Thursday, 27 September 2018

Castelsarassin To Buzet-sur-Baise (Or….The Final (and long awaited) Entry for this year!)

Leaving The Tarn at Moissac to head back up on to the Canal
Well, that’s it for this season’s cruising and whereas previously we’ve lived on the boat over winter, this year we have moved into our house and after much deliberation, I’ve decided that it’s not really fitting to hijack Quaintrelle’s blog of her travels and tribulations with tales from terra firma.  So this entry will close Quaintrelle’s blog for this season and it will recommence as we do with our travels next year. 

But to continue from where we last left off (apologies for such a long delay), the morning of 21 September dawned bright, warm and sunny and we pushed off from Castelsarassin only to pull in after the first lock for Mike to make a quick visit to the large Brico store before Ilona caught up with us and we made our way together to Moissac. 

Fiona and Richard on Ilona following us over the Aqueduct across the River Tarn
We’d reckoned it would take us a couple of hours, but with everything going smoothly we got there a bit quicker much to the surprise of Jim the Capitaine who wasn’t expecting us for another hour.  We pulled into the port and filled up with diesel and then took our lunch break to wait for the lock-keepers to put us through the two locks that would take us down to the Tarn and our mooring.  We headed down to the mooring to find Billy and Jane on Lazybones and it was lovely to see them again.  We hung out there until it was time to move and Billy came with us for the ride.
Exiting the locks from the canal down on to the River and our mooring on the quay there.
Once settled into our spot next to Lazybones we enjoyed a few bottles of fizz with Billy and Jane and Fiona and Richard before all too soon it was time to head to the weekly Port Social in a local bar.  We were introduced to some of the other residents of Moissac Port and had a lovely evening, finished off with more wine on Lazybones – well, it had been ages since we saw them!!
Sunset on the Tarn
Needless to say, we weren’t feeling to sharp the next morning, eventually heading into the market after a dose of paracetomol to ease the heads.  We’re familiar with Moissac as we spent a few nights there in September 2016, and it’s where our beloved Kitty Cate(rham 7) died and had to be taken home on the truck of shame.

Thankfully Quaintrelle did not follow in Kitty Cate’s shoes………

After a lazy afternoon, we joined Fiona and Richard for drinks on Ilona in the evening before heading into town to enjoy a meal at Le Florentine, where I paced myself with a non-alcoholic aperitif!

The next morning provided a slightly cooler start to the day as we bid farewell to Lazybones who headed up the locks just before us, turning right at the top towards Toulouse.  We would be heading left towards our winter mooring at Buzet sur Baise.
Such a nice picture, I've put it in twice! :D
The Canal Lateral de la Garonne is quite delightful on this stretch with trees overhanging the canal and few boats on the move and we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise of 17km and 5 locks which took us to the town of Valence d’Agen.
Leaving Moissac through the port which is very popular for over-wintering.  We're just passing Kendra Erin here, Kevin and Michelle's boat, who we travelled with last year.

Waiting for the swing bridge at Moissac.

Much excitement as we pass into our home department; Lot et Garonne
With it being Sunday the town was shut, but it was bigger than we expected and had some interesting statues dotted around the town and a beautiful circular ‘Lavarie’, ancient wash-house.
The unusual round lavarie at Valence
Back at the boat we took advantage of the warm afternoon to polish the paintwork on the starboard side.

There were showers overnight and it was only when we went to cast off the next morning that we realised the gas locker had been left open and everything inside was wettish.  We left it open to dry out and headed off on our 4 hour cruise to Agen where we would meet up with Nikki and Gorette on Puddleduck.  Having only met a handful of people to socialise with over the summer, we were now making up for it, catching up with our friends from Roanne who had headed south at the start of the season.

Moored opposite the hire base in the large basin at Agen, after saying hello to Puddleduck we set off for the VW dealership, where we had ordered car mats and a boot mat for collection for our new car.  We figured they would be too awkward to carry on bikes and couldn’t find a bus so by foot off we went.  As usual, the route seemed much longer and further than predicted on google maps – and this was without getting lost! 

After an exhausting and very dull 8km round trip, carrying flapping boxes all the way back, we celebrated back at the boat that we won’t have to do that again once we pick up the car at Buzet in 48 hours.  The walk of shame along motorway verges is an element of boating life that we have not entirely enjoyed………….  The evening was spent with the girls on Puddleduck catching up on their exploits over the season and enjoying a most delicious curry for dinner.  It wasn’t a late night as we were so knackered after our walk, so much so that we decided to stay put at Agen the next day and take our time to catch up on some chores.  After a coffee with Nikki and Gorette, they headed off back the way we had just come and we got on with stripping back and oiling the worktops.  A rewarding job in that they look fantastic when they’re done, but one of the worst for the dust that it creates!
Looking across at our mooring at Agen.

Nikki and Gorette head off on Puddleduck

While we get on with sanding and oiling......
In the evening we walked to the edge of town and treated ourselves to a kebab for tea.

Another cool morning on 26th September as we headed off but as with the previous few days, once the sun was up it got hotter and hotter and as we were enjoying our cruise decided that we would just push on to Buzet today and stay the night there, which would mean we could take our time in the morning loading up the car before locking up Quaintrelle and heading to the house for winter.  With the weather still being so hot, we hoped to get use of the pool for a few days, but an email from our friend Katie who has been looking after the pool for us put paid to that.  The hard cover was jammed – shut!!  She put in a call for a technician but there would be no swimming for a few days at least.
Crossing the aqueduct coming out of Agen.

The few boats on the move are now making their way to their winter moorings.

Another aqueduct.....
At the last lock of the day, we came face to face with a double red light and gates that were fully open on one side and nearly fully open on the other.  Clearly something was stuck and preventing the lock from operating correctly.  We went into the lock and tied off and I called VNF who said someone would be there in 15 minutes.  Meanwhile a hire boat had pulled up further back and sent someone to find out what was going on.  She asked in French, so I replied in French that the lock wasn’t working and I had called VNF and someone was coming in 15 minutes.  She cocked her head and looked at me quizzically, so I repeated, “Quelqu’un arrive, quinze minutes.”  She shook her head apologetically, “Quinze minutes…” I repeated, nope – she still didn’t get it.  “15 MINUTES. SOMEONE’S COMING IN 15 MINUTES. QUINZE!” Mike offered.  “Oh….” She said, “QUINZE……You are English.”  “Scottish.” I replied, “Ah, you don’t speak French.” She concluded.  I didn’t know what to say to that.  I don’t speak French well but the VNF people on the other end of the phone had understood me……… I felt rather insulted by her as she proceeded to say in fluent English that she didn’t really speak English, French was her second language, she was Swiss German.  “Oh piss off!”  I said, but only in my head.

Anyway, she asked if they could share the lock with us and we said yes (begrudgingly as it would have felt good to make them wait), so she toddled off to report to the rest of her crew and bring their boat in.  Thirty minutes later the eclusier arrived and I pointed out the partly open, stuck gate and said (in French!), I thought there might be something behind it.  Sure enough, after fishing with a large hook, a huge piece of vegetation embedded in a monstrous lump of clayish soil was pulled from behind the gate.  It was so large and heavy that the eclusier couldn’t lift it out so just had to steer it to the side to get it out of the way.  The gates were then closed behind us and we went on our way.

The Swiss then sat up our arse as we continued our voyage, so I pulled over and let them pass, only to pass them again a short while further on as they pulled in to lock down on to the river Baise.  We hope to do the Baise next season.  A few minutes later we passed through the new port at Buzet and a few minutes after that arrived at the old port, Quaintrelle’s home for winter.  We pulled in alongside DB Papillon and went to check in with Kevin and Sara, but it was Wednesday and the restaurant is closed on a Wednesday, so Sandra had a chat with us and said we’d be able to catch Kevin and Sara in the morning.  Finally reunited with our new car, the first thing we had to do was wash it as it was filthy from two weeks of sitting under a tree in the port.  We then started to load up as much of our belongings as we could before having dinner and watching tv.

We had a leisurely start the next morning before doing the rest of the packing, cleaning and some maintenance.  Then it was time for lunch at the restaurant where we caught up with Kevin and arranged making payment for our mooring, passed our contact details onto Sandra, just in case, and all too soon, we were closing up Quaintrelle and tarpauling her rear end (to stop rainwater getting in the engine bay) and getting in the car to head home for winter. 
Getting safely tucked alongside DB Papillon for winter.
It felt a bit surreal.  It was the end of the most amazing season of cruising.  We had clocked up an impressive 2743 kms, rode the Ardviller Inclined Plane up and down, swam in the Med and conquered the Mighty Rhone.  It’s probably the last full season of cruising we’ll do for a few years, now we have a new home to enjoy and new adventures to unfold on Terra Firma, but we couldn’t feel sad as we had had such a fantastic time and were so excited about what was to come!

So what happens to this blog now??  Well, as I said earlier, it doesn’t feel right to hijack Quaintrelle’s blog with housey stuff – this is a blog about Quaintrelle and her travels, our travels, so I will put this to bed now for winter and wish you a ‘Bonne Hiver’ and hope that you will join us on our travels next summer.
Night, night everyone xxx

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