. A small town that had supported silver mining in its past. Today there is a château and a small outdoor restaurant at the quay.

Made an afternoon bike ride to Corbigny, a very nice small town, that was a good climb out of the valley, on our bikes for groceries. Had our first dinner of the season on our sundeck, followed up by dessert at the restaurant.

May 21st

The water should have been up to the horizontal
board at the top. Be touched bottom once.
Rode back to Corbigny via back roads to get a closer look at what there was to see. Being off
season, and Sunday that turned out to almost nothing. Biking back we decided to take a route that would allow us to ride along the canal for a bit. Ran into our eclusiers working with three hire boats in a single lockage. On the spot we decided we’d like to schedule a 13h00 start for today.

Our start was great. We had the écluse to ourself, although we would be picking up another boat a few écluse ahead. At our third écluse the gates were closed. We idled around as a couple of VNF cars went by. Soon there were éclusiers at our écluse, but nothing happening. After a while a couple of them began walking up the canal towards us. Turned out there was a leak in the section of canal ahead and a boat was aground, so we’d have to wait till they could get the water level back up. We began getting Juniper ready to spend some time (maybe the night) tied  up with our mooring stakes. No sooner got her secured and a VNF truck drove up asking us if we were continuing on today. We were in the écluse in a matter of minutes ready to continue our voyage. The water in the canal was very low and we did hear Juniper’s bottom drag over the canal’s bottom once.

Our view for nearly a week, while we waited for
a mechanic. At least it was picturesque

Somewhere in all the confusion, one of us must have kicked the float attached to the engine key, shutting it off. With a diesel, your engine keeps running but it can play havoc on the electrical system of the boat. We didn’t discover what had happened till we were tied up at Tannay and the kill switch wouldn’t shut the engine off. After  finding a way to stop the engine we fired it up again and it appeared we might have damaged the alternator charging our house batteries. Guess we’ll have to get a mechanic to check it out - don’t want to ruin our new batteries.

Flez-Cuzy, just across the river & canal from us
we found our mechanic in the last building on the right

May 23-26

Finding a mechanic proved to be a problem. We were tied up at a hire boat base, but they want nothing to do with private boats. All they were concerned about was us paying moorage fees, no time to have one of their mechanics even look at Juniper

Walking around  the nearby village of Flez-Cuzy we saw an independent auto mechanic still working in his shop, with the help of Google translate we were able to see if he could give us a hand. He let us know he’d be over as soon as he was off work. True to his word he showed up with his wife and his multimeter. It appeared we were overcharging, so we began our search for a marine mechanic/electrician. The rest of the

Sylvie to the rescue

week we were stuck aboard for the day waiting for someone that never showed.Our mechanic friend put us in touch with an English barge captain, none of his contacts worked out. We contacted a friend of ours that is a retired barge captain - none of his contacts worked out. Our local éclusier talked with a hire boat mechanic that promised to come by, and never showed, I put a notice on the Dutch Barge Association forum and within an hour had a lead. We send a text to Sophie asking if she could help (translated by Google translate). Got a call back with a promise to be at the boat the next day 15h00. She was right on time, figured out our issue was a loose wire and alternator belt. At last a good night’s sleep with hope of being back on the water tomorrow morning.

In Flez-Cuzy, they plant cats. Require little water
and can feed themselves

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Descent on the Canal du Nivernais

The entrance to the first of three tunnels at the top
May 19 - We begin the Descent with our departure from Port de Baye which is determined by a red or green light placed directly across the canal from where we are moored. The VNF eclusier dropped by last night to let us know we should have a green light for the tunnels at 9:00 the next morning. We were up early getting everything ready, filling the water tank and

9:00 - Red light

9:30 - Red light - there must be a boat coming up the other side, they get first priority. Once they are through, or 10:00 happens it should be our turn.

Passage between tunnels two & three
9:50 - Green light, we cast off, just as another boat heads into the tunnel in front of us, looks like we’ll be sharing écluses for the day. We give them a bit of a head start, so we don’t catch up with them in the dark of the first tunnel which is over a kilometer in length. Testing our spotlights we had found they were not working, spent a couple of hours trying to find the cause, no luck. Had an electrician that was supposed to come check, didn’t show. All the French boaters we talked with said “just use a torch (flashlight) so Joan sat in the housetop with our two brightest flashlights (the tunnel is too low to stand), one to shine on each wall. We made it through with just a couple of wall contacts with a bumper. When we came out of the last tunnel the pond at the top of the 16 écluses was empty. We tied Juniper up and walked down a couple of écluses and there were two boats coming up the chain, with four eclusiers handling écluse gates . Two at the current écluse and two preparing the next for your arrival. It turned out the boat that was ahead of us in the tunnel was just making the trip through, then turning around to go back. We had each écluse to ourselves with four people helping. It was a pretty sweet ride down. Lunch time found us at a comfortable grassy area for our hour and a half wait till it was time to finish. At the bottom of our sixteen écluses we decided to call it quits for the day. Thunderstorms were predicted and we felt like we would enjoy them more in our dry salon, enjoying a bottle of wine.

Looking back up the valley - The écluse we had just left

One of the many éclusier houses built in the 1800s - Now private cottages

Écluse art - Many of the bollards get painted
This one was very artistically done 

Waiting for the water to drain

Our crew of four éclusiers who made our trip down so smooth

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Port de Baye - The summit of the Canal du Nivernaise


In the middle chamber of a triple écluse
Below is a double we just left
The day’s boat trip was a workout. Hot muggy weather and fourteen écluse with a couple of double and a triple in the mix. All went well, though we did have to wait at a couple écluses for downhill traffic. We’d become used to having the system all to ourselves. To reward our hot sweaty selves for reaching the summit we had showers then went out to dinner at a nice outdoor restaurant in the town of Baye just a km walk along the canal from Juniper.

May 18 - Port de Baye. We took today off. Went for a hike along the shore of Étang de Baye which is also one of the main reservoirs that provide water for the upper reaches of the Canal du Nivernais. At lower levels the River Aron pitches in on the south side and the Yonne on the north side. It's those top few écluses usually with a tunnel at the top that are the hardest to keep full.

Walking the trail along Étang de Baye

We continued our walk to Étang du Vaux
The upper of the two reservoirs that feed the Canal du Nivernais 

Wild yellow iris - we've seen these all along the Canal du Nivernais.
Seems to be the signature spring flower of the canal

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The snake route to Châtillon-en-Bazois

Juniper and Michael in écluse Châtillon with
le château de Châtillon-en-Bazoisin the background
 May 16 - Châtillon-en-Bazois. An amazing canal route as the canal snaked back and forth with an écluse every couple of kilometers as we got set for the final push to the summit of the Canal du Nivernais. The physical town was nothing special except having a château looking right over the marina (they did have a boulangerie, so we had croissants with breakfast). The exceptional part was being the only transient boat on the quay and the support and help that was offered by all the liveaboards.

The boat that was tied up in front of us had a local French couple living aboard, while they refurbished their farmhouse. We met them when they returned to their boat after a long day of work. Right after the bonjour it was do you need to take on water, we have a hose you can use. In the morning as we were finishing our coffee and croissants there was a knock on our boat - Do you need anything at the store? They were driving and took Joan along to replenish staples that we were running low on. What a great community they have on their quay.

From our chartbook - Most of today's route. The little Vs are écluses.
The twists and turns are to follow the contours of the valley we are ascending.

Penneçot and a longer than planned bike ride


Today's cruising was again through pasture land
with blue sky and just enough clouds to make it interesting
May 15 - Penneçot. We woke up to the last of the rain, and by the time we cast off we had predominantly blue sky. When we arrived at our destination we found a b
eautiful campground with a nice quay. Again Juniper was the only boat there, in addition there were not even any campers. We found some suggested bike routes posted at the camp and decided to try one. After trying to get our phones to connect with Google maps, we started on our way hoping a combination of screen shots maybe getting a signal along the way would be enough. When we met the main road leaving camp we discovered the routes were all marked by color coded signs. Our 10Km ride should only take us an hour, giving us views of two châteaux and an ancient moulin. We made it to the chateaux and somehow missed a marker. To make matters worse there was no cell coverage so we couldn’t use google maps. By the time we figured out where we were and found our way home, our 10 km had turned into probably closer to 25. On positive side the roads were amazing as they wound through rolling mature land and back to the canal for a final stretch on the tow path.

The French country roads are a cyclist's dream

Our second château, we're still on the route

OK - No more signs and we can't find where we are on a map -
But, the scenery is beautiful and we're still having fun.

The first château of our ride.
Blogger won't let me put this in the proper place, and it's time
for our first écluse of the day.

Friday, May 20, 2022

On the Canal du Nivernais

May 14 - On the Nivernais Canal PK 17.1 We got an early start from Decize, out through a flood gate onto la

Our infinity écluse - it looked like the marina water level
was the same as the river. Actually 2.5 meters difference

Loire river for a couple of kilometers. Before turning onto the Canal du Nivernais. Coming out of the first écluse we were brought to a quick halt. The weeds were so thick that we could only go about 2 Km/Hr. Then we’d back up to clear the weeds, take off at 6 Km/Hr and in a few minutes be back to 4. This went on for the first 3 écluse. Michael was ready to turn around if it didn’t clear up soon. By écluse 4 the weeds were no longer reaching the surface and seemed to be firmly attached the the floor of the canal. They were tall enough to rub on the bottom of our hull still making it impossible to go our regular cruising speed. When we reached our planned destination the quay was full. Went a couple of KM and found bollards to tie to in a nice shady area. Had time for a beer and a bit of reading till the rain began. By the time we had the Bimini down and were below, it was a total downpour - and the thunder we had been hearing in the distance was now quite close, complete with lightning. It was a great show from our cozy dry salon and nobody around for miles. 

Here we are - Goats on the left of us

Sheep on the right - stuck in the middle again

The Canal du Nivernais is known for the beautiful fields and forests
with very few towns to break up the beauty

Our moorage for the night and the thunder and lightning show
that was about to begin