|Autumnal morning at the Port of Roanne|
It was cool and overcast when we pushed off from the port at Digoine and headed off across the aqueduct and towards our last downwards lock of the year. It was a deep lock and the lock-keeper helped us with our ropes and asked which direction we were headed so he could alert the lock-keeper at the first locks on the Canal de Digoine a Roanne. It was a bit odd with the sorry acceptance we were heading to port for a long stay over winter in Roanne, but excited to be on a new bit of canal for us, and a very, pretty, rural canal at that.
|Approaching the Pont du Canal at Digoine|
|On the aqueduct|
|Taking a left onto the Canal de Digoine a Roanne|
The first three locks on the canal here are in a chain and are automated, but we were still accompanied through by an eclusier, which was just as well as the locks are deep and with no floating or climbing bollards, a hook was dropped down to us to pass our rope up to the eclusier to secure to a bollard. Once tied on, Mike engaged the engine and we prepared to be thrown around, however, we discovered that the deep locks on the Canal Digoine a Roanne are as slow and tranquil as the canal itself and we smoothly slid up to the top without a bounce. After the second lock the eclusier asked what time we’d be at the next lock. I understood his question, but gave a blank look as I had no idea and thought he’d probably have a better idea how long it would take us to get there given he was familiar with the waterway. When I asked how far it was, he then asked if we had been here before and I clarified that no, it was our first time on this canal. Ah, he smiled broadly and explained that we were back in the land of lunch hours on the canal and with it being 12.05pm, he was off for his lunch. I asked what time was best for him and we arranged to meet at the next lock at 1.15pm, as he was putting a boat up the first lock at 1pm. As it was only 10 minutes to the next lock, we pulled in and had a bite of lunch while we waited til it was time to go.
Despite the lack of sunshine and blue skies we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon’s cruise, it really is a lovely little canal, with the only other blight on the horizon being the lack of consistent internet signal. Having the radio drop in and out all the time is the thing that makes Mike most angry these days and he has little patience with areas with a weak signal, and this canal is unfortunately full of them.
|Without the radio to entertain him Mike resorts to the sport of Fly Swatting|
|Always happy to see cows cooling their hooves|
|Sunset at La Beaume|
|Lovely quiet mooring at La Beaume|
We were off sharp the next morning as we’d said we’d be at the lock before lunchtime and it was a couple of hours cruising to get there. We were accompanied through the lock by Mr Grumpy and then as he headed off for lunch, arranging to meet us at the next lock at 1.30pm, we pulled over and did a pump-out, deciding that it would be good to arrive in Roanne with an empty tank. As we had plenty of time, we did a good few rinses, and seemed to get the tank pretty empty – well, certainly empty enough that the pump stopped pumping and put us in a bad temper for several minutes as we thought the pump had gone. A few more buckets of water for another rinse got it going again and again we pumped until it could pump no more, had some lunch and then headed off to the lock.
We arrived (23km and 4 locks) at the little port at Melay late afternoon and just got moored and settled in when the sky darkened and the rain came on and stayed on for the rest of the evening. We couldn’t complain, it was the first rain we’d had in weeks, but it meant we didn’t get a look around the area – not that there appeared to be much to see…….
|More lovely cows :)|
|At this lock as the keeper dropped the hook for me to pass our rope up he dropped it completely and it just missed me!! He laughed and said it was the first he'd done that...... I had to tie on to the ladder and move the rope up as we rose..........|
Sunday 22 October would be our last day of cruising this year. We would arrive in Roanne a week earlier than planned, but the weather forecast wasn’t good and we were kind of ready for the ease of water and supermarkets on hand for a while. With another couple of hours cruising before the first lock, we had arranged with the lock-keeper the previous day to meet at the lock at 1pm. He said it wasn’t him that did the next few locks, but he’d phone and let his colleague know.
We probably shouldn’t have been surprised when we arrived at the lock to find no one there, and the lights out showing it wasn’t in use – despite it not being lunchtime or on winter opening hours! We hung around, and even had time to reverse a bit further back and pick up two huge logs to add to the pile of wood we’d been collecting along the way to use in the wood burner. The front deck was now full of wood and difficult to move around to reach ropes and bollards in the lock, but hey-ho – we had free firewood!!
Eventually we managed to get the boat into the side and Mike went up to the lock where he found a phone number taped to the lock hut door. He rang and the chap, who spoke very good English, said he’d be there straight away, and sure enough, pulled up in his van a few minutes later. Clearly Mr Grumpy hadn’t made the phone call yesterday…….
As we came up the lock, the wind started to get up, so I helped the eclusier and opened the second gate (we had been going in and out on one as we’re narrow enough to do so) to make Mike’s exit easier. However, the wind was strong enough that he couldn’t come back for me so the lock keeper told me to walk around the corner and there was a mooring he’d be able to get me at.
It seemed in no time at all we were coming into the outskirts of Roanne and our final lock of the season came into sight, which would take us into the port, the very large port!
|The lock into the port up ahead|
|Bye bye canal, see you in April.... :(|
|We had been told it was a very large port - and it is!!|
As the Capitainerie was closed on a Sunday, there was no Capitain (Herve) to tell us where to go, so we pulled into the only available space we could see, waving to Andy and Sally on Puzzler who came out to greet us, and got settled in for the night. Although we’d had a lovely couple of days cruising to get here, and were dreading being locked in for the winter, it felt good at that moment of arrival to have arrived and it was lovely to see Andy and Sally and Shannon the dog again. After a cuppa with them and a quick catch-up, Mike set off on the Ninebot to the other side of the port (it’s a mile round) to see Bill and Jane on Lazybones. Despite never having been here before, it felt like we’d come home!!
The next morning, we went to see Herve first thing where he hummed and hawed a bit and said we could stay where we were til Wednesday but would then have to move, but he wasn’t quite sure where too. He had a couple of options, one of which was down on a pontoon, it was either that or, “…….em…. I’m not really sure what the second option is……” Herve confessed as he studied his Port Plan, with magnetic strips with boats names on them so he can work out where everyone goes. We went and looked at his suggested pontoon, next to Victoria, and decided that would suit us. The power wasn’t switched on yet, so Herve suggested we stay where we are until he confirmed the power was connected and we could move.
Knowing we wouldn’t be moving for a couple of days, we set about chopping all the logs up, finding space in the locker for them, filled the water tank, did a diesel run so the tank is full over the winter and then Bill very kindly ran us up to Grand Frais for groceries. We’ve never been into a Grand Frais and realised what we’d been missing – it’s the Waitrose of French Supermarkets with a superb choice of fresh fruit and veg and fantastic butcher and bakery, for which we were happy to pay a little bit more for……
The next couple of days were spent catching up on cleaning, paperwork, Mike doing some work for a client, meeting other boaters, having cuppas with Bill and Jane and on Tuesday afternoon we walked up into the town to have a look around and familiarise ourselves with the local shops. We didn’t hear from Herve again, so on Wednesday afternoon we went over to speak to him again and he confirmed that we should move between 9-10 on Thursday morning as someone was arriving on Thursday that were going into the space we were in.
The weather had been getting gradually warmer and on Thursday as we prepared to move we both had our shorts on!
We got moored up with the help of Steve and Anna (our new neighbours on Victoria) and various other neighbours who came to take a rope and say hello – it’s quite the little community which is lovely.
We took the opportunity of the warm weather to start work on the paint work – the gas locker and bow of the boat was in a sorry, faded state, and Mike had been rubbing it back and filling in chips over the last few weeks, so it was desperate for a coat of paint. It was also a good opportunity to get the plank and poles sanded back and a few coats of varnish back on to protect them over the winter. Thursday evening is the Port Social night in a local bar that opens up especially and it was nice to see a couple of familiar faces and meet some new ones too. They seem a good bunch and lots of activities get organised over the winter, so I think the time will pass quite happily.
Our first social event (apart from Thursday evening) was a Chinese buffet on Tuesday for lunch and very nice it was too!
Work on the boat seems never-ending as inbetween all the painting and sanding and varnishing, suddenly it was time for the monthly checks and I was in the bilges cleaning out the shower pump. Mike serviced the engine the other day, and having completed the oil and filter changes, ran the engine to check all was good and a huge fountain of oil squirted out and all over the engine bay!!! Needless to say, the air was blue for a good hour as he cleared the mess up as best he could and tried to work out what had happened. He tightened the new filter, but it was still leaking, not as badly though, but there was clearly a fault with the seal, so, depressingly, he had to drain what was left of the new oil he’d just put in, put in another new filter and then we had no more new oil left to fill it!! Bill came to the rescue with the car and not only took us to the supermarket out of town for oil, but to the Decheterie to dump the two loads of old oil – well, one old and one not so……….
In between all the boat jobs I’ve managed a few runs and was hugely delighted to complete a circuit of the port (1.06 miles) with no knee pain at all!!! The track round the port is red dust, so a bit softer than the tarmac I’d been running on, so I wonder if that did the trick. Anyway, I’ve been running every Monday/Wed/Friday and last Friday Mike joined me on a second circuit of the port, on the promise of a full English breakfast on Saturday morning if he did. I’ve also been doing squats and lunges with my weight and side leg raises, tummy stuff and the plank, so hopefully strengthening the muscles supporting my knee.
With us both having done a few runs (well, Mike’s done three now!), we were looking forward to this morning’s weigh-in, and you can imagine the disappointment when I had gone up 1.2kg since last Saturday and Mike had gone up ½ kg!!! I put it down to muscle weighing more than fat………
So life in Roanne is good so far – I can’t believe we’ve been here for two weeks already (remind me of that sentence when I’m slitting my wrists mid-February, struck down with cabin fever and desperate to be out on the canal). It’s a good sized town with all amenities and the port has a friendly and active community. Sadly we’re missing the Petanque game tomorrow afternoon as we’ve hired a car and are off for a few days, but we’re going over to Puddleduck, with Nicky and Gorette onboard, for drinks tonight.
|Chopping up the wood at our first, temporary mooring|
|The port by night|
|View from our first mooring, across the port|
|Now our view, down at the other end and on the other side :)|